Another Adventure

It seems once one giant insurmountable self-imposed ordeal is finished, another quickly follows.

This time last year we were busy painting and decorating the house. That took far longer than expected and the summer months flew past. We were stuck inside wearing face masks and our oldest clothes, painting. By the time we were able to put our heads up, it was nearing winter.

We have had this summer to ourselves to enjoy. It will probably be our first and last quiet period for a while. We are expecting a child near the end of the year. Thus our time now is being spent preparing what we can, fretting about all we can not, and generally doing what soon to be first time parents find themselves occupied with.

Having managed to buy land and build a house in a second language, we now embark on the challenge of raising a child in an unfamiliar culture. I am keen not burden them more than they already will be. It is unsustainable to adopt a manner fitted to our mother countries. This child’s mother country will not be our own. We moved for the challenge and so the challenge continues.

Soon we will be attending prenatal classes in French. That should be a steep learning curve! Already the midwife appointments are confronting me with language and phrases I never expected to need to know.

We have a baby registry for those interested in sending a useful item or two. If you would like the details of the registry, please get in touch. Gifts for the little one are not expected but will always be gratefully received. For those who know us from a distance, and want to help, buying my software would be appreciated.

An Update – Hello World

Our little one has arrived. He and Megan are home and doing well.

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Ask Different

My contributions on Ask Different occasionally leads to people reaching out to me.

A recent e-mail asked why I wrote on the site and what might improve it. I though the answers useful to share more widely. Maybe this train of thought itself answers their question?

Ask Different is a web site focusing on questions about Apple related software and hardware. Its big brother is Stack Overflow; a site where the topic is software development. Stack Overflow towers over the other Stack Exchange sites in terms of size and impact.

Discovering Stack Overflow

I had long followed Joel Spolsky, one of the creators of Stack Overflow, via the the web site “Joel on Software” and the “Business of Software” forum. I discovered Stack Overflow through Joel’s documenting its creation.

Why Contribute?

I do not actively contribute to Stack Overflow. The site does not feel welcoming and it suffers from too many looking for quick fixes, rather than answers. I do not envy the moderators their role.

I do contribute to Ask Different, another Stack Exchange site. Ask Different’s culture has been more welcoming and aims to help users of Apple devices, rather than developers.

Early on I mostly made small edits to other’s questions and answers. Typically improving formatting or fixing typos.

Later I looked for questions related to my areas of expertise. When I noticed long unanswered questions that I could answer; I answered.

Today Ask Different provides professional benefits. I get to tell others about my work and I am helping to create a safe site where I can point customers needing more general advice.

Wild blackberries in Allier, France
Wild blackberries in Allier, France

Own Research

Most of my answers are from hard won experience. I prefer not to answer questions outside of my field of experience or expertise.

Rarely but sometimes I answer opinion related questions in order to publish information in one place that is difficult to find elsewhere.

Improving Stack Overflow?

With regard to Stack Overflow specifically, it is tempting to suggest splitting up the site by development language or tool. But this would not fix the problem of low quality, quick fix seeking, behaviour.

I would examine the role of comments on questions and answers. They have use but are home to many problems.

I wonder if better cross-linking of questions and answers would be useful. The ability to find a question or answer and then navigate around the subject matter. Links outside the site to specific official documentation and tutorials might be useful.

Tractor in a field in Allier, France
Tractor in a field in Allier, France

Contributing Elsewhere?

I have my own personal and business web sites. One of the best investments in my time has been writing recipes for my software.

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Plastic Defects in Joby GorrilaPods

Megan took out her Joby GorrilaPod flexible tripod for the first time in a few months. When she picked it up and moved one of the flexible legs, it pulled away in her hand.

Broken Joby GorillaPod
Broken Joby GorillaPod

Three cracks had appeared since Megan had put down the GorrilaPod. It has not been heavily used or stressed. The plastic had cracked with age, not use.

Three cracks have developed over time in the Joby GorrilaPod.
Three cracks have developed over time in the Joby GorrilaPod.

We have previously replaced my GorrilaPods twice but no more. The last replacement failed quickly enough that I now actively avoid the Joby brand. I can not trust even the lightest camera to this style of tripod.

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Splitting More Movie Formats

I wrote Movie Splitter for us, my wife and I. We both have point and shoot Canon cameras that capture video in MPEG-4 format. The cameras have a nice feature called Auto-Hybrid. This feature captures a little video before each photograph we take and combines those little bits into a longer video. Over the course of a day or two taking photos, the compilation of little bits grows into a few minutes of treasured memories.

Some bits of video are better than others. We wanted to keep the better bits and remove the others. I wrote Movie Splitter to help us do that.

I published Movie Splitter on the Mac App Store at an unsustainably low price. Like most products on the store, it can never justify its costs.

Since then I have updated Movie Splitter when we wanted specific improvements. Rarely do I added functionality solely because of requests; I can not justify the time.

Recently I was contacted by a customer who had family footage they wanted to split. Their Canon PowerShot G15 camera, it turned out, saved Auto-Hybrid movies in a slightly different format. The request struck a cord with me for a few reasons: my assumption about Canon camera footage was wrong, the request was kindly written, and family footage is valuable.

More by luck than anything else, I have recently been messing around with video encoding for a side project. So my head was in the right place to tackle this problem.

We e-mailed back and forth figuring out what was wrong and what might make Movie Splitter work. We encountered the normal problems with video: tools silently altered the raw sample footage, sharing large files was a problem, and video file formats are inscrutable.

It took a couple of hours of work but I got Movie Splitter working for them. Their Auto-Hybrid family footage is now split into usable bits and will no doubt bring them joy.

New Formats

For everyone else, Movie Splitter now supports reading and exporting to more formats. I do not know which formats because that is not how this tool works. All I can say is that Movie Splitter definitely works with MPEG-4 but should now work with at least qt and mov video.

Movie Splitter will read any Apple AVFoundation supported video format. The only export formats allowed are those that will not re-encode the original content. The list of supported formats will change as Apple change AVFoundation.

A nice side effect of this “let AVFoundation decide” approach is that Movie Splitter can now export audio only versions of the movie being split. Is this useful? Probably not, but the feature came for free.

Nice Reviews

Despite an appalling average Mac App Store rating for Movie Splitter, I take comfort in most of the written reviews being overwhelmingly positive. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to comment or leave a positive message. I am delighted to know Movie Splitter has helped you.

New in Movie Splitter v1.4.0

  • Added support all AVFoundation formats.
  • Added export to multiple pass-through formats.

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Blossom

Our long established cherry trees have burst into flower this week. The warmer weather has arrived and the garden is returning to life.

Cherry blossom
Cherry blossom
Detail of a cherry blossom
Detail of a cherry blossom
Detail of a cherry blossom
Detail of a cherry blossom

My work is keeping me trapped inside for the bulk of the day but, when I can in the late evening, I am outside.

Detail of plum blossom
Detail of plum blossom

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