Reclaim Cloud Art, Bryan Mathers, and Gettin’ Air

It occurred to me yesterday after finally listening to Terry Greene‘s interview with Bryan Mathers for the Gettin Air podcast that I never blogged about our Reclaim Cloud artwork. That needs to be rectified, and I will share the awesome below, but before I do I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the interview between these two. Possibly the coolest part was when Bryan started interviewing Terry in order to see if he could “draw” out of him some ideas that he could refactor as a visual for the podcast, and voilà Gettin Air has a new logo!

I dig it, especially given I have returned to snowboarding these last few years, but even better was Bryan getting Terry to talk about his idea behind the name, his articulation of what he’s doing and why—it was all so effortless and real. It was a beautiful demonstration of how the interview can become the thing it wants to share. So genius, well worth a listen if you have some time.

Anyway, that whole process reminded me I have not yet shared the work Reclaim Hosting did with Bryan this summer to get started on the Reclaim Cloud aesthetic. Given Reclaim Cloud is premised on a container-based architecture, we initially explored if we wanted to go down the road of shipping containers, and we have some initial sketches from Bryan that I absolutely love.

The containers are actually VHS tapes! A point made clearer in the heavy lifting image that follows:

It really is brilliant, it captures the idea of Reclaim Cloud as both container-based and industrial-strength, which it is! But ultimately after talking with Bryan we realized the hard limits of the nautical/container metaphor. So we moved on to Cloud City, an idea Martha Burtis and I came up with for Domain of One’s Own back in the day.

I still love that poster, in fact I have a stamped copy of it framed and hanging on the wall behind me as I write this. So we got to talking a bit about it, although Tim was a bit reluctant given he is not a Star Wars fan, but through conversation the idea of a retro-futurism aesthetic began to emerge a la The Jetsons.

And Bryan’s rough sketches had us very intrigued:

The idea of scaling your domain was fun, and the way Bryan mapped that onto retro-futuristic housing and was brilliant. In the final image the beginnings of a logo/cloudlet begin to take shape already. This was our aesthetic, and we kind of knew it during the discussion, but the seeds of the sketches sealed it.

The final option was to stick with the music/video metaphor we already have and push it further with mixed tapes. But it just felt forced, and I think Tim and I both wanted the freedom to jump out of that metaphor and explore something new, and I am really glad we did.

The next conversation after deciding on Cloud City was to scout the internet for some ideas for our next conversations, and that is when Tim landed on industrial designer Arthur Radebough’s Closer than We Think comic strip from the late 1950s through 1963. The way in which the art incorporate an explanatory panel and then the actual art incorporates various explicit arrows illustrating the future gels nicely with our idea of introducing Reclaim Cloud as a way of highlighting for higher ed what’s possible in this new space. So, we got to talking, and the first round of art was amazing:

I really love the industrial logo for Reclaim Cloud which is itself an encapsulated container, a cloudlet if you will, and this idea of self-contained cities became a bit part of our aesthetic. And the fact that Bryan Ollendyke said it reminded him of Bioshock on Twitter just sealed it for me 🙂

We were sold after this image, a kind of brochure for Cloud City which enabled us to start exploring the idea of what it would mean to try and create a series of vignettes of the different options for anyone interested in moving to the Cloud. It was just too fun, so the follow-up discussion was to explore the Closer than You Think comic strips to highlight some of the one-click applications we have for courses, organizations, and digital scholarship:

Pure magic! The way in which the container has become an organic part of these images is just so awesome. I love the one outside the window of the home classroom. This idea that it is all connected yet separate is one way to understand the cloud, and Bryan really brought it home. And as amazing as all the art is, I think his breakdown of the various elements of a Reclaim Cloud container that could incur costs in a fullblown masterpiece:

This sphere is everything, literally. I just love the way the aesthetic has evolved and the final bit is thinking through how we’re going to highlight what is happening within each cloud. This led us to the idea of “What’s in your Cloud?” wherein we talk to folks to provide us a peak into their Cloud, what are they running, how, etc. The following image is a placeholder, but we are thinking through ways of trying to capture the individual nature of folks’ cloud for each episode, and Bryan mentioned some kind of comic-like avatar, like my Cotton Mather avatar in a spacesuit hold my Cloud sphere, which would be awesome!

Anyway, I think that brings us up to date, and to be clear this has only just begun. We are thinking of Reclaim Cloud as a long-game. We know it will not replace cPanel hosting; we have plenty of time to experiment with the possibilities; and we can slowly start moving our existing infrastructure over as we become increasingly comfortable with the environment. Not to mention it has forced us to dig in and learn a lot more as a company, and as much as I was kicking myself given I was just start to feel a bit liberated from the day-to-day, in the end I love it. We’ve been dreaming of this kind of infrastructure since we started Reclaim Hosting, and in 3 short months we went from nothing to a pretty full blown product that provides some concrete solutions for academics wanting to host something outside of the LAMP stack. And this retro-future aesthetic is our way to start experimenting in this space without pretending there aren’t also real problems baked into every solution—we’re here to explore right along side you.

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Reclaim Arcade Interview

Image of Termite and PenguinTim did a great interview in which he talks Reclaim Arcade on the 80-Bit Podsmash podcast with Termite and Penguin. The podcast is about all things gaming, and it was cool to hear the co-hosts dig on the Reclaim Arcade collection of old school cabinets. In fact, they were able to experience the full glory of Reclaim Arcade in-person as Tim gave them a tour of the space prior to the show. It was cool to hear Star Castle get some love—a truly under appreciated vector masterpiece. And the fact that Termite and Penguin were so excited about the potential of the space was a much needed buoy for the project in these uncertain times. As I already mentioned on this blog, we’re still going forward with Reclaim Arcade, and we’ll open when we think the time is right, until then we are dialing in the details.

NEON?!

I think my favorite part of the podcast, and it’s chuck full of highlights, was listening to Tim recount the timeline of events leading up to our projected May 2020 opening of Reclaim Arcade. It was non-stop work on this project for Tim as early as November 2019 and by the time we got into late February the construction was already delayed and it looked like late June, early July was the absolute earliest we could open. We were not happy. At the same time, while I’m sitting here in Italy feeling useless I was watching the entire nation start locking-down and within 10 days I was already wondering if and when I’d ever get back for an opening (I was all set to move back to the US come late April). Well the rest is history, but it is a good reminder how insane the whole arcade project was getting as COVID start emerging as a broader global threat.

And while we got lucky that we had not committed to the construction when we put the brakes on the project in mid-March, the idea of walking away from what was a pretty amazing vision was deeply depressing. We put a moratorium on the whole thing for about 3 or 4 months (built Reclaim Cloud in the interim) and then reconvened on the Arcade front in early August and committed to a bit more modest project. It’s a crazy timeline, and hearing Tim talk it through on this podcast was surprisingly intense for me. It’s hard to fully understand the insanity of what we are living through because if we don’t try to normalize it in some way we would go crazy—but remembering the not so distant past and how quickly everything changed is sobering.

 

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DSLR Mount for Vinylcam

This is my new overhead camera setup for vinylcasting, and it rules. My first iteration was a bit more DIY and while it worked in the short term, I needed a more stable alternative. And the Manfrotto super clamp and heavy duty flexible 520MM Arm were the ticket for sure. I can mount the clamp right onto the front of my desk and then the arm easily bends over the record player for optimum vinyl viewing.

I am able to pull in the DSLR thanks to a recent acquisition of a Elgato Cam Link 4k that essentially makes an HDMI device into a USB input that OBS can pickup. I do love being able to actually take advantage of all the features a DSLR brings to the table, such as advanced lighting, focus, lighting, lenses, etc. In particular, I was able to use the wide angle lens in this event to capture the entire record player. I just tested in out with side 1 of Van Halen II, which was an homage to Grant Potter’s RH!

