comcast cable tv upgrade

So, I finally made an impulsive move and called up Comcast to get an expanded cable TV package. I got an ad in the mail yesterday (addressed specifically to me, interesting) from them offering Digital Cable with HD for only $25 for 6 months. I thought that was a pretty spanky deal (certainly less than their bundled crap), so I called em up. The only hidden fees were a $13 installation fee for the guy to come out, and the HDTV box is gonna cost me $7 a month to rent. Still, I’ve been wanting to check out their HD selection for a while now, and in fact was planning on calling them for the past month or so, but never got around to it. For HD programming, I’ve actually done my research and decided that Dish Network is the best one to go with (Comcast is too expensive, and DirecTV are crooks). I haven’t gotten around to calling them yet though … so I guess I’ll give Comcast a spin first.

I’ve been going with Digital Basic or whatever it’s called for the longest time. That in itself is an incredible deal — its only $12.95 a month, and I get all my local channels, plus 5 HD channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, KUED, FOX), plus Discovery Channel and Travel Channel, BYU TV and a few other cable channels that I’d never watch (C-SPAN, some shopping network, TV Land). I used to get Hallmark Channel as well, which I really loved because they would show stuff like Matlock and Perry Mason all the time, but one day it just disappeared. That’s probably the main reason I want cable again, I really enjoyed having that channel.

If you do want the most basic lineup though you’ll have to call them up and ask for it specifically. I don’t think it’s listed on the website anywhere, and of course when you call they’ll try to talk you out of it, but it’s worth it. Plus you still get the $10 discount a month for having cable internet with them. Not too bad.

Anyway, I haven’t had expanded cable TV for a long time. I wonder if the box is gonna come with a DVR or not. They’re coming out Friday to install it, so I guess we’ll see.

region-free dvd drives

Following up on an earlier post about region-free dvd players, I happened to have a stroke of luck — I found a DVD-RW drive that is region free. I happened to pick up an SATA DVD drive, and as I was playing around with it, I decided I wanted to rip one of my Region 2 DVDs. In order to do that, I had to use regionset to change the region code first.

Part of the program options, though, is that regionset will display what region the drive is currently set to. When I ran it, it didn’t have any setting at all, which seemed curious to me. I wondered what would happen if I just played the disc without changing the code. Normally, on my old IDE drives, it would throw all kinds of errors before dying on me, and I’d have to do a hard reset to get my drive working again. In this case, though, it worked flawlessly without any modification! I thought my luck was too good to be true, so I popped a Region 1 DVD back in the drive to see if it had any issues playing those, and it did fine as well.

I’ve since tried ripping other Region 2 and Region 4 discs on it, and it has taken everything I’ve thrown at it so far. I’m pretty excited, to say the least. It would have been nice to have a region-free DVD player with HDMI output, but I haven’t been able to find one at a decent price. Being able to rip and watch them on the computer though is just as good.

For the record, the drive I have is a Lite-On and the model is LH-20A1L (firmware revision BL03). Interestingly enough, the Lite-On brand is the only one when it comes to DVD drives that I have never had problems with. When it comes to poorly authored DVDs, when my other IDE drives (Pioneer, Sony) would freak out, freeze up and die, the Lite-On one would always (well, about 95% of the time) take those crappy discs and skip over the bad sectors and manage to complete the rip. I’ve been really impressed with them.

switching aspect ratio on the fly

I was tinkering with my MPlayer configuration for LIRC tonight to figure out a small OSD annoyance, when I found this interesting thing that I always thought would be nice.  The slave mode has an option to switch the aspect ratio during playback.

The reason this is nice is for those who are using mplayer to watch a fullscreen format (4/3) show on a widescreen TV, and they aren’t already stretching it to 16/9.  Basically, it stretches stuff if you want it to.  Personally, I like watching stuff in the original format it was filmed in, but sometimes I want to expand it to fit the whole screen too.  This let’s me do that.

Here’s the relative config for my lircrc file:

prog = mplayer
button = some_button_you_mapped
config = switch_ratio 1.77778
config = switch_ratio 1.33

So, what that does is switches stuff from fullscreen to wide, and back again by pressing it again.  Pretty spiffy.

I also uploaded my mplayer lircrc file.  It’s nothing glamorous, but might give someone some ideas.