Recent Blog Posts from Andrew McCrea
Andrew McCrea's Blog Categories
Andrew McCrea's Blog Archives

Take a byte of the Raspberry Pi

Andrew

/

April 14th, 2013

Have you heard of this new computer that’s the size of a deck of cards? If you haven’t heard of the Raspberry Pi, the higher-end model sells for $35 (lower end sells for $25) and is comparable in power and performance to a modern smartphone. These days, that’s fairly powerful. The Pis run slightly modified versions of Linux (off of a SD card) and there’s work being done to make sure Android is compatible. It’s capable of HD video and digital sound thanks to an HDMI port. If you have an older TV, there’s also a RCA video port and a headphone jack. They’re so energy efficient you can run them off of four AA batteries.

Courtesy of Illinois Institute of Technology

Courtesy of Illinois Institute of Technology

The Raspberry Pi was originally developed for kids to learn programming at home and at school, where parents and administrators may be wary to teach what is becoming a fundamental skill due to fear of damaging expensive computers. The hacker enthusiast crowd snatched up most of the initial 10,000 units from the first production run in a mere few hours.

If you’re not already a bit excited by the sound of this device, consider that low-cost, powerful computing is where we’re headed as a society. This changes everything. Now, developing nations will have access to computing resources. They’ll be coming online in the near future as well. People will be able to hack together all sorts of creative solutions such as arcade cabinet revivals, space cams with weather balloons, or a robotic video camera using a Roomba. It’s a brief introduction to Web 3.0, also known as “The Internet of Things”, which will see many items come online, everything from your TV, your fridge, and your toaster, to your car, your lighting, and maybe even your toilet.

I have two on order and am going to be using them to automate showtimes and show announcements at my drive-in movie nights. This will control music playback, intermission times, show starts, the projector’s power and settings, and status announcements via walkie-talkies. They should be delivered this week, just in time to head off for summer break and have a whole bunch of free time to hack away on them.

Pitching my IPP

Andrew

/

April 5th, 2013

This post is going to be a shameless plug about my website thrusong.com, which will help people compose professional quality songs either independently or with their friends, fans, bandmates, and more. You can also market your songs made with the site or elsewhere.

The idea originally came out of secluded country living. I was painfully learning how to play the piano on my own and making notes along the way of things that would’ve just made it easier. I also started to venture into songwriting and realized that their were things I couldn’t do on my own, like drums or a real, rocking guitar, and thus the idea was born.

I will be pitching a guerrilla campaign (on Monday as my IPP) to bring thrusong to market. I encourage you to sign up to try it out at thrusong.com and tell your friends. Any one who signs up will be eligible for early access when the site soft launches this summer and some great prizes, which you’ll hear about in due time.

Taking a Snow Check for Opening Night

Andrew

/

April 2nd, 2013

Winter just won’t end. This should be obvious to you if you’ve left your house or even looked out a window lately. Personally, I dislike winter. A lot. I actually dislike spring a lot too, though: It’s still cold a lot of days, it’s slushy, wet, and dirty, and it costs a lot of money to keep the car clean and filled with washer fluid, not to mention you have to clean your house thanks to the wonderful ‘spring cleaning’ movement which I don’t get.

A lot of these things have conspired against me to make sure we push the Dacotah Drive-In’s opening night, which was scheduled for five days from now, back several weeks. We can’t get on the lot and when it finally melts, we’ll be sinking into the mud for the first bit, so it looks like we might be stuck with a May opener. We could potentially lose up to two movie nights this season.

Looking on the bright side, literally, Louis and I are going to start building a marquee for the theatre to replace the dinky sign we used to have. We’re taking two pieces of styrofoam insulation board, carving out the logo on each and creating backlit channel letters with rope light. We’ll also be piercing holes all around the border to fill with mini Christmas lights that have a chase sequence effect. Finding these lights this time of year is becoming a problem. I’ll do a follow up post to show the process (normally I design these creations, like the projector box, and Louis builds them because I have awfully unsteady hands). I’m hoping to get started on this right away. We might even re-build the projection box using the styrofoam board this summer.

Hopefully the snow melts right away so we can get the dancing hot dog back on screen and kick off what is going to be an awesome season. We’ve got lots in store, so stay tuned!

Welcome (back) to Kenora

Andrew

/

March 22nd, 2013

CreComm has a kind of traditional assignment, as we’re told, in the travel ad and article, though I understand it used to involve a component with the small town’s newspaper. That’s a whole different discussion, though a sign of the times overall due to social medias such as this blog.

