the system is down

Oy, I’ve been having my share of computer problems lately, least of all have been with my website (if you haven’t noticed).

First of all, the other week I decided I was tired of hosting my website and dev stuff at home, and it was time to move on after sucessfully running everything fine for about 10 months here. That didn’t work out too well. The host I went was doing something funky with their webserver, and so I’d get 500 internal errors every other time I visited my pages. Not good. Then I hastened to move everything back to my old setup, and my email was down for a bit as I had to get my DNS records all changed around again. That wasn’t good either. I’m back online at home now, but things still aren’t working that great.

On Sunday I decided to swap parts in my two main amd64 boxes — my desktop and my gaming box. Well, as I was trying to pull the CPU fan off of the motherboard, I yanked out the processor at the same time. Whoops. So much for a chip I only bought like three months ago. About twelve of the pins were bent, with four of them unsalvagable and one broke off while trying to fix it. Ah well. Then I ended up selling my other box to Jason so he could write some music again. A good cause, of course, but now I’m down two computers.

So I’ve unceremoniously dumped everything into my server and I’m using that as my desktop. This thing has six harddrives in it now, with 1.5 TB of data. Crazy. Since I’m using it as my desktop now, I had to quickly setup a different server (I had five desktops, now I have three) to host my pages. My blog is working, but that’s about it. All the development stuff is down (trac, etc) until I have time to get it back up and running. And of course my myth box is dead too, but I’m just running cron jobs to record what I want, which is actually much simpler and safer anyway.

Now I’m just looking for a place to host, and trying to decide whether to keep it at home still or not. The problem I have with webhosts is they usually hate me because I need such a wide range of services (trac, php5, postgresql, mysql, sqlite2 and 3, ssh) and most of the ones I’ve seen always tend to do *something* funky to their apache+php setup so that you always have to do something weird to get it working right on just their host. Bah.

On the plus side though …. today is Halloween and I get to eat all the candy I want. :D There was a great Malcolm on last night, too.

batman begins

I have a old score that’s starting to grow on me. I bought the Batman Begins soundtrack when it first came out, and I didn’t like it much. The other day I was looking for something “different” to listen to, and saw this one that I hadn’t checked out in a while. It’s good stuff, really grows on you.

Normally I don’t like scores to any kind of action movies, but this one doesn’t really fit the bill. It slowly escalates, and never gets really nerve-wracking fast. The main theme is repeated a couple of times, and that’s usually bothersome, but it’s done well and spaced pretty far apart in this one. Another cool thing is each of the tracks is named after a different species of bat.

I likey.  It’s got that “haunting” feel to it.  I’d put it in the same listening category as Krull and Dragonheart.

mplayer 1.0rc1 released

A new version of MPlayer was released just the other day. Lots of big changes in this one. As usual MPlayer continues to make real strides. Very cool stuff.

Here’s some highlights from the changelog:

  • IVTV hardware MPEG audio/video decoder output
  • audio stream switching in MPEG-TS/PS, Matroska and streams supported by libavformat
  • chapter seeking in Matroska files
  • PVR input for hardware MPEG encoder based cards, such as Hauppauge WinTV PVR-150/250/350/500 AKA IVTV but also pvrusb2 and cx88 (requires Linux >= 2.6.18 kernel, featuring native V4L2 MPEG API)
  • support for seeking to chapters in dvd:// and dvdnav:// streams
  • VC-1/WMV3/WMV9 video decoder
  • preliminary Vorbis encoder
  • support of x264 encoding via libavcodec
  • -endpos option for MPlayer

I’m really just picking out the features I’m most interested in. There are quite a lot more, as you can see on the news page.

My favorites of course are that I can watch TV with my Hauppauge PVR-500 (which I’ve written about before), and Matroska chapter support (which I requested). :D

Most people will be glad to know that this new version plays WMV videos just fine, without relying on win32codecs anymore. That was actually a Google Summer of Code project for ffmpeg, which is responsible for libavcodec.

There’s also an ebuild already in portage, though it is hard-masked right now.

jack and the beanstalk

I watched Jack and the Beanstalk last night.  It was a great flick.  I haven’t seen the movie in at least twenty years, but I remembered it so vividly, and it was really creepy seeing it again and having it all come back so clearly.

Even as a kid I knew it was pretty unique.  I’d never seen anything like that.  That crazy witch, that weird princess, the singing dog, and psychedelic settings.  I remember even at a really, really young age (like, six years old) that I really got bored with movies that didn’t have any depth to them.  Movies like Bambi and The Fox and the Hound were so predictable that I didn’t like watching them at all.  This one was definitely something new and different, and so it stuck with me.

