Friday, December 24, 2004

The Gibson Digital Guitar - wow - I was marvelling at a friend's Line6 modelling guitar last weekend and now this - a guitar with an ethernet port!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Applestore of the future - I particularly like the ipod pillow case and duvet set!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I'm upgrading a Yamaha 02R mixer - this is the AES pinout.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Not at all technical but here is our "round robin" newsletter for 2004
It's a PDF

Monday, December 06, 2004

An (Almost) Brief History of Linux (Linux) - a nice essay with pictures of Linus (and his little girl!).

Friday, December 03, 2004

Offshoring inevitable, so get over it - article on The Register about outsourcing. Considering that the wealth of Britain was built on the effort of folks from the sub-continent and the wealth of the USA on the blood and sweat of the African it really does sound hollow when people bleat on about jobs leaving Europe and America. Either you're a free-marketeer or you're not - if you're not a communist then you can't moan when capitalism does it's stuff.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Sony is going to discontinue CRT monitors! - an equipment dealer friend told me yesterday and I have to say I mightily suprised. We've been trying to get LMD panels into traditional broadcast facilities for the last half year with mixed success. Although the colour in now pretty much there (only a little bit of work required to get it looking like illuminant-D) the blacks were still an issue but now Sony have released the "super-black" version of all of their TFTs I think it is now all good. It'll take a bit of work convincing the more traditionally minded folks in TV (telecine colourists, racks engineers etc.) not to stare at a Trinitron all day but it's definately the way forward.
I remembered when I was working in the maintenance workshop in BBC News in the late eighties - we were just starting to look at CCD-based cameras and although all the "gurus" were banging on about how they'd never catch on and never match the look of a tube'd camera the maintenance manager told me he couldn't wait for solid state monitors . I thought at the time it was a vain hope, but the promise of less-frequent line-up, more stable colourimetry, no 27Kv danger during maintenance, 5Kg monitors, true 2k resolution for a quarter of the price of the £24k BVM-HD models etc. etc is a great one.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Make LOVE not SPAM is a great idea! Running on my machine now.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Many thanks to my friend Simon for sending me these haiku alternatives to oft-seen Windows error messages - The haiku messages are just as informative as Microsoft's and they make you pause just long enough that you're able to fight the impulse to put a fist through the screen.

  • A file that big?
    It might be very useful.
    But now it is gone.
  • You seek a Web site.
    It cannot be located.
    Countless more exist.
  • Chaos reigns within.
    Stop, reflect, and reboot.
    Order shall return.
  • ABORTED effort:
    Close all that you have worked on.
    You ask way too much.
  • Yesterday it worked.
    Today it is not working.
    Windows is like that.
  • First snow, then silence.
    This thousand dollar screen dies
    So beautifully.
  • With searching comes loss.
    The presence of absence.
    "Deadlines.doc" not found.
  • The Tao that is seen
    Is not the true Tao
    Until you bring fresh toner.
  • Windows NT crashed.
    The Blue Screen of Death.
    No one hears your screams.
  • Stay the patient course.
    Of little worth is your ire.
    The network is down.
  • A crash reduces
    Your expensive computer
    To a simple stone.
  • You step in the stream
    But the water has moved on.
    Page not found.
  • Out of memory.
    We wish to hold the whole sky,
    But we never will.
  • Having been erased,
    The document you are seeking
    Must now be retyped.
  • Serious error.
    All shortcuts have disappeared.
    Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Streamer p2p radio - this is very interesting - I had been approached about hosting an online radio station and even went as far as to to research audio scheduling software (see here) - this means you could have thousands of listeners hanging off a low-bandwidth connection.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Electronics is 100 years old!

On 16th November 1904, John Ambrose Fleming applied for a patent for his new invention: the thermionic diode valve. Quite a nice WikiPedia article here.

Monday, November 15, 2004

VSO software's DivXtoDVD is a really simple little app that makes a suitable Video_TS folder for a DVD - much simpler than using Nero or any of the other pony DVD authoring packages for sub $100. It auto-detects aspect ratio and frame rate (and hence standard) from the input file and make quite nice looking MPEG2.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

I saw this title on a 2nd hand book stall and had to buy it! Actually Sarah spotted it and pointed it out to me and it brought back a flood of memories from five years ago. I was chief engineer at Resolution at the time and suffered a daily pestering by various "Y2K consultants" from the Beeb et al. To a man (no ladies were stupid enough to be sucked in to that degree!) they were clearly riding a gravy train that they were going to suck dry! I'd upgraded every OS and bit of application software as per manufacturer recommendations but that wasn't enough - no sir!

"Is that combination door lock Y2k compliant?"
"No - it's a mechanical gadget that has no notion of the date"
"That's not good enough - if you guys are going to get BBC/Channel 4/etc etc millennium certification you're going to have to provide me with manufacturer documentation to show it is compliant"

Suffice to say we sailed through the 1999-2000 junction with no problems - I'd simulated it twice at Resolution (and once at my previous firm Oasis TV) - but that kind of level-headed thinking cut no mustard with the folks from the Y2k industry!

Anyhow - I noticed some interesting trends in the run up to 2000 - aside from the hundreds of books by doom-mongers like Mr Wiles (have these people ever been taken seriously since?) there were well defined attitudes in all the people who wanted the world to end by the close of 1999

  • Once people had woken up to the fact that programmers had been addressing the issue for most of the nineties and databases are used to badly formatted input the danger turned to "embedded systems" - everything from your car's electronic ignition to nuclear missiles were going to go wrong. All the people I spoke to wouldn't accept the fact that most microcoontrollers know nothing about large time periods - your engine management operates over hundreds of milliseconds (or at most months for the service interval). The view of engineers who dealt with embedded controllers on a daily basis counted for nothing over the views of the doom merchants.
  • By mid-1998 it was fashionable for the Y2k industry to imply that although the USA would be OK all those Johnny foreigner countries would cause the trouble - racism was everywhere! In the end Italy spent less than 1% of what the UK spent on Y2k preparedness and they suffered less than our modest amount of pain!
  • In the aftermath of new year 2000 I read lots of online comments from people like Gary North claiming that the US administration was covering up the nature of the problem and we'd see the collapse of society etc etc soon - perhaps he is still holed up in a cave in Montana living on beef jerky and listening to his clockwork radio!

So there you go - a real trip down misery lane!

Friday, November 12, 2004

GAIM is such a good IM client - I've been using it for a few months and with the release of v1.02 I think it outstrips MSN Messenger in all areas. Aside from support for ALL of the messenger and chat protocols (something the boys in Redmond show no signs of embracing!) it has a cleaner interface and a very extensible philosophy - it supports pluggins (much like Firefox) and also tab'ed conversations (much like Firefox). It keeps a text file record of conversations and with the latest release has your buddy picture (something my children thought was important!).
The only slightly insulting thing is how it describes people who haven't touched the keyboard for a while!

Friday, November 05, 2004

The new Star Wars trailer was on their site as Quicktime which (as every superhero knows) is a proprietry format. So, I temporarily installed QT on my laptop, converted the files and then uninstalled it!
It is here for desktop viewing as a DivX file or on your SmartPhone as a low-bitrate MPEG1 file.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


Did you by any chance make a recording of the final episode of season 3 of "The Shield" that went out this last weekend - 22:50 on Five. Is it tucked away on your Tivo or Sky+ box? Is there a VHS I can borrow? The reason for this woe is that the PC I use to capture TV programmes did a wobbler and I missed the finale of what has been the best series on TV this year!

If you could furnish me with a copy I'd be eternally grateful and will always be available to fix your PC/TV/Video (why didn't I use mine on Saturday night?!) until I retire from this broadcast engineering caper!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Arts | Hirst restaurant sale makes �11m - This ain't TV or IT or in any way technical but I felt I had to vent my spleen - The charity my wife works for is currently putting the finishing touches to a medical pack that contains vitamins, dietary suppliments, basic medical supplies etc to give to displaced mothers in the jungles of Bhurma and it is expected to extend the life expectancy of theirs kids by 100% in the 'early years' (pre-six year olds suffer infant mortality disproportionately) - it costs $15.
You've got fools here spending �4k on a cocktail glass so that the talented Mr Hirst can be a bit richer.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Article in this week's Broadcast

See the full thing here

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I'm really enjoying the new series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on Radio 4. One of the funniest things so far is Bistromathics - the advanced number theory that powers spaceships:

Bistromathics itself is simply a revolutionary new way of understanding the behaviour of numbers. Just as Einstein observed that time was not an absolute but depended on the observer's movement in space, and that space was not an absolute, but depended on the observer's movement in time, so it is now realized that numbers are not absolute, but depend on the observer's movement in restaurants.

The first non-absolute number is the number of people for whom the table is reserved. This will vary during the course of the first three telephone calls to the restaurant, and then bear no apparent relation to the number of people who actually turn up, or to the number of people who subsequently join them after the show/match/party/gig, or to the number of people who leave when they see who else has turned up.

The second non-absolute number is the given time of arrival, which is now known to be one of those most bizarre of mathematical concepts, a recipriversexcluson, a number whose existence can only be defined as being defined as being anything other than itself. In other words, the given time of arrival is the one moment of time at which it is impossible that any member of the party will arrive. Recipriversexclusons now play a vital part in many branches of maths, including statistics and accountancy and also form the basic equations used to engineer the Somebody Else's Problem field.

The third and most mysterious piece of non-absoluteness of all lies in the relationship between the number of items on the bill, the cost of each item, the number of people at the table, and what they are each prepared to pay for. (The number of people who have actually brought any money is only a sub-phenomenon in this field.)

The baffling discrepancies which used to occur at this point remained univestigated for centuries simply because no one took them seriously. They were at the time put down to such things as politeness, rudeness, meanness, flashness, tiredness, emotionality, or the lateness of the hour, and completely forgotten about on the following morning. They were never tested under laboratory conditions, of course, because they never occured in laboratories - not in reputable laboratories at least.

And so it was only with the advent of pocket computers that the startling truth became finally apparent, and it was this:

Numbers written on restaurant bills within the confines of restaurants do not follow the same mathematical laws as numbers written on any other pieces of paper in any other parts of the Universe.

This single fact fact took the scientific world by storm. It completely revolutionized it. So many mathematical conferences got held in such good restaurants that many of the finest minds of a generation died of obesity and heart failure and the science of maths was put back by years.

Oh, and they have made it available in 5:1 audio on the website - and jolly good it sounds!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

"There are now at least 85,000 Elvis’s around the world, compared to only 170 in 1977 when Elvis died. At this rate of growth, experts predict that by 2019 Elvis impersonators will make up a third of the world population."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Patching FireWire? - I'm working on a project that needs just that and I'm fiddling about with one of these - it is quite elegant - sixteen 6-pin IEEE1391 couplers mounted on a 1u panel with cable management bar - bear in mind that even 400Mbps FireWire will only run (at best) about ten metres and going via a patch panel means you probably don't want more than three metres either side of the panel. I'll blog how well it does when I've got it in.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Faster webcam response using a RamDrive - you probably hadn't noticed but I managed to improve the update and download speed of my webcam by forcing my capture app (CamFTP) to write to a RamDrive and then pointing IIS to the same drive as a virtual site - it used to be a breeze under DOS/Win95/98 but I recently came across a grown-up version from Microsoft for Win2k - see here.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Starting to put Dilbert lengthways so it looks good if you view this blog via AtomicLava

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Leitch DMX6800 de-embedders are cards that sit in their 6800+ series frames. I put in eight at MTV and we've hit up against a funny problem - the embedded output of Sony DSR1500 VTRs will not register - the output of a DSR2000 is fine and sending the DSR1500 to any other piece of equipment (VTRs & Tektronics WVR610 waveform monitors) shows that (seemingly) the output of the DSR1500 is fine. So it really seems that there is a compatibility issue between the VT and the card. I had the luxury of having eight cards and several VTs of each model to play with. How Leitch deals with this will decide wether I buy their glue gear again! I never get this trouble with Crystal Vision!

Monday, October 04, 2004

More disk drives in freezers! - Yes, it worked again - got MTV out of trouble by chilling a dead 73gig SCSI drive - see my origional post here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Emulating old SoundBlaster & Adlib cards under Win2k & XP allows you to run those classic DOS games that looked for the hardware directly. Nowadays your Windows sound device probably shares an IRQ with your network card, both of which had them assigned at boot-time. However - VDMSound provides an emulation that works well with all the games I've tried - remember XQuest?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I'm really enjoying using Firefox - less bloaty and zippier than IE6 and with some great features (tab'ed browsing) AND (seemingly) none of the vulnerabilties (including the ones they'll discover next week!) - I started using it because Graham mentioned it and because of the JPEG of doom!

Saturday, September 25, 2004

High Def TV is what we're all talking about now but I realised that the first HD job I was involved with was ten years ago - a Japanese opera shot using Sony's HDD1000 1" digital format - 1045 lines! See a pic of one here - looked like a BVH3000 as I recall. I think they were the first ones in Europe and we had a couple of Sony staff engineers looking after them - pictures were superb (uncompressed, I believe). Anyhow - I knew Sony had an analogue RGB HD format in the mid-eighties (30Mhz of bandwidth on 1" tape!) - in fact Bosch and Toshiba had similair machines to service the broadcast HD channels in Japan. You can see an excellent overiview here. There was also an early stab at D-Cinema in the form of the Proscan 290 - it recorded 10Mhz of analogue luma on 1" tape with the chroma being MPEG-1 encoded and multiplex'ed with the audio - here is the explanation nicked from Lion Lamb:

This machine is designed for a more subtle version of HD cinema (Compared to earlier attempts!) The luma (Main bulk of data) is stored using analog methods on FM carriers. There is no color burst or color subcarrier, so the resulting image is 'cleaner'. The analog information is digitally time- aligned, ensuring it lines up perfect with previous and future fields. The chroma channel uses MPEG style compression. On playback, the chroma and luma channels are carefully digitally time-aligned to eliminate problems with chroma jittering in relation to luma. The data rate of the chroma alone is about 3 Mbps. Seperate heads are apparently used for luma, and chroma/audio. There is spectrum left in the chroma and audio channels for a substantial amount of metadata. The format has not been popular at this time.

Friday, September 24, 2004 - I typed in "chav" into their search box - see what pops up!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Arghh! Bitten by Bill! I decided to put a USB-WiFi network adaptor on my server for those odd occasions when it's useful - Win2K server (of course) demanded a re-boot (and the crowd did not say "Bo Selecta"!) - all the other NICs were now not bound to any protocols. Since that machine lives in a bay in the basement and I access it over VNC & remote desktop I had to dig it out and hose it up in the dining room - it took pulling out the NICs, deleting the driver files and re-installing them before I could get either in LAN adaptor or the Internet facing card to bind to TCP/IP. I took the opportunity to upgrade it to gigabit - BUT, a couple of hours later I thought "I wonder if Windows re-enabled NetBIOS on the Internet facing interface?" AND IT HAD! In two hours I had picked up seventeen worms and assorted other malware.
Now I'm not a Microsoft basher but I wonder why it has taken ten years of people hooking up Windows machines to the Internet for XP SP2 to actually have a safe configuration as default? I'm a geek and know how networking works - I pity people who aren't as in to it as me when they attached to always-on connections.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

You gotta love open source!
I have a Neo35 car MP3 disk system - thirty gigs of MP3s in the boot and a wired remote on the dash - very nice - all my CDs in the car! Anyhow - about a year ago (and a few days outside the warranty period!) it developed an annoying fault whereby the back key would randomly press itself (sending the song back to the start). Once this started it was like it until you reset and sometimes you had a few minutes grace, sometimes half an hour. I was is a logic issue as it does it whether the wired remote is attached or even if the disk is in the USB caddy you use to download into it on the PC. Ho hum - then, along comes the Open Neo Project where the company has opened the firmware to the wider programming community and they've produced a version that allows you to re-map the keys - nuff said! I'm back in-car-MP3-nirvana!

Friday, September 17, 2004

September 2004 Security Update for JPEG Processing (GDI+) - Wow, image files than can contain executable code - when will the madness end? Was that part of the JPEG spec or a little extra that Bill et al. added themselves? Stick to standard you fools in Redmond!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Google Groups: View Thread "EBU Wants HDTV to use 720 Progressive" - oh dear, in the same way that digital radio has meant hideously compromised quality (typ. 64kbit MP2 as I listen to BBC Radio 7) the EBU have buckled under the influence of the bean-counters and are opting for *the worst* slightly-higher-than-standard-def option. Progressive scan - when will these people realise that you can show progressive frame-rates accurately over an interlaced system but never the other way around. For more spleen-venting on that subject see here.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Bitten by SP2?
I wish I'd waited a few days between upgrading the machines on my network at home! Despite Joel's reassurances AND the promise of a working Bluetooth stack I took the cautious route and upgraded the media machine first - all seemed well - I then (after only an hour of thinking about it!) upgraded the main family machine - here are a few observations:

1. DivX codec is affected by the new Data Execution Prevention schema - bummer! You can disable this by changing the following parameter in boot.ini
/NoExecute=xxxxx with /Execute

2. Pop-up blocker in IE is no better (and I'm getting the feeling it's worse) than the Google toolbar.
3. The firewall's config is so simplistic as to be unusable.
4. Even though I have a current version of Norton AntiVirus (updated an hour before the SP2 upgrade) it can't verify if it is working.

