Friday, 21 August 2009

The problem with Digital TV

The problem with Australian Digital TV or at least, using a media center in Australia is:

  • The standard def and high def channels are almost the same, but not quite. The high def channels have subtly different programs such as special documentaries.

  • The EIT is a mess - spelling mistakes, program name changes (series premire, season finale, double episode etc), and not starting/finishing on time.

The consequence of (1) is that you can't just go and say 'record all' - you've then got to go edit that rule to say 'only on this channel', otherwise you'll end up with 2 recordings of the same program, one standard def, one high def. You wouldn't actually want to delete one of the channels, because the differences can be interesting.

The EIT issue is more serious - instead of being able to say 'record all occurances of "Program 1" only on this channel' you need to change this to not be so exact on the program name and use "%Program 1%" so that you catch episodes named 'Program 1 - season finale'. I've seen some programs use the subtitle in the name - so EVERY episode has a different name - Come on! This is what the description is for - instead of:
Name: 'Program 1 - the one where Mr X falls over'

it's supposed to be:
Name: 'Program 1'
Description: 'The one where Mr X falls over'

The starting and finishing on time may be the most frustrating though, since right now I have MythTV configured to start recording 10 minutes early and finish recording 10 minutes after the scheduled finish time. And I still miss the end of some programs!

I can understand that these issues may be planned incompetence rather than innocent mistakes to force you to watch live TV and to pay more attention to the TV guide, but I just don't have time for it.

Once you get a media center it changes how you watch TV - if I have downtime, I can just browse the recordings to find something I'm in the mood for.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The week in review - 2009-32

SpringSource Roo
I just found out this week about SpringSource Roo - a rapid development tools that promises:
Working applications within 10 minutes of finishing the download

I haven't used it yet, but at first glance it looks like a Grails/Rails type tool but being plain Java based as opposed to Groovy or Ruby based. This is a great move, since enterprises just don't seem to be able to get comfortable with dynamic languages - I mean, why continue worry about every little nut and bolt when Grails takes care of all that detail - Roo may just be the ticket for those too afraid to make the jump to Grails.

SpringSource STS
I've been using Netbeans 6.7 for Grails development these days (with what little time I have), but I'm thinking about trying out the latest SpringSource Tool Suite (STS) - I'm a big fan of everything SpringSource does, and I'm keen to see what their Groovy support in Eclipse is like.

Replacing a DVD drive in Mythbuntu
When I originally set up Mythbuntu media center, I had a CD-RW drive and DVD-RW drive (both IDE). The DVD drive recently stopped working (could never eject) so I bought a new SATA DVD+RW drive. When I went to install it I found I'd run out of SATA power connectors (I've got 4 disk drives and apparently only 4 power connectors). No problem, I just had to buy a Molex-to-SATA power adapter cable - this plugs in to the power sockets I was using for the IDE drives on one end, and presents a SATA power connector on the other (costs approx AUD$5.50).

However, after I powered it up, it was registered as /dev/dvd3. This didn't work with MythTV because it expects to use /dev/dvd for playing disks. Since I've removed both the CD and DVD drive I *want* it to be /dvd/dvd - I mucked around with symbolic links for a while, but had no success. I don't know anything about Linux devices, but I managed to stumble my way through, and found the answer in /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-cd.rules. This file seems to map each device to a symlink, so all I did was comment out all of the listed devices and rebooted - after the restart, the dvd was correctly registered at /dev/dvd. Apparently it IS easy when you know how.

Unfortunately when I went to test DVD playback, I must have managed to pick up the ONE disk in my collection that was just never going to work. I spent the rest of the night trying to find out why I couldn't play it, suspecting it was a CCS/encryption problem only to try another disk several days later without any problems - I *should* know better by now.

Restoring Vista
I recently had to reinstall a friends Vista powered laptop. It was a 1 month old Toshiba, and it just wouldn't start. I guessed a reinstall was in order, so I booted an Ubuntu Live CD so I could back up any personal data. These days you don't get the physical install disks any more - there is a hidden partition on the hard disk which can be used to restore the disk image. It seems you can access this restore program by holding down 0 (zero) while powering on. Restoring the disk image worked, although it took an incredible amount of time to complete. After it finished, I noticed that c: had 43GB used. I don't know what Toshiba had there besides Vista, but 43GB for the base install is incredible. Last time I installed Ubuntu 9.04, it used less than 2GB! Laptop disks are still around the 250GB mark so after a 43GB operating system you've lost 20% of it. I assume the hidden restore partition is also eating into this disk space?