No more pink walls

    Still kickin

    Well as promised I’ve produced a second demo screencast for Gloss. It doesn’t contain everything I’d wanted to get in it as many of these features simply haven’t been finished.

    I’ve been struggling a lot with gstreamer and bending it to my will. This is shown by the simple fact that the videos shown in the screencast are not fullscreen, nor do they feature a deinterlacer (Something that is absolutely required for DVB transmissions). The TV stream that is shown however is live and being streamed across a wireless network from my main myth backend.
    So without further stalling, enjoy:

    YouTube Preview Image

    More Gloss

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    Well things have been progressing on the Gloss front, not with massive steps, but constant. I’m hoping to have a second webcast up later this week that will demo the new features such as Live TV and DVD watching.

    Gloss has also been given a more permanent home on Google Code. It can be found at http://code.google.com/p/gloss-mc/ and has an SVN repo that is getting about 1 revision a day at the moment. It also has a set of instructions for getting it up and running on Ubuntu. These instructions require further testing so if anyone wants to try them out and let me know how you go I’d appreciate it.

    I’ve also made the decision the make Gloss purely a drop-in replacement for Myth frontend. Its now heavily reliant on a Myth server being present as it will look for both the MySQL db and a backend server for Live TV. With these changes a lot of the nasty hardcoded paths and things have been removed and if you run Gloss on a machine with that is already setup as a mythfrontend, it should pickup the relevant config files for your server.

    So here’s what’s been done since the last post:

    • VERY basic implementation of the Myth backend/frontend streaming protocol. Doesn’t yet have the ability to change channels etc, but DOES show live TV over a network. Its also using a very ugly buffering method that will have to change in some way, but I’ve been unable to get gstreamer reading directly from a tcp socket so its all I’ve got so far.
    • DVD player module. Very early stages. Can play chapters but no menus etc
    • Slideshow module is now nearly complete. It can also reference mythgallery settings for paths and also play music over the slideshow
    • Video module is started. Pulls video metadata from the Myth DB and display covers etc but palying is pretty raw
    • ‘Rolling’ menus. Previously a menu would simply show as many items as it contained which could lead to items being offscreen. Now the menu display size can be set and when moving onto items that are not shown, the menu will ‘roll’ to bring them into view. Still a little buggy though.

    The next few things I’m hoping to get done are more media centric. I want to get the functionality into the modules before I start going around polishing things up. So the TODO list goes:

    • Channel changing of live tv. Shouldn’t be too difficult but requires cleaning up of the protocol code.
    • On screen display. I want to try and use a universal OSD that can be used across modules for pausing, skipping etc. Its getting to the point where this is needed.
    • Advance the video player module a bit. Its currently very rough and incomplete (Mainly because I got a little bored with it) but shouldn’t take much to get it functional. I’m just a little unsure of how I want the interface for this to work at the moment.

    So anyway, that’s where things are today. Like I said, hopefully there should be another screencast later this week.

    Well its been a while between updates, things have been out of control busy (You know, getting engaged and all), but I have been keeping busy.

    A little while ago I discovered the Clutter project which is a OpenGl accelerated 2D framework for linux and decided that I’d have a crack at producing something with it. Seeing that I’d always wanted to learn a bit of Python and there were appropriate bindings, I dived in.

    So, I give you Gloss, a basic but fairly pretty media centre type frontend. Currently its not a frontend to anything and its pretty buggy, but checkout the screencast below and it wil give you a rough idea of where the project is heading:

    YouTube Preview Image
    Ideally this will get hooked up to something like Myth, but thats a fair bit down the track at this stage.

    This picture was posted on the Linux Australia mailing list today and I thought it was great:

    Its a scratchy that has been issues by South Australian Lotteries, the official site for which is http://www.salotteries.sa.gov.au/games/InstantScratchiesType.aspx?p=73

    I guess someone just went looking for a good looking penguin, comforting to know that Tux is the first one they found (Or at least the best one). If there’s anyone in SA who feels like sending me one of these, I’d love to have it, I’d somehow feel that it would have to be lucky, even if there are another billion of them floating around

    Dear Digg,

    You’re one of my favourite websites, certainly one of the ones I visit the most, so it pains me to see you writhing in pain over this whole HD DVD key thing. If history has shown us anything though, its that sitting on your hands in a moment of crisis will do nothing but cause harm. Yes the comments have got immature, repetitive and just plain dumb, but you need to realise you’ve pissed off a whole lot of people by removing posts, banning people etc. Sitting on your high horse and waiting for everything to blow over will only expose more people to a Digg that is ruled by out of control teenagers.

    One of the reasons I liked Digg is that its quality of articles and comments was generally on a slightly higher level than sights such as Slashdot. Take control now. Deleting posts and comments is NOT the way to do it, but make a comment. Make multiple comments! People see Digg (And Kevin Rose specifically) as being ‘one of them’, if you’re keeping them out of the loop then of course they’re going to get angry. Many feel that they helpded make Digg what is is so they see this as a form of betrayal.

    I know you have legal issues to think about and I’m not saying that you should ignore them, but do something as reputations are hard to earn back, as are good news sites.

    Many of you out there will have already been subjected to my furious advocating, but for those who missed it:

    This coming Saturday the newly formed Ballarat Linux Users Group (BLUG), in conjunction with Linux Users Victoria (LUV) will be holding an install-fest and full day mini-conference. The day will be held at the University of Ballarat and is, of course, free and open to anyone.

    We’re hoping that the day holds something for anyone interested in linux and/or open source software. For anyone who has always wanted to try linux but didn’t know where to start, there will be people around all day that are more than willing to help out. For those who have already discovered the joys of linux, there will be talks held throughout the day, that are aimed both at first timers, but also those looking to delve more deeply into what linux is capable of.

    So, I’m hoping to see as many of you as possible there this weekend, particularly those who made the journey to linux.con.fau  this year (hint hint). For any further details, checkout http://blug.asn.au/wiki/index.php/March_Install-fest

    On a recent stumbling through the web, an article got me thinking again about first person shooters (FPS) and consoles. The article had said that, despite ‘elitist’ propaganda on the contrary, console controllers were no worse that a keyboard+mouse for FPS’ers. Now in the interests of being open, i should state straight up that I cannot, in any way, play fps’ers with a controller. I end up falling off cliffs and generally not getting very many kills. Granted, on a PC I might not be the worlds best, but I like to think that I could rate in the top half of a kill list for any game I have a little experience with.

    That said however, I know there are some people who are incredibly good at this style of game with controllers. So, finally getting to the point of this post, surely there’s an easy way to find out if one is really better than the other….

    Of course there is! You simply make the two multiplay on the same server, ie both PC and console players can be in the same game, without even knowing what platform anyone else uses. Get the server to gather some stats on winning’est platform and Robert’s your fathers brother.
    There, that wasn’t so hard was it? Now I’m not the most console experienced person in the world so it might be that there are a few titles out there that allow this already, but they certainly aren’t the big ticket items, your Halo’s, Unreal Tournament’s etc. This got me to wondering why this is the case.
    The first thing that comes to mind ‘Surely its not a technical thing?’.
    Surely multiplayer games just work on a protocol of sorts between the server and clients? As long as both console and PC client’s speak the same language the server doesn’t even have to know the difference. OK, it can’t be technical.

    What about financial? Maybe there’s simply not the interest there for games companies to bother investing time to make this work? But no, thats silly too because surely anything that increases the number of people playing online is a good thing? If they weren’t interested in online numbers, they wouldn’t code in multiplayer in the first place.

    So, this just leaves the consipracy theory. The console land is owned basically by 3 players, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. I’ll pretty much ignore Nintendo for the purposes of this post as there aren’t that many fps’ers for Nintendo platforms. So getting back to Sony and MS….

    Basically these two companies, for whatever reasons, feel the need to completely own your online gaming experience. Its not like on the PC where someone can run their own server where the rules are changed or so that clans can have organised practice sessions etc, everything goes through them. Now sure, there are legit reasons for this, well, 1 legit reason I can think of and thats to reduce cheating. But cheating (Sorry ‘sploitin) isn’t a rampant, out of control problem killing the PC gaming world. Its present, but no more so than on consoles. Why would they need or even want this level of control?
    Well, in my sceptical, consipracy theory loving, big-faceless-corporation-holding-the-man-down type mind, it all comes back to the reason I wrote this article. I wanted an answer about which was the better fps interface device, but simply put, Sony and MS don’t want me to have that answer. The problem being of course, is that it exposes a lot more than simply controller vs keyboard+mouse.
    These companies fear that the answer will cause them lost sales to the PC’s if people see that there’s potentially a better way. The best and worst thing about consoles is that every single model of a console (eg every PS2) will play the game the same way, they’re on a level playing field. As soon as you allow PC’s into the game though, that all goes out the window. The die hard players will no longer use a console if there’s a PC that’s twice as powerful available.

    Now this might all sound like I’m pro-PC and anti console. Heck, maybe to a degree I am. But I’m trying to be objective about this. I can’t imagine that too many PC owners would convert to consoles if this mythical console/PC game convergence ever actually happened, its the consoles that have something to lose. The simple fact is that PC’s allow for more freedom to improve your gaming experience (IE upgrading). This leads to an advantage in game and, as sad as it is, there’s a lot of people out there that would go to some fairly large lengths (by ‘normal’ standards) to get that edge.