So, I've disabled all four of these features on all machines - I do have an industrial firewall/proxy between my LAN and the Internet and so I still feel as safe as I ever did - if you have a lone machine attached to the web maybe leaving the firewall on would be preferable.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Using a UK G5 keyboard with Windows

Back in December I blogged on about using a G4 kyboard with XP - well although I was quite pleased it was never just right - position of quote marks in relation to the pound and dollar symbols. Anyhow - I came across this brilliant Microsoft utility that allows you to build new keyboards - none of that messing around with scan-code mapping (although that is useful to put a "print screen" key on an used key on the Apple keyboard). Anyow - here is a layout for a UK G5 keyboard (pained as I am to admit, it is the best keyboard around!) - I have no dead-keys defined as I don't like them - get it here - extract and run the .msi file.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Broadcasting System Details - I'm often asked what standards are used in which countries - here is a definative list.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Tom's Hardware Guide Business Reports: Defcon 12's Fear and Hacking in Vegas - Bluetooth Vulnerabilities - check it out just to see the picture of the BlueTooth rifle! Thanks to Rupert for this one.

Friday, September 03, 2004

MTV is finished! - well, nearly! We still have some training and custom metalwork to do but it all works and is looking good! Thanks to Dave Watson for these pics.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Root6 support never does this!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Every time Windows update changes (now running at v.5) there is some DLL or other on all my machines that needs to be re-registered. I suddenyl started getting an "Error number: 0x80244001" which (as it turns out) needs the following run from a command prompt:

regsvr32 msxml3.dll

Monday, August 16, 2004

Why I'll never use BT again - A couple of years ago the company I was working for had to provide a video-over-IP terminal to a client for remote VHS duplication - I had to organise the installation of a leased 512kbit line into the client's premises (but we would pay for the install and lease). I ordered the install and felt very pleased with myself for calling the Post Office ahead of time to confirm the post-code. The day the job was due to happen I called BT to confirm and they told me the job had been cancelled by engineering because I'd given them the wrong post-code.

"But I got the postcode from the Post Office - surely they are the people who do post-codes?"

"Sorry sir - it's not the one engineering have on file for that building"

"OK, to avoid this happening again can you please tell me what post-code engineering have on file so I can re-schedule the job and be confident it won't get bounced back again?"

"I'm sorry sir, engineering won't disclose that information"

Eventually I did get the line installed and the day it was livened up I found myself sitting on the floor of the client's comms room with my laptop connected to the new router and no return pings from their end - I could see a carrier on the line, but no data. So, I called BT again and gave the various job numbers etc. and got the reply:

"I'm sorry sir, that line isn't due come on line until 2099"

He honestly said that without a hint of irony!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Issues with the mains - when building TV facilities I always go to great lengths to keep the technical and domestic mains separate - well, to be more precise I ensure there is a clean technical earth derived from the same point in all areas where signals flow.
I had a worried couple of hours yesterday with one room that had huge hum over all the signals - running cables around the corridor in case the wiremen had run signal cables a long way along a mains tray made no difference - measuring earth discepency to the 16A C-Form connector on the wall showed no standing earth current yet when everything was plugged up the monitors looked like they didn't know the tune (humming!). Eventually I found an earth-neutral reverse in the Olsen block and the problem was solved.

Now, this client have their own substation, so I was even more suprised there was so much potential difference between neutral and earth, but was glad to have found the fault none the less.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Very wee hard drive!

I spotted this article in my institute's magazine and was blown away - how tiny! We'll be getting a Unity in a matchbox!

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Tektronix video site is a superb resource not only for their products but for all manner of info on test signals etc.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

RF distribution

When building TV facilities there is often the requirement to include an RF ring main of some sort so that office dwellers can see off-air channels and even channels modulated on in the building - it's good to know that channel 6 (for example) on every TV or VHS in the building is seeing the output of the studio (for example).
Having trained at the beeb I'm very familiar with the old method of having a launch-amplifier that sends RF on a passive distribution, typically sending initially at 100dBuV and using attenuators whenever a TV or VHS is connected to the "ring". This system is robust and once implemented is cheap to scale - all you need at each TV is a passive attenuator. The only design consideration is that you keep track of the attenuation introduced by the co-ax and use local attenuators to feed the TVs.
The only down-side to this method is that in the last twenty years everyone has a domestic VHS on their desk as well as a TV and even the best designed modulator input stages leak signal back out of their inputs - you'll see a tiny amount of the tape output of a VHS on it's RF input - not a problem at home because that tiny signal (typ. less than a dBuV) stops at the antenna. In an RF ring main it all accumulates and the overall ring gets a bit noisier. Go to any aging BBC facility and the engineers will tell you how noisy the RF is and it's not down to the quality of the components - it's all those VHS machines (and now PC TV cards, PlayStations etc.) leaking a tiny bit of signal back up their inputs.
And now I will show you a better way!
Hotels tend to use multi-output RF DAs that have individually isolated outputs - it by-passes this problem. The issue is that now you have to run RF cable to every desk or room but you can abuse the system a lot more with no impact on the quality of the RF. Since we've moved away from 10Base2 to 10/100/1000BaseT (or even fibre) networking we're used to running cables per person rather than big rings you tap off I don't see that (at install time anyway) it is such an issue.
Suffice to say I use the latter (at our current MTV install as well as every other facility I've built).

Friday, August 06, 2004

Intel SR2200 server keyboard/mouse conundrum!

Ben Davison and I were installing a dual-server Avid Unity rig at MTV (it's the fail-over config with two Media Managers seeing the fibre array) - both servers, once rack'ed up would boot once and then never boot again (couldn't even see the BIOS screen) - if we extracted the machine from the bay it would boot fine - back in the rack and it would boot once then nada. Very frustrating - the fault was found to be the little PS/2 breakout adaptor - the SR2200 has only one PS/2 socket on the back and the breakout for mouse and keyboard isn't marked - if you get it the wrong way round (keyboard plugged into mouse hole etc.) it does the above - crazy considering the server clearly sees the keyboard and mouse on that first good boot!

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Saturday, July 24, 2004

The lamest bit of phishing I've seen!

Friday, July 23, 2004

Why I still dislike Apple and all they do
Yesterday I had to set up a edit suite based around FinalCut ProHD (v 4.1) - what a painful experience. No extra internal hardware on the G5 - plain vanilla machine with a fresh install of Panther and 1gig of RAM. The first four attempts at opening the capture tool resulted in the machine throwing a kernal panic and me having to re-boot (if it were really Unix I could have fired up a command prompt and KILL'ed the process - but that's another story!). Apparently this is well known if there is no video input but I intentially made sure there was stable video on all three inputs!


  • This typifies "Mac people" - I was having an online discussion with someone about Tiger (the latest instance of OS-X) and they mentioned that if you Apple-K on the keyboard during boot you see all the "ugly Unix stuff" (the messages from various modules as they start). This obsession with the style and look of things blinds them to the real underlying power. It is how Apple managed to run all the way to 2002 with an OS (v.7 to v.9) that was technically ten years behind Windows (OS9 compared very well with Windows 3 - cooperative multi-tasker and memory management that needs to be disabled for any sensible apps to run!) and twenty years behind Unix. Never mind the quality - feel the anti-aliased founts!
  • OS-X is Unix - it isn't! Nobody has regarded BSD as a proper Unix since the early nineties! That and the fact that The Open Group (see the story on C/NET) is still litigating, and not for the reasons Apple suggest - they really want all OSes that claim to be Unix to be submitted to the tests that confirm performance & compliance.
  • Apple break all hardware standards they adopt - RS422, SCSI, PCI, need I say more?
  • Linus Torvalds (who knows more about OS design than me or you!) says OS-X is a piece of crap.
  • Apple would turn us all into consummers of their digital "stuff" - iTunes comoditises music in a way I don't like - why engage with an artist when you can cherry pick their greatest hits? Take no risks, buy only songs you've heard on the radio or seen on MTV and we'll turn into a society that only has place for Christina and Britney. Corporate America will have won.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

New SGI supercomputer to scale Linux to 1,024 CPUs - wow, that's scalability! The most processors I ever got Windows working with was four!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Monday, July 19, 2004

How do you terminate video? - a neat little sheet from AVC.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Rude clients are an annoyance!
I have to go and visit customer sites to quote for installation work regularly - some are as nice as pie (and it isn't just down to the coffee!) and some are stand-offish and disinterested (even though you may be subsequently spending tens of thousands of their cash). It costs nothing to be pleasant and those customers who've made me feel welcome always get seen to first subsequently - if I'm passing and they have a problem I pop in that day and fix it for free - but the rude ones....! They can wait!
You get the best out of people when you treat them well. I may be the hired help but don't behave like I'm a servant!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine Online | Feature Article: Taming Kerberos - Having sat through a presentation eariler this week on how well OS-X plays with Active Directory I decided my knowledge of Kerberos was somewhat lacking! Get all the info you need here.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Toddlers' plastic swords seized - Europe gone mad!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Live subtitles with DivX movies
Image adjustment (Pan & Scan, aspect ratio correction, overscan compensation)

High quality subtitle display in windowed and full-screen mode in any player (including Windows Media Player).

