Merry Christmas the Geeky Mom Way!

Star Wars: The Old Republic
Image via Wikipedia

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are having a joyous holiday season, whatever you celebrate! I am blessed to have my dear family and many, many friends both ‘in Real Life’ and online.  I have been sharing Christmas greetings with Trusty Friends and family from all over the world.

The last few weeks have been a flurry of activity getting ready for the holidays, finding a new job, and picking up a new Geeky Activity–writing for TORWars.com.  I’m quite tickled that they thought I wrote well enough to bring on board for a weekly column on the Jedi Consular class in Star Wars: The Old Republic

Yes, the game rocks, and yes, I am a confirmed fangirl. I love the KOTOR series, and TOR is a blast to play. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it approximately a bazillion stars, which, for those of you counting, is Officially A Lot.

The other project occupying my time was the creation of two sound files with Christmas greetings. One was for extended family, since we now live 800 miles away from them.  The other one was for Trusty Friend Athos, who is from my Star Trek Lotus Fleet group.  He has been deployed and isn’t able to be home this Christmas. We fleetmates decided that if Athos couldn’t go home, we were certainly going to bring some ‘home’ to him. 

Creating these gifts involved many Geeky Activities, not the least of which included using Audacity.  I spent many an hour cursing out that program when learning how to edit the LucasCast podcast two years back. The great thing about it? It’s free. The bad thing about it? You have to have a PhD in sound engineering to understand the darned thing.  GVerb? Are we talking about some new verb tense? Is a ‘hard limiter’ the bouncer at the bar who cuts you off when you’ve had one too many? Nope.  By the way, Audacity’s ‘phaser’ is not at all the same as Star Trek’s phaser. This is Important. I want to make sure my Trusty Friends are fully informed.

Anyway, after finally herding all the Lotus Fleet cats, and one resident self-described furry, into the Lotus Fleet chatroom, I was able to finish the recording of all the Christmas greetings and performances. Trusty Friends Jureth, Future, and Kheren should be commended for being brave and doing solo performances and putting mine to shame on top of it.  My son even contributed by playing a viola solo. I was humbled by everyone’s contributions to help make Christmas better for a serviceman who can’t make be at home this year.  I finished the editing, uploaded it to the Lotus Fleet site, and sent off a copy to Athos via Skype. He managed to get enough bandwidth half a world away to actually be able to download it.  I was tickled he received it in time for Christmas day.

My family, however, does not have Skype, nor are they Lotus Fleet members, so I didn’t have the option to send them download links that way.  This was A Problem. Short of burning the mp3 to disc and sending it to them, I was limited in ways to get the file into their hot little hands. No matter what guarantees the shippers make, when you ship at the busiest time of the year, it means that your package might arrive sometime by the 24th century. Besides, I wanted family to have it before Christmas, not after.

I tried to send the file via email.

Fail.  The file was about 22 MB bigger than Gmail’s 25 MB limit. Our little family of four had quite a bit to say to our family on top of the kids’ performances.

I tried to upload it to YouTube.

Fail 1: They don’t take just plain mp3s. It has to have at least 1 picture in it. It can be  a 1×1 pixel picture, but by God, that counts as a picture to make it into a movie. I opted to go with Renaissance paintings and stained glass pictures instead as something moderately more interesting than a 1×1 orange pixel.

I spent the day re-acquainting myself with Windows Movie Maker, which I had cheerfully learned in a weekend at the beginning of the year to help my son make a movie for his history class. After an extensive Google search of approximately .51 seconds, I found more Renaissance Nativity art than I could possibly ever use in a century. I happily added a number of images to the sound file and made a “movie”.  I then tried to upload to YouTube again.

Fail 2: YouTube doesn’t take projects longer than 15 minutes, and mine clocked in at 37 minutes.  I had actually read this before starting the movie project, so you’d think I would have paid attention to this Important Fact and that my sound file was entirely too long. Nope! Now, if you’re Special, you can indeed upload files longer than 15 minutes. However, this involves getting somewhere in the vicinity of a billion people to like your videos and confirm that you don’t post nasty stuff. I didn’t have time to become ‘Special’. The file needed to go out TODAY, darn it!! So, I tried to figure out how to break the freshly minted movie down into 3 parts smaller than 15 minutes in size to re-upload to YouTube.

Fail 3: Windows Movie Maker apparently does not like splitting music AND video at the same spot. The ‘split’ tool will split music, OR video. Not both, at least without jumping through about 15,853 hoops. I know this because I googled how to split the files on YouTube.

In desperation, because it was getting late on Christmas Eve, I turned to the Trusty Skype Posse ™, who are experts in all sorts of gaming and geeky goodness, and who, like me, were of course ONLINE on Christmas Eve. I’m not quite sure what this says about any of us, but it says something interesting, I’m sure.

Anyway, Trusty Friend Jeff had an outstanding suggestion–upload the file to Dropbox, and then send the family the link to the file so that they could download it.  It was the perfect solution.

Dropbox allows you to upload up to 2GB of items for free, and then you can share the files with anyone anywhere. You can pay a monthly fee to increase that amount. This is a great way to transfer files from home to work, or in my case, transfer larger files from my home to the homes of my extended family.  Uploads are quick, and the program is easy to understand. There’s also an Android app for it.

If you would like your own Dropbox account, you can use referral codes from either Jeff or me.  This will give you an extra 250 MB of free storage, and give Jeff or me an extra 250, too.  His referral code is http://db.tt/TCoPTlf.  My code is http://db.tt/TvaRxdnM.

Merry Christmas to all!

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I’ve Officially Joined the Youtube Family

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
I’m no stranger to YouTube, trust me.  Some of the funniest videos can be found there, including the “Four Wheels of Fury!” Toyota/World of Warcraft commercial, and one of my favorites, “The Emperor’s Phone Call”, where Emperor Palpatine, in full claymation glory, receives a phone call from Darth VaderAdult Swim finally decided to host this video on their own site after a zillion people posted it on YouTube.
Today, my daughter decided to use my point-and-shoot camera to take a video of our new kitten playing.  I decided to share it with friends, and since YouTube cheerfully lets me host videos there, I uploaded it.  I am now the proud owner of a video on YouTube. The quality is about as good as you can get for a point-and-shoot camera being held by a child excited about her new kitten, but all things considered, unless you’re a curmudgeon who doesn’t like kittens, you’ll probably enjoy the enthusiasm that only an 8 week old kitten can have.  So, have fun watching Jake playing.

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