East of the Sun, West of the Moon

2006/4/7

That sucked

Filed under: Projects,Technology — Erwin @ 7:45 pm

The harddisk on which we store(d) our MythTV recordings plus some that pre-date our use of MythTV died this morning. Big oops!

Sure, it had been on my longer-term TODO list to put a RAID-1 in place so that it would better resist hardware failure of this sort, but I have been running low on Round Tuits ™ so that had not happened yet. Ahem.

Thankfully it keeps its program/recording information in a MySQL database that lives on a different harddisk, so after redirecting the appropriate folders to a different location (temporarily, honest) where I have a little diskspace available, and manually marking all the AWOL recordings as gone, it cheerfully resumed picking up shows again.

I do maintain backups, mind you, of the home-directories, work-stations, website contents, and a few other things, but these recordings involve a lot of data and didn’t fit into the existing backup system.

Partially related is that earlier this week M pointed out that the Lost episodes of the past two weeks were actually new, not re-runs, so on Wednesday evening we sat down and caught up, then last night we watched the most recent episode from the previous evening. Lucky us, obviously!

Consider this a friendly reminder to keep good backups around. 😉

Update: Replacement HDs have been ordered and are on their way. The failing HD will be RMA’d.

2006/3/31

BOINC! (2)

Filed under: Projects,Software — Erwin @ 1:47 pm

Around September last year I more or less dropped out of the BOINC rat-race, turning off the idle-cpu-using processes on my servers because in spite of its intentions of not getting in the way of real work on there, they were affecting them anyway.

I’ve finally gotten around to restarting, making a fresh start on the two servers that I had previously used, and adding a third, but this time around I’ve configured it to use one CPU at the most, on these dual-cpu machines. Hopefully that’ll take care of the original problem while still contributing a fair amount of CPU time.

If you’re an (ex-)Igor-player and wouldn’t mind contributing some CPU time as well, follow the links on my BOINC page to find out how to get started on that. 🙂

2006/3/22

Statistics

Filed under: Projects,Site,Software — Erwin @ 9:32 pm

Always fun, I redid the spam statistics page, almost entirely rewriting how I generate the actual graphs and just generally making it look a bit more appealing (I hope). It’s hard to believe I’ve been using this whitelist spam-blocking approach for nearly 3 years now. Just imagine how many spams I didn’t have to deal with that way, ouch!

2005/8/24

Mailman

Filed under: Projects,Software — Erwin @ 7:27 pm

Installed Mailman today, with some twists because of the local (server) setup, but I think I’ve got it sorted out. Just one thing left: I run the corresponding website on port 8000, just like this blog right now, so that it can be accessed directly and I don’t have to play redirection games. But Mailman insists on using the default port (or more to the point, it leaves out the port-number entirely) for one particular self-referring link and I don’t know enough Python to figure out why it does that let alone how I can fix it.

<…rambling analysis deleted…>

Gah, I suppose I should learn to search the web before investigating these things (although I think I learned a few things along the way). The hack around this is that you add the port in the DEFAULT_URL_PATTERN which is now http://%s:8000/mailman/. Ugly, but I guess that’ll do for now.

2005/8/4

New static pages

Filed under: Dutch,Projects,Site — Erwin @ 2:38 pm

I’ve converted a few more pages from my homepage into static pages on the blog. They are the Klasgenoten S.S.G. pages (3 in total), which is 100% Dutch content.

The two sub-pages contain embedded PHP, so I was glad I had that sorted out a while ago already for the spam statistics page. It worked pretty flawlessly, yay! The trickiest part was the third page which in its original form was a set of album pages, basically. For this I added a custom RewriteRule to the .htaccess file:

RewriteRule ^(the-projects/klasgenoten-ssg/klasgenoten-ssg-album)/offset/([0-9]+)/?$ /index.php?pagename=$1&album_offset=$2 [QSA,L]

The album_offset parameter I can then use in the embedded PHP of the page (as $_GET[“album_offset”]) and voila, browsable album pages once again.

Back to work, now.

2005/7/19

Mythical fun (3)

Filed under: Projects,Software — Erwin @ 9:31 pm

Cool! I decided to try the add-ons mythmusic, mythweather and mythvideo.

