Thursday, May 9, 2013

Linux Software Wishlist/rant #1


I'm a Linux user, who by default will use a FLOSS solution or nothing. Primarily due to budget, but also philosophically because using a cracked proprietary solution is as good as paying them with my time.

Often I am wanting to do something on my computer, I look for software to help and am stuck with poorly implemented solutions with little to no documentation. I'm pretty good at working around the limitations and trawling forums to find a way through, but I wish it were easier.

Sometimes I write about it, most of the time its such a small and inconsequential thing that I don't.

Often times I am confronted with the reality that I need to get back into study, brush up my maths and get back to university to learn programming so I can resolve the problems myself either through contributing to an existing project, or starting a new one.

Today my problem was was the shitty video editing solutions that exist. I've tried multiple products like openshot, kdenlive, avidmux, winff, lightworks, handbreak, etc etc.. and I always turn back to the commandline tools like mencoder, ffmpeg, avconv, transcoder. Primarily ffmpeg*

The reason I return to the commandline is because no GUI tool does everything I want, they all have tiny little parts and a whole hell of a lot of bloat. they crash often, or take forever on a process and provide little to no feedback. The GUI tools are just using the cmd line tools anyway, but adding a level of abstraction over the top that I really don't appreciate for my needs.

I don't need funky effects, I rarely need colour correction, I make basic edits. Kdenlive has been my goto for these two things.

After that I mainly re-encode video's to homogenise my movie library, and to finalise my cut videos for uploading to youtube. Command line tools work best for that work anyway because I can batch things together.

The tool I wanted today was a lens distortion correction filter along the lines of PTlens, I looked and the only thing I could see was something to do with fri0r but there was no documentation, little to no examples.

You see, I have a GoPro Hero3. I use transcoder to remove camera shake, but it understandably leaves wobbly distortion at the edges of the footage. If I could lens correct, or debarrel, the footage first before deshaking it, I think the effect would be greatly reduced.

You would think that the open source community would have solved these things already, and I'm sure they have, multiple times, but things like bitrot, poor documentation, poor implementation, make these things dissappear into the ether.

This happens to me all the time, I want to do something, search, implementation is shit.

So... If I were to wish for a solution to my problem it would be the PTLense filter for ffmpeg or equivalent.

My bigger wish for the video editing world on Linux is more complicated, but if I were to put it into a sentence it would be "A timeline, an attribute graph editor and a filter node graph editor, where each clip on the timeline is the result of a filter node graph where all attributes are animatable" and it would look a lot like blender does.


* The libav project rubs me the wrong way, I end up using avconv because its the default in ubuntu and I cbf using the ppa for ffmpeg (don't bother defending libav, logical arguments don't normally work for consumers).

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


For a couple of years now I've wanted to go surfing, but never managed to find someone to go with. It's always been a bit of a shit scenario for me. Well last year, my friend Michael said we would go, but we both ended up being too lazy. This year we said we'd go and this time I was going to, no matter what.

So... I organise my first ever surf trip, and it turns out that Michael had to work. True to my word I went ahead anyway, posting the the event on Facebook in case anyone else was interested. Ended up that there are a lot of people on my friends list who have always wanted to surf but haven't. They just needed someone else to do the planning, provide the impetus. On this first occasion, I had one friend, Ailsa, who came with me. Now after 3-4 months, we have a crew of about six regulars, and additional people numbering up to the twenty something. Everyone always has a great time.

Initial research into how to get started began with looking on-line at the different surf schools for my area. There were about five or six websites. I picked purely from the website. Its quality of design, emotion of the content, and overall aesthetic feel really felt genuine. I emailed Chris up and booked lessons for Saturday and Sunday.

So I pick up Ailsa, we drive down to Goolwa. The drive was pleasant, we took the Mt Barker route down through Strathalbyn. Subsequent trips we take South Road through Mt Compass, because we have to pick up from south of Adelaide.

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When we get there we meet Chris, who's tall, really tall, and really friendly. I think he may have had his children running around him that day, its pretty funny to see a 6'+ guy pick up a toddler in diapers, his kids wont have any fear of heights.

Chris gives us a wetsuit to wear, I of course put it on backwards zipper at the front and have to be  schooled in how to wear a wetsuit. It's funny because a few people who've come with me since all do the same, were all such noobs haha. He also gives me this 9' foam board that I can barely wrap my arms about. we head down to the beach for a 10 minute chat and practice of standing technique before we head into the water.

Now he said a lot of important stuff, but I can barely remember, it might be worth my while to sit in on another session. He did have three rules though.. hmm what were they:

  1. Always keep your board shore side, its dangerous to have it ocean side because it will smack into you, and boards are hard.
  2. Stay to the side of people, not behind them or in front,  otherwise their board may hit you(or you them) when they catch a wave or for other reasons.
  3. hmm I cant remember three, perhaps I need to listen again.

We take our boards out to the water and I'm honestly really amazed at how easy it is to stand up on these things, remember I have a 9' foam board.

Goolwa has pretty consistent swell, but the waves break all in a line rather than peel left or right. It also has a really long sand bar so you don't have to paddle, just walk out to the first break and catch the white water.

After an hour of standing and falling off, Chris calls us back in. We change boards down in size and go back out for a second hour. Chris likes to progress you as fast as he can to the fibre glass boards.

It was a really really good day.

From then on its been a blur of salt, sand and surf. Almost every weekend I've taken the 2 hour drive down to Goolwa, picked up friends along the way, bought my own board(7'6'') 2nd hand, soft rack for my car, wet suit(tiki TK90). It only costs me petrol to go out now. I've also got a shopping list for future purchases that includes: 6'6 board, a go pro(There are barely any photo's of us) , an actual roof rack, some sort of wind/sun shelter, and I'm sure I will keep adding to it.

I'm catching waves,  standing up, getting some turning action, practicing my duck diving, still a long ways to go. I push myself to paddle out to the second and third break to get dumped by the 1.5 meter waves, I'll conquer that and be able to stay out there for longer than 20 minutes.

Yesterday was surfing in the rain with strong 15 degree winds, I kind of like the rain, but the wind wasn't so much fun. This winter should be interesting since I hate the cold, might have to invest in some more gear.

So yeah, I like surfing now, its fun and cheap.