    So that’s it, PC’s are a superior platform for fps gaming, as proven by Sony and MS’s  restriction on a direct comparison. *Ducks*
    Don’t get me wrong, I love consoles in their own way. They are the best, hands down, for ‘social’ gaming, where everyone sits around on the couch just having a good time. When was the last time you saw a group of normal (ie non-nerd) people huddling around a PC for hours on end doing the same thing? In the fps world though, they compete for 2 reasons:

    1. Price
    2. Ease of use

    People start with a console for these two reasons. They’re not addicted at that stage, they just want to play the odd game. Of course, before too long, they’re raving, obsessive gamers that simply have to teabag that assclown whose killed them the last 17 rounds. We’ve all been there. But by this stage, they’re used to the controller, even worse, they’re evangelists for the controller. They’ve spent 300+ hours getting used to it and there’s no way that a keyboard and mouse could possibly be any better. A fanboy is born.
    In a world where this conversion from happy, productive member of society, to mad, obsessive gamer, takes place on a PC rather than the console, MS and Sony find themselves short a ton of profit.

    So there it is, my rant on consoles, controllers and first person shooters. In the end the conclusion isn’t all that new (Consoles compete with PC on price and simplicity, der) but its an answer to the controller vs keyboard+mouse debate, which is good enough for me.

    Well I finally got around to ‘finishing’ another of the little projects I’d been playing with. This one is probably extremely boring to nearly everyone but me, but franklin I don’t really care, it was useful for me :)

    Basically I whipped up a little site where you can pull Australian Stock (ASX) quotes, for any group of companies you wish, in RSS form. The site is still a little rough at the moment, but if this is useful to anyone else its at: http://noisymime.org/asx

    Incase anyone is wondering why the hell I would bother wasting my time creating something like this, it all stemmed from the MythTV setup. I’ve got the MythNews plugin loaded which allows you to read RSS streams in a nice pretty format on your TV in the morning. I thought a set of stock quotes would be good too, but alas after searching I couldn’t find any service providing this (For free at least), so I did the crazy thing and made it myself.

    Well my all encompassing MythTV box is finally nearing completion! It still needs a little bit of new hardware (BIG HDD and new vid card) to go in, but its bascially done. It’ll show and record digital TV, has a pretty Web interface for when I forget to tape something before I leave the house, play normal video files and music and tell me the weather in the morning.

    I have to admit though, the whole thing was a huge pain in the ass to get working right. The DVB tuner card in it (DVico Dual) probably caused the bulk of the problems as the drivers for it are in a constant state of flux. Once I got that working, the only other tricky thing was channel tuning. This really should be a simple procedure but until MythTV includes something that will actually scan transponders automatically rather than requiring the correct transponders first, then its always going to be difficult.

    For this reason, I’m providing a quick set of instructions for anyone else in Ballarat (Victoria, Australia) who is trying to setup a box like this.
    Note that these are tuning instructions only and assume that your tuner card is already operational and that you have MythTV installed:

    1. Firstly, grab this tuning file that I created for Ballarat
    2. Run ‘scan au-Ballarat‘. You should see it pickup the various digital services from each channel. If not then it means that you’re reception is no good or you are picking up from a different transmitter. Either way you might as well stop now as the rest of the instructions won’t work
    3. Execute the following command:
      scan -5 ~/au-Ballarat |cat ~/channels.conf – |grep -v :0:0:[0-9]*$|sort |uniq > ~/channels.conf’
      This will produce a channels.conf file that MythTV can import.
    4. Run ‘sudo mythtv-setup
    5. Select the bottom option, Channel Editor
    6. Select Scan for Channels
    7. Change the scan type to ‘Load from channels.conf’ and enter the absolute path to the channels.conf file you created above (Note: Relative path names do not work)
    8. Start the scan. That should find you all the channels and add them in.If you want
    9. If you want to include guide data, you will need to add the XML TV id’s as well. These can be obtained by running:
      “tv_grab_au –list-channels –loc VICReg –srv freesd” (You can change the freesd to freehd if you’re using High Def channels as well
      If you don’t have tv_grab_au you can obtain it from: http://www.onlinetractorparts.com.au/rohbags/xmltvau/
    10. Finally, exit mythtv-setup and pull down the guide data:
      sudo /etc/cron.daily/myth-backend‘ or
      sudo mythfilldatabase
      Note: The above is on an Ubuntu system so the path to your cron files may vary.

    And hopefully that should get you to the watching TV stage. Good luck!

    Superceded

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    Well, I knew it was going to happen, but Google finally released their own ‘official’ version of the Desktop Calendar plugin with the features I’d added, thus making my version obsolete and destined to fall slowly in Gadget ranking. They based their new version off my code but have also edited it to their own desires (Eg They removed the ability for a user to set their own update time, guess their servers are copping enough of a pounding). So this means I’m going to have to do something else as a drawcard for advertising as I’m still a little way off Adsense’s minimum payout level of $100.
    The upside? Well, at least there’s a Google product out there with my name in the code. The other upside? Well, not really an upside, but still funny, is that Google have now inherited at least 1 bug that I’d noticed in my code. Apparently they didn’t pick it up when copying and pasting :)
    OK that was mean, they haven’t really copied and pasted (They removed all my comments), and they did add a few other tasty features that I hadn’t got around to or wasn’t sure how to do.