I’ve set up two NFS mounts to access the actual files on the fileserver, no problem there. Setting up mythmusic it says that you need write-access to the directory with the actual files but I haven’t had any problems yet, so I suspect they just put that in there for people that want to use MythTV to rip their CDs or something, which I don’t plan on doing. Playing seems to work and I’ll spend some time experimenting with playlists later, mostly to set up a playlist that excludes podcasts and other non-music mp3s/oggs. 😉

The mythweather add-on does not like being behind a firewall where the only web access is through a proxy. I’ve added a http_proxy=foo line of magic to the .xsession script but haven’t had a chance to test if that helps, yet. If not, I’ll have to do some firewall magic or configure Squid to also act as a transparent proxy just for this. We’ll see.

Finally the mythvideo add-on needed some help before it could become useful. You see, I plan on using it to access the recorded tv shows that pre-date MythTV, which were all stored in directories, organized by whether we’d seen the episode, wanted to keep it, and then further organized by show. This resulted in the GUI, when showing you your options, ended up presenting me a few pages full of divx, because all files were actually called divx.avi. So I ended up applying some shell-script magic, moving all of the files out of their directories and giving them some more meaningful names that the GUI could work with.

The next problem was that as soon as it switched to mplayer (the add-on relies on an external program to take over for the actual playing) I lost keyboard control and (as a side-effect) the remote-control stopped working as well. This turned out to be the result of me running without any window manager whatsoever. I installed a smallish one (fluxbox) and now it’s all happy!

The only thing left is to find out if the GUI would allow me to delete files, assuming I set it up to mount the network filesystem in read-write mode, as opposed to read-only as it is now. That would make going through and cleaning up a bit easier. But if not, I can always just keep the laptop handy and delete the files on the server. 🙂

Update: No, the proxy environment variables did not help. Yes, the mythvideo GUI does have ways to delete video files but apparently only in the Setup menu. Hrm.

2005/7/11

Work @ home

Filed under: Projects — Erwin @ 9:58 pm

An article about people being creative in how they set up their home office.

I fear that if I would want to do any redecorating in mine, I would have to take a week or two off from work to get everything out that I’ve collected here in the past 4-5 years. Keep in mind that my home office is not used to invite work-related contacts, I tele-work and the only other person keeping me company here on a regular basis is M when she does her share of browsing, reading email, etc. Certainly the space could be used more efficiently but for the near future that will just be a dream.

One of the persons in the article (Glen Richardson) purposely created his space in the middle of the house so that he can be near and keep an eye on his (4) children. Having just spent nearly 2 months with the two boys at home because of summer-vacation, I find it hard to believe he can concentrate on anything when all of them are home. Maybe he does most of his real work when they are asleep, maybe his line of work (interior decorator and furniture designer) just requires a different kind of concentration. 🙂

Goodnight!

Now playing:The Offspring – So alone (from Smash)

2005/7/10

Mythical fun (2)

Filed under: Projects,Software — Erwin @ 9:52 pm

A follow-up then, now that everything seems to be working smoothly.

The lirc packages that are available under Debian do the job, after some reading of the fine manuals and polishing the configuration a little bit. As said I’m using the serial-based remote control that came with the Pinnacle PCTV, the one that came with the Hauppauge PVR-350 needs to be connected to the card with some custom connection so is not useful elsewhere, alas.

The polishing involved switching the meaning of the redo and undo buttons (which act as zap forward and zap backward — 10 minutes each), and assigning the unused L button to the S key, so that it will take us straight the TV guide listings while watching TV.

With that working the need for a cordless keyboard basically went away.

Other improvements involve fixing the timezone and installing NTP client software (so that MythTV can present us with the right tv guide information when watching live TV), making sure the email software only listens locally and sends email out correctly (should that ever be necessary), uninstalling pointless things like at, xprint and xdm and adjusting /etc/inittab to fire up the X11 server directly to the MythTV frontend without the need for an account name and password.

