Did you ever hear the saying “you can’t turn chicken shit into chicken salad?”
Saw this on Drunkenblog, just had to snaffle and post it here.
I missed the last episode of The Biggest Loser. A friend taped it, but our VCR is still packed away somewhere since we moved house, and we only have the Xbox connected up. This does double duty as our DVD player. So, he converted the taped version to DVD using his PVR. Except it came out as not a proper DVD.
VR_MOVIE.VRO This is a file format used by PVR systems, and apparently is similar to a VOB file, but not quite. I went to convert this with some software, but it failed. I then tried to copy it across to the HD so I could manipulate it, but that failed too. It seems to have something to do with the fact that the file is larger than 4Gb. But I’m not sure… but I do know that no commands or applications seem to be able to open it up. I’ll have to try on the PC. Update: No good. The PC only has a DVD+RW drive, the disc is a DVD-RW disc.
I didn’t really get into the new series(es?) or Dr Who. I used to watch it as a kid, since I only had two TV channels, one of which was the ABC, and this, along with The Goodies and Monkey! were staples of my afternoon/early evening viewing. Then, later on, it was time for The A Team (which, along with Monkey!, I wasn’t really allowed to watch), and the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers and the like.
So, I wasn’t really that interested in watching Dr Who. Except apparently there is nothing else on any of the other stations at the time it is on, which is a Saturday early evening. So, in the last month, I’ve been tuning in. It just shows you how I don’t have a social life, too.
And the episode aired last night was fantastic. Statues that are really Quantum Assassins, that turn to stone when any living creature looks at them, so they look like statues. But if you look away, then they can sneak up on you, and kill you.
And the time travel aspect was cool. Closed loops of time, effect predating time. Timey-wimey stuff.
Looks like my Saturday nights are now booked. At least 7:30 until 8:15 p.m., anyway.
I lashed out yesterday, and bought something that I’ve been wanting for a while.
A USB TV Tuner stick.
I went for the miglia TVmini2, as it was (I thought) fairly inexpensive. I’m not sure I made the right decision right now.
For starters, it doesn’t actually come with the software. Sure, it’s got a CD with some demo software of other stuff, but the actual software (which is actually written by another company, called equinox), The Tube, needs to be downloaded from the internet before installation.
Which wouldn’t be too bad, but it’s a 104Mb download. Which meant I couldn’t (a) start playing with it as soon as I bought it, since I was in town, and not near a free wireless point, and (b) start playing with it as soon as I got home, since it took about 30 minutes to grab.
It gets worse, though. Even though the software really requires a dongle (the USB tuner is really just a dongle, after all), the manufacturers insist that you register the software, using the included key string. And it only works on one machine without de-registration, apparently. Which kind of sucks, because I’d like to have it moved between more than one machine.
The hardware itself seems okay. I haven’t been able to make it work with any other software yet. I’ve tried a couple of downloads, but they wouldn’t recognise it.
System Profiler reports the device as looking like:
Bus Power (mA): 500
Speed: Up to 480 Mb/sec
Product ID: 0x0069
Serial Number: 0000000001
Vendor ID: 0x18f3
The software, on the other hand, seems to have some good features, but quite a few flaws.
The manufacturers have decided to make the application scriptable. This is a very good thing, as it will allow me to, for instance, set up Salling Clicker to be able to control it. Which will be very good. I’d also be able to make a rudimentary controller for network or local remote control. Which I may do: more on that later.
Another good feature is the simplicity of the software. The basic window is shown below.
You basically have a video section, with a controller on the right. This appears to be fixed. Although you can hide the main video area, they resize together. Which is a bad thing, if you like to resize the video to a small size while you write a review of something, for instance. Like I’d like to do now. It means that the controller becomes fairly unusable fairly quickly:
This is as small as the remote area gets. Any further resizing just shrinks the video display in that window. You can hide the Details area (this is shown above), but you can’t hide the record area.
You can hide the remote, too. This makes shrinking the video a bit more usable:
I anticipate being able to build another controller that floats, and can be used in conjunction with the view shown above. More below on some issues that might appear with this, when I discuss the AppleScript interface in a bit of detail.
The controller itself is mostly okay. The main/default view has a list of channels. This is customisable. You can scan for channels, and then delete the ones you don’t watch, and rename the ones you do. Scanning takes a long time, and is probably worth re-doing every now and then, just in case a new station has been added.
