Subtitle or caption editing on OS X

This is one of those things that you just wouldn’t expect to be so damn difficult: create SubRip .srt files for videos. My main use for this isn’t to subtitle foreign speech, or create subtitles for the hard of hearing. Rather, I just need to caption screencasts and I’d rather make it more accessible than printing text onto the video in ScreenFlow. I have use cases where it’d be very helpful to be able to do both Spanish and English captions and the user to get the one they need automatically. A lot of these screencasts are shared via Google Drive, so the YouTube-style captioning works well – *if* you can create the SubRip files.

There are tons of pretty awful apps out there for this, but I couldn’t find a single one that I would actually *want* to use – and that worked crash-free, with the video format I’m using, etc and so on.

For some reason, I hadn’t noticed that ScreenFlow can handle all this *in situ*. (Yes, doh.) It isn’t the smoothest implementation ever, but it’s usable. I don’t know why they don’t just allow the start/end times to be dragged, but there is a keyboard shortcut for it. Also, the caption track doesn’t work if there’s no audio in the project, which is annoying. Anyway, at the end of it, the SRT can be exported and on the one small test I did, works perfectly.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Maybe I should clarify my [earlier post]( where I complain about Adobe Creative Cloud. At that point, the file-syncing part of the cloud just didn’t work with no explanation of why (or *if* – so we couldn’t tell if it was my dodgy internet connection or what.)

Right now, the new Creative Cloud app is much better, and lists the file syncing as “Coming Soon”. Maybe they should have done that with the original implementation.

App install/update seems to be considerably better than before. I’ve yet to really look at Behance.

Looks like we’re going to have to find a Flickr alternative…

Flickr being not very helpful. Apparently I uploaded a “restricted” video… can I get them to answer me on *which* video? No. So, my photos become invisible unless you log in to Flickr. (i.e. *useless*)

Time to move on after 10 years of Flickring…? Maybe.

**Update:** maybe some G+ for the personal/sharing stuff, and Behance for the “pro” stuff?

Bass Space

We all dig some serious bass these days – given that my favourite artists are funkers, house acts, synth wielders in general – I certainly do. But it seems like I’ve been listening to a lot of music that consciously avoids clogging up the bass recently. Even more oddly the artists are conspicuous for their bass deployment: Bootsy, Prince, New Order…

In the case of Bootsy, if you pick almost any Rubber Band track, the low-end is occupied more by the drums – toms and even chunky snares as much as kick – than Bootsy himself. It also leaves a niche for Bernie Worrell to insert his unique lines. Everybody’s favourite funkateer lands above it with the extra high frequencies of the distortion and Mu-Tron sweeps, quite apart from the fact his lines are often clanking around higher frets anyway. That last point is generally agreed to be the defining sound of Joy Division and New Order: Peter Hook’s home territory of the top half of the neck. It still clunks nicely, but it leaves plenty of space for a DMX or acoustic kick – or a deep, pained voice in the former case. And when Prince’s *When Doves Cry* came on the radio in 1984 it stood out a mile – because it’s amazingly crafted pop, but also because it doesn’t sport a bassline at all. The Linn had all that space to work.

Reverse SEO

Although it’s a truism and/or cliché to say that the first rule of SEO is to write good content, it’s probably also been said somewhere, at least once – I haven’t *searched* for it so I don’t know – that thinking about SEO while writing your good content makes it even better. By which I mean that if you’re thinking consciously about the core meaning of the whole piece while writing every sentence, you end up staying more on topic and writing more useful content. Maybe people who actually know about writing already do this? I wouldn’t know!

Permissions setup for a Debian web host

> This is another of those “note-to-self” posts, where I detail how I’m setting something up so that I can refer back to it, or so I can point someone else to it. As if often the case, some of this may be Debian-specific…

There are different ways of approaching the task of setting the permissions for web directories, depending on how many users have access to the server, how many sites are sharing the server, and lots of other concerns. I tend to be in a situation where anyone who has shell access to the server is at a level trusted with web content, so that simplifies the process somewhat. I’ll look at different levels of dealing with this questions, in increasing levels of security.

## Simplest approach: use the `www-data` group

This is the default group that Debian has for web daemons. If you add everyone who can log in to this group, you can then use this group for all web directories that the notional “web team” needs to access, and make them “group writable”. **Be aware that this configuration also allows the Apache daemon itself to write to the web directories, which is an obvious potential security issue, so you need to be sure that the web applications in there don’t/won’t allow that.**

You can either specify the group when creating the user:

adduser –ingroup www-data USER

or add an existing user to the group:

adduser USER www-data

## Almost as simple as simplest approach: create a `webdev` group

This is also a very simple approach, which won’t allow Apache to write to the web directories, unless you specifically allow it. (This would usually be for cache directories, image upload and so on.)

“webdev” is just an arbitrary name, it can be anything you like as long as it doesn’t exist. First create your new group, then add the user(s) to it:

addgroup webdev
adduser USER webdev

It goes without saying (or should do) that for the above to work, you also need to allow the right group access to the web directories you need. A simple example of this, making a few assumptions of your directory layout, would be:

chgrp -R webdev /www/
chmod -R g+w /www/

So what did we just do?

First, we recursively (`-R`) changed the group to be `webdev` for the `htdocs` directory. Then, we (also recursively) allowed the group write-access (`g+w`) on `htdocs`. Which means: from now on, anyone in the `webdev` group can create and edit files in `htdocs` and any of its subdirectories. Note that these lines will stop any previously configured group-access from working (if it’s a different group from `webdev`). However, if we have a directory with write-access for everyone (AKA “`chmod 777`”) as is sometimes the case with cache directories, for example, they won’t be affected.

So, how can we make this more granular?

