Category Archives: Videos

Setting non-standard screen resolutions on a Mac

I wrote about this a few years ago but it’s still a handy and not-very-well-known hidden feature of the Mac’s System Preferences.

NOTE that on some Macs, especially recent Mac Book Pros, this only works if you have external displays attached.

Having a ripping time

A quick recommendation of the dBpoweramp software, if, like me, you should find yourself ripping large numbers of CDs.

PDF Tips and Tricks for Mac Users

My latest little screencast shows some of the things you might not have discovered in the Preview app on the Mac.

Also available on Vimeo here.

Stand-up Maths

This is brilliant…

From Webcam to Webcar?

My car now has a web page. Sadly, it’s for my own use and not for public consumption, but I made a little video about it anyway!

Also available on YouTube if preferred.

Thanks are due to Terence Eden for his work on documenting the API. Oh, and before anyone asks, no, I don’t normally leave the cable draped across the pavement. 🙂

Earning my R.E.S.P.E.C.T

Wow. She’s still got it, hasn’t she?

Thanks to Rory C-J for the link.

Science, religion, atheism, lawyers and politics

The discussion below between Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins is mostly about atheism and belief, and the degree to which the atheist viewpoint can or should be promoted.

But at one point, about 1 hr 3 mins into the video, Tyson talks about why he’s worried that there aren’t more scientists in politics. Everyone seems to be a lawyer. And his concern is not for the perhaps more obvious reasons of, say, ensuring sufficient funding for research. It’s that lawyers are people trained to be good arguers of a point of view, regardless of whether it’s the view they necessarily hold themselves.

I want people who know how to make decisions in Congress, and I’m sorry, but I don’t count lawyers among those…

When we have two scientists, if we disagree, it’s because one of us is wrong, or the other is wrong, or we’re both wrong… and we both agree with that fact — that those are the three possibilities that exist, and we’re both waiting for more or better data, to resolve it — so that we will one day agree, and then go out and have a beer.

Lawyers don’t… it doesn’t happen that way… any time I’ve seen lawyers in conflict.

Now, I’d be a bit more generous to lawyers than that, perhaps because I’m married to one! Good lawyers are at least trained to examine all the possible arguments, which is a very valuable skill, not taught to everybody. In some ways, I think, they’re almost scientists. But this doesn’t change the fact that, at least outside the academic sphere, they are usually exploring these possibilities on the behalf of a client, so they’re looking to turn their awareness of the other arguments into a reinforcement of a predetermined point of view. This makes them effective, but undesirable, politicians.

It’s nice to think that, in theory at least, good scientists would be better…

News from the Lab

Some of you may know that, alongside my normal consultancy business, I spend one day a week in the University Computer Lab for a change of scene. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, working on Frank Stajano’s Pico project, which is trying to create a better replacement for passwords, as the normal way to authenticate yourself to digital systems.

One of my roles in the project has been cameraman/video editor. Last year we produced the original video describing the project:

and just last month we did an update, which describes in more detail how the current phone-based prototype works underneath.

It’s been a fun couple of years – as well as the videos, we’ve produced a lot of code, we’ve written some papers and some blog posts, given some talks, and had quite a lot of fun at times.


But I felt it was time for a change, so I’ve recently moved to a new project, which is in the so-called Rainbow group – somewhat nostalgic for me, because it’s where I did my Ph.D. about 20 years ago.

In this group, we’re looking at how we can improve the ways cars communicate with drivers, and, while the only web page about the project is somewhat limited at present, no doubt this will change over time…

Should be fun… more info in due course.

Titanium nostalgia

Just over 14 years ago, in one of my first blog posts on Status-Q, I referred to the amazing fact that Apple, with the impending launch of OS X, was about to become, overnight, the largest vendor of Unix operating systems.

Unix was, up to that point, beloved of those of us working in universities and other scientific institutions, but was notoriously unfriendly to anyone not familiar with its highly-abbreviated command language. It sold in small quantities on expensive workstations, and the idea that the creator of the cuddly Macintosh was about to start deploying it on ordinary desktops seemed astonishing. In a little over a decade it would have evolved to be not only at the core of their mobile phones, but even on their watches!

Today, I fired up the Titanium Powerbook G4, the machine I was just starting to use at about that time.

For nostalgia reasons, I was revisiting the classic Mac OS, but back then I had been playing with the developer preview of OS X for a while, and when it was officially released I switched to the Mac and never looked back. I didn’t realise that I had made quite such a transition at the time, but a few months later I wrote:

At CNET there’s a comparison of Windows 2000 vs Mac OS X which comes out in favour of OS X. I’m a bit dubious about the higher OS X score for hardware compatibility, but it’s pleasing none the less. I currently use 3 machines on a regular basis. One runs Win2K, one runs Linux, and one runs Mac OS X. They all have their pros and cons, but if I could keep just one, I think it would be the Mac. I find myself pining for it when I’m using the others and, for all its current limitations, the reverse is seldom true.

P.S. I noticed a couple of other things from those early posts. The first is that they are both called ‘[untitled]’, because the convention of putting a title on blog posts hadn’t been established back then. The second is that neither of the URLs I linked to still work now. Never assume the web is going to be a long-term reference archive unless you control the site yourself!

“If you’ve got a browser connected to the Internet, I can show you…”

For the sake of posterity, I’ve uploaded the original VNC video that we made back in 1998.

Lots of nostalgia in here – remember the JavaStation? The WebTV? And the days when we made movies in 4:3 ratios?

A great deal has changed in the last 16 years, but VNC goes from strength to strength!

Starring, in order of appearance:

  • Quentin Stafford-Fraser
  • Andy Harter
  • Ken Wood
  • Tristan Richardson
  • Paul Webster
  • Frazer Bennett
  • James Weatherall
  • Daisy Sadleir

Also available on YouTube. Thanks to Andy Fisher for doing the original transfer from VHS to DVD some years ago.

Make your corporate video stand out!

It could be something awesome like this:

Thanks to Mark Littlewood for the link

A peek at Pico

Many of you will know that I’m currently spending one day a week in the University Computer Lab helping my pal Frank Stajano with a project called ‘Pico’. We’ve been making a little introduction movie, which has been a great opportunity for me to get some more practice shooting video with my Canon 6D, and learning the new version of Final Cut Pro.

We plan to refine it a bit in the New Year, but here it is for anyone who’s curious about what we’re doing:

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser