Q. Why are we doing this?
Flying Monkey TV was conceived as a collaborative documentary filmmaking project using low-impact methods and available technology.
A. Because we can. Because it’s a great idea. Because we want to.
We have had a small amount of funding in 2010 from Arts Council England, via The Culture Company, but the project is currently unfunded. However, I decided to embark upon the development stage of getting the FMTV software up and running so that we can use it to do more critical content tests.
Having knocked about at Access Space for many years, I am acutely aware of how much redundant technology is lying around, unused or at least underused. So, I decided to try and press some of these sleeping monkeys into service in order to get more horsepower(?) for the unenviable task of post-processing.
As I keep saying, shooting is easy, and that’s the problem. I am developing ways of using old computers to post-process the hundreds of gigabytes of timelapse media that I can capture on the two-dozen or so CHDK-enabled Canon Powershot cameras that I have.
My aim is to learn Bash-shell UNIX commands and programming on Linux-based machines so that we can create a suite of software tools to compile, scale, crop etc images files into movie files. Some of these tools may exist already, and our aim is to use what exists, and create what doesn’t.
Q. Why run Linux on a Mac?
I do not necessarily need OS X at all for my purposes, but it’s very convenient to have a mature and stable GUI on any machine. After some research and advice from Access Space, it seems that using the freely available Linux libraries gPhoto2 (for accessing the on-camera files) FFMpeg (for assembling images into movies), and (amongst others) ImageMagick for manipulating images.
A. Because we’ve got some, and they’re not doing anything else.
Many of these libraries are also available for OS X Macs via the MacPorts project, and I will be doing some performance comparison tests to see which route is more efficient.
Q. So if I can run Shell scripts on OS X anyway, why use Linux at all?
Access Space has a very strict policy of using free, open-source and legal software. I am not as philosophically pure, but I like to remain legal. At home all my Macs run on a retail multi-license of Snow Leopard, but as far as I am aware, I cannot buy earlier versions of OS X, and in the absence of the original install disks, Linux is the only legal choice.
Actually, installing Ubuntu on a PowerMac G4 was pretty trivial, but not at first.
The first attempt was using the Debian 6.0.4 PowerPC net install image from a CD boot disk. This worked fine until reboot, and then left me with a black screen. The install seemed to have gone fine but I was unable to get it to drive the monitor correctly once the GUI started. After 4 hours of clutching at straws and unsuccessful editing of the Xorg file I decided to try another approach.
With the help of Access Space, the second attempt was much more successful, using a downloaded CD image of Ubuntu Linux 10.04 Lucid Lynx, and it worked first time. This was on a 450 Mhz PowerMac G4 with 256 Mb RAM, although it did feel a bit sluggish, probably due to the low memory.
As an additional test, I installed Ubuntu 10.10 on another G4 and then followed the upgrade path suggested by the installer to 11.04 Natty Narwhal, but this led to hundreds of error messages during install and failure to boot. So, for the time being I’m sticking to 10.04 on the PowerMac G4.
One other G4 failed to boot after install but I suspect it is a hardware error with the hard disk, rather than the software.
I also created a dual boot on my first-generation, and distinctly cranky, MacBook 1.8 Hhz Core Duo, with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on the Mac partition and Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot on the other partition. The partition was created using the Bootcamp utility and the installation was performed from a CD boot disk from Ubuntu.
I also installed the rEFit boot menu as detailed in this how-to guide.
I also installed MacPorts in order to use the same libraries, but it is unreliable on this machine. I believe it is the knackered old Macbook that is the problem, and I have MacPorts working fine on other machines.
A. Macs are relatively expensive and my purpose is utility, so that I can use the Macs that I’ve got, but also press PCs into service as I stumble over them.