Time Lapse Photography With MacBook’s iSight

After the weekend blizzard barely touched New York, I was particularly glad to wake up to a snowy morning. My trusty old Canon A85 recently passed away, so left with only the Macbook’s built in iSight camera to document this I figured it might be fun to try and take some time lapse shots. Here’s one of the results:

timmargh‘s blog post showed me how to get going. First I had to install iSightCapture to control iSight via the command line, then write a script that will take photos in fixed intervals. Initially I used Tim’s AppleScript, but then converted to a quick Ruby script instead:

path = "~/lapse"     # directory where images will be stored. must exist and be writable.

duration = 4 * 60 * 60  # Time to run, in seconds (4 hours here)
interval = 5 * 60       # time between each photo, in seconds (5 minutes here)

end_at = Time.now + duration

i = 0
while Time.now <= end_at do
 i += 1
 system "/Applications/isightcapture #{path}/%05d.jpg" % i
 sleep interval
end

This will take a photo every 5 minutes for four hours. A few notes:

1. The directory in path (“~/lapse” here) should exist before you run the script. If you have more than one machine it may be a good idea to make it a shared folder, so you can check on the progress from your other machine.

2. Photo Booth, or any other app that uses the camera, should be off or iSightCapture won’t work.

3. WordPress code view adds some ‘ ‘s in “copy to clipboard” which will break the script – use the “source view” icon to get the clean version.

4. If you’re taking photos over a long time period, remember to turn the screen off (ie, minimal brightness) – this will help the battery last the whole time, especially if you’re on an older MacBook.

5. If you want to get some sound indication that photos are being taken you might add the following line at the start of the while loop:

`say "cheese"`

Once you have some photos, GIFfun will let you combine them into an animated GIF. If there are more than a few dozen file size can quickly get out of hand, so you might convert them to video instead –  ffmpeg can take care of that. Installing it is pretty simple if you have MacPorts:

sudo port install ffmpeg

You can then cd to the image directory and create the video:

ffmpeg -i %05d.jpg lapse.mp4

Finally, here’s a photo of the whole setup, taken with the other MacBook’s iSight :)

Fall in New York

Generally beautiful, New York City is even beautiful-er when autumn foliage comes around. So it was cool to discover this Flickr set of scanned leaves from Morningside Park – literally 3 blocks from where we live.

(Via what about the plastic animals, via Outside.in)

The Case for Working With Your Hands

I love this NY Times article not just because it reminds me of my old motorcycle which I enjoyed fixing almost as much as riding (and spent almost as much time doing, anyway), but especially for the arguments it makes about the irrelevance of much of conventional “wisdom” about careers, education and happiness in today’s world. It feels great to read your own views and thoughts put in a coherent, clear form. The Case for Working With Your Hands.

Kunstler: The Tragedy of Suburbia

WordPress just added special TED support – I’m not a fan of TED’s exclusive/trendy approach, but it’s a good opportunity to post this excellent talk by James Howard Kunstler.

The lesson of design which considers its users, environment and resources vs. design that is isolated, contrived and wasteful holds true to software as well, from the UI to the server.

Asako Narahashi


Maybe because I lived nearly all of my life within 10 miles of the Mediterranean and now we live in NYC – which might as well be in Arizona as far as swimming in the ocean goes – I really love these.

(Found via ffffound, one of the most intelligently crafted sites out there right now)

“Paradox of Choice” Video

I saw this excellent video lecture by author of “Paradox of Choice” (I didn’t read the book), Barry Schwartz, a few months ago.

Briefly, the “Paradox of Choice” means that the more choices people are offered, the less satisfied they tend to wind up with their decision. For me it is maybe the most important insight I learned in 2006. This is one of those ideas who are so valuable that once you understand them they seems obvious, almost self explanatory. Don’t we all know it from our own experience? As a child, you got one chocolate ice cream and you were happy, but when you had to pick 2 scoops from 10 different tastes you always ended up regretting your choice. And yet we build products and shopping malls and societies where we see choice as a core requirement of freedom.

Maybe the tools being built now with the Long Tail in mind will eventually help counter the Paradox of Choice, filtering choices on a single person’s interests resolution? This is starting to read like something out of Wired Magazine, so I’ll stop now. Favorite video of 2006: Paradox of Choice

Web 2.0 Checklist

So, as I established (to the great awe and astonishment of the technology world) that Web 2.0 is a bubble at least in part, here’s what I think I learned from Bubble 1.0:

1. Getting rich is at least %99 luck.

Don’t let what you percieve as a company’s chance of striking gold affect your choices too much. Companies that seem like a sure success often fail and vice versa (though unfortunately somewhat less often).

2. People matter most.

A company with smart people and good athmosphere can eventually fix a flawed product or business model. A company ruled by office politics will ultimately ruin a good product/business through bad support, reputation and future versions.

3. There will be some backlash, sooner or later.

Don’t obsess about it, just keep in mind there will likely be a time where you won’t be able to pick between jobs, or maybe even get a job. Prepare for that (see 8)

4. While you can’t do much about 1 or 3, you can try to make sure to get the following items from your experience:

5. Knowledge.

A startup is an intensely educational experience. Learn as much about technology, business, people and life as you can. Take notes.

6. People.

Work with people you respect and value. See 2.

7. Meaning.

Work on a product you like. Startups demand a lot of energy. Don’t spend it on something you don’t think is worthwhile. Remember 1.

8. Some cash.

Keep some cash aside for the slow period. It may be a good time to learn to appreciate single malts, but keep in mind this is a bubble situation – there’s no guarantee your income levels will stay the same. Remember 3. Drink responsibly.

9. Most importantly, it should be a fun experience.

If it’s not – think why. I met wonderful, intelligent people who were miserable sitting in front of a computer all day. Don’t go working in this industry for the money – finance will probably give you a much better offer for your soul, anyway. If you don’t enjoy the journey itself, reconsider your career choices.

Unique Currency and Resumes

gapingvoid writes about Unique Currency: basically it’s about the type of value proposition you’re building for yourself as an employee/freelance/business (your knowledge, skills etc) and the importance of it being unique.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with someone this week. He said he hated his job, but he’s doing it for the CV value. That is not always a good idea: your CV is a major way to determine your Unique Currency. Do you want to build your value to fit a type of work you don’t like?