Archive for September, 2006

I can’t help but believe that she is correct, but wrong

September 29th, 2006 No comments

Jacqueline Wilson is bemoaning the removal of junk food ads on kids TV. She is worried that it will hurt kids TV dramas. I think she is correct in that respect.

As far as I am concerned, that’s a good thing. With a loss of television programmes, kids will have to use their imaginations to play, and will be more active rather than just sitting down watching television. Kids will be active, and healthier; parents will be happier that their kids are healthy; and the cost to society (in terms of medical treatment) will be lower.

In fact, the only person who I can see at a loss in this situation, is Jacqueline Wilson – it will be her livelihood at stake.

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Yay memes

September 27th, 2006 1 comment
~ $ history|awk '{print $2}'|awk 'BEGIN {FS="|"} {print  $1}'|sort|uniq -c|sort -rn|head -10
      238 ls
      217 cd
       73 grep
       43 ./
       42 cat
       34 ./iCABS
       28 vi
       28 date
       23 ./runxq
       20 rm

That’s on my work development server, at least. Wow, I’m a corporate bitch! I love the fact that “rm” appears on there!

Hmmm, I’m quite surprised tail isn’t on there…


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Which Bloody Idiot Suggested This?

September 20th, 2006 1 comment

It was on the news here this morning – insurance companies are suggesting that young drivers should take at least a years worth of driving lessons before they pass their test.

There is one simple, obvious flaw to this plan. You simply cannot afford to take one years worth of driving lessons. Full stop.

Before I passed my test, I had taken 36 hours of driving lessons (I think), and that cost me £420. That was (pretty much, bang on) 7 years ago now. I dread to think how much it would cost in today’s terms.

The young drivers that they are talking about, are usually aged between 17 to 19, and most have weekend jobs that pay them a pittance. They would have to save for months to be able to afford to do it. And don’t forget the other fees that come with learning to drive – the cost of each practical test was around £40 when I did it.

And besides, if I wanted to take 12 months worth of lessons, how many lessons a year is that? If that’s one a week, that’s 52 lessons – what if I compressed those 52 lessons by doing 2 a week? It’s the same amount of driving time, same amount of practice and experience, in half the time. And how long is a lesson? 1 hour? Fine. But what if I do two two hour lessons a week? That’s only 13 weeks, all feasible, with the same amount of practice. Equally, I could spread the number of lessons out – by doing one lesson every 2 weeks, or even one lesson a month. It’s still a year, so still valid – but the experience level goes out the window.

Far better would be to impose restrictions on young drivers. E.g. Limit the engine size of the car they are allowed to drive; reduce their top speed on Motorways down to (say) 60mph; and impose tougher penalties for dangerous driving and speeding.

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Why Don’t Adobe Get It?

September 19th, 2006 No comments

Slight rant this morning. Why do Adobe insist on adding pointless features to their Acrobat software?

All I want is a bit of software that can produce PDF documents, and a piece of associated reader software for the same format. It’s easy. I don’t need web conferencing, I don’t even see the point of it. Just fix an security issues, and make it read embedded fonts properly, that’s all I ask!

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Weird Colours in MythTV v0.20

September 16th, 2006 No comments

I upgraded my media centre PC today to use the new MythTV v0.20. The upgrade (via yum) went fine, but as soon as I restarted MythTV, the colours on the menu screens were seriously screwed up, and I had no text on the screen either, so I didn’t know what options I was choosing.

Anyway, I did a search of the MythTV user’s emailing list, and came across this entry. It seems to describe exactly the same issue as I had, except he doesn’t mention anything about lost text.

An answer is posted, here, about somebody overwriting the file “qtlook.txt” from the themes package. Once overwritten, it seemed to work.

Well, I tried that, and it didn’t work, but I have managed to fix it. Instead of just overwriting the file qtlook.txt in the theme’s directory, I manually downloaded the themes package from the MythTV website, and then completely overwrote all the files in the directory. As soon as I restarted MythTV, the colours were perfectly normal and the text was returned! Hey presto!

Incidentally, to find the location of the “qtlook.txt” file, I simply did a search using “locate” to try and find it. Turns out that there is one for every theme, so you may need to overwrite all the theme directories to get them all to work again.

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Recording DVB Radio

September 16th, 2006 No comments

I said recently that I had managed to successfully record DVB radio on my Linux media centre PC. I must admit that it was very easy to do, but it was difficult to find the information on how to do it. Eventually, I managed it, and now I’m putting it here so people can view it if they want to.

