Nokia n95

Posted on Friday, 28 December 2007

I recently got a Nokia n95 from Orange and have been playing with it for a week or two.
Overall I am most happy with the thing. It's a little bit slow and stranger than SonyEricsson's firmware in some ways, but it has some wicked features:
* TV Out
* Symbian

GPS is obviously useful, you can bring up a map of where you are and look around. The TV Out was a total surprise though, and is incredibly cool. I figured it would just be used for things like image galleries, and while they are specifically tailored for TV output, it works everywhere! You can nagivate all the menus, run apps and so on.
Symbian is just really handy because there are plenty of apps for it and a pretty open development environment.

Short review, but all in all, I'm happy so far :)


Cod and eyes

Posted on Friday, 23 November 2007

While I was in the US recently I took advantage of the exchange rate to buy a handful of goodies for my PS3 in the form of a PS Eye camera, Call of Duty 4 and a Bluray disc of Pixar short films.

To get it out of the way quickly, the Pixar shorts disc is great - I've always admired the work of John Lasseter and it's nice to have all the classics in super high quality, all in one place. Disney suck for plastering adverts and trailers all over the disc and stickers all over the box, but whatever.

The PS Eye camera is a nifty bit of hardware - it's a good quality camera with excellent framerate and no boring focusing requirements. The games I've played for it so far (Creature Feature, Trials of Topoq, Aqua Vita and Mesmerize) are either amusing, fun or creative and pretty. Clearly the PS3 has the hardware to do good motion detection in real-time, so it'll be interesting to see what other concepts people can come up with to take advantage of it.

Last, but my absolutely no means least, is Call of Duty 4. I picked up the 3rd installment of this series when I bought the PS3 and I was a little disappointed by it. It was mildly entertaining, but single player games rarely hold my interest for long, plus the engine had obviously been slapped together hastily and some things looked really stupid (eyes and teeth particularly). Plus it's yet another World War 2 game, which we've had quite enough of.
The 4th installment is a totally different beast though - gone are the crappy wooden rifles and anti-German shouting. Instead this is a game based around modern warfare and you alternate between different people (at least an SAS new-recruit and a USMC soldier).
Great weapons, interesting missions (including somewhere you get to be a gunner in aircraft), very pretty graphics and a slick overall presentation.
The online multiplayer is good fun too.
I really really like this game!


Terminator 0.5 released

Posted on Friday, 9 November 2007

Terminator 0.5 is out. This is another bugfix release. This one includes some pretty major fixes and some new default behaviours.
Maximisation of the window is no longer the default (but you can pass -m to do it). Additionally, you will just get one terminal when you start Terminator. Ctrl-shift-h and ctrl-shift-v will split the terminals (or you can still right click for a context menu).
Ctrl-shift-q will close a terminal, and ctrl-shift-n/ctrl-shift-p will cycle through the next/previous terminals respectively.

As usual, please head over here for the goodness. Gutsy packages will be hitting my PPA shortly.


Terminator gets a nice bugfix

Posted on Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Thanks to the hero Kees Cook Terminator is now able to resize its window smaller. A pretty stupid bug to have, but a fairly peculiar fix.
Either way, it's done now. It's starting to feel like I just need to polish up some features, fix a few tiny bugs and Terminator will be widely usable (not that it will be used widely because of how crazy it is).
Profile support is still a way off though, unfortunately.


Terminator hits PPA

Posted on Friday, 21 September 2007

If you've been over to my Terminator page you may have noticed that I use Launchpad for basically all of the services of releasing.
Taking this one step further, I have been building packages for Ubuntu Gutsy with Launchpad's excellent PPA service. Details for how to get your Terminator goodness from PPA have been added to the Terminator Homepage.


Ubuntu consistent network hackery

Posted on Wednesday, 22 August 2007

I use a docking station with my laptop. When it's in the dock it has a wired connection, otherwise it's just wireless.
Since most of my work involves ssh and I tend to have several long running ssh sessions at a time, it's quite annoying if I quickly undock to go and work in another room and have to reconnect everything.
Of course, this is entirely fixable in Linux (albeit by way of some slightly dodgy hackery). Network Manager is just about quick enough to pick up a new connection before TCP connections time out, and Linux's routing stack is somewhat forgiving about connections switching interface. So, with that in mind, and using a DHCP network - all you need to do to preserve a connection across switching interfaces is have the same IP address on both. Sure you could go and hack at the DHCP config to make sure it serves the same IP to both of your MAC addresses, or you could just have both interfaces share the same MAC. I'm quite sure this breaks all manner of rules, conventions and RFCs, but the point is that it works and it makes my life easier :)

I'll happily take suggestions for a better way to override the MAC address, but this is how I do it:

-(cmsj@waishou)-(~)- cat /etc/modprobe.d/local
install ipw2200 /sbin/modprobe --ignore-install ipw2200 ; ifconfig eth1 hw ether XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX

So in this case I am setting my wireless card's MAC address to that of my wired interface (replace the XX:XX bit with the MAC from your other interface).

This worked fine for me in feisty, but was failing in gutsy and my wireless interface was coming up as eth1_rename. Obviously something new and strange was going on.

It turns out that, in the same way we handle disks by UUID, we now handle network interfaces by MAC address, so udev was getting a little confused.
A quick change of /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules to stop recognising them by MAC address and start looking at the driver name instead, and it's all fixed. This is how the file looks now:

-(cmsj@waishou)-(~)- cat /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules
# This file was automatically generated by the /lib/udev/write_net_rules
# program, probably run by the persistent-net-generator.rules rules file.
# You can modify it, as long as you keep each rule on a single line.

