Hitler discovers that his generals don't have enough men or materiel to obey his orders

Last night, I watched "Der Untergang", a subtitled German film about the fall of the Third Reich, from the perspective of Hitler and those around him at the end.  It had one of those Downfall videos in the middle of it. Perhaps this could have been entitled "Hitler discovers that his generals don't have enough men or materiel to obey his orders, and that he's going to lose the war".

Not that funny, as you can see.

Frivolity aside, this is an amazing and powerful film.  The reason why the parodies are so funny is that Bruno Ganz's Hitler is played with a passion and rage (not to mention detachment from reality) that is entirely plausible as a reaction to the destruction of his dreams of world domination.  It is of course hilariously over the top as a reaction to the relegation of Sheffield United, or to being told off for ending a sentence with a preposition. Note - both these links are rather sweary, so perhaps not safe for work.

The parodies are funny, no doubt about it, but you should also consider spending the 2.5 hours to watch the actual movie.  It's really very very good.

What's it for?

When I hear people raving excitedly about a new social networking thing, I always go and look, just because I love these things.  I love connecting with other people, and finding things in common.  I just do, and always have.  Recently, though, I've started to notice a problem.

When I arrive at a new site, I register as "ids" if I get there first, or "smithi1" or "idzni" if not.  Then I try and figure out what it is for.  This is where the problem comes in.  Blogging was obvious to me.  Twitter, pretty much so although I initially underestimated the value of it.  Virtual worlds, well... I'd been dying for those to exist since I first started talking about them in 1988 (along with certain other people - who know who they are!)  I understood last.fm pretty quickly, and Facebook and MySpace weren't very difficult either.

However, the reason that I'm writing this is that I just signed up to blip.fm, and I can't figure out what it is for.  This is not a unique occurrence, and I am experiencing it more and more often as I explore new and ever more esoteric social networking sites (are the obvious ideas all taken?) .  I mean, blip.fm looks very much as though it was influenced by Twitter, and it's very obviously about music.  Here are some things that I *have* figured out about it:

  • I can search for a song and "blip" it, and if the site knows about it then I get to enter my thoughts on it into a text box, and then the site plays it to me somehow.  Subsequently, the song appears in my list of blipped songs.

  • I can embed the song, along with my comments, in another web page - presumably I can also do this with anyone's songs or comments.

  • I can add people as favourites, and get a twitter-like page with the aggregation of all their blipped songs on it.

  • I can press play and start listening to all the songs on any page which works like a sort of playlist.  Presumably the speed of my listening is a lot slower than the content provided by multiple people blipping, so my playback will fall behind.  Or something.

  • It's almost like I'm a DJ.  Or something.

Perhaps I'm just getting stupider with age, but these individual features don't seem to me to hang together in a coherent whole.  What I need is an enthusiastic friend who gets it to excitedly tell me about why it's so great.  They could give me the two or three patterns for using it that illustrate why it's good.  That approach is very effective for me on those occasions when I am coming to a new thing via an enthusiastic friend, and I quite often do it in the other direction when I'm enthusiastic about something.

Wouldn't it be great if blip.fm (and the rest) provided the "enthusiastic friend" explanation somewhere.  Perhaps they could put it in the FAQ, as an answer to the question at the top of this post.

"What's it for?"

Update, 01:20am: From Annie Ok, the one liner I needed: "it's for posting songs to twitter".  So you get it to tweet when you blip - that single fact made it all come into focus.  Thanks, Annie!

Machinima screen capture on the Mac

I've been working on another machinima project.

For over a year now, I've been doing these things on and off. I've learned a lot, mostly by being incredibly frustrated for extended periods of time.

Throughout all of this time, I have used Snapz Pro X to capture the movie clips from Second Life, or whatever other virtual world platform I was using. This product is indispensable, and yet it has provided me with some of my most miserable moments. You see, Snapz has a dangerous propensity to lose all the data that you just captured with it.

The main reason is that it is simultaneously inflexible and intolerant when it comes to disk space. Inflexible because it contains no options allowing the user to save output to any drive except the boot drive. Snapz creates a temporary capture file as it is going along, and then it encodes this into the final output format. This process requires up to twice as much disk space as either of these files require on their own. Intolerant, because if you run out of space on your primary disk, Snapz bins all your work. That's it. Bye bye. See you later.

So I decided to try an alternative piece of capture software called iShowU.

In many ways, this software seemed to be the answer to my prayers. It offers useful and easily configurable profiles for capture. The save file is produced immediately after capture finishes - no hanging around. Finally, it only uses one lot of disk space. If there's 1Gb left on the disk you can stop capture, and know that saving your work will require no further space. Oh, and joy of joys - you can configure where the final output is sent, and where the temporary files are kept.

After joyously using this for a brief period, I noticed that Second Life was running unusually slowly while I was capturing it. An investigation revealed, perhaps obviously, that some of the benefit of iShowU was coming at a cost. So I did a quick and dirty test.

A quick look at Activity Monitor while capturing reveals that Snapz uses about 2.5% of a CPU on my MacBook Pro to capture at 1280x720 (it's a 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo).

Activity Monitor Screenshot of Snapz Pro X

The same test for iShowU reveals that it is using more than an entire CPU for its capture at the same resolution and target frame rate.

Activity Monitor Screenshot showing iShowU

When it is capturing, Snapz Pro is obviously writing its output into a file with very little compression. All the CPU requirement comes afterwards for the encoding. iShowU achieves its greater convenience by doing the processing at capture time, but of course that has a major impact on the application being captured. This is probably tolerable for capturing Safari or Mail or other less demanding applications, but not for Second Life, or games.

So I guess I'm going to end up putting up with Snapz and its idiosyncrasies for a while yet. I'm just going to cross my fingers for the provision of additional preferences so that I can tell it where to put its files.