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Past, present, future…

I left my full-time job in 2003 to strike out on my own… with dreams of starting a company that’d someday be more than just myself, I took the name Reactionlab Communications after lucking out and finding this domain name free.

Although I never really expanded to have employees (other than the occasional contractor/partner helping out on a project), I grew my business over the next 8 or so years, mostly on word-of-mouth. Because of that, I never had much need for this site as a marketing tool, but I kept it up more or less as an online business card. Even when I took a full-time position with a client’s company in, 2011, I kept the site up, as I was still doing occasional jobs for some of my long term clients on the side.

However, earlier this year in January 2013, I co-founded a new company, Backblend Systems, with Jim Pick, a friend and collaborator on development projects. For the past few months, I’ve been pondering what to do with this site, as I’ve moved all my old freelance clients to the new company.

For the time being, I’m just going to use it as a personal blog; it’s been running on WordPress since its inception, and I’ve never really used the blogging functionality. I also occasionally need a place to put long-form posts that won’t fit on Twitter, so this seems like the obvious place to do that. I’ve never really been a blogger, but I have a feeling I may want to use this space for longer content not related directly to my work.

If you did come here looking for me as a development/UX contractor, head on over to Backblend and give us a shout, we can do a lot more for clients as a team than I ever could as a solo contractor!

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GUIs are for losers. (How to use ffmpeg in OS X Terminal)

Apparently, I can use WordPress to write blog posts. Who knew?

Here’s a better description than I was able to post on Twitter of how to use ffmpeg to remux MKV (Matroska) files into MP4 files for playback on Apple TV, iOS devices, etc. Since you’re not actually converting the H264 video inside the MKV, it should be extremely fast.

The setup isn’t that hard if you have any kind of basic understanding of how to do stuff in Terminal.

Step 1

Get the appropriate ffmpeg binary from this site:

Unzip that badboy and copy it into /usr/local/bin/ (handy hint for GUI lovers — in Finder, just do a ⇧⌘G and open the folder up, then drag your unzipped ffmpeg file in)

Step 2

Fix the permissions and ownership of the file by doing this:

sudo chown root:wheel /usr/local/bin/ffmpeg
sudo chmod 755 /usr/local/bin/ffmpeg

Step 3

Almost done. Just go to the directory where your video file is stored in Terminal and run this command:

ffmpeg -i inputfilename.mkv -acodec copy -vcodec copy outputfilename.mp4

Some MKVs may require some tweaking of the command line options but I’ll leave it to you and Google to figure that out.


As I come up with increasingly complicated tasks that I want ffmpeg to do for me, I’ve found that I’m missing a few options that I should have compiled in to ffmpeg to start with… also, I’ve begun using Homebrew to manage open source packages that I’m installing via command line, so I’d recommend following the instructions on this page to install ffmpeg with all the extra bells and whistles.

This particularly comes in handy when you’re trying to do something like converting a file with AC3 audio to AAC so it plays on iPads, Apple TV, etc… there’s info on how to do that sort of thing over at the AAC Encoding Guide on ffmpeg’s wiki.

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