copyright and piracy

Why the networks have lost the copyright battle, in a nutshell.

Tim Bray wants to watch episodic TV without commercials, and on his own schedule. He’s willing to pay, but being in Canada, nobody is willing (or able) to sell to him. The best way to obtain TV shows this way is, unfortunately, BitTorrent.

In both Canada and the United States, the networks are hurting financially. This market may not be huge, but it is untapped and easy to cater to. Other companies are making a respectable living catering to niche markets (cough-Apple-cough :), and this would be relatively high-margin added revenue.

I don’t think the networks are going to figure this out, of course…

posted at 12:07 pm on Saturday, January 02, 2010 in Links, Random Thoughts, TV | Comments Off on copyright and piracy

fall tv

Fall TV, Thursday edition:

| 8:00 | Bones |
| 8:00 | Flash Forward |
| 8:00 | The Vampire Diaries |
| 9:00 | C.S.I. |
| 9:00 | Supernatural |
| 9:00 | Fringe |

Supernatural and Fringe are both also on Space, which is handy because they rebroadcast in the wee hours of the morning. So the real conflict is 8pm, and I don’t _really_ need to see Vampire Diaries, now do I?

Speaking of Space, they’ll be showing Stargate:Universe this season, instead of delaying 2 seasons like the previous Stargates. Yay!

posted at 7:05 pm on Monday, September 21, 2009 in TV | Comments (1)
  1. Michelle says:

    You do not need to watch Vampire Diaries at all.

more British TV

* “No Heroics”: – A UK sitcom about a bunch of second-tier superheroes hanging out in a bar.

* “Being Human”: – A vampire, a ghost, and a werewolf share a flat. “Trailer on YouTube”:

posted at 3:16 pm on Thursday, January 29, 2009 in Links, TV | Comments Off on more British TV

Denis McGrath – Skins

“Denis McGrath”: is a Canadian television writer and producer. A couple of years back my friend Debbie “interviewed him”: about his career and about “Blood Ties”:, the television version of “Tanya Huff”:’s Blood books. I recently rediscovered him while catching up on Season 2 of “The Border”:, and subscribed to his weblog (“Dead Things ON Sticks”: after finding info about the show there.

Anyway, long story short, Denis “recommended”: a British show called “Skins”:, which he described as

bq. the teen show that nobody in North America would have the guts to do. It makes Degrassi or 90210 look like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

It’s definitely not for everyone; it has the North American demons of nudity/sex, drugs, foul language, all involving (gasp!) teenagers. But it also has the magic trio of good writing, acting, and characters; I’ve found it quite compelling. I worked my way through the nine episode series 1 over the Christmas break, and I’m just starting series 2. You can find Skins in Canada on The SuperChannel (and yes, I hear you all saying “wow, it still exists?” :-).

Oh, and “Denis’ blog”: is an excellent read if you’re at all interested in television in general, and Canadian television in particular.

posted at 1:33 pm on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 in Links, TV | Comments Off on Denis McGrath – Skins

mythtv update

Apparently I never posted about the latest changes. Most of this was back in September before fall TV started up…

My “Knoppmyth”: installation was getting a little old and decrepit, even after the update for Schedules Direct. These days I use “Ubuntu”: on all of the servers, so with the second release of “Mythbuntu”: available I decided it was time to switch the PVR.

The first upgrade was relatively painless. I started with Mythbuntu 7.10, because it used the same “MythTV”: version as my Knoppmyth install. First I installed onto my spare 160Gb drive; I have two, because I was originally planning to use RAID-1 on the PVR. Alas, the extra CPU and I/O required was too much for my wimpy PIII-933, so now I have a spare.

I was able to copy and/or merge most configuration files from the old setup to the new, since they were based on similar Debian releases. There were a couple of problems with TV-out on my ancient Matrox G400 card; once again vesafb was loading and blocking the Matrox drivers. At least this time they were both already modules, so I did not have to recompile the whole kernel! Then I restored the MySQL databases from backup and copied the video files over (that took a few hours). I tested the machine for about a week, and it was working fine.

Unfortunately, the upgrade to Mythbuntu 8.04 did not go as well. For some reason, the latest kernels would not boot on my old Compaq Deskpro! I never did figure out why. Since the cooling fans in that machine were dying anyway, I decided to swap in the old Baltimore Dell workstation that Andrzej gave me last year. I happened to have a spare CPU in the parts box, so I now have a PVR with two PIII-933 CPUs, making the box a little snappier when watching TV while recording.

Of course, about a week later, the Dell fan started chirping (as I posted about previously). Then my cheapo UPS died, and the Dell kept shutting itself down until I plugged it directly into the wall. Now everything is stable (and cool) again, and I’m quite happy to be running the same linux version on all six servers! (I don’t have _that_ many computers at home; four of those “servers” are virtual machines, two of them at hosting facilities in Atlanta GA…).

So, that’s it until next spring, after May sweeps, by which time Mythbuntu 9.04 will be out :-).

*Update 2009/05/28:* 1) the upgrade to 9.04 was uneventful. 2) My old server died, so I had to buy a new (old) computer. In the process of swapping hardware around, I had the “would not boot” problem again. I eventually discovered that my earlier problems with kernels not booting was not caused by the motherboard, but by the particular Matrox G400 that was in the old Compaq Deskpro. That was a day wasted, trying to get the right combination of hardware into one machine :-).

posted at 5:01 pm on Thursday, October 30, 2008 in Personal, TV | Comments (2)
  1. James says:


    I wondered if you could give a little more information on what you had to do to get the G400 card working. I’m trying to set up a Knoppmyth (or Mythbuntu; I’ve been thinking about switching too) on a system that has a Matrox G450 in it, which is very similar. It’s been giving me no end of grief and I haven’t gotten any help from the Knoppmyth forums so far (the solution seems to be ‘buy an NVidia’). This is the first time I’ve come across anybody describing a solution.

    What did you have to do to get rid of the vesafb problem? Just unload a module?

    Thanks very much!

  2. chk says:

    I edited the file @/etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-framebuffer@ and added an entry for @vesafb@. That stopped that module from being loaded at boot time. I also modified @/etc/modules@ and added:

    bc. matroxfb-maven

    To make sure that *those* modules did load at boot time, so that any later probe for a different framebuffer driver would fail. (Also, the probe for @matrox_w1@ was causing problems, and this fixed it). The combination of the two worked for me.

    In @/etc/rc.local@ I run the following to bind the TV-out properly.

    bc. /usr/bin/matroxset -f /dev/fb1 -m 0
    /usr/bin/matroxset -f /dev/fb0 -m 3
    /usr/bin/matroxset -f /dev/fb0 -o 1 2

    Finally, every time X starts or resets I run a script from @/etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc@ called @tvcenter@ that adjusts the framebuffer position and brightness on my system:

    bc. /usr/local/bin/fbset -fb /dev/fb0 -left 32 -right 8 -upper 70 -lower 20 -hslen 40

    bc. # set black level, white level, hue
    /usr/local/bin/matrox 0x0e 0x3f
    /usr/local/bin/matrox 0x1e 0xbf
    /usr/local/bin/matrox 0x22 0x76

    (@fbset@ and @matrox@ are programs that came with the Matrox drivers I found).

    I hope this helps!


In “an interview”: about the upcoming HBO series True Blood, I saw a nice comment from Alan Ball, the series creator:

bq. Q: Do you think kids will have that reaction to True Blood?

bq. Ball: I hope kids don’t watch this show. I hope parents know better than to let their kids watch this show.

I’m surprised (and pleased) to see a comment like this. I’m not like some extreme parents who shelter children from the world until they’re 20, but on the other hand there are some things that _should_ be saved for later. This is an HBO series, so they’re not going to hold back on the sex and violence like a mainstream (or ABC Family :) show would…

posted at 8:59 am on Wednesday, September 03, 2008 in TV | Comments Off on refreshing

Dr. Horrible

Neil Patrick Harris is a god of understated comedy. Nathan Fillion is a perfectly over-the-top dumb hero. I loved the first installment; waiting for the next two!

