Appearing on RCR

October 20th, 2014 12:20 PM
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This past winter, I waxed nostalgically about the Open Apple podcast’s third birthday, tracing the six-month gestation period of the Apple II community’s first and only monthly and co-hosted podcast. Absent from that timeline was a significant milestone: the debut of the Retro Computing Roundtable, launched just months before Open Apple. For another retrocomputing show to scoop Open Apple was discouraging, but I’m glad we persevered, as the two shows have evolved very different formats and content. Whereas Open Apple features a new guest every month in a polished, edited show that takes hours to produce, RCR rotates among a stable of familiar voices, producing a raw, more organic episode every two weeks.

With RCR turning four years old this month, I was honored to join the show’s cast and crew for a guest appearance in episode #85. Although good friends and Juiced.GS contributors Carrington Vanston and Steve Weyhrich were absent from this episode, it was a pleasure to chat with fellow Boston resident Paul Hagstrom, Retrobits host Earl Evans, and fellow fundraising cyclist Michael Mulhern, with whom I’d previously communicated via email only.
Retro Computing Roundtable logoIt was also a bit intimidating! The first half-hour of the show was spent discussing the Atari 520ST, Commodore 128, and other computers of 1985. While I do not denigrate non-Apple II machines, neither do I have any interest in them, mostly due to lack of exposure at a time when I was still too young to appreciate them. Rather than open my mouth and prove myself a fool, I wisely kept quiet; if you were to tune in at any point in that discussion, you wouldn’t even know I was there.

But perhaps I need to work on my conversational skills, as I’ve found, both in RCR and during my recent appearance on the Pixel Pizza podcast , that I tend to wait for a topic I’m passionate about to arise, then engage in a lengthy monologue on the subject. Perhaps the lack of a co-host on my three other podcasts — Polygamer, IndieSider, and The Pubcast — has trained me to fill the silence with my own voice, as I did on RCR in extended discourses about GEnie, feminism, and RadioShack. Maybe my ego needs to be reminded that other people have something to say, too.

Nonetheless, I had a good time on RCR, and I much appreciated their invitation and patience. I hope I added to their listeners’ experience more than I detracted from it. Lest I wear out my welcome, I don’t expect to be a frequent guest of this show, but it is comforting to know that my retrocomputer podcasting days aren’t behind me.

Live podcasting with RCR & Google+

December 24th, 2012 11:31 AM
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Yesterday I watched Retro Computing Roundtable #41. I’ve listened to the twice-monthly podcast since its 2010 debut, but this was my first time watching the live video recording, a medium they introduced a few months ago.

Although still an audio podcast, RCR‘s video aspect brings some additional features. When Carrington showed off his Fix-It Felix Jr. arcade cabinet — one of only a dozen in existence, of which only three exist "in the wild" — watching the camera pan to reveal his surprise acquisition was a real jaw-dropper.

As the chat was conducted via a Google+ Hangout, the three speakers were represented by dynamic thumbnails at the bottom of the window, with the main video window automatically switching to whoever was speaking. I liked this feature, as it was reminiscent of a live cameraman actively looking to capture reaction shots from the participants.

But for the rest of the show, the video component didn’t add much — nor is it supposed to, lest primarily audio listeners such as myself miss out. The real draw isn’t to watch some talking heads, but to be able to participate in the show live by inviting listeners to chat with the hosts while they record. Instead of a dedicated chat room, these conversations are held in the YouTube comments for the video. It’s a bit awkward, as these comments persist even after the recording, without any indication of what part of the video they are in reference to. Producing the podcast in conjunction with SceneSat Radio would better synchronize the video and text while giving listeners a dedicated space in which to congregate.

Finally, there’s the issue that has kept Open Apple from recording live: the lack of post-production opportunity. When you listen to a show as it’s being recorded, you don’t hear any of the background music or transitions that are usually later placed into the audio file. As a result, this episode of RCR felt rawer and less polished than I’m accustomed to, even though I know the version I’ll eventually download from iTunes will be more typical.