# PCI device 0x8086:0x1077 (e1000)
SUBSYSTEM=="net", DRIVERS=="e1000", NAME="eth0"

# PCI device 0x8086:0x4220 (ipw2200)
SUBSYSTEM=="net", DRIVERS=="ipw2200", NAME="eth1"
I'd be wary about doing this on a desktop system where interfaces are more likely to change, but this is a laptop and I am quite certain the e1000 NIC isn't going to move on the PCI bus!

So there you have it :)

Update: It's worth noting that sometimes this will confuse some networks (e.g. I recently confused a hotel wired&wifi network into not talking to my laptop anymore and had to change both the wired and wireless MAC address to different addresses)



Posted on Saturday, 18 August 2007

Skype has been having network issues in the last few days. I don't like the fact that I've been using Skype, but I have. Why? Because it's the easiest way to talk to my girlfriend while she's away.
That is, it's easy while it works. It has many downsides, but to be fair to it, it's very good at dealing with firewalls and NAT, something that Ekiga really (really really) isn't.
With Skype broken, and wanting to talk to Ulrike, I suggested we try WengoPhone. She grabbed the windows binary, I grabbed the Linux binary. After a few false starts we got connected and for bonus points, it supports webcams in Windows and Linux, which dramatically improves the value of talking to her (and it's very cool that Ubuntu supports my tiny little Creative laptop webcam out of the box).
To my utter surprise, not only is Wengo GPL'd, it's also really just a SIP client. This is fantastic and it's just a bit of a shame that the interface uses Qt (the Wengo guys say they would love to see a Gtk port. So would I!). I was able to call her Wengo address (translated into the underlying SIP address) from Ekiga, but it took ages to arrange the call, even longer to connect the audio/video to it and even then it got the video wrong.
I know Ekiga has been making great strides in their development version and I very much look forward to being able to use it as a swiss army knife of VoIP. Having said that, I kind of suspect that I will be more tempted by some kind of Telepathy VoIP interface which hides all the tediousness of different forms of instant communication and just lets me type to, talk with, and look at people.

As a result of the Wengo transition, I have just been able to do this:

-(cmsj@waishou)-(~)- sudo dpkg -P skype
(Reading database ... 144578 files and directories currently installed.)
Removing skype ...
Purging configuration files for skype ...


Terminator 0.2 released

Posted on Sunday, 29 July 2007

Two days in a row! This is not going to be a continuous thing, but since it's the weekend I have been hacking on Terminator a lot.
This is a big release for me, it finally brings in one of the crucial features required to make this more than just a script for 4 terminals in a window - you can now split terminals on demand. Right click on one and you can turn it into two terminals, horizontally or vertically.

My roadmap currently is to have 0.3 allow you to remove terminals. 0.4 will then concentrate on loading/saving some kind of profile so you don't have to do a complex splitting procedure each time you start Terminator. I'm not sure if many other features will get in between 0.4 and 1.0, because there is lots to do on the gconf and gnome-terminal emulation.

Head on over to Terminator's page for various links, including the download link.

Terminator 0.2


Firefox bad for Linux?

Firefox is a very popular piece of software. Claims run up to 100 million users, which is really good and on the whole I think it's a very good browser.
What Firefox isn't, is integrated. Sure it renders using gtk (and Cairo, if not already then soon) and gnome actions involving URLs spawn Firefox, but it's still trapped away in its own little universe - Marc Andreeson's gift to the world, a platform agnostic application architecture. Clearly Mozilla has built itself a highly capable cross-platform application architecture, but that necessarily isolates them on every platform.
The trigger behind this post is the patches that recently appeared to let Epiphany use Webkit (Apple's fork of KHTML, as used n Safari). Epiphany isn't a bad browser, but it's not flexible like the fox (purely because there aren't enough extensions). The problem here is that if GNOME is going to achieve the online desktop integration they have been talking about, reliable HTML widgets seem quite vital. GtkMozEmbed (I say having never used it) appears to be very painful to work with.
A high quality GNOME widget based on Webkit that makes displaying HTML really easy would be so extraordinarily useful to the project. It would allow the browser to disappear into the desktop - want to visit a page? click/press something to type some stuff which is an address or search keywords. Out slides the appropriate web page. It gets rid of the necessity to go Applications->Internet->Firefox before typing a URL (and yes I know things like deskbar can launch a browser in these circumstances). Mostly it massively lower the barrier to writing apps which partly rely on the internet, or HTML in general, which can only be a good thing for a more online world.
What's holding it back though is Firefox. It's a very popular piece of software, even on Windows. Maybe too popular, if Ubuntu were to drop Firefox by default in favour of an integrated future version of Epiphany it could hurt Ubuntu - one of its selling points is no longer that it uses the much vaunted Firefox thingy people have heard of.

(I also wonder if GTK should support CSS ;)


hacky root partition resizing

Posted on Wednesday, 11 July 2007

How would you shrink the root file system of a remote machine? Of course the easy answer is to boot into a rescue environment and do it (because you can't shrink ext3 online).
If you have a good KVM or ILO setup, you already have a rescue environment of sorts - initramfs.
Chuck "break=mount" on your kernel commandline and the initramfs will drop out to a shell before it mounts the root filesystem. You can now mount the root fs manually and copy out the required tools/libs (e2fsck, resize2fs, fdisk and their libraries, in this case), then unmount the root fs.
Now, with appropriate $LD_LIBRARY_PATH mangling you can run the extracted binaries and operate on your root partition with impunity


Computing nostalgia

Posted on Saturday, 30 June 2007

It's pretty much exactly a decade since I started using Linux, so it seems like a good time to look back at what I used to use before.
Immediately prior to jumping into the FOSS world, I was using Windows 98, but I don't really want to talk about that because I never really liked it and it hated my hardware, so it was a very brief partnership.
The 7 or 8 years before that though, were computing heaven because I was a devoted Amiga user. Initially I was using an A500, which I added a second floppy drive to (I think the Cumana drive I bought cost me about £80!), as well as a couple of MB of Fast RAM (some of which I hacked into being Chip RAM for better graphics). Eventually the 500 was getting far too restrictive and even my 2-disk boot environment was getting hard to live with, so I got a job in a supermarket to earn some money to buy a shiny new A1200, which was a pretty big leap forward over the 500. After a while I put the much faster 68030 CPU in it (thanks to phase5's excellent 1230 IV expansion card), a 16MB SIMM and a 120MB 2.5" hard disk. Later I swapped the 030 card for an 040 card, for even more blazing performance.
Anyway, enough boring hardware reminiscing, on to the fun stuff!

