Category: Geek Alert!

05
Sep
2021
0:51

Dell Ultrasharp 4K Webcam Review

Years ago, when I was first looking for a good webcam for streaming (and since the pandemic, tons of Zooming, etc.), everything I read led to the Logitech C920 series. I ended up getting the newest one in that line at the time, the C922x. Overall it’s been a fine camera but there were a few quirks that always bothered me. Firstly, as noted all over the internet, it has the very annoying quirk of not saving the camera settings. Streamers are always complaining that they have to tweak their cameras every time they use them. I ended up downloading a third party program called WebCamCfg which is pretty slick and let’s you save/load settings using any .txt editor to alter a .cfg file. However I was still annoyed that I needed this at all. Also there were several Logitech software suites for the camera and none of them did everything. They each did some things. I ended up settling on LogiCapture as my favorite because you can actually use the program itself as your video source (instead of the camera directly) which allows you to tweak settings, zoom, etc., while live with camera, which you usually can’t do with every other camera software suite I’ve used. Usually the camera can’t be in use by another program if you want to adjust it. But even LogiCapture did not give me the ability to turn off auto-exposure which I like to do as I like running everything manually for various reasons.

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24
Apr
2021
14:57

Setting Up My Behringer Xtouch With Reaper

I have used Reaper as my Digital Audio Workstation software for about 15 years now and absolutely love it. Recently I decided it might be nice to get a physical control surface to use with it. I initially got a Korg nanoKONTROL to dip my toes in the water. It’s a decent little surface, but I very quickly realized that if I was going to go this route I wanted to go all the way and actually have motorized faders and all the bells and whistles, so at the suggestion of many other users I got a Behringer Xtouch. The Korg unit had taken a lot of setup and tweaking to get it working with Reaper. The Xtouch works right out of the box though with only basic functionality mostly. I thought I’d document my journey for posterity in case I ever need to remember what all I did or in case it can help anyone else.

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09
Apr
2021
1:55

Reverse Engineering A VLC Media Player Skin

Summary of this post: inane geeky technobabble about reverse engineering a “skin” for VLC media player. Ye have been warned.

I use VLC as my media player. Like most folks, I wanted a dark skin for it (which they have supposedly been working on a default one for years now). There are lots of user created skins you can use. I have a very specific taste in what I want. Dark, minimalist, compact, I want to see the actual volume percentage, and I want the progress bar to display current time/time remaining. Most of the skins, I couldn’t stand. I found one that almost met all my needs though. Darklounge. The only thing was it had a progress bar that displayed current time/total duration.

I looked into how to edit skins. There is an official skin editor that is ancient (as are most skins). I figured changing that one thing should be pretty simple. I downloaded the editor. Oh, it needs Java Runtime Environment. Ew. This is too much trouble for my tiny change. I find lots of other skins to try. Jump through hoops to download them. None fit the bill. I decide to bite the bullet and try and install JRE just to do this and then I’ll uninstall everything. The skin editor still thinks I don’t have JRE. I read somewhere about setting a JAVA_HOME environment variable in Windows settings. I do that. Hey the editor starts now but I can’t for the life of me get it to even open the skin I want to edit. Again I abandon this project and try every possible other skin to see if any are good enough. Nope.

More research. I discover that the skin files (.vlt files) are actually just .zip archives. I change the extension. Windows can normally open those by default, but not this one for some reason. So I fire up 7zip which CAN read the archive. It’s just a bunch of .png files and one .xml file. So what I need HAS to be in the .xml somewhere. I look up the variable that skins use. I find the “$D” variable for “Duration” and change it to “$L” which is the variable for “Time Remaining.” Save the archive, and BAM! Perfect! I finally have my dark, minimal, compact VLC skin with volume percentage and that displays current time/time remaining. I do a highly satisfied victory butt dance in my chair. I’m practically Neo in The Matrix*

*That is sarcasm as, while this wasn’t necessarily “simple,” it’s fairly elementary amateur tech stuff.

29
Mar
2021
0:35

Beez McKeever

Sure most people are probably asleep at 6:40am. Some are even getting up or already up. Me, I’m laying in bed trying to sleep but instead getting an idea for a very silly song about having a crush on the Prop/Costume Diva for #MST3K and singing it into a voice memo in bits and pieces so I’ll remember it the next day. Quite probably the most niche song I’ve ever written. And that’s saying something.

I then also decided to record a full studio version and video for that version in all it’s power pop glory!