## Multi-layered approach: create per-site groups

If we wanted to have some directories writable by all our web team, and others by certain people in certain sub-teams, we can create multiple groups.

Take, for example, two subdomain sites on and Of course, these could be different domains, I’m just sticking with for the, er, examples. We want to deny editing access to the teams working on these two sites to each other’s site. A solution is to create two groups: `webdev-foo` and `webdev-bar`, maybe.

addgroup webdev-foo
addgroup webdev-bar
adduser fooguy webdev-foo
adduser foogal webdev-foo
adduser barboy webdev-bar
chgrp -R webdev-foo /www/
chgrp -R webdev-bar /www/
chmod -R g+w /www/ /www/

This takes care of giving write-access for their sites to `fooguy`, `foogal` and `barboy`. Neither `fooguy` nor `foogal` will be able to write to the site’s directory, and `barboy` won’t be able to edit If we want to allow all three of them to edit or create inside the main site, we just add them to the `webdev` group, assuming we’ve already set the permissions for its root directory and children to be `g+w`.

adduser fooguy webdev
adduser foogal webdev
adduser barboy webdev

## Checking permissions

If we pop over and have a look at these directories, what should be see?

cd /www
ls -l *

The output should be something like:
total 4
drwxrwxr-x 2 root webdev-bar 4096 2012-01-09 18:49 htdocs
total 4
drwxrwxr-x 2 root webdev-foo 4096 2012-01-09 18:49 htdocs
total 4
drwxrwxr-x 2 root webdev 4096 2012-01-09 18:50 htdocs

What does that mean? What we’re seeing here is that in all cases, the permissions are set as `drwxrwxr-x`, which means:

1. It’s a directory
2. User permissions are `rwx` – Read/Write/eXecute
3. Group permissions are also `rwx`
4. Other (“world”) permissions are `r-x` – Read/eXecute

We can also see that each of the `htdocs` entries has `root` as its owner, and the respective group we set before as its group. If we’ve already got a super simple site in these – just an index and an image directory – and list inside of htdocs, we should see:
total 4
drwxrwxr-x 2 root webdev-bar 4096 2012-01-09 19:01 img
-rw-rw-r– 1 root webdev-bar 0 2012-01-09 18:59 index.html
total 4
drwxrwxr-x 2 root webdev-foo 4096 2012-01-09 19:01 img
-rw-rw-r– 1 root webdev-foo 0 2012-01-09 18:59 index.html
total 4
drwxrwxr-x 2 root webdev 4096 2012-01-09 19:01 img
-rw-rw-r– 1 root webdev 0 2012-01-09 18:59 index.html

This tells use that the index and the directory are both editable by the right groups as well. (Files are `-rw-rw-r–`, meaning user and group read/write and world read-only.)

*To clarify: “execute”, when applied to directories, means the ability to change into it or open it. Applied to a file, the execute-bit is a potential hazard, if the file has any code in there, but that’s another story for another day.*

## More granularity: ACL

The approach detailed above is usually enough for most web situations, but if more control is required, we move into ACL territory (Access Control Lists). This is something that has to be made available at the filesystem level, and isn’t usually available on normal web hosts. As such, it’s a bit out of the scope of this post.

MacBook DVD swap-out

When I got my SSD installed in my MacBook, I swapped out the (defective) DVD for a caddy from Mac:Upgrades to house the original boot drive. This was completely unrecognised, but I didn’t have time to worry about it, so put the old boot disk in an external FW400 case and used the data from there. I assumed there must be something wrong with the ATA interface on my MacBook’s motherboard, which could explain the DVD not working.

Long story short, I popped open the MacBook and another almost identical one with working DVD and tried all the combinations of disks I could. The odd result of this is that the original boot disk was the only one that didn’t work in the caddy – every other drive I tried worked. Very odd. Anyway, I just put a different drive in the caddy and used its external case for my rebellious original boot disk. I can’t think of an explanation for that set of circumstances…

Unlocking T-Mobile Wireless Pointer (UK)


While I was in the UK, I bought a T-Mobile Wireless Pointer (which is quite a daft name for their Huawei E583C). The nicest thing about this, I think is the display that actually lets you know what’s going on without deciphering blinking LEDs of various colours. You can see signal strength, 3G confirmation, how many devices are connected by Wifi, how many SMSs are unread, connection status, battery level and which network you’re connected to just as easily as on your phone (on a cute little OLED display, a bit like the small screen on a clamshell.)

That was another good purchase – I’m on a roll! Anyway, getting back to Barcelona, obviously I need to unlock it and make it work with my Vodafone unlimited data plan.

I ended up using DC Unlocker which seems to Just Work. (Although: Windows required… <sigh>)

Vodafone Spain’s access info is, as googled in various places, as follows:

– APN:
– User: vodafone
– Pass: vodafone

Solid State Stress Reliever

I’d read a few blog posts here and there about how swapping your old MacBook’s hard drive for an SSD made amazing improvements, so I decided to give that a go. My 2006 MacBook is definitely creaking, but I don’t work mobile that much, and I can usually use the iPad for whatever I need to really get done before I get back to HQ. (Which is to say, I haven’t quite found sufficient excuse to buy a new MacBook, Air, Pro, or otherwise…)

So, I got a Crucial M4 from Amazon. On swapping that in for the (already upgraded) hard drive the improvement was way past my expectations. Instant app startup is something you don’t want to lose once you have it! My iMac’s main (or usually, *only*) bottleneck is the hard drive. Now my BlackBook is starting apps seemingly faster than that, even though there’s a difference of four times the memory, and four times the cores (if you allow hyper-threading into the equation).

I need to have a word with my local Apple specialists about changing my iMac HD for an SSD…

Nice one, Crucial, and SSDs in general!