Cutting the Cord in San Francisco

I’ve been wanting to investigate receiving OTA (Over-The-Air) HDTV broadcasts in San Francisco for a while now.  I am not yet committing to “cutting the cord”, but I wanted to run some experiments to see if it is even possible for me.  Along the way I learned some things and discovered some helpful resources.

Learning about my location

The first thing to do (before buying any antenna hardware) was for me to find out what I might receive.  The best online resource I found was this one.

AntennaWeb helps you see which stations you can get from which towers, and also helps you select an antenna type.  My home out near McLaren park sits high on the hill and has a clear view of Sutro Tower.  AntennaWeb suggested that I could get by with a “Small, Multidirectional” antenna for broadcasts from Sutro.

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Live-Streaming, MicroBroadcasting Redux

Live-Streaming apps for smartphones have seen a surge in interest in the last year.  Meerkat and Periscope (now Twitter) leapt onto the scene nearly at the same time and captured the imagination of a new crop of people anxious to share their experiences as they are happening – in real time.

Why the sudden interest?

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SightCall Communicator: easy Deploy to Heroku

SightCall Communicator got an update yesterday.  Communicator is a github project the shows how to use many of the capabilities offered by the SightCall Platform.  Multiparty calling (conferences) are a breeze, as is screen-sharing and recording.  Here is a list of the features showcased in this project.

  • one-to-one video and voice
  • multiparty video-teleconference
  • screen-share
  • text-chat
  • file transfer
  • presence
  • recording (optional)

And now, with the “Deploy-to-Heroku” button,


trying out the project is easier than ever.  Get an API Key, deploy a clone of the project, and use it as a base for your own realtime communications project.

Communicator uses WebRTC when available, and uses the SightCall “Plugin” when WebRTC is not available. This ensures that you will have the same experience on all supported browsers.

  • Chrome (webrtc)
  • Firefox (plugin)
  • Internet Explorer (plugin)
  • Safari (plugin)

Try it out.  It’s quick and easy.  And it works.

Build ffplay and ffmpeg 2.6.2 on Mac OSX 10.10.2

Every few years we desperately need ffmpeg and ffplay for some reason. The ffmpeg suite is my go-to swiss-army knife for whipping video into shape. Unfortunately, the compilation process is sometimes difficult. Here is a summary of the recipe I used to build these tools on OSX 10.10.2. It was not straightforward.

The main pain-point seemed to be getting SDL-1 to build. ( I tried using SDL-2 to get ffplay to compile, but these two do not seem to work together. SDL-1 needed some manual edits to get it installed.

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