Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Back To The Work At Hand

OK, so I purchased a new CX5000 by EPSON. It's a printer/scanner combo. It set me back $87 US. On sale, it was the best deal in stores by far.

When shopping for an interim scanner, I was leery of purchasing another EPSON product given their penchant for overt racketeering and consumer fraud with awareness and malice a forehand. EPSON is a dishonest and corrupt violator of the consumer trust. They are a dishonest company. After the number of class-action lawsuits they have had to endure, you would think that they might take a hint.

Yet after I install and power-up my new printer/scanner I find a disturbing problem. If you don't install the ink, it won't scan. Think about that. Epson makes the most expensive inkjet ink bar none. It uses six discreet $14 US cartridges. If they are empty or absent, you can't scan.

I am going to use this CX5000 for a week, drive over with my car, then mail the pieces back to EPSON along with a coupon for a free McDonald's cheeseburger. After that, I'll be using a new wide-format, flat-bed scanner, likely from UMAX once again. Although hp has some nice ones too.

Oh, new comic.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It is like I'm being PHYSICALLY BARRED from doing the comic

Well, day five. No sleep. Still belching forth endless revisions. No end in sight. Did I forget something?

Yes, my scanner just gave up the ghost. What did I expect after 14 years?

Anyway, when I go out to FedEx these DVDs to some soulless cretin in California, I'll pop into Walmart (I guess) and buy the least expensive single sheet scanner money can buy. After this storm of abuse subsides then I'll go buy a proper one. One that has a platen wider than 81/2 by 11. Attention scanner-making-type-folks some of us use scanners for things other than IRS audits, ok?

In terms of writing and inking, I'm on schedule... I just need the human race to piss off for four hours so I can get up to date...

Not you of course. You have a lovely speaking voice...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Blame Apple

I will owe you guys three entire strips come Monday. As my fight with Steve Jobs has destroyed 60 otherwise perfectly functional hours of my life my Sunday looks like the day I will use to serve my other clients who have been made to yield at the behest of my eco-conscious benefactor.

None the less, three strips I owe and by GOD three strip you will have! If I have to bend the very laws of causality to make them I will bring them down to you as by Apollo with thunder!

And hopefully mine will be a tad more amusing than the stench of a thousand lightning-charred corpses. But that is a matter entirely of personal taste.

Oh, go see The 300. That is not a suggestion.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mac = Toy

OK, let's get one thing straight about me and Macs. I own an Apple assembled dual 2.5Ghz G5. Further I freelance as an editor and as such am specifically familiar with about ten other G5's around Birmingham Alabama. Some of those G5's were home assembled. Others assembled by video post houses some by Apple Computers. I can say with some authority that I know the G5 architecture and OSX pretty well. After staying awake all night trying to track down a 'strangely missing file' problem for about the third time, I have come to the following conclusion. A Mac is a toy.

Let me clarify. A Toy is something which offers hours of amusement. Something that helps build and strengthen the imagination. Something that performs or behaves differently with each subsequent use. It is this last sentence fragment that I am expounding upon this morning.

Macs do something different each and every time you use them. they are unpredictable. they are given to wild flights of fancy. Let's take the horrors of this past evening as an example.

I had a rather long Mpeg 2 export que for my current project. Wholly eight fifteen minute videos with accompanying aif (or aiff if it's a Tuesday) audio files. I cue up the sequences and set them to render. After babysitting the first two segments (sometimes Final Cut will abort a render claiming that the project in question has unrendered video especially when there is in fact NO unrendered video and only a reboot can satisfy its lust for chaos and human misery) I was reasonably satisfied that all eight were going to go down so I went to the gym. I come back after working out and a trip to Walmart at 2 a.m. only to find that the render que aborted just moments after I left the house. Fine. I que up the remaining six and take a three hour nap (based on the estimated completion time). I awaken to find that all eight have rendered successfully.

Ok, here it gets fun. Although the files rendered, they are not in the project folder. I check the export settings to be sure I sent them to the correct folder and lo, I have! Still no files in the export folder. Odd. I try to do a file search.

OK, here even the most brain-washed and zombified Mac purest probably just grimaced because they know as do I that Mac OSX HAS NO file search function. At least not one bound to any natural law. You see, Mac doesn't have file types per has kinds. And file kinds aren't strictly bound to any specific trait or application. In fact, you can have file kinds that contadict the file extension and you can have two identical file types (mpeg 2, for example) which are identified as different file kinds by OSX. Even though - and I can't make too fine a point about this - both individual kinds are opened and run by the same application. An mpeg 2 may be called by OSX an 'MPEG MOVIE' or an 'MP2' or an 'M2V' or an 'Mpeg LAYER 2' file. All run in Final Cut. All are the same type of file. All were created by the batch export of Final Cut Pro using the same settings.

