Tag Archives: Entertainment

3 lounge room devices into 1

I had a look at the stack of equipment in my TV room. It really needs to be rationalised! Amp, MC500 network media player, VCR, DVD, STB etc My ideal would be the Australian Z500 network DVD player with on-board STB and hard drive…which really turns it into a Home Theatre PC (HTPC). Dream land.

A HTPC would enable me to rationalise the MC500, DVD and VCR into the one box. I would keep the current external STB as I don’t like the idea of having to boot a PC just to watch TV. The HTPC would have a tuner card too; hence I could watch one, record another.

A tech mate is about to build his MythTV box; enabling him to build a very high quality HTPC using free and open source software. I’m following his adventures with interest.

Finding local data for Google Earth

I’m using Google Earth a fair bit. I’ve been fascinated with turning maps into 3D views since secondary school; when we learned how to create a height versus distance cross-section from a topology map.

Google Earth has the ability to cut and paste latitude & longitude co-ords directly in, which makes it quite easy to Go To a place of interest.
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Digital TV to XviD : 30,000 foot view

DVB (digital TV) recordings, as I’ve said before, are cool but fat. I squash them down to AVI files containing XviD (MPEG4) video and MP3 audio. Yes, THAT MP3. Still an excellent audio compression scheme.

One day I’m going to write a full on ‘how to’ but here’s a summary from 10,000 meters.

All software is for Windows. I think all are open source; they certainly are free. Doom9 has most of these applications.
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Up-selling Broadband

Or perhaps that should read over-selling. Either way, I’ve noticed a recent, semi-subliminal message from Telstra. The mantra they are getting us to chant is “I need really fast broadband, 4 to 6 megabits. Otherwise I won’t be able to watch new things, like TV, over the Internet

Given that the fastest home ADSL connection is currently ‘only’ 1.5 megabits, it’s a bit of a jump to 6. And not cheap either.

But I’m now starting to:

  1. question their assumptions, and
  2. question their motives.

Seems like they are basing this 4 to 6 figure on using MPEG-2 technology; as currently used in DVDs and Digital TV.

But, but, but. Why MPEG-2? What about the more modern MPEG-4? This would seem to be the way of the future; scheduled to be part of the DVD follow-on products like Blu-ray and HD-DVD.

I can speak from my own tests with MPEG-4 that a 50 minute digital TV show can be compressed to 440 MB (Megabyte). This is standard definition (DVD quality) picture. Yes, the picture looks just like a DVD.

Everyone I’ve shown it to cannot pick the difference between in image quality between this MPEG-4 file and DVD.

If you work it out, my MPEG4′s are 8.8 megabyte per minute. Even with timing and protocol overheard, that’s nowhere near the “4 to 6 megabits per second“.

My media player reports a bit rate (total) of 1226 k Bits/sec for this file. My ADSL link is about 1500 k Bits/sec.

Therefore: I could probably stream this MPEG-4 file over current ADSL 1.5 megabit link (!)

Also, these are open source codecs (XviD) with open (public) compression matrices. Maybe proprietary systems can achieve even greater MPEG-4 quality at lower rates and therefore needing less speed lines.

So, back to their possible motives for this apparent up-selling. Wouldn’t be to take advantage of consumer ignorance and charge more money for the 4 to 6 megabit links? Surely not. No way.

Cables suck , well…

Saw an ad on TV last night for a new plasma TV with a built in high-definition tuner. Normally you have to have an external set top box (STB) and run a cable from it to the TV. If said TV is thin and hanging on your wall – TV as moving painting – these cables are quite unsightly.

Hence the ad shows the cable fading away to reveal just the TV on the wall. The slogan appears: “cables suck”.

Err so this TV has no power or aerial? I mean both of those babies need cables.

So to achieve the view as seen on the ad, you must hide the power and aerial cables in conduits inside the wall cavity. Where you could also hide the STB cable.

Is Pay TV doomed?

I heard yesterday that the number of broadband Internet users in Australia is now about the same as pay TV users. The key fact is that it’s taken only a few years for broadband to hit that number. It’s taken pay TV a lot longer to get there.

Pay TV numbers are quite stagnant. Broadband usage has exploded; particularly over the last 12 months.It’s not hard to see why. It’s the money.

The ‘dollars per hour’ of usage (entertainment?) for Broadband has plummeted over the last few years. Pay TV, being an effective monopoly, doesn’t have such competitive forces driving prices down and value up.

But it wont be long before we can get TV over Broadband. Unless they do some hard thinking to meet this challenge, Pay TV will lose. Big time.

AFL rights – all 8 games

Now that the AFL has given Channels 10 and 7 the go ahead to offer a joint bid, can the consortium ask for all 8 games?

It would make life interesting if they offered a sweetener; to show Friday night games live into Queensland and New South Wales. This has been a long-held dream of the AFL.

In turn this would make life difficult for Foxtel; what ‘added-value’ could they bring if all 8 games are on free to air.

Then there’s the ‘spare’ capacity of digital (free to air) TV. Can it be used for lesser games? Mmm. More on this later.

Digital TV – How Australia got it wrong

I’m not sure why it happened or – worse still – who forced things, but Australia (to wit: the federal government) has really screwed up digital TV. This is free-to-air, not pay TV. Don’t get me started on pay TV…

First some basic technical stuff about TV. It’s not hard, trust me.

In Australia, a normal good old fashioned TV has 625 lines of information broadcast. Your TV ‘paints’ these lines very quickly, over the screen.

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Dolby Digital 5.1 on CD

I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t a hybrid system of DVD-audio, but on a plain old CD. Actualy Dolby Digital 5.1 audio-only recordings on a CD format. I know it works as the recent tests with a Dark Side of the Moon bootleg, remixed into DD 5.1 were exactly that.

The downside is that it can only be played on a “DVD” type player – with a 5.1 amp – that understands/decodes the format. I tried to play it on a portable CD player and it literally played the 0′s and 1′s as white noise hiss!!