almost back to normal

People who don’t know me well wonder why I have issues with such seeminly simple setups, like running a mythtv server. People who do know me well wish they’d never gotten to that point. The answer is quite simple, really — I just can’t help but tweak things until they are almost broken to the point that I have to replace everything but my processor all to get it back to a state of working where it was fine for three months but completely destroyed in five minutes of boredom. I got lucky though, this last time I only had to swap out the RAM and re-emerge everything.

The moral of the story is this though — once you get your MythTV system working just how you like it. Don’t touch it. Really. At all. No tweaky. I’ll never learn that lesson myself, but maybe I can at least warn others. The reason I run into so many problems with mythtv is for two reasons. One, I run the development version of MythTV. Two, I use an MPEG4 USB TV recorder that will only work correctly under linux with myth. My only alternative is Windows MCE, which I can guarantee I’d sooner buy a $400 TiVo or go back to Comcast’s crappy DVR service before I end up running that.

Anyway, I love MythTV, don’t get me wrong, even though I do rant about it a lot. The problem I ran into was that after a recent svn update, recompile and install, any transcoding was throwing the A/V out of sync by just a few milliseconds. Most people probably wouldn’t notice it, or if they would, they wouldn’t let it bother them. I’m hyper-attentive to detail though, and it made me want to claw my eyeballs out. Trying to fix that was what sparked my complete rebuild, and even then it still didn’t help. Finally, I just realized that I was already recording to MPEG4 and since the transcoding was only making it about 1% smaller, I should have just left the files alone. Of course, it took me two days to realize something that if I had sat still and thought clearly for more than three seconds it would have come to me anyway. Ain’t life great?

I did learn some really cool stuff along the way though. One, avidemux rocks. Turns out it can read MythTV’s Nuppel Video files natively. I was having issues converting stuff directly from it, but in some cases it worked. The second cool thing is that mplayer works great in converting them from the original recording. I’m really glad for that, since that means I can finally export them or backup the video files. Thirdly, nuvexport actually works amazingly well. I have 28 episodes I’ve been converting, and out of those, nuvexport handled all of them except for 2. That’s pretty darn impressive.

So, I’m happy. My mythbox is recording things just the way I want it now (going through all this has forced me to learn some new features, which is always good), and I know how to export any of the recorded files … the easy way and the hard way. Now if Myth would just record straight to AVI, then I’d really be happy. Ah well. It still beats anything else that’s out there.


Man, I’m stoked. :D

I spent all weekend repairing my MythTV box (which, btw, I have a lot of issues with the project as a whole … but that’s another post), and I finally got it to where I want it — working partially. Anyway, I just started playing around with mencoder to see how hard it would be to convert these files to something other than mythtv’s special nuv format (must … contain … rant…), and it actually turned out to be spectacularly simple. All I really have to do is just re-encode them so the AVI index is rebuilt.

The really cool part is coming up next though. I wanted to strip out the commercials myself, and at first I started thinking of how I could do that with mythtv’s commercial flagging. After all, it does just store the cutlist in the database, right? For the record: yes, it does, its in the recordedmarkup table, which took me a while to find out. Well, after my average research time of 2 seconds, I couldn’t find an easy intuitive way to use that to tell mencoder when to cut the video into pieces. I had heard of avidemux before, but last time I tried it (back when I was using Mandrake … eek. Nothing wrong with MDK, that was just a loooong time ago), it only crashed and burned horribly. I figured this was a good a time as any to give it a swirl.

And man, it works great. There’s this great feature it has “skip to next black frame” which pretty much finds the commercials for you. Then just set marker A and B at the start and stop of each break, cut it, and save the file and you’re done! All you need is about 15 minutes each to re-encode each NUV and then maybe 2 minutes to manually cut them, but you’ve got a great perfect looking pristine TV episode. Sweet. :)

I should mention that I already know about nuvexport, but I’ve never had much luck with that either. If anyone’s interested, here’s a raw howto I actually got this far:

  1. Set mythtv to keep original recordings (they’ll be saved as foo.nuv.old) or just don’t transcode at all
  2. Reencode from an MPEG4 NuppelVideo to an MPEG4 AVI, video only: mencoder foo.nuv.old -ovc lavc -oac copy
  3. Run avidemux2 on the AVI, cut out commercials and reencode the audio to mp3 (usually PCM audio works too, but sometimes it gets scratchy).

fortune-mod-scriptures: gentoo ebuilds ready for testing!

Okay, these are my first ebuilds that I’m really serious about (apologies to those sitting in b.g.o that never got accepted), so I’m hoping someone will help me out and test these for me. They should be okay, but if you want to peek at the ebuild structure and rip on it, that would be even better. I find the whole ebuild developer documentation confusing — not because it isn’t well written, just because there are a lot of variables to it, and what I’m trying to accomplish is actually really, really simple (drop a few files into a directory). Yes, I’m a perfectionist sometimes.

So, without further ado, here’s where you can download the overlay:

Just unpack the tarball in your PORTDIR_OVERLAY directory, and it will create games-misc/fortune-mod-mormon and games-misc/fortune-mod-scriptures directories along with the digests. You should just be ready to do emerge fortune-mod-mormon from there. Plus, it will pull the tarballs of the packages straight from sourceforge (isn’t that cool) so you don’t need anything else.

And if it breaks your entire system, well, you’re using Gentoo. You asked for it. :)

mythtv woes

I have a bad habit of breaking things on a regular basis. Only at home though. At work, I’m actually uber-conservative .. it’s just too bad some of that common sense won’t translate to my setups at home.

The main purpose of my server is to run mythtv, which I’ve broken again. Right now my commercial flagging isn’t working properly at all, and I can’t seem to find a fix for it. Not that I’ve really tried, much more than changing my kernel, running the development version, changing mysql and all my backend preferences. But other than that, I can’t pinpoint the reason.

So, I decided I should do a sort of a version freeze on the installation. From now on I’m just gonna use this: 2.6.14 gentoo-sources kernel (with no pre-emption), alsa 1.0.10 libraries, mysql 4.0.x and the latest mythtv ebuild. That’s quite a step down from all the random configs and version changes I’ve been flinging at it lately.

Hopefully things will run more smoothly. I really can’t stand commercials, and I’d do just about anything to get rid of those. Maybe even run a stable system and read the documentation. It’s worth a shot.

the physics of superman

Wired Magazine has a pretty interesting interview with the director of the new Superman movie coming out.

The last question is classic — it just shows me this guy knows what he’s doing, and why X-Men and X-Men 2 didn’t suck (he directed those, too).

What about the quandary in the first Superman movie when he flies around and around Earth, spinning the planet backward and turning back time? It’s always been strange to me that all of a sudden he can fly so much faster.

Yeah, well, that’s a moment when the death of Lois Lane stimulates him to do the unthinkable, to fly faster than he’s supposed to. That had a romantic logic, but in my opinion, it broke several rules. After all, the idea that flying around the Earth would cause time to go backward, when really if you stop the planet that would just basically cause everyone on Earth to fly off. We don’t have anything quite like that in this film.

fortune-mod-mormon: debian packages

My friend and LDS OSS cohort Charles Fry has done me a huge favor and packaged fortune-mod-mormon for Debian.

I don’t have any Debian-based distro installed anywhere on my boxes, and even if I did I don’t think I could figure out how to install a 3rd-party package, so if anyone would be nice enough to try these out and let me know if there are any problems, that would rock. Or, if there aren’t problems, tell me that too, so I can put them up on Sourceforge.

Download here:

Oh, and I’ll have a Gentoo ebuild ready soon.

malcolm in the middle

There are only a few things in this world worth living for these days, trudging on mindlessly day by day, with no end in sight. TV is one of the big ones. Unfortunately, it’s not one of those things that I keep myself up to date on very much, and I only just now discovered Malcolm in the Middle as its reaching the end of its run. I can’t believe what I’ve been missing out on, either.

Every show I watch is hilarious and makes me burst out laughing (which is pretty rare, whent it comes to tv shows). What else can I say about it? It’s great stuff, and I can’t believe I never knew about it. The good thing is it airs twice a day on my local WB station here, so I’ve already got a small collection recorded on my mythbox.

The bad news is that Fox hasn’t released any of the seasons on DVD except for the first one. I really hate it when stuff like that happens. I’m tempted to download it off a torrent somewhere, but with my luck, I’d get sued by some huge company for doing that. Besides, I don’t condone file sharing in the least. It really sucks though that you never know if we’ll ever be able to see them again any other way than reruns. The story is always the same for why some shows don’t come out on DVD — they are having trouble renegotiating the “rights” to certain stuff, which basically translates to “everyone wants more money now that this thing is actually popular.”

Oh well, in the meantime, I’ll just settle for another one of life’s reasons for living — Corn Pops.

yet another new computer

What do you do when you have five computers? Buy another one, of course! Actually, I was only using two of them (desktop and server), and I wanted to get a gaming box because I really despise dual-booting. There was only two requirements though: I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and I wanted to get one with an AGP slot and a PCI-E slot, so I could use my older perfectly fine video card that I’ve already invested a lot of money into. Well, I never found a motherboard with both (that seemed like even halfway decent quality), but I did find the next best thing — a motherboard with a good onboard video card and a PCI Express slot.

So, here’s the specs of my new box:

AMD Athlon 64 3200+
2×512 Corsair 400mHz DDR

I ended up spending a lot more than I wanted to overall, but this little motherboard really packs a punch into its mini-frame! It’s got an onboard nVidia 6150 with a standard VGA and DVI display output, 4 USB ports, 2 PCI slots, 1 PCI-E x16, onboard sound and nic (nvidia marvell, yuck). Plus, you can get one of those SPDIF attachments that connects to the motherboard. This thing would make a great mythtv box, I tell yah! The real irony in all of this though, is its the fastest box I have, and I’m not even putting Linux on it.

I’m off to enjoy my new investment, and play some great Windows games … like Neverwinter Nights! :D

third time’s the charm

Well, I finally got my little router back online.  I finally tried just reflashing it with the stock Linksys firmware, and it worked.  I was a little hesitant to try that, since if it didn’t work, I’d probably have lost my failsafe login.  So, everything is happy again.  I’ll have to try OpenWRT again sometime again in the future, but for now I’m just glad to have a weekend ahead of me not having to mess around with firmware issues.

still no linksys love

I’ve spent all afternoon on my little linksys half-brick, trying to get it up and running.  I have had a little success, which I posted here in the OpenWRT forums, but I’m still stuck.  The basic story is that I can boot into failsafe mode, but any and all attempts to completely re-install the firmware isn’t working.

Thanks to everybody who left a message or pinged me on IRC — I appreciate the help.  I’m going to have to look into that JTAG suggestion.  If nothing else, that would be something good to learn how to do.

Maybe next time I’ll just buy another Mini and use that as a router.  Or I could just put another NIC in my server and have it double as a router, but where’s the fun in spending $15 on a PCI card when I already spent $100 on this cool little router?  Besides getting in at least eight hours of sleep at night, I mean.