Covid-19 Resources

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 23.03.20    

This page is predominantly so I can track resources I come across, for my own reference as much as anyone else’s, as the US faces a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1918 (Lord willing, not significantly worse).

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On Purchasing a Camera in 2018

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 10.11.18    

A cousin of mine, a newspaper editor and long term Canon user, was in the market for a new camera and asked me about mirrorless options in the sub-$1000 range. I ended up writing what may constitute a small book on the subject; the following is my reply. This can be a rather lengthy discussion, so I’ll break it up into sections!

  1. General comparison of tech and camera manufacturers
  2. Features you mentioned and factors to consider
  3. Resources for further research
  4. Summary and final thoughts

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iTunes firewall issue and solution

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 12.01.17    

Every time you open iTunes…

Do you want iTunes to accept incoming network connections?

Helpful hint: if iTunes demands network access every time it opens, after you’ve told it repeatedly and exasperatedly “Yes! Why won’t you listen!” it might be left over corruption from that time when you used CandyBar to customise icons 5 years ago. Yes, iTunes and even the OS have been updated eleventy-thousand times since then. Yes, you uninstalled CandyBar years ago when the OS updates destroyed support anyway. And yeah, the icon isn’t even customised right now. Yet the icon backup files have somehow been maintained within the iTunes app, which means it fails Apple’s signing process, which means it fails the firewall security requirements, which means you have to re-allow access every time you open it.

And by “you” I mean “me.”

The double-check solution

But maybe the foundational problem is completely different for you. I don’t know your life. Run the following command in Terminal and it’ll tell you exactly what’s wrong:

codesign -vvv /Applications/iTunes.app

This gives you “very very verbose” output on the app signature (I actually have no idea if that’s what it actually means, but -v doesn’t give much of anything, and -vv only tells you if it passed or not). After a good number of lines, it’ll probably say something like the following:

/Applications/iTunes.app: a sealed resource is missing or invalid
file added: /Applications/iTunes.app/Contents/Resources/CandyBar.plist
file added: /Applications/iTunes.app/Contents/Resources/iTunes.icns.backup.icns
file added: /Applications/iTunes.app/Contents/Resources/iTunes.icns.candybarbackup

I opened the app bundle, found the offending files, deleted them (which required my admin password, since I was modifying sacred Apple property), and everything was suddenly fine. Running the codesign command again showed that the app bundle passed with flying colours, and OSX no longer asks for network permission confirmation every time I open iTunes.

Or take the easy road

You could, of course, simply delete the iTunes app bundle in your /Applications/ folder and re-download it from Apple. Preferences, music, movies, and other media are all stored elsewhere, so outside of you-should-really-have-a-backup-anyway, there’s not a shred of danger in doing so.

Already broken again?

If the problem comes back, there’s probably something on your computer that’s still actively modifying the iTunes app bundle. Thankfully it appears my last.fm client of choice doesn’t interface directly into iTunes, so I should be ok, but you’ll have to do your own research here (taking the double-check route above will help).

If the problem is especially onerous, it’s probably best to start scanning for malware. Yes, I know, you have a Mac, and Macs don’t get viruses…well…we all install something stupid at some point, or accidentally download “flash installer” and end up with “russianhackersites.safariextz” It’s ok. It happens to everyone. But yeah, you’ll want to get that fixed.

Download MalwareBytes for Mac and let it do its thing.


My Penny Arcade confessional

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 5.09.13    

I’ve read Penny Arcade pretty much every week for years. Sure, there have been some super-inappropriate comics, but I’ve appreciated the continual development of the artwork, the geeky humour, the occasional ode to love of literature. Their “reality TV show” Strip Search was, while at times certainly vulgar (not in the way you’d think, given the title!), a pretty fantastic web series about artists and writers.

The experience of a female gamer at Penny Arcade Expo, however, is far too disturbing and too serious to ignore. This sort of behaviour and this sort of mindset and stance towards abuse of any kind is nothing short of horrific.

And honestly, I should probably be horrified at my silent response to the initial comic as well. “Eh, it’s really not appropriate, but they’ve never been ones for super-appropriate topics…I’ll just move on. Tomorrow’s comic will be funny.” It was equivocating on an unequivocal subject, and I continued to support Penny Arcade, even donating to their Kickstarter campaign. I’m sorry.

In response to the renewed uproar this past week, one of the founders of Penny Arcade “clarified” their position (and yes, I appreciate that they have strict “booth babe” policies at events, that kind of respect at trade shows is hard to find).

But…they’re just sad people are upset. They still like the comic.

I don’t think I can or should be ok with that. Not any more.

