planet venus cleanup

I’ve cleaned up the Planet Larry feed powered by Planet Venus quite a bit, so it should look exactly as it is when we switch over to that backend instead.  I plan on doing that pretty soon in fact, like, tomorrow.  So please check it out, let me know if there are any bugs or what not that I should know about.

I already know the posts on there are a bit whacked, it’s because I cleared out the cache completely.  It’ll fix itself right as it pulls in new feeds, so don’t worry about it.

I also cleared out a few users whose blog was getting a 404 page not found error.  So if you want to be back on there, let me know that, too. :)

ivtv docs in progress

Believe it or not, I love writing documentation. I dunno why. One thing I enjoy about it is taking programs that have lots of options and breaking it down into clear and concise noob-friendly wording. The main reason for that is I remember all too well what it’s like being a beginner, and just not understanding what documentation is trying to tell you when it throws out all these references that you should have apparently already known about.
Once upon a time, I was really active on the Gentoo wiki. Then I became a staffer, and then a developer, and I shifted to working on the tree instead. I still miss just writing docs, though.

Anyway, I’ve been kinda half-heartedly wanting to write a quick doc for IVTV for a while now. For me though, it seems pretty simple: pick the right branch, load everything as modules, and emerge the ebuild and yer done. I figure some Gentoo-specific docs can’t hurt, though, so I went ahead and started on some tonight. I haven’t gotten really far just yet, because I’m still in the “gosh, this is so easy” stage that I can’t really come up with some content.

So, if anyone has any suggestions or ideas of what should go in this thing, lemme know. Here’s my half-written draft so far.

And for the record, if there’s any Gentoo multimedia docs you think we need, lemme know that as well.

coming soon: one planet admin

I know people have heard me promise repeatedly over a span of quite a few months that I’ll get Planet Larry cleaned up of its various issues, but this time I have some actual news.  I finally started working on an interface to administrate all the bloggers.  Can you believe there are 110 of them?  Unless I missed someone.

Right now it’s nothing more than a small db schema and an ugly front page that I use.  I’m still undecided how to  integrate user interaction so they can do their updates, so I’ll come back to that later.  But, at least I’ve got something.  And believe me, anything will make the entire process go much faster.

ivtv modules

Just a quick note — if you are using media-tv/ivtv, be sure to load your I2C and Video4Linux drivers as modules in the kernel, or they will most likely not work. I’ve known about that for a long time, so I assumed it was common knowledge, but I see reports of people not doing that and running into problems. Sorry about that. I added a warning in the 1.0.x ebuilds of IVTV. :)

Also, ivtv-1.0.2 is in the tree now, for kernels >= Here’s the tiny Changelog.

dvd ripping notes

I’m working on bend right now, and while I’m poking through the source code and fixing bugs, I’m finding small notes about stuff.  I figured some of it might be worth repeating.  Besides, I’m waiting for Super Friends to rip.

mkvmerge, dumpstream, multiple chapters and audio tracks

I use Matroska as the final wrapper format for my ripped movies.  The reason for this is that I like the features that come with mkvmerge (the binary to create .mkv files), and the fact that MPlayer supports reading chapters in the format.

Now, one thing I have happen a lot with DVDs is that there are audio commentaries on some tracks.  I’m not interested in those, but I still have to tell Matroska to ignore them when creating the final movie file.  That part is easy enough.  You just add -a to the command if there is more than one, and Matroska will ignore the others, thus saving you space in your final file if your ripped file still has multiple audio tracks (which mine do, since I copy them straight to MPEG-2 with full AC3 audio).

Another small thing that crops up sometimes, and this can be specific to certain tracks or an entire series, is there is an introduction chapter to the track that I don’t want to watch.  An example of the first (certain tracks) is that on Super Friends, some episodes have a short “intro summary” that is about 30 seconds long.  Actually, it’s the same thing for the second scenario as well (entire series).  Universal does it on all the old TV shows that I have so far on DVD (Murder, She Wrote, Knight Rider, The Incredible Hulk).  Again, its content that I don’t want as part of the final file, so for bend’s frontend, I can specify (either on a per-series or per-track, or even per-episode basis) which chapter to start ripping at.

Now, that would be all fine and good, but I use mplayer -dumpstream -dumpfile to rip my movies from the DVD.  If I’m also starting from a chapter, it will break mkvmerge’s ability to see all the audio tracks, because the AC3 headers are incomplete.  And they are incomplete because I started dumping in the middle of the audio/video.

The workaround is easy though, just use mencoder to copy the stream, and rewrite the file as an AVI (mencoder dvd://2 -chapter 2 -ovc copy -oac copy -o copy.avi).

If you haven’t figured out by now, this is a really fringe bump that someone with only very specific ripping settings would run into.   So if you’re not ripping specific chapters, with no encoding, and using matroska to cherry pick your audio tracks, you’ve got nothing to worry about. :)

buggy ide and starting chapter with dumpstream

Here’s another comment I found in my source code.  On some DVD tracks, for some odd reason I never figured out, my disc drive would flip out and freeze on the ripping.  I’ve since changed out my hardware to another motherboard completely, and I can’t remember if I ever tracked down the problem to another cause anyway, but I do remember, and I have this hardcoded now, is that if you added a starting chapter of 1 to your dumpstream command, then it would oddly enough workaround the issue and my drive always worked.

