Ross Carbonite Switcher 12.3 Software and Touchscreen Custom Controls (aka-Macros)

IMG_7552At work we have a 2ME Ross Carbonite Video Switcher. It’s a work horse. Perfect for many church video switching environments; 4 keys per ME, 24 input panel, DVE, 8 Aux, 6 frame syncs built in. For basic IMAG and Stream/TV/Record switching it works really well. Of course, there’s always other options out there, but we have been really happy with our Ross.

We had been running version 10.0 of the software since I’ve been here. The computer based Dashboard software was very handy for setting up and changing switcher configurations, but I didn’t use it for much else. The Ross is capable of recording and recalling macros from the control panel, but I have to admit, I spent way too much time trying to figure out how to do it. A macro is a function that allows you to record multiple button pushes and switcher states and recall them with the push of a button.

So we used the Ross to do the what we needed, but didn’t use any of the advanced featured. Then lightning struck. Or some sort of power surge, we don’t know what it was. The surge was strong enough and fast enough that even though the switcher was on a UPS with surge suppression, the frame lost connection with the control panel. When we reloaded the settings, not everything was exactly the way it was before. Since I was about to tweak some things anyway, I decided now was the time to update the software.

The update process is simple, but a little scary. There’s a big warning on the Ross download page about not being able to downgrade below version 11.0 of the software once you update. Version 12.3 had only been out for a few weeks. I tried the basic update, but I think going from version 10 to 12 was too much for that. It froze during the update process. I ended up having to do a Forced Update which erased everything. In order to do a Forced Update you need a fat32 formatted USB drive of 2GB or larger with only the new software on it. (Make sure you save your settings BEFORE you try to update.) On the frame, power down the switcher, insert the USB. Hold down the “Update” rocker switch and power the frame back on. Keep holding how the rocker switch for a 10 count, then release. A few seconds later the control panel will see the USB and start the update. To go from 10.00 to 12.3 it takes a few minutes. At one point the screen will say Critical Update. That’s normal. Once it’s finished, reload your saved settings. We had to do this twice. For whatever reason, some of our settings didn’t come back the first time.

Now, we were back to basic operation. And could keep using the switcher just like we always had. But I wanted to use the new features in 12.3. In order to do this, we needed a computer on the network near the switcher control panel. I snagged an unused Touchscreen HP we had that used to be a lighting computer. You don’t have to have a touchscreen, but if you have one it is so very sweet.

Ross’s macro functions are call Custom Controls, and the 12.3 software has a very easy to use interface. Their beta editor has worked flawlessly for me. You simply open the editor, select a bank of macros, and select the macro you want to create or edit. On the screen you hit record, and then start punching buttons on the control panel. Once finished, hit stop recording. You can edit the name of the macros if you want. Exit the editor and your new Custom Control is listed in the bank of “shot boxes”. To recall the macro, just select it.

You can also go deeper. I created a macro that tells all 4 keyers on both MEs to turn off. Not just to autotrans all for keyers. That’s something I can program do on the control panel. I was able to go into the editor and tell the switcher to turn the state of the keyers to off. And recall that as a macro.

The media store is also pretty powerful and easier than ever to use. Each file in the media library has a number. In the Custom Control editor you can tell the switcher to select and load a specific numbered file, and then display it. Since our panel is pretty full of inputs, we don’t have all 4 of the media stores quickly available. This little feature allows me to load any media, and fire it at the touch of a button. (One thing to note, in Ross world, if you are keying an image via the media library, the media stores 1 and 3 will be used together. 1 to hold the image, and 3 to hold the alpha information. Same for 2 and 4. This happens automatically.)

In just a few days I’ve programmed 17 Custom Controls. I’m sure I will add more as time goes on. I’ve programmed macros that range from foundational (reset all auxes, keyers and DVEs back to our Sunday morning settings, set up for a weekly Bible study we record in the WC) to functional (fade both MEs to black or the bail loop, clear all keys, transition the background animation and key lyrics on the IMAG ME) to specific (load and key 1 of 7 icons we use that coordinate with our new kid’s worship journals). We used it this past Sunday. Everything worked. I found a few things to tweak, and will do that this week.

Overall, the upgrade to 12.3 and used of the new beta Custom Control editor has been really great.


Streaming the Game

This year for the first time ever the Superbowl was officially streamed by the network broadcasting it. You could watch the stream from any computer, iPad, or Verizon iPhone. The stream showcased multiple camera angles and it’s own set of advertisements.

This may not seem like that big of a deal, but it sort of is.