04
Oct
2017
22:18

The Magic Of Radio

I can’t remember the last time radio was a part of my life. I got my first vehicle somewhere in the mid-90s and from that point on it was CDs, iPods, iPhones, and podcasts. The last real, strong radio related memories I have are laying in bed on Sunday nights during high school and listening to Dr. Demento from 10 until midnight.

Recently, my friend and band mate, Karl, was espousing the SiriusXM Beatles channel and I was intrigued. I have the capability in my car but have never subscribed since I have more than enough podcasts, audiobooks, music and Spotify to fill all my time. However this Beatles channel sounded cool and I wanted to check it out so eventually, after encountering a mountain of annoyances and technical problems in the research and signing up stages alone (bad form, SiriusXM), I finally managed to sign up for a free 30 day trial of their streaming service.

I found myself lying in bed trying to drift off to sleep to all things Beatles and feeling a little of that magic again. Feeling a connection to the world as these waves streamed in to my bedroom live. I had no control of what played (though there is on-demand content as well if you like) and no idea what would come next. I found it especially appropriate to be reliving this with The Beatles as they often spoke of the influences they heard on the radio that had such a hug impact on them. I felt a kinship knowing that John, Paul, George and Ringo probably spent many a night listening to these magical sounds of rock and roll streaming into their bedrooms.

I’m not sure if I’ll actually subscribe when my trial is over (I also hate the fact that they still use the outdated annoyance model of making customers call if they want to cancel), but the content of The Beatles channel has been cool enough to at least make me consider it.

29
Apr
2015
9:57

Middle Earth: Austin

Elly and I just mapped out Austin as Middle Earth just based on names. Dwarves live on Oltorf. Common Elves on Woodland. High Elves on Riverside. Hobbits on Pleasant Valley. Orcs on Slaughter. Sauron’s fortress in Mordor is in The Domain. The Ents are at Arbor Walk. And there’s a major defensive fortress at Rundberg where the renowned Riders of Rundberg reside. Beware the Balrog in the Mines of Manchaca. Gondor would be The Capitol.

23
Sep
2014
10:16

iPhone 6 Mini Review: Love It!

I’m one of those geeks who got up at 2am to order the new iPhone. After 5 phone calls to mostly incompetent AT&T representatives due to various order issues, I did indeed receive my phone on release day!

I’d always wanted an iPhone that was a little bit bigger but not too much. The iPhone 6 is perfect for my tastes. I was worried that I would wish I’d gotten the Plus but I’m happy I went with the regular. The Plus does have even more battery life since it has a bigger battery, but even the regular 6 has the best battery life of any iPhone yet.

I love the feel of the phone. Something about the glass of the screen feels better than any iPhone before it. Solid and smooth and just nice to touch and tap on. I was surprised how much bigger the phone seems than my 5. I didn’t think it would be much difference but it really feels larger in the best possible way. The screen looks far better to my eyes as well. Everything just looks sharper, more detailed and more vibrant. The whole phone just feels very well made, sturdy and very high quality. While I do like the new form factor, it can be difficult to pick up off of flat surfaces due to the rounded sides, but I don’t mind. We will see if this changes when my case gets here. It’s so thin, that I don’t think adding a case (which I really only do to preserve resale value when I inevitably upgrade) will really impact the general sleekness of the phone. I stopped using screen protectors several iPhones back and have not regretted the decision. The glass feels so much better and is very sturdy and scratch resistant. Your mileage may vary of course, and I am generally very mindful and take care of my phone without being too focused or obsessive about it. I’m just a little more attentive when pulling it out of my pocket to not fumble or drop it.

I’m also loving the whole touch ID to unlock the phone. I was surprised how fast it responds. I push the home button and leave my thumb there and it unlocks almost immediately. It took me a day to unlearn my muscle memory of pushing the home button and then swiping to unlock, but I got used to it fast. I didn’t use a lock code before because it was a pain. Now with touch ID, I don’t mind it at all. There have been a handful of occasions when, for some reason I wanted to unlock the phone with another finger besides my right thumb (which is the finger I used to set up touch ID) and in those cases I just have to type in the code since you can only set it up with one particular finger. I don’t know if I prefer the new power button placement on the side, but I don’t have strong feelings either way. I do find that I occasionally accidentally turn my volume down a notch with the opposite finger when pressing the power button to lock the phone with my thumb.

The speaker is also much louder and sounds better to me.

As for iOS 8, I’m pretty happy with that too aside from them taking “camera roll” view out which was far more efficient, in my opinion, than having to view collections. I just want all my photos in one big easily scrollable view. I can make albums if I want to.

Overall I’d say I am completely satisfied and love the new iPhone 6. It’s everything I wanted it to be and have no regrets not getting the Plus.