Monthly Archives: January, 2014

FCPX 10.1 Media tracking

A geeky post for video editors…

While working on my FCPXchange utility, I did some experiments to see how well Final Cut Pro kept track of files if you moved them around under its feet. I was quite impressed with the results:

Now, exploring a bit further, later, I realised that it can’t be using Spotlight, at least not exclusively, to track the file, because it could still find it even when I put it in a folder explicitly excluded from Spotlight indexing.

And then I realised that all my changes had been moves not copies. If I did anything which involved copying the media and then deleting the original, FCP could no longer track it, whereas, if it were using Spotlight metadata, presumably it could track that in the copy too.

Now, I don’t know much about the deeper workings of HFS+, but I’m guessing that it’s effectively tracking ‘inodes’ here, which means that the same bit of content can be found, whatever name it may have in folders. This, however, will only work with the original copy on the same disk. If you start shifting files around between disks or servers, you’ll thwart it!

It’s raining again…

…and so I turn to one of the most useful sites for British dog-walkers (cyclists, etc), which can help you answer the questions, “Is it about to rain?” and “How long will this rain last?” At the moment, the former question is largely rhetorical, but the answer to the latter can be very useful.

It was Richard who first pointed me at, which gives you a rough animation of the radar precipitation map over the last couple of hours, so you can get a feeling for how fast the clouds are moving.

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 16.15.47

Very very handy. And very British.

It’s also worth knowing that if you put ‘/mobile’ on the end of the URL, you lose some features, but you also don’t get any ads. I have it bookmarked on one of the home screens of my iPhone.

A small rant

Sorry, people, but I had to write something, having read no less than three posts today by writers who didn’t know the difference between ‘uninterested’ and ‘disinterested’. You can see how that would rankle.

The majority of the time, you probably want ‘uninterested’. That means not paying attention to something because you don’t find it stimulating enough. ‘Disinterested’, on the other hand, means ‘impartial’: having, say, no financial interest in the outcome of a deal. (For anyone even more pedantic than me, I realise that this distinction only became clear in the early 18th century. But I think that should have given most bloggers enough time to catch on by now.)

Anyway, it’s very easy: all you need to do is to remember the phrase my English teacher told me, many moons ago… Are you ready?

“A good judge is disinterested.”

There. Isn’t that easy? Thank you for your attention, everyone. Now I can go to bed with a weight off my mind.

Toss me a mike…

I think CatchBox is a great idea! A soft, chuckable microphone that you can throw to an audience member who wants to ask a question.


It’s like a conch, but less fragile, which is also good for maintaining civilised discussions…

Thanks to Adrian Higgs for the link.

Facebook as a blogging platform, considered.

Euan Semple and I have been having similar thoughts. In a perceptive post he writes:

…As people have moved into places like Facebook and Twitter the energy has moved away from blogging to some extent. Less comments and less people using RSS to track conversations. I, like many bloggers, used to post links to my blog posts on Facebook or Google+. Then I realised that I was expecting people to move from where they were to where I wanted them to be – always a bad idea.

So I started posting the entire content of my blog posts on Facebook and Google+. The process is the same, I get the same benefit of noticing things that blogging gives me, the same trails left of what caught my eye, but the conversations have kicked off. I love the forty or fifty comment long threads that we are having. I love the energy of the conversations. It’s like the old days…

And I have to agree. Much as I dislike the tabloid-style, ad-infested nature of Facebook, it does seem to be where the conversations are happening. Yes, some of the smarter people are on Google Plus and, but just not very many of them, and I’m letting my subscription lapse this year. I am even starting to tire a little of Twitter’s 140-character limit and, more so, of the difficulty of having real multi-person conversational threads there. And even though it’s now easy to reply to posts here on Status-Q using your Facebook ID, where your thoughts will be preserved for viewing by other readers, many more people prefer to comment on Facebook or Twitter when I post notifications there.

Euan and I have both been blogging for about 13 years. In that time, a variety of other platforms have come and gone. I expect that quality blogs like his and John’s will outlive Facebook, too. At the very least, I expect that I’ll be able to find good past content on them (see my recent post), long after the social network of the day has changed its ownership, its URL structure, its login requirements or its search engine. So I’m not going to be abandoning Status-Q any time soon: it’s not worth putting much effort into anything that you post only on one of these other platforms.

But his idea of cross-posting the whole text of one’s articles is an interesting one. Facebook is clear, at least at present, that you still own it, though they have a non-exclusive right to make extensive use of it – something those of us who occasionally post photos and videos need to consider carefully.

