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Archive for April, 2020

“The first duty of the writer”

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

I’m reading The Worst Journey in the World, by this then-kid Apsley Cherry-Garrard who was on Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s journey to the South Pole that didn’t go so well. Early 1900’s stuff. Almost everyone died so it’s a miracle this book exists. The reason it does, aside from having a writerly survivor, isn’t cryptic:

It is one of the main objects of this book to hand on a complete a record as possible of the methods, equipment, food and weights used by Scott’s Last Expedition for the use of future explorers. ‘The first object of writing an account of a Polar voyage is the guidance of future voyages; the first duty of the writer is to his successor.’

120 years later:

Does McDonald’s get paid to put toys in Happy Meals? Or do they pay for it?

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

I could see it going either way, can’t you? I could see Disney paying McDonald’s to put Frozen II toys in Happy Meals (along with a massive marketing campaign) to help promote the movie. I could also see McDonald’s paying Disney for the right to do that, to help sell a bunch of Happy Meals (or more like bring parents to McDonald’s).

Turns out its an “it depends” situation. In the case of Disney, which is of course a massive brand, McDonalds pays Disney:

And it’s a billion dollar deal.

For “weaker” brands, apparently there are no fees.

We were just at a McDonald’s the other day, and the Happy Meal had a “Pikmi Pop” in it, which I’d never heard of it. It’s not a movie or TV show or anything, it’s just some toy thing. Even if they are some toy phenomenon, I can’t imagine McDonald’s is paying for the right in this case, but it doesn’t sound like they are paid to do it either.

The Precious “Logo Misuse” Section

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Andy Baio’s amazing thread from last year:

Ana Valens dug up some of the best replies.

Tom Falzani created a site showing examples of how to break the guidelines.

The Fancy DSLR Webcam Thing

Monday, April 6th, 2020

I got me a setup!

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Be tryin to look and sound good while on video

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I was on a Zoom call with Dan Mall a little while back. The first thing you’ll notice while being on a Zoom call with Dan Mall is how extremely organized and professional Dan is. He can really wrassle a meeting to get things done and keep everyone on track. The second thing you’ll notice is how damn good he looks on camera. I mean, Dan is an attractive guy, but I mean just literally the sharp video quality. I asked Dan about it, and of course, he’s got a whole fancy blog post about it.

We’re used to seeing people on webcam meetings like this with built-in laptop cameras like this:

But Dan’s setup has him looking like this:

My incentive to get this done was twofold:

The Equipment

Here’s the list before we dig into it any deeper:


With all that stuff plugged in, I can test it out by opening Quicktime Player > New Movie Recording and selecting the right inputs.

Here’s a YouTube video I did with this setup:

I’m using ScreenFlow there, which records my screen, video, and audio all at once so I have zero syncing-up work to do.

The whole “Clean HDMI” thing

If you happen to have a camera that can output a video signal, and you manage to get it working as a webcam, that doesn’t 100% mean you’re in the clear. The problem with a lot of cameras is that they don’t output what the people call “Clean HDMI”.

Dirty HDMI is when the video output has things from the camera’s UI on it. I was so worried when I thought my camera has this problem:

And annoyed as well, because Elgato specifically lists the Canon T7i as verifiably having clean HDMI output. That’s why I bought it! Thanks for that handy page, Elgato. I had a Canon T3i before (which doesn’t have the right kind of output, but I otherwise liked it). I specifically upgraded bodies because I already have some Canon lenses and this new body has the video features I wanted.

Turns out the T7i actually does have clean HDMI output. You just have to tap the “info” button a few times, which thank god someone told me on Twitter as I would have never discovered it on my own.

Other People’s Journeys

Alternative Equipment

CalDigit TS3 Plus Dock

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

This is a $250 dock:

I can’t remember how it came up in conversation, but Shaw and I got started talked about docks like this the other day and I ended up buying this thing mid-conversation. I surprised myself a little as I think that price tag feels a bit steep for what is basically a hub that I’m used to paying tens-of-dollars for. But I get it now, this thing is beefy and has a lot of high-power ports and now that I have it I’m certainly happy with it.

That picture above makes it look a little ugly I think, but the physical device is pretty decent looking. It’s really the other side that matters:

I didn’t really think I needed a “dock” like this. I have a MacBook Pro, and two LG UltraFine 5k monitors. The monitors are Thunderbolt, and I connect them both to the laptop. The monitors themselves are USB-C hubs, so some of my peripheral stuff goes straight into them. I also have a USB-A (or 3.2 or whatever) Hub (that goes into one of the monitors) for stuff that’s still old-USB.

But I also use hard-wired Ethernet, and so I have a Ethernet-to-USB-C dongle and that goes into the laptop too. In total I had three things to plug into my laptop every day getting to work (the two monitors and the Ethernet dongle).

In retrospect, I probably should have piped the Ethernet through one of the monitors to reduce one of the things I had to plug in. But that’s related to where I’m going with this. Would that have been just as fast, going through the monitor hub first? I’m not sure. I’m not sure because I just don’t know very much about all this stuff, and also because something else I was trying to do was failing, it turns out, because it was just going through too many slow connections (I think).

Here’s what was failing. I really wanted to try this setup where I use a DSLR camera (Canon T7i) as essentially a webcam (inspired entirely by Dan Mall).

I’ll blog about this setup separately as it is interesting in its own way, but part of the magic that makes it work is the Elgato Cam Link, which is essentially a fancy expensive HDMI-to-USB dongle that makes your computer recognize the input as a webcam.

The Cam Link is Old-USB, which makes me think maybe other options would have been cleaner, but I digress.

The chain for the camera setup went like this:

β†’ Mini HDMI cable
β†’ Cam Link
β†’ USB-A hub
β†’ Monitor
β†’ MacBook Pro

I had all sorts of struggles getting it set up to work at all, and when I finally did, the video from the camera would work for a minute or two, then just die. Freeze. No input coming through. It would confuse the heck out of any app dealing with the video, sometimes to the point of freezing the app itself.

I was kinda bummed out after putting all that money and effort into getting it to work. That’s why I was trigger-happy on buying this CalDigit dock when the idea came up that it’s essentially a way faster hub. Now the chain from the camera is shorter:

β†’ Mini HDMI cable
β†’ Cam Link
β†’ CalDigit Dock
β†’ MacBook Pro

Not only shorter, but avoiding the USB-A hub, which was my best guess as the weak link and the cause of the video failure.

So this dock setup entirely solved this camera issue, and that’s a huge win right there. But I also got to entirely ditch my Old-USB hub, because this dock has 5 of those ports, which was enough for me (keyboard, mouse charger, mouse dongle, and Cam Link). It also has an Ethernet port, so I no longer need the separate dongle just for that.

Because of my monitors, I’m not exactly at a shortage of USB-C ports, but this has a couple of those two which are likely to come in handy as the world moves that direction. I’ll probably use that card reader too, as that DSLR uses those.

Sitting back there doin’ work.

One tiny bummer though. This dock only has two Thunderbolt ports, and you need one of them to connect it to the computer. Meaning only one of my Thunderbolt monitors can go into it. So rather than the glory of just one Thunderbolt connector into my laptop, I have to plug in the dock and one of the monitors.

The UltraFine 5k monitors can’t be daisy-chained. The USB-C port on the dock won’t cut it, nor will the DisplayPort port with a Thunderbolt dongle. So I don’t think there is anything that will get me down to a single laptop plug. The OWC dock looks nice too, but it has essentially the same ports and same problem.