Notes from the boat

Editor’s Note: As the latest MacMania cruise heads into its home stretch, Senior Editor Christopher Breen continues to file reports from ms Noordam.

The MacMania 4.5 cruise is winding its way back to Civitavecchia, Italy, the port city about an hour outside of Rome where we first boarded the ms Noordam. Since we set sail a little over a week ago we’ve visited Monte Carlo, Monaco; Livorno (the port city that acts as the gateway to Florence and Pisa); Barcelona, Spain; Mallorca, Spain; Carthage, Tunisia; and Palermo, Sicily. Tomorrow I plan to dip my well-fed self in the waters surrounding the isle of Capri while many of my other shipmates explore Naples and Pompeii.

But forget the exotic locations. What’s interested the sea-going geeks were David Pogue’s iPhoto and Tiger sessions, Sal Soghoian’s AppleScript and Automator talks (and the cool way he found to allow students in class to surf an Automator Web site without having to be connected to the Internet), Janet Hill’s iLife and Software Extravaganza sessions, Jack Davis’ Photoshop classes, Bill Durrence’s photo expeditions and photo critique get-togethers, and, okay, maybe even my talks about iLife, Apple’s Information hub, iTunes, and the iPod. Luxury learning at its finest.

The point of today’s blog isn't so much to instill envy but to clear my brain of the not-really-worthy-of-a-blog-on-their own items that collect on a cruise like this. These include:

You make a picture rather than take a picture.

When Bill and Jack talk about photography, they term the act of capturing an image “making” rather than “taking.” Hair-splitting through it may sound, looking at photography from this angle—the idea that you are manipulating the camera and environment to create the image you want rather than passively pointing the camera at something to capture a moment in time—helps you “make” better pictures.

The most thankless job on the ship…

…has to be Manager of the Internet Cafe.

Although younger people are well represented (and can be found IM-ing late into the night), the boat’s passenger demographic favors those who’ve lived a rich and full life. (If you’ve wondered who’s been keeping AOL from meeting its maker, look no further than Deck 3, mid-ship.) Some of these passengers are easily confounded by technology, most have little patience with the ship’s expensive (and sometimes finicky) satellite Internet connection, and more than a few make their views known in obvious ways.

I have witnessed nothing but saintly patience from the staff of the Internet Cafe. Hats off.

A CD-R can help you watch TV

Our cabins include LG LCD televisions that are screwed into a wooden base. Bang around on the television's TV/Video button a few times and you discover that the TV features not only the standard cable input, but also an S-Video input and two Composite inputs. Cool, I’ve got my 5G iPod and an Apple AV Cable, maybe I could just…

“I could just…” requires that you reach around behind the TV, working blindly. If only I had a small mirror…

And, of course, I do. A blank CD-R. Flip it to the shiny side, hold it behind the television, angle it just right, and you discover that the spare set of Composite inputs are placed on a ledge on the right side of the TV as you face it (by the way, for those following along at home, the pattern is Red, White, Yellow as you face the TV).

Turns out that this spare set of Composite inputs wouldn’t do the job—the video displayed in black and white and no sound emerged. Mucking with the TV’s menus did no good. No problem, just unplug the room’s DVD player from the other set of inputs (which use the TV’s Video channel), substitute the Apple AV cable, and life is good.

Grab stealth audio

When making vacation movies and slideshows people often add a musical soundtrack to their work to give it the flavor of where they’ve visited. But more often than not, that audio is something like a copy of Volare or some Celtic ditty purchased from the iTunes Music Store. You can do better.

Doing better means using your digital camera (one that can shoot movies) or camcorder and switching on record when you spot a street musician or another representative sound. Some cameras now feature an audio recording feature. If yours doesn’t, leave the lens cap on and start recording. You’ll record a black video but one that contains an audio track that you can later extract and apply to your video or slideshow.

And yes, if you do this sort of thing, you should tip the musician generously.

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