First, you’ll need a couple of sets of tools. The first is the DVB Apps package. This can be downloaded from this location. You’re looking for the most recent version of “linuxtv-dvb-apps-x.x.x.tar.gz” (version 1.1.1 at time of writing). Download this, uncompress it (tar -xzf <filename>), change into the directory and then run configure and then make. The chances are, you may already have used these programs so scan for DVB signals in the first place, so don’t bother downloading them twice! All we are really going to use them for is to change the channel on the DVB capture card.

Secondly, you’ll need the libdvb package, available from this location. Although this is a small webpage, it’s quite difficult to work out what file you want. It’s the one labelled “LIBDVB 0.x.x.x (Updated xxxxxxxx)” – the current version is “”. This contains the dvb-mpegtools package which we will use to do the recording. Once this has downloaded, follow the same unpackage, configure, make routine for that file too.

Now, to do the recording: You need to identify the name of the DVB channel that you wish to record. You can determine this using the output of the scan utility in the DVB Apps package. You need to determine the exact name of the channel as specified in it’s output (e.g. “BBC Radio 1”. Once you’ve determined the name, you also need to know the PID of the audio stream of that channel – after the name of the channel, on the same line, there is a load of configuration information. Go to the very end of the line, and working back towards the beginning, find the last and the second to last colon on the line (“:”). The number between the two colons is the PID for that radio stations audio stream. (e.g. for my region BBC Radio 1 has a pid of 6210).

Once you have determined both these things, you need to tune the capture card to that channel. Use the tzap program (only use tzap for terrestrial DVB, use czap for cable and szap for satellite) to tune one of your capture cards to the correct channel. e.g.:

./tzap -a 1 "BBC Radio 1"

In this case, I am tuning my second capture card to the channel by using the “-a 1” parameter (the cards are numbered from zero up). I should point out here, that you should ensure that no other application will tune the capture card away from that channel whilst you are recording it! I.e. Make sure there are no recordings scheduled in MythTV.

Once this is done, you can then start to record the audio stream using the “dvbaudio” program from the libdvb package. To do this, use this command line as an example:

./dvbaudio -a 1 6210 > outputfile.mp2

This will take the audio stream (with a PID of 6210) from the second capture card (again, set using the “-a 1”) parameter, and pipes it into the file “outputfile.mp2” (it will be recorded in MPEG Layer 2 format – this means it will need converting before it can be played on portable MP3 players).

So there you have it, that is all there is to it! I managed to successful record a program using the technique, so I know that it should work. It’s also fairly obvious that you could create a shell script to do all this grunt work for you, using grep and sed, but I just haven’t got around to it yet.

Also, MythTV v0.20 is out now, which now supports DVB radio channels as well, which kind of makes this information slightly redundant!

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September 15th, 2006 No comments

I’ve just come back from giving blood for the first time. I was a bit worried about it, but everything seems to have gone pretty much OK. At least I didn’t faint like a big jessie.

What really annoys me though is the guy who did the quick prick test on my finger left me with a huge overlap on the end of my left middle finger. It’s making it very difficult to type!

Actually, I’ve realised that I hate having plasters on my fingers. You lose so much sensation, and dexterity (because you’re finger is bigger), plus I find that I’m not as willing to do stuff with that hand anymore (e.g. I’ve just eaten a bag of salt and vinegar crisps with my right hand – something I always use my left hand for – even though there was nil chance of me getting any salt in the tiny pin prick of a hole!).

Plus, I’ve got a large plaster on my arm, over the inside of my elbow, that doesn’t let me extend my arm properly. I feel disfigured.

Still, at least I’ve probably saved a life. (Woohoo!)

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Recording DVB Radio

September 11th, 2006 No comments

Finally, after a weekend of trying, I managed to track down a suitable command line so that I could record some DVB radio in Linux on my media centre PC.

To cut a long story short, it involved using TZap to change the channel on one of my receiver cards (I have two), and then using dvbaudio to retrieve the audio stream, and pipe it into a file name.

I’ll provide a full write up once I’ve got a good description of how to do it myself, and I might even post a shell script which will automatically do the grunt work for me.

As for the output, it was recorded as an MP2 file, so I still need to encode it to MP3 for it to be useful, but having listened to it today at work, it’s brilliant quality, and has no “artefacts” in it. Actually, this was a bit of a relief, as looking at the output of dvbaudio, there were several mentions of some errors in the stream, but these fortunately do not appear to have made it into the output file.

I also had a slight concern that MythTV would try and retune the card halfway through the recording, but I checked the schedule before hand and cancelled the one recording that was scheduled (I wasn’t that interested in it anyway). Fortunately, it appears that MythTV doesn’t randomly retune the cards if it detects they are tuned away from where it thinks they are.

Hopefully, I won’t have to do this again too often, as the next release of MythTV (allegedly) supports DVB radio, so we’ll just have to see what that’s like when it’s released.

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