The bottom area of the controller is the recording pane. You can pause live TV, record the current stream, and if you have been watching a channel for a little while, skip back through the already viewed stuff. I did a quick test where I watched for a while, then went back to try to record a section from the past. The program developed a spinning beach ball, and I had to Force Quit. I’ll continue to test it again later, as this is a nice feature.
There’s also a button link to their other software, MediaCentral, which totes itself as a total replacement for FrontRow. And, I’ve had a bit of a look at it. It looks pretty good, actually. May be worth investing in, and using this on the Mac Mini when I finally get it, and set it up as my Media Centre. (Typing Central reminds me to just let all of the yanks out there know the correct way to spell centre. Yank is a slang term Australians use to refer to Americans).
If you record live TV, it stores it in the recordings pane.
You can then export from here, in order to be able to view on another device, or in another program. It exports raw DV fairly quickly (almost real time, I think, perhaps even faster), but as expected exporting to m4v takes a bit longer. It appears that these are the only formats it will export: iPod, iPhone and AppleTV are all m4v, and iMovie is DV. I’m still going to record some stuff and see what the quality is like. Gotta wait for some decent content first.
Which brings me nicely to the next topic. Electronic Program Guide and Scheduled Recording. The interface is, again, fairly simple. All programs appear in the one list, there doesn’t appear to be a method of filtering so sort by channels. You can search or filter by title and description. To schedule a recording, simply click the black dot next to the program time.
Clicking on a title will show the details about that program. This is obtained from the digital TV data stream, although it is possible to add in an external TV guide, using the open XMLTV standard. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to subscribe to an XML feed. EPG via RSS, that would be awesome.
If you click on the “Show Recordings” button, it will filter to only display the programs you have scheduled to record. You can then de-select them by re-clicking the red dot. Fairly easy to understand. It also seems to have some smarts about overlapping programs, and will display a different coloured dot when they clash.
Okay, feature list is pretty much done. What doesn’t it do, or what does it do badly?
You can do quite a few things with AppleScript, such as pause, play, start recording and so on. It appears that you cannot get decent data from the EPG, for instance. So I can’t build a fully replacement EPG in another application, unless I access the data directly from the file. This file is stored as an SQLite database. So I should be able to grep data out of this using the relevant tools. This seems to be an oversight, since you can schedule recordings, and access the EPG data, but I can’t figure out how to get meaningful data from the EPG. This would be a necessity for a proper Salling Clicker interface, that allowed me to just run the program in full-screen mode and only use the phone for the remote, doing all of the programming with that instead.
You can also export from AppleScript. Not sure if you can choose to export DV, which I would probably want to do. So I can post-process the data and remove advertisements, for instance. But I cannot find a way to choose a channel by channel name. Which would be useful for a remote program, either on phone or computer.
Possibly the biggest annoyance: in every instance I have seen, this application is called The Tube. But to access it in AppleScript, you need to use TheTube. Why do this? You can have spaces in application names in AppleScript and it works fine.
Data file formats.
The channel data is stored as an XML/plist file. Which is a good thing. You can hand-tweak this file, which is much faster than, and less error-prone than deleting them inside the software. Especially since right-clicking to delete doesn’t actually select the channel, so the previously selected channel gets deleted instead.
Scheduled programs are also plist files. You could create these files with another piece of software, and just rely on The Tube to record them. I haven’t tried creating a file and seeing if it automatically records, or whether you need to start/re-start The Tube to get it to notice. Still on the TODO list.
The video data is stored in a package. There are a couple of TIFFs, for preview purposes, but these aren’t always the correct aspect ration. In fact, since most of my Digital TV seems to be broadcast in 16:9, with black bars on the sides, this is always the wrong aspect ratio as these TIFFs are all 4:3.
Bonus points if you can name the song and artist this preview is from!
Inside the package is a plist file with data about the recording. But the actual data is stored in two files, Media.tvi and Media.tvm. I’m still trying to find out what file format these are - VLC doesn’t seem to recognise them, although I suspect they are a standard file format, just hidden. I’d like to be able to get this data without necessarily having to use The Tube. According to one website, this data is just the raw MPEG stream. Changing the file extension to .mpg or .mpeg doesn’t allow for playback Might need more research.