DivXG400 supports almost every known subtitle format: SubViewer 1.0, 2.0, SubRip, MicroDVD, SAMI, Sub Station Alpha 3.0, 4.0, JACOsub, DVDSubtitle, VobSub
3.0, 4.0, TMPlayer, SMIL-RealText, AqTitle. Additionally, MicroDVD INI-files are accepted as a wrappers to real subtitle files.

Subtitle output to TV in DVDMax mode (of course, all "classical" modes are supported, too)

Near to 24fps clip playback at 25fps

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Apple rebuked over G5 speed-lead claim - again | The Register - yeah, I thought I'd been working on 64-bit processor machines for the last ten years as well!

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Unbalanced audio on wallboxes - here is a cute little method of ensuring you have an equivalent unbalanced feed in a suite (for the inevitable VHS or DVD recorder) - Tony Dwarika figured out originally.

The rep coils (between the XLR panel mounts and the phonos) are from RS - part number 210-6419 and are mounted on double-sided pads. The coil has a high i/p impedance (typ. 10k) and so doesn't load the balanced signal but it ensures that the Avid (or whatever) is also available as an unbalanced feed - very neat when fitted in a Kelsey wallbox.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

RS422 over cat5 continued....Back in November I wax'ed lyrical about how I do this - see here - but I didn't reckon on Quartz using RJ45s on their current range of '422 routers - although I satnd by what I said before I'm gonna have to comply on the MTV job!

Monday, June 28, 2004

Dell TrueMobile 1150 Series Mini PCI Card is the wireless adaptor in my Dell C640 Latitude laptop - with the version of the drive that ships with the computer I found that my home connection was v.unreliable - I'm using a no-name USB wireless adaptor on the server at home and running it in peer-to-peer (ad-hoc) mode. Untill the weekend it would take several changes of channel and re-boots to get the two talking. However, with the current driver (v. - how do they number things!) all is well. It finds the server as soon as it boots and I can get all the way to the end of the garden (small garden!).

Sunday, June 27, 2004

"Application services provide the complex operational and business logic to manage task automation. Examples include resource management, storage (cache) management, playlist automation, dub (transfer) management and ingest management."

This was taken from Omnibus's "System G3" website - broadcast automation. Now, I've been doing this broadcast engineering lark since the late 80's and this means nothing to me!

Friday, June 25, 2004

War Chalkin' - since playing around with my wireless network at home I thought I'd blog some examples of open networks as I find them....

  • Wardour Mews in Soho, W1 - SSID - 3Com, Internet-facing IP -, DNS enabled - yes, 192.0.168.x

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Never a truer word!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Bill Gates interview from 1995! A friend who was working for Radio 4 at the time recorded this but it was never broadcast because Microsoft embargo'ed it - don't know why.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Welcome to OLD-COMPUTERS.COM ! - This is great, a real trip down misery, erm memory lane!

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

BBC NEWS | Technology | Wimbledon serves Linux volley - very good! Thanks to Ben D in the office for spotting this one.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

What with me working a lot at Root6's temporary workshop in Primrose Hill I needed a way to use my GPRS mobile 'phone (Orange SPV E200) to access the internet. I did blog an article from PCW last year that told you how to do it on an origional SPV (download it here) and it is still relevent. I've just done it and here are some notes:
  • The modem initialisation string mentioned in the first column on page two didn't scan too well and so cut'n'paste this:
  • The USB modem driver is on the E200 CD, but I've posted it here - USBMDM.INF
  • VPN into Root6 doesn't seem to work
  • The 230kBits it reports is not accurate!

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Quadruplex Park is a great site that details old VTRs and is reasonably technical. I found it when I was trying to find out why on earth Sony have reversed the sex of the XLR connectors on the back of a 2000 model HDCam machine. Why fly in the face of fifty years of broadcast standards? My work chum Chris Bailey blogged it on AtomicLava - see here.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Weebl and Bob - Archives - I used to think flash animations were about as pointless as bad bananas. However, now folks have gotten past the technology fetish ("it's a Mac, it's a design classic, darling") there are some genuinely funny things out there - and these guys are brits!
I'm laughing myself silly, and now I know why my kids keep shouting "think of the germs"!

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

William Mahoney's Windows Media Player plugins - if you wondered how the "now playing" entry in the right hand content bar was done....
I've got all my PCs sending to it - now, if only I could get my SmartPhone to post to it.....

Monday, June 07, 2004

Got my webcam working properly again - see the link in the side bar - I've got so much cat5 running under my floors extending USB here and PS/2 there!

Friday, June 04, 2004

Windows startup sound - you hear it everywhere. Having been at The Production Show a few weeks ago you could hear it pumping out of PAs on most stands at the start of the day as people booted up their demo systems.
I was in a Thai restauraunt in Camden last night with my good chum Richard Drake (he is Mr Clublets!) and at one point the music stopped abruptly and after a few minutes the familiar "ding-ding-dong-ding-dong" preceeded the music starting - nice to know people are using MP3 jukeboxes, but it's a pitty they crash!
Enterprise Linux IT - interesting story about HP pushing Linux to corporate desktops; "HP says it has four or five enterprise customers that each could buy approximately 50,000 desktops, says IDC analyst Roger Kay, and the company plans to offer them an 80/20 deal -- with 80 percent being Linux and the remainder running Windows."

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Why did I send Jason on a training course?! - today of all days! We had a rush fibre channel job come in and although I can drive the Tritec the young man Jason (my trainee) does it a lot quicker than me! So, having spent a day hunched over a hot fusion splicer and gone nearly blind in my left eye from peering down the microscope here are a few observations:

  • You have to keep everything scrupulously clean - if you leave even fragments of glass on the cleaver (for example) you get a ragged cut and it never splices properly.
  • The fusion splicer has a low power mode for cleaning the end of the fibre before you join it - but if you do it more than once before you fuse it seems to close the end of the fibre and you get a weak splice.
  • You need to space the ends of the fibres by about ten microns before you fuse - any closer and you get a 'bulge' and any further and the joint is clearly tapered - in both cases the join is weak and breaks once it's out of the splicer.
  • Slowly does it - the 204 micron strip tool for the bare fibres rarely breaks the fibre but the one for stripping the pigtails needs a bit of getting used to - I found (after working on some offcuts) that you need to make a determined cut and then as you pull allow the coated end of the fibre to slide through you fingers a bit (to avoid it snapping with the lateral tension).

Now I need a quiet evening - I believe I'm going out for a spot of supper with Rick (he runs Why? clublet - see my blog links right).

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Animals on the Underground - for any Londoners this is quite a cute sight! It might even make your daily communte more pleasant!

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Hauppauge WINTV PCI Frequently Asked Questions.....
I wish I'd came across this FAQ before I started re-installing my Hauppage PVR250 card - merely running the uninstaller, re-booting, re-installing the current card driver and then the application ain't good enough! The page on their site doesn't seem to be linked off of the support section and has a couple of dead links - the link to the PVR application (for example) - you can snag that file from their Digital Asia site.

