•March 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment
I haven’t posted anything in a while so I thought I should share some tips for the BlackBerry, specifically for the Curve 8330.
To convert a video to a format that works well on the BlackBerry I use “ffmpeg”:
ffmpeg -i input.file -f mp4 -vcodec mpeg4 -r 24 -b 768k -acodec libfaac -ab 128k -ac 2 -async 1 -s 320×240 output.mp4
Note: Use “320×176″ for 16:9 video. Both dimensions have to be divisible by 16.
To convert a 24bit image to the BlackBerry’s 16bit screen I use “convert” from the ImageMagick package:
convert -depth 16 -colors 65535 -dither FloydSteinberg old-24bit.png new-16bit.png
Note: Use “-treedepth 5″ if the conversion takes longer than a minute.
This command reduces the colors and applies a Floyd/Steinberg dither. The BlackBerry does reduce the colors automatically but it uses a faster ordered dither. The Floyd/Steinberg dither produces a better image, especially noticeable in images that contain gradients.
Finally, I use Barry to backup my BlackBerry as I can’t use the Blackberry Desktop software on Linux.
•March 17, 2008 • Leave a Comment
MythTV 0.21 was officially released a few days ago and is now in Gentoo portage, keyworded, not hard masked. I’m using it now and I haven’t experienced any problems. I upgraded to a pre-release version of 0.21 a while ago so the transition to the official release wasn’t difficult.
The developers of Wine recently released version 0.9.57. I do not use Wine with many programs so I don’t usually notice changes between versions but I did notice something different with this one. They fixed some windows management bugs that has, for me, fixed a problem in KDE that prevented Wine windows from being refreshed when minimized or when switching between different desktops.
Finally, Inkscape just released version 0.46 with many new features and bug fixes. I love it when the developers release new versions of Inkscape because there is always a ton of new things to play with. The new paintbucket tool, the tweak tool, and angled guidelines are going to be really useful when I’m creating images.
•March 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment
Nine Inch Nails has just released a collection called Ghosts I – IV that includes 36 new instrumental songs. One of the great things about this release is that they are doing it by themselves on their website.
Radiohead recently did the same thing, allowing people to download their new album In Rainbows on their website and asked people to pay any amount that they wanted, even nothing. Radiohead being my favorite band I decided to give them 10 Euros for the ten track album. I also bought the CD when it came out in stores a few months later.
Nine Inch Nails are currently doing something similar but are offering different packages. You can download the first set of songs for free as high quality MP3s, or you can pay some money for more songs in better formats. The album is even licensed under a version of the Creative Commons license.
I bought the $10 dollar package which includes all 36 tracks in a file format of your choosing (I chose flac), artwork, and a 2 CD set with the 36 songs that will be shipped on April 8th.
Unfortunately Nine Inch Nail’s website seemed very busy yesterday with fans wanting to download this new music so I couldn’t get it. I was finally able to download the zip file today and it was well worth the wait; NIN is one of my favorite bands and this is some great music.
Even if you don’t like Nine Inch Nails or Radiohead you should support their efforts to bring their fans music that is easier to obtain at a price that they want to pay. At the same time the money that you give will go directly to the artists, which they deserve. This is the start of something great and I hope other popular bands follow the lead of Radiohead and Trent Reznor.
•March 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment
I’m not sure of the exact date when I started using GNU/Linux. I remember reading an article on a website about alternative operating systems and it had a test on which one would best suit your personality. I think I was recommended FreeBSD and I might have actually tried it for a few days. In the end though, I found GNU/Linux to be most appealing.
Looking at old files and CDs I have lying around, I must have started using Linux some time around June 1999. I remember using some very small distributions and dual booting with Windows on my parent’s computer before I bought my first computer. When I got my IBM Thinkpad I bought Mandrake Linux 6.0 and installed it alongside Windows but that setup was short lived because the laptop had a small hard drive so it wasn’t long before I was using Linux exclusively on my computer.
I was excited at all the stuff I could install, all the programs and games with their source code, and tons of documentation. There was just so much more I could easily do in Linux compared to Windows. Since I don’t play many computer games I decided to just delete Windows and I haven’t looked back since.
For the first few years I was going back and forth between Mandrake and Redhat because I could find those distributions in local stores. I bought Mandrake 6.0, then Redhat 7.1, and then Mandrake 8.0. Once I got a high-speed internet connection I started downloading Linux. It didn’t take long until I made a switch to Debian because it was much easier to update. Debian was my distribution of choice for a few years until I discovered Gentoo Linux.
