Patty Goes Geeky

A techno odyssey

Archive for January 2010

Linked in, again

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I updated my LinkedIn account, which I let lapse when I left The Seattle Times. All this time, anyone who attempted to contact me got my pfoote@seattletimes.com address, which of course was deleted when the company and I parted company in December 2008. For some reason, I just didn’t want to deal with it. But a year-plus later, it seems time to either update or delete my LinkedIn account. So it’s updated with patricia.foote@gmail.com

But I did not take advantage of the offer to link to this blog. I am still reluctant to have more people than my family and friends know how technologically illiterate I am.

Written by geekypatty

January 28, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The right touch

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My new class started this week at the University of Washington, to which I commute by bus, for which I now pay with an ORCA card. The trip prompted some technology musings.

(But first, a plug for OLLI, otherwise known as the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute. It’s a national program for students over 50, with a University of Washington base that offers 25 short courses a quarter throughout the area. After an annual membership fee of $125, you can take all the courses you want for 20 bucks a piece. I’m on my second and third courses, and so far the quality has been first-rate.)

Back to tech: ORCA, otherwise known as One Regional Card for all, is a transit debit pass that you can order online (as long as you’re not getting a senior or disabled pass, which is a whole other issue) and can load money on via computer, too. It’s free until March 1, after which getting a card costs $5. So I opted for free, logged on to Metro, and put $30 in my “E-purse” via my credit card. My loaded card arrived a few days later in the mail.

To use, just tap the card on the reader, Metro says. The tap worked fine the first trip, but didn’t register the second time I boarded the bus. I held up the line while I tap-tap-tapped. Finally it took. I hope I didn’t empty my E-purse in the process.

On the ride, I noticed that in addition to the new ORCA reader, there’s also still a slidey card reader for Metro passes. Seems like a lot of readers. And then I wondered why Metro couldn’t eliminate the card redundancy and just have a bus machine that accepts Visa/Mastercard debit cards as the city’s parking meters do.

Fortunately, my versatile I.T. team includes a transit expert. So I asked John first how to work the ORCA card. (You see why becoming geekified is such a trial for me.) But as it turns out, I am not alone. John, from his driver’s seat, has been dealing with people like me for the past four months: “Touch the whale, Hon, touch the whale.” That’s been his mantra, and it’s now mine. He adds, “There’s a little stylized dorsal fin on the reader, and the resulting Nike-ish `Y’ marks the spot that you broadside the card on. You can leave the card in your wallet, or with practice and smart placement even in your purse or backpack, because it can read through layers of crap.”

Now I will never hold up the passenger line again. Because I will touch the whale.

Unfortunately, John has not been made privy to the logic behind ORCA’s design and the decision not just to take a debit/credit card as payment rather than using a debit/credit card to buy an ORCA card to use as payment. His theories center on cost, mobile platform issues, the length of time a debit/credit card takes to process, etc. All of which is quite logical.

John says the ORCA reader has made his life as a bus driver easier. I believe that anything making John’s life easier is good, so now that I know what to do, I am pro this technology. But why Metro didn’t put “touch the whale” on the instructions, I don’t know.

Written by geekypatty

January 27, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Posted in Misc Tech

What is it about me and scanners?

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My husband and my daughter would like me to pass along this wisdom: Do not ever go through the self-checkout lines at the grocery store if you have a) produce, b) alcohol or c) many items. I am not going to be specific about how this observation came about, other than to say that it had something to do with my dinner-time story about a trip to QFC that took about 15 minutes longer than it should have and involved me having to void out an entry for 40 cucumbers and summon the attendant a half-dozen times. (My husband said the checkers tell him that “U-Scan” really means “We-Scan.”)

Written by geekypatty

January 17, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Misc Tech

He never asked, ‘What’s my motivation?’ He just drooled.

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I’ve checked off one of my to-do items from very early on in my blog: creating and posting a video. It stars my grand-dog, Dante, a graduate of the Pavlov Studio of Acting, and the two of us created it as a Christmas present for his mother. “A Day in the Life of Dante” is posted on YouTube. (There apparently are other dogs out there named Dante whose days have been chronicled for posterity, so be sure to watch the right video. He is the handsomest one.)

Actually, the Christmas video was 10 minutes or so. I figured the audience — Jenna — would want more rather than less footage so her DVD has the director’s cut. The version posted on YouTube is edited to 4 minutes, and even that is long. But by the time I got to the tight version, I was pretty done with editing Dante video.

It is clunky, but it sure was fun to make. I would have chronicled the process in the blog, but didn’t want to spoil the surprise gift. In lieu of a blow-by-blow description, here are the details and the most useful tips I acquired:

I shot about 45 minutes of footage on a Flip camcorder, dumped it on my computer with the program downloaded from the Flip site and edited in Windows Movie Maker, mostly self-taught on both. I picked a chronological theme because it was the easiest structure on which to hang the collected snips of video. What is not easy is trying to hold the camcorder steady with one hand and hang on to the leashes of two excited dogs on a walk with the other. I created my YouTube account (patricialfoote) and posted the short version last night.

What I’d picked up about shooting video before I started: Don’t use the zoom, and do brace the camcorder to hold it steady. Don’t shoot too much video because you’ll just have to edit it. Mix scene-setting wide shots, mid-range and detail shots. Collect “B roll” material to work in. Keep it short. (I wished I’d followed more of this, but I was too focused on the technology and the Christmas deadline to be very arty.)

The most important things I learned: When cutting up imported footage in Movie Maker, remove each piece you’re not going to use as you go so the collection holds only potentially usable material. Label each snippet completely so you know what it contains and where you might use it in the storyboard. Use the pause button to stop a snippet and then clip, rather than trying to clip as it runs (I know: duh. But if Will hadn’t told me that, Chimpanzeepatty would have taken a while before realizing that.) You have to publish the project to the computer before you can upload to YouTube.

Odd thing about the YouTube upload process: my computer was showing it loading for hours after I’d already gotten a time-stamped e-mail from YouTube saying the upload was successful. Wait, I just noticed the e-mail tells me how to embed the video in my blog. Let’s try it:

OMG. Is that not amazing?

So my next video can focus more on content and less on Just Getting The Sucker Done. In the meantime, I’d like to thank the amazingly talented technical staff — you know your stuff, Will — and my husband, who has been my rock through all of this. I love you, Mike. And I’d like to thank the people at Flip and Microsoft who made making the movie possible, and the folks at YouTube and WordPress who distributed it. I’d like to thank my daughter, Jenna Henderson, who inspired this story. Finally, I’d like to thank my amazingly talented actors, most important of whom is the guy who carried the movie from start to finish, Dante Henderson. You’re the best, Dante!

Written by geekypatty

January 6, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Video