Mostly about my amusement

Month: August 2009 (page 1 of 2)

Began assembling the MG Gundam Exia


Lately I have been catching up on my Gunpla stash pretty well. Here’s the start I got on the MG Gundam Exia. The picture above shows I needs to straighten out the decals.  As with all of the current Gunpla, this one looks like it has a lot of potential.

I’m returning back to work tomorrow after a week off, so I don’t expect a lot of progress on this model this week.

Blue F91 MG WIP

I had some down time today, so I continued to work on the Harrison Madyn blue F91. All that’s left now is the weapons.  I’ll pose the assembled model next to the Crossbone Gundam as well as the original F91.

The lack of poly caps is good for posing the model but bad for moving the pieces.  The right wrist was so tight that I was afraid I was going to snap the plastic just rotating the hand.

Transcoding for the iPhone

This is definitely one of those “you’d better write this down” posts.

Being a longtime LINUX monkey, I am used to manipulating files via the command line. The GUI is a fad and if you want to get something done switch to command line. Transcoding video files are good for that sort of CLI manipulation.

Let’s say I had a .mkv file and wanted to play it on my iPhone. The iPhone does not play that format so I need to convert or transcode the video/audio/subtitles to something the iPhone can play.

It’s a two step process that requires two executable files for Windows, mencoder and ffmpeg. Doing a basic search on Google located the two binaries that I wanted and I put them in C:util.

The first one used is mencoder.exe and that’s to take the mkv formated file and convert it to an avi file. This is accomplished using this command:

C:utilmencoder.exe -mc 0 -noskip -oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr=128 -ovc xvid -xvidencopts bitrate=1200 "C:VideosEpisode-01.mkv" -o "C:tmpEpisode-01.avi"

This is an intermediate step since the iPhone can’t play avi files either.  Depending on the file this could take a while.  Once the output file Episode-01.avi has been generated then it’s time to use ffmpeg.

C:utilffmpeg.exe -threads 2 -i "C:tmpEpisode-01.avi" -acodec libfaac -ab 128kb -vcodec mpeg4 -b 1200kb -mbd 2  -cmp 2 -subcmp 2 -s 640x352 -async 1 -title "Episode 01" "C:iPhone VideoEpisode-01.mp4"

I am running on a Intel Core 2 Duo so I use the -threads 2 option. After that’s completed, I just drag the new file into iTune’s and sync my phone.  The sync process will not transfer a video file that it thinks the iPhone will not play so even it iTunes can play it, the phone might not be able to.

There are GUI wrappers for this, but I could not get WinFF or Handbrake to work reliably for me. They both wrap the CLI commands, so this works out better for me. The quality is not that good outside of the iPhone but that’s what the original .mkv versions are for.

Now in 9 months, when I want to do this again, I’ll have the steps ready and wont waste the morning trying to remember what I did last year.

Washington DC trip


Going to Washington DC this year was quite an experience. Here’s what I learned.

1. The Acela is more expensive and only saves about 30 minutes. But it’s worth it, the Acela is roomier and more comfortable. We took the Acela on the way there, but on the way home we took the regional. Not really a good idea with kids; that additional space counts.

2. Charge your camera battery before the trip. My camera battery ran dry and I ended up taking photos on the Botanical Garden Museum with my iPhone.

3. Don’t worry about high ISO when in a museum. See the above picture? I like how it and others came out. That’s part of the The Apotheosis of Washington fresco I shot using my Nikon D60 with a AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6 G ED lens and these setting:

  • 1/25 second exposure
  • F/5.3
  • 75mm focal length
  • 1600 ISO (auto selected by the camera, I started at 200)
  • Auto ISO turned on with a maximum sensitivity to 1600
  • Active D-Lighting turned on
  • Noise Reduction turned on

Normally I frown at taking pictures with such a high ISO and less than 1/30 shutter speed.  I took 600+ photos on the trip and shared on Flickr over 170. The one’s that were set to ISO >1000 came out really good too. You can see the results at this link here.

Here’s some of my favorite high ISO shots.

4. Plan out where you want to eat. We planned the hotel, the places we wanted to go to, and the travel arrangements. We did not plan out to well where to eat.  The first night we ate at the hotel’s restaurant which had steak, some steak, and more steak.  Not a lot of variety although the steak was good though and Lily had a bowl of clam chowder. The next day we ate at the Union Station.  If you have ever been to Roosevelt Field’s food level or even Pier 17’s food court then you’ve had the same experience. Not a bad thing but the same.

5. I still want a better camera. Even though the Nikon D60 performed well, I am still jealous of low noise at 3200 ISO.  The 18-200mm lens is on loan from Stefan but it’s way too useful to not include in my kit. It’s a good walkabout lens.

In September I hope to order my new kit. In the meanwhile I’ll keep abusing my Nikon D60.

Acela to DC mini vacation

My son is a huge train fan so we are going to take the Acela from Penn Station to Washington DC.  The plan is to get to DC and spend lots of time in the Smithsonian. He’s more excited about the train than he is going back to the Air and Space Museum.

If there was a train museum in DC we would have to sedate him to get him out of there. He’s that fixated on trains.

Naturally I will have my camera. I’ll take some photos from the train but for me all the fun happens when we’re walking around the capital. I’ll be packing light so the only gear I’ll have will be the Acer netbook and lots of SDHC memory cards. For extended trips I normally take a laptop so I can dump the pictures but this will only be a few days.

It will be a good trip and I’ll post links to the Flickr page afterward.