For a while now I've wanted to rescue everything on the last Amiga hard disk I owned (a Western Digital 1.2GB monster!), but since my A1200 had something of a small accident (here's a tip kids, never use the inside of a computer as a footrest) that wasn't going to be hugely easy. Had I not broken the 1200, things would have been fine - by the time I stopped using the Amiga it had an Ethernet interface and a fair whack of UNIX programs on it like scp.
A few months back I fished the disk out of the remains of the Amiga (now forever consigned to the past, as I took the carcass to the local dump), hooked it up to an external USB-IDE interface and took a raw image of the disk. I then bought Amiga Forever, a distribution of various Amiga Emulators and a pretty much complete set of officially licenced ROMs and system disks (lacking working hardware there was no way I could get dumps of my ROMs or transfer the contents of the PC-incompatible floppy system disks). I briefly dallied with the included emulator for UNIX (the venerable UAE), but it was pretty unstable and on further investigation it turns out that most of the development work these days goes into the Windows fork (WinUAE). This was quite disappointing and I never really looked into it all further.

That was, until last night when I started tidying up all the crap on my desktop and got to the Amiga Forever folder. The pangs of nostalgia grabbed me again and I decided to have another stab at things. This time I used e-UAE, another fork of UAE, maintained by Richard Drummond (any Amiga user will recognise that name). He has been diligently pulling in the improvements from WinUAE, and it really shows. It's much more stable than vanilla UAE (although I can still provoke it into crashing).

This was a good start, but I was still left with the problem of how to extract the data from the disk image I had. After battling with the uae configs a little, I discovered that there was something wrong - I could only persuade the Amiga to see 1 of the 4 partitions. Fortunately it was the one with all my data on - except my old programming stuff, but the point of this exercise was not to rescue data as I had copied the stuff I really cared about off before I stopped using it. The point was to get *my* Amiga running again, even if the hardware was now just some software.

I conversed with some of the long time Amiga stalwarts I still converse with on IRC and one of them pointed me at some really simple code to extract partitions from an Amiga disk image. This proved to be part of the key to making everything Just Work™. The other part being that Linux can read AFFS formatted partitions.
I quickly mounted them and pointed e-UAE at the mountpoints and bam! off it went. Ok so I had to spend a few minutes hacking out the various hardware hacks I had from the Startup-sequence, but with that done, I was left with a pretty much exact copy of what I used to use 10 years ago.

It's a very strange experience, leaping back in time like this. You look over your old code, email, pictures and so on and while one part of you thinks "hey I remember this!", another part things "damn what was I thinking" ;)

As Jamie Zawinski found when he tried to do a similar (but unfortunately for him, much more painful) operation a while back, the best way to keep data from being obsoleted is to keep it on a live computer. Sooner or later all hardware fails, but if you always transfer all of your data from one computer to your new one, you'll never have a huge gap to cross (this is exactly how speciation works, by the way).

Emulation and FOSS suggest that there is no real reason why my Amiga now can't live on forever, virtually. That's hardly the hugest achievement of mankind, but it makes me happy.
I'd like to say thank you to everyone who made the Amiga, everyone who made its community such a fantastic place, and everyone who still works on making it live on.

(As a side note, this all serves to make me think what a natural predecessor to the current Linux ecosystem the Amiga was. It had a powerful shell, a friendly GUI, but most crucially, an active and dedicated community)


screen titles from ssh

Posted on Wednesday, 13 June 2007

I usually have at least 4 terminals visible on my screen at once. Each one is running screen(1), and each screen has probably at least 3 or 4 different things going on in it (usually sshing to servers).
Once you are up to about a dozen or so shells spread across 4 terminals it can get quite interesting to remember where you left the one you are looking for.
Since screen can have a status line which lists its screens, and it is possible to change their names, I figured it ought to be possible to have ssh set the title of a screen when it connects to a remote machine. This would make things a lot easier to find, as well as being a cute hack.
It turns out that it is indeed possible.... to a degree.
ssh lets you specify a command to be run on the local machine after a connection is established, which is the ideal place to do this kind of thing. Sadly it doesn't help you out by setting any useful environment variables (such as the machine you just ssh'd to). You're probably thinking "but you know which one it is, you just ssh'd there!" and while that is true, it's not very easy to handle programatically. Mainly because it means parsing the arguments to ssh, which is no fun at all.
So, rather than do that, I am making the blanket assumption that the final word on ssh's command line is the host you are sshing to. If that is not true (e.g. you are doing "ssh someserver rm /etc/foo") you will get whatever the last word actually is, sucks to be you.
Also, if you use ProxyCommand, you really don't want the second ssh to do this, because it will confuse the first one and you'll never establish a connection, so detecting the type of output ssh is connected to is necessary.

Thanks to the many, many people I've consulted in the process of figuring this out. It doesn't seem like anyone has done this before (at least I can't find an example on google. There are some very similar things though), so after running out of ideas myself I started polling the community and got enough nuggets of inspiration back to produce a workable solution.

