it's planet time

Well, cleaning up transcode was relatively easy (though I’m ignoring the minor dvd::rip bugs for now). I bumped the latest rc candidate for 1.0.4 and got a new CVS snapshot of 1.1.0 in the tree, so I feel like I’ve at least gotten something done. Upstream is having a few issues with some bugs, unfortunately, that will delay the next releases. I’m sure they could use with a few contributors.

The next project on my plate is to finally tackle the problems with the planets. Specifically, Planet Gentoo, Gentoo Universe, Gentoo Developer Blogs and Planet Larry. I have been putting this off for a very long time, and there’s a lot to be done. Things have been nagging me, and it’s time to finally clean things up and do them right.

The first two (Planet Gentoo and Gentoo Universe) are actually pretty good to go. The only thing I’m looking at that might change them is the backend we use. I’m experimenting / playing with Planet Venus, which isn’t so much a fork as much as a lot of fixes to Planet. I’m already running a copy of it on Planet Larry to see how well it works, and so far it’s been great. The things I like the most are that it uses less memory, can update more than one feed at a time, and most of all, lets you filter out posts using regular expressions. For those on Gentoo’s planets, that last point could prove incredibly useful for those who don’t have a blog that let’s them setup categories.

The only other changes that would go into those is creating some tools to help me manage and take care of users more easily. It has long been a royal pain in the butt to manage planet’s files because it is essentially one large .ini file where you have dozens of entries. I’m first going to write a frontend that I can use to automatically generate the .ini files for each user, instead of all in one global file, and store them in a small database. That way, making minor changes will be a simple feat.

For Planet Larry, I’m going to take it a step further and let users manage their feeds themselves. I’ll have an entire user authentication system where they can login, set their feed URLs, choose their language, set their location, etc. so that Alex or myself don’t have to do it all. The only thing left to us to administrate would pretty much authorize any changes — which isn’t as bad as it sounds, it’s just that in the past we’ve had people want to get on the planet for nothing more than pure self-promotion, so we can’t just automatically include anyone on there or we’d get spammed.

Something else that I’m going to do when I setup the new user administration system is this — purge all the entries and start from scratch. I’ll let anyone sign back up and get back on, of course, but I want it to be completely voluntary.

Planet Larry has grown quite a bit, and while my original idea of pulling in anything from anybody who randomly mentions Gentoo now and then was fine for when there was a few people, the scenario now is that most of the content is off-topic completely, and makes for some pretty boring reads sometimes. If there’s some interest, I can easily setup a filtering mechanism and / or let users choose which categories to be pulled into the feeds, so we can have a Planet / Universe mix of on and off-topic posts. The real hurdle is just getting a frontend setup to manage all the data, and once that’s done, we’ll be in a position to make a lot of customizations. One idea I really like is to even setup personalized planet feeds, where you can ignore some users if you’d like.

That’s what I’m going to be working on soon. If you have any comments or suggestions, now is the time. Just ping me at my e-mail address (beandog) if you have any ideas.

hd-dvd and blu-ray: no choices

I’ve started seeing these commercials on TV talking about next-generation DVDs and the formats they use, and one of the two (I think it’s Blu-Ray) says something like, “Make the right choice, go with Blu-Ray!” The fact of the matter is this, though – there are no choices. In fact, the only one you have is whether you want the film or not.I’m not sure if studios are deluded into thinking this or not, but the reality is that consumers do not normally weigh the studio that something comes from when it comes to the “how good is it” karma. Hobbyists do, but that’s it. And there is one exception to the rule — the Walt Disney Company, which as effectively built a market around its brand, and is known for family-friendly stuff. Even that studio, though, owns plenty of other companies that churn out the crap on the big screen (Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Dimension Films, Miramax Films) and TV (ABC). Aside from that though, people don’t say … “Oh my gosh, it’s another movie from Universal Pictures! Let me just throw my wallet at the screen right now!”

Based on that, these people are obviously going the wrong direction in the format war. The studios have already picked their sides in the battle, and are going to stick with HD-DVD or Blu-Ray whichever they like best. So if you wanna watch “Grandma’s Got A New Hip” in high-def, you don’t get to choose which format it’s in. The consumer is screwed, since you have to buy a DVD player that supports both, unless you want to lock yourself out from seeing movies from a certain studio.

Here’s my recommendation. Just buy non high-def DVDs until the DRM crap works itself out. In the meantime, buy a nice DVD player that does upscaling, and the picture will still look really nice on your HDTV. Works for me.


I mentioned a while ago after coming back from a month of broken computers, that I’d be focusing solely on one task at a time, to get it cleaned up properly, and then move onto something else. The first item on that task list was to look after abcde.

If you haven’t heard of it, abcde is “a better cd encoder”, a full-featured command line ripping program that I would compare to grip. It comes with a great man page and good documentation to get you started. Just look at /etc/abcde/abcde.conf and copy it to ~/.abcde.conf. Here’s a confcat’d version of mine, which I use to rip my music to MP3.