I saw the first episode of Heroes when it was first televised here in Australia, and I thought it was quite cool, but I missed the remainder of them. And then I got access to all of the first season (or at least the first 15-odd episodes), and sat down and started watching. I love it. This is a program that really shines when you sit down and watch it in a big block. I would, I’m sure, be very frustrated if I had to wait a full week after the TO BE CONTINUED… that ends each episode. But being able to follow the characters immediately makes it a very enjoyable experience.
So, Apple has released a couple of new bits and pieces. I’m not going to mention the Apple iPhone, as it is unlikely to be available where I live, and the other two are a bit more interesting for me. The first one I noticed was the Apple TV. This is an AU$449 device that hooks up to (only widescreen) televisions, and allows you to watch video, view pictures and listen to audio that is stored on your Mac or PC. Which is exactly what I currently use XboxMediaCentre for. However, from a couple of things I’ve read on the Apple website, I won’t be getting one soon. I think it acts like an iPod, and requires syncing. This because that ‘s’ word is mentioned, and because it also talks about ‘up to 8750 songs,’ and since it has a 40GB hard drive, that sounds about how many tracks you could store on it. I don’t store any media on the Xbox - it’s all stored on a seperate media server. Why waste space by having duplicates of large files? It gets even worse if you look at Movies and TV programs. It may stream movies, I do recall seeing that somewhere. Plus, I may have to re-encode some video files, as AppleTV might not play everything, like VLC and XBMC do. The other feature that I think is missing is recording from TV. This makes it a deal-breaker for me. That’s the only functionality I don’t have with XBMC, and is the reason I’m going to consider getting a Mac Mini to replace it. If Apple don’t come up with something better. Admittedly, it looks much nicer than an Xbox, but it won’t play all of my Xbox games, either. Resolution-wise, the Apple TV might be a step ahead of the Xbox. I’m not sure what resolution XBMC can output, it may be 1080i, I’m not sure. (Note: after research, you can output this res with even a standard Xbox, but you need to get a special hi-res cable). • The other product Apple released is somewhat interesting. Airport Extreme. Basically, it’s an 802.11a/b/g/n wireless router. It has a couple of other key features, however. It also has a USB port, but it’s not a device-side port. Instead, it allows Hard Disk drives, Printers and the like to be plugged in. This would mean that the one device could replace (and upgrade!) my router, and my NSLU2 file server. The bonus is that it can easily handle multiple hard drives, unlike the NSLU2, which I’m probably going to have to install a different OS onto to get this functionality. At AU$259, (IIRC: $229 educational), it appears pricey, but replaces a NAS device, Print Server, and a wireless router. And beefs up the speed to 802.11n, which is 10x faster than my current router. Disadvantages of this over my current setup? I currently use my NSLU2 as a torrent client, and this functionality is unlikely to be built into the Airport Extreme! • What’s next? I’m hoping to see what happens when some real users get their hands on these devices. I’d suggest they might be running a cut-down OSX, or perhaps Linux/BSD or something, in which case they should be eminently hackable. For instance, it might be possible to use the AppleTV hardware, plug in an EyeTV, and bingo, PVR. Much cheaper than a Mac Mini, but with all of the desired functionality. And, turn off Syncing of iTunes library, and instead just look for files on a Server, and stream audio as well as video. As for Airport Extreme, it’s likely that this is a less powerful beast, but might provide better performance than my old NSLU2, which chugs along a bit when trying to grab more than one torrent at a time. (Don’t mention that you should queue torrents, this is for low-rate torrents, and the software I use doesn’t queue).