You will need to make sure screen is configured to show a status line (otherwise you won't see the screen names, except in a C-A-" or similar). Then drop this into ~/.ssh/config:

PermitLocalCommand yes
LocalCommand tty -s && cat /proc/$PPID/cmdline | xargs -0 | awk '{ printf ("\033k%s\033\\", $NF) }'

(yes, that is hacky and disgusting. I am tempted to look at patching ssh to provide the hostname to the spawned LocalCommand shell, but right now the above config seems to be the best way of doing this).


More PS3 video stuff

Posted on Saturday, 9 June 2007

I came across a python script called vepp, which aims to be a simple way of transcoding files for portable media devices. Why not also use it for very unportable media devices such as the PS3? :)

Initially I've just added a target for fairly high bitrate 720p H.264/AVC, 1080 and MPG-SP targets still to come.

If you want to track my development version, you can do so via Launchpad. You will need to use bzr thus: bzr branch http://bazaar.launchpad.net/~cmsj/+junk/ps3tools

You'll need a capable version of ffmpeg, as discussed previously. Output files will be written to the current directory (I'm looking at adapting the current behaviour to be able to automatically direct the output to either attached media that is PS3 compatible (CF/SD/MS/USB) or sending it straight to a directory you are sharing via UPnP (far more useful than ferrying things about with SD cards!)

Here is my current patch against vepp:

=== modified file 'vepp-2.0.1.py' (properties changed)
--- vepp-2.0.1.py 2007-06-09 01:01:48 +0000
+++ vepp-2.0.1.py 2007-06-09 03:12:21 +0000
@@ -4,8 +4,8 @@
from math import sqrt

# defaults
-remove = True
-target = 'psp-oe'
+remove = False
+target = 'ps3-avc-720p'
vbr = True
audio = None

@@ -85,6 +85,22 @@
'qmax': 24,
'channels': (2, 1),
+ 'ps3-avc-720p': { # Only tested with firmware 1.80
+ 'maxx': 1280,
+ 'maxy': 720,
+ 'stepx': 8, # FIXME: lower?
+ 'stepy': 8, # FIXME: lower?
+ 'pixels': 1280 * 720,
+ 'namedfiles': True,
+ 'thumb': False, # FIXME: Can this be True?
+ 'ext': "mp4",
+ 'video': ["-vcodec", "h264", "-f", "mp4", "-bufsize", "14000k", "-maxrate", "14000k", "-coder", "1", "-level", "31", "-r", "24000/1001", "-g", "300"],
+ 'audio': ["-acodec", "aac", "-ab", "160k"],
+ 'bitrate': lambda x,y: "3072000",
+ 'qscale': 18,
+ 'qmax': 24,
+ 'channels': (2, 1),
+ },
's60': {
'maxx': 352,
'maxy': 288,

It would be nice to be able to push content to the PS3 from a LAN, but I have no idea how they could do it sanely. Maybe I can push files via Bluetooth.

Of course, if the rumours are true, this is going to all be immaterial shortly...


Installing Ubuntu on the PS3

Posted on Thursday, 7 June 2007

I've yet to complete this, because I stopped my attempts last night when I reached an unusual situation.
Specifically, I was doing the partitioning manually, but the two visible disks had no partition tables. Not wanting to trash the PS3 disk I didn't let it create the tables, so had to abort.

After consulting with the very helpful Colin Watson, it turns out that the disk Ubuntu sees as sda is not the whole PS3 disk, it's the Other OS partition virtualised to look like a whole disk. It is therefore fine to create a partition table and proceed with the install, which I will do tonight.

(I'm not sure yet what sdb is, it smells like the PS3s internal flash and again I'm not sure if it's wise to mess with it)

UPDATE: The disks that Linux sees are virtualised by the PS3 (they're actually just partitions made to look like whole disks), so it is fine to make the partition tables (or indeed let the installer do automatic partitioning). The bug where the installer hangs at 15% is due to the low RAM in the PS3. Stop some services (cupsys and hplip are good candidates) and remove some things from your session (update-manager and gnome-cups-icon, for example). Removing applets from the panel is not a bad idea either, and don't run anything else while you are installing. Of course you could plug in a disk of some kind and set up swap, but this bug makes that quite hard at the moment.


PS3 movie icons

Posted on Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Games on the PS3 are displayed as a little icon, but it can be animated and some games take advantage of that. Strangely, the PS3 does not even attempt to automatically thumbnail or live-preview the movies stored on it (another thing Sony could easily fix if they choose to. The Cell can decode literally dozens of movies simultaneously).
However, the lazyweb rides to the rescue with the news that the PS3 can generate animated thumbnails, but you have to do it yourself. I like that I can do this, but I think it should do it by default and I can choose to override it if I don't like what it auto-captured.

Basically the trick is to pause the video at the point you want the thumbnail animation to start, then hit Triangle and choose "Change Icon". The next 15 seconds of video are rendered to a little thumbnail in not very much time.

This is it running on my ps3:

Full instructions and the author's video are here.