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Playing with the AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable

During lockdown Tim sent me a care package from the US with some goodies for my various streaming projects. Such as trying to get my Commodore 128 and/or RetroPie to stream through OBS cleanly. Lockdown was lifted in Italy in late May which was well before I got a chance to play with all the various toys, but I recently began exploring the AVerMedia Live Gamer Portable (C875) (or LGP for short) when Tommy asked me about streaming the Nintendo Switch to Twitch. And while more of a theoretical question on his part (he has long since moved on), it was all I needed to send me down a very productive rabbit hole.

While this is a fairly brief (for me) 9 minute video about the AVerMedia video capture card, it’s not all that good. There are a few glaring errors, such as suggesting the Time Shift option in the AVerMedia software RECentral enables you to correct for lag rather than what it actually does: provide a temporary copy of your recording so that you can quickly capture snippets of your gameplay. So, keep in mind that I’m an unreliable narrator at best, a full-blown fraud at worst.*

Anyway, the LGP capture card is a HDMI/Component video pass-through that allows you to capture the incoming signal from a device (usually a gaming console). You can also plug in a microphone to record any commentary directly on top of the video being captured. I’ve not played with the audio recording feature given I’m already doing that in in OBS, but that would be a fun experiment. You have two options for storing the recording, directly to your PC via the software RECentral or you can record without connecting to a PC directly on the LGP’s SD card. One word of caution is that the SD card you use matters, I lost a day trying to troubleshoot why my SD recording feature wouldn’t work only to learn that only certain cards work and they must be formatted in FAT32. I recommend this Reddit post listing the compatible cards.

Once I got the PC-free recording on the SD card working I tested it out with my RetroPie, and you can see the results above. This game of Pac-man was played on a Sony Trinitron TV and it was a thing of beauty. Unfortunately the recording is directly from the RetroPie, so you’ll have to take my word on the CRT afterglow. Nonetheless, the capture looks excellent, and I was afraid there was an issue given the sound was slightly out of sync, but turns out that’s true when playing Pacman on the RetroPie normally, so all is well.

I have more to write about my various experimentations when actually streaming the RetroPie to OBS on ds106.tv, but I’ll save that for another post.

__________________________________

*Acknowledging as much, I’m still not too concerned because this is all part of a larger attempt to get better at producing videos like this, and part of that is technical (figuring out capture cards, cameras, lighting, streaming software, etc.), but just as much is being prepared with focused information—needless to say both elements need work. 🙂

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Reclaim Today: Taking the Studio on the Road

Click image for video

We’re currently building out Reclaim Hosting HQ’s TV studio, and as a result we’ve been doing more Reclaim Today episodes —which is a welcome change. In episode 21 we discuss what a video kit would look like for remote workers like Lauren and I. The idea being the mothership that is Reclaim Hosting’s office studio would be where all the heavy lifting happens, but Lauren and I would need to have tight video setups that allow us to seamlessly integrate for a distributed stream, not to mention the importance of having a solid rig as more and more events and trainings go fully online.

And we even had a view or two, thanks Simon! So the discussion delineates what a remote kit would look like, and below is the list of the equipment I got for my remote setup (Lauren’s differs a bit based on availability). There was more Elgato equipment available in Italy than the US (the company is headquartered just up the valley in Munich, Germany) as the demand for webcams, portable green screens, microphones, etc., is still peaking given the US is experiencing the never-ending lockdown. So, below is my annotated list of my remote video setup:

Elgato Key Light Air (2x): Lighting, lighting, lighting! One of the big takeaways from our discussion with Andy Rush a couple of weeks back was good lighting is everything. So I got two portable, adjustable desktop lights that I can link and control via my phone. These were $130 each, and I got two that sit on either side of my computer (as pictured above) and they do make all the difference but the app is a bit wonky at controlling both seamlessly, so that is something to consider. But I love how seamless they work on the desk behind my monitor on the left and next to the one on the right.

Elgato Wave Microphone: Next up is sound, and I currently have a Yeti mic that has worked for me pretty well, but one of the drawbacks is I tend to keep it off to the side and I find my levels are consistently low and it picks up everything. That said the Yeti may be more than enough for folks, but I wanted to try the Elgato Wave 1 to see if that was different, it just came this morning so I have to follow-up after playing around more, but a potential benefit of the Wave mic is comes with mixing software.