Check it out at before Sunday, after which you’ll have to pay. Of course, you should pay anyway to support the artists, but free lets you choose…

posted at 3:47 pm on Tuesday, July 15, 2008 in Links, TV | Comments Off on Dr. Horrible

Dr. Horrible

Coming soon to an Intertube near you:

Neil Patrick Harris! Nathan Fillion! Felicia Day! and, of course, Joss Whedon!

First episode goes live (and free!) on July 15th; second and third are each two days later, and the whole thing goes away (ok, behind a “give us money!” link) at midnight on July 20th.

posted at 4:01 pm on Wednesday, July 02, 2008 in Links, TV | Comments Off on Dr. Horrible

We can’t watch tv anymore

It seems that our approval of a TV show is the kiss-of-death. Cancelled:

* Journeyman
* Men in Trees
* Moonlight
* New Amsterdam
* Bionic Woman
* Back to You

To be fair, other than Journeyman, these were all interesting ideas that suffered from bad writing, or bad acting, or both. I think Journeyman was a bit too unusual for main stream audiences; it would have succeeded on SciFi or another smaller network, I think.

On the other hand, renewed:

* Chuck
* How I Met Your Mother
* The Big Bang Theory
* Brothers & Sisters
* Pushing Daisies
* All three CSIs (OK, CSI:Miami deserves to die; oh well)
* Kyle XY
* The Closer

So I guess our track record really isn’t _that_ bad… :-)

posted at 6:42 pm on Thursday, May 15, 2008 in TV | Comments (2)
  1. Laurie says:

    Just caught Big Bang Theory last week for the first time – hilarious! :) Nerds are becoming very fashionable these days…

  2. chk says:

    We’ve loved that show since the first two eps. And I know more than one person who fits each of the many stereotypes they’ve displayed; Scary!

keep flying?


From the site:

bq. We are looking to push the envelope of episodic television by offering Season Two of Firefly in a groundbreaking new format. Each episode (or the entire season) would be made available for purchase in Standard or Hi-Definition.

Head over there and fill out a survey. And while you’re at it, check out “Sanctuary”: , a show that was developed first on the web, and has now been picked up as a 13-episode series by the SCI-FI Channel. Anything is possible…

posted at 7:18 pm on Thursday, February 07, 2008 in TV | Comments Off on keep flying?

Made in Eureka

My “new favourite show”: has a products page!

Made in Eureka

I want a laptop transporter :-)

posted at 6:09 pm on Friday, August 25, 2006 in Humour, Links, TV | Comments Off on Made in Eureka

SciFi News

* Battlestar Galactica has been picked up for a “third season”: . Also, the “Season 1 DVD”: is out (it includes the miniseries, in case you were thinking of purchasing both).

* “Serenity Cast Signed For Sequels”: (if the movie proves popular enough, that is!).

posted at 10:34 am on Wednesday, September 21, 2005 in TV | Comments (1)
  1. Greg says:

    Browncoats rule!

Space, Stargate, MythTV

Space is showing all 22 episodes of “Stargate:SG1”: “Season 6”: on Christmas night/Boxing Day.

With my “MythTV”: box, 22 hours is about 48Gb, which I should have free by then, since every other show will be in re-runs.

Of course, I’ll still have to find time to _watch_ them… :-)

_Update_: I made enough space by deleting old shows, and moving about eight hours of stuff to an old 20Gb harddrive. I’m exactly halfway through watching season six now. Season seven sure makes more sense when you’ve seen this stuff!

I could never have done this with the VCR, at least not without staying up all night to change tapes. Woo hoo!

posted at 10:52 pm on Monday, January 03, 2005 in Personal, TV | Comments (1)
  1. […] 5 pm After talking with Luisa last night about the Media Box, and more specifically how
    Harald was able to whip together his MythTV box so quickly,
    I bought myself a […]

Bluetooth Star Trek Communicator

For the Star Trek Geeks in the crowd:

Gizmodo : Bluetooth Star Trek Communicator

posted at 3:50 pm on Wednesday, November 17, 2004 in Links, Science and Technology, TV | Comments (1)
  1. More for the star trek geeks, Star Trek Barbie is now a bluetooth device that works with your mobile phone.