Bonus points to anyone who figures out how to replace the thumbnail of one movie with another. The reason? Movie Trailers make great thumbnails because these days they usually flash the locations and characters at you rapidly


Watching the PS3

Posted on Monday, 4 June 2007

I don't even remotely have space at the moment for a large TV (even a flatscreen one), also they are still a little expensive (I figure if it's worth doing, it's worth getting a 40" Sony which does 1080p, but that's 1200 quid at the moment).
I really really didn't want to buy a small TV because they are overpriced (compared to higher resolution monitors) and the thing wouldn't be useful to me when I eventually get a proper TV.
Instead I went with the dirt cheap Dell SE198WFP 19" widescreen monitor. It's an inch smaller than the E207WFP I use for my PC, and consequently only supports slightly smaller resolutions (1440x900 being its maximum). However, it does have some features which make it particularly well suited to the PS3.
Dell SE198WFP
First off, it supports HDCP (the DRM system being used in the HDtv world), so I should be able to play back protected content without the PS3 refusing to trust me or downscaling it to an annoyingly low resolution.
900 rows of pixels means the maximum resolution falls somewhere between 720p and 1080i/1080p, however, the monitor supports both. This was especially surprising to me as I had expected to be "limited" to 720p (many/most PS3 games at the moment don't go higher than 720p anyway, and it's still a massive leap over standard definition TV). I need to do some more exhaustive comparisons, but I think I will be going with 720p rather than 1080i (it doesn't seem to support 1080p) because it's an uninterlaced mode, so there is absolutely no flickering. Either way the monitor is scaling the image - the question is, which direction is better? scaling 720 rows up to 900, or scaling 1080 rows down to 900. Time will tell (as will this blog!)
For anyone wondering how I managed to connect a monitor which only has DVI and VGA inputs to the PS3 which only has HDMI, component and composite outputs - fear not, HDMI is actually a combination of DVI signals, audio and probably some other gumpf), so it is entirely possible to convert the HDMI output of the PS3 to DVI. That means no analogue signal/conversion at all, so the picture quality is superb and the cables to do it can be obtained easily and cheaply online (don't splash out on a stupidly expensive gold cable, it's a digital signal so cable quality matters a lot less. Just avoid the inexplicably cheap ones on ebay from the far east, they look very dodgy!).

If you're looking to put a PS3 in a bedroom and don't really care for a TV, I would thoroughly recommend this monitor, especially since you'll still have the VGA port free for other things.

I'm sure you won't care, but it also just happens to fit exactly into the only appropriate place for it on my desk!


Transcoding video for the PS3 in Ubuntu

Posted on Sunday, 3 June 2007

The title says it all really. I've banged on about games a bit and now it's time to do something involving curiosity!
So I know how to, should i want to for any reason, this is how you can make videos that are playable on a PS3 (only tested on firmware 1.80). Note that it doesn't transcode to H.264, but instead uses a lesser MPEG4 profile of some kind (mpeg4 appears to be entirely too complicated to figure out!).

This mostly comes from here, but the gist is that you grab a specific version of ffmpeg from SVN and compile it against a variety of media libraries from multiverse. This makes me think ubuntu should have a bleeding edge version of ffmpeg in multiverse that links against the libraries there - if licences allow for it.

For what it's worth, this is the command line I've been using with it (note that it will strip surround audio down to 2 channel stereo. That's all i have, so I haven't bothered to figure out anything better).

ffmpeg -y -i /path/to/source.avi -acodec aac -ab 192kb -vcodec mpeg4 -b 1500kb -mbd 2 -flags +4mv+trell -aic 2 -cmp 2 -subcmp 2 -title "Blah 2: The blahing" /path/to/output.mp4


Tekken 5: Dark Revolution

This is a PSP game which has been ported to the PS3 and had its graphics restored to the original arcade levels.

It's a Tekken game, what do you want, poetry? You fight people in the traditional rounds system. When you beat one, you fight another and it gets a bit harder. That's it.

There are a couple of slightly different fight modes, but nowhere near what it should be to be considered a full and complete game.

It's a small download for about 6 quid and it's fast, Tekken fun. I can't argue with that. That is until Soul Caliber comes out in a few months. That most certainly ought to be worth a full game.



This is a fantastic little game ported and improved from an original Flash version.
You play a tiny micro-organism living in some kind of watery world. You swim about by tilting the ps3 controller in the direction you want to move, which is usually towards some food (ie smaller micro-organisms). As you eat more food, you grow and develop new features and can dive to deeper levels. When you hit the bottom you change into a different kind of micro-organism and start again, facing different challenges and growing in different ways. This happens a few times and then the game starts all over.
It's accompanied by an excellent ambient soundtrack which is largely controlled by what you are doing (very much like the fantastic Rez), and it has a distinctive yet calming visual style.

It's simple, relaxing and fun; It's not very hard and it doesn't take very long to complete. Perfect for under £4 and a few minutes of downloading.



One of the games I picked up with the PS3 was Motorstorm, which is a dirt racing game with nitrous boosting. You've probably played games like it. It's good fun though, and very easy on the eye. Online play is great, even if it does make me look bad almost every race!
I asked for this one from the second hand shelf (which most games shops seem to offer) - it's very good fun, but I'm not sure it's worth paying full whack for.


PS3 setup and barebones review

To expedite getting the thing set up, I used the supplied AV cable (3 RCA jacks for video, left audio and right audio. They're probably on the front of your TV under a flap) and a Sony TV to start with.

The initial setup was pretty straight forward, I really like that I get to choose exactly where video and audio are sent - especially since I want my final setup to use the HDMI port to output video and the AV port to output audio. There are too many steps required to do all this setup, especially agreeing to EULAs, but it's all pretty simple and I quickly got the thing connected to my wireless network (builtin wifi is an excellent touch), registered on the Playstation Network and updated to the recently released 1.80 firmware.