Logitech C920 Webcam: This is the camera I bought after mistakenly getting the Logitech C615, which sucks. While only $15-20 difference, the C920 is far superior. And I think this will be a good solution for most, I am still planning on mounting a Canon DSLR behind and above my main monitor and bringing it in as an input for OBS using Elgato’s Cam Link 4K video capture card. More on this experiment anon, but at $115 for the Logictech C920 (which is $20 cheaper than the Cam Link video capture card, and $1000+ cheaper than a DSLR) it is a very solid and affordable camera for a remote kit.

Elgato Portable Greenscreen: Finally the portable Greenscreen from Elgato officially makes me Elgato brand boy, doesn’t it? I can live with that, I had to pay a few bucks for this from a third-party vendor in Italy given it was sold out here, but not like the price gauging for it my vendors in the US right now. This has yet to come, so I will need to write more once I get it and can play with it, which will invite more posts around actually exploring the possibilities with using a Greenscreen when streaming, some of which Tim highlighted in the this video, and they are so fun!

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Laying it Down with the Lo

Azuracast and You

It’s been an absolute joy to watch Scott Lockman (a.k.a Scottlo) imagine, evolve, and build out Strawboss Radio. In short, Scottlo has been building a radio station that features the immense audio riches of the Internet Archive. And his recent post “Azuracast and You” features both a quick tutorial illustrating how to create a playlist using Azuracast (the open source software powering Strawboss Radio) as well as demonstrating the power of radio to teach and entertain by including a 30 minute audio file wherein Scottlo re-creates his work through layers of broadcasts over the 3-4 days of getting his playlist together.

I really think the work Scottlo is doing is quite powerful, he is taking the time and expending the energy to curate arguably the greatest digital archive in the world. What’s more, he is opening up his radio to try and encourage others to curate a scheduled bit of Strawboss Radio, essentially making for radio station premised on a communal curation of the Internet Archive, although I imagine not limited to that by any means. It’s genius, and I love it. In fact, Scottlo and I planned to talk about this very project last Wednesday, and we chatted for about 30 minutes or so, but as it turns out with me I got on another topic of live streaming TV/radio and the broader impact of these technologies for the new era of online learning (which I think it is fair to say in regards to a pre and post COVID-19 moment for online learning). So, Scottlo tolerated my ramblings, in fact, he not only tolareated them, but he provided a really cool frame narrative where the end is the beginning and the entire discussion becomes interestingly bookended with Eleonor Roosevelt talking about what constitutes a liberal. It’s Scottlo doing what he does best, making compelling audio on the air and off. So, thanks for chatting with me Scottlo, and for episode 2 of Laying it Down with the Lo, let’s dig in on the brilliance of Strawboss Radio, there is so much more to say!

Posted in Archiving, audio, Strawboss Radio | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Vinylcast #36: Until the End of the World

On Sunday I resumed my vinylcasting on #ds106radio after having made a bit of a score. I picked up a bunch of great albums which inspired me to return more regularly to playing some vinyl on the radio.

The first album I choose was the soundtrack to Wim Wenders‘ scifi road movie Until the End of the World. The album is chock-full of good tunes with everyone from Neneh Cherry to Lou Reed to R.E.M. to Depeche Mode, etc. In fact, you could argue the soundtrack was better received than the movie ? In fact, during this vinylcast I took a bit about the films reception, the various versions of the film subsequently released, and its garnering greater appreciation in the decades since its 1991 release.

The soundtrack is also interesting in that most folks probably listened to it on CD given in 1991/1992 when it was released the compact disc was increasingly more ubiquitous and affordable. I had the CD in 1992, and one of the things you immediately realized after getting the vinyl is that there are quite a few tracks “missing” that were included on the CD, which highlights the brave new world of digital and more content!

