binary codecs

I’ve got an idea I’ve started playing around with, to cleanup the mess that is the binary codecs in Gentoo.  Right now, the whole situation is confusing.  I always get mixed up on what the status is, and if it’s bad for me, I can only assume it’s confusing a few users as well.

Currently, we have three packages just for binary codecs to be used with media players in the tree: win32codecs, amd64codecs and realcodecs.  I’m not gonna go into the difference of the three, because I’ve done that so many times, and that’s one thing I’m actually trying to avoid here.  Suffice it to say that a lot of users think they need them, when they don’t.  They see “win32” and think, “Oh, I want to be able to playback WMA and WMV and DivX so I must need these, right?”  Wrong.  Support is already native in libavcodec (the backend library for playback in about every multimedia app in the tree) for, well, most everything.  I won’t get into the details of specifically what’s missing, but 90% of the time, a user won’t need the binary ones.

Anyway, that aside, what I’d like to do is roll all three into one ebuild.  I can’t come up with a real original name, so media-libs/binary-codecs seems to suffice.  As long as it doesn’t have “win” in there, I’ll be happy.  The idea seems simple enough, and it makes sense on paper, and I already have a base ebuild  that does everything, but I thought I better throw the idea out there to see if I can get any feedback.

For what it’s worth, here’s a link to the unfinished ebuild so you can see what I have in mind.  I’m tossing the idea around in my head of adding a use flag for every binary codec that it installs.  That could help with any future security issues where we’d have to mask the use flag.

planet feeds

I’m actually starting to like it when any planet problems pop up, because I’ve been systematically weeding them out one by one. The frequency of one user “spamming” the feed has been going down quite a bit. I think I found the major culprit for most every case though: Planet combined with WordPress’ Atom feeds.

I don’t know if this is to spec or not, but some version of WordPress sometimes will set the updated date to all posts, regardless of their original publish date. The default planet configuration is to display the posts that fall within the recent date range, using updated over published when pulling the Atom XML files.

What I have been doing is just tweaking each user’s config whenever the problem arises and then flushing the cache and repulling everything, and that has worked out well. Today, I finally went on the warpath a bit for Planet Larry, and just changed everyone’s config who was using an Atom feed to use their RSS2 one instead. Plus, I globally set the config to ignore the “updated” tag in feeds (in case any Atom ones do creep in).

I guess I’ll see what happens for now. Hopefully, less issues.

Edit: And, of course, after clearing the cache … one gets through. Rawr.

Edit: That won’t work either, it screws up LiveJournal posts.  Bleh.  Well, I think it’s all fixed now, though Google Reader might be whacked for a bit … but they’re doing some caching on their end, too, not much I can do about that.

new monitor on the way

Well, I bought a new monitor yesterday on New Egg. And I feel a little bit poorer today. I did some more research, and actually ended up with a ViewSonic instead of a Samsung, for one very important reason: the box has a picture of a dragon on it.

24-116-401-02Actually, I’ve always wanted to get another ViewSonic. The first CRT monitor I bought myself was one, and I remember it was really nice. Plus (and this’ll really give away how old I’m getting), I remember when VGA was just first coming out — and how incredibly cool it was that you could have 256 colors instead of 16 — and I remember thinking the ViewSonics back then always looked nicer than the others too. So, there ya go.

The specs look good, though. It’s only got a max res of 1920×1080, but I think that’ll be fine. I was hoping to get an HDMI input, and this one has one. It wouldn’t be a big deal, but kind of nice to have just in case. Actually, I don’t really know what any of the specs mean … all I know is this one can tilt, so I’m happy. A monitor is probably the only thing when it comes to computers that I’m pretty indifferent about. I imagine it’ll be fine.

r.i.p., little dell

My monitor died on me this weekend.  I was sitting at the computer using it when it started flickering horribly.  I decided to turn it off before it felt like it should blow up in my face, and as I did I could hear th inside give a final gasp of life and then what sounded like the insides disintegrating.  Something was definitely going on in there.

Anyway, it’s dead.  I can’t believe it lasted this long, really.  It was a 22″ (or so) CRT Dell monitor that I bought used from a surplus sale about five years ago for something like $40.  It always had this little nasty green tint overtone to it that could be mostly fixed by adjusting the other colors.  Aside from that, it worked great.

It was always a little too big for me, though.  Not the display size, but the wide load behind it.  I swear that thing weighs at least 80 pounds.  I hurt my back getting it off my desk this morning.  It certainly kept me from wanting to go to LAN parties.

