posts tagged with the keyword ‘apple’



During the holidays my uncle asked me about converting old VHS video tapes to digital versions, and he showed me a converter he had found. Knowing that the specs on such things are usually not very specific, but that I’d find a way to make it work, I told him to order it. (The device is a Werecord BR120 Video & Audio Grabber Box from Digit!Now)

It’s simple to use. You just plug in some RCA cables coming from your VCR or old analog video camera, and press the “record” button on the device. It saves a digital file to an Micro SD card.

AVI Format

Oh, yeah… it’s an AVI file. If you don’t know much about AVI, it’s a ‘container format’, which means it could use any of a long list of encoding schemes, and you may have problems reading the file. Since I’m using Mac OS X in 2016 and AVI was introduced by Microsoft in November 1992, I had some problems.

QuickTime Player 10

The first attempt was to open it using Apple’s QuickTime Player 10. No dice. The “Tell me more” button takes you to a page explaining that QuickTime Player 10 sucks, and you should try QuickTime Player 7.

QuickTime Player 7

QuickTime Player 7 opens the file, but there’s nothing there… at least nothing it can decode properly. (You’ve let me down again, QuickTime Player!)

MPEG StreamClip

That’s enough fun with Apple’s offerings… on to the more powerful Swiss Army knife of transcoding video; MPEG StreamClip. There hasn’t been a new release for over three years, but it still works wonders on changing videos from one format to another.

Well, no better than QuickTime Player 7. Unless you like a white screen better than a black screen. Let’s move on…

Miro Video Converter

Don’t worry, I’m not even half way through my list of the video conversion software I have on my hard drive. (Yes, I have hundreds of applications on my hard drive, not in some damn cloud somewhere!)

Our old pal Miro Video Converter was willing to accept the AVI file and give me an MP4, which is what I want, because it will probably play fine on any device I want to play video on…


Hey, look at that! Miro Video Converter is using FFmpeg under the hood. Excellent… especially since ffmpegX hasn’t been updated in many years.

Raspbian Boot

As for the video, since I didn’t have one of my VCRs handy, I grabbed a old Raspberry Pi with a composite video output and used that for the test. I know, it looks terrible here, partly due to it being a GIF, but mostly due to it being a computer output scaled down to a 640×480 standard definition display. I’m going to assume actual video footage from 25 year old VHS tapes will look much better. (Sort of.)



Last week was a bad week for hardware… On Saturday I opened up my MacBook Pro to wake it from sleep and start using it (which I do multiple times per day) and it was a no go. It did not wake up. I restarted it and got the old blinking system folder, as if the drive was gone, or corrupt, or something. It was a hard drive I didn’t fully trust, and even though I thought about replacing it just weeks ago, I didn’t.

The first thing I did was assumed the drive was shot, and got on Amazon to order a replacement hard drive. I ordered on Saturday and it arrived about 24 hours later… on a Sunday. (Thanks, Amazon!)

Meanwhile, I pulled the drive out of the MacBook and put it in an external case. It worked fine. Damn. This told me it was probably a hardware issue with the MacBook, not the drive. I’ve been through this one before… twice actually, and I’m really wishing Apple would make better hardware!

I ran from the external drive until Wednesday, when I took it to the Apple Store. Oh, in the meantime I had put a replacement drive in the MacBook after I installed a fresh version of 10.9 onto it. (I figured I had to show the Apple Store the issue and I really don’t like them having access to my data.)

They fixed it the same night, and it was all good. (Replaced the hard drive cable/bracket assembly.) We booted it up in the store, it worked, so I went home and I went to sleep. The next morning I woke up at 6am, and swapped in my original hard drive. This is where things went to shit. Did you notice I forgot to shut it down? Yes… I highly recommend you do not try to hot swap the hard drive in your MacBook Pro while it is in sleep mode.

When I opened the Mac to start it (and it was already on) it showed the desktop from the drive I pulled out… probably not a good sign. A reboot later everything was gone. No good on the drive. But like we all know, even if you can’t see your data, it’s probably still there.

A quick Google search for destroyed partition table mac brought me to the blog post Repair a Mac OS X HFS+ Partition table.

I pretty much did everything [PERR0_HUNTER] suggested, and BAM! just like that my partition table was back, and the drive was as it was before I completely screwed it up. I immediately used the ‘Donate’ link on the site to send [PERR0_HUNTER] some money.

The rest of the story is pretty boring, involving running restores and more backups and going through eight hard drives I have in the office. But hey, I’m back up and running… All good. Thanks, [PERR0_HUNTER]!

And the lesson is, don’t swap your hard drive before 8am.


No Signal

“No Signal” was a project I wanted to do back in 2014, but never had time to. The idea was to have a projector set up in a space with a video playing that suggested the projector could not find the input source. For anyone who has done a presentation or had to deal with a data projector, you probably know the joy of changing the inputs, waiting for the signal to sync, and even “perfecting image” messages.

It’s 2015 and we still can’t plug a computer into a projector and have it “just work”.

No Signal

Since we needed some projects for the Dark Room at Maker Faire Milwaukee, I figured this would be a good fit. I quickly edited together a video (and I was suffering from a lack of sleep when I did it) that got more ridiculous as I kept adding things. I gave my projector to Bryan Cera for his “Entertainment System” project so I ended up using an old Apple Cinema Display I had on hand. The front looks very clean and stylish…

No Signal

…and for anyone brave enough to look at the back, I wanted it to look ridiculous. Insert comments here about how Apple products are clean and beautiful on the surface while hiding the ugly shit so you can’t see it. I used a lot of zip ties to secure the Apple Power Brick™ to the back of the display, and also added a Raspberry Pi to play the video. There’s also an DVI to HDMI converter in the mix.

No Signal

This is some very sophisticated last-minute rigging right here! (Note the masking tape that secures the SD card in place.) The video is below for you to enjoy.

No Signal

No Signal

No Signal

No Signal

Disclaimer: I may have been slightly inspired by Improv Everywhere.


Apple Watch

I presented a video piece at Maker Faire Milwaukee I called “Apple Watch” which consisted of a Raspberry Pi Model B connected to an Apple Monochrome Monitor from 1988.

The power of component video was harnessed to make a 2012 computer talk to a display that is 27 years old. (Also, Apple used to make solid hardware that lasted a long time!)

The video that plays (after the Raspberry Pi boots up Linux) is the old black & white wristwatch from early versions of the Apple Operating System. The video loops forever and just shows the cursor with the watch hands spinning around infinitely.

You can wait for something else to happen, but it won’t. You can imagine this would fit on your wrist, but it won’t. If the power goes out and comes back on, the Apple Watch will just start up and attempt to run (forever) again. That’s all it does. Really.


Raspberry Pi


Apple Watch



I’m thankful for my recent discovery of QuickRes.

My 2009 MacBook recently died so I replaced it with a newer MacBook, and while I was considering the Retina models, I ultimately decided against them. It was mainly the resolution of the Retina MacBooks that interested me…

So when I connected my new MacBook to my old projector, I got nothing. Nothing! The old projector maxes out at 1024×768, and this fancy new MacBook only had two resolutions. What?


Wow, so many choices! 1280×800 and 1024×640. Why would you ever need more than two resolutions!?

So just to test the MacBook I grabbed a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI dongle and plugged it into the nearest television. I saw what appeared to be 1920×1080 not just on the television but also on the built-in display. What?


So after installing QuickRes, here’s a look at the resolutions that are now available. Sweet! I’ve been using the higher resolutions for certain tasks, and the lower ones for things like old projectors. So the real question is, why does Apple not want to make these available without a third-party hack to reveal them?

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