I'm not going to touch on games here, just what you can do with the PS3 out of the box once you are setup and registered.
The most obvious thing is play Blu-ray movies, but I don't have any of those and don't especially care about buying stupidly high definition movies for considerably more than I get DVDs for. It's going to be a fair while before I have a decent sized TV to take advantage of it anyway and who knows, maybe HD-DVD will destroy Blu-ray before then. It plays DVDs fine too of course, and it does so fairly well. A nice touch is that it remembers where you were in a movie if you quit the player, letting you do something else and come back exactly where you were.
It plays Audio CDs too (and probably DVD audio discs, but I don't even know anyone who owns such a thing, let along have them myself), and can rip tracks from them onto the internal hard disk. You get a choice of various formats all of which were irrelevant apart from the de-facto mp3. The importing is pretty quick, but can't be done in the background. It can look up the artist/album/track information about the CD on the Internet, but it doesn't seem to download a picture of the disc (or at least it didn't for the Hybrid album I tested it with).
There's a vaguely useful web browser which at least has enough Flash™ support to work with YouTube. I have my laptop next to me, so I haven't tested the browser very thoroughly at all. I imagine it's significantly better with a USB keyboard and mouse (which are supported in most of the PS3, from what I can see).
Unusual things lurk about, like Folding@Home. It's not listed as a game (which it isn't), so it shows up in a fairly unusual place. I guess it's nice that people can contribute to health research by leaving their consoles on overnight, but it's not very interesting to me and seems somewhat wasteful and likely to shorten the PS3s useful life.
The Playstation Store lets you download full games, game demos, and videos. It doesn't have a particularly great interface at the moment and there's not a very wide selection of content, but this side of the next-gen consoles is very important - being able to download content either for free or for money makes trying and buying games easier, but also makes it practical to release small games. I have bought flOw and Tekken 5:DR for about £10. Neither would make sense on shop shelves at regular PS3 game prices, they're too small/simple to justify it, but for a few quid each and a short download, everybody wins. I hope this trend explodes into a vibrant marketplace and community, and gets some UI love from Sony!
As well as those two games, I grabbed a bunch of demos and some very pretty HD movie trailers. All very nice and shows much potential for the future.

Printers and digital cameras are supported somehow, but I lack the equipment and inclination (respectively) to test them.

Throughout the media related sections of the PS3 it offers a tantalising "Search for media servers" option. This probably refers to some Sony thing you can buy, but I discovered online that the PS3 supports UPnP (a way for media devices on a network to announce themselves). A quick setup of MediaTomb on my Ubuntu Feisty desktop (which holds all my music/media) and I could browse all of my media through the PS3. Note that I said browse and not play. It plays my mp3s fine, but it can only play MPEG1, MPEG2 and H.264 movies (plus some basic MPEG-4 that isn't H.264). It doesn't play divx, xvid, Real or Quicktime. Still, the formats it does play are available and easily converted to, so I can make some things playable on the PS3 (usually with a recent SVN version of ffmpeg).
I don't really think the UI for browsing media scales well to the amount of media I have on my computer, but would be fine for stuff copied onto the PS3 itself. I hope this changes over time as digital media density continues to increase.

The menu system you get when you turn the PS3 on is called XMB (Cross Media Bar) and is basically the same as the one on the PSP, but it lacks some features at the moment (RSS/Podcast and Themes, most obviously). Some other bits from the PSP are also missing which make much less sense, such as network connection profiles. I will quite likely take my PS3 to other peoples' houses, so it's a pain to have to re-enter all the wifi details every time (or even if I just want to quickly move it to the wired network to copy a big file). Lots of things you can do from the XMB can't be done as background tasks (ripping CDs as mentioned previously, which really has to change. It's not like the PS3 isn't powerful enough to rip a CD, download files, install a downloaded game and browse the web at the same time. Network updates make this all entirely fixable, but who knows what Sony will choose to do.

The settings menus are comprehensive and useful, but fairly boring. There are CompactFlash, SecureDigital/MMC and MemoryStick interfaces, plus 4 USB ports. Media from any of these can be played (if you organise them correctly). Another nice touch is Bluetooth, which can at least be used for in-game voice chat via a headset (which come with many phones these days, so you may already have one).

Adding "friends" to the Playstation Network stuff is pretty basic and the games don't all seem to hook into it, which is a shame. This is something Microsoft have been doing better since the original Xbox and Sony should really have worked harder here, but they don't want to run a big, centralised server operation like Microsoft does with Xbox Live (which also means you don't have a pay a subscription, like you do with Xbox Live).
Local users can be added too, presumably to separate media out between members of the family. It's my PS3, and mine alone, so I don't care about this either. If you want to put media on a PS3, get your own! ;)

I think that about covers all the stuff you can do at the moment that isn't playing a game. It's a pretty impressive list of stuff too and has so much potential for more. It also looks nice, and changes colour slightly during the day.

As a side note, the unit itself is huge, heavy and hot. It does look nice though.

I'm happy so far :)


Gaming returns

I've been missing my PS2 a lot recently. Sure I have a copy of Windows lying around for when i want to play some games there, but rebooting is much hassle and then I have to fight with Windows. Console games are generally more to my tastes too.
I flirted with a PSP for a while, but I was really dissatisfied with the games available for it (in that they are postly either not my kind of thing, or cut down PS2 games) and so traded it with a friend for a little Linux PDA.

It therefore seemed reasonable to look at the latest round of consoles: Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3. I think it's fair to say that I quite like Sony, so I started out with a heavy bias to the PS3. I've seen the wii in action and I completely understand why it's selling like it was illegal, but it's not really for me so I discounted that idea fairly quickly. Microsoft have done a great job with the 360, I've played about with one quite a bit and it seems like they have gone a long way to solve the various mistakes of the original Xbox. The final option is the PS3, which despite Sony's best managerial efforts, has also turned out to be a pretty stonking machine.

Ultimately the PS3 won out and I'll be posting some vague musings as I explore it (actually I'm writing this a few days after getting it, so I've already got some stuff to fill in).