I guess I’m finally gonna have to bite the bullet and get me a widescreen monitor.  I’ve been holding out on 4:3 displays as long as I could.  I remember when widescreen TVs were first coming out, and I totally scoffed at the idea and how strange it was to see everyone on TV stretched.  I swore I’d never get one (of course, this was many years ago).  I do remember seeing a Sony TV long ago that I wanted to get that wasn’t 16×9 but instead was something like a 2.35 ratio … basically, scope.  It was really awesome and I wanted to get *that* one, since I figured if you were gonna widescreen, go all the way!  I haven’t seen it since, but I still swear I saw it on display at Circuit City a long time ago.

I found a nice Samsung monitor that I wanna get.  It’s also 16×9.  I noticed that they sell monitors now that are 16×10 as well … I found a really nice one in that ratio as well, but I can foresee having three sets of aspect ratios displays in my house would drive me mentally insane.

I still have one 4×3 TV in my house, it’s an old 27″ CRT TV, and it’s awesome.  I fear that I’ll someday replace it and go all widescreen in my house.  Fortunately, I’m already used to seeing stretched faces, and watching stuff in original format actually makes me think it looks wrong.  We’ll see, though, I’m infamous for being stubborn and holding out.  That, or the same thing will probably happen … that TV will die and I’ll  reluctantly buy a replacement that’s 6x the cost and 20x the quality, complaining all the way. :)

psa: utah renaissance fest

If there’s one thing I love more than … well, much almost anything … it’s an olde classic Renaissance Faire!

I totally forgot about it til just now, and this is the last weekend for the one in Utah, so I’m just doing a public service and sending out an announcement. :)

Here’s the website:

If you stop by, you’ll probably see me there. I’ll probably be wearing one of my Georgia Renaissance Festivals t-shirts from oh so many years ago and stuffing my face with as many turkey legs as I can get my hands on. :D

workplace culture

I just read this awesome post about corporate culture about Zappos, and I was just blown away by how awesome it is.  The company focuses on culture first, and by doing so, cultivates a great environment where everyone wants to work.

In some ways, it actually reminds me a lot of where I’m working at right now.  I started here about 9 months ago, and I love this job.  This is the first one since working at the movies (10 years ago) that I want to stick around for years.

When I was interviewing for the job, I met with the CEO and he said something that really stuck with me.  He said that the #1 reason someone will accept a new job is because of the payrate, but the #1 reason they will leave is because of cultural differences.  As a result, he said, they place a very high emphasis on corporate culture.

I was, of course, a little skeptical … but after seeing how nice the place was, I thought he must be pretty serious.  Well, he was.  This place treats its employees incredibly nice, and in a lot of ways the culture reminds me working at the theaters.  The similiarity is that the environment is especially social (we’re mostly a call center, sort of … kind of a hybrid) so that people who are social and dynamic and easy going and fun to be around stay here and build up others.  When you walk around on the floor you just get a feeling of connectivity for everyone.  It’s really cool, and pretty rare.

Anyway, I love my job, and I don’t think I’ve ever said that since I worked at the movie theater so many years ago.

lds-scriptures-3.0 data dumps (well, some)

The next version of the lds-scriptures project release is taking forever. The main reason (aside from me always putting it off) is that it will most likely be the last release since it fulfills all my original goals, and so I’m obsessing over every little detail to make sure it’s right.

That said, the *schema* is actually complete and ready to go. It pretty much has been for a while, but yesterday I got around to doing some more optimizations. I also thought I had the Access ones cleaned up, but I had a few issues in there which have now been resolved. I still have a few nitpicks about it, but I’ll probably let it slide.

So, downloads for the actual data are available right now for MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite 2 and 3, and Access 97, 2000 and 2002. You can get them here:

I still have a few formats to export to (CSV, XML, etc.), so I’m not finished, and then I need to write the documentation because the entire schema has changed since the 2.0 release series. The major change is that the data is completely normalized now. Another small bonus is I threw in a sample view there. Oh, and the obligatory bugfix is that I accidentally missed some of the text in one of the Doctrine and Covenants sections. Whoops.

Anyway, I’m tired of waiting for my perfect release to make it out the door, so at the very least, there’s the raw data that everyone’s going to want, anyway. :)

I’m glad that at least that’s done!

star trek on blu-ray

All the original Star Trek movies (1 through 6) came out on Blu-Ray today in one large collector’s set. Normally I’d be really excited about something like this, but I’m pretty meh about the whole thing, and am gonna pass on this and wait for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is, I don’t like “collection” packs. I prefer to buy stuff individually, and avoid them wherever possible (for movies, at least). Plus, it goes without saying that Star Trek V and Star Trek VI are painful to watch. The first four are the only ones worth watching, and I actually like Star Trek III quite a lot myself for some reason. Wrath of Khan is undeniable, of course. Ah, heck, I like em all. :)

Another reason is they didn’t do such a great transfer on them. It looks like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the only one that they went back to the original film and did an HD transfer. All the other ones, they just took a current digital copy and cleaned it up. Double meh.

