In search of X

Mar 14, 2007 / 0 comments

A while back I decided that I needed my CD collection needed something for every letter. I've managed them all except X. Anyone any suggestions? My last.fm profile should hopefully give an idea of what I like.

Virgin Media vs Sky

Feb 27, 2007 / 0 comments

I've been watching the Virgin Media and Sky bickering over Virgin's ability to carry Sky's basic channels (Sky One, Sky Two, Sky News etc - the premium movie/sports channels aren't included in this and are safe). And I can't help but think back to the Cogent and Level 3 depeering row. I've no idea how it's going to end, but it seems likely that someone's going to end up backing down rather than Virgin losing the channels and Sky losing the ad revenue.

The UK rail network sucks

Feb 19, 2007 / 0 comments

I've been ill; I had the flu (first time I've ever actually had to take a day off work). And then I spent a week working from Portstewart. Which was a bit odd, as Katherine's living in furnished rented accomodation which means the decor is completely not us (we've always lived in unfurnished places before).

Anyway. I went down to London Saturday week ago, and of course there was no direct train from Norwich because Network Rail like to screw over people travelling on weekends. And then I came back from Stansted yesterday and there were no trains from Stansted. So I end up on a replacement bus service to Cambridge (where I'm supposed to pick up a train to Norwich). And the moron driver goes to Audley End (fair enough, we knew it would stop there), reaches J9 of the M11 and decides to go southbound rather than over the junction towards Cambridge. So we end up practically back at Stansted - at J8 he comes off the M11 and rejoins northbound, then drives up to J11 before coming off. I'm not a Cambridge resident, but I'm sure this isn't a sensible route, even factoring in that I don't think you can go northbound at J9. 3 hours of travelling time. I'd have been better on the bus, but I just missed it and the next one wasn't for another 2 hours.

And then there's pricing. I'm going to a wedding in Glasgow next month. It was £50 cheaper to fly than take the train (and even given check in times I suspect will be significantly faster). I'm considering a meeting in Manchester at the start of April and flying is cheaper than the train (again by over £50) and in fact given the timings would mean I could actually do it in a day rather than having to sort out accomodation. Flying is even cheaper than driving it seems, and probably faster or at least equal given check in times.

I know I'm supposed to be flying less, but it's hard. Give me a viable rail network that's actually competitive on pricing (I'm not even talking about walk on pricing, I'm trying to book in advance with known travel dates/times) and has a decent schedule and I'll use it!

MythTV wants more than 1GHz

Jan 30, 2007 / 0 comments

Well, tonights experiment has shown that a 1GHz Via EPIA-M motherboard with 512MB RAM/200GB IDE HD isn't quite fast enough to run MythTV with a USB2 DVB-T stick on a 1280x768 screen. It's close, but there are too many noticeable wibbles in the display. Stock Debian etch install with MythTV packages from http://www.debian-multimedia.org/. Back to VDR it is, until I get round to buying a Core 2 Duo based box.

Speaking of which, does anyone have any recommendations for a HTPC case? I currently have a Silverstone LC02, which is nice but I'd need a new riser card to cope with a ADD2 DVI card and a bit more room internally would be nice. I'd love an Antec Fusion but it's just slightly too wide to fit into my TV unit. The Silverstone GD01 looks pretty good, but is about twice the price of the Antec. sigh.

i2c remote evilness

Jan 25, 2007 / 0 comments

When I built my PVR a few years I bought a OneForAll URC-7562 6in1 remote control; with a surround sound amp, TV, NTL cable box, DVD and PVR the number of remotes around the place was getting a bit ridiculous. The main reason for choosing this remote was its ability to control the NTL box, which uses some odd IrDA based format apparently that even lirc has difficulty making sense of and learning remotes mostly ignore. It also had the ability to be upgraded remotely by phoning up a support line and they'd squirt some noise down the phone that the remote would understand. I had call to use this to enable my Scan DVD player when I first got the remote and it worked fine and I was quite impressed.

However the remote also features another neat way to do upgrades. It has a 6 pin header in the battery compartment that is know as the JP1. This exposes the I2C bus that the configuration EEPROM lives on and there is a good amount of information out there about understanding the memory layout and adding support for new remotes etc. I'd been meaning to build the adapter to connect up since getting the remote but until recently hadn't really had a reason. However although my new TV is vaguely supported I'd really like to be able to remap the keys more sanely. So last weekend I discovered I had the appropriate bits lying around and built one.

Unfortunately most of the software is for Windows; there's a Java app that will generate the appropriate data to feed to the remote, but the main communication tool is a Windows app. I found a couple of old Linux tools, but then I had a thought: it's just i2c. Why not tie it into the proper i2c subsystem? Turns out the i2c-parport driver makes this sort of thing easy; all you add is a single entry defining the appropriate parallel port lines to wiggle and it all magically works.

So now I can talk to my remote using the eeprom driver talking to the i2c subsystem which talks to the remote over the parallel port adaptor I built. Which feels wonderfully sick. :) Now I need to actually have a closer look at getting all the buttons working for my new TV...

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