Saturday, November 5, 2016

Relaxing in a houseboat on the Amstel, overlooking the Magere Brug - Perspective

The tour boats full of people taking in the sights keep sliding by. The sun occasionally teases me with it's warmth, but mostly stays hidden behind clouds that promise more rain, but that doesn't really bother me; I have an umbrella for that.

I'm sitting on a cute little couch, in the parlor for a beautiful houseboat and it feels like one of the 100's of cafe's nearby. Across the river are homes that have existed more than 5 times longer than I have. At any given moment, I can see more people on bicycles than cars and boats combined and that's saying something because there are a LOT of boats here on the river and the nearby canals I can see.

The Michelangelo, one of the boats belonging to "LOVERS canal cruises" just did a graceful pirouette to turn around and head back up river. A lot of the tour boats do that right here, in front of my little home for the week and I wonder why. Not all of them though and the ones that continue down river have a very tight squeeze to get through if they want to go under the Magere Brug, the "Skinny Bridge" that is an extremely old, manually operated, wooden draw-bridge meant only for pedestrians and cyclists and even they have to be careful as they pass each other over the top.

How did I end up here? Just last week my 2 year-old daughter was to undergo a dangerous surgery to remove a chunk from her left lung where a pocket has formed that held group a streptococcus; an infection that nearly took her life. It looks like her body is finally dealing with the pocket that was leftover so the surgery was canceled, much like my life had been when we found out the doctors wanted to do the surgery. My wife Jessica and I both stopped making plans. I resigned from my latest venture; something I'd been close to doing anyway after 2.5 years of the most unreal stress and accomplishments I could never have imagined. I say that as a US Marine that's had more than a few challenges in life too. That journey took me to New Zealand, introduced me to famous musicians and made me an "Executive Producer" working for the likes of Samsung and Red Bull at the largest music festivals in North American. Hell, I got to be the first one (literally "ME") to do a major 360, live-streaming production for and to YouTube to help them show off their newest feature.

I'm just a geek that likes to learn, explore, play with technology and quietly build relationships with others of a like mind though. Few people really know my name. Fewer have any idea what skills I posess, I'm nothing close to important by the social and cultural standards that surround me, yet I find myself in a position that is about as likely as winning the lottery back home I think. I grew up poor with very few privileges save for being a white, male which lately feels as much like a curse as anything given all the resentment aired in the media from those who aren't "white" or "male" which I think is more people than not.

All I do know is that right now I've got peace and I hope that my perspective on this moment is clear and my appreciation for it is deep and complete.

Thanks to my friend Tim for inviting me to his home town to help "consult" for him and making this all possible. Thanks to Kelly for making me feel so welcome every time I see her. Thanks to Ben, Wim and everyone at VRDays for throwing a great event and showing me so much hospitality. Most of all though, thank you to my wife Jessica for giving me her blessing to go on this trip and find this moment of peace while she stays home taking care of my 3 treasured children even though I've been traveling so much and have to leave again only a day after I get back home. Without her, Andrew, Jolie and Ayla back home, I think I'd only be lonely in this moment, but instead I feel loved everywhere I go.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Building ffmpeg with opencl support on Linux (AWS Linux AMI)

The last year I've learned more about video, live production, DIT, editing, encoding, players, codecs and ffmpeg than I could have imagined there was to know (and that only of course proved that there's 1,000x more to learn), but one particular part of this journey has proven VERY difficult so I wanted to share some of that.

ffmpeg is an open-source project and there are NO definitive binaries for any platform. There ARE some great builds out there which are well-maintained and very useful, but they aren't "official" and they weren't meeting all my needs so I had to setup a basic build environment which proved difficult itself for me even though I've been compiling on Linux (building Android Kernels even) for some 15 years.

I've put together a GIST to share the key points (an updated ffmpeg build with x264, x265, aac and opencl acceleration in particular) and I'm still evolving it. Find that gist HERE.

If you already know how to build, this should be a great reference. If you don't and want to use this with no real experience, please know that this was done an an AWS G2 instance (nvidia grid GPUs) running an AWS Linux AMI so it won't copy/paste/work just anywhere, but if you're running a distro with YUM and have an nvidia card, it should be pretty close at the least.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Who IS a "professional"?

I subscribe to very few blogs and today an article was posted on what may be my favorite, and it got me thinking. The following started as a reply, but I decided it might be appropriate here too.

In the last couple years, I've been forced to reevaluate myself in light of my career. I've spent nearly 2 decades in software in one form or another and despite being able to make some pretty hefty claims; they always sounded exaggerated to my own ears, when coming out of my mouth so I felt awkward calling myself a professional even though I can't imagine many people refuting the claim. Still, I was reluctant to claim the title until my personal interest in virtual reality, backed by my years of photography and a years of "playing around" with a variety of video technologies saw me into the role of CTO in an up-and-coming VR company which in turn found me working side-by-side with (not employed by or for to be clear) the production team for RedBull, with the streaming engineers they use to broadcast to the Internet, and helping Samsung give 1,000's their first experience with VR at the largest music festivals in North America. 

This article [] resonates with me because by most objective definitions, I'm a professional software developer and DBA, but I didn't feel like it and few labeled me as such who had the knowledge and experience to do so (worth mentioning that I work from home and am not even surrounded by co-workers or peers often in that field). On the other hand, I'm quite new to the "professional" field of photography, videography and VR, yet I don't mind saying that I'm one of very few people in the world who has done a real-time video production broadcasting to VR and I've been complimented by some rather significant people in the industry both explicitly and implicitly and a large part of that comes down to the fact that we show up to do what we do amongst 10k's of people, have to deal with incredible challenges on the fly and have yet to fail.

Am I more of a "professional" for having spent decades in a field, or for successfully doing something new and difficult? I think you raise a great point and I'm presently of the mind that I am on both accounts, but for very different reasons in each field. In the end, not even others with experience in these fields; paid or not, could do what I do readily (and for pay) and that seems like a good basis to label me a professional in general and in those fields. It does not mean that others are not are not either though, so where do we stop applying the label OR is the label possibly less meaningful in this world where knowledge and experience are such different beasts?

Was Einstein a professional in physics when he was a "only" a patent clerk, but generating his Theory of Relativity, or did he not earn that title until he quit and started receiving funding and/or recognition for that theory?

Is a soldier a professional right after boot-camp, or not until he's fought in a war [and killed an enemy?]