Through the summers (and some holidays such as Christmas and Easter through the winter) I grew up in Kenora. My grandparents had a cottage on Lake of The Woods with about an acre near Redden’s and Longbow Lake on Storm Bay Road. Kenora seemed like a place I could re-discover, and in a lot of ways, I did. When my grandma died, it became too much to care for, and so he sold it.

That Tuesday morning, after a brief detour to pick up Logan’s camera and some McBreakfast, Dan, Eden, Jon, Amanda and headed out on the TransCanada East in Dan’s minivan. Unfortunately, the Ontario border information centre was closed for the season, so we stopped at a new tourism centre on the outskirts of Kenora. Here Eden and I bought some city-branded merch.

We parked at Zellers after learning the city was originally called Rat Portage and had a hockey team named the Thistles (or as we seem to pronounce, the thif-sles), then split up to explore the city. We got our angle and interviews at the chip truck (article forthcoming), then visited the Daily Miner and News where we met editor Lloyd Mack and got some historical articles on the chip truck and the robber who blew himself up on Main Street 40 years ago this May.

After that, we drove out on the lake. No big deal. No, it was just an ice road to Coney Island. We also tried to drive up a hill in the minivan, but she didn’t have enough juice and we ended up rolling down the hill backwards back onto the lake.

Starting to feel worn down, we decided to grab a beer. We walked on in and sat down in a corner of the Lake of The Woods Hotel. Little did we know, you had to be a regular to drink there. We were pretty much asked to leave by the bar mistress, but she did tell us there was pool upstairs. For some reason, we went upstairs, and the higher we climbed, the smaller and narrower the stairs became. It was very Alice in Wonderland. My gut was telling me to get out of that building, so we fled to the spot that was formerly Haps for a few brewskis.

All in all, it was a real blast from the past for me. I totally saw Kenora in a different light and hope to spend at least another summer in the future in that city and lake.

Getting Ready To Paint Our Upstairs

Andrew

/

March 15th, 2013

Exciting news over here. Louis and I are planning to paint the main floor of our house. We’ve started patching the cracks and holes in our walls with a small plaster bucket we got on sale. It’s a house that was built in the early 1950s in the newer part of River Heights, between Corydon and Grant. It’s still shifting and settling, so we have quite a few minor imperfections to fix up, and more are always popping up. For instance, last fall there was a two week period where I could not pull the bedroom door into the door frame.

We’re going to paint the bedroom, living room, dining room (essentially a small wedge of space between the kitchen, living room, and basement stairs), and bathroom.

More to come!

SEO and AdWords for my IPP

Andrew

/

March 5th, 2013

For my IPP, I’m pitching a promotional campaign for a website I’m going to launch this summer called thrusong.com. What is it? It’s a social songwriting website that produces professional sounding hit songs and it’s a major project nearing completion. I’ve built servers to handle the audio processing, I’ve finely tuned the performance of my servers. I’ve built a storage tier with terabytes (roughly 10 right now) ready to handle the generated audio.

Part of my campaign, pending the approval of the proposal, will involve a hefty online advertising campaign with Google AdWords and Facebook ads. Luckily today in advertising class, where we’ve also learnt essentials such as ‘How Oprah Got Rich’, we’re looking at how to use AdWords. I’ve dabbled with it a bit, spending a big chunk of money for a client on AdWords which was moderately successful, plus I’ve tried it myself, though more in Facebook Ads. I also put AdSense on my old thrusong website and made about $5 in two years. As a result, the new thrusong doesn’t have advertising on it and will instead promote the organic content created with it.

So, here are a few AdWord ads I could potentially run for thrusong next fall as the site expands to wider audiences:

Climb the charts today
Band together with thrusong
Compose hit songs with friends
http://www.thrusong.com/?c=1

Write a song, become #1
thrusong is social songwriting
Produce hit quality songs for FREE
http://www.thrusong.com/?c=2

Get back to your groove
Rock out to fresh, new music
thrusong is curated for you
http://www.thrusong.com/?c=3

Band together. Jam apart.
Compose socially with thrusong
Produce hit songs with friends
http://www.thrusong.com/?c=4

Learn to write songs
thrusong powers social songwriting
Generate your hit tracks for free
http://www.thrusong.com/?c=5

thrusong has streaming pages, like YouTube videos, but it also generates the songs, so I’ve written the ads to reflect this and appeal to different audiences.You may also notice the ?c=# at the end of each URL. This would let me track which ads are getting a reaction from people seeing the ads so that I could tailor my targeting a little bit better.

