April 29, 2003

Friends' Blogs

Found the LiveJournal sites for a couple of friends: Kari, Erin, and Spike. Erin was complaining about her user ID, since she uses it everywhere, and it apparently makes people think she's a guy. I'm glad she used it for LiveJournal, though -- that's the only way I could find anyone..

I'm usually not up this late. Not having a job and mucking with my new website too much is screwing up my sleep cycle. Well, and the fact that I use MythTV too much to record and watch TV shows up the yin-yang. I'm learning to just delete things. I don't need to see every episode of A Makeover Story ;-)

I think I still have the new Simpsons episode from this weekend on my machine if anyone wants to watch it, though I'm not sure how to move the file around or play it on any machines other than my own..

The wonders of technology.

Update: Hahaha... It's 3:26!!!

Posted by mike at 03:26 AM Central | Erin , Kari , MythTV , Spike , TV | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 26, 2003

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

I noticed a weird behavior on my laptop. Well, I suppose it's not all that weird in context, but it seems odd on it's own.

While watching MythTV recordings, the playback will pause for a few seconds approximately every 15 minutes. The reason this is happening is that the system clock is drifting forward a few seconds in that time. The pause happens when a program running in the background (ntpd) talks to some servers on the Internet and updates the time on my system.

Normally, the clock doesn't drift that much. Well, that's not exactly true. After a BIOS update sometime last year, my laptop's clock started drifting at a fantastic rate. I forget what it was, but it was on the order of several seconds every minute. Through some trickery, I was able to tell the Linux kernel to adjust for this clock skew, and the clock ended up being even more accurate than it had been in the first place.

Well, it is accurate, except when the system is under a fairly heavy load (such as when playing back my videos). I'm not exactly sure how the Linux clock system works (even the experts seem confused—it was very difficult for me to figure out how to fix the problem in the first place), but it appears to update the clock whenever the CPU handles interrupts. The system expects that all interrupts take the same amount of time to handle (or at least respond to), but apparently this isn't the case (at least on my laptop).

Well, this whole discussion is basically moot, since the clock skew problem can probably be fixed with a BIOS update to fix what Dell broke previously. It's just a neat problem to find ways to work around...

Posted by mike at 08:38 PM Central | Laptop , MythTV | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

August 24, 2003

Total World Domination

Well, that pcHDTV card I talked about has hit Slashdot. I was going to send a link, but I decided to wait until my card arrives before advertising it to the world too much. It should show up at work on Monday.

Now, I'm in the process of designing an appropriate home theater PC that has the necessary CPU power to decode the video stream nicely. This will be a challenge, since I also ultimately want to have a system that is quiet. I think I've figured out what I want for the base system, though. Probably going to get an Athlon XP 3000+ running on a VIA KT600-powered motherboard. That gives me all the goodies like USB2, FireWire, Serial ATA, and whatnot. I would go for an nVidia nForce2-based system since they're faster, but nVidia only has closed-source drivers for some stuff, and nVidia motherboards apparently don't play nicely with non-nVidia video cards, at least in Linux.

I am looking at getting one of the wacky Zalman fan-shaped CPU coolers, but I guess the extreme size of these heatsinks could actually damage the CPU in certain situations. However, they're very quiet.

It would be awesome to get one of the Ahanix cases, but they're very spendy. I'm still hunting for a good power supply and some good fans as well, but I guess I can't find all of the parts I want right away—I may have to try a few different things before I get things just the way I like.

But, once everything is set up properly, it should last me a long time. The PC would replace the functionality of several A/V components, and it would be infinitely configurable and expandable.

This is one happy day ;-)

Posted by mike at 01:29 PM Central | Hardware , Internet , Movies , Music , MythTV , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 10, 2003

'Cuz Stacy's Mom Has Got It Goin' On

Hey! I bought food today! I have stuff to eat! I even got some reasonable snackish stuff…

Anyway, the s00per s3kr1t project at work is progressing and taking up most of my time, but that will change over the next few days. They're still researching stuff in order to figure out what they're going to research. But, people are already saying “Wow,” which is good.

I'm hoping to get paid soon, but I'm debating whether or not to get going on my big PVR/TV project. Well, I'd mostly just like to get a new computer set up for TV recording, so my desktop's CPU doesn't get so pummeled all of the time.

Then again, it looks like my parents might start pushing for me to get a car (most likely used if anything has to happen in the near future).

Hmmph.

Posted by mike at 11:39 PM Central | Car , Food , Hardware , MythTV , TV , Work | Comments (188) | TrackBack (0)

September 15, 2003

Ben Dover

Over the weekend, I posted this story to Slashdot. While it seems like just another whiny “I want my open source!” rant, I guess a lot of people missed the point I was trying to get at. And that's understandable, as I only wrote one paragraph worth of stuff when I probably should have opted for two.

As any audio-, video-, or other technophile knows, the FCC has mandated that broadcasters in the United States transition toward digital transmission of television. However, the standard being used in the United States for actually transmitting the signal (how the binary digits are encoded in the air) is not well-suited for city environments. People out in the boondocks 70 miles from a tower will probably get better signal than city dwellers ten times closer. Companies are working hard to tweak their hardware to handle these situations better, but in the meantime, I started wondering about how digital cable will work in the future.

Right now, if you have an analog TV set, you merely plug it in and tell it that it's connected to a cable TV system. Ta-da! It works.

However, digital cable is a completely different story today. You need a digital cable box, and many of those boxes are sub-par devices. When I last used a cable box in Minneapolis, it was impossible to hide or remove unwanted channels&mdasheven channels we didn't receive! The guide would sometimes freeze up while it loaded data, and various other annoyances would bother me from time to time, but I'd deal with it because the guide was better than nothing, and it let me see another two or three channels that I actually liked.

Yeah, most of the channels on digital cable suck, so there's the growing idea that the entire cable TV system will transition to being digital. In some ways that's good, but, as my Slashdot post indicated, this will be another battlegrounds where the media conglomerates are pushing for more and more control.

I'd be perfectly happy if I could only get non-premium channels with a digital cable tuner that I put in my computer. I don't need HBO and certain other channels, and even if I felt the need, they've always been accessed via extra descramblers anyway. However, the prospect of having no direct access to the video stream bothers me. It's hard to describe why, but it's like having someone say, “You can't read this book, you can only have an approved person read this to you.” What is this, the Reformation? Is some distant descendant of Martin Luther going to plaster technical documentation on the Internet now?

I dunno, it just creeps me out. I know that at least one father of a friend built his own NTSC TV set, and it was treasured as a family heirloom. Big companies just seem to be pushing so hard against that idea of individual experimentation that I cringe. The future seems like it's going to turn into another dark age.

Well, maybe it won't happen. While the American people tend to be deaf, dumb, and sheep-like, they do eventually take notice of things when beat over the head with them. We'll see if the public keels over and gives up their VCRs in the coming years.

Posted by mike at 10:02 PM Central | Corporations , Encryption , MythTV , Software , TV , The Media | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 16, 2003

Mini

I was playing with a system today that had a VIA EPIA-M10000 motherboard in it. It's a 1GHz VIA C3 processor surrounded by loads of connectivity—Ethernet, USB, FireWire, plus other goodies like S-Video and S/P-DIF output. Well, except that it only has one DDR SDRAM slot and one PCI slot. That's what you get with Mini-ITX (roughly 6" by 6" in size), but hey.

Anyway, the system was pretty snappy running RedHat 9.0, and it handled the OpenGL XScreenSaver hacks pretty well. The board basically lets you build your own thin client box at a reasonable price. $150 for a motherboard and CPU isn't too bad. You could build a nice tiny desktop for $400 (or less if 1GHz is too fast for you ;-)

Posted by mike at 11:06 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 17, 2003

Max Headroom

Well, I got another part to my monster media machine, bringing me to a grand total of two. Or one, if I decide that the hard drive I got a few weeks ago is too loud. I got the hard drive because it was cheap (er, after a rebate I haven't sent in yet, oops), but after buying it, I discovered that certain Seagate drives are lauded for their very quiet operation.

I got a video card today, a Matrox G550. Perhaps not the best choice, but I know Matrox cards do a good job at TV-out (better than nVidia cards), and it also has a DVI output for when I get that HDTV. One problem, though, is that they apparently don't handle having a DVI connection and a TV connection at the same time very well. It was mentioned somewhere that if the two heads on the card have large differences in pixel clock speeds (how many pixels per second are being sent out), one of the heads loses sync and then goes black.

I plan to only use one or the other, rather than both at the same time, so that shouldn't affect me.

So, I've got about 8 more parts to get (depending on how you count). This will take a while.

Posted by mike at 06:53 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 02, 2003

Brought to You by Glagnar's Human Rinds

Hmm. Interesting.

A possible response by TV networks to PVR devices such as TiVo is a simple one: change the name of your TV shows. This week, people who have machines set up to record “Enterprise” won't get anything. The name of the show has been changed to “Star Trek: Enterprise.”