This aside I think it is a killer product - I'm increasinly using it instead of my VHS.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Graham is the king! Despite loosing out to Rupert in yesterday's Googlefight he got to the bottom of a thing that has bothered me and others for ages. If you have a striped array hooked to NT / 2k /WinXP and then you remove it Windows keeps a "ghost" record of the array and if you attempt to attach another array with the same name you get told where to go - once that has happened it seems that the disk manager gets less and less willing to see new SCSI devices. However, as ever there is a registry key that returns things to disk nirvana if you delete it!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Googlefight! - I'm glad to see that both God and Jesus beat Satan and also that life wins over death!

Many thanks to my chum Simon Hillman for pointing me at this!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Microsoft Keyboard Mapper looks like a more industrial strength solution than the various methods I've previously employed (particularly using a G4 keyboard on the family's main XP box) - see my previous post here.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Claim back the bandwidth XP reserves with the help of the group policy editor.

- Start Menu / Run... / gpedit.msc / ENTER
- Local Computer Policy / Administrative Templates / Network
- QoS Packet Scheduler / double-click Limit Reservable Bandwidth / set to Enabled
- Change Bandwidth limit % to 0

Friday, May 21, 2004

Having been at the Production Show 2004 all week demoing equipment to potential purchasers (as well as crowds of students on day-release from meeja skool!) I conclude there are two types of people who witness demos and to a degree their reactions probably mirror their overall views of life:
  • The enthusiast is either impressed or easily impressed by cool technology - they really get into the demo and have loads of insightful questions - they want to understand how it works and fits into what they do.
  • The cynic takes a pride in never being impressed - they can't in any way see how anyone could have a use for the software/hardware you're showing and a minor option missing is the most important thing in the world to them. I used to work for a guy who I was embarassed to go to trade shows with for exactly this reason and that lack of joi de vive was mirrored in every other area of his life.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Lindy IDE Raid enclosure - cheap & easy - just the job! Also - it looks like a single IDE drive to the motherboard controller. I like!

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

VirtualVTR from Gallery Software. We had Mark from The Gallery on our stand demoing this - it really is the business. For me to say such things about something that runs under OS-X is unusual! As a cheap (yet seemingly very powerful) picture-follow replacement for audio suites (as well as a play-in server for studios etc.) it looks hard to beat, and at £500 why wouldn't you? Contact the Root6 sales office!
Only one thing Mark - the "Unix powered" badge may have to go if the Open Group get their way! (see here).

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Firestore FS3 is a camera-back disk recorder for DV cameras - we've been bigging them up at the Production Show and it really is a good bit of kit - I was shooting all week on a DSR-570 Sony DVCam and it worked every time - producing Avid OMF files as you shoot. Could revolutionise the post-production process or cause mass unemployment for edit assistants (depending on your point of view).

Friday, May 14, 2004

With the increasing use of AC3 in DivX files means you really should have an AC3 filter installed so that Media Player can decompress the audio on those movies - also, if you don't encode DivX then consider just using FFDshow as your playback filter.
FFDshow filter from AfterDawn.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Jason and I did our first fibre install this week - it went very well but it is definately a different way of working:
  • The cable (particularly the four-way stuff) has a mind of it's own - you can figure-8 it but with care.
  • You can pretty much always see if a joint is good but you get a slightly different view looking down the microscope compared to viewing it on the monitor - the monitor seems to show up problems with the exterior of the joint whereas the microscope shows problems on the inside of the "pipe"
  • Applying a bending strain so that the fibre makes a 360 hoop about fifty mil in diameter will break the joint if it is bad.

I'll post some video-grabs from down the microscope to illistrate these points.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

My eldest boy Joe has been getting into animation - see his first ten second effort on my photo blog. We've done a couple of little things with Pure Motion EditStudio which seems like quite a nice little MPEG-based editor. See our Christmas microsite from last year. Click on movies to see the Lego film we did.
I'm currently trying to get them into using Avid ExpressDV because it's the industry standard.

Friday, May 07, 2004

If you read this blog via RSS or from my server you'll have not seen the pictures of Root6's ability to make fibre cables - all very exciting! Go to Atomic Lava and check out (in the right-hand column) the pics of Jason using the Tritec fusion splicer. We have our first paing job on Monday at Wall to Wall.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

No-name gig ethernet card at Maplin for £17! Not the kind of thing to rely on for work - but a great way to start moving your home network to gigabit. They have stock in the Tottenham Court Road shop (for all you Soho boys and girls!)

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

This appeals to me! - go on, add a message and see if you giggle as much as me.
HP xw8000 upgrades from Crucial Europe - We sell lots of these workstations and I always forget which memory and how many slots.

Friday, April 30, 2004

ROOT6 Technology is run by my colleagues upstairs - see all the cool software and hardware products you can buy from Root6.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Having admired Andy's work the guys at AMC stumbled over the motherboard -> 9-pin D lead - here are the pins for doing it on an Intel 7501 motherboard (see page 155 of the manual).

IDC to 9-pin (male)
1 - 1 -> DCD (red-stripe on ribbon)
2 - 6 -> DSR
3 - 2 -> Rx
4 - 7 -> RTS
5 - 3 -> Tx
6 - 8 -> CTS
7 - 4 -> DTR
8 - 9 -> RI
9 - 5 -> GND

Rosetta Stone RS422 adaptor re-engineered!

Andy Vasey of AMC does a lot of server integration for us - here is his solution to having proper '422 out of the back of an Intel 2u server case - very ingenious.
It is the board mounted on a half-PCI back plate and then the header from the motherboard's serial connects to the other side.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Digital Spy - BBC "considering" HDTV distribution - would be great if it were the case.

Monday, April 26, 2004

New Digital Betacam decks! - the DVW-A500P has been the workhorse VTR for television for more than a decade - I saw my first one when I was at Carlton in 1993. Innovations like pilot tone tracking and the Viterbei decoder made this a breakthrough VTR and made D1, D2, D3, DCT and D5 look a bit stupid (cumbersome to operate with bad tape interoperability). Here is the page from Sony's Australian site which will dissappear soon, I'm sure - a trip down memory lane!.
The BetaSP format that was typified by the BVW-75P was THE format when I was at the Beeb and consequently I did in excess of 100 head drum changes - kinda akin to replacing the engine in a car! But when the 500 came along the drum change routine was a joy by comparison. Although Sony are moving on to better things with IMX and eVTR support I'll miss the DVW-A500!

Friday, April 23, 2004

This from the FAQ in Avid's sales guide (issued at NAB this year):

I've played with Media Composer Adrenaline on both Mac and Windows and there is a real performance difference. Are you making the Mac version run slower?
Of course not, we optimise for both platforms. At this time we are seeing significantly higher real-time performance on current Windows-based workstations than G5 workstations from Apple.

So now we know!

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Darren Digby runs Digby Installation Services and is currently help me out with a splicer kit for optical fibre. I'm getting Jason, my new wireman trained in ending off fibre cable and as well as sourcing the gear Darren has been invaluable in advising as Root6 gets into this new area.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

musicplasma : the music visual search engine - this is so cool - bang in the name of your fav band and see how many connections you agree with. Aside from the musicology it looks great too.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

John A. Kantara is a director who is currently working for ZDF and 3-Sat on a series of "internet futures" documentaries to be shown over the summer in Germany. He was in London yesterday interviewing me for the show - I'll post the video here when I get a copy.
I had to wax lyrical about video compression paying particular reference to this image recognition codec that is produced by Atvisican. Their codec writer (and all round good-geek!) Uve was also over yesterday - I enjoyed spending time listening to his explanation of a laser-based hi-definition projector they currently have in prototype. I hear many people described as geniuses but I think Uve is a real one!
I showed him AtomicLava which he seemed quite tickled by.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Darn! I was meant to be in Vegas over the weekend at the NAB trade show but my passport didn't get back in time. You can follow James, Chopper, Graham et al on AtomicLava's NAB micro-site.

Friday, April 16, 2004

SONY - Australia - I often have to make reference to the brochures for Sony VTRs - and they are here!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Sowter Audio Transformers - these guys have helped me out before and I'm about to dive into a project where I'll be ruggedising AES and sending it over coax cable - see previous post here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Both of my XP machines at home stopped being able to update via v4 Windows update - I could download patches manually but eventually discovered that SOFTPUB.DLL had become deregistered on both computers - strange, however, the following restores it to proper operation: regsvr32 SOFTPUB.DLL (run it from a command line).