I could probably target these ads to keywords or phrases such as music, band(s), songwriting, compose, streaming, charts (“music charts”), “music lessons”, “band jams”.

These ads are likely to run next fall once we return to school, so you may see them popping up on Facebook and Google, though the ads I’m sure will be much better by then.

Any favourites? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to enter your e-mail at thrusong.com to get on the invite list!

A Thousand Farewells

Andrew

/

March 1st, 2013

One of our journalism assignments this semester was to read Nahlah Ayed’s autobiographical book “A Thousand Farewells”, a gritty account of Ayed’s life and career. We see her experiences of going from a childhood in a quaint house in Winnipeg to growing up in a refugee camp in the middle east. We see some racism when the family returns to Winnipeg, and the dangers she faces as a journalist later in the violent terrain of the middle east.

The book is a well-written and genuine account of war in the middle east by a dedicated journalist, though I found the book to be a hard and slow read because of all the difficult names of people and places, though there’s not really a way around this. It’s just not my thing. I found myself reading sections and realizing a lot of it left my head as I read it. I still barely understand what exactly is going on in the middle east. Some easy to digest facts, a timeline, and/or a map could do wonders to clarify this for people who are getting into this topic with very little knowledge of the issues. Otherwise, I think this book’s target audience is quite small.

Admittedly, I do not read much non-fiction, so I can’t compare this work to other non-fiction. I think the closest I’ve gotten to reading non-fiction is the collection of books I have about Disney Imagineering and the extraordinary showmanship that goes into everything Disney touches. These books work for me because they’re really about business and theatre, whereas a few years on Winnipeg Transit have kind of turned me off to caring about the individual stories and peculiarities of real people. That’s not to say that I don’t empathize for people, I just can’t communicate their stories as well as a dedicated journalist could.

Overall, I think this book will probably be greatly appreciated by people who are interested in world issues and journalism, and I think it would’ve done better as a required read for journalism majors. If there’s anything I got out of “A Thousand Farewells”, it was to choose the more technical Media Production major over Journalism.

Readying the reels for season 6 at Dacotah Drive-In

Andrew

/

February 14th, 2013

That melting outside isn’t just a fluke. This Saturday, we’re only 7 weeks away from opening night at the Dacotah Drive-In. The screen is blazing back to life Saturday, April 6.

This off-season we’ve been hard at work re-branding the theatre. We’ve come up with new branding consisting of cool blue, baby pink, and blacks and whites. It’s more of a jump back 10 years in the golden age of the drive-in than we’ve done up to this point. We’ve designed shirts, we’ve produced new “Coming Attractions” and “Feature Presentation” snipes.

New this year, we will also be pitting two movies head-to-head to win the second feature slot. Your votes in the Facebook group will be the ultimate deciding factor. Our opening features will be debuted in about 4 weeks. When we shut the place down last fall, we asked for your movie suggestions and we got over 50 entries in total with multiple suggestions, many that overlapped, so a lot of programming this summer will be based on that.

We’ve also looked at the concession stand and come up with some new things, including a fresh, streamlined menu. In just 7 weeks, we can put our new piece of concession equipment into operation. Your first peek, Meet Our New Menu, is coming up in less than 2 weeks.

We’ve also started replacing the containers we serve food in with reusable dishes you return at the end of the night. This is good for the environment and also keeps popcorn bags from leaking butter.

Big news that I’m really excited about for the film fest is that we’ll be screening CreComm student Amy Simoes and Dave Brown’s film Chump Change. Amy won “Best Villain” in a short film at the 8th Annual Action On Film International Film Festival. If you haven’t had a chance to enter the film fest yet, we’d like submissions by March 1, 2013 at filmfest@andymacdesign.ca.

We’ll see you in 7 weeks. Please request to join our Facebook group if you’d like an invite.

Last Night I Watched Manson Perform A Dope Show

Andrew

/

February 5th, 2013

Last night Marilyn Manson returned to Winnipeg’s MTS Centre with his Born Villain tour, featuring California-based opening act Butcher Babies.

Butcher Babies got the crowd fired up with aggressive rock-metal and two hot, head-banging front woman in tight leather. In general, they’re a good looking band, with a more modern take on the music that made Manson the rock god he is today.

