Stage Lighting on the Cheap

Stage Lighting

For the past year and a half we’ve been lucky to have been lent a Leprecon LP-X24 lighting control console. This has been a really nice board, but now we’re needing to give it back to it’s owners who have another use for it. As we move forward with expanding into some intelligent lights in the coming year, I don’t really want to spend a ton of money on a new controller which could easily cost $3,500-$10,000. So, I’m exploring some options of replacing the controller on the extreme cheap.

So, we currently have 24 microplex channels and 5 DMX channels, all of which are non-intelligent lights (not moving or color changing). Adam Callender at Granger Community Church posted a while back about how they started into a High End Hog controller system by simply purchasing something like a HOG 3PC DMX Widget and controlling their lights using a spare computer running the HOG 3PC Software. This option appears to cost about $1200 $1,700 plus the cost of a computer. And presuming we went with a real HOG lighting console in the future, the DMX Widget would continue to be part of that.

But, then that got me to thinking, “Haven’t I seen some other cheap or free software for lighting controllers?”

Well, after a bit more searching online, it appears that we could purchase a lower end (no pun intended) USB DMX Interface for $151. This would let us drive a DMX universe using software like the following:

Below are two web sites that I found with some more details on cheap/free DMX control:

So… I’m looking for any input or experience with any of these cheap/free DMX options. At this entry price point, I’m just tempted to give several of them a try and see if they meet our needs. But, I’d love to get feedback from others who may have already gone down this path.

Why I’m Voting McCain

McCain vs Obama

Several people I respect have expressed they are voting for Obama, but I still don’t get what they see in him.  Yes, there are several issues that I don’t agree with McCain or Palin on.  But, when it comes down to it, I’m deeply scared about Obama becoming our president.  I’ve struggled for months to understand Obama and I can’t find any peace about electing him.

Below are some highlights that trouble me deeply about Obama.  I’m not even going to touch on a lot of other issues that trouble me about Obama, but rather focus it down to my core concerns.

Socialist Agenda…
Redistribute the Wealth… It’s hard to see Obama’s tax and financial policies as anything more than taking from the rich and giving it to the poor.  That’s just wrong for the government to do that.  Instead we should be encouraging everyone to prosper and reach their full potential.  And it’s morally wrong for us to create any additional sense of entitlement for those that don’t work hard.  We should be encouraging the rich to compassionately help the poor to get out of poverty, not punishing the rich for their success.

Right to Health Care… I’m sorry, but healthcare is not an inalienable right. While it makes sense to fight pandemic diseases and maintain policies that promote health, healthcare is not a right.  The beauty of our constitution is it’s simple focus on fundamental natural, civil, and human rights.  It gives people the freedom to choose and rise to their potential.

OK, I know some of you are questioning my understanding of and commitment to the Gospel and it’s social significance.  I’m a huge proponent of the Church serving the social needs of the world.  And it’s a shame that the Church has done such a poor job of it that many people now think that it’s the government’s job to provide social justice to our world.  The Church needs to rise and reclaim it’s calling from Christ to care for the needy and oppressed.

World View…
I think it’s a bit over the top that many Christians base their entire election choice soley on abortion.  But, while abortion is not the only issue, it is very important.  How a candidate values life is a significant indicator of their world view. And Obama has a clear record of not valuing the life of unborn children and also communicating incongruent perspectives on the issue when talking to different interest groups. It also perplexes me how Obama can champion the rights of the poor to have healthcare and financial success, but yet support killing children who haven’t been born yet.  He fights for the right to healthcare of a 1 minute old baby, but not the right to life for a baby 1 minute prior to birth.  That doesn’t seem like a consistent world view.  It worries me that perhaps his policies are designed to get votes of minorities, rather than to make a right, moral decision.  What group will be next to be taken advantage of?

Vague Plans…
Obama communicates very smoothly, but rarely ever says much of substance.  He often comes across as a broken record advocating change.  Yet, his political record in the Illinois and US senates don’t really show that he’s much of a changer.

I do fundamentally disagree with Obama on some issues such as Defense, Economy, Education, Foreign Policy, Healthcare, Immigration, and Taxes.  But what scares me even more is that many of his other positions on key issues sound kind of good.  When I dig deeper on these issues I agree with, I realize Obama often doesn’t actually address the core problem or have a clear solution.  He promotes generic change on a lot of issues, but has no clearly communicated plan of what that change might be.  It seems like we’re gambling that Obama’s changes might be something we agree with.

Your Feedback…
Maybe I’m missing something and am confused.  I’ve been wrong before.  So, if you have similar values as me and are an Obama supporter, I’d like to hear what your reasoning is.  Let me know your thoughts on why you are choosing Obama or McCain by posting a comment here or emailing me directly.

And, be sure to vote!  Don’t just listen to the polls and think the outcome is already guaranteed one way or another.

How Fast is USB Disk on an AirPort Wireless Base Station?

Warning: This is a technical post, mostly to document and share my experience so others interested might stumble upon it. 🙂

So, I purchased a couple of new 1TB USB hard drives this week and have been trying to figure out how to best set them up for optimal speed and accessibility.  The latest setup is to connect them via USB to my Apple AirPort Extreme Basestation as AirDisks.  I’ll be backing up my laptops to these drives daily (I’ll share the backup details later), so I was curious just how fast I could dump data to them.

How fast should I be able to copy data to the USB hard drive attached to my Airport Extreme?

  • 210 GB/hr (480 Mbps) peak from server – limit of USB 2.0 is lower than my gigabit network
  • 131.8 GB/hr (300 Mbps) peak from laptop – limit of 802.11n

But are those numbers realistic for average write speeds?  I’m currently averaging about 10.5 GB/hr.

Somebody suggested that the Airport Extreme is limited to about 5 MBps (17.57 GB/hr).  This has something to do with the processor in the Airport Extreme (APEB).  Here’s what they’re experiencing:

  • reading from APEB: 16 MBps
  • writing to APEB: 3.5 MBps average and 5-6 MBps peak

3.5 MBps = 12.3 GB/hr which is about what I’m experiencing so far.  I have 4 USB disks connected to by AirPort, but I think this throughput should be for all drives combined.

If you have a USB disk attached to a network with something like the AirPort Extreme, let me know what kind of read and write speeds you are averaging.