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Adventures in online lectures

A few weeks ago I started teaching a mathematics-course for first-year biology students, as part of a larger three-month Systems Biology course at the University of Utrecht. A couple of years ago the university started to record a number of its lectures, which were then made available online for students and the general public. I think that this is a very good thing in general. From an educational perspective, it allows the students to choose where and when they follow lectures, and it allows them to revisit subjects that they may find difficult.

Fixing video drivers in Linux

One of the drawbacks of a monolithic kernel is that you're often stuck with outdated drivers that don't work for your hardware. Even if a fix is available upstream, there's no easy way to update just a single driver. Luckily, LinuxTV now at least offers a script to automatically recompile the entire Video4Linux subsystem against your current kernel version, and replace the default modules with the latest versions:

Video Processing and Encoding

For a couple of years there have been a number of great open-source programs around for encoding video, both in Windows and (Ubuntu) Linux. Some of them provide a nice graphical user interface, but the best ones are still commandline tools, such as ffmpeg and MEncoder. They are extremely flexible, but unfortunately also have a bewildering number of commandline options. This page lists a few invocations I regularly use.

Extracting DVD titles

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