Quite a departure here when most of the blog’s about my own outdoor or musical activities, but here’s something I made for work nearly three years ago, stopped using when upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 killed off webcams as full-screen, plug-and-play devices under ‘My Computer’, but thought worth sharing now I know how to get the full-screen output back…
It’s a webcam mount for a microphone stand, made from a cut-down broken microphone clip, and intended for demonstrating keyboard fingering or guitar picking/chord shapes to my music classes on the SMARTBoard (though simple screens would work just as well for those with computer projectors but no SMARTBoard because you don’t need the ‘smart’ interfacing for this). Hopefully obvious from the photos how to make one for a Logitech webcam at least, but the mic clip’s basically flattened off with the webcam attached by a cable tie which goes round the base of the ex-clip and through a hole drilled to keep it snug to that.
When used with a boom stand, it’s then easily set up to show piano keys, either hand on guitar etc. and could obviously be useful for other non-musical demos as well. It’s no good with the supplied webcam software because you just can’t get full-screen live output from that when the whole point’s large-scale, live demonstration rather than recording, but back in service now Mark McLean found me a cheap-and-cheerful solution in VideoLAN’s VLC media player, which we already had installed on every school computer. Just select your webcam as video capture device (make sure it’s not your audio capture device first if you’ve got amplified audio output and don’t want things screaming!), click ‘Play’ and there you are! There’s a hint of time lag which might rule out a useful live Flight of the Bumble Bee, but won’t cause you problems demonstrating the kind of five-finger positions, simple beginner tunes, keyboard settings/screen output, guitar shapes and picking/strumming patterns you’re most likely to want on screen.
And that’s it really, apart from how you get it to where you need it when most webcam cables are pitifully short and standard extensions may result in no output at the length you need. But this one works fine with a 10m NEWlink USB2.0 active repeater cable and Mark’s now successfully tested the same cable with a number of different devices since we got ours, so there you go! :-)
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Last month (with many blog posts being filed under multiple categories and WordPress seemingly no longer respecting my chosen ‘main’ category for the post URL) I decided to take the category name out of my custom ‘permalink’ structure to change it from ‘http://www.petestack.com/blog/category/postname.html’ to ‘http://www.petestack.com/blog/postname.html’. Which would have been fine if that’s what I’d actually done, but I stupidly just selected the similar standard WordPress ‘post name’ structure assuming that’s what it did and landed myself with ‘http://www.petestack.com/blog/postname/’ (see the difference?) instead… which worked fine for all new posts and WordPress-generated links to older ones but completely broke all the manually-entered links in nearly six years’ worth of previous posts and comments! So, being aware that these links were broken but not why, I set about fixing them and ran a series of MySQL queries to strip the category names from ‘post_content’, ‘comment_content’ and ‘comment_author_url’ table columns. Which, despite correcting the URLs to what I thought I’d set up, was still baffling me this afternoon by not fixing the broken links. And then it hit me… the new ‘post name’ format was not the same as just stripping the category from the one I’d had, and, having twigged that simple and now-so-obvious mistake, all should be hunky-dory again. I’ve even dealt with .htaccess redirects to take care of search-engine links to the old (category-inclusive) permalinks, so now just have to hope they’ve not got the whole blog reindexed too quickly with the December versions!
Might just add that I’ve also taken this opportunity to retrospectively file many previously mislabelled ‘climbing’ and ‘running’ posts under the new ‘walking’ category but, with my redirects taking care of the old category thing, shouldn’t have broken any older links from outwith the site by doing so.
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While I’ve always regarded the Tops as part of the Munro game, I’d struggle to say exactly when the deleted summits became a non-negotiable part of my agenda. Pretty sure they were marked on the ‘3000 Plus’ wallchart I had as a student and kept for some years to record what I’d done, but that eventually got outdated through changes to subsequent editions and replaced by my custom digital mapping system. So perhaps it was when I first got the ‘Munros and Tops’ and ‘Corbetts’ spreadsheets from The Database of British and Irish hills, but I could certainly name hills going back a number of years where I was consciously visiting the deleted tops. Which occasionally resulted in the equally conscious decision to leave some outliers for another day (those skipped in 2010 and mopped up on 7 August this year being in that category), but annoyingly also in some easy-to-include but inconvenient-to-leave ones that just, well, got missed (like Ceann Garbh ‘old position’ and Beinn Gharbh in 2008).
Now I’d already had a pretty decent Christmas holidays on the hill with a day in the Cairngorms and the four-day North-West trip, but how about just one more day to go back for Beinn Gharbh to mop up the last outstanding deletion on a hill I’d already climbed? So, with a stunning Saturday forecast, that’s where I went yesterday, and what an effort for such a trivial summit! Except that, trivial as Beinn Gharbh may be on the scale of prominent or intrinsically-significant peaks, getting it done is psychologically probably the moment that my ‘endgame’ 601-top completion becomes truly endgame. A long, long traipse up and down Glen Bruar with the track too icy to cycle far, but you don’t know how much I wanted to colour that wee square!
So what about this bike and the icy track? When I’d done the ‘Ring of Tarf’ four Munros and two Corbetts (fortuitously picking up the deleted Munro Tops on Carn a’ Chalmain and An Sgarsoch but missing Beinn Gharbh) in 2008 with Noel Williams and a friend whose name might have been Dave but was actually Tim, they’d had bikes and I hadn’t. So we’d gone in via Glen Tilt, I’d run what they’d cycled (up to Forest Lodge) and I knew darn well how helpful bikes were for accessing remote hills on good tracks. So had the bike in the van yesterday hoping to find the long track from Calvine over to Glen Bruar and up to Bruar Lodge at least partially rideable, and was fooled into taking it by a pair setting off with bikes, ice axes and the same obvious objective (Beinn Dearg) just as I arrived. But then spied them again ahead walking without bikes where the clear track turned largely icy pretty well at the top of the first big hill (yes, the one you could walk up quicker!), quickly abandoned mine too and just had to buckle down to a frustratingly long plod on foot… my fault when the ride back down would be glorious in the right conditions, but you know how much I wanted to colour that wee square?
Apart from that it was a good day. Chilly, but overall probably the crispest and clearest of a Christmas holiday that’s given me six good hill days and effectively halved the required workload (from twelve days to six) to complete that Munro’s Tables all-time list. :-)
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