I got the last two bugs fixed and I put a recent subversion snapshot into the tree (, so I’d recommend checking it out. Some things that are new in this version is it has support to encode AAC audio files. Also, this one can simultaneously rip and encode at the same time, something I’d really gotten accustomed to with grip.

So, that’s it for that. Up next on my list is going to be transcode. I know there’s quite a few open bugs for this one, and I’ve been putting off taking care of it. Upstream already has a release candidate for 1.0.4 out the door, and I know the installation instructions could use some tweaking for recommendations. I’ll also get the remaining bugs for dvd::rip fixed up, though it hasn’t been having nearly as many problems.

plextor convertx and 2.6.22 kernels

Once again, I can take zero credit for this, especially since I’m not a kernel hacker. I can clean up the ebuilds when I get some time and get them working, though.

The other day, committed to the tree another revision to media-tv/wis-go7007, this time to 0.9.8-r2. This ebuild has some patches contributed by users (thanks, guys!) that will let you use the new 2.6.22 with this device. Plus, I fixed a bug with the udev rules (again, that someone pointed out to me) so that the modules will properly load whenever the USB device is plugged in.

So, there you go. And if you haven’t heard of the Plextor ConvertX, I’d give it some serious consideration if you’re looking for a way to record TV. While the Hauppage boards do hardware encoding to MPEG2, this little baby will do that plus MPEG4 (DivX). And, it works natively with MythTV since something like 0.18. Now go watch some TV. :)

Edit: Just noticed that Plextor is running a $40 rebate deal between now and the end of this month.  Not bad.  I usually forget to mail in my rebate forms, myself, but maybe someone with more self-control can get themselves a deal.

resistance is futile

You may or may not have heard this, but Paramount is re-releasing Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD. This time, in one box set of the entire series. Here’s a photo of what it looks like, courtesy of TV Shows on DVD:

Right now it’s retailing for $400 on Amazon. Eek. Will I buy one? Meh. I dunno. I’ve heard the special features on there are killer, but I’m not a big fan of production notes, behind the scenes stuff, and documentaries. I just like watching the show. If it does come in in HD-DVD, then yah, I’d definately buy it.

I’ve already got seasons 1 to 7 on the original DVD releases, and that took me a long time to get at a reasonable price. It wasn’t until this year that they dropped the price from $100 to about $55 for each box set. I bought all mine used for somewhere between $50 and $70 each. I did get lucky with DS9, though, and managed to get 5 of 7 seven of them brand new at the discounted price. Voyager is still running $100 to $110 for each box set, and I’ve only got season one. A real shame, since it’s my favorite.


Freevo got bumped in the portage tree recently to its latest upstream release. I didn’t realize this, but we were actually slightly behind their release schedule a bit. The main reason for that is probably that not many developers are using it, and the ebuild is a pain to compile. I really didn’t have anything to do with this release, there were a lot of people contributing to it, and it’s always nice to get user input, patches and ebuilds.

This is the version I’ve been playing with on my box at home. Despite my last post where I railed on Freevo pretty hard, I actually like the program quite a lot. Just like MythTV, it’s a love-hate relationship. I get extremely critical of design decisions of programs that I rely on, especially if they are one of a kind. In short, I’m extremely picky.

I haven’t been using Freevo for a long time, and just started looking at it again recently to use as a frontend to just browse my video library. In that arena, it’s definately got more options than MythVideo for customizing the display and things like that, which is the reason I’m playing with it. I’m still split between choosing between the two, though, so I’m probably going to be spending some time looking at all my fun little options. If I find anything interesting, I’ll be sure to write about it. :)

freevo and lirc

I should clarify on my last post about Freevo and MPlayer fighting over LIRC events, since after some more research, I figured out what is going on. Here’s the story.

Freevo, when it uses mplayer to watch a movie, will pass some extra options to the command along with whatever you specified. That in itself is extremely annoying, I think, since you already have a config file for mplayer in ~/.mplayer/config, but the fact represents the philosophy that Freevo has of trying to configure everything all in one place instead of relying on original configuration files. That philosophy wouldn’t be so horribly bad if two things didn’t come into play: you wanted to use your original customizations, and freevo limits your options of the original program by trying to provide such a service. That second one is what I ran into.

Two of the extra options that Freevo sends to mplayer when starting a movie are this: disabling lirc support (-nolirc) and adding slave mode (-slave). If you haven’t heard of slave mode, what it does is when you run it, it will listen for commands you can still pass to the terminal to control mplayer. Some examples would be, display on screen information, skip forward a chapter, seek forward / back, quit, etc. Now if you built mplayer with lirc support, you can directly access all those commands with a simple lircrc file. As an example, I have an old one hosted here.

Now, I should also mention that LIRC is setup so that it will respond to whatever events are pressed, based on what programs are running. So, you could have VLC and MPlayer and MythTV all running on your desktop at once, assign commands to each of them in your lircrc files, and switch between the applications, use your remote, and not have it affect the other programs. Sounds great, right? This is where Freevo starts to change things around.