Monday, April 12, 2004

What a shocker - I picked up a bit of malware this weekend while surfing - I didn't realise that an ActiveX control could install a BHO (browser helper object - just like the Google Toolbar, of which I am a huge fan). The symptoms were never being able to download .exe's from Microsoft or any anti-virus site, bizzare re-directs and pages just not being displayed correctly. Full virus scans, AdAware and CWShredder found nothing - but BHO Demon came to my rescue - it lists all installed BHO's and allows you to disable them individually - the one it found on my machine was entitled MSHelper.DLL

CWShredder gets rid of ActiveX controls and returns your browser to a good state.
Home Search Assistant is a similair thing that seems to be more resistant than CWS.
AdAware catches Trojans etc and is the best around.
BHODemon gets rid of malicious Browser Helper Objects.
MVPS updates HOSTS file exploits the Windows HOSTS file to re-direct known advert sites to your local socket - you don't have to get the content of the most popular add-hosting services. Works well and I've noticed a huge difference (and you save bandwidth!)

The good thing about these solutions is that they are open source/free for private use and they don't insist on running all the time and sucking your cycles.

Aside from these I also think Norton Antivirus is still the best - but configure to avoid all that active and continuous nonsense.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Gotfrag have the latest on the Intel sponsored Extreme Edition 2 Challenge - I'm just downloading the movie (200megs - go and have a cup of tea!) which is (as these things should be!) a DivX file!

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I updated the drivers for my Nvidia Quadro NVS dual-head display card on my main XP machine - better frame rates on Halo and Jedi Academy! Anyhow - in the the process I managed to set the display driver to a higher res than my new Dell monitors would support and so was in the situation that as soon as Windows booted the monitors went into power save mode! No problemo - boot into VGA mode BUT, with an Apple USB keyboard (see post from December) AND not having enabled BIOS keyboard support for USB meant I had to lash up a PS/2 keyboard - BUT, my machines are in the cellar! So I had a happy half an hour of running up and down the basement stairs to check what was on the screen and make the adjustments!
Morale of the story - always enable USB keyboard support in the BIOS!

Monday, April 05, 2004

Alistair Cooke tribute on Radio 4 - I loved listening to Letter From America since the late seventies. Here is a clip of the start of the recent Radio 4 tribute where the continuity announcer left her micropohne open - thankfully there were no profanities!

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Monday, March 29, 2004

Benq dual-layer DVD writer - is it the end of the tape drive for DVD authors? I hope so - and at $129 why wouldn't you?

Saturday, March 27, 2004 find a Laptop, Camcorder, Notebook, or Cell Phone Battery
Although this site sells batteries in the states it is very handy for identifying those unusual or old types.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Headphone breakout for the SPV - you can get the bits here and here!

Thursday, March 25, 2004

MurrayPro Timecode Stamp is a fine little gadget for inserting VITC, BITC and genarating audio code from a video input. I had an application where I had to insert VITC into the black reference for an automation system to read. To disable the BITC I did this mod - see the video output stage schematic here.
First - lift pins 11 & 15 on IC1 (a DG611 video switch) so that the black 'hole' and white insert signals are stopped - short pins 6 & 7 of the same IC to ensure the black and burst goes straight through. The VITC is added later - see transistor Q1.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Maplin are doing the Yamanda range of MPEG4 DVD players! Go to their website and type L20AU into the search box. These boys do DivX, XVid and loads more besides - less than a ton!

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Microsoft faces 'record EU fine'
Seems like the EU are getting all shook up with Bill and the boys. I have to say I think coming from the European Union this is really rich - the organization that (via it's protective, non-competitive practices) keeps third world farmers in poverty while obliging the average British family to contribute approximately a grand a year to keep wealthy European farmers in inefficiency is complaining that Microsoft in an "abusive monopolist" - clearly the crew from Redmond haven't oiled the wheels of the gravy train sufficiently!
Now I don't defend Microsoft as a point of faith (as some of my colleagues do!) - I'm a fan of Linux because in lots of situations it is the better option, but it strikes me that companies that behave like Microsoft should be encouraged - they don't do deals with third-world despots, they don't pollute and they don't use sweatshop labour. Microsoft is the most egalitarian company in the Fortune 500 - the wealth is spread more evenly than anyone else you could work for AND Uncle Bill is now the most charitable individual that has ever lived (these are quantifiable facts - the kind I like!).
Just imagine a world where Apple had been as successful as Microsoft - we'd be using machines very modest hardware but at least it would be in lovely translucent plastic and have a pretty GUI - I would have changed my name to Zak and I'd be listening to The Chemical Brothers!

Monday, March 22, 2004

"In the United States, we are guaranteed a trial by a jury of our peers.
I find it unlikely that there were 12 people on Mrs. Stewart's jury who could whip up a seven-course meal and a decorative centerpiece unique to the event in an afternoon."

Sunday, March 21, 2004

MPEG1 format just for your SPV! This is a very funny Star Wars spoof - the events surrounding the start of Episode 4.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Quicktime 6.5 has broken it's DV codecs
Thanks to Rupert we traced this to QT and further discovered that QT 6.3 is OK - what do you know - I'd have thought DV, DVCam and DVCPro were the ones they'd get right - currently they look v.blocky and useless. Why do people even bother with Apple and their "standards"?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Snell & Wilcox Golden DaVE
I've been working at a facility that has a studio and does travel and holiday shows. The vision mixer died and we got another comms board for the control out of Snell - however, while diagnosing the problem I had to Hyperterminal into the beast to discover what IP address it thought it had (control panel talks over ethernet) and the RS232 port of the back of the panel is a male which (according to the IEE RS232C standard) defines it as a DTE (lit. Data Terminal Equipment) - so, to connect to a PC you need a female-female cable that is null modem (i.e. Tx and Rx cross over) - but no - it is a DCE (Data Communicaing Equipment) and doesn't need a cross-cable. The guy at Snell & Wilcox seemed unrepentent that they'd got it wrong - I dunno - why bother to mention the standard and then not conform to it?
Also - the mixer chasis has two ethernet ports - one for the panel and one for the LAN - if the tub doesn't see a panel on one port it goes looking on the other, taking the IP address that the tub knows about to the LAN port - talk about making life difficult!
As the studio director said - "You don't get this trouble with a Sony".

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

ProgPlayer Radio scheduler
I'm implementing a scheduled audio playout system for a client and this little app looks like the business - I'll blog as the project moves on.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Win2k and a USB - PS/2 conundrum! I has to put together a video encoder which had to have Win2k - I only had a USB keyboard/mouse combo to do the install but when I got it into the rack the KVM was a PS/2 model - the machine wouldn't get as far as detecting the keyboard and mouse because it never got past the logon prompt. Had to go and fetch the USB ones and all was well. Who'd hae thought that Windows only installs PS/2 support if it needs it!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Reseller Update March 2004.pdf
Ha - three months of us bugging Avid with this one and they come up with this! See my previous post here.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Shrek 2 trailer
MPEG1 format just for your SPV!

Saturday, March 13, 2004

The Sect of Homokaasu
Not sure what I think of this but it looks fun!

Friday, March 12, 2004

computer displays -v1.pdf
2nd article for the tech section of the Root6 catalogue.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

AtomFilms Hi-Def
Wow, the guys at Atom Films go Hi Def in a WM9 stylie.
Take care, they insist on you installing their own download manager to get the files - not great! I may snag the files and post a link to grab them directly.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

BBC NEWS | Technology | Log your life via your phone
Wow! if it's made it to BBC online it must be here!
serial comms -v1.pdf
First stab at an RS422 & 232 reference for broadcast engineers and wiremen for possible inclusion in the technical help section of the new Root6 catalogue.
I felt sorry for this chap - I culled this entry off

i know in advance how stupid this was..
Ok, i just did the dumbest thing i could possibly do updating the firmware on this dvd-rom. First off it is a pioneer 500m. I have no floppy drive on this box so I burned a dos bootable cd and put it in the pioneer drive and rebooted. I put the firmware update on the bootable cd also. So when i booted to dos, i ran the firmware update. It deleted the old firmware fine, and then just froze, since then it could not read the cd in the drive, since no firmware. So right now I have a dvd drive that has no firmware and I can not boot with it installed on my machine. If i try, the light stays on on the drive and the machine hangs 'detecting IDE devices..'

I am not able to get into my bios set up or anything. I have no idea how to fix this. Any ideas?

I hope I don't make too many mistakes as fundemental as this!

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

We Can Put an End to Word Attachments - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation (FSF)
Rupert showed me this and I LIKE (said in Chris's Hasan voice).

Monday, March 08, 2004

Why I Ditched MacOSX for Linux - A Yellow Dog Linux 3.0 Review -
I've not tried Yellow Dog, but I like the idea of running a proper OS on a Mac (and don't try and tell me OS-X is Unix!)

