October 20th, 2006
I've included the above clip for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to see if I could embed a clip in my blog. The answer is: Yes I can. But it's kind of a pain to put together. First, I had to rip the clip from the DVD (thanks AcidRip). AcidRip rips the entire chapter, so then I had to edit the file (thanks Avidemux). Once edited to what I wanted, I needed some way to embed it into my web page. The easiest way (in regards to bandwidth and compatibility) is some sort of flash player. YouTube uses this sort of system and it works well for them. I could have posted the site to YouTube and streamed it from there, but it is technically copyrighted and I wanted to see if I could do it without being dependent on a certain service.
The Flash Video Player is a Flash swf that can play any flv file and has an easy interface. This would be perfect. The ony problem is converting the ripped file (an avi file) to flv. Linux has a program that will do this (ffmpeg) but when I tried it, I only got the video--no audio. There's probably a way to fix it, but it would involve recompiling the program and who wants to worry about that?
So I thought again about YouTube. YouTube will covert almost any video type into an flv file. So I uploaded the file to YouTube, the downloaded it again using the Firefox extension Video Downloader. Now I had a nice video file that I could include with this blog. Whew!
Okay, now for the reason that I put this video up. I've been studying computer stuff lately by checking some books out at the library. Because of this, some of the books I've been reading are a little outdated. Two books in particular are Essential System Administration and Sed and Awk. Both cover UNIX-based systems and programs. Ever since getting in Linux a couple of years ago I've been working more and more with the command line. There's something satisfying with changing the volume on your system through the command line, or running a music player. I've started to become nostalgic for days when the command line was all that there was. I remember how cool it was that I could log onto a BBS and play a text-based multiuser game.
Anyway, while reading these books and learning about what Unix is and how it's used, I remembered this scene from Jurassic Park. "This is a UNIX system. I know this," says Alex, and proceeds to use a graphical-based interface with this powerful user computer. After some research, I found that this kind of 3D interface was indeed used in some Unix systems, but it wasn't very common.
David Sedaris once complained about how many movies about computers there were coming out. "Each tiresome new thriller includes a scene in which the hero, trapped by some version of the enemy, runs for his desk in a desperate race against time. Music swells and droplets of sweat rain down onto the keyboard as he sits at his laptop, frantically pawing for answers. It might be different if her were flagging down a passing car or trying to phone for help, but typing, in and of itself, is not an inherently dramatic activity."
Sedaris is right, computers aren't very dramatic, and they're hard to understand (which is why some movies have lines line "Access main security grid" rather than something like "ssh sgrid@islanublar'). Jurassic Park used the GUI because it looked more interesting on screen. The future is in Graphic User Interfaces--they're easier for the user and they make people go "Wow, look at that!" But the simplicity and power of the command line still intrigues me.
For exmple, allow me to explain my current blog title. "tail life.txt | grep interesting" It's a command line command for Linux that says "print out the last few lines of the file life.txt and then search through those and print out the lines that have the word 'interesting' in them." It explains my approach to my blog really well in just a few keystrokes. It's nerdy, but also poetic in a way, which is why I like it.