Farm ore punny

Posted on Friday, 11 May 2007

< koudelkat> He's such a boar
< Ng> koudelkat: bee quiet, that's a terribull pun ;)
<@lilyj> Ng: No need to be piggish
< Ng> pathetick ;)
< koudelkat> I can't bear this any more :'(
<@lilyj> Now you've got koudelka cowed
< cdavies> lemur alone, he's had enough.
* koudelkat eyes lily's sheeply curves
<@lilyj> koudelkat: stop being so catty
< koudelkat> I'm no pussy!
<@lilyj> true, you're definitely not henpecked
< koudelkat> Don't egg me on.
< koudelkat> Ok, we've milked this quite enough
<@lilyj> Chicken
< koudelkat> :'(
< cdavies> koudelkat: I don't think you've been gibbon enough credit.
< koudelkat> then I shall crow in delight over the recognition
< koudelkat> I don't mean to worm my way in though
< cdavies> civet you've done now? You can your puns.
<@lilyj> ok, time to stop monkeying around
< koudelkat> yeah, it's not cricket
< cdavies> let me stick my proboscis in to this conversation.
<@lilyj> cdavies: OK, but just what is it giraffe-ter?
< koudelkat> lilyj: nothing at all, he's lion
< cdavies> lilyj: I can see you're a shrew-d operator.
<@lilyj> cdavies: No need to fawn
< cdavies> lilyj: yes, deer.
< koudelkat> you guys are doeps
<@lilyj> don't be a dik dik
<@lilyj> which is my favortie animal name, btw
< cdavies> marmoset I shouldn't talk to strangers.
<@lilyj> cdavies: I was expecting "marmoset there'd be days like these."
< koudelkat> she toad me the same thing!
<@lilyj> cdavies: it would have rammed the pun home
< cdavies> If I can't think up a good pun soon, I may have to fall back on a meer cat joke.
<@lilyj> but ewe missed it
< koudelkat> what an ass!
< koudelkat> he should have mule'd it over more.
<@lilyj> cdavies: If you had responded to "he's lion" with "he's not lion, he's a meerkat" you could have even gotten a rimshot
< cdavies> I didn't want to hog the glory.
< koudelkat> I'm sure one of us would have swined about it
< koudelkat> But we've no need to ham i tup
<@lilyj> probably not. we're too busy putting on hares
< koudelkat> and steaking our own claims
<@lilyj> steering each other in wrong directions
< cdavies> owl come right out and say it, this coversation makes me want to shriek and run out to the barn.
<@lilyj> a rather mousey response
< koudelkat> we do hawk bad puns :(
<@lilyj> It's getting harder to ferret them out, though
< cdavies> maybe it's time to clam up then.
<@lilyj> cdavies: I think you're just being shellfish
<@zytta> lilyj: it's good to see that you still have elephantitis
< koudelkat> lilyj: you'd better krill him!
< cdavies> don't mount him though, he's been known to humpback.
< koudelkat> cdavies: not if she starts whaling on you
< cdavies> yeah, squid pro quo for putting up with your puns.
< koudelkat> cdavies: you're a sucker for them
<@lilyj> he wolfs them down
<@lilyj> damn, this conversation is just beastly
< koudelkat> it has a tendency to dragon though...
<@lilyj> maybe we could sire a new one
<@lilyj> if everyone is done horsing around, that is...
< koudelkat> you're such a cheetah
<@lilyj> you're going to have have to pony up an explanation for that accusation
< koudelkat> that wasnt stipulated in the rider agreement
<@lilyj> don't try to jockey around the subject
<@lilyj> Your telling of tails gives me paws
< koudelkat> lilyj: mare-ry me?
<@lilyj> koudelkat: am I the gorilla your dreams?
< koudelkat> lilyj: i'm homoerectus for your man though :'(
<@lilyj> salamander of taste, I suppose
< koudelkat> I'm actually newt-ral on the subject..
<@lilyj> I gnu you would be
< Ng> after all this punnery there's going to have to be some lion down
< koudelkat> yeah, they've got no sole now
< Ng> oh my cod this is getting bat ;)
<@lilyj> I can't be herring this correctly
< koudelkat> We should really put lox on our mouths
< Ng> lilyj: there there deer, it'll be ok
<@lilyj> now Ng is fawning over me
<@lilyj> salmon should stop us
< Ng> noo! wevil got to keep going! ;)
< Ng> frogging and country
<@lilyj> Ng: I thought bad puns were your bugbear
< koudelkat> Ng: Flea while you still can!
<@lilyj> Fly away
<@lilyj> before the bull gets any thicker
< Ng> eel brb ;)
< cdavies> and with that, he's herring off in to the night.
< koudelkat> i'm just gonna tuna you guys out
< koudelkat> I dont want us to get into a roe about this.
<@lilyj> Ng: We'll whlek-ome you back with open arms
<@lilyj> whelk-ome
< koudelkat> lilyj: he's such an urchin
<@lilyj> cdavies: Yeah, he left us to flounder about on our own
< cdavies> always musseling in on our punnage.
< koudelkat> he crabs all the good ones :'(
< cdavies> he's sole'd out.
<@lilyj> what a rat
< koudelkat> to another orca-stra.
< cdavies> what a cheap skate.
< koudelkat> let's make him walk the plankton
<@lilyj> he'd just fish himself out
<@lilyj> but i suppose we could just gopher it and see what happens
< koudelkat> that's what he went to school for
< cdavies> I swear, he's one of the pod people.
< koudelkat> can't trust men of that elk
< cdavies> you moose love punnani bad.
< koudelkat> well, i do love critter-us
< cdavies> Oh well, I can't just yak on. Must work.
<@lilyj> that pun will hound me for days
< koudelkat> i'm gonna be feline it for days