To be clear, I have no reservations or complaints with the Retro Computing Roundtable or its hosts or content; this blog post is meant as a critique of the recording and delivery mechanisms offered by Google+ and YouTube. As a podcaster myself, I’m always curious to investigate alternative tools and processes, and I’m glad that RCR has branched out in this way that I might learn from the experience.

Quality Computers on Vimeo

December 13th, 2010 9:54 AM
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Just a brief note today to point out that both the Quality Computers videos I previously digitized and made available via YouTube — those being the Q-Drive care & feeding video and the System 6.0.1 introduction — are now available on Vimeo.

Quality Computers Q-Drive care & feeding video from Ken Gagne on Vimeo.

Quality Computers System 6.0.1 video from Ken Gagne on Vimeo.

I started using Vimeo in conjunction with KansasFest 2010, which marked the first official effort to create a video record of the event. Having previously uploaded Quality Computers videos to YouTube, I knew that the service’s ten-minute maximum movie length imposed on standard users would be a significant barrier to publishing multiple and lengthy KansasFest videos. Vimeo has no such limits, and its premium service offers high-definition videos and downloadable source files. True, it’s easy enough to download YouTube videos with Safari, but Vimeo makes the process that much more transparent.

So although the content of each Quality Computers video is unchanged from YouTube to Vimeo, you can now watch each in one segment instead of seven, and you can download it at such for your own archives as well — making the history of the Apple II all that much easier to access and preserve.

KansasFest 2011 dates announced

August 26th, 2010 7:48 AM
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A month later, I’m still experiencing the after-effects of KansasFest. I’ve been inspired with too many Apple II ideas than my free time can accommodate — keynote speakers, Juiced.GS articles, blog posts, and more.

The opportunity to implement at least some of those ideas became a bit more concrete today with the announcement of the dates of KansasFest 2011. Hordes of Apple II veterans and newcomers will descend upon Rockhurst University from July 19 to July 24 for six days and five nights of numerous technical sessions, programming and athletic competitions with fantastic prizes, and much after-hours camaraderie.

Martin Haye

This small monitor packed a huge wallop:
its user produced the winning HackFest entry.

As an attendee, I can think of a few things I’m going to do differently at my fourteenth KansasFest. I presented five sessions in 2010, which I think accounted for about 20% of the formal schedule. I don’t regret a single one of them, as each was plenty of fun and well-received — but all that preparation may’ve kept me from hanging out with the other KFesters, who are the occasion’s true foundation. Maybe the wealth of knowledge possessed by the other attendees will take more of the stage in 2011.

I’m also going to invest in a wireless external microphone, that the audio on my video recordings of the sessions might not suck so hard. If I can accomplish that, I’ll be able to do some neat stuff that I’ve been limited in my ability to accomplish with the 2010 videos.

As a committee member, there are also a few changes I’d like to see made to the conference itself. KansasFest 2010 marked the first time since 2006 that the entire KansasFest committee was present at the event, which allowed us to gather behind closed doors and chat for an hour about past and future processes. In that discussion, at least one change for KansasFest 2011 was accepted that had me grinning ear-to-ear. (It’s a logistical issue that will affect but probably not excite the average attendee like it does me.) Changes we made from 2009 to 2010, such as having me on-site days early to prepare welcome packets and t-shirts, went very well and should be easy to repeat.

Before we can start planning KansasFest 2011 in earnest, we need to solicit some feedback from past attendees. If you’re not already on the mailing list, be sure to sign up to be kept abreast of news and invitations.

In the meantime, take Mike Maginnis’s advice: saving just a dollar a day will cover your KansasFest registration fee. It’s easily one of the most affordable vacations you can take — you can’t afford not to come.


KansasFest: Come for the Apple II — stay for the donuts.

Grilling Jason Scott

July 26th, 2010 12:07 PM
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I heard of BBS: The Documentary before I knew of Jason Scott. I reviewed the film for my first issue as editor of Apple II publication Juiced.GS and thought a good follow-up would be to interview its creator. My first interview with Jason ran in December 2006, though it wasn’t until the inaugural ROFLCon in April 2008 that I got to meet the man himself. I found him colorful, knowledgeable, opinionated — and, most of all, passionate. He’s somebody I found worth keeping tabs on, which is why Computerworld publishes my second interview with him today, the week that his second film, GET LAMP, debuts. Less than half of what Jason and I discussed fit into Computerworld‘s print edition, just like the “PAX cut” of his film shown at KansasFest was only an excerpt of his larger work. Fortunately in the latter case, the final product will be shipped free to all KansasFest 2010 attendees by the end of next month. I can’t wait to review Jason’s latest accomplishment for Juiced.GS.

Jason Scott at KansasFest 2009

It is actually not typical for this keynote speaker to put his audience to sleep.

I have not sought to complete my familiarity with Jason’s non-cinematic productions, so it was by happenstance that I recently stumbled across an MP3 recording of “Apple II Pirate Lore“, a presentation he gave in 2003:

[This is an] overview of the Apple II Piracy Community of the early to mid 1980’s, presented at the 5th Rubi-Con Conference in Detroit Michigan. Subjects covered include the unique aspects of the Apple II microcomputer architecture and culture, the methods of removing copy protection from software packages of the Apple II, and a very large helping of trivia. To illustrate some aspects of the “crack screens” and other Apple II graphics, an Apple II clone and several programs were provided. Speech delivered on March 29, 2003.

The file is almost exactly 46 minutes in length and discusses the stratification and traditions of early computer users and hackers. What generalizations can we make about Apple II users, and what motivated some of its users to become hackers? What language and practices existed within that subset of users? Jason delivers his speech eloquently while using but not relying on visuals, making his presentation surprisingly effective as an audio-only recording.

Most important to me, this presentation clarifies why Jason made a great keynote speaker at KansasFest 2009. Sure, Apple II users are part of a broader retrocomputing community of which Jason is a member — but his experience with the Apple II is personal and memorable. This small bit of knowledge quickly transformed my perception of him from that of an outsider to that of a peer.

When interviewing Jason about GET LAMP for Computerworld, he told me, “A lot of my stuff was slow-simmering and is now coming to a boil.” I’m glad to see the fruition of more of his work, because I know the Apple II community to which be belongs will benefit.

Quality Computers System 6.0.1 video

July 12th, 2010 11:48 AM
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Two months ago, I digitized and uploaded a Quality Computers VHS video. Permission to do so was provided in a csa2 post started by Donald Jordan, who was looking to convert and preserve Quality Computer’s video about the System 6.0.1 operating system. Though his quest had opened the door for all Quality Computers videos to be converted, I was curious if he’d achieved that goal with the specific video he had in mind.

I emailed Donald and learned that he had indeed converted his video — from VHS to DVD, using the Sony RDR-VXD655 VHS/DVD combo unit. His needs were met, but I was interested in distributing the video to a larger audience. Donald graciously donated a copy of his DVD to me for that purpose.

Once I had the DVD, I used MacTheRipper to save it to my hard drive; then, per Tony Diaz’s suggestion, I used HandBrake to convert the DVD format to an MPEG-4 video file. Then, using QuickTime Player 7 Pro, I chopped the 57-minute video into seven separate MOV files that would accommodate YouTube’s ten-minute upload limit. Here is the resulting playlist:

Q/Vision, a division of Quality Computers, presents this introduction to System 6.0.1, the last official Apple IIGS operating system released by Apple Computer Inc. This video was originally presented in six parts: previews of other Quality Computers products; an overview of System 6.0.1 and the Bonus Pack; preparation; installation; the Apple desktop; and the IIGS Finder. Starring QC employee Walker Archer, this 1992 video was converted from VHS to DVD by Donald Jordan and is posted here with his permission and cooperation, as well as that of copyright holder Joe Gleason.