Friday, March 31, 2006

Podzinger - cleverest technology so far THIS CENTURY!

I heard about Podzinger on the Inside the Net podcast and thought it sounds neat but I couldn't believe it did what they suggested - a Google-like service that trawls mp3 podcasts (NOT iTunes ACC encoded content - Ha!) does speech recognition and then builds a hash-table based on timecode so that when you do a text-search of what was said and then you can play the file from a few seconds before the utterance right there - in the browser!
Now my interest comes from the fact that in the mid-80's I was doing a degree in maths & programming and I spent my final year doing a thesis on speech-recognition. I did build a system that could reliably recognize about two-dozen words spoken by one person - all coded in native x86 and Pascal! I was aware of multiple-speaker / large vocabulary recognizers but this system is something else. I notice that BBN are the company behind it and since they built the original nodes of ARPAnet they clearly have a long technical pedigree.
Anyhow - give it a go - type in a word like "Media Portal" and see what podcasts are talking about homebrewed PVRs (for example).

Thursday, March 30, 2006

School music evening

I'm quite proud - my eldest (Joseph) was playing at his school concert last night - he normally plays sax but was doing percussion for a Santana number Oye Como Va (which I believe was in fact written by Tito Puente) and it did indeed rock! He also did a poetry reading (Spike Milligan's Ning Nang Nong).
Here is a video clip (in the DivX format) but it's bad quality (shot on my PDA).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

EDF - quelle horror!

About three years ago when I first started writing this blog I was involved in a facility build where I had to have the electricity provider run a new three-phase supply (along with all the other things - a new meter etc.) - because I was horrified by the fact that we had to bribe the guy to actually do his job I wrote about it here - imagine my surprise when I get a letter through this morning asking when we want the site survey! Maybe I'll have to bribe them to start sending out the bills!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Fixing the eCinema

I had to replace some power supply modules in a DCM23 monitor - I often demo these to clients and have recently taken on the role of advising people in setting up rooms for grading. You can't overstate the importance of the room when doing colour grading. It is as significant as the colourimetry of the monitor.
Anyhow - once I got the back of the DCM23 I noticed how well put together it is - I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise as (for my money) it is the best of the current crop of "reference" TFT designs - essentially display surfaces that you could use as a replacement for a Sony BVM-D24 hi-def monitor.
I had the pleasure of having a days colourimetry training from Martin Euredjian of eCinema systems recently. He is a guy who knows his colour! Although I'd done all the BBC training on the subject back in the late 80's I'd forgotten a lot (and not understood some of it - Metamerism for example). He opened my eyes to why we do certain things in TV - what is necessary and what is based on the "jungle knowledge". It's definitely left me a lot more equipped to not only answer questions but also to challenge some of the phoney-baloney we get from (supposedly!) senior engineers.

Oh, the image is of the insides of a DCM23!

Friday, March 24, 2006

In pictures: Crazy cycle lanes

I cycle and find it is the only way to travel in London. Sarah put me on to these funny pics on the Beeb - if you're a two-wheeled warrior they'll be all too familiar!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

IP-Packet sniffer screensaver

I found this screensaver that is a network packet sniffer - it puts the packet header and a few dozen bytes from the packet on screen as a fountain-style screensaver - very nice and consuming to watch.
It did puzzle me a bit as we are on a switched network here at Root6 and yet it seems to see things that are on separate segments - I hope it isn't doing some sort of ARP-poisoning or man-in-the-middle type attacks to get the data!

I often notice packets from our Cisco 'phone system whizz past as well as web and email headers. This, along with Steve Gibson's Security Now podcasts really have filled in a few holes in my appreciation of how IP moves over both ethernet and internets.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Joel showed me this VT record report he found - from twenty-two years ago! Just a couple of years before I started and the memories came flooding back - the only choice for recording format was 1"C or 2" quad! Timocode on audio 3 and Dolby A encoded audio (remember the warbling tone?). The other thing we both recalled was the catch all expession Satis S&V as incomming - this guy was a bit more verbose!