Before you know it, TV shows will have names resembling subject lines of junk mail messages ;-)

I figured out the problem I was working on yesterday. Mostly, the solution involved plugging in a thing I forgot to plug in last week. Doh.

We went through and moved a bunch of USB and SCSI stuff off of the shelves at work, and then took down the shelves. Our main storage closet is very empty now.

At least I got paid yesterday :-D

Posted by mike at 09:15 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 08, 2003

Where's Dogbert When You Need Him?

A guy came into work today, apparently to assist in the shutdown of the site. It seems that he does that on a regular basis—traveling to sites that have been shut down, or that will be shut down, and handling some of the dirty work. He told some stories about how other people hadn't taken losing their jobs so well in the past, and just left huge messes in their wake.

I suppose the implication is that we are all pushovers for orderly doing what we're told, going down without a fight, etc.

Mostly, it just bugs me that this guy has done this at least a few times before. It's as though the company has a “shutdown squad”—probably not a bad idea, just a very creepy one.

Anyway, during our daily escape for lunch, we drove around some of the subdivisions under development in Hudson. I'll never understand the need to have a 45° slope (or greater) on a roof. I have no desire for my house to look like a church.

But, after getting pissed off by the appearance of what passes for housing these days, we drove through some of the back roads and got a hint of the fall colors. Just yesterday, I had been thinking that it would be nice to come back over the weekend to do a trip to see the leaves, but the leaves seem to be turning very quickly. The change from yesterday to today seemed very dramatic to me. Maybe the fairly low amount of rain we've gotten this year has something to do with that.

I think I'm going to go buy some more hardware for my PVR project over the weekend. My pocketbook will take a hit, but I'm really desiring the opportunity to have an extra system around to experiment with. I expect I'll continue using my main box for TV recording for quite a while, until I work out some bugs.

It's very difficult to do fairly low-level software development on a machine you depend on every day. I just need some more flexibility.

Oh, and LiveJournal appears to only be contacting my site every 24 hours for updates. It looks like their servers download my syndication feed at 5:30 PM, which is just around the time I usually get back from work. So, many of my updates will appear to be nearly a day behind now.

Bleh

Posted by mike at 11:57 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , Software , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 19, 2003

Scorched Silicon

Well, yesterday I got around to fixing my MythTV setup, which had been broken for a couple of weeks. Really, the only thing that was broken was the utility that downloads the TV listings. However, I was also getting annoyed with the system because it seemed to be getting more and more flaky when I'd record and play video. Unfortunately, this is actually due to some trouble communicating with my external FireWire hard drive.

Every time I do a filesystem check, the drive spits out new errors. I'm not sure if this is because the drive is baked, the controller in the FireWire enclosure is broken, or if the actual 1394 card is broken. Heck, it could even be a bad cable for all I know. I should have stolen a pile of them from Adaptec when I had the chance ;-)

Anyway, I had that other computer in my bedroom that is meant to eventually be an HDTV tuner box, but I hadn't been playing with it for a while. Turns out, it makes a pretty decent replacement for my FireWire drive. I just had to turn on NFS sharing, and things work great.

Hmm. I suppose I could rip the drive out of my 1394 enclosure and put it in that machine, but with my luck the drive is toast.

Posted by mike at 04:21 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 10, 2004

Blonde, Brunette, or Redhead? Decisions, Decisions

Favorite word of the day: rectenna

I'm bored. I've been bored all day. I watched some shows that my computer recorded, mostly Ned and Stacey—a show everyone forgot about when it was on, but seems to have stood up pretty well. People just didn't think Thomas Hayden Church could play a character with a brain, I guess. And hey, it's got Debra Messing. Can't go wrong there. I don't know how she manages to have so much hair on her head, but I like it. (Hmm. That might explain why I like Keri Russell too, though with straight hair she looks freakishly similar to a female friend of mine that I've known since preschool—my friend even had a penchant for sweaters :-p )

Too bad the show is on a damn women's channel. I mean, the guy on the show is a womanizing bastard (I mean that in the best way, of course ;-). At least my computer is pretty good at skipping commercials. As if I haven't seen enough ads for panty liners already in my life. Ugh. Go away! *click*

I should probably get out and do something tonight. I guess my sickness this week took a much larger toll than I thought it would. I've been pretty groggy the last few days. Hopefully I'll be feeling good tomorrow.

Posted by mike at 08:34 PM Central | Hardware , MythTV , Self , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)