MythTV: HD

A long while back I found out that mythtv supports capturing video over firewire. The idea is that as long as one has a cable box where the jack is turned on, it will spit out the complete video and audio signal for whatever channel you are currently watching, even if it’s HD.

Although I didn’t think my current mythtv machine (Athlon 1700+) would be fast enough to play back HD, I could still use the firewire connection to change channels instead of my current unreliable IR method. I bought a cheap firewire card, and it worked. So I knew that, one day, I could upgrade the machine and get full HD.

So recently, I dropped 350$ at and bought:

GIGABYTE GA-M61P-S3 Socket AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100 ATX AMD Motherboard $84.99
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ $69.00
WINTEC AMPO 1GB (2 x 512MB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 $44.99
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 500GB $129.99

The upgrade was pretty smooth. Here are the steps.

  1. Back up the old machine onto a firewire drive. (I ran into problems here because newer ubuntu kernels have problem with firewire, and the old VIA chipset has USB issues. Most people would have no trouble here.)
  2. Rip out the guts of the machine, leaving only the case, power supply, and dvdr drive. (and one of the IDE drives which is 160 gigs and worth keeping.)
  3. Install new mobo with CPU, heatsink, and RAM already attached. Connect the drives. (I had to buy a little molex to SATA power cable, but that was cheap. thanks microcenter!)
  4. Also install old firewire card since mobo only has one connector.
  5. Boot up, see if it works! (I ran into a snag here because I didn’t connect a secondary 12V power cable to the motherboard. The manual helped me figure this one out.)
  6. Burn an Ubuntu CD, install. (So easy!)
  7. Use synaptic to install mythtv, xine, mplayer, etc. (So so easy. The mythtv packages are very nicely done)
  8. Set up new LVM for mythtv data, joining the bulk of the old 160 gig drive and the new 500 gig drive.
  9. Restore mythtv database and mythtv data (it takes a long time to copy 240 gigs of data.)
  10. Wrestle with firewire for a long time trying to get a signal. Peruse the mythtv wiki, which contains good solutions.
  11. Get little things working like lircd, mythweb, my xine script, and surround sound. (I haven’t got surround sound yet, it requires purchasing a little SPDIF bracket and a long toslink cable.)

    It took a full, busy day, most of which was spent copying the old data and trying to get firewire to work. Everything else was pretty low-impact, including such previous headaches as installing mythtv and configuring mysql. It’s still way too hard for the average user, but at no point did I feel like I was breaking a sweat. I’ve spent a lot of time with mythtv so I know where a lot of the “unbreakme” buttons are. I know I have to set this up, or tweak that option… things that should be defaults but aren’t. I’d say 90% of the difficult stuff was because I was transferring old data and had permissions issues. If this was a new install, the only blocker would have been the firewire issue.

    All in all, a day well-spent, and now I can record and play back native HDTV streams like they were youtube videos. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to spread hardware all over the floor.

    Did I mention this cost me 350$? Compare that to the competition.

Audioscrobbler support in Sonata

As I’ve mentioned before, Sonata is my favorite music player. One shortcoming, however, is that it lacks support for’s audioscrobbler, which allows music players to automatically submit songs to the service and help build one’s musical profile.

No more: sonata-audioscrobbler.diff

I whipped this up in a couple hours, so be on the lookout for bugs. It’s not so good at reporting bad passwords, so you have to look at the console output for that information. Either you see “BADAUTH” (bad) or “Uploaded 1 tracks successfully” (good). If the Sonata author adds feedback for mpd authentication problems, I’ll hook up to that.

I’ll also update my sonata olpc package to include this patch.

Update: Added a check to ignore songs that don’t have all the metadata that audioscrobbler wants.

Ben Folds, The Symphony, and Getting Punched in the Face

Char and I went to see Ben Folds at the opening of the Boston Pops season. It was fun, except for the part where some guy in the second balcony started punching some other guy in the face.

I’m not making this up!

Some guy whose post I found on technorati:

so i’m sitting here in the center on second balcony and to the left of me on the same level in the middle of the sound someone screams and everyone looks over there and it looked like someone was about to fall over the edge or something. then i kept watching and the guy goes up a couple rows and looks like hes talking to this other guy and then all of a sudden punches him. and then proceeds to keep punching him. the people around there try to restrain him and stuff, but it was really intense. and people were kind of screaming, so it even stopped the music for a couple minutes as they got it under control. but seriously who fights at a freaking boston pops concert. anyway.

That’s pretty much the way I remember it, although I missed the part where someone was about to fall off the balcony. I heard a woman’s voice cry out, and I couldn’t figure out where it came from. I thought maybe someone had too much to drink. And then I saw a commotion way over on the left side, and sure enough some guy just starts punching someone else in the face.

In the movies, when things like that happen, there is always the horrified “oh!” of gentle-men and -women in the audience. Funny enough, it actually happens in real life too! People were still mumbling to each other after the orchestra started up again.

Other than that, the concert was excellent. The hall sounded beautiful, and Ben Folds rocked the house. It was quite a meeting of two very different audiences — the regular Pops crowd, and a lot of Ben Folds fans. (Note: the altercation appeared to be between regular-pops-crowd-types, not rowdy young ben-folds-types.)

A night to remember!

Update: the em-ess-em picks up on the story

Update with picture!

This looks like it’s getting a decent amount of play, so you can probably take it from here and search google news for more info.