PVR-250 and MythTV

So I bought the “PVR-250”: (on sale at “Best Buy”:” :-), and slapped it into my P933 to play. The install was easy, and the hardware looks nicely designed. But the software that comes with the card sucks. I don’t know how hardware guys manage so consistently to ship their products with truly crappy software. Simple stuff like you can’t tab between fields, if you set a record time before you change the date the time quietly resets itself (because you can’t record in the past, I guess), and so on. It’s very _pretty_ though; if they had put all that skinning effort into usability…

Anyway, that’s not important, since I also downloaded “KnoppMyth”: in order to try out “MythTV”: I picked KnoppMyth figuring that I could find out if it worked and I liked the system, and then I could build from scratch if necessary later on. I’m glad I did; building a MythTV system from scratch is not for the faint of heart (and this from me, who likes tinkering with Linux :-).

First problem was getting the “TV-Out on my Matrox G400 to work properly”: After several tries with various different X drivers and configurations, I finally discovered the real problem: the KnoppMyth kernel comes with the vesafb framebuffer driver compiled in, so my Matrox G400 modules were never getting loaded. One kernel rebuild (and several hours) later, I had TV out.

The next problem was the network. My on-the-motherboard, Intel-based network interface (from the 82801 chipset?) kept “freezing”, with a timeout: “eth0: wait_for_cmd_done timeout!”. Lots of googling revealed that this is a known problem that apparently still hasn’t been fixed. Fortunately, There is an “Intel provided e100 driver”: that supports this chipset, and _that_ one works. Download, build the module, and install.

Next was sound. After every reboot, the audio out would be muted, and I would have to login remotely and use alsamixer to manually unmute the Headphone audio out and then pump the volume up. Again, it turns out that this a known problem, and that the usual fix (alsactl save/alsactl restore) doesn’t work, because the ALSA software doesn’t save information about the Headphone output? Strange, but one again I found a workaround. Running

/usr/bin/amixer sset Headphone unmute 100

would unmute the Headphone output and set the volume to max; I stuck this in /etc/init.d/local so that it would run on every reboot.

Finally, the machine kept crashing with out-of-memory errors. I never did figure this one out, because I made two changes at the same time. I downloaded and installed the “latest ivtv drivers”:, and I also discovered that the MythTV cache file I had configured was larger than the cache filesystem (this would cause mmap() based access to fail with the aforementioned out of memory errors :-). I’m not sure which fixed the problem, but the box has been up and recording for a week now with no problems.

Now to figure out all of this transcoding stuff…

(Oh ya, and Richard Dean Anderson was very young when MacGyver was produced :-)

posted at 10:04 am on Tuesday, November 02, 2004 in Personal, TV | Comments (2)
  1. john says:

    Most of the popular new PVR cards sold for Windows XP MC, known as “Blackbird”, haven’t hard drivers to use with Linux/Myth.

    We have been working on these drivers and released an alpha version at Pluto even has a self-booting kick-start CD that will automatically install & configure everything for you, including a ready-to-go Myth system. It’s the fastest and easiest way to get a MythTV PVR up and running, and also installs Xine, Asterisk and our own software to give you the most advanced media & entertainment, home automation, security, telecom & computing system, controllable with your Symbian Bluetooth mobile phone, as well as PDA’s and Webpads.

    We’re working hard to harden the drivers as quickly as possible and would like as much feedback as possible. These 2nd generation cards are lower in price and offer better picture quality than the current models supported in IVTV, so be sure to check them out. A list of all the compatible cards, known as “Blackbird” cards, is found on our website.

    visit:, click ‘support’, ‘support site’, and choose “CX88 Blackbird Drivers” from the projects menu

  2. […] Recompile the kernel without the vesafb driver (which I remembered thanks to my old posting: PVR 250 and MythTV) […]

six degrees of St. Elsewhere

This one has been sitting in my to-post pile for two weeks now. *sigh.

From “My head just exploded”:

bq. So this website, by means of a Kevin-Bacon-style relationship of crossovers, has logically linked one hundred and sixty-two television series as existing in the same universe of continuity… and therefore are all the creation of the autistic Tommy Westphall.

Check it out…

posted at 10:29 pm on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 in Humour, Links, TV | Comments Off on six degrees of St. Elsewhere

bittorrent is cool

I remember being skeptical a few years ago when I heard about the technology, but it sure has taken off!

I missed the season premiere of “Joan of Arcadia”: I fumbled the VCR programming and taped from 7:59 until 8:01. (Note to self: build “MythTV”: based Media PC ;-).

Prompted by a “recent entry”: on “Reid’s blog”:, I “seached the web”:, “found a torrent”:, downloaded “Azureus”:, and about 2 hours later had a copy of the episode on my disk. In testing, I found that I had to find a copy of a “XviD binary”:, which was also straightforward (thanks to Google :-). We plan to watch the episode after the kids go to bed tonight.

There are days when I say “I hate computers”, but today has been a good day for technology!

posted at 5:17 pm on Sunday, October 03, 2004 in Links, Personal, TV | Comments (4)
  1. Jeff K says:

    You may still hate computers… I have yet to be caught by bit-torrent, but on the other P2P networks it is distressingly common for a G-rated type file name to actually contain XXX stuff. I think I make my wife paranoid by hiding the screen and turning off the sound when I first fire up a music video or whatever. I’ve seen quite a few things I would never have wanted to on the P2P networks, but so far nothing of the highly illegal type [knock wood, thank God, etc.]

  2. Harald says:

    I must admit that I’ve never had trouble with bad files, either on P2P networks or with torrents. Maybe I’m just lucky? In any case, the episode of Joan was fabulous quality, and contained no ‘icky’ bits…

  3. Reid says:

    I’ve also recently started using Azureus, which has all the features I’ve wanted for a while. Unfortunately, I managed to K-O some in-progress, multi-gig downloads by turning on a setting somewhere that “imports” torrents, making them non-usable by other BitTorrent apps. Actually, not so much of a problem, as my slow downloads in Azureus were being caused I think by not enabling UDP communication. I still haven’t found where I can tell it how many ports it can use — I have over 100 set aside. The doc mentions how this app doesn’t need many ports like other apps somewhere, but I’m still not 100% sure it wouldn’t help.

    P.S. Your site looks iccky today. Did the CSS file go missing?

  4. Reid says:

    Oh, never mind about the iccky CSS comment; all looks well now. I must have caught the site at a bad time or something!

Encounter at Farpoint

Encounter at Farpoint is on Spike TV tonight. I had forgotten just how _bad_ ST:TNG was at the begining! I think the only reason we kept watching it was that it was the first Star Trek we had seen in decades.

Well, that and John DeLancie as Q :-)

posted at 10:02 pm on Friday, October 03, 2003 in TV | Comments (1)
  1. Paul says:

    Yes, early STTNG was painfully stilted, at the best of times. It took a few years for it to really start to hit its stride.

    But even so, I don’t think it was quite as bad as most of third season TOS.

TV does add 4 kilograms

In related news, TV makes men hunkier and women chunkier.

Apparently due to “quirks” in our vision processing, 2D pictures of people look larger to us than corresponding 3D images. Strange…

posted at 4:00 pm on Friday, December 20, 2002 in Odd, Science and Technology, TV | Comments Off on TV does add 4 kilograms

Star Trek

In order of my preference:

II: The Wrath of Khan
VIII: First Contact
IV: The Voyage Home
VI: The Undiscovered Country
IX: Insurrection
VII: Generations
III: The Search for Spock
X: Nemesis
V: (I can’t even remember the title now)
I: The Motion(less) Picture

Yes, I liked Nemesis enough to place it above Star Trek V. Ugh…

posted at 10:19 am on Monday, December 16, 2002 in TV | Comments Off on Star Trek