May 2008

Now that I have the Pro version of Antics activated on my laptop I hope to get some more time working on this little short in the near future.

I’m undecided about whether I should be doing most of it in Antics or making some scenes then cutting and thrusting in Sony Vegas. Both are equally capable.

There’s very little dialogue in the film and most of it is silent, so it will involve a lot of concentration on the editing.

With my main computer coughing and spluttering into a grave I look into a replacement. Price is high on the list but so is performance. Equally important is specification.

I built the previous computer myself, sourcing parts. It was very high spec for the time; 1GB of ram, 2.4 Ghz Intel processor, 256MB graphics card, big hard disk.

So now (actually a couple of months ago) I look for a replacement. And to be honest I wasn’t getting anything that was better than what I had for any reasonable price.

I was despairing of getting a replacement.

I can’t remember what I was browsing on Amazon but suddenly before me there was a Laptop for £399. Not only was it at that price but it had an NVIDIA graphcis card, 2 gig of memory 160gb hard drive 802 wireless and webcam. It had Vista but no one’s perfect.

I thought to myself Do I really need a new desktop computer? I had been searching for a replacement but didn’t think that I could get a laptop to replace a desktop. One reason was that I already had a laptop; same price, bought about a year earlier, 80gb hard disk 512Mb ram, no graphics card (worth speaking about).

But in the end it made sense. The laptop is more powerful than the desktop, runs Antics well, has a reasonable hard drive, is portable and takes up a lot less room than a desktop. (And let’s be honest, laptops are cooler. Hi there! let me impress you by getting my laptop out!)

So I now have two laptops and a semi working desktop (plus another desktop that has Windows 98 on it and various stuff, but that never gets switched on either as I have discovered MS Virtual PC. A Ghosting of the 98 machine and that ‘computer’ is now available on to run my laptop). I think the laptop was the better choice.

My desktop computer has been playing up for months now. In fact it hardly gets switched on; there are random crashes, black screens, strange noises. Luckily I learned from a previous hard drive failure never to keep anything valuable on it and I now have an external hard drive on which I keep anything important.

I think it’s the processor that is the problem but I can’t be sure. When it (finally) reboots it loads the bios and tells me that there was a problem with the hardware, and it is on the bus speed of the processor; indicating that this is the problem.

I’ve had blue screens of death too, and these indicate a memory problem according to the searches I’ve done with the numbers provided, so there may be more to the problem that just the processor.

But this is only the half of it. There are two pieces of software on the computer that are hardware dependent (excluding Windows itself) and these are Antics and Sophocles. Both were installed long before any problems started appearing.

In fact, apart from hardware faults (the previous hard drive went up in smoke, actual smoke) there have been no problems whatsoever with this computer. I put it down to not going on the net with that computer and only installing software that is going to stay on the hard drive. In the four years I have had it it has been on the net a total of about half an hour.

And this leads me to the first problem. I slotted in a modem when I needed one and took it out when I didn’t. The first being rarely and the latter being the rest of the time. So, when it starts to randomly switch off and other parlour tricks I need a modem to de-activate Antics. Guess what I can’t find?

I finally get a glut of modems from friends and last night I wage war with the computer for hours.

Firstly getting the thing to stay on for longer than five minutes. This involves switching it off and unplugging it then leaving it for five to ten minutes. After about an hour of this it stays on. But I have to switch it off as it isn’t recognising the modems. This involves another half hour of slotting in and out various modems.

I get one that windows likes and AOL doesn’t work with it. I get into a constant loop with AOL checking for available numbers, telling me there aren’t any numbers for my area, giving me the numbers that aren’t available, then going online to check for the numbers.

A few more reboots and I give up, installing another dial up.

By this time it’s close to or after midnight but I am online!

So I load up the Antics activation utility and, after I hunt for and find my activation key, Antics is deactivated from that machine.

This leaves Sophocles. I’m not too concerned about this as I have the 2007 beta on my laptop but it would be nice to have Sophocles available. Perhaps something about the fate of this software will turn up one day.

I’ve not been doing much lately. Work eat sleep. I did play around with Skethup for a while this week and found some cool new features I wasn’t aware of. I recently bought a copy of Microsoft Word 97 for seventeen pounds through Amazon and to my surprise it came with Microsoft Works Suite 99. Both my laptops came with Works installed but the copy from Amazon (actually it was some university that was selling it, can’t remember which offhand) also had Autoroute.

I slapped this one gigabyte beastie on a windows 98 virtual machine I have on the laptop (I wasted about fifteen minutes installing it on Vista on the laptop only to discover that it couldn’t load the ELUA and so wouldn’t run) and started playing around with it.

Which brings me eventually to Sketchup.

I saved a jpeg picture of a map and brought it into Sketchup, creating roads and paths from it.  It was there I discovered I could split the lines in Sketchup and move things around, rotate and stretch the roads out.  With proper planning I could  create a  road system on a map from one square in Sketchup.  I didn’t save anything as the more I fiddled with the the bigger mess it came. But it was good doing something new.

I got in a couple of hours on the Touch of Death during this week, enough to plan out some shots and add another character, do some trial runs of scenes – which i didn’t save as it would get too complicated.  The piece only has two characters anyway (well two and a half) and there is very little dialog.  I’m starting to approach the hurdles I saw earlier and they don’t look too insurmountable. I was hoping to use only the free Antics content for this project but it looks like I may have to dig into the Medical pack.

Great though Antics is for delivering out of the box I think I’ll be making some master shots and then bringing them into Vegas for sharper editing. I’m still a little undecided on the amount of cameras I want to use but I do know that I will be using weird angles as part of the storytelling.

I went through a box of old fiction today.

Boy was it scary.

Well, a few things about it was scary.

First it was typed. So this dates it to the eighties. I started off with a manual typewriter, upgrading to an electric model a few years later, moving on to an Amiga (A600, which I still have and which still works) in the early nineties and on to a full fledged PC (a 386 with a mighty 4MB of Ram and a hard disk of about 20 or 40 megabytes, standard VGA display) in the mid to late nineties and from then to more powerful systems. I type this on a laptop with a couple of hundred times more memory and a couple of hundred time the hard drive, attached to the internet – which I hadn’t even heard about in the eighties.

Looking back the manual typewriter could be tricky and awkward but the electric typewriter was close to using a computer keyboard.  Changing the ribbons was always a chore; I don’t think anyone who owned a typewriter enjoyed that chore.

In fact I came across quite a bit of writing in red text. Obviously I didn’t change the ribbons when the black ink faded but just switched it over and started using the red strip.  Memories are coming back about the ribbons.  I remember I used to get a ribbon half black and half red and sometimes a ribbon that was half black and the other half correction. Though I think the latter may have been for the electric typewriter. I also they were quite expensive and required a trip into Dunfermline or Kirkcaldy to get them from John Menzies – now WHS Smith.

The other , more frightening, aspect of rummaging through the box was finding one hundred odd pages of a novella called ‘Cash Flow.’ The frightening thing is that I have no recollection of this whatsoever. Not a jot. Yet I must have spent a month or so at least on it.  I have the one hundred plus pages and a separate plot outline. It was a first draft – I know this because the spacing on the pages is single lined: a final draft is double spaced – and, I have to admit, pretty abysmal.  I only skimmed through some of the pages but there didn’t seem to be anything coherent to the structure to keep the reader interested.

Successfully hacked the nautica wordpress theme to make it look the way I want it to.

It doesn’t have the facility to add comments on it, but I am looking at that.

All done in a couple of hours! Not bad, even though I say so myself.

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