Category Archives: TV

Bye bye Teletext

In Australia the 7 Network’s Austext teletext service is to shut down at the end of September, with only Supertext subtitles/Closed captioning continuing to be transmitted. (I wonder if they’ll move them from the current page 801 to the default 100, to make them easier to use?)

Over in the UK, ITV’s Teletext service is to shut down in January 2010.

The BBC’s Ceefax will last until analogue TV is switched off in 2012.

Hardly surprising really. I’m sure demand for text-based news and other information has plummetted since the widespread adoption of the Web. In fact I’m surprised teletext has lasted this long — I struggle to think of anybody I know who uses it.

YouTube goes widescreen

Youtube wide with 4:3 contentYouTube has gone widescreen (note: this link currently breaks if your YouTube preference is for a non-US locale, eg for Aussies you end up here, which currently displays nothing).

The only catch of course is that 4:3 videos now appear letterboxed… or whatever the vertical term for letterboxed is.

My question is: why? Why not just make the player (at least on the YouTube web site) the aspect ratio of the video that it's playing?

In fact at the moment, embedded 16:9 videos still appear letterboxed; 4:3 videos “full screen” … what should happen is that the embedding code should define the player size and so match the video's aspect ratio.

Surely it can't be that hard to avoid those black bands?

Layer changes

I just got the complete Young Ones new DVD release. Great to see these episodes again (and unlike previous DVDs, uncut).

But unbelievably, they put the disc 1 layer change in the stupidest spot ever. Rather than put it between episodes, or even at a quiet spot within an episode, they put it in the middle of a song (Dexys Midnight Runners singing “Jackie Wilson Said”).


Haven't checked yet where the disc 2 layer change is. The disc 2 layer change is at the start of a song in Time.

Previous rant about DVD layer changes.

Recent finds

Ever wonder how they fitted an entire computer language into just a few kilobytes, back in the 80s? Documented disassembly of BBC Basic 4.

How to highlight author comments in WordPress … but it relies on the author being user ID 1, so it won’t work here, where we have several people posting. Could easily be customised to look for other user IDs though.

Some developers are throwing in the towel and running Vista as Admin.

The excellent Secret Life of Machines not only has a web site, but is available freely (and legally) via BitTorrent. And the theme tune is available on iTunes.

Another day, another broken form

FormThis time it’s the BBC’s Children In Need appeal. Okay, so CIN isn’t meant to be seen outside the UK, but what with Channel BT and YouTube, it should be no surprise that bits of it (such as the superb Doctor Who short) have been seen around the world.

And I decided I wanted to donate. ‘Cos it’s a good cause and the dollar’s going well against the UKP.

A quick Google and I figured out what they were talking about when they asked about Gift Aid. Something for UK taxpayers only, alas.

But the billing address caught me out. Okay, let’s put my state name in the County field. That should work. Country… well they only seem to have continents, not countries. Australasia is it I guess. Dunno what the credit card company will make of that.

Submit… ah, it seems to be doing something. Uh oh, it rejected the postcode. Wrong length. Uh no, my four digit postcode is all I have. Tell you what, I’ll stuff it with zeroes. 0000003204. That would crack Aussie Post up, I’m sure.

Resubmit and… oh. It thinks it’s already running. “Your request is being processed….. Please be patient….”

Well I am normally, but at time of writing it’s been giving me this error for 20 minutes.

Has it gone in? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll check my credit card transactions in a day or two, and hope the Children In Need don’t need my donation that much.

(Oh what the hell, you might as well enjoy it here too.)

Cheap hardware fails: film at eleven

I was wandering through my local Coles supermarket last night and found a $40 M-TV brand SD Set-top box. I figured that sounded like a good deal so bought it. It plugged in, tuned up, worked well and supported my 16:9 TV. It proved that the digital reception issues I’ve been having are not the fault of the TV cards.

This morning the sound had almost died. Very quiet, and with popping and such overlaid.

In the hardware industry, this is called “infant mortality“. If the cost of handling returns is high, you try to catch the early failures by running a burn in test. We did that at my first job, because we were experiencing massive infant mortality rates – they all worked fine right out of the box, but run ’em for a day and poof! they were dead. So we built a rig to have them scan a barcode over and over again, and software to capture the results and check for accuracy. Shipped a bunch of duds back to the manufacturer, who smartened their game up, and stopped pissing off our customers.

I guess STBs sold by supermarkets don’t have high return handling costs.

Pinnacle TV viewing software

A followup on the Pinnacle 310i tuner I got last year.

Pinnacle TV Center ProIt gets some brilliant results when capturing, especially from digital TV transmissions. Playing back a recording on the MG35 media player is a joy to behold (and that’s off the SD signal… the HD signal, from a true HD programme, is incredibly nice when playing back on the PC, though it appears the MG35 can’t handle that high a data rate very well).

But the software it came with is a steaming pile of crap. When I installed it I noted with caution its use of SQL Server Express Edition and its probable load on the PC, and the clunky interface, but didn’t really mention the response times. It’s slow. Really slow. To start up the app takes what seems like an age (and is probably about a minute). To change the channel or start/stop recording also takes ages. It makes it a poor substitute for a twenty year-old VCR you might have lying around — at least if you see something appear you can get that recording quickly.

Pinnacle have apparently seen the light on this, and launched what they claim is a lightweight “TV Center Pro” with a lot of the fat taken out.

Having zapped the MediaCenter from the box and installed the latest drivers, I can see a clear difference. It’s not superfast, but it’s an improvement. I’m still having issues with capture from analogue though. Okay so I can defrag my drive, but that’s only going to help to a certain extent. And annoyingly, capture inside Pinnacle Studio or MS Movie Maker doesn’t suffer from the same sorts of problems. There’s just something in the overhead of the TV viewer software that slows it all down.

I did try the open-source Media Portal, but couldn’t get it to work. Kept crashing. Windows Media Capture is also worth looking at for just capturing (as an alternative to doing it from within the video editing software).

ArsTechnica has an interesting article that should provide some tips; they use VirtualDub VCR+Sync.

The Diamond Age comes to TV

SciFiWire reports that a team led by George Clooney are working on a miniseries of Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. (via Tony S). Hmm. Well that could be very good… or it could be very bad. I reckon that book’s a prime example of the imagination of the reader being bigger than a screen would allow.

Douglas Adams and Tom Baker in Hyperland

In this one-hour (50 minutes, actually) documentary produced by the BBC in 1990, Douglas falls asleep in front of a television and dreams about future time when he may be allowed to play a more active role in the information he chooses to digest. A software agent, Tom (played by Tom Baker), guides Douglas around a multimedia information landscape, examining (then) cuttting-edge research by the SF Multimedia Lab and NASA Ames research center, and encountering hypermedia visionaries such as Vannevar Bush and Ted Nelson. Looking back now, it’s interesting to see how much he got right and how much he didn’t: these days, no one’s heard of the SF Multimedia Lab, and his super-high-tech portrayal of VR in 2005 could be outdone by a modern PC with a 3D card. However, these are just minor niggles when you consider how much more popular the technologies in question have become than anyone could have predicted – for while Douglas was creating Hyperland, a student at CERN in Switzerland was working on a little hypertext project he called the World Wide Web…