Miro

Miro, formerly known as the democracy player, is an attempt to liberate internet TV from its verticals (e.g. Joost). Essentially it is a video feed browser built on Mozilla technology; an open source media player (VLC) and bittorrent. What that means is that when you subscribe to feeds, Miro tries to download new items for you. The idea is to keep it open in the background and Miro will take care of making sure there is something to watch when you feel like it.

From the Miro website:

And finally, I have a favor to ask — if you think Miro is great, share it with someone.

No problem.

I installed Miro two weeks ago (to compensate for the loss of analogue channels on my TV, which I now fixed with a DVB-C set top box) and despite some rough edges with playing back content, the overall user experience is very compelling. Also the fact that there are now 2000+ video streams to choose from makes the experience quite nice. I found some interesting feeds with copyright free material from before WW II which despite the age is quite fun to watch. It won’t replace my TV but it is a nice addition.

About the rough edges (in order of priority):

  • Sometimes the video won’t show up and all I see is a black screen in the background. Solution: open the file in media player classic.
  • Sound quality: VLC by default does not dither sound to 24 bit, which causes all sorts of nasty sound artefacts for some files. Playing the same files in media player classic, which I have configured to dither to 24 bit, the problem goes away.
  • There are some stability issues.
  • Miro can hog bandwidth and ends up crippling my broadband connection because there is not enough bandwidth left for other applications. A throttle setting will be needed to fix that.

Despite these issues, playing with Miro is quite fun and technically it is just an alpha product at this stage so it is still quite excusable. One thing I’d like to see fixed is better integration with existing media players. Not being able to configure the media playing properly means that there is severe quality issues that would be easy to fix if I had access to the underlying media player configuration. Also, I have media player classic around for a good reason: it works very well and I really like it. VLC is not so good in my experience and I prefer not to have to use it.

Digiboksi

Digiboksi is Finglish for DVB-C set top box. I bought one on saturday and had it replaced today by a different one.

Basically the story is that Finland is replacing good old analogue TV with digital tv. Terrestial analogue signal went dark a few months ago. A few weeks ago the ‘interesting’ channels (i.e. the ones in english) disappeared from the cable and the rest will follow in February.

So, I went to the shop for a digiboksi. Since I barely watch TV, I just wanted something that was cheap & something that worked. So I pretty much randomly selected the Samsung DCB-B263Z in the shop (hey it was black, matches my other equipment). Normally I’d do some research on the internet for such a purchase. Unfortunately this product seems to be specialized for the Finnish market so most info available seems in Finnish. Hence the randomness.

So I bought it, plugged it in and about ten minutes later was watching TV. I was quite pleased with the picture quality. The UI seemed nice too. Then it crashed. WTF! Anyway, to keep this short: it is a known issue, basically the shops are selling products with broken software. Sigh. So, after about 4 crashes in less than 24 hours, I went back to the shop today and mentioned the word crash. No need for further explanation. Apparently, lots of people are bringing these things back (I know at least one other guy). Five minutes later I walked out with a Handan 3400.

So far it seems reasonably well behaved though the picture quality is slightly less nice than the samsung (was a bit smoother and crispier). I managed to improve it slightly by disabling the built in contrast. If this one crashes as well, I’ll try another brand.

links for 2007-09-13

  • interesting approach, personally always considered firewalls to be an annoying hack needed only due to ineherently insecure stuff running by default (cough ms windows cough) rather than a need to protect me from myself starting networked software

ubuntu – the story continues

If you’ve been following my ubuntu rants (one, two, three + latest comment), you’ll know that so far the experience has been not as FUCKING advertised (excuse the explicitive). Well, here’s another rant:

After tracking down the kernel driver issue (mind you all my notes on installer usability still apply) that prevented my network from working, I had a way to get a working install. Since I no longer trust gparted to resize my ntfs partition (see post three) I opted for Wubi. Wubi is a great idea, just install everything in a disk image file on your windows C:\ and add a item to the default windows xp bootloader to boot ubuntu. Brilliant. The installer works as advertised:

  • You fill in some details
  • It downloads a custom ubuntu iso image for you (would be better if I wasn’t forced to download it with the installer)
  • it adds an item to the bootloader
  • it reboots
  • it boots into a loopback filesystem on the disk image on your windows drive

Here Wubi’s job ends and Ubuntus text installer takes over (so bye bye usability, welcome to the wonderful world of text based installers). Unlike the normal installation you have 0 control so naturally all the same things go wrong. I.e. it got stuck at “scanning the mirrors” again. This time I unplugged the network cable and killed a few processes in one of the other terminals (ctrl+alt+f2, nice trick I remember from slackware days) hoping the installer would pick up the hint. Surprisingly it did, although it did mess up the apt sources.list in the process. Anyway, the installer completed, I rebooted and configured the WLAN, which does work, unlike on many other people’s hardware. One reboot later (sounds like windows doesn’t it :-). I was looking at the ubuntu desktop.

Fixing what’s wrong.

As I know from previous times, ubuntu does not do a good job of installing my video card + monitor and my sound card. The video+monitor card took a few tries and obscure commands to get right. Apparently the x.org 7.3 in the next release of Ubuntu will do a better job, The sound card issue is due to the fact that I have a modern PC with multiple sound devices. Since Ubuntu likes to guess when it should ask me, I end up with all the sound going to my USB headset instead of the soundblaster and no obvious way of fixing it. The problem is that the tools to fix this are not installed. That’s right, it is assumed that Ubuntu is always right and if not you are on your own. This is true for network; this is true for video; this is true for sound.

It gets worse.

Then (after fixing sources.list which curiously had all entries twice?!) I did an update with synaptic: 260 MB. And promptly ran into this bug. Oops broken pipe bla bla bla, upgrade failed: here’s a bunch of really obscure errors, isn’t synaptic great? Pasting the first line of where things went wrong into google brought me straight to this bug (lucky me). This was another of those opportunities where maybe ordinary users would give up. A rather obscure fix in the bug report helped (basically touch all the failed files and re-run apt-get upgrade). For the record, I did not install anything before running into this bug. Just install ubuntu in Finland + upgrade is enough to trigger this bug. Known since April apparently and related to timezones.

More later. The good news is that I have a bootable system and can probably resolve most remaining issues. The bad news is that so far the experience has been really, really, really bad. I’ve been struggling with things that should just work or fail more gracefully.