Remember that Freevo disables LIRC support for MPlayer in the command line. There’s a reason for that – it is capturing all LIRC events being sent, not just the ones to Freevo. Whether this is done by design or not, I can’t be sure. For all I know, it could be a limitation of pylirc. Either way, Freevo is programmed from here on out to take on the role of master of remotes, and process any events you press to the programs you are using. For someone like me, who was gone out of his way to tweak his current setup so that my remote works in *any* MPlayer session, doesn’t like having to re-setup the events in a watered down version through Freevo configs a second time around.

If you want to send a command to mplayer through Freevo, here is what you would have to do: edit your ~/.freevo/ and add events for each Freevo event plus the slave command to send to mplayer. Examples can be found in the FAQ:

EVENTS['video']['PREV'] = Event(VIDEO_SEND_MPLAYER_CMD, arg='seek -600')
EVENTS['video']['NEXT'] = Event(VIDEO_SEND_MPLAYER_CMD, arg='seek 600')

Now to be honest, I wouldn’t mind that too much if it weren’t for one simple fact — LIRC gives you more options. With Freevo’s way of doing things, I can’t send multiple events on one keypress, alternate options on keypresses, or set the repeat time. Nope. I can just send slave events, and that’s it. It’s making me pretty frustrated, too.

To be fair to Freevo developers, I honestly don’t know if this is a design flaw of something else or a known implementation. It could be that pylirc is written to listen to all events and not distinguish between programs, and Freevo had to find a way to filter them out. I’m not sure, and I’m going to try and find out for sure, and hopefully see if there’s a way to disable the option.

There is an alternative option. You could setup irxevent to send commands to Freevo directly, but that is kind of sluggish, I’ve noticed, and I don’t really like it.

Also, if you weren’t so anal as I am about your LIRC events, you could just map your slave commands through Freevo to MPlayer just fine and be happy with it. I’m pretty picky about my settings though, so my rant would only affect a very small minority.

Anyway, the fact is that I absolutely love Freevo. It is a *great* little program, perfect for my needs. I just really dislike how it hardcodes some settings into the program like passing extra mplayer commands, and then doing stuff like reinventing the wheel for my LIRC setup. Hopefully there’s a way around this stuff without getting too deep into the code. In the meantime, I switched back to MythTV + MythVideo which is a nice little frontend to browse your media files, but doesn’t come near the number of cool options that Freevo has for customizing your display. At least I can watch my movies, though. :)

mplayer: display filename on osd with lirc

I’ve been playing with MPlayer, Freevo and LIRC most of all day today, and made some small progress. For one, I found a lovely nasty bug in the latest Freevo, where if I hit the right or left buttons on my remote while watching a movie in mplayer, the event gets sent to both freevo and mplayer. At least I think that’s what it’s doing. What actually happens is that mplayer quits, and I’m blaming Freevo since it works fine by itself outside of that.

Of course, the way Freevo hides and then adds it’s own set of mplayer commands drives me absolutely bonkers. One it has in the latest release is to add -nolirc meaning none of my remote commands are going to work at all. However, I worked around that with mplayer-resume, and I’ll write about that later.

This is the cool thing I stumbled on. Among mplayer’s slave commands is one called osd_show_property_text which will display on screen (osd = on-screen display) the property text of something. In this case, I wanted to display the filename that was playing, since with dvd-bend, I eventually rip all my files to the title of the show. The problem I ran into was I couldn’t figure out how to get it to display the filename. Here’s how, though: just map the command to osd_show_property_text “${filename}” in your LIRC rc file.

Here’s an example from my ~/.mplayer/lircrc that I added:

prog = mplayer
button = green
config = osd_show_property_text “${filename}” 500

In the case above, my StreamZap USB remote has four colored buttons on the bottom, and I have an event press called ‘green’. So when I press the green button, it tells MPlayer to display the filename. I added 500ms as an optional duration time, since the default is really short.

A picture is worth a thousand words, though, so here’s what it looks like on your display.

I should mention that I’m sure that there are lots of other variables you could display on screen, but I can’t figure it out. Actually, now that I think about it … Okay, I figured it out. Run mplayer -input cmdlist (by the way, I hope by now you’re running either SVN of MPlayer or a really recent snapshot, you always should), and at the bottom you’ll have a table called available properties. Just do the same command as above, putting the variables in the same format. Another example, would be to display the time position: osd_show_property_text “${time_pos}” I don’t know if they all work, but I tried about half a dozen and they all did, so go wild. :)

One last thing to mention … if you’re just using the keyboard, press capital I to get the same thing.

Now if I could only get my Freevo + MPlayer + LIRC issues solved, I’d really be good to go .. I’ll have to post another time on my issues / updates with that arena, though. For now, it’s fun enough just to get MPlayer decked out. :D


The 2.6.22 linux kernel was released today, and the exciting part is that IVTV is now included in the mainstream code. :)

The option is listed as “Conexant cx23416/cx23415 MPEG encoder/decoder support” under the normal Video for Linux menu.

What does this mean for the IVTV ebuilds? I have no idea. The only thing I do know is that you are still going to need the firmware, but that’s about it.