In this vinylcast I play through the album and then also include the songs included on the CD, such as a few of Graeme Revell‘s tracks from the film score, including Patti and Fred Smith, T-Bone Burnett, and Jane Siberry. I also mention this soundtrack really highlights a moment in my life in which the entire course of my future changed in a few short months in the name of love. We all have our stories in that regard, and this is definitely one of them for me.

#vinylcast: Until the End of the World 9/13/2020
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WordPress Multisite Privacy Footer

This morning we got a request from Coventry University to have a link in the footer of every site to their privacy policy. I did a quick Google search and one of the top hits was a blog the bava is quite familiar with: Bionic Teaching. Turns out Tom Woodward figured this out in 2018 and blogged it with his usual terse efficiency, and within minutes we had a solution for Coventry. Below is the results of my wrapping up Tom’s code into a privacy_footer plugin that is now network activated on Coventry’s WPMS:

Click image to view the more readable text

So, I wanted to write this so I have a record, but also as a quick thank you to Tom for sharing the work he does with WordPress Multisite and beyond for the world to benefit so freely. It is appreciated.

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A Peek Inside Reclaim Studio

020: Reclaim Studio Live!

On Friday Tim and I streamed/recorded episode 20 of Reclaim Today: Reclaim Studio Live! It is a testament to how fast Tim works given little more than a week earlier we sat down with Andy Rush in episode 19 to discuss the studio he is building at UNF. And Andy’s work inspired us so much that we went shopping almost immediately after that chat and started building out Reclaim Studio. The video below is a first look inside the studio and it is already quite tight.

Click image to play video

Click image to play video

I do have some camera and green screen envy presently, but hopefully my upcoming trip back to the States will allow me to grab a few pieces for my home office rig 🙂 What’s more, if you are considering building out a video streaming/recording studio for your own work, Andy Rush posted an amazing compilation of resources to help guide folks getting started, as well as providing links to various people working within the space. I feel like this is the beginning of a whole lot of fun over the next year, and I very much look forward to dialing in my video streaming, recording, and production game. I might even have to get a Youtube account again so you can like and subscribe for more!

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Timmy Explores the Wondrous World of Windows 3.1

You begin the game as Timmy, a young boy visiting a crumbling amusement park known as Midway. But Timmy doesn’t see a pathetic locale where everything is falling apart, but rather a world of wonder, with his thoughts appearing in written form at the bottom of the screen.

The above quote is taken from a now gone review on Hardcore Gaming 101 describing The Residents 1995 CD-ROM game Bad Day at the Midway. I know this because I copied that description for a post I wrote on this blog in 2014 talking about this game, which made an indelible impression on my memory when I first played it on Windows 3.1 at in the AVS offices at UCLA. In fact, the description of little Timmy above is perfect to describe another Timmy I know who found himself in the wondrously retro world of archival emulation thanks to the EaaSI project, or emulation as a service infrastructure. What is EaaSI? Well, Tim covers that nicely:

The Eaasi platform allows you to start with basic images of operating systems, and then layer on software as well as “objects”. So, for example, you might have an object that is a Word Document a professor wrote in 1998. Instead of rendering it in a PDF, here we can actually take a Windows 98 computer, add Office 97 to it, and then have the document load at boot. A true native environment that is destroyed and rebuilt each time you go to view it in a matter of seconds and renders the object exactly as it was intended to be viewed.

What’s beautiful for us is that EaaSI is a container-based environment for emulation-based archiving that Tim got running on Reclaim Cloud, so now he can playing Solitaire as it was meant to be played on Windows 3.1:

All of which led us to jump on a video call and see if we could get the iso of the Bad Day at the Midway CD-ROM to run in the Cloud, and turns out it is very possible, even if you have to fix a few issues like mount your virtual CD-drive and fixing the monitor colors:

“Wow!” indeed. Running a 1995 CD-ROM game on Windows 3.1 via the web on Reclaim Cloud is a new level of hosting inception I can dig on. It seems similar in spirit to the remarkable work the folks at the Internet Archive have been doing for years to emulate various games in the browser. It’s exciting stuff, and the fact we could host something like this is mind blowing.

Posted in Archiving, reclaim, Reclaim Cloud | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments