Thursday, October 30, 2008

New York tests analogue shut-off

New York City over-the-air analog TV stations went dark for two minutes yesterday. The prescheduled test gave a temporary taste of what's planned when the stations permanently pull the analog plug on February 17, 2009.

My DVB-T television (which runs Linux!) needed a first birthday the other day (the DVB decoder temporarily went AWOL) and so for a day I was watching composite analogue signals from Crystal Palace. I have to say that I now find MPEG2 compression artifacts less objectionable that multi-path/PAL-decoder errors. The analogue switch-off here in Blighty can't come quick enough!
Now then, when's that DVB-T2 HD over H.264 switch-over coming?!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eyeheight legalisers parameter bugs

I came across this a couple of years ago - if you recall the Rec103 preset the ringing perfromace is wrong!
Here is the email I got from their tech support back in September 2006 and the one I installed a couple of days ago is still suffering!

...this is a software bug which we have just noticed and are now working on. We should have a fix within the next few weeks.

In the interim you could enter the values for the EBU settings you require manually. You could even store these values into memories and label them as explained in....

Here are the values for the various presets....

Memory 1 Legaliser On 0% - 100%

Memory 2 1. Set High Clip = 105%

EBU 103, 2. Set Low Clip = -5%

Tight 3. Set Ring Suppression to "MANUAL"

4. Set High Ring Threshold = 103%

5. Set Low Ring Threshold = -1%

Memory 3 1. Set High Clip = 103%

EBU 103, 2. Set Low Clip = -3%

Optim' 3. Set Ring Suspression to "MANUAL"

4. Set High Ring Threshold = 101%

5. Set Low Ring Threshold = 0

Memory 4 Bypass / Legaliser Off.

....hope this helps and we will contact you with the software up-date files which you can flash into your legaliser using the RS232 port of a PC.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Netvue - business class IP TV system

I went to a very impressive demo at Sony BMG today - they have an Exterity-based office IP-TV system as provided/configured/integrated by NetVue. They seemed to have really got it right. The system is based on IGMP multicast over IP which relies on IGMP-compliant switches (think Cisco 3750 or equivelent HP ProCurve). Essentially it means that only the streams that are being watched are present on the network and then only the data is present on those segments with active clients.
Set-top boxes are tiny and around the £250 mark. The PC client comes in at £35 per seat.
What I found to be the really clever side of it was the TV gateway which takes DVB-T multiplexes and strips out all the transport streams and makes them available. So, with their 1u chasis you can expose all six FreeView Muxes (55 stations?) on the network for around £8k - to build an RF-system with similar abilities would cost many times this and the pictures would look awful (I know - I've built a few!). If you need to hang a video device (Sky STB, DVD player, etc.) their STB & PC client can both back-propagate IR control.
As mentioned - I kept getting the feeling that 'they've done this right' - it's a very complete/robust solution. I like the idea that when they can avoid it they don't re-encode the video and assume the clients can replay MPEG-2 transport streams (or in the case of the HD STB H.264 transport streams).

I can't wait to spec one of these!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lorenz Cipher & Collosus

I went to a superb lecture at my institute - The IET - all about the German Lorenz cipher from the war and the Colossus machine built at Bletchley to crack that code. Tony Sale is a very engaging speaker and clearly a very competent engineer. He is the proprietor of the Computing Museum at Bletchley and has (for the last ten years!) been re-building a working Mk2 Colossus.
The Colossus computers were used to help decipher teleprinter messages which had been encrypted using the Lorenz SZ40/42 machine — British codebreakers referred to encrypted German teleprinter traffic as "Fish" and called the SZ40/42 machine and its traffic "Tunny". Colossus compared two data streams, counting each match based on a programmable Boolean function. The encrypted message was read at high speed from a paper tape. The other stream was generated internally, and was an electronic simulation of the Lorenz machine at various trial settings. If the match count for a setting was above a certain threshold, it would be output on an electric typewriter.

I did take copious notes, but Tony's website is excellent and Wikipedia has good articles on both the Lorenz Cipher, which (like the Enigma) is a symmetric stream cipher, and the Colossus computer.

Tony set a challenge a year ago to receive and break a Lorenz transmission and the German engineer who won was using a 1.4 GHz laptop which, running his own code, took less than a minute to find the settings for all 12 wheels. The German codebreaker said: “My laptop digested ciphertext at a speed of 1.2 million characters per second – 240 times faster than Colossus. If you scale the CPU frequency by Moore's Law, you get an equivalent clock of 5.8 MHz for Colossus. That is a remarkable speed for a computer built in 1944."

Whichever way you think about it the codebreakers at Bletchley shortened the war by months or even years and so can be considered the real heroes of WW2.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

DivXLand Media Subtitler

DivXLand Media Subtitler allows the user to manually subtitle movies and videos while viewing the applied captions on the fly. It includes some features like automatic timing limit, easy caption edition, and offers 2 modes for applying of captions.

My kids like anime and as all true snobs they are very dismissive of people who watch English dubs. However - they don't speak Japanese and so a way of checking/editing subtitles before they are burnt into the video (Using VirtualDub - what else?!) is needed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Seasick Steve

I've just downloaded his album (from 7Digital - all MP3!) and I'm loving it!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

TriCaster - very impressive

Earlier in the year I banged on about the TriCaster after I had a demo. We've just finished an install at the College of Law using it as the centre-piece of their little three camera studio and I am even more impressed than I was! Driving the virtual environment is so easy and it really does perform well. Having a selection of four shots per camera (you set the shot for the close-up and then each camera is available as the close-up, MCU, twp-shot and long-shot) with an environment that tracks perfectly is a revelation. The in-set virtual monitors work as well. The perspective and reflections on desks etc are all very convincing and once you get past the fact that all the virtual sets look like CNN or ESPN you can really produce some expensive looking tele.

I hope Root6 pick this up as a product because there is nothing to match it sub £100k.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


I picked up this flyer in Borders yesterday - it's the first time I've seen this in any kind of retail outlet, let alone a book shop;

Customers can choose from items in an e-catalogue or an instore printed version. Once purchased from the console, the software is pressed onto a disc with a special inlay card and user manual. The entire process is planned to only take a few minutes.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I got a GoogleWhack!

Whilst searching for details of some monitors I have to calibrate later this week!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Adeona - stolen laptop tracker

I installed Adeona on my MacBook Pro over a week ago and promptly forgot I had it on there - it consumes little processor time and you're unaware of it. What is does is continually send photos from the iSight camera and any useful info - IP, nearby DNS servers, router names etc - basically anything to help physically locate a stolen computer. Best of all it's open source and the OpenDHT storage it uploads to is 256-bit encrypted.

Friday, October 03, 2008

BBC64 camera line-up 'chip-chart'

I'm at the studio build today setting up camera channels and doing general line-up. We've supplied the good-old BBC64 camera chart which I used to spend many happy hours staring at whilst lining-up cameras for studio/OB shoots. When I die (and they lay me to rest....) I want this and Test Card F on my gravestone!
The info sheet has all the reflectance figures and frequency gratings for when you have the camera focused full-frame on the chart.
Oh, does anyone know why the light-trap in the middle of the chart is called a Gregory Hole?
Also - ex-BBC type, can you still get hold of Cardboard Kate?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fibre patch cords protected with Copex

Fibres in 20mm CopexA facility that we're just finishing has a lot of tight-buffered patch cords running between four bays (twelve Avids with SAN attachment and DVI extenders) - since it's impracticle to run loose-tube cable in such a restricted space Simon came up with this method of running the fibres through Copex and under the bays, breaking it out at the height of each pair of workstations - a very good solution that I'll use every time!