A major sporting event was available online, complete with ad revenue and bonus content at the same time as the live broadcast of the event. I’m interested to know how many people streamed it, and how it was received. If this was successful, we will continue to see broader streaming offerings from the networks. It’s easy to start with a game the this, since the audience is so large. You could do the same thing with the Oscars. This was just one broadcast, but more will follow.

Simple is Key: Why Intel Makes Chips and Not Devices.

I saw an article that quoted Intel CEO Paul Otellini talking about the new Apple TV (which doesn’t use an Intel chip, by the way) where he said that he thought the device should have been more like Google TV, offering the “full internet” alongside TV. He went on to say Apple’s device will appeal to his “mom” because it’s “simplistic,” while Google’s device will appeal more to those wanting more, like his son.

This is why Apple makes devices and Intel makes chips. Otellini is looking at the word through his lens, but the rest of the world wants simple and easy. I am a fairly technical guy, and I hate working on a PC. It’s not easy. If you do anything out of the normal use of basic applicationss, it gets very complicated. And because it’s a PC, you seem to have to do things beside normal application use from time to time.

A major draw for Apple is the fact that people can easily use their products. Even the complicated stuff is easy by comparison. Need to rebuild your Mac? Just throw in the OS disc and follow the on screen prompts from erase to reload from Time Machine. I have not used the new Apple TV, but I have used the old one, and just about every Apple device from the last decade. Apple does easy.

Time and time again, products have been introduced just to fail because mainstream people will not adopt them. If it’s not easy, or similar to what they already do, people don’t like it. Technical people own media PCs and hack their old Apple TVs and run boxee and such. They canceled their cable bills long ago. Normal people have the cable guy come and set up the box and show them how to run the DVR. They are interested in a more on-demand kind of video service, but not if it is hard to understand.

Does the Apple TV do everything it could? No. It doesn’t even do everything it should, yet. But it will be easy enough that normal people will use it. Now it’s up to Apple to keep updating the system.

Two Hard Drives: 1 Fail, 1 Win

I started the weekend very excited because I had just gotten a new drive to replace the one in my laptop. I have a MacBook Pro that’s a couple generations old now. In general it’s fast enough, but I am always running out of space on the drive. 160GBs doesn’t go as far as it used to. So, a year and a half later the current model of MacBook Pros have up to 500GB 7200 RPM drives. I found a great kit which not only came with the drive, but an external enclosure and software to clone my internal drive. It arrived right before the weekend.

At home I had just a couple of things to do before I traded out the drives. One included ripping a dvd. We have a pretty large collection of dvds, and I have ripped over 270 movies into a format that can be read by both my Apple TV and my iPods. As you can imagine, that takes up quite a bit of storage space. For Christmas last year I got a WD 1TB external drive. It worked like a charm.

The problem is that I would need another one to have a backup of all that data. That is something I knew I should do, but since I only use that drive at home, I took a chance. Today, while the drive was writing data my son accidently knocked it over. It wasn’t a hard fall, it just tipped over. Should not have mattered, but this time it happened at just the wrong moment. In a few minutes the drive was making a strange noise. 10 minutes later my computer no longer recognized it.

700GB of data gone.

Disk Utility was able to see a drive, but not repair it. Then, even that stopped. The drive makes noises like it’s trying to spin up, but it never does. It’s gone. The important files I did have backed up, but every single one of the movies is gone. It’s takes more than 2 hours to rip one… I don’t want to do the math. I have the movies on my Apple TV and iPod/iPhone now. (Oh, and of course, the actual DVDs, but they don’t play on my iPod.)

But, I still had my new internal drive. So I logged onto a decent instruction site and began my work. workspace I had already used the included external enclosure and software to clone my current drive contents onto my new drive. Now I just had to get the old drive out. No small task. Apple did not make this easy. You have to take apart some key pieces, including the keyboard and trackpad. There’s a million little screws. Armed with my wife’s laptop open to the online guide, I began.

For the most part the guide was accurate, but I needed two sizes of Torx drives, not one, and the location of Bluetooth has moved since they published. The process was simple. And after a careful 20 minutes I was booting into my new drive, with triple the capacity.on Then I loaded my old drive into the external enclosure. I then took my small external drive and transferred some files, since the 1TB was down. I need to back my pictures and reference videos up in a 2nd location, again. newexternal I am very pleased with the new internal drive. That went very smoothly.

I am still trying to think of a way to get the data off the lost drive. It’s not worth paying a company to do it, but if I could figure a way, that would be great. I had heard that freezing it might work, but it didn’t. WD just came out with a 1TB RAID enclosure. It uses two 1TB drives to provide 1TB of RAID storage, Less than $300. Learn from my misfortune. Back it up.