Courtesy gunshyassassin.com

Courtesy gunshyassassin.com

Manson’s last stop at The Phone Booth was September 13, 2009 in support of the band’s final album on Interscope Records. It was his first stop in 12 years and during a period when his relationship with his label was going sour and falling apart. The performance was dismal, with Manson starting strong, having a loonie whipped at his head, and finally finishing a shortened performance pissed off. He says now he was trying to get out of his current contract, which pisses me off as a longtime fan getting the crappy side of the stick, but that’s a different issue.

531721_423865131022434_352959604_n

This was my third Manson show and this time around Manson seemed refreshed. Born Villain was a triumphant return to form and it seems to have rejuvenated the band as a whole. He looked good and he sounded good, though I’m sure there was a backing track to sweeten the sound because he put the mic towards the audience during Antichrist Superstar and you could still hear him singing. The show started mostly on time at 7:30pm and wrapped up by 10:30pm, with no encore.

There was also a chance to meet Manson before the show for $150, but I couldn’t afford it this time around. I did manage to catch the water bottle he drank from and threw into the audience, though, as my friend and I braved the pit.

544574_423907174351563_2047300621_n

I also got to see Coma White, my favourite song of all time, live for the second time, so that made my night. It’s one of his most critically acclaimed songs from his most critically acclaimed album Mechanical Animals, the one where he’s wearing the boob suit on the front. Johnny Depp now owns the prosthetic breasts. You can check out the music video from 1999, released in the wake of the Columbine tragedy for which he was unfairly blamed, here:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQPJYnr48yU]

Other favourites you might enjoy are numerous covers, including Tainted Love, Personal Jesus, and You’re So Vain, which features Johnny Depp on guitar.

The Cinema Becomes The Waiting Room

Andrew

/

January 31st, 2013

This past Saturday I caught a screening of The Waiting Room at Winnipeg Film Group‘s Cinematheque. Being the fan of cinema that I am, I was pretty happy to finally be exposed to this gem of a cinema, which is celebrating its 30th year.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GVArrNT7MI]

Now, I’m a fan of movies like this: the raw documentary where the camera is more of a fly on the wall and there’s no major plot and very little, if any, narration. Unfortunately, The Waiting Room failed to engage me. The movie is basically the trailer above, stretched and repeated for 81 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, this movie scores high on a lot of points. Director and cinematographer Peter Nicks provides a beautifully shot film. The employees of the Highland Hospital in Oakland, California were also very charismatic, particularly Certified Nurse Assistant Cynthia Y. Johnson and Resident Dr. Douglas White.

This screening was part of a journalism assignment for CreComm. I probably wouldn’t have seen this film on my own because listening to all these things that can be wrong with my body makes me uneasy, such as bone spurs, testicular cancer, and diabetes-induced death. Hollywood effects are one thing, real trauma is another. There was a powerful scene where they show a shot man who is rushed to the ER and dies, then they cut to blood all over the floor, and then they takes us with the crew putting the body in the fridge. I looked away when they showed the puddles of blood on the floor.

When my grandma had a fatal aneurism in 2001, she was rushed from Kenora to Health Sciences Centre while in a coma. She was kept in a room in intensive care but was eventually moved to a room in the Children’s Hospital because of overcrowding in the main hospital.

A bulletin summarizing the 2010 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey by Health Council Canada found 42% of Canadians waited 2 hours or more in the ER compared to 29% in America. The situation gets much worse when you looked at the wait of four weeks or more for a specialist: 43% of Canadians compared to America’s 10%. Under Steven Harper’s Conservatives, rules preventing patients in Canada from being able to pay private clinics for priority treatment have been relaxed, but this doesn’t do anything to help the everyday user of the system. I feel like health care is something that we’re all in together. If I have to wait 2 hours to see my doctor when I have an appointment, just to be called in to wait by myself for another 15-30 minutes before my doctor comes in, shines a light in my ears and mouth and hands me a free, branded medicine sample, then everyone else can, too.

America’s problems statistically seem less grim than Canada’s when it comes to wait times, but America is also spending much more: 17.6% of their GDP compared to 11.4% for us, though this is almost 2% higher than most countries surveyed, according to OECD Health Data 2012 report.

The Waiting Room shows us largely what we already know: there is a huge strain on the healthcare system in North America. There are issues with people who abuse themselves and who abuse the system that are occupying beds and bumping others down the queue, taxing them hours. The cinema becomes the waiting room because we are transported into this place by the movie, however, like being in an actual waiting room, you’re get kind of bored.