Good times.  I wish there was a soundtrack.

gentoo, multimedia, and other shtuff

I think its always interesting how the more you get into a community project, it can take you in directions that you never anticipated going towards in the first place. For instance, I wanted to be a gentoo dev for a very long time, so that I could help out with the tree, and ebuilds and things like that. I always figured that if that ever happened, I’d be working on stuff like documentation and who knows what else. What ended up happening is I’m doing something completely different — taking care of Planet Gentoo, helping out with user relations, and maintaining multimedia ebuilds and a little qa on the side. It’s nowhere near what I thought I’d be working on, but I’m very happy nontheless. Working on Gentoo and helping to improve things is great fun.

One thing I committed to the tree yesterday was the latest version of ogmrip. If you haven’t heard of it before, I’d recommend you check it out if you’re looking for a good little DVD ripping program. It’s similar to dvd::rip except that instead of using transcode, this uses MEncoder. That, and ogmrip is a lot simpler. I like it a lot, though. And I know how hard it is to find a cool ripping program out of the probable dozens that are in the portage tree, so check this one out.

One of the cool features that it has that I really like is it can encode your files and wrap them straight into Matroska. Woots. Now if he would only add chapter support too, that would be really cool. ;)

It also handles subtitles pretty easily, which I consider “the final frontier” since there’s so many ways to get them, and it’s all very confusing, imo. It’s one of the few things I prefer leaving to a GUI when it comes to encoding video.

Working on ogmrip though got me thinking a bit about how life was like before I was a developer too, and some of the other frustrations that I had as a user. One of the problems with learning so much stuff is that I tend to forget what it was like, and what problems I wanted to fix. I am starting to remember a few of them though, and here’s what I can recall:

Everything was always marked unstable, and never seemed to get marked stable.

I always hated that — it seemed like all the multimedia stuff (which I still play around with a lot) is all marked ~arch and so you never knew if it was really unstable or just been sitting in the tree for years and no one has bothered to look at it.

Recently I joined the amd64 herd so I could hopefully help out on problems like that. So far I haven’t done jack squat because I’ve been sitting in the shadows just observing how things go on, for fear of breaking everyone’s boxes. :) But I have noticed one thing — a lot of the stabilization requests that come across that get neglected are for ebuilds that are are of just totally fringe programs. I mean, pretty much all of the bugs that I’ve seen have been for stuff I’ve never even *heard* of (and I’ve been using Gentoo a long time, too). I suppose that’s one reason that some of this stuff isn’t getting around to being marked stable, is because nobody uses it in the first place. I know when I see this stuff, I immediately think to myself “I’m not gonna test it, I don’t even know what it does, and I obviously don’t need it if I never heard of it.” I don’t know if that’s anyone else’s take on stuff or not. But it definately explains why my fringe amd64 stable requests pretty much just sit in the tree.

Anyway, I’ll see what I can do about that, at least for the multimedia stuff that I’m familiar with. It was a bit of a bumpy road getting dvd::rip stabilized since it had so many deps across a few arches that needed to be stabilized first, but it was kind of a cool sense of accomplishment once it was done. (Actually, dvd::rip is stable on all the arches except for x86, but that’s because of xvid-1.1.0 bugs. Just downgrade to xvid-1.0.0 and you’ll be superb.)

New ebuilds never get into the tree.

That was another thing that always bothered me about being a user, is ebuild requests would just sit out there in limbo and I had no idea why. Now I understand a little bit better. Its kind of the same situation as before, in that if there aren’t any devs that are interested in using it, they’re not going to support it.

I was poking around the media-tv bugs today, and I saw a few programs that actually looked pretty cool. I’m going to try and get them into the tree (provided they are stable, and work well) since it looks like they would be pretty beneficial. Then I started looking at other ones that I wasn’t interested in using, but they still looked pretty helpful. It got me thinking about something I read in this great article, Myths, Lies, and Truths about the Linux kernel.

The myth was this: “My driver is only for an obscure piece of hardware, it would never be accepted into the main kernel.” And the awesome response was this:

This just is not true at all. We have a whole sub-architecture that only has 2 users in the world out there. We have drivers that I know have only one user, as there was only one piece of hardware ever made for it. It just isn’t true, we will take drivers for anything into our tree, as we really want it.

Thinking about that really got me thinking about how I’ve always perceived Gentoo as well — just totally willing to take this fringe stuff that no one else has heard of and integrate it into the tree. Just replace “drivers” with “software” in that quote, and that’s the feeling I’ve always had, and I think that’s what makes Gentoo really cool. Sure, Debian, Suse, Fedora and Ubuntu might not package your really odd software in their tree, but Gentoo will! I’ve just always found it really cool that the tree has so much stuff in there that I have never heard of and never would have been able to find out about on my own.

I think that keeping these tiny, well-written and working applications in the tree just increases the cool factor, and I’m going to try and help out some more on that too.

I can think of some other stuff that bugged me, but I’m running out of steam so I better stop there. Gentoo is some great stuff, and that’s all there is to it. :)

poking at my pchdtv

I got my pcHDTV 5500 card back from Jason last night, and I’ve been playing around with it today with little success. Naturally, he got it working the first time.