But I also need to consider the fact that I actually saw his post on Google+, even if I then went to his blog to get a nicely-formatted version to which I could link reliably. Mmm.

Going underground

Thanks to Tom Standage for pointing me at this fabulous collection of fake signs people have put up on the London Underground.

Some examples:



Time, like an ever-rolling stream…

2002-09-08_07-59-56or “How to manage too much stuff”

The now ubiquitous blog format — a timestamped series of posts in reverse chronological order — is a truly wonderful invention.

It’s wonderful for users, who can quickly see whether there’s anything new and get the most up-to-date stuff first. But it’s also wonderful for authors, because it’s immediately obvious to visitors when the content they’re looking at may be out of date. This means authors can almost completely dispense with one of the most tedious management tasks normally associated with any large corpus of information: revisiting what you’ve written in the past and making sure that it’s still correct.

If you’ve ever had to maintain a large website which doesn’t have this kind of built-in auto-obsolescence, you’ll know what I mean. Marketing people, for example, often feel that the more content they can put on the website about their product, the more impressive and compelling it will be. Keeping it updated as the product line evolves, however, then becomes a bit like painting the Forth bridge. The value of blogs, in contrast, is that you don’t need to tidy up after you. So pervasive has the timestamped article become, that I get frustrated when I’m reading a review or an opinion piece which doesn’t show the date. What information was available to the author at the time? Is he reviewing this version of the software or the previous one? Did he know about the competing device from another company?

So, with blogs, we’ve come up with this cunning way of handling the problem of producing too much content. But what about the similar challenge of having too much to consume?

Well, we’re still evolving ways of dealing with that, and we’ve already passed through several stages. I can, because I’m Really Old, remember the time when there were fewer than a dozen websites in the whole world. So it was pretty easy to remember which ones you liked, and when you’d run out of interesting things to read on those, you might start one of your own.

Since then, we’ve moved through a series of different ways of coping with the ever-increasing amount of information.

  • When there was a small amount of stuff, bookmarks helped you remember it.
  • When there was a bit more stuff, Yahoo helped you navigate it.
  • When there was a larger amount of stuff, Google helped you find it.
  • When there was too much stuff, social networks showed you the bits your friends liked.
  • When there was even more stuff, streams forced you to ignore most of it.

Now, we’re almost at a couch-potato level of consumption. You fire up your Twitter, Facebook or Google+ app, and information flows past you. Next time you look at it, new stuff will be there. The process of finding new stuff to read has thus been reduced, for most of us, to a single button-click on a phone. Actually typing something into a search engine now constitutes ‘research’, especially if you have to click through more than one or two pages.

This is, arguably, a new kind of page-ranking, where novelty plays a greater role than it ever has before. Yes, some old material gets recirculated, but generally, the river keeps flowing, and this morning’s news will be well downstream by the time you dip your toe in during the afternoon.

Now, novelty is exciting, but it is very different from quality. In fact, it is often the opposite. C.S. Lewis once observed, in an essay called On the reading of old books, that, since there were many more books being published than could ever be read, one very good way of filtering out the dross was to stick to those that had stood the test of time. This is an idea that has stuck with me ever since I first cam across the essay as a child, and I have since tried to read one book written before my lifetime for every one written during it. That is still outrageously biased towards the present, I know, but it’s a start.

Now, how does ‘the test of time’ translate into our modern world? I think there’s an argument that this is a very powerful page-ranking metric that has not yet been fully exploited. (Perhaps, ironically, because it is not a new idea!) Surely, there must be value in knowing which pages people are still reading several years after they first hit the web?

At least once a day, when I’m trying to avoid out-of-date documentation or reviews, I’ll make use of Google’s time-filtering option to limit search results those created in, say, the last year. And in fact, you can create more complex filters to restrict output to particular ranges of dates. So you can search for pages more than 5 years old. (I’m ignoring, for the moment, the fact that the real dates of publication can often be hard to establish. If one newspaper is bought by another and its content copied to a new server, for example, the creation dates may not be preserved very well.) Still, you can, in general, limit your searches to ‘old stuff’.

But Google’s Page Rank algorithms make substantial use of the overall number of times a page is linked to when determining its importance, though they are no doubt biased towards the present. But I really want to know the number of times an old page has been linked to recently: I want a page ranking algorithm based on recently-published pages’ references to older pages.

Can I get an RSS feed of blog posts and web pages that people are still referring to now, but were published more than three years ago? It’s challenging, in a world where even the URLs that worked last year may not work today. But I think would would be worth pursuing. How’s that for a project, Google?