There’s a new show starting soon on SBS, Wilfred. After seeing the advertisements a couple of times, it looks really good. The premise is that a girl’s dog, the Wilfred of the title, loves his owner, but hates the boyfriend. He manages to sabotage just about everything about the relationship. Sound interesting? It’s a comedy, and did I mention that the dog(s) in the show are men in dog suits. However, something I just read might turn me off it, before I’ve even seen it. Apparently, it’s by the same guys who created the despicable excuse for a comedy that is known as The Wedge. The only saving grace may be that SBS has picked it up, rather than one of the commercial stations (notably Channel 10?) Perhaps that will mean it is actually good. </TV Snob Mode&rt;
Bold all of the following television shows which you’ve ever seen three or more episodes of in your lifetime. Italicise a show if you’re positive you’ve seen every episode of it. If you want, add up to three additional shows (but keep the list in alphabetical order). 24 7th Heaven Adam-12 Aeon Flux ALF Alfred Hitchcock Presents Alias American Idol/Pop Idol/Canadian Idol/Australian Idol/etc. America’s Next Top Model/Germany’s Next Top Model Angel Arrested Development Babylon 5 Babylon 5: Crusade Battlestar Galactica (the old one) Battlestar Galactica (the new one) Baywatch Beavis & Butthead Beverly Hills 90210 Bewitched Bonanza Bones Bosom Buddies Boston Legal Boy Meets World Buffy the Vampire Slayer Bug Juice Chappelle’s Show Charlie’s Angels Charmed Cheers Columbo Commander in Chief Coupling Cowboy Bebop Crossing Jordan CSI CSI: Miami CSI: NY Curb Your Enthusiasm Dancing with the Stars Danny Phantom Dark Angel Dark Skies Davinci’s Inquest Dawson’s Creek Dead Like Me Deadliest Catch Deadwood Degrassi: The Next Generation Designing Women Desperate Housewives (This was one day I was sick, and they showed them all day…) Dharma & Greg Different Strokes Doctor Who (new Who) Dragnet Due South Earth 2 Emergency! Entourage ER Everwood Everybody Loves Raymond Facts of Life Family Guy Family Ties Farscape Fawlty Towers Felicity Firefly Frasier Friends Futurama Get Smart Gilligan’s Island Gilmore Girls Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Green Wing Grey’s Anatomy Growing Pains Gunsmoke Hannah Montana Happy Days Hogan’s Heroes Home Improvement **Homicide: Life on the Street House **I Dream of Jeannie I Love Lucy **Invader Zim Invasion Hell’s Kitchen **JAG Jackass Joey - they made more than 3 of these? John Doe LA Law Laverne and Shirley **Little House on the Prairie Lizzie McGuire Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Lost _**Lost in Space** Love, American Style **M*A*S*H MacGyver Malcolm in the Middle Marriedâ€¦ With Children Melrose Place Miami Vice Mission: Impossible Monk Moonlighting Mork & Mindy Murphy Brown **My Life as a Dog My Three Sons **My Two Dads NCIS Nip/Tuck Northern Exposure Numb3rs **One Tree Hill **Oz** Perry Mason **Picket Fences Pokemon Power Rangers **Prison Break Profiler Project Runway Psyche _Quantum Leap __Queer As Folk (US) **Queer as Folk (British) **ReGenesis **Remington Steele **Rescue Me Road Rules ROME **Roseanne Roswell Saved by the Bell **Scarecrow and Mrs. King **Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? Scrubs Seinfeld Sex and the City Six Feet Under **Slings and Arrows Smallville So Weird **South Park Spaced Spongebob Squarepants Sports Night Star Trek **Star Trek: The Next Generation Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Star Trek: Voyager Star Trek: Enterprise Stargate Atlantis Stargate SG-1 Superman Supernatural Surface **Survivor **Taxi Teen Titans **That 70’s Show That’s So Raven **The 4400 The Addams Family The Andy Griffith Show **The A-Team **The Avengers **The Beverly Hillbillies The Brady Bunch The Cosby Show The Daily Show **The Dead Zone The Dick Van Dyke Show **The Flintstones The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air The Golden Girls **The Honeymooners The Jeffersons **The Jetsons The L Word The Love Boat The Mary Tyler Moore Show **The Mighty Boosh The Monkees The Munsters **The Mythbusters The O.C. **The Office (UK) **The Office (US) The Pretender The Real World The Shield **The Simpsons **The Six Million Dollar Man **The Sopranos The Suite Life of Zack and Cody **The Twilight Zone **The Waltons The West Wing The Wonder Years The X-Files _**Third Watch** Three’s Company **Top Gear **_Twin Peaks Twitch City Veronica Mars **Whose Line is it Anyway? (US) Whose Line is it Anyway? (UK) Will and Grace
Grace Park, the stunning Korean-Canadian actress who plays Boomer in the new BattleStar Galactica also had a short role in the first episode of the second season of Dark Angel. Her line:
Copulation was unsuccessful, Ma’am. X5-698 failed to achieve minimum mission requirements, Ma’am.
At which point the bumbling idiot who couldn’t achieve minimum mission requirements was bundled off. Mind you, she’s hot, but she’s nothing next to Jessica Alba.
Successful copulation between myself and X5-452, Ma’am. [Pause] Twice.
You dog, you.
The Last Goodbye • James Morrison • Undiscovered