Archive for December, 2010

Why XBMC rocks! (via postie)

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

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Xbmc is, at least as I’m concerned, the only media centre choice for
the discerning geek. Recently I upgraded my ‘cube’ machine and patched
appletv to the latest 10.0 version ‘Dharma’. The biggest difference,
that I had heard rumours of for a while, is that the OSX/appletv
verfsion how support hardware-accellerated x264 decoding! So now, all
those HD TV episodes and DVD/Blu-Ray rips I have (ok,up to 720p – I’m
not expecting miracles!) actually play on what is essentially a 1GHz
P3! There is still an issue where 5.1 ac3 audio doesn’t appear/downmix
but that could still be due to my surround decoder (still have tests to
run for that). Additionally, I recently purchsed a Hauppauge WinTV
Nova-TD-500 DVB card to turn my ‘cube’ machine into a freeview
recorder, along the lines of my existing Humax 9200 boxes. The bottle
that xbmc brings to this party is that of the ‘Video add-on’ known as
MythBox that is included in the default add-on repository. This extends
the familiar xbmc interface to be a front-end for that other stalwart
linux-based media centre, MythTV.

After the relatively painless configuration of MythTV (add card as
source, scan for channels, save channel names), the most techy change
was to allow access to the mythtv mysql database from the LAN ip and
local network for other distributed front-ends.

Then configure the locally installed MythBox to talk to the same
database and use the same recordings directory – neccessary for the two
componenets to talk to each other. it should be noted here that this
particular machine started as an xbmc-live 9.04 machine and has now
been upgraded to 10.10 Maverick and uses the xbmc ppa. i did try adding
the mythbuntu respositories to get the ‘latest’ mythtv packages due to
the ‘other’ frontend running on the appletv in my bedroom (it’s small
and quiet!) due to the protocol version mismatch introduced by the
mythtv project (jumping from 56 to 23056!) Which stopped the streaming
of live tv, but that caused a bit of a nightmare with mythtv expecting
a libmyth verfsion it didn’t have, so I reverted to the 10.10 versions
and all was good.

The other major issue was that the supplied Hauppauge remote was either
not getting its buton press notifications through to xbmc (so some,
like the rather important ‘OK’ button didn’t work) or xbmc was receving
the same input twice, resulting in equally unusable bouble-button
presses. After spending some hours (well, an afternoon) on this,
thinking that it was due to an interaction between the kernel ir
drivers being in twice + lirc input and working out how to disable the
ir remote as an xinput keyboard device all without a workable result.
What turned out to be the somewhat simpler solution was ‘sudo
dpkg-reconfigure lirc’, selecting thne wintv nova remote as a device.
After that, the xbmc debug log only reportged a single button-press per
button, meaning the other minor change was in
~xbmc/.xbmc/userdata/Lircmap.xml to tell that about ‘left’ being
‘ArrowLeft’ frrom the remote. After these happy events, all appeared to
be working so I took the machine back to its primary location in thne
living room for a demonstration. All the (configured) remote buttons
work, it’s possible to record programmes from the DTV tuner/s and
playback those recordings. Even watching live tv works! I was a little
puzzled for a few seconds as to why some random thing was coming on
when I tried to record an upcoming programme, then realised what I was
seeing was the interlude before the expected programme! Next step is to
get the extra remote buttons to do something useful, like have the
‘guide’ button bring up the mythbox tv guide… i haven’t yet had
another chance to see if the ‘watching live tv’ from another room
actually works, yet the fact I can schedule programmmes to record and
later play them back is probably good enough for the moment. I may even
end up ebay’ing at least one of my humax boxes! 😉

Legacy in 3D @ the Imax (via postie)

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

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I’d read a couple of reviews of the film, notably from Wired and Total Film, who saw this long-awaited sequel for the sequel to the original ground-breaking film as what it was – more and better, orat least as as good from what I remember having my father take me to see the original as a small boy of 10… I’ve read that some reviews criticised the acting or choice of actors, yet that I would answer “you’re missing the point” and “maybe the film isn’t for middle-aged types without imagination” (especially the guy from the London Evening Standard!).

For me, this was a film about possibilities and forgiveness. The possibilities about digital life from digital DNA becoming self-aware and how we can assume the worst about someone when we don’t have all the information about their situation, then come to understand why they did what they did when we do. The digital recreation of the younger Jeff Bridges is really impressive, looking and moving as an almost perfect simulacra, which obviously is, but certainly could be extended to reproduce famous actgors of bygone eras…

The graphics, from the Disney towers of light in the opening titles to the light-fighters (not just cycles or cars!) had me, at times, almost in tears of wonderment, although some of that was down to the 3D (amazing for the cityscapes) and some due to the space-sized (it’s big. Really, really big) screen of the Imax. We (father, g/f & I) were in row G, so that meant our entire field-of-view was the screen…

I should really have booked the tickets as soon as I got the email of when they were to be on sale, as the announcement of this film was indeed why I ‘just had to’ sign myself up for BFI membership to be able to get members advance tickets. So I would have preferred to have been a little further back, yet being where we were meant it was a ‘complete’ visual experience. What it does mean though, is that from noticing all the little details in the corners of the screen or backgrounds I will need to see it again, in at least full HD. Part of me was expecting all of the graphics to be full-depth 3D, given the generated environment, so there was a small disappointment there, but only a small one. I’ve decided I want one of the costumes, or at least a replica, so I’ll be saving the pennies for if Propworks get their act together for that!Oh, and probably also making sure I can be in shape for it! 😉

As for the story and the acting, for me it was certainly a father/son story about understanding responsibilities, although the g/f suggested religious overtones – the god-like powers of discovering/creating/overseeing what is essentially a new universe – which is certainly an equally valid viewpoint. For the acting, Jeff Bridges was great, as the Zen-hippy beardy father. To be honest, although I wouldn’t personally say there was any bad acting, as part of the point is that most of the film takes place in a ‘simulated world’! If you accept that, then you will more easily understand the film for what it is meant to be. geek bits: Inevitably the sequel is compared to the original an I would say it is not just a worthy successor, but expands and goes beyond the ground-breaking-ness of the original.

The subtle geek-details that not everyone will get (like having Sam type actual unix commands when logging into his fathers dusty terminal) made me smile with knowing that there were details for people like me. I know there are more, but that’s why I know I need to see the film again – the Imax can be a little overwhelming that way. Overall, it’s escapism that reminds me of being smaller/younger – the wonder of seeing the original on the equally massive screen of the original Leicester Square odeon (thanks Dad! x ).

If you don’t expect too much from the film, it will certainly deliver. If you have no expectations, then prepare to be blown away and left as speechless as I was (although some of that was indeed down to the Imax/3D combination). Awesome. +10.