Light Trails

This very carefully-constructed artistic piece is entitled:
Going into the middle of the street to photograph the Christmas lights on the promenade and then having to jump out of the way of an approaching car while on a longer-than-expected exposure.


Snappy, eh? (Click for a larger version)

The Data Ratio

Here’s something it would be fascinating to know, but I can’t think of any way of coming up with even a wild estimate. Can you?

  • How much data does the average user create, themselves? (Documents, photos, emails, social network posts, etc)
  • How much data is generated about the average user? (Web logs, surveillance,marketing data, medical records, credit ratings, utility bills…)

and what’s the ratio of the two?

Or, more briefly, what’ s the ratio of data created by you, to data created about you?

Of data created intentionally and knowingly, to that created unknowingly as a side-effect of living in the modern connected world?

And does it vary significantly, in the developed world, by country, and by demographics…?

Any ideas? (Conspiracy theorists need not apply!)

The Sky at Night

I’ve always thought these old radio telescopes, just down the road from us, were rather beautiful.

The Sky at Night

Multi-storey cabbage park

A New Scientist piece about vegetable farming in a very space-efficient way. Interesting – I hadn’t thought before about what the efficiency of LED lighting meant for chlorophyll.

And if you try searching Google images for ‘vertical farming’, you get some intriguing pics.

Thanks to Tom Standage for the link.

iDon’tQuiteWork (yet)

keynoteIn late October, Apple released new versions of its iWork office suite – Pages, Keynote and Numbers – which had all been rewritten from scratch. Upgrading was easy, the new versions were free, and so lots of people hit the download button, myself included. The apps are pretty, with a nice simplified layout, and are designed to match the iOS versions very closely – with full document compatibility.

Now, I’ve been a big fan of iWork for a while. It’s been years since I used Microsoft Word voluntarily, because for most documents I prefer Pages. Keynote leaves Powerpoint way behind – haven’t used that for years either. Excel, though, is still definitely superior to Numbers, if you’re a power-user, but for simple stuff I prefer Numbers too.

However, with these new versions, there were issues, basically because many features had not yet been rewritten, and hence were just left out. Uproar ensued. The first thing I missed was the ability to customise the ‘presenter display’ on Keynote. Rose has just found out how inferior the ‘Export to Word’ functionality is in the new Pages. And a quick glance at the ratings on the Mac app store will give you a whole list of other things that have caused distress to others.

Fortunately, none of this is fatal. If you have iWork’09, the upgrade process doesn’t remove it, and the two versions will coexist quite happily. I fairly soon just put the old versions back in my Dock, and carried on. If you have created any documents in the new packages, you can export them back to the older formats. I guess it may become more tricky over time to buy iWork’09, but it’s not hard to find it on Amazon at present. And finally, Apple have admitted that these new apps weren’t quite fully-formed at birth, and have produced a list of all the bits they’re going to fix in the next few months. Remember, these new apps are not at all bad, and they are free. Many new Mac owners won’t need anything else. It’s just that the old versions were already cheap, and much better. As Joni said, don’t it always seem to be that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…

This has been quite a publicity disaster. So much of the good will that might have been associated with a high-quality and completely-free office suite has been squandered because Apple didn’t admit beforehand that this was a cut-down version to get started. And you’d have thought they would have learned their lesson by now, because the last thing they did this to was the video-editing package Final Cut Pro – another complete rewrite – which was one of the biggest launch disasters for some time, losing huge numbers of loyal users in the film industry to Adobe’s competing package, Premiere.

But Final Cut is also the thing that gives me hope for the future of iWork. Because over the next couple of years, Apple quietly pushed out update after update – 10 in all – to the point where Final Cut Pro X is now a very fine piece of software, which I’ve enjoyed using extensively in recent weeks.

Rewriting or replacing a major software package is an enormous task, and many companies just don’t have the guts to attempt it. I suspect that, in future, we’ll see that what Apple can do with both FCPX and iWork — because their underlying chassis has been modernised — will give them big competitive advantages. But they need to learn, when they introduce such radical changes, to make it clear that this is not the same as the previous version and to show a development roadmap so users can feel confident about hanging on, rather than jumping ship.

Sadly, it’s not in Apple’s nature to admit, in advance at least, that anything is not perfect. But it’s better to do that than to be forced to admit it in retrospect. The first implies confidence, planning, and honesty. The second implies that you were either dishonest, unprepared or foolish. I wonder if the marketing guys can understand the distinction.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser