I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree

Sunday, 30 December 2001, 12:20 am

If you’ve visited the Leoville Pix page lately you may have noticed I’ve redesigned it. There are now four cams to choose from, each displayed in its own automatically refreshing window.

The original Screen Savers cam and my home office cam are unchanged. They’re both 3COM HomeConnect USB cameras connected to desktop computers running WebCam32 from SurveyorCorp. Over the years I’ve increased the size of the pictures to 320×240 and upped the refresh rate to 10 seconds to accomodate users with faster connections. But the 3COM cams are USB and don’t do a great job especially with typical office lighting.

I just found an amazing Macintosh program that really blows away the competition. Oculus 3.1 ($20 shareware from International Web, Inc.) has every feature I’d want in a webcam and then some. It supports any cam that works with Quicktime and has a VDIG driver. I’m using it with my Canon DV camera over Firewire and the image quality is noticably better.

Oculus can also capture the computer’s screen, so I’ve added a screen capture window for the truly nosy. There are many other features, including amazing captioning capabilities. Look at my iBook cam to see the clock and weather extensions combined with a standard text caption. The weather automatically updates itself from NOAA. If the camera is off the captions are replaced by an inactive message. But here’s an example of what it looks like when it’s live:

ibookcam (26k image)

I can also use it to detect motion or sound, and to create time lapse movies. I’ll give that a try down the road. Since Oculus is written for OS X (there’s a MacOS 9 version, too) it runs in the background perfectly and undetectably. I only wish there were a Windows program as good. If you know of one let me know!

Barn Dance

Tuesday, 25 December 2001, 5:58 pm

Henry got a trick bike. Abby got a drum set. Thank goodness for the barn.

Drum and Bike Corps

A Christmas Story

Tuesday, 25 December 2001, 6:33 am

I like to do my shopping on Christmas Eve. It helps me feel solidarity with all the other fathers and husbands who venture out just 12 hours before Christmas hoping to find the perfect present in the 10 minutes before all the stores close.

“A battery operated swizzle stick! I know she wanted diamond earrings but… it’s perfect. Do you gift wrap?”

Abby and I went to our local outlet mall where we bought such useful items as a magnetic clothes pin and a cheese fondue set. What’s with all the fondue sets? Is fondue back? Or is it just that I’m shopping the remainder bins?

Then we headed downtown where I bought a gift certificate for a swedish rock massage (as opposed to, Abba, a Swedish rock group) and a level four transformer toy. Guess which family member each was for.

I was surprised how crowded everything was. I guess I’m not the only dad who waits to the last minute. I did catch a break at the grocery store when, as I froze trying to calculate which checkout line was moving fastest, one of the clerks shouted, “hey Screen Savers! over here!” Celebrity has its privileges. I guess.

Tonight we brought Christmas cookies to neighbors, then drove around looking at the over-the-top Christmas decor. One of the houses even had its own radio station – a micropower FM station broadcasting Christmas music – and a sign saying “tune to 88.1.”

I hope we’ll get a chance sometime this week to watch my favorite Christmas movie, Jean Shepherd’s “A Christmas Story.” I grew up listening to Jean on the radio, WOR in NYC, and still idolize him. He passed away in 1999 but you can still hear him on Live 365.

Well the presents are all under the tree, and Santa has hung the stockings with care, so I better get to bed. Abby is getting a drum set tomorrow. I have a feeling I’ll be up early.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Help Scott Get A Job

Sunday, 23 December 2001, 6:48 pm

Scott Herriot posted this message yesterday on the message boards.

Hello y’all…Scott here. Last night, the 21st, CNN’s “Newsnight with Aaron Brown” ran a story I sent to them about the Loneliest Road in America. During the intro, Aaron said, in essence, “We’d like to hire Scott, but the big boys say we don’t have the money. But perhaps enough emails might change their mind.” The email address is newsnight@cnn.com. If you ever found me remotely amusing on ZDTV/TechTV, I’d appreciate any positve feedback you could throw their way. If you found me simply annoying, please send positive feedback anyway, since, for God’s sake, it’s the Holiday season. Much Love, Scott.

P.S. Once again, the email address is newsnight@cnn.com.

Tell your friends and get them to email, too. Let’s get Scott that job!

Silicon Spin

Thursday, 13 December 2001, 10:33 pm
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Oops. I forgot to mention. I’m filling in for Dvorak on Silicon Spin Thursday and Friday. I did the first one today at 3p Eastern. It will rerun at 2:30a, 7a, and 10:30a Eastern. And I’ll be back with the Friday roundtable at 3p Pacific tomorrow.

Spin is fun – I’d been pitching a McLaughlin Group style roundtable since my days with c|net – but Dvorak’s job is safe!

Make it so

Saturday, 8 December 2001, 8:12 am
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Well even if I don’t get to interview Dean Kamen (see the previous post) at least I’m meeting Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. I’m flying to LA for the day tomorrow to see the new Jimmy Neutron movie and interview Patrick Stewart (who voices one of the characters).

What’s a Segway?

Friday, 7 December 2001, 10:43 pm

About 80 pounds. Bad joke.

Monday on TechLive I’m going to spend an hour with Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway HT, that amazing new scooter that was known as Ginger or “it” until its debut last week.

Over the past couple of decades I’ve interviewed many of my heroes, from Walter Cronkite to Buzz Aldrin, Jimmy Stewart to John Cleese, but I’ve rarely been as excited about an interview as I am about this one. We’re going to block off the street in front of the studios and I’ll get to put the Segway through its paces. Stand back!

Steve Jobs said the Segway was the most important invention since the PC. Many believe it will revolutionize urban transportation. I personally consider Kamen the Edison of our era. I am so stoked that I’m going to get to spend an hour with him.

(LAST MINUTE UPDATE:) I spoke too soon. Kamen cancelled. Oh well. Patrick is going to the press event Monday morning so we will have some coverage on The Screen Savers Monday evening anyway.

Hey, even if Patrick’s right and it’s just an over-hyped motorized scooter, it’s gonna be cool!

Tune in or Tivo it. 4-5p Eastern on TechTV.

Happy Holidays

Monday, 3 December 2001, 11:22 pm

You may have noticed that the Blog has rolled back in time. There seems to be a bug in Greymatter that caused the archives to fail when more than 100 comments were added to an entry (that’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it). I restored from tape and I will restore the missing entries by hand when I get home.

Meanwhile I’m creating this entry for tonight’s show. We’re demonstrating how to do a blog and I’m going to show people how easy it is to use Blogger and Greymatter.

And to insert graphics, too. So

Holly sprigHappy Holidays!Holly sprig

How’s My Hair?

Tuesday, 27 November 2001, 1:07 pm
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I came back to work yesterday for the first time since the layoffs and it was so weird. The halls were much quieter. Partly because there were fewer people. Partly because people are a little subdued. I greeted everyone I saw with “I’m glad you survived!” which puzzled a few people until they realized that this was my first day back. But I missed so many who would have been there.

Among the most missed, our hair, makeup, and wardrobe folks. It’s humiliating to admit this, but we have to do for ourselves these days. They laid off all the stylists. I doubt this situation will last long – it’s just too bizarre to have a production assistant pretend to apply makeup to our guests – but for now I have to do my own hair and makeup. Which explains the eccentric Elvis swoop in my forelock tonight. I just couldn’t do a thing with it.

Last week I went to the local M.A.C. cosmetics store to stock up. The good news is that I get a 30% trade discount. The bad news is I’m buying makeup for myself. In case you’re interested I wear NC 35 for concealer, apply studio fix NC 40 (a powder foundation), add contour with Symmetry Matte, then powder it whenever I get shiny with Dark Blot Powder #451. I wonder how Patrick is going to handle this when he gets back?

On a brighter note, cartoonist Rich Tennant, our guest tonight and the creator of The 5th Wave, did a cartoon of Patrick and me. What an honor.

Cartoon of Leo and Pat

I think my hair looks pretty realistic, don’t you?

Black Friday

Saturday, 17 November 2001, 1:01 pm

TechTV logo sheds a tearI’ve been in broadcasting for 25 years now. I’ve even been through layoffs before. But I’ve never experienced anything like yesterday. As many of you already know, TechTV fired 130 people on Friday – 25% of our work force. A great many companies have had to cut back in the past few months, and millions of folks have lost their jobs, but having it happen so close to home was a brutal shock and totally devastating.

I was stuck in airports all day yesterday, trying to get back from Raleigh NC to the Bay Area. I spent much of that time on the cell phone getting updates as some of my closest friends were getting fired. I felt so helpless.

I guess part of the reason these layoffs hurt so much is that TechTV is much more than a job for most of us. Rightly or wrongly, it has become a second family. Like any family it’s frustrating at times. And painful. And intensely rewarding. But what a bitter blow it must have been to be so suddenly thrown out. Monday morning is going to be so tough for those 130 people. People who, for the most part, looked forward to coming to work, who believed in TechTV’s mission, and who gave their all to make it happen.

I don’t know the names of all the people who were fired. I’m slowly learning who made it and who didn’t. And each name added to the latter list is like a blow to the stomach. I know these layoffs were necessary for the channel to survive until better times. I know it must have been incredibly hard for management to do this. I also know that the people who are gone will go on to do great things – they’re all wildly talented and bright. But it still hurts like hell.

There’s a thread on the message boards devoted to the layoffs: TechTV Shakedown. I hope you all will use it to share your feelings and offer support to the good people who were let go.

There are still over 400 people who work at TechTV. We’ll pull it together and continue to bust our butts to give you a channel we can all be proud of. But for a while at least, we’re grieving the loss of 130 of our friends. Thanks for all your hard work and dedication, guys. I can’t wait to work with you again. And I know we will some day.

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