It’s going to be a little weird not reading Penny Arcade tomorrow morning, and especially difficult given my obsessive nature (I watched all of Heroes season 2, for goodness sake, I just can’t leave something unfinished!). But…I’ll try to kick the habit, if for nothing more than the silent dissent of my own conscience.


Marty the Monkey

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 24.07.13    

It’s been a long time coming, but one of the projects I worked on at Vectorform between 2012 and 2013 is finally public! Working in partnership with Kaiser Permanente, Vectorform helped create a series of mini games to assist clinicians with autism assessment. Based on some terrific illustrations by James Anderson, I was responsible for bringing a 2D character to 3D life, in no less than 130 different animation sequences to be used throughout the experience. Called Marty the Monkey, the character acts as a guide, encouraging kids to progress.

Marty the Monkey

To read more about the visual development and shader process, check out my Vectorform blog post Behind the Scenes: Creating Marty the Monkey. I’ve also included a download at the end of the article with edge projection nodes for the just-released Lightwave 11.6 update!

You can also read more about the application itself in Patrick Samona’s article.


When it's the end

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 3.07.13    

Religion, salvation, and good works have come up in recent conversation, or more specifically, a deeply regretful movie I saw last night. Really, though, it’s one of the most important questions a soul can ever ask.

Is there eternity? Can I go to heaven?

If there is a God, holy and pure, and I’m only human, frail and filthy, how could heaven be possible? How could I ever be in the presence of that? Righteousness so supreme that everything else burns away like tattered paper in a nuclear blast? Even on our very best of days, eternal sinlessness is shockingly, pathetically, absolutely unattainable for such a mortal as myself…

But if God is both holy and loving, how does that reconcile? Knowing the chasm between sinful us and holy Him, he built a bridge. Jesus. And no, we can’t earn this kind of love, it can only be a gift. Nothing so profane as flesh could ever work enough to be worthy of such selfless sacrifice. I’ve tried, and after years of fruitless toil, I better understand now that it’s simply impossible. This doesn’t mean I don’t keep falling for the same old lies, trying on my own, time after time, but it really is miserable foolishness.

When you read the Bible, I think it becomes clear…

Jesus isn’t for the self-righteous, the posers and fakes. Jesus isn’t for the pseudo-perfect, the good-enough, or the just-ok. Jesus isn’t for the people who think they can make it on their own; acting faultless and behaving right, dying from the inside while somehow believing they’re still healthy on the outside.


Jesus is for the shipwrecks, the train wrecks, the bloody messes and the tragedies. Jesus is for the lonely, the lost, the terrified and the broken hearted. Jesus is for the damned, the discouraged, the degraded, the destitute and the utterly, completely desperate.

I’m not a Christian because I’m good. I don’t seek after Christ because I somehow think I’m perfect.

I long for salvation because I know without a single shred of doubt that I am fully rotten through-and-through, sinful and hopeless and dead.

Yet somehow, in His absolute perfectness…

…God still loves me…

…and died in my place.

I certainly don’t understand it, I rather doubt many people do, but it’s somehow, unbelievable, incredibly true, despite my frequent doubts and fears.

Christ is for the shipwrecks, the desperate, the lost. I’ve been there, and really, still am every day.

But I’m placing my trust in Jesus.

And that’s why I’m going to heaven when I die. That bridge? It can’t be walked by human feet, you have to be carried.

And that’s incredible.

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT


Apple's iOS7 Redesign

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 15.06.13    

Based on social media feeds, iOS7 seems to be hated by designers, but loved by those who have actually used it. Having not installed it yet myself, and being a rather picky designer to boot, my reaction certainly veers more towards the negative! Though I’m excited to try it out once the beta builds solidify a little more.

To read my full write up on the subject and what I think is needed for natural, intuitive interface designs, head on over to the Vectorform Blog.



iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 11.11.12    

During the month of November, a number of the men at Vectorform grew moustaches to raise awareness and funds for men’s cancer research. Having worn some sort of beard for the past decade, I figured the best solution would be to slowly remove hair till all I had left was a moustache. A reverse moustache growing challenge, if you will.

Here’s the series of portraits I created!

You can check out the individual photos on Flickr.


Open letter to Apple

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 31.03.12    

“The creative minds Apple once claimed to champion may well be looking elsewhere…to glimpse a terminal end is devastating.”