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Windows Media Player killing my Win2K server!

I found that when I had Media Player running on my main machine my server would suddenly not allow access to network shares etc due to it running out of licenses - looking on the active shares on the server showed a dozen or more MP3s being accessed - turns out Media Player will take as much as it can get if you point the monitor folder at a server!

Friday, March 05, 2004

I had to write the following for someone!

Why I prefer the look of interlaced video

I’ve been engineering in television since the eighties when I started at the Beeb working in television news. All the training efforts of the good folks at Wood Norton (the BBC’s own college!) were to turn out staff who could maintain the fidelity of pictures and audio from acquisition to transmission. As the nineties wore on and TV stopped being staffed by people who earned their chops and became the domain of “meeja skool” graduates the practice of film-looking increased – trying to make pictures acquired on tape look like they really came off film. It rarely works – making video look jerky and messing about with its colour grading is more an insult to people who work in proper film than those of us who think video looks better than film on television. One of the areas where video out-performs 35mm is in motion rendition, and so why spoil that?
The reason production types indulge in this kind of behavior is to do with the perception that film-produced TV looks more expensive than the kind that comes out of a studio. For my money I find clean, well lit video to be more engaging than film because it looks a like the world does. When I watch “Casualty” I can believe it a bit than, say “ER” because with the latter I can never quite loose the feeling that it has been shot on a sound stage and has gone through a much more elaborate post-process. Video seems more true, more honest.
Now me venting my engineering spleen about all this came about because of the “Give it the Bullet” article in a recent edition of Creation – “Make your cheap-skate DV production look like Super-16” or some such! My answer to this is the two episodes of Dad’s Army that Steve Roberts at the Beeb restored a couple of years ago. They discovered these missing episodes in a shed on reversal 16mm from a tele-recording (ask your Dad). Being aware that these gems would have gone out as video Steve set about finding a way of making them look like interlaced video again (it’s the honesty thing!) and he discovered VidFire – an AVX plug-in that turns film into video – it fills in the temporal blanks. It really does work – it produces smooth motion from jerky old film. Now that is a fashion I could support – video-looking film. If someone could produce a real-time unit and build it into my TV set then I’d be happy!

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Fraunhofer IIS - Audio & Multimedia - MPEG Audio Layer-3 - This is what you need if you are interested in audio compression.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Friday, February 27, 2004

Problems and Updates on the HP-X8000 mods
Although the drive updates and cooling works well one problem we hit into when installing them into the client's facility was that initally we racked the computers with the DVD drive on the left hand side (and hence the motherboard upside down). After about thirty mins of operation the Pyro firewire cards (see entries from Jan 2004) got very unreliable under the Avid application (which uses it's own 800mbits protocol called flame thrower) but from Windows all was well. Eventually we flipped a machine and all came good - must have been the additional vibration of the drives and the fact that the card had gravity working on it.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

SONY SLV-D950 - Just put in nine of these bad boys in an installation - a very nice and compact solution for an edit suite - covers the VHS / DVD / CD requirement in one compact unit.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Ultra and mobile blogging
We have several world-class software developers here at Root6 - our tech director James Clarke has done a real job on logging for reality TV shows in his Ultra application. He's extended it to take in mobile picture blogging and if you go to Atomic Lava (link in the right hand column) you'll see the application being used to blog the engineers thoughts and pictures snapped on their 'phone cameras. If you click FunkyWorm you'll see what I've started to blog, and if you click the photos from my SPV click you'll see the Flash viewer that another colleague Nick Ridley has written. All very good stuff since the photos appear on the blog within minutes of you clicking "capture" on the 'phone.
BBC NEWS | Entertainment | TV and Radio | Scrap license fee, Tories urged - This is iniquitous, The BBC license fee is about a third of the cost to the average family of the money ITV take from them on their annual supermarket bill. I have a choice as to whether I pay for the Beeb - I can either buy a license or not. I have NO choice as to paying for ITV which represents poor value in both a financial and artistic sense. This is my definition of a tax. As far as I can see the only morally decent models of funding TV are the license fee OR pay-per-view. Getting rid of the license fee would mean that the Beeb would have to chase the same down-market "reality"/pop/soap model more than they currently do and would be a further nail in the coffin for good tele in the UK. Why don't we just hand the whole lot over to the "editorial" team of the Sun and enjoy LiveTV (remember them!) 24-7 on two-hundred odd channels, all available from that nice Mr Murdock (sic)!

Monday, February 23, 2004

I think I'll give this Linux distro a go - like Koppix it boots off a CD so really good for diagnosis and trying things out. I shall report back!

Friday, February 20, 2004

We Are Morons: a quick look at the Win2k source || - ooooh, and it makes me wonder!

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Digital monitor connections - a great page on the Lindy site that explains the difference between the various flavours of DVI and ADC (and when some also have SVGA!).

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Graham has been spanking the X8000 with the 15k drives for a couple of days and tells me that it is stable and the throughput is good (even though they are stripped via the Windows storage manager!) - so, 36 more drives please!

Monday, February 16, 2004

IDE drives and media data - we do a lot of this sort of thing - I ran into exactly the same issue at home - here's an email I wrote to my colleagues about it:


Petra asked me to write a little note re the cheaper Avid products and IDE drives.

Chris was integrating an ExpressDV machine last week with the intention of having the media drive (250gig IDE model) on the same IDE channel as the system drive. The BIOS on that machine would only allow for one DMA device on an IDE channel and so the media drive chugged away at 33Mbits per sec (shows up as a PIO device in the device manager). Performance with 25Mbits DV media was somewhat jerky!

Now I know it will often work (on motherboards that support multiple DMAs on the same IDE channel) but it isn't best practise to try and get away with it and since another IDE/PCI adaptor (ATA 133Mbits spec) from Lindy (including cables!) is only £19 to us it seems that is the best way to go.

If the motherboard of the machine in question has Serial ATA ("SATA") then an SATA drive as the media drive would avoid this problem. However, SATA drives are currently about £100 more expensive than the same sized IDE drive and so the Lindy solution still saves us a bit.

The Lindy part number is 70642 and there is a price break at three pieces. I have put three cards in Pete's cupboard in accounts,


Friday, February 13, 2004

Four extra SCSI drives on an HP X8000 workstation
We have to supply nine of these top-end dual P4 machines to a client who needs 300gigs in each - the new 15k Baracudas from Seagate are out and so four 73gig Ultra320 drives seemed the answer:

Move the system IDE drive to the same bay as the DVD drive - you need a bay-adaptor (Lindy part number: 40545) and then mount the drive cooling fan kit on the side of the four-way drive bay (Lindy part number: 40517). Finally you need to remove one of the onboard SCSI ports from the back of the machine and run a terminated Ultra320 cable to the new drives from the mobo SCSI adaptor - Adaptec part number 1490826-00.
A few cable ties to tidy and a few hours of burn-in testing to ensure coolness and stability and it looks like we're good to go!

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Ben Brown our office IT manager doesn't do things by half - he's returned from a work trip to Switzerland with something for his lady!

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Analog Devices : Interactive Design Tools : Utilities : Vrms / dBm / dBu / dBV calculator
Suggested by my colleague Rupert (see his dead blog in the right hand column!) - of course proper engineers like me do dB calculations in their heads!

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Intel(R) LCOS Technology - an interesting take on big flat panels for HiDef television.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Today myself and my work mate Graham (blog on the right hand bar) had to rig a Sony Xpri at the Video Forum. Previously this trade show was the province of The Guild Of Wedding Videographers (that lot again!) but it seems to have moved upmarket - so much so that we're there demo'ing high definition television and digital film workflow. I did spot a stand by some people called DV Warehouse - all shrink-wrapped copies of Adobe Premier and OEM DVD-burners! Perhaps it is clinging to it's Prosumer origins.
Chopper joined us later and we had a jolly time getting it all talking! SPV pics here.
Oh, Graham and I did spot what was clearly a production model of a Blue-Ray disk recorder (50 gig re-writeable disks) - clearly a domestic gadget from the far east - all composite video i/o (on phonos) and unbalanced audio. There are a couple of bad pics of it on the previous link.

If you're comming to the show then swing by the Sony stand and get Graham to give you the Xpri/HDCam religion - I'll be there on Wednesday.

Friday, February 06, 2004

SPV shortcuts
Press and hold the following:
  • Home key - brings up a menu that allows you to disable the more battery hungry protocols!

