So since Andrea made HER blog, I gained a few people who were interested in MY blog. But now nobody comments!! I might go and pout or sulk or something.

PLEASE go comment? I really like REAL comments. All I get now-days are junk email-like comments advertising things. Or some foreigner who can't speak a lick of proper English telling me about a school assignment? Now THAT'S a confusing name, no sense in the comment at all, but it isn't junk advertising either, so I don't know what to make of it.

All in all, I don't get worthwhile commenting at all! And I really want to hear what you have to say.



Shepherd vs. shepherd

The flock: we can either have a shepherd who tends his flock and keeps them happy, well fed, healthy and safe. But a shepherd can also train his flock with strength. Life isn't going to be all safety and rest. It will have hardship as well. We, as a flock can also be trained in strength, defense and even combat. At least this is what I could see as a potential goal of the body of Christ. A pastor could baby his flock along, exerting all the fruits of the spirit, but skirting problems that arrise to avoid conflict, or he could train that group of people to take the bad situations head-on and grow strong from them. Just a thought...

Why do we believe what we believe?

So I just had a thought brought up by someone. I won't get into details why, but pretty much it's a questioning of my beliefs about stuff. Stuff like, "why is playing with 'supposed' demonic things dangerous?" and "why do I believe that following Jesus the best way for the non-eternal portion of our lives as well as for the ONLY way for the eternal?"

Truly, I have no intention of recanting ANY of my beliefs on these things EVER, but my answer to those questions is really only a very weak "because it's what I've always believed." There is no valid why, really. And I really want there to be.

Thoughts? Not that I won't stop believing this way, but in all sincerity, why should I keep on believing this way?

Until Jesus returns exactly how he said he would and proves himself to every agnostic, atheist, Christian and other, we'll just have to take him and his word by faith. Is that all we have to go on then? Faith?

I just had a thought..and a prayer. Only one person truly knows what I'm thinking. Probably even more-so than I do. I don't even know what I'm thinking, but he sure does. And the prayer is that he would show me exactly how to approach people who make me question my beliefs with his own power enough to convince them that he truly is the way. And that would be HIS power, because if it were my own..well then we couldn't give him credit for any of it.

More to think on I guess.

Here's a quick idea to get perspective: I'm thinking of these questions while looking in from the viewpoint of a non-Christian. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that I am not a Christian. I'm saying that I'm looking at the issue AS IF I was not. Basically, how does the other guy think? Why doesn't he believe me?

Can new technology go too far?

The first time the Star Trek people remastered all their videos on DVD, they simply did a straight conversion with maybe a little cleanup. However, with all this new Blu-ray stuff, they've remastered it AGAIN and have gone so far as to "digitize" the video, replacing the model Enterprise hanging on strings in the studio with a poorly done 3D render. Well, I was watching the ad on some of our videos and it says that you can watch the videos with that 3D render instead of the original model if you so choosed. But I think this is just a cheap way of advertising Blu-ray. In fact, I think Blu-ray is way too over-advertised anyway. How much can we remaster old videos to make them better and better?

Seriously, Blu-ray is just a way to create a 40GB DVD. And of course, if the technology is popular with a big company like Disney or Universal, well, they'll do everything possible to get sales including remastering these old videos into high quality digital video with replacement 3D renders and adding hours of 'extras' which are a waste of time.

Personally, I say if you want Blu-ray to take off, stop advertising so much in the way of "hours of special bonus features!" Instead, why don't you pack hours of actual MOVIE onto the disc. Why not put Toy Story 1 at 2 (and now 3 in June) onto one side of one disc and say, "Get all three Toy Stories on one single-layer Blu-ray disc!"

Well, really it seems as though they invested in this great technology and now they don't exactly know what to do with it. It's like getting a one-million dollar check in the mail what?

Back to old videos though: sometimes the mistakes and cheap look that the old videos had can be appreciated MORE than a remaster of them to make them look cooler. Star Trek for example was COOL when it was cheap! Of course, it's kind of cool now, but not as much.

More on Skype and overhead setups

Well, last night at men's 6:33 we had our Skype call from Argentina. And it worked...kind of. However, the connection they had down there was extremely poor and our own LAN wasn't doing so hot for external connections either. However, we did like we had done for when they went to India. We bypassed audio transmission and sent only video through Skype. Then we plugged someone's Blackberry into the sound board via headphone jack and were able to get audio that way. So Skype for video and Blackberry for audio. It worked fairly well and we were able to get a decent show up on the screen.

However, WE of course, were stressing out the entire time and we had leadership up in the sound booth bugging us as to why we weren't getting this feature to work or why they couldn't hear us or why why why...

And of course, we didn't know because we hadn't anticipated the Blackberry/cell-phone idea one bit. They just handed us the cell phone and said, "This is how we did it this morning!" But neither of us were there "this morning," so we had to figure out what they were talking about. Anyway, the same leadership person that was pretty much instigating all the stress also said afterward that we should just come up with a standard. He said, "Skype team," but I assume that to mean that we just need to write up a whitepaper or standard on how to make Skype work for missions trips that we want to bring in during a service. And I've come up with a few ideas.

