The zoom enhance cliche

Today Netflix launched the Marvel series Titans. Superhero films and TV series need to get you to suspend your disbelief to enable you to get drawn into the story. If they are well written you can temporarily believe pretty much anything. However if they are set in the real world the real world things need to behave as expected. Titans managed this until episode 3 when it fell into the ‘zoom enhance’ cliche trap that so many lazy writers seem to fall into.

When you take video from a fuzzy low detail security camera no amount of zooming is going to reveal details that were never captured in the first place.

The first time I noticed this was in the original Blade Runner movie. They just about got away with it there since it was set so far into the future that it might just about be possible. Since then it has become a trope of pretty much every cop and forensic drama. It’s tired old and lazy now. Time to stop zooming and enhancing.

These are the only people allowed to zoom and enhance

My first computer

Not my actual kit but it was exactly like that – Image from Wikipedia

Back in 1981, it was only possible to buy a ZX81 via mail order. I ordered one as soon as it was advertised. The promised delivery was two weeks, but due to the massive demand Sinclair was late in delivering every one. Whenever you called or wrote to chase the delivery the response was ‘it will be two weeks’.

When it eventually arrived I got my soldering kit out and built the kit. The same evening I had it connected to the portable TV and wrote my first program to check that it worked.

It was amazing, a computer of my own, previous to this I had no access to a PC only occasional access via a teletype to an old system at the college.

It had 1024 bytes of RAM to hold programs, which was enough to learn BASIC (Beginners All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), the programming language, and to enter small programs and games.

Again not mine, that’s just a memory – this picture is from wikipedia

After a few months I had expanded the ‘system’ to add a 16K RAM pack a Sinclair ZX printer. The printer was an interesting contraption that worked by burning an aluminium coated paper to produce black characters on a silver background. The noise and smell when printing was fairly appalling.

The Pitch

If you ever watched Dragons Den or Shark Tank, you might wonder how much media manipulation might be taking place. A good proportion of these poor souls are being set up for a fall, just easy meat for entertainment. There have to be a few real contenders they let through, and accidentally they luck out and they happen upon someone like Levi Roots.

There is a podcast called ‘The Pitch‘ that is doing this for real, with real investors and real entrepreneurs. Each episode is dedicated to one entrepreneur’s pitch.

“In each episode, we take you behind closed doors to the critical moment when aspiring entrepreneurs put it all on the line. The Pitch delivers on the high-stakes promise of a live pitch without shying away from the nitty gritty details of what happens after everyone shakes hands and walks out of the room.”

This podcast really takes you behind the scenes, they have run two series of pitch episodes. Currently they are running a series of retrospectives, going back to these early business and seeing what actually happened next. Did they get past the due diligence that the investors required? Have they succeeded, pivoted their businesses, or moved on?

There are some incredible ideas, intense characters and interesting outcomes.

Guitar fix update

A quick update on my earlier post ‘Creative Clamping’

The bridge reattachment worked out OK. I dealt with the raised fret by making up a levelling bar with a piece of oak superglue and some fine wet and dry paper. Then levelled the frets, re-crowned them with a needle file and polished them. Before restringing I cleaned the fingerboard with a scraper (a new Stanley knife blade), then oiled it.

Once it was restrung and tuned, it needed the truss rod adjusting slightly to get a less wild relief curve in the neck.

My daughter has tested it and it’s a playable instrument again. Not a great guitar, but it never was in the first place. However much better than throwing it away, and if I’m ever inclined to take up the guitar, I’ve something to play. If I come across the right tools to refile the nut slots I might do some more work on the nut and the saddle to lower the action.

Repairable

Today I had to replace the screen on my trusty Dell D820. Coming up on 12 years old only the case and motherboard are original, pretty much everything else has either been upgraded or replaced. The backlight has been failing for a while, this morning it became terminal, so I popped in the replacement I ordered from Ebay a couple of months ago.

The Dell D series laptops were built to last and be maintained, a complete contrast to the Apple I’m currently writing this on. The D820 is still in use on a weekly if not daily basis and provides music and some other services. It’s also my goto machine for running Spinrite to maintain and fix hard drives. I also have a D410 that still runs Debian, but is rarely used.

I somehow doubt that any machine bought today will withstand regular use over 12 years.

Drive the Information age, don’t let it drive you.

It’s easy to be driven by the defaults into becoming a tool of the Internet rather than using it as a tool. Every on line service is trying to grab your attention and lead you down their path, prompting you continually via your digital device; to notify you, to auto play at you, what they think you should read, listen-to or watch.

Increasingly web sites are popping up dialogues asking for permission for push notifications. Almost every phone app by default has notifications, many default to notifying via LED indicators pings, ‘peeking’ and show on the lock screen. YouTube defaults to autoplay the next item, which is often an automatic selection of what the algorithm wishes you to watch.