<@lilyj> I might even bitch about it
< koudelkat> I've haddock with you guys, I'm gonna work.
<@lilyj> koudelkat: OK, simian the morning and we'll continue
< koudelkat> lilyj: I hope we can include frogging in the agenda, I've been bad.
< cdavies> we wouldn't have to frog you, if only you'd toad the line.
< koudelkat> lilyj: Meat you in the morning, then.
< Ng> cdavies: he always weasels his way out of such things
< cdavies> Ng: Oh, I didn't know, I'm newt to this.
<@lilyj> cdavies: that' stoat-ally untrue
< koudelkat> we just spent an hour on delicious puns
< koudelkat> i didn't even notice
<@lilyj> it was our dogged determination that got us through
< cdavies> that and years of squirrelling away puns.
<@lilyj> But we were finally able to come out of our shells
<@lilyj> fur what it's worth
< cdavies> and that the audience didn't let fruit fly.
< Ng> I'm impressed, I thought it'd die out quickly, but you all kept beavering away
<@lilyj> cdavies: They're just gnat like that
<@lilyj> of course, sometimes they can bee waspish
< koudelkat> I canter do this anymore. :(
<@lilyj> koudelkat: no need to get your gallop
< Ng> koudelkat: come bacteria tomorrow
< Ng> and your salvation shall be found virus
< cdavies> you shouldn't ape jesus.
<+kif> +r
< Ng> cdavies: he won't be back until the raptor ;)
<+kif> woah, this has been going on for ages
< Ng> kif: I'll bison time while you catch up ;)
< Ng> then you can yak with us! ;)
<@lilyj> sow you say...
* kif just bees quiet
< cdavies> kif: I you don't think of puns, you ruminant for the rest of us.
< cdavies> and that gets my goat.
<@lilyj> besides, it probably won't beetle tomorrow sometime that we decide to stop
< koudelkat> i'm horny
<+kif> lilyj: but you've ewe-sed mouse-t of the possibilities already!
<@lilyj> kif: Don't be a tit :D
< Ng> kif: so start robin other peoples' ;)
< cdavies> that'd just be cuckoo
< koudelkat> lilyj: she just squeeked by
<@lilyj> yeah, don't just try to badger us into quitting
* kif admits to being out-foxed ):
< Ng> lilyj: we could surely take a little fowl play? ;)
<+kif> i prefer it when you guys just paste rood lynx (;
<@lilyj> like lynx from hornet?
< koudelkat> kif: that's our of sty-le
<@lilyj> a crime against hu-manatee
< Ng> our ewe-nun is good though, you get days off for good bee hive here
<@lilyj> well, bugger that for a lark
< Ng> lilyj: don't get antsey
< cdavies> termite be cake later
<@lilyj> Ng: Yes, mallard
* koudelkat ducks the bad puns
< Ng> koudelkat: don't have a cow, man
< koudelkat> Ng: well stop with insect-uous relationships with lilyj
< Ng> koudelkat: cheeky monkey!
< koudelkat> butt of course :D
<+kif> ok, you're boar-ing me now
<@lilyj> I think he's just aping you now
* kif wonders owl this end?
< koudelkat> kif: we'll probably all flock to the icecream place
< Ng> koudelkat: well flamingo then!
<@lilyj> kif: WHenever we're out of puns to panda to the masses
<+kif> oh deer ):
< learath> Panda Style!
<@lilyj> don't listen to him, he's just raven
* kif leaves you guys to rabbit on
< cdavies> alls whelk that ends whelk, I say.
<@lilyj> cdavies: I don't swallow that
< cdavies> lilyj: I cow-tow to your superiour wisdom
<@lilyj> ooo, mushroomtwo. i bet he sable to pun with us
<@lilyj> at least, he mite be
2007-05-10 17:38:07-!- mushroomtwo [n=shroom@71-221-183-99.bois.qwest.net] has quit [Remote closed the connection]
<@lilyj> aww, heron away
<@lilyj> Ibex he'll be back
< cdavies> people just flamingo-ing away away like that gets my goat.
< cdavies> It's like they're coming the raw prawn.
<@lilyj> I just turn the other chick
< cdavies> it just gets to me, I fillet deep in my heart.
<@lilyj> Dingo let off some steam
<@lilyj> no use letting it make you bittern callous
< Ng> damn, you two are pun animals
<@lilyj> bullocks
< cdavies> I've just got the gift of the crab.
<@lilyj> I shouldp robalby go to lunch. I'm getting a bit peckish
< cdavies> Ng: I think it's your tern.
< cdavies> Once bittern, twice shy I suppose.
<+kif> yous guys are genus
< cdavies> guillemot hold it against you.
< cdavies> but I suppose it could become auk-ward.
<@lilyj> kif: enough of your barbs
<@lilyj> gar-na go wolf something down
< cdavies> if you're cooking, make sure not the char anything.
<@lilyj> howver, albino catfish. I can't abide catfish
<+kif> stop tigress-ing!
< cdavies> lilyj: I trout they're edible.
<+kif> of horse they are
< cdavies> maybe I'll cook some for you, salmon-chanted evening!
< Ng> I hope someone is logging this for later reproduction as a short story ;)
<@lilyj> A Big Fish story? or a Fairy Tail?
< Ng> lilyj: definitely a shaggy dog story
< Ng> cdavies: you should cook up some rat-atouille and chick peas ;)
<@lilyj> toad in the hole
<@lilyj> great, now I want ratatouille and I Don't know of any place that sells it
<+kif> maybe you could get mouse-cerpone instead?
< Ng> ooh, I have tara-mouse-lata at home
<@lilyj> moose-aka
<@lilyj> baabaa ganoush
* Ng had bull-ognese last night
<+kif> haha, terribull!
< Ng> yeah, it was
< Ng> stupid ready meals ;)
<+kif> m-eels?
<@lilyj> maybe I'll get some hum-mouse
<@lilyj> with a side of PETA...mmmm vegans