OK, suppose now you want to search for said file. And keep in mind that it could be anywhere. It could be nowhere. Yet when I searched for 'MPEG MOVIE' it only returned a handful of files even though I knew of directories with literally hundreds of 'MPEG MOVIE' files in them.

Now don't send me an email telling me to check which drives were selected or to make sure I had spelled MPEG correctly. You should simply assume - as is actually the case - that as unto a God, I was operating infallibly at this point.

And while I'm at it, 'MPEG MOVIE' while being OSX's favorite kind of mpeg 2 is NOT in the pull down menu in the search by kind option. Oh no, you must ENTER that kind by hand - even though - and I hasten to add - making DVDs is supposed to be what owning a Mac is all about.

Ok, to summarize:

1) file types and kinds may or may not be different things...unless they are the same things...unless maybe they aren't or may or may not be...depending.

2) search function may or may not return the file of type or kind or flavor or spin or what have you even if you know the evil thing to be there and in a particular folder eating ice cream at that very moment.

3) file search engine actually asks you to enter the kind by hand rather than having the complete list of kinds which the operating system knows damn well exists in a handy pull down menu.

Clear enough? So I use the file search utility to try to find every mp2, mpeg 2 m2v and 'MPEG MOVIE' file on my drives and it won't even pull up all the files that I know and can verify to be there. Hell, it sometimes pulls up three of a total of four 'MPEG MOVIE' files which all reside in the same folder. I have to assume that there is some form of random number generator attached to the file search utility. maybe it rolls for activation on each file. Hell, I dunno. Suffice to say that hit-or-miss literally describes the process at work here.


So the damn operating system is going to be no help. What next? Re-render. I must simply re-render these files for a second time. Fine. Group select...settings...quality...destination folder...export. "Error: a file of the same name already exists in that directory"


I look in the folder. Nope. Those files are not there. Export. "Error: a file of the same name already exists in that directory" I rechecked everything and soon discovered that the ghosts or phantoms of those files somehow existed in that folder although they could be perceived in no human way. A reboot did not help. Diskwarrior did not help. Ultimately, I had to render the new files into a new directory and copy them into the proper directory overwriting the old files (yes, a dialog box open asking me to confirm this) which could be neither seen nor touched by human hand.

OK, by now I'm actually shopping for the exact weight and length of bat to take with me to Seattle for a face to face with Mr. Jobs. I've been awake for 30 hours. I have had files evaporate, move, take on vague aspects and generally not cooperate. All this and I'm on a Mac. Worse, this isn't localized to MY Mac. Crap like this happens on every G5 I use, operate or borrow. My fellow video slaves all report similar stories: files vanish, renders abort, drives fail to mount. Yet why do we stay with Final Cut Pro? Because Macs are more reliable.

See in Apple parlance reliability is all about the operating system. So long as OSX doesn't go into kernel panic, it is considered more reliable than Windows. I can't remember the last time a file went missing in Windows. I can't remember the last time I had a file vanish from a folder (in front of my very eyes no less) just because. I can't remember the last time I had a Windows 2000 application (program) hang or (poof!) unexpectedly quit. Yes my Windows 2000 box does get the odd blue screen of death but never when I use it. I will comeback to it after hours of neglect only to find the blue screen staring back at me as if to say 'your absence has driven me to this sad state'. But Windows 2000 does not simply delete files just to piss me off. No, that is the soul bailiwick of Apple.

So even though I put up with an operating system that can, on occasion, go belly up for no good reason with Windows. I much prefer that injustice to the actual obfuscation, corruption and deletion of my life's blood (files). Look, I like the look and feel of brushed metal as much as the next guy. I obviously felt strong enough about the power and sophistication of a Mac to shell out nearly four thousand dollars to own one. But I will not accept the pandering, fawning, exaggeration and outright lies put forth by the Mac community. Your fecal matter also has an oder most foul (as this last 64-point OSX mega security patch can attest). OSX has a lot of repair work coming to it and I'd like to see Apple provide more than its usual best effort to the problem. That is before Leopard drops and all of us G5 users find ourselves left once again out in the cold. Unless of course we choose to buy yet another four thousand dollar machine from Apple.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Driving All Night

Yes, I drove to Auburn Alabama (1 and 1/2 hours) last night to hand deliver a video to a client. It seems that FedEx stops taking drop-offs at 7:00 pm. So I drove the DVD to Auburn myself. I drove very fast. I slept very little. Now I'm updating the Auntie Litter project for a turnaround tonight. Vexxarr? HA! You'll be lucky if I complete this BLOG!

The good news is that believe it or not, this new cake story line is a fertile garden for punchlines. I have silly ideas lined up and ready to go. Coming up with the joke (such as it is) is always the difficult part. I have to tell a story. I have to set up a joke. I have to get to the prestige, if you will, at the forth panel. Further, the punchline must meet my litmus test: it must make me giggle.