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World Nativity Project

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 24.12.11    

For years I’d been mentally tossing around ideas for a Christmas video, using character vignettes and impressionistic environments. It was a fun idea, but I never really thought about producing it until last year…

In 2010, Bridge Community Church held the first annual Come to the Manger event; an art exhibit with hundreds of nativities, nativity ornaments, and nativity themed decorations from around the world. Along with snacks, music, and other fun activities, we needed a video to introduce the Christmas story to visitors. Unfortunately we couldn’t find anything that worked well, and ended up showing a segment of the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Though there wasn’t time to create our own short film in time for the event, I started working on a script using Biblical passages with a blend of Old Testament prophecies and New Testament accounts regarding the birth of Jesus.


While progress was slow, I began working on roughing out each scene in Newtek Lightwave. With previsualisations for every digital and live action shot, I even mocked up the limitations of a 10×20’ greenscreen, splitting larger groups of people into individual pieces that could be put back together in compositing. Knowing that scheduling actors could be problematic, planning from the begining to shoot each character separately simply gave us a lot more flexibility.

Inspirations and references were found in classical paintings and religious artwork from around the world. Christ came for all, and the intention was to encapsulate that thought in every level of the production design. Clothing, architecture, landscapes; all were based in different cultures, periods, and styles from all over the globe.

We kicked things off at church with a massive meeting in July of 2011, where I laid out the vision for the project and showed a rough cut of the film using previs footage and a temporary soundtrack. From there, it took off! Dorothy Glasgow, a costumer who has worked for years in the Detroit theatre scene, agreed to head up costuming, while worship leader Scott Crecelius agreed to head up music. The crew quickly grew as other people from the church joined in, helping out with scripture copyright permission, casting, props, and so much more.

Live action

The church balcony was set aside for filming, and I set up a greenscreen stage using equipment purchased on eBay. Arrays of CFL lights ensured the production was environmentally conscious while also keeping heat manageable on set. Props were limited to items characters directly interacted with, and pieces were borrowed from congregation members and another local church. Several props were built by Jim Landback, including a custom manger that was matched with a digital model.

Each character was filmed separately, scheduled over a three week period. The angels were the most dramatic challenge in terms of setup; a custom bike seat was mounted on a wooden pillar covered in green fabric, multiple fans were added, and the camera was mounted on a 10.5’ stand! Other characters were challenging due to the sheer number of scenes needed in the 1 hour time slot we had for most actors. The magi, for example, had three distinct locations with major lighting changes. By God’s grace, it all worked out, and we got the footage needed to put the video together.

Effects and editing

After the shoots were wrapped up, the footage was processed in Adobe After Effects and Red Giant’s Magic Bullet suite. Noise removal, colour correction, rotoscoping (both manual and tracked), chroma keying, and beauty passes were rendered out to flat files for use later in the compositing process. Pre-rendering footage can speed things up considerably, especially when dealing with render intensive effects like grain modification and keying.

Unfortunately, by the time I finally got to creating the environments there was less than a month left until the 2011 Come to the Manger event! Using the temporary sets created during the previs process, I mixed photographic textures and procedural shading to quickly detail the locations. Some modelling updates were made, new pieces built where needed, and environments were fleshed out using matte paintings created in Adobe Photoshop.

Lighting and lens effects were created using Video Copilot’s Optical Flares plugin, and final grading was handled in Magic Bullet Looks. Without Apple’s full Final Cut Studio on my laptop, I ended up editing narration audio in Garage Band and the video in Final Cut Express.


The second annual Come to the Manger event was a huge success and a lot of fun. I’m not sure how many people came through, but the turnout was even better than last year! Groups of all ages enjoyed the exhibits, food, and music; from young families to residents of the local retirement communities. The World Nativity Project was shown in one of the side rooms as visitors finished up the experience.

The video is released online, free for anyone to use in their Church or Christmas event. You can download an HD media file from Vimeo (if you are signed in), or directly from Dropbox. Please remember that copyright notices must remain in place, and the film should not be modified, but otherwise, share and enjoy!


There are still plenty of pieces left to be done. Extras haven’t been added yet (villagers in Bethlehem, field workers in Nazareth), and environments need some work. A number of languages are spoken at Bridge Community Church, and portions of the bulletin are even printed in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, and Tamil. Right now the soundtrack is only available in English, but we’re planning on expanding to as many languages as we can get permission for and record, along with adding subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Thank you to all – for your help, hard work, encouragement, and support. It’s been an incredible project, and I’m hugely thankful I got to be a part of it!

Merry Christmas to all, and God bless.

Ben, 20.01.12

Was thoroughly impressed with your manger video, amazing visual work! Great job, very well polished and a ton of work. I also am pressed with the work you have done on media box, slipped it into a site to replace my current lightbox, very well executed, very impressed again. Just wanted to give you props! Keep making cool stuff!