The first idea is to codify the setup we had last night. Have a headphone plugin going to a cell phone from the board for audio and Skype the video in and combine them successfully. However, Skype, I noticed, is pretty horrible with video, especially when the camera is low resolution. Besides that, we only have a framerate of maybe 2 frames/sec if the connection is good and less if the connection is bad or flaky. In fact, there were times where we had 1 frame/2 minutes last night.

So maybe we should scrap the Skype idea and go for something a bit more reasonable like UStream. UStream is like an online video recorder that will also stream your recording live as you record it. Of course, I've no idea what the quality of the transmission would be if they were on a slow connection, so this might require a bit of thought.

As for audio, working with everybody else's cell phone was just horrible. The first one we got was a flip-phone that required security unlocks due to the international connection and it kept disconnecting on us. The second was a Blackberry and we got audio okay, but had a bit of trouble sending audio back. Besides that, the guy was up in the sound booth yelling at his phone the whole time. Thus I've come up with a solution. Perhaps the best idea would be to create/research a box which would replace the telephone handset. We DO have a landline in the sound booth which we can probably more easily call and get a reasonable connection (cell phones either way increase chances of dropped calls). My idea is to somehow vandalize or 'decompile' the telephone handset which is on a PBX network and replace it with a plain old RCA I/O. This would require a bit of impedance matching and possibly some audio amplifiers to interface the phone earpiece/mic with a regular audio input/output. This is probably the best solution that I can think of. Of course, the store-bought one costs somewhere around $400, so that's out. I can't imagine a church paying that much money for a once-a-year occurrence. Besides, I think I can make my own, with my dad's help.

So those are my ideas and reflections. I didn't think last night was at all efficient, and standardizing it will make things a whole bunch better.

Idea for new computer

So we're having this BIG thing at church where a group of probably seven to ten guys are going down to Argentina in about a month or so. They're trying to set it up so that the Tuesday when we're meeting and they are gone, they'll Skype us during service and we'll be able to put it up and talk with them live. I think this is pretty cool. However, we were running into a few security bugs last week when we tested (security locked me out of being able to open Skype up). We'll be testing it again tomorrow night, and I think the IT guy at church fixed it. Anyway, he said he'd look into it this last week.

This all got me to thinking: what would be the ultimate media computer? I thought, everybody goes for Mac as a media computer, but what if I were to just completely create my own? I thought I'd probably use Windows as an operating system, since I know that one best. However, the very basic distribution has SO many background processes to keep everything running it's almost annoying. But I think I'd go for Windows in spight of everything.

Actually, my idea was this: what kind of computer could I build that would be the ultimate in speed, capacity and technology while being affordable? And what kind of cool peripherals could I put on it to make it completely media and Internet-based? I thought, maybe I'd create a whitebox (custom desktop) computer with all the latest video/audio hardware. I'd have a nice big GEForce or NVidia video card plus maybe a 6-channel audio card. Of course, I'd also have the option to mix everything down into 2-channel stereo, but 6 channel would be nice to have just in case. On top of that, I might try to set it up with three monitors. Yes, two is cool but three is cooler!

Then I thought maybe I'd get a permanent webcam and possibly attach it with a Third Hand sort of mechanical device. Maybe ball joints or something. I also thought that maybe I could manage a good quality scan converter so I could pipe one of the monitor outputs to a composite video feed.

Of course, I also considered making it portable. Maybe a nicely carved wooden box or a steel crate with air vents would be sufficient to cart it around. Or I could go for one of those official media boxes with the twist-clamps. Also, a box would mean casters, because with all this stuff I'd add to it, it would become quite heavy.

Let me go back to audio. I'd also want a fairly decent audio mixer so that I could control volume of the output audio. And probably I'd want another for inputs.

I'm probably going crazy here and have racked up around $3000 worth of stuff...but I'll keep brainstorming.

Of course, I'd have a high-quality (everything is high-quality) network module or two..wireless and wired. And maybe a dialup modem, since we're still on a phone line at home.

Actually I should put this all in perspective. This was an attempt at making the ultimate Skype experience. Webcam, audio input and output and a video output for the overhead projector setup we have at church.

I seem to be rambling. But of course, I'm into it! This is what I'd do if I could. Of course, at the moment I can't but if I COULD...yeah.

Then I have to think about weight. So far, I've really really enjoyed having a laptop to cart around everywhere. It's VERY portable. I couldn't imagine taking this giant box to the library every day for school..of course, who says this is a school computer? I don't want to store EVERYTHING I ever have had on this thing. That would clog it up and it's primary purpose would be bogged down. No. It's only for media broadcasting and stuff.

I just had another brainstorm: video inputs? Maybe. Maybe not. That's a tossup. All of the video stuff I've seen so far is HUGE and that'd detract from the good speed I'd be getting. This is going to take some thought, but I definitely want to look into it.

Okay. I am probably done rambling. Have fun reading!!