So, if you’re having funky issues with a DVD drive on an IDE cable (not serial ATA, that is), and you are using “mplayer dvd:// -dumpstream -dumpfile movie.vob”, then try adding “-chapter 1” to the arguments.  Works for me.

getting chapters with a starting chapter

One last thing.  I use mkvmerge to include my chapter information, but to get those, I use dvdxchap, which is part of ogmtools.

Well, dvdxchap can also start at a certain chapter, and reset the chapter count from there.  Just add -c and the chapter number, and you’re done.  Very nice.

Here’s an example command of starting from chapter 2:

dvdxchap /dev/dvd -c 2 > chapters.txt

Okay thats enough for me, back to fixing more bugs.  For the record, the subversion / trac repository is horribly out of date, since bend is still under lots of development, and in some cases doesn’t even work.  I’ll fix them as soon as I get the code working properly.

shameless gpnl plug

While is down, I don’t enjoy it more than anyone else, but if you are really craving to browse the portage tree through a website, might I offer up GPNL as an alternative.

It’s definitely not as sexy, it’s searches aren’t that great yet, but it is functional. Plus I just setup a cron job the other day to do daily complete database dumps. So if you want to build your own, there ya go. The postgres schema is full of stuff like foreign keys to enforce referential integrity, which is a good thing.

Feedback is, of course, welcome, but I haven’t had time (or made it) to work on the project in a long time.

mplayer + nvidia + xvmc

Another small mplayer tip, that I had to google for. When building MPlayer with XvMC support, so that it will use the video card’s hardware for MPEG2 decoding (and therefore, less CPU load on your box), mplayer -vo xvmc alone won’t work. You have to add -vc ffmpeg12mc as well, to force mplayer to use that codec for playback.

And, of course, I just noticed it says that right there on the man page. Whoops. So much for RTFM.

Anyway, if you like to use profiles, it makes things easier. Just drop this in ~/.mplayer/config and then do mplayer -profile xvmc movie.avi


I really can’t tell much difference in CPU load myself, since I’m running a fast box, but if you’ve got an older box with a decent (nvidia geforce 4 and up), give it a try. It’ll only work with MPEG2 videos, and the nvidia-drivers as well. I believe it works on the Intel i810 video cards too, though I don’t have one I can test it on.

techdirt gets it

I love reading Techdirt. It’s good, editorial summaries of the news that’s going on in technology news.

I just saw this in my RSS feed, their take on why full feeds in RSS is a *good thing*. It is. Because people who disable them, I want to beat them sensless, although I usually just get tired of clicking through to the website after a while, and stop subscribing.

Here’s a great quote, or half the article depending on how you look at it:

… in our experience, full text feeds actually does lead to more page views, though understanding why is a little more involved. Full text feeds makes the reading process much easier. It means it’s that much more likely that someone reads the full piece and actually understands what’s being said — which makes it much, much, much more likely that they’ll then forward it on to someone else, or blog about it themselves, or post it to Digg or Reddit or Slashdot or Fark or any other such thing — and that generates more traffic and interest and page views from new readers, who we hope subscribe to the RSS feed and become regular readers as well. The whole idea is that by making it easier and easier for anyone to read and fully grasp our content, the more likely they are to spread it via word of mouth, and that tends to lead to much greater adoption than by limiting what we give to our readers and begging them to come to our site if they want to read more than a sentence or two.

So, read the full article and fix your dang feeds before I beat the hamstercrap out of you.

one htpc, coming right up

So, how long does it take to build an HTPC with Gentoo, from scratch? How about, Gentoo + LVM2 + vesafb + bootsplash + nvidia + LIRC + mplayer + XvMC + IVTV + MythTV? All in all, about eight hours. I think that’s gotta be some sorta record.

Actually, just setting up vesafb plus splashutils took me about three hours. I haven’t played with that stuff in a very long time, and since I’m on amd64, I can’t use vesafb-tng. I did try uvesafb, but didn’t feel like experimenting to see if I could get bootsplash working as well, so just went with plain old vesafb at 800×600 instead. The end result is still really nice. From boot to MythTV’s main screen, the user never sees any text (BIOS is setup to display a VGA image on POST as well).

I mostly set it up again to see if I could do it again. I’ve already got my (original) mythbox in my bedroom, which is just a small Pentium4 with a small 250 GB IDE drive. This new one, though, this is my dual-core Athlon64 with 5 SATA harddrives, totalling 880 GB just for media files. I hadn’t played with LVM2 in a good long while either, and I was cautious since last time I didn’t have much luck. This time, reading the docs, it just clicked and made sense. The thing that always confused me was how the partitioning worked. Once you wrap your brain around the concepts, it starts to work.

I’m also running the latest MythTV that is 0.20, which needs to go real stable here anyway. I’m using 2.6.22 kernel and the 1.0.1 of IVTV which is supposed to have a lotta nice fixes. I’m just glad to see Hans finally got it into the kernel. Good work, man. :) I love the new new MythTV themes in mythtv-themes-extra, too. I’m using a nice widescreen one and it’s gorgeous.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it for a while on and off, but I think that this time I’m going to actually write up a good Gentoo doc on how to actually do all the stuff in detail. I still can’t believe I set it all up so fast. I’ll have to post some pictures. :)