A dreadful meter, I assure you.

So while I have a mosaic of words which pass my mirthometer (merth ah mi ter - with an accent on the second syllable) I have no time with which to render them. When I get that time, I will sleep. After I sleep I will create your comic.

When I die, I will rest...and woe be to the God or Gods foolish enough to awaken me for my eternal life on that day...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

St Patties Day!

Shamrocks are green. Ireland is green. Vexxarr is green! It's a natural! So do I give you a St Patty's Day spacial comic? No... Do I wish I had? Yes... Sorry. I'll have to post a post-St. Patties Day Piece of artwork just to appease my conscience! I'll see what I can do!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

As Promised...For Those Of You With Long Memories...

Ok, remember that timeI told you that Vexxarr would be late?


Let me be more specific.

Remember when Vexxarr was late. And I told you this was because I was building a castle? And remember that I added the fact that said castle would be detonated?

Well here are the photos:

The castle is assembled from cut bricks of green florist's foam - aka GREEN DEATH FOAM (not to be confused with YELLOW DEATH FOAM but that is a matter for a later post).

Here is a view from the back. I'll only be sculpting what the camera will see. Well, to be honest, given that this is a favor and on short notice, I'm actually dictating the camera angle by how much castle I am willing to sculpt. A tactic only advisable when the director is a friend of yours.

This is the finished model armature. I begin sculpting here. The foam is rigid but soft. I use a #2 philips head screw driver to etch the rock details in the foam surface. I'm wearing a resperator and surgical gloves. This stuff is nasty.

Here is the thing sculpted and primered. To be added: individual rock coloring and a door.

Another angle because I love you so dearly.

Here is the castle primered, painted and with it's door. The door is a sculpted piece of foam with two eye hooks used as knockers. Note my photo reference in the lower right. The castle is quite accurate save for some proportion fiddling I did to make the number of foam blocks I had add up to a castle in as few cuts as possible.

Here we are on the moors of Scotland... Well no, it's my front yard facing away from my driveway...

That's me (in green) next to an unsuspecting castle (in gray). This is 247 miles East of my home. To get the castle to this spot, I had to cut it off of its base, cut it into three large sections and lay each section flat in my hatchback. You'd never know it...

Now we add explosives...

And viola'!

Our plucky assistant holding six days of my life.

I hope this is a lesson to all of you who want to get into miniature effects. I recommend instead a life of sex and alcohol. In the end, you'll have more to show for it. This from a guy who draws a webcomic for 'fun'...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Catching Up

At least I've started to get my work done on the requisite calendar day.

My schedule is beginning to ease but, alas, I am still gainfully employed. I find myself even in the position of turning work away!

Irony or Ironies!

So expect future delays. expect three comics a week. Expect my punchlines to become even more verbose. Perhapses I will start making the images (even) smaller...

Friday, March 09, 2007

A New Vexxarr Soon...But Not Now...

I warned you of the horrific nature of my labors. I warned you about its toll on my free time. I warned you about littering.

Well I have sublimated your Friday's Vexxarr almost entirely with Auntie Litter. I will do what I can to rectify this sad event within this solar day.

Should I fail, check back tomorrow.

In any event, heed my pledge to you that you will have a triumvirate of amusement each and ( I hardly need add) every week from now until the sun explodes.

Vexxarr's continued existence beyond that catastrophic event depends entirely upon your donation of a fast ship...

...of the interstellar variety.

What kind of internet connection will they have, I wonder, on Proxima.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Vexxii, Being The Plural Of Vexxarr

Two new strips. Behold and wonder. I'll be working this week on the thirteenth labor of Heracles - The Editing of Auntie Litter's Educational PBS Series.

Never heard of it? That's because Herc passed on this one. Clefting the skulls of Hydra is one thing. Updating sing-a-longs for 4-year-olds-and-up is quite another. Come to that, Sisyphus got off easy.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

I did...and then I couldn't!

Yes, I had Friday's comic all toasted and covered in a creamy frosting when I discovered that my host was taking his .0001% downtime for server refreshment. So Here is Friday's. I like it. I hope you do. For those of you who asked...THIS is fan service. But I'd been promising a glimpse back at Earth and Bleen for some time. Just a taste of things to come.

I have plans you see...

This week promises to be another busy one so expect the same update schedule - that is to say an average of three strips every week. They will come in a steady supply should you view the activity from a macro perspective. Just know that in my trusty archive, so long as the internet exists, there will ever be a hyper link on each M, W, and F of every week.

That is my pact to you dear reader.


By the way, I am languishing in a dearth of comments about the FOSS wrap up. No quips about the Mead or the COBB? Honestly!