Unfortunately, this is one of those areas where there is very little documentation, or where there is some, it’s disjointed or doesn’t explain what’s happening, so I’m completely lost. I’m trying out the 2.6.18 kernel, since the card drivers are included in it for that release. Everything looks like it’s loading okay, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to actually watch TV — either in HD or NTSC.

The driver evolution is a little confusing too. Apparently it’s both a v4l device and a dvb one. I think the NTSC one is the v4l driver, but I can’t be sure.

Looking at the forums, it appears that this thing already works natively with MPlayer’s dvb support. I’m not sure about that one, since I can’t confirm I’m doing anything right.

Ah well, it’s gonna be a fun little project figuring this all out for TV Tuner #4. Once I do, I’ll write some documentation.

mplayer pvr testing

Well, I spent most of the night testing the new mplayer pvr support. I ran into problems, and had to reboot more than a few times when the card would lock up. It has it’s share of bugs, but it is possible to watch or record TV on both tuners at the same time.

The cool thing is that I can record straight to a DVD MPEG2 and then create a DVD with dvdauthor, and it will work in my settop player. I’m stlil having problems with the audio making odd noises on a certain pitch level, but at least now I’m sure it’s not a mythtv problem. The odd part is I can’t hear it on my computer except sometimes, so it might just be I need to tweak my audio settings somewhere. Who knows.

For the record, here’s the mencoder profile I’m using:


I set the audio and video bitrates to much lower than they can go (192 kbps for audio, and between 2200 to 2600 kbps for video) just because that’s good enough for me. Then I copy the audio and video directly straight into an MPEG container. Playing it back always results in a broken frame on the end right now, and on my DVD player it will just stop when it reaches the end. Also, it doesn’t look like the aspect ratio is getting written correctly unless I add “aspect=1”, which is the default setting anyway. If I don’t add that, dvdauthor complains about its value.

So, if you’re wondering if you want to try to set yours up, I would recommend against it. I’m running development versions of mplayer and ivtv, and even then things are very finicky. I’m pretty excited to see how things turn out, and I’m quite impressed that everything works as well as it does right now. It’s definately a project to keep my eye on.

mplayer pvr support

I just barely got pvr support working on my mplayer installation at home working … on my lunch break. :) Man, it is cool.

That’s a piccie of me having two mplayer windows open playing TV on both tuners on the Hauppauge PVR-500 with different channels. It’s kind of hard to see, I know.

To get it working, you have to do a few crazy things, to which even the most extreme of ricers might give a second thought. You’ve got to be running the 2.6.18 kernel headers along with a recent MPlayer dev snapshot, and the 0.8.0 branch of IVTV. All of them are in portage (and keyworded) except the first one, so I’ll leave it to the reader to guess how much they want to put their system in possible jeopardy just to watch television.

I haven’t had much time to play with it, but from reading the man page it comes with a few cool options, like setting the audio bitrate and the MPEG stream format. For instance, you can record straight to the DVD MPEG2 standard. Muwahahahahaha. >-D

I’ll post some more details once I get time. Right now, I’m just supah-stoked. Just think — one more mythtv-only option ripped out of the way. It feels glorious.

mythtv comments

Thanks to all the comments I got on my last posts. I apologize they didn’t show up earlier, but my Spam Karma plugin flagged them wrong for some reason. Whoops. Hopefully that should be fixed, now.

One thing I totally ignored that was again my fault is that mythtv comes with a contrib directory of user-submitted tools and the like. Included in there is a little script called which does all the legwork of renaming your recorded shows for you to “Title – Episode”. It worked great on all my recordings, and so now they are much easier to index.

If you emerged mythtv, it dumps them all in /usr/share/mythtv/contrib. I’m going to take a closer look at what’s in there, and depending on how stable they are, modify the mythtv ebuilds to maybe install some of them in /usr/bin. mythrename seems pretty okay (though it could use some more documentation), but I’m not sure about any of the others. At the very least, I’m going to modify the ebuilds to add some notes that there are some extra tools if they’d like to try them out. That alone would have saved me a world of hurt.

Also, as someone commented earlier, I’m asking for problems if I’m running the SVN releases, and he’s right. Myth is one of those things I’m stupid enough to run bleeding edge and then wonder why it breaks.

As far as the NUV wrapper though, the problem is that MythTV has made changes to the format, so a standard demuxer will still have problems with it. Just run mencoder on one of them and you’ll see a bunch of errors as it tries to reencode the video. And I know that you can run tools to export it to something else, but my whole point is that I shouldn’t have to reencode it just to get it to a standard format in the first place.

But, I digress. Complaining isn’t going to get me anywhere. I’m working on actually helping out, given time.

mythtv recant

Well, after calming down a bit after my last post (and Cardoe debunking most of my issues, thanks man), I’m a lot less ticked about the whole thing. Lately I’ve been really cranky about stuff just not working right. Go figure.

Anyway, I still think it’s silly that they don’t record the media files to a standard container format, but instead of complaining about it, I’m gonna see if there’s anything I can do to help out, if anything. Here’s to hoping.