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No Signal

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.

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Apple Watch

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.

Wiring

Raspberry Pi

1988

Apple Watch

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You say you want some resolution?

QuickRes

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?

QuickRes

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?

QuickRes

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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Linux Woes

Linux

Oh Linux… sometimes you make it really hard to love you.

While the recent data rescue went well, other things have not been as easy. Let’s see where we are, shall we?

Home Server
This is the old dead-screen PowerBook that ran for years without issue. Until it had an issue. I rescued the data from it, and then I figured I would do a re-install of Linux on it, but so far it’s been all failure. The external VGA connection doesn’t seem to want to display anything, so without a screen to see the install, I don’t even know if it’s booting up properly. (This is a recurring theme, btw.)

Raspberry Pi
One of my Raspberry Pis occasionally hangs on boot. Sometimes. Other times it works fine. Since it’s headless I needed to attach it to a TV to see this. The other Raspberry Pi I have does have an HDMI-VGA adapter, which works when you edit config.txt properly. Sometimes. And yeah, my RF Modulator to use the composite video seems to have died, so that option was out as well. Also, the SD card cracked. These are all fairly minor things, but they add up.

(New) Xubuntu Laptop
While it’s a new machine to me, it’s a 10 year old laptop running Xubuntu. It was going to be (will be?) my new Lab Computer, controlling the RepRap, and hopefully running Octoprint, which won’t run on the Eee PC I now use to control the RepRap. I left it running with my account logged in and it went offline… kernel panic. Hmmm, let me check right now. Yeah, it’s hosed up. I try to ssh in and get ‘Input/output error’ so something isn’t right. Dammit.

Eee PC
Well, this little beast keeps chugging along. Besides the fact that it can’t do much, it can control the RepRap, and it does a pretty good job of not losing the wifi connection. All good.

Another One
Since I may need a replacement for the old PowerBook that was the Home Server, I figured I’d try an old G4 iMac with a dead display. Multiple attempts with Ubuntu Server and Xubuntu Desktop all failed. Won’t boot from a CD or DVD. I did read about an NVIDIA driver conflict, urgh. I may try some other distros, but I’m thinking it may be an issue with the fact that the built-in display is dead and the external VGA connection isn’t doing the right thing. Bummer.

Keep in mind I’m considered really good at this stuff… but I guess when shit goes wrong, it really goes wrong.

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Still Macin’ (for now)

MacBook Pro

The phrase “I am no longer Appleā€™s Target Market” is one that I can identify with… and the blog post of the same name makes a lot of good points.

I’ve been using computers (mostly made by Apple) for over 30 years. Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon at this point, but I actually like being able to see the file system, and I don’t want or need some specially curated “App Store” or procedures to protect me from naughty applications I download from the big, bad Internet. I’ve been doing fine for nearly 20 years. As for people who do need such things, I understand the need, but I hope I’m not further restricted due to others and their (lack of) knowledge.

I’ve said this before, and I’ve said it again, there’s a learning curve to using computers, and I’m fine with that. There’s a learning curve to operating a motor vehicle, or a table saw, or a pencil sharpener. There should be. That’s part of life. Learning should not be looked upon as something that is a bad thing, and hey, I’m sorry, but you might have to actually learn a bit to use a computer, or table saw, or kitchen appliance. I’m not saying some things don’t need to be easier, but there’s a middle ground between ease of use, and restrictions of freedoms we once had. And easier? Hell, it’s a million times easier that it once was. Why, when I was a kid you turned on your Apple II and got a blinking cursor. No icons. No menus.

I use Apple hardware, and I use a lot of Apple software (and a lot more non-Apple software.) I also use Linux a lot. Linux has never been my desktop OS of choice, but for servers I love it. I do run some Linux desktop machines though, and they’ve improved much over the years. The work I do though, does at this time require Mac OS X.

I have a first generation iPad. I love it. It’s a great device for what it is. It is not a computer. Sometimes I wish it was a computer, but I find it very enjoyable to use as it is. I wish it were more open though. (But I wish that about a lot of things.)

Mac OS X is still my favorite desktop operating system. Is it perfect? Nope. Has it gotten better or worse over the years? Probably both. I’ve always got a terminal open with multiple tabs, which is something 95% (?) or Mac users probably don’t do.

Anyway, it’s December 2012, and I’m still using Macs (a lot) for business and personal use, and most of the time, they work well for me. I’ll let you know where I’m at some time in 2013.