Don’t be driven by the defaults, go to the settings on your phone, turn off the notifications for each of the apps. Go to YouTube turn off the autoplay. Refuse all offers of push notifications from websites. Take back your control over the Internet.

Time to think

On Christmas break, with time off work, once the hectic preparations and celebrations are through, it leaves more time to think than during the usual hectic daily travails. For instance if you listen to a story, read an article or watch a drama, much of the joy or learning comes through pondering over what’s been experienced.

With the constant ‘on’ of modern life it can be easy to fall into the trap of constant stimulation and give little time to contemplation. Although this drinking (frantic gulping) from the constant torrent of life, might appear to be a constant stream of gratification, it may offer little satisfaction.

There’s a continuum between no time for thought and contemplation, and too much time to think. Overthinking things is not healthy. Some where in midway along the continuum lies sanity and happiness.

Well that’s about enough of that, probably the result of having to much time to think.

Paying Old Debts

Today’s podcast highlight was StarShip Sofa episode 569. This weeks show featured Gerri Leen’s story “Paying Old Debts”. There’s a first person noir protagonist who happens to be an advanced form of android (who can use contractions). A lot is packed into this story, there is a question of justice, morals and how to work within the rules but still achieve the end goal. There are no ‘three laws of robotics’ at play here; it does bring to mind the Asimov robot short stories, but this android has a very different set of constraints. An excellent story well worth a listen.

As a bonus this also has Jim Campanella’s Science News bulletin including this month’s ‘Idiot Scientist of the Month’ feature, where we get to learn about CRISPR and why it may not be a good idea to use it on the human genome.

Creative Clamping

I bought this blue Stagg guitar a while back, my children (now all adults) learned to play on this guitar, it has given excellent service for the £70 I payed. It had a hard life, but finally succumbed to having a set of heavy electric guitar strings applied. This broke the glue bonding the bridge to the body, pulling the bridge away more than a third of the way across. This messed up the tuning and intonation, raised the bridge, bent the neck forward, so messed up the action, to a point where it has become unplayable.

The guitar seemed to good to throw out, but I had no idea how to fix it and it wasn’t worth paying for it to be fixed, as it cost so little originally, and was never a high quality instrument. Having watched Jerry Rosa on his Rosa String Works channel bring similarly damaged guitars back to life, I thought I would try repairing the blue guitar using some of the techniques he applies.

First of all I removed the strings, relieving the tension. Once this was done I checked the neck with a straight edge. As best I can tell it appears to be straight. Using the edge of a woodworking square I checked for raised frets. There appears to be only one fret standing proud, so that may require some attention, but it looks like I can probably sort that out. But first the damage at the bridge end needed to be sorted, which has been this afternoon’s project.

excess finish and top ply carved and cleaned ready for reassembly

I had to lever the saddle out from the bridge using a sharp chisel as it was a very snug fit. The saddle is a plastic moulding, so in keeping with the price payed. Then the piezo pickup below the bridge had to be pushed back into the body so that it could not be damaged. After that I applied heat to the bridge with a hot clothes iron until the remaining glue had softened enough to use a thin flexible knife to separate the bridge from the body.

block shaped for underside of the bridge, masking tape rolls to hold it in place while clamping

Once the bridge was removed it could be seen that it was possible the bond failed due to it only being glued down in the middle. The finish on the front was under the edges of the saddle so it was never fully glued down. The front of the guitar turned out to be plywood, where the original glue had worked, the bonding of the top ply had failed before the glue. To get a good flat surface for a new bond I had to remove the excess finish and the remaining shreds of top ply. This will drop the bridge by about 1 mm, however since the action was high this might still be acceptable.

Unconventional, creative clamping with automotive repair equipment, and glazing wedges.

To re-glue the bridge I needed to clamp it down whilst the glue set. It needed a deep clamp to reach in through the sound hole and hold the it fast whilst the glue dries. None of my kit was suitable, but a good friend loaned me a valve spring compressor with a deep enough reach. To use this unconventional luthier’s tool I had to make an odd shaped block to fit under the bridge inside the body and cut a piece of CLS to pack out the top. I then used a couple of glaziers wedges (I knew I’d find a use for them one day) to hold down the ends of the saddle. This was all set up dry, then once it was proven I coated both the body and the bridge with strong wood adhesive and reassembled the clamp. On the final clamp up there was some excess that needed wiping up, after that it is a case of waiting until tomorrow to see if it has bonded successfully.

Tomorrow I will need to see if I can contrive some sort of levelling bar to deal with that raised fret. Friday new strings are due to arrive, so it may be possible to get a working instrument by the weekend.

P.S. Edited to get the terms saddle and bridge the right way around.