Monday, February 27, 2006

the view from my room

the view from my room
the view from my room,
originally uploaded by -Ant-.
I saw this on Flickr - taken on a Russian Lomo camera - I was very taken with it's early-evening feel.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Telnet reveals a BusyBox!

I was around a friends house sorting out his wireless aDSL router that had stopped serving up pages on the web-admin side. Although I could ping it nothing else (including it's DHCP server) seemed to be running. Just on the off-chance (and this wasn't mentioned in the badly translated manual!) I tried doing a Telnet to the gadget and discovered a micro-Unix running the the box! BusyBox is a version of Linux for running on embedded systems. It mounts the firmware for the router side of the device as a normal tarball image and it seems that had become corrupted. By forcing it to re-aquire the image and rebooting (holding down the reset button over a power-cycle) I found the gadget was restored to it's factory default.
The router was a Addon GWAR3000 aDSL 802.11g device but it has the same PCB (and hence firmware/version of BusyBox) as several other ones, including at least one Netgear. It's interesting because Adam Curry has been banging on about open-source firmware for routers on the Daily Source Code so people can spin in extra features for sharing their connections. Maybe there is more open source code running on embedded devices than we realize.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Friday, February 24, 2006

Wifi on the train

I went to visit LBV Telelvision and on the GNER train on the way up I noticed that they have wireless - you have to pay a couple of quid but I thought in the interests of research(!) I'd give it a go. It did work but the through-put was very variable. At times I'd guess I was getting a megabit per sec and at other times it felt like a 9600Kbit modem from the early nineties. I was able to maintain a VPN connection into the office but Outlook was so sluggish as to be unusable (so only slightly worse than normal!) - I imagined they used a satellite service (but maintaining a proper lock on a moving train must be hard) but the literature suggests they use multiple connections - maybe they've got a heads-up on WiMAX?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Engineering & Sales!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Eyeheight legalisers & RS422 multi-drop

Eyeheight do a great range of products and like Crystal Vision, Quartz, and MyrrayPro they are a small British company who respond to the market quickly. If you have a problem you can probably talk to the guy who designed the circuit!
Anyhow - I was testing a couple of rooms yesterday with OL-2C video legaliser/cages. The control panel and card were in the same chasis in both cases and neither card would accept commands. When I swapped them over one card worked in one chasis but not the other. Clearly something was on the hairy edge and in the end (and I figured this - not Eyeheight tech support!) I discovered the I-CANN bus (the multi-drop RS422 control bus) wasn't terminated on the card - even over that few inches of ribbon cable it made the difference - a jumper on J5 (there is a typo in the manual - it isn't J6) made both cards come good in both boxes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

When did it all start?

Not that I would ever condone violence of any kind, but the message I saw on a t-shirt made me wonder at what point popular youth culture willingly embraced all the things my generation were critical of our parents generation for. Materialism and misogyny to name but two are things I'd have ranted about as a teenager ("'s all the fault of the bread-heads"!) but they are now considered essential attitudes by many youngsters. I pray my kids never buy into any of this - after all, it's NOT about the Benjamins.....
I'd like to blame it all on the insidious and pervasive effects of Thatcherism but I think it maybe runs a bit deeper than that.

Monday, February 20, 2006

"The Brits" on ITV, last Thursday

I'd not normally watch this kind of thing but I noticed that there were a few of the bands I liked featured - Coldplay, Jack Johnson, Prince, Mr Weller. So - I fired up the big tele, turned up my good speakers (Harbeth Monitor 30s if you're asking) and sat back. I had bad feelings from the start - the pictures were "film-looked" (sic) and far too saturated. The audio was poor - although the pieces to camera were good the bands sounded awful - a real mush of a mix. The only performance that I was able to sit back and enjoy was Jack Johnson (pictured).

It seems like I wasn't the only engineer to feel this way - see the thread here.
If you read through you'll see it was shot on LDK-6000 cameras at 1080psf - if this is how future HD television is going to look then I'm dismayed!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Panasonic's P2 solid-state recording system

Today we had a visit from a couple of product managers from Panasonic - the BBC has committed to their P2 system for DV, standard-def, and high-def acquisition. It is very well engineered with commodity parts. The PCMCIA format card (which has error correction and data striping inside) contains four SD cards - so currently they will sell you an 8 gigabyte one (as well as four) which holds eight minutes of DVCPro HD at 1920x1080 (yes - Panasonic supporting something better than 720 lines!) or half an hour of DV res. It records in native DV codecs (4:1:1 and 4:2:0 supported) wrapping it all with an MXF header. Avid supports it out of the box and they have a cute little play/review app (see the picture above) that means that moments after you've ejected the card from the camera you can be watching or editing natively. It has all the groovy auto meta-data you'd want (including a GPS receiver and cameraman voice-recording) and seems just the right mix of off-the-shelf and innovation.
It's a pity it's all DV-type codecs - 100mBits for HD is kinda bad (compared to HDCam's native data rate of 270mBits). Even against IMX or BetaSX (which are long-GOP formats) it's not going to look better. Still - if the Beeb like it......

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The new Root6 workshop

We're about to open a new Systems Integration workshop in Primrose Hill, north London. See it on the Google Maps. On the Satellite image it is the long structure in the centre of the picture. If you click the title of this entry it is a little video I shot on my 'phone of the place - it needs decorating!
Camden have one of those 360 degree interactive photos on the web here.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

When the equipment fails......

Tonight I had a great evening - I went to a tiny little music pub in Brixton to see three of the giants of Americana - Steve Dawson of Dolly Varden, The Amazing Pilots and my musical hero - Bill Mallonee (ex frontman of The Vigilantes of Love).
Half way through Bill's set the PA starts acting up so quick as a shot he leaps off the stage with an acoustic and does a blinding set there in the crowd - what a pro! You can bet that most of the acts in the top-twenty couldn't come near that level of musicianship.

Monday, February 06, 2006

VMWare supplying pre-built Ubuntu virtual machine

Virtual Machine

Ubuntu is a free, open source operating system that starts with the breadth of Debian and adds regular releases (every six months), a clear focus on the user and usability (it should "Just Work", TM) and a commitment to security updates with 18 months of support for every release.

1. Download your pre-built Ubuntu 5.10 "The Breezy Badger" Linux Virtual Development Environment.

2. To run this pre-built virtual machine, download VMware Player. VMware Player is free software that enables PC users to easily run any virtual machine on a Windows or Linux PC.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


I foolishly went back to IIS as my FTP server (Blogger have updated to work with Microsoft's last set of updates - see here) - but guess what, it's broken again - back to Cerberus!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

You gotta cover yourself!

Something that often makes other engineers chuckle is when I tell them about a trick (that I feel I pioneered!) used on such shows as Big Brother and Fame Academy - basically if you run the risk of having to play off the SAN to air via an Avid it is worth deleting all of the Avid error slates (which appear on the machines output if the error condition arises) and replacing them with colour bars with the ident of either the broadcaster or the company taking the signal for you - typically BT or SIS in the UK. That way if your Avid burps while playing it'll display colour bars that (to whoever is watching the feed) look like it's someone else's fault rather than yours!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Soundcraft Compact4 mixers

I've been gravitating to Yamaha mixers for edit suite usage but am doing a job where we are putting in some of these in small FCP rooms.
This is an extract from the manual - could have been written by somebody at Apple!