The third reason is, this is Star Trek … and Paramount has a long history of milking fans for all the money its worth by dangling a barebones release then coming out with a much better package later on in the game. Just look at Star Trek: The Original Series on DVD for an example. I think it’s been released three times, and it just barely came out on Blu-Ray too.

So, me, I’ll be a-waitin for the individual films. And a better HD transfer.

One thing is certainly for sure, though … if TNG, DS9 or Voyager ever get Blu-Ray releases, you can bet your bippy I’m gonna snatch those up in no time flat. I’ve been watching Deep Space Nine on and off, and they really did not do a great job on the digital transfer — they used a really low compression level for it, and I can always see blurring on it, even on my old 27″ CRT (480i). That’s pretty bad. By comparison, I’ve been watching season five of Voyager recently, and on my HDTV, the picture is still very nice. They did a good job on it.

upgrading myth, part two

I’ve almost finished the upgrade process for MythTV.  Last night I ported all my patches towards 0.21 and so far everything is working great.  This time I took it a step further and modified the code so it would look for all cover art in a central directory, instead of locally (filename.jpg for individual files, folder.jpg for directories).  Kind of cool, I think, that I’m starting to make the changes directly in MythVideo for my personal preferences instead of working around Myth’s functionality by creating symlinks and stuff on the filesystem.

Usually I would avoid going into the code, but I’m slowly getting more comfortable doing it.  I think the Qt3 docs could stand being a tad bit more verbose, though.  In a lot of cases where I was confused, it was a matter of not understanding exactly what the function was returning, and I’d have to execute it myself to figure it out.

Aside from that, all the “original” stuff is in, but I found two more bugs that I want to hunt down.  I thought I had this first one licked, but I guess not — if you have a file on the filesystem that is not stored in the database, then it will display the filename sans extension as the title at the top of the page (fex: Mr._Belvedere).   I’ve already fixed it so that it will show the “correct” title (replace _ with spaces) when displaying the grid of all files, but I can’t seem to find the variable where it’s showing the other title and it’s a little hard going through the code trying to figure out what everything is doing.  I haven’t figured *that* much out.  In fact, I know my way around just a few functions in videogallery.cpp and that’s about it.  Once it gets outside of that, I’m back in Wonderland.  I’m lost.

Add on top of that there’s not much documentation, if any, in the code and it makes it a bit of slow going.  Ah well, it’s only a matter of time most likely.

The second bug is really annoying, and it’s interesting in that it’s one of those phantom ones that was always like … “wait a minute, did something just change?”  There was a nagging feeling that something had changed, but I could never pin my finger on it.  I finally found it.  What happens is, when MythVideo has scanned the files and put the metadata into the database, it will do some kind of intelligent sorting based on the titles for display.  That is, titles prefixed with “A”, “And”, “The”, etc. will have the prefix dropped (can’t remember the correct grammatical term for those) and then sorted by the following words in the title.  I only caught it because I had added an MP3 file for the LP of “A View To A Kill” (and yes, there are children’s records that tell the story of the 007 films — how cool is that?) and I was testing some stuff in that folder and actually saw it’s position change before and after it was put into the metadata database.

That one, I have absolutely no idea where it’s getting sorted at all.  I don’t have a clue, and it could be anywhere, since all the MythVideo displays implement that, not just the Gallery view.  I just need to send a note off to the mythtv user’s mailing list and hopefully someone will know.  That would be nice to get rid of, though.  I don’t like the inconsistency.

In fact, I never use the metadata database at all.  Pretty much all I see is the cover image, which I supply manually, and the title.  And I rename all my videos so that the title is part of the filename, including the episode order for the ones that are a part of a series.  I already ripped out the stuff to display the metadata before playback, since I’m not interested in that.  So, I know that it’s somehow related to the metadata database, since the titles *and* the orders are affected once they are in there.  Just gotta figure out where.

Other than that, everything has gone really smooth, and it’s been nice.  One thing I did notice as well was that 0.21 just seems generally snappier and much more responsive.  It could be my imagination, but I don’t think so … there just seems to be less latency and wait when navigating and moving around places.  It’s pretty nice.