Gentoo is currently my distribution of choice because it is highly configurable and really easy to update. I have it installed on an old IBM Thinkpad X20, an AMD 64-bit based desktop, a Gateway desktop used as a MythTV system, and a Dell Latitude D620 laptop.
Thinking about it now, its interesting that I was recommended FreeBSD from that test I took and I’m now running Gentoo Linux which has based its packaging system on FreeBSD’s system.
•February 14, 2008 • Leave a Comment
That name might ring a bell, especially if you’re Canadian. Tom Green is a comedian from Ottawa, Ontario and had a show on The Comedy Network in Canada and then a show on MTV in America. He also stared in a few movies including his infamous Freddy Got Fingered.
I didn’t hear much about Tom in the last few years but then I saw him on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as a correspondent. I decided to search on the internet for him to find out what else he was up to. What I found was Tom Green’s official website.
It turns out that Tom has been busy creating a talk show in his own living room. A complete studio is in operation in Tom’s home in Los Angeles, California which includes multiple cameras, professional lighting, and sound proofing foam on the ceiling. He also broadcasts the show live and gives out his home phone number so the audience can ask his guest questions.
Living in Los Angeles means that Tom has quite a few celebrities living around him that he can ask to come and do his show. Some of his notable guest include Pamela Anderson, Bob Saget, Ed McMahon, Tony Hawk, Brooke Shields, Harland Williams, Val Kilmer, Norm MacDonald, Crispin Glover, Steve-O, Andrew “Dice” Clay, and many others.
As the show has progressed Tom has upgraded to high-definition cameras and a better set. He now broadcasts his show simultaneously through the internet and on television which has never been done before. You can now watch his groundbreaking show, Tom Green’s House Tonight, on The Comedy Network in Canada and in a few markets in America.
•February 8, 2008 • Leave a Comment
The current stable version of MythTV is 0.20.2. Version 0.20 was released in September 2006 and from then on 2 versions were released to fix some bugs. The developers are currently busy working on MythTV 0.21 which fixes many more bugs and introduces new features. Gentoo Linux has both versions in portage, 0.21 being hardmasked. At first I installed the stable version because this system was going to be used by the whole family and I needed it work reliably but there are a few problems with this version.
The biggest problem the stable version has is that reschedules take too long. Every time a show is recorded or deleted a reschedule takes place. When this happens queries are made to the mysql database and the MythTV backend uses 100% percent of the CPU for up to 40 seconds at a time. One reason it takes so long to reschedule my programs is that I have setup so many to record. I have about 50 programs set to record on a regular basis and the programming comes in from a satellite box with almost 200 channels available. It is easy to understand why my system could get bogged down doing a reschedule. While the backend is busy rescheduling programs it is slow to respond to request from the frontend and this caused many of the problems I was experiencing. Almost everyday I would have to connect to my MythTV system through ssh and restart the frontend because it had frozen waiting for the backend to respond. I also had many recordings that would be corrupted which I couldn’t explain.
After looking for solutions to the problems I was experiencing on the web, I got the impression in the MythTV mailing lists that the development version of MythTV was now considered more stable than the 0.20 version. I went ahead and unmasked MythTV and it’s related packages and installed MythTV 0.21.
I can say that with my own experience the development version, version 0.21, of MythTV is more stable. Rescheduling of programs takes less than half the time that it did on version 0.20. The frontend, since installing this version, has never needed to be restarted manually and I have had a lot less recordings that have ended up corrupted.
If you want to try MythTV 0.21 make sure you backup your MythTV database before you do because the upgrade will change the database and if something bad happens or if you want to go back to version 0.20 you’ll need a backup.
•February 7, 2008 • Leave a Comment
I’ve been wanting to try MythTV for a while but I didn’t have the equipment. My birthday was coming up so I decided to ask for a Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-USB2 device and when I got it I started building my system. I took back my old desktop computer from my brother because the hard-drive in it crashed and he didn’t have any interest in fixing it. I bought a cheap 250GB hard-drive and installed Gentoo Linux on it.
I need an IR blaster because I watch TV through a satellite box and MythTV needs to be able to change the channel. Unfortunately, the current LIRC package doesn’t yet support the IR transmitter built-in into the WinTV-PVR-USB2 device so I had to buy a serial IR transmitter at www.irblaster.info. The device they sent me was inexpensive and works great.
To install MythTV on my new Linux system I used this great guide over at gentoo-wiki.com.
So I now have a working MythTV system installed beside my television, connected through an NVIDIA video card’s TV-OUT S-Video port and receiving programming through my satellite box. I’ve been using this system for a few weeks but I had to tweak a few things to get it to work really well. I’ll be describing the setup of a few specific areas of the system as well as some tweaks that I discovered along the way in future posts.