Monday, March 20, 2006


Advertising sucks! BUT it does pay for us to look at free web content. The image on the left is how Firefox displays the page and the right is IE6 - I love the fact that I don't have to waste time and bandwidth downloading adverts (aside from wasting my valuable time reading them!) but it got me wondering how the advertising community will respond to digital platforms' abilities to strip out unwanted content. With my PVR running MediaPortal,
and hence being able to strip out TV ads before I have to see them, and me never seeing them on the web I must represent a total lack of funding to advertisers - heck, I even buy a bag of Revels before I go to the cinema - apparently the pop-corn is the loss-leader on the film nowadays.

Friday, March 17, 2006

MurrayPro EZMon audio amp circuit

I love small British manufacturers. One of my favourite is MurrayPro who do lots of monitoring gear - we sell a lot of their PPMs as well as timecode bits. For a dubbing rack the EZMon is hard to beat. I had one go wrong at a customer's site recently and a quick call to Tony pointed me in the right direction - IC2 on the audio amplifier card had developed noisey power rails. It's an SSM2018 audio buffer stage is is easily replacable.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why Tektronics are still the best in their field

At Root6 we sell lots of bits of video kit and for video test and measurement Tektronics are still the best. Their rasterised video test sets are superb and one of the killer features is the ability to treat the thing like a webserver for both control and logging. You hit the device with a browser which gets served a Java app that allows you full access to the instrement. Recently we've had real trouble with Tiger (Mac OS-X v.10.4) and the WVR7100 - after much fiddling I got this very complete reply from Tek's engineering group;
Thank you for contacting Tektronix technical support.

Part of the problem here is that there is no official Sun JVM for the MacOS platform, instead, Apple wrote their own version which looks much nicer and is mostly compliant... mostly. We usually recommend version 1.4.2 on Windows computers (since v1.5 is still a little buggy) but it's hard to say what version would be best for a Mac.

What I get when I try to run the WVR remote user interface depends on which browser I use. Internet Explorer simply gives me a gray screen and never does anything - that's fine, even Microsoft has given up on that browser. Safari seems to get close but at the very last second gives me a Java exception when trying to access a cookie so it looks like there's something subtly different about the way Safari handles cookies that prevents it from working with the WVR. FireFox worked perfectly, and until I can figure out why Safari choked my recommendation would be to download FireFox and try accessing the WVR with it. You should be able to get FireFox at

If you still have trouble with FireFox then let me know and I'll work with you to resolve this issue. Also, if you still have trouble it would be helpful for me to know what errors (if any) you receive when trying to access the remote user interface, what version of Java you're running and what version of the OS you're running. If all else fails we might have better luck with a stand-alone version of the Java application which you can download from the Tektronix website.

One last thing... make sure you have cookies enabled, the WVR remote user interface needs them to function properly.

I hope you find the above information useful and please feel free to contact me with any further questions you might have.

So there you go - GET FIREFOX!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Great little utility for converting to/from DV format .AVIs

DVdate is a utility for processing AVI files with a focus on DV-AVI. It includes a number of processing features including the ability to inlay DV datestamp information, read datestamp and timestamp from DV-AVI, covert between DV-AVI type 1 and 2, export a DV scene list based on timecode, fix framerates of AVI, convert non-DV-AVI to DV-AVI compliant files, extract WAV from AVI and change codec used for playback of files.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Laptop re-pave & Ubuntu

I don't know why I let it go on for so many months! Suffering the pain of a Windows install that is over a year old is unnecessary and easily rectified by a repave. I don't know what detritus the Microsoft OS accumulates but my laptop was taking eight minutes to boot to the desktop - now I run lean and mean and don't have any extra garbage that I don't need. The computer is no slouch - 2Ghz P4 with 2gigs of RAM - but after a complete reinstall I'm down to less than a minute!
I also took the opportunity to try out the new version of VMWare. I put Ubunutu in there (I find running Linux in an emulator, although slower, is less hassle than dual-boot). It's pretty good - I was a bit doubtful about Ubuntu "root-less" operation but it does seem to work with the sodu tool.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Panasonic driving storage size up

4 gig SD cards are here - it's significant that it's Panasonic in light of their P2 professional TV recording system - the link on the article title is a bit more about that. For us in TV it means that at high def you can now record 24 minutes to a PCMCIAA P2 card - getting to useful lengths (like a roll of 35mm film or an HDCam tape!).