There are several ways to do that, the way I chose was to add this line in /etc/inittab:

x:23:respawn:/root/bin/run-mythtv

Then /root/bin/run-mythtv contains:

#!/bin/sh

PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/bin/X11
export PATH

HOME=/root
export HOME

/usr/bin/X11/startx -- vt7 -dpi 100 -nolisten tcp

You need the HOME setup because otherwise startx will look for .xsession in / instead of /root, a side-effect of running a script straight from the init process. And finally in /root/.xsession you find:

#!/bin/bash

xsetroot -solid black

while true; do
    xset s noblank
    xset s off
    irxevent &
    mythfrontend
    kill $!
done

The xset bits prevent the screen from being blanked and the screensaver from kicking in. Both rather annoying when you’re trying to watch TV. 😉 The irxevent is to relay lirc input into Xevents. MythTV is supposed to have built-in lirc support but I either misunderstood something or that was not compiled in apparently. Either way, this works. The while loop makes it easier to test but isn’t strictly necessary. The kill statement is there for similar reasons, it kills the irxevent background process, so that we don’t end up with multiple instances and get a fresh one with the most recent configuration file each time. The xsetroot invocation is used because the default grey mesh that X11 starts with is quite annoying on a TV screen. Yes, I realize I will typically only see this for the few seconds it takes the MythTV frontend to start, but still!

I’m getting a bit more familiar with the programming approach by now and have set a few titles to keep a maximum of 10 around so that I don’t end up with 50 M*A*S*H episodes that I have all seen already anyway, as opposed to new episodes of Battlestar Galactica coming up on Friday.

One of the few things to figure out now is why it seems to be losing its information on where the commercial breaks are while it claims to have it. Fast-forwarding over them is still sufficiently easy that it’s no great loss but since it used to work, I want it back eventually!

Other TODO items:

  • See if there are more optimal resolutions for the combination of the tv-out card and TV used. Right now 640×480 seems to work pretty nicely, but there is room for improvement.
  • Find out if there is a way to skip the nvidia logo that is on screen for a few seconds. I don’t know if that is just there to be obnoxious, or that the software is actually doing something useful in the meantime
  • Check if there is a better way to power down and if Linux 2.4.x can be convinced to turn off the PC entirely instead of just sitting there.
  • As far as I know Debian has no nvidia packages yet for the 2.6.x kernel, at least not in Sarge. It would be nice to upgrade, at some point, to try the suspend/resume support in the kernel.

And on that note, goodnight!

Update: Yes, I did find the Option "NoLogo" "true" magic.

Update 2: Turned out one of the MySQL tables had been damaged which caused the commercial begin/end-marks to be detected but never actually stored. Table repaired, MythTV and its local users are rejoicing!

2005/7/5

Mythical fun

Filed under: Projects,Software — Erwin @ 11:16 am

A few days ago I had more or less decided for myself that the effort I was putting into trying to get the wireless PCI card to work was not worth it. Yesterday M and I ran a spare cat-5 cable of about 30-50′ (I don’t remember how long it was exactly; it was custom done by the local store and has since been replaced by a wireless connection) up to the target room, which involved drilling a new hole in the floor, but was otherwise pretty painless.

Once everything was hooked up we could finally actually see how good MythTV would look using the tv-out card and our tv. This can be summarized as pretty good!

The Celeron 800 MHz CPU that we’re using right now can just about keep up with the live tv streams, the recorded ones it can handle just fine. I rounded up some extra sticks of RAM and instead of 128 MB it now has 512 MB. It doesn’t really seem to need quite that much but I’ll leave it in there just in case, until I’m desperate for it elsewhere (unlikely).

Only a few small details are left to be sorted out. I’ll want to look into getting the serial-port based remote to work that came with the Pinnacle PCTV and/or get an additional cordless keyboard so that the PC can be placed somewhere more convenient. Also need to do audio properly, for which I need a small adapter piece, but Radio Shack was closed when I got there yesterday just after 5pm. 😉

Now playing: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that the kids are watching in the livingroom.

2005/5/7

Static Pages

Filed under: Projects,Site — Erwin @ 10:03 pm

I’ve converted one of the pages on my regular homepage into a static page on this blog. I plan to do more of that in the months to come and eventually I’ll either move the blog to that URL or redirect that URL here.

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