Friday, June 26, 2009

BBC reveals salaries

Aside from the usual media brew-ha-ha surrounding BBC salaries I was disappointed to see that in the hot-50 there is only one engineer! He's John Linwood who is a software guy (ex-Yahoo) - so not one broadcast engineer (i.e. someone who has fixed VTRs/lined-up cameras/calibrated monitors/installed Media Composer etc etc.) in the senior layer at the BBC.

That says something - it wasn't always that way.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

HD Masters, day 2

# Wow, there are more than 1,000 cable providers in Germany.2:39 PM Jun 24th from TwitterFon

FreeviewHD upgrades will follow digital switch over. Thankfully Crytal Palace (last analogue TX site to go, by necessity) will upgrade early12:26 PM Jun 24th from TwitterFon

Television worldwide is a $25bn business anually. By comparison HP's printer turnover is $28bn! Puts our little industry in perspective!12:17 PM Jun 24th from TwitterFon

All tests suggest that H.264 is twice as efficient a codec at HD than MPEG2. Freeview HD will be 10mbit H.264 - SkyHD is only 12mbit MPEG2.12:08 PM Jun 24th from TwitterFon

The guy from the DTG is telling us how tight the conformity testing for the next gen of STBs - FreeviewHD using DVB-T2 etc.11:33 AM Jun 24th from TwitterFon

High frame rate TV (300 fps) does look fantastic with the resolution being maintained even on very fast pans.10:47 AM Jun 24th from TwitterFon

Don't let people talk at trade conferences who have never worked on real broadcast television!10:18 AM Jun 24th from TwitterFon

The chap who is talking about file-based workflows has talked for twenty minutes without once making reference to TV aquisition or delivery!10:16 AM Jun 24th from TwitterFon

Actually the first session is the BBC HD coverage of last year's Olympics. Very interesting - makes me wish I'd stayed in broadcast.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

HD-Masters, day 1

Super HiVision is 24Gbit/sec for 8k resolution pictures
NHK have been developing the next generation of television and this is the second year I've seen them demoing SHV. The pictures are breathtaking - the footage they showed of London Bridge shot from 800m away allows you to see the expression on people's faces as they cross the bridge. Given that it's sixteen times the pixel count of 1080-line TV this is one for the future - a real 'slow burner'!

Hmm - old big media are patting themselves on the back! Podcasting anyone?4:51 PM Jun 23rd from TwitterFon

Watching Red vs Sony F35 footage- the Red looks suprisingly video-like against the F35 which looks filmic. Wierd- Red is 1CCD, Sony is 3CCD!4:11 PM Jun 23rd from TwitterFon

Just seen 5mbit AVC bs BBC Dirac codec - amazing how good they both look at 1080.3:58 PM Jun 23rd from TwitterFon

Bill Whiston (BBC sound supervisor) showing how he mic'ed up and mixed the Proms last year - good stuff.3:10 PM Jun 23rd from TwitterFon

Afternoon session - DolbyE1:54 PM Jun 23rd from TwitterFon

Just seen my old BBC mucker Graham Collins (now @Omneon) who tells me he's pre-sales & "Head of keeping it real"! end-to-end solutions, ha!11:53 AM Jun 23rd from TwitterFon

I didn't realise that ATSC (DVB T standard in USA) only supports MPEG2. Seems like terrestrial HD in the US will be only as good as SkyHD11:13 AM Jun 23rd from TwitterFon

HD-DVB T in France has been legally required in all TVs since Dec '08 - it's a pitty we haven't had that. New UK TVs still only have MPEG2.10:46 AM Jun 23rd from TwitterFon

Every European broadcasters' insistance that 720p is as good as 1080i reminds me of Quantel's insistance through the 90s that 8 bits is best10:11 AM Jun 23rd from TwitterFon

The 3D lobby think they can monopolise every conversation about media technology9:58 AM Jun 23rd from TwitterFon

Watching footage of U2 performing on the top of BH - shot in 1080i on the Sony EX1 and 950 - can't spot the difference!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Virgin Media's traffic management and my old cable modem

I've banged on about Virgin in the past and how they have great bandwidth when it works but terrible customer communication and technical support.
They recently introduced a traffic management system that ramps down your bandwidth when you've spanked the connection (that you paid for) between 16:00 and midnight. What they didn't tell anyone was that if you're an old Telewest customer the model of cable modem you have (Scientific Atlanta WebStar if you're wondering) isn't compatible with the traffic management system (it's all done using a QOS protocol that only recent-model modems support).
Now I know why iPlayer, YouTube etc. wouldn't work every evening (much to the annoyance of the kids) - I was getting only 150Kbits per sec, not 20Mbits! Hopefully the new cable modem will solve this.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Twitter & broken DNS

I'm on Twitter and my DNS records aren't working for

but (same as it ever way!) is ok, as is

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Simon & Emily's baby girl is here!

Born today at 09:30, 3.1Kg - congratulations to both of them!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Never use second hand fibre parts!

We include the following footnote on all of our quotes;
Customer sourced components - we appreciate that you may be able to source and free-issue parts that cost less at purchase time than we have quoted. However, we will stand by the quality and usability of components we supply. In our experience we have come across customer-supplied parts that not only prove less reliable but take much longer to install. In these cases we will have to bill for any excess wiring days caused by free-issued parts.

We did a job a few months ago where the customer insisted on supplying fibre pigtails and splice-protectors. The pigtails (OM1 LC-ends in case you wondered) were of a very poor quality and took many goes to splice properly. In the end we disposed of them and used our own stock (including the splice protectors). However - we hung onto the protectors (they looked fine) and used them on a job last week. When we fired up the calibrated laser tester (-19dB(m) at 850nM in case you wondered!) we found we were getting >20dBs of loss on each circuit. It turns out the girth of the protectors was too big for the splice-bridges and so the increased pressure on the fibre-joint meant the junction was compromised. We had to re-do ten desks worth of duplex wallboxes.
The name of this purveyor of sub-standard fibre parts that have bitten us in the backside twice now? See here!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

3G HD-SDi standards

Yesterday I was doing a day of training - Root6's Video101 (you can grab my slides here) was what I was doing, but the day started off with a presentation with my old pal Lee Ballinger of Tektronix. He went through SMPTE372 and the now sixty(!) transport formats it covers. A 3G payload can carry many variations of Y Cb Cr / RGB / XYZ colour, framerates etc. You can even send two 1.48G HD-SDi streams down one side of a 3G connection - this is being refered to as SMPTE 292B (an extension on the original HD-SDi spec).
One of the things I'd not realised was inter-link timing discrepancy - it can be a max. of 40nS (not long!).
Anyway - Lee's presentation will be available as a video on Root6's site when Mark pulls his finger out and edits/encodes it. Whilst there you can check out me banging on about 10-gig ethernet.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Remove Microsoft .Net Framework Assistant From Firefox

The reason most people use Firefox is that they want to leave IE behind. The .net framework (along with ActiveX and JavaScript) are just some of the reasons IE has historically been the most unsecure of browsers. I use Firefox because it's trivial to blanket-block active content unless I allow it (on a per-domain basis).
To have Microsoft install (without asking me) .net support in Firefox via auto-update is unforgivable. I don't want unrestricted active content running on web pages and I don't want MS making less secure the alternative software I've chosen to use in the face of their poor security.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

First few days with the iPhone

These are the apps that are staying on there - many more have been tried!

Monday, June 01, 2009

The ghosts of smartphones past....

I've never owned my own mobile 'phone - it seems that my bosses have placed more value on being able to contact me than I've placed on owning my own handset. I suppose that there can't be many people who were in a positions where having your own 'phone was too expensive but mobiles were common enough for it to be a valid business tool. Engineers five years younger than me would have not thought twice about getting a cell 'phone.
Anyhow - we just switched over to iPhones at work and so I thought I list the last ten years of smartphones I've had - I suppose once 'phones could receive email and do data they became smarphones.

The 888 came out in 1999 and was the first handset I had that could do data - it had a built in GSM modem (at a mighty 9600 baud!) and would tether to my PDA (an HP Journada) and allow me to do email on the bus! It was also built like a tank and the battery lasted for days! It didn't have anything like a browser however.

The R380 was unusual in that the keyboard flipped away from the landscape touchscreen to reveal a very wide aspect display that did have a WAP browser and an email client. I used to browse Yahoo's news feeds on the train on the way back from the Big Brother studio in 2001. Like the 888 it was solid (although the flip out keyboard needed replacing once) and had excellent battery life. The keyboard was just mechanical - the buttons pressed on the touchscreen and the 'phone clearly knew where all the buttons were.

The original SPV was the first Windows Mobile (phone edition) handset on the market (I think) - it had GPRS data (2.5G if you will) and could run an IM client as well as browser and email. It struggled to playback MP3s whilst anything else was going on, but I used it for a year in 2003. Battery life was appalling and (like every other Windows powered device I've ever had) it crashed often.

The E200 was a bit better - a touch faster and it had a camera built in (my first handset with that). Build quality wasn't good and I recall most of Root6 having to get replacement handsets. The battery life seemed worse than the original SPV.

The C500 finally hit the sweet-spot of pewerful enough processor (for the OS) and decent battery life. This was the best 'phone-edition version of Windows Mobile I ever had. It was robust and the battery life was tolerable. I used one for a year and a half around 2005.

The M1000 was my first Windows Mobile PDA-format 'phone. I think it came at the end of Windows Mobile 2003 and so was man-enough for the OS. I love 'phones that do lots of stuff - camera, MP3 playback, document viewing etc. The slide-out keyboard was suprisingly usable.

The M5000 was a step backwards AFAIK - it had a cute little laptop form-factor and you could swivel the screen so that it was hidden in use - so you couldn't see who was calling! Terrible battery life along with a new version of the OS meant it struggled to be usable. One nice thing about it was that it had a 640x480 screen which meant video playback was good - I used to drop MPEG2 files straight from off-air recordings and they played back faultlessly.

The HTC Hermes suffered like the M5000 in that it was the first of their handsets to have Windows Mobile v.6 (they'd reverted to numbers rather than years) and so was too underpowered and (like most them!) the battery life only just lasted a day if (like me) you used it for a few calls, some emails and a podcast or two. I wasn't sorry to see this one go!

Until last week the HTC Kaiser was my PDA-phone and I felt that (with the possible exception of the M1000) it was the only Windows Smartphone that really cut the mustard. It was powerful enough to do everything, battery life was tolerable and the included TomTom GPS was excellent. I stopped using my car's GPS in favour of it - kinda ironic that now I have an iPhone (no turn-by-turn GPS) I'll be digging that one out of the bottom of the glove box!