  • Hang-up key - locks the keypad

  • Left & Right key while in Inbox - moves between SMS and Email folders

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Monday, February 02, 2004

Cross-talk in Makie mixers
The 1604 is a popular mixer in Avid suites because it has loads of facilities (lots of channels, auxes, four groups etc.) but they cross-talk between the two track return and the mono input channels. Today I was in a suite and there is a lot of bleed at only 35dBs below if you are using the 2TR return button to listen to the output of the Avid and at the same time digitise via the mono-channels and stereo bus you get an awful lot of cross-talk. Putting a balancing box in line with the 2TR return sorted the problem so I assume the bleed is back out of the 2TR input.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

HFML, Levitation
Wow - watch the clips! Using strong non-fluctuating fields they make various small organis objects fly! If you scroll down there is a very funny spoof letter from a cult type church who want to install the machine under their pulpit! Thanks to my friend Rowan for sending me this one.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Benjy's Sandwiches
Today I didn't bother to make a packed lunch and wished I had! This banana looked pristine but was rank inside! No wonder the guys here describe that particular emporium as "filthy McNasty's sandwiches"!

Thursday, January 29, 2004

We sell for these guys and this is the best video waveform monitor and analyser I have seen in my sixteen years of broadcast engineering BAR NONE! I've probably QC'ed more hours of broadcast TV in the last decade than anyone else in London and have had my fair share of Tektronics/Hamlets/VideoTeks and this system kills them all.
The new killer feature is a time-shift capture based on any error condition - you can set it to hold a defined number of frames either side of (say) a CRC error - no other 'scope can do this! Call me for a demo.
See my photo blog (scroll down the right-hand side) for the first few photos from my new E200 - See James's blog (he mobile blogs continuously!) for some slightly better framed shots!

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Software I have to have on my SPV!
We have upgraded at work to the newer E200 model SmartPhone and these are the things I can't do without!
  • PocketTV - Just the best MPEG player - do a search (right hand menu) for occasional MPEG-1 files I upload encoded for the 'phone - you'll also find the TMPGenc template that I use.
  • Pocket Music - again, search for SPV items to find my previous posts on this excellent pocket MP3 player.
  • SmartExplorer - like Windows explorer but on your 'phone! Now works over IR and BlueTooth for file transfer.
  • Task Manager - you'd be suprised how much stuff Windows leaves running!

Monday, January 26, 2004

My SPV links for Internet Explorer - just copy these shortcuts into your SPV's \storage\windows\favorites folder - pages that are optimised for the small screen. SPV

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Eventually got my site feed working - I can join the legions of syndicated news feeds! Lockergnome has some great RSS resources - see the right hand bar for the link. Also - check out my favourite news agregator - News Gator - top dog primarily because it is an Outlook pluggin that means I'm not having to run another piece of software - my selected feeds appear as folders along side my email, contacts, schedule etc. With the newest version it also brings NNTP (Newgroups) into the party.
See the right hand bar for the link to subscribe to this site.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Project Blinkenlights: Blinkenlights
Are these guys insane? (in the membrane!).

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

LORDSMURF.COM - a great DVD authoring resource.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Good things I miss from Win2K
1. The old-style password control panel - allows you to define autologons etc.
Start>Run>control userpasswords2
2. The classic search tool (not the hideous "hand holding" thang in XP!)
TweakUI powertoy and go to Explorer - scroll down and set "classic view for search in explorer" - bliss!

Sunday, January 18, 2004

A few notes on network copying
Having spent the best part of a day last week with my colleague Rupert (see his blog in the right hand column) trying to get a Win2K HiDef storage system to talk to a Linux film grading system here are a few observations regarding the efficiency of different network protocols.
1. NetBIOS (using the v 2.2.7a Samba server on Linux) - over TCP/IP runs at about a tenth of the speend of FTP under exactly the same conditions. I'd heard that Windows networking copying was inefficient but I was suprised how badly it did. Before you point the finger at Samba, it was actually a tad worse going between the Win2K and another XP computer.
2. Going between 100-BaseT and Gigabit only produces an improvement of about five-fold. This bears out the observation that most GigE implementations (over twisted pair) don't yet run duplex.
3. Cables count! Even short cat5 cables won't handle GigE - you need proper cat5E.
4. Win2K (unlike every other flavour of Windows) won't recognise unencrypted passwords. You have to tweak the registry to enable it:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\lanmanworkstation\parameters Set the key: enableplaintextpassword to a "1" to enable plain text passwords

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Hutchinson's Three Network has announced mast number five-thousand has just come online - that's about one mast per three subscribers (on current figures!).

Friday, January 16, 2004

The UK 405-Line Television Network
The first year I was at the Beeb (1988) they closed down the last of the 405 line relays and someone calculated that the cost of buying everyone who was still using a 405 line set a brand new Sony 28" TV was less than the cost of running those transmitters for another week - amazingly that's what the BBC did - anyone who could turn in a working pre-1955 TV (and B&W license) got the new set! One of the few times they spent money wisely (while I was there, anyhow).

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Wanted: Freelance engineer for three weeks starting 14th Feb
To rig and babysit three Media Composers and a LanShare server with a daily playout of the finished piece (for C4/ITN) in cooperation with the ENG/links engineer. You should be good with Avids and a strong broadcast engineer generally. You'll have a spare Avid and VTR (because the job is abroad) but you should know your way around the software and hardware as well as the networking between. £300 per day with all expenses covered. Send me an email!

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Yippee - got my DVD player reading home-made disks
I have a Cyberhome DVD 302 which has been just a fine DVD / VCD / CD / MP3 player for the last couple of years but wouldn't read the disks I was burning in my new Sony DVD burner. I eventually found a reference on a German bulletin board to a firmware upgrade that doesn't seem to be linked off the main site at all! Anyhow - new firmware and the player is happily reading all the flavours of DVD I can throw at it (+ and - as well as R and RW). BUT the only software I've tried that makes video DVDs that work consistently is Ulead VideoStudio 6 DVD edition. Everything else (Nero 6, Pinnacle DVD-Studio) just makes disks that either go no further than the menu OR won't read at all. Curious.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Filters for VirtualDub
Avery Lee's genius in creating one of the best tools for manipulating digital video is only matched by the fact that he makes the source code freely available and extensible - the build I use is fccHandler's MPEG version here. Anyhow - a couple of the pluggins I use a lot are Flaxen's VHS restorer and the DeLogo filter which does a pretty good job of removing station idents.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Video vs Film motion
I'm a big fan of the look of video - 50 field motion for me looks a lot better than 25 frame jerky motion of film. People who "film look"(!) video to make budget video productions more professional show they know nothing about TV! Anyhow - Steve Roberts at the BBC (who resores old Dr Who episodes - see the website he runs wrote a bit about VidFire, a pluggin for Premier that makes the "missing" fields from film-recordings of video by motion vector estimation - see this thread from 2001.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Radio 3 set to broadcast John Cage's seminal work, 4'33".
Which (if you didn't know) is four and a half minutes of silence(!) This is actually a challenge to broadcast because of audio compression and the silence-detecting backup system - see Digital Spy.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Adrenaline and LanShare
Oh dear - I've just been working in Bermondsey for the week doing the editing facilities (suites and SAN) for "Spooks"- the BBC spy drama by Kudos Productions - all went in well and the wiremen made a superb job of the cabling (as always). However we supplied the three editing workstations (Avid Adrenaline) and forgot that when they are on a gigabit SAN you have to install an additional 64bit PCI 1394 card for the video hardware. The recommended one is the Pyro.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Outlook 2003 Add-in: Personal Folders Backup is a handy plug in that periodically backs up all your folders as .pst files.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Handy Gadgets from Lindy

EIDE -> SATA adaptor - sits on the motherboard!
TCP/IP over the mains Could be handy if you couldn't run ethernet (and it's faster than 802.11b)

They have some great niche PC bits.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

What a great idea - I found that more recent versions of Kazaa Lite wouldn't work through my firewall at home - wind it back to release 2.4 and I'm going again.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Windows and NTP
I've been working on a project recently using an Adrienne Timecode capture card (see November's page for their details) to synchronise several encoders and servers to a TV-standard timecode signal. Now, you look at the Micro$oft implementation of NTP and imagine they have done the decent thing and used the Unix protocol (port 123, UTP etc.) but no - it is Unix NTP with Windows authentication (but only if used on a LAN!) - so when you're testing it - pointing it at your favourite Internet NTP server it works fine, but as soon as you install the TC card and start pointing other machines on the LAN at it (but before you've authenticated mapped drives etc.) it throws errors. What can you do?