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I used CAD a lot in the eighties - At school I did technical drawing but my first computer-based design was with PAFEC as an undergraduate (running on a Prime 500 mainframe with a Bosch graphics terminal) and then when I went to the Beeb I used AutoCAD v.9 under DOS - a text monitor for commands and a Hercules-driven graphics monitor (monochrome 640x480) for the diagram. It also had a Summagraphics tablet that needed degaussing on a daily basis! After I left the Beeb there didn't seem to be ever enough time to keep diagrams up to date or even transform the wiring schedules into a drawing and so I pretty much lost my CAD skills. Having been at Root6 for over three years now (and doing increasingly large projects) I have to turn in diagrams and so a couple of years ago I did a little refresher at BBC Wood Norton.
AutoCAD has been around for nearly a quarter of a century and is a mature piece of software in the very best ways. It runs on modest hardware (generally it's needs are less than the OS!) and it uses that now obsolete file-size measurement, the kilobyte. Even big diagrams with many layers fit on an old floppy and you can scroll and scrub around the drawing very quickly - Avid, Microsoft et al. could learn a thing from these guys. You can still drive it through the command line as if it were one of those early DOS releases but it is so comfortable to use with the mouse. My only beef is that if you do lots of zooming and scrolling then a wheeled-mouse is essential. Aside from that I actually look forward to a day of diagramming with it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

M5000 - more thoughts

I've been out of the office for a couple of days visiting customers doing training in HD measurements and monitor colourimetry and so have been using the M5000 as my mobile office and I still love it - the keyboard is great for typing on but the battery life SUCKS! Unlike the M2000 which came with a replacement battery which was easy to replace on the fly this battery would be hard to replace (you have to open the machine up) and you'd have to buy it. It will charge off a regular USB A->mini A cable but I hope they have firmware update soon that addresses this - every previous SPV did.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

M5000 - first thoughts

Windows Media (Mobile v.10) :
It restarts after a call - very cool improvement. There is nothing worse than having to fish the device out of your pocket after having taken a call on the ear-buds and finding the podcast (or music) you were listening to has stopped.
Still no eq, the playlist management is confusing. It seems to have abandoned ID3 tags as a method of sorting playlists so you have to either manually re-order an album or put up with having the songs out of order.

If the 'phone is fully closed (the screen is closed on the keyboard rather than spun around in PDA mode) you can still use it as the call, hang up and (crucially) the voice-dial keys are on the edges. There is also an ear piece on the exterior so as a screen-less 'phone it is fine. That was a beef with the M2000 - you got grease and sweat from your hair and face all over the screen (and if I let Sarah use it there was make-up as well!).
In "laptop" mode the hands-free works well - the tiny speakers really are stereo!
The 1.3Mpix camera is a huge improvement on the M2000 (whose camera was worse than the C500 I had before that) - the 2nd camera on the screen side is a gimic as I don't imagine I'll ever use it for 3G video calls - what a waste of data! However, if Skype enable video on their PocketPC client...
Another cool feature of the camera app is that you can tell it to only email photos on a specified account. I've set this up to only use my home email server which is only accessible SMTP-wise over the WiFi on my LAN. This means that pictures uploaded to my Flickr account don't go over the expensive 3G network (hence keeping me sweet with Ben at works who admins the 'phone accounts!). The M2000 would try and send them via the last opened email account which was invariably the work Exchange server, but sometimes (stupidly!) the text message account!

The full VGA res screen is a joy - spreadsheets are usable with a full screen of cable schedules being visable at once. The PDF app is improved as well. In Word you can see more than a dozen lines of an A4 formatted document in 12 point. IE is much more usable a result without having to reformat every screen to see which is most usable.

Final bummers - you can't flip the screen with headphones plugged in and I've had to reset it once a day when it gets slow (even though it has a 520Mhz processor!).
Overall it's the best 'phone/PDA package I've tried so far.