Netflix streaming with the Samsung BD-P1600

For Christmas, my parents gave us a gift card to apply towards a Blu-ray player that could stream Netflix. I did some research on models this morning and picked out what I wanted: the Samsung BD-P1600. I don’t own any Blu-ray discs and may not ever. All I wanted was a player that would excel at streaming Netflix movies. If it could play discs too, well, so much the better.

I spent the evening playing around with it. How does it perform? Fantastically. On the first power-up, it took several minutes for the system to download an apply a firmware update. After that, though, it’s worked very well. I was stunned at the picture quality when I tried streaming some movies: it’s amazingly good. So much so that I’m not at all surprised now that the big cable companies are shitting bricks over this technology. The writing is on the wall for cable TV: I have 12,000+ titles of movies and television shows available for watching anytime. Why would I want to saddle myself with a costly cable subscription?
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Another MythTV mystery busted


For the past few weeks I’ve been puzzled by the significant load shown on my MythTV backend generated by the kdvb-fe-0 process. The server was running at 50% load or higher even when there was nothing being recorded.

I poked around and found that the kdvb-fe-0 process is created by the Linux DVB drivers, which is the driver used for my TV capture card. Because this driver is running so close to the kernel I am not quite sure how to troubleshoot it. The software tools I would normally use may not work at this level.
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French in Action

I actually had some free time last night so I decided to catch up on the TV shows I’ve been recording but haven’t watched. One of them was the PBS show French in Action, which teaches French at the college level. It’s an immersion-type series first show in 1987 which teaches the language through various scenarios. The three years of French I took in high school are as old as the TV show itself and yet I found that following the conversations was much easier than I expected!

I found the show’s way of dumping you into the dialogue and only afterward tying up the loose ends – after you’re forced to try to figure it out yourself – to be very effective in making the lessons stick. In fact, it seemed easier to pick things up using video than it did using textbooks and a French-speaking teacher in the classroom. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I could rewind the show if there was dialogue I didn’t understand.

Looks like I’ll now be brushing up on my French in the evenings. If that goes well, I may also start watching all the episodes of Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish that I’ve also been recording!

(P.S. All the episodes of French in Action can be streamed online for free as can episodes of Destinos).

Wrestling MythTV into submission


As the All Your Base video meme said, “main screen turn on!”

I got my MythTV frontend working with my HDTV again after a ridiculously tough set of issues to resolve. First, the PC in question is my old Thinkpad laptop and is barely functional to begin with. If you touch it ever so lightly, for instance, the display and keyboard will cease to function. I had to carefully position it through trial and error before I got it to keep its video alive.

Once that was done I was happy to see mplayer doing something on my big screen, only it wasn’t showing any video. GNOME would dutifully draw a border around where my video was supposed to be showing but all there was was an empty box. Instead, the ATI Radeon video driver was showing my video on the laptop screen – the booby-trapped one, remember? No good. No good at all.
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MythTV fully in tune with digital TV


A few months ago I bought a used motherboard with the goal of upgrading my MythTV backend. The upgrade went smoothly from a hardware and operating system point of view but Myth was never the same for some reason. Adding to the confusion was that I could tune and watch channels using the command-line tool mplayer but Myth would never properly scan channels.

After a little tinkering (and Googling) yesterday, I decided to try increasing the scanning timeouts using MythTV-setup. Where the previous 3 second timeout was once adequate, I bumped both the tuning and signal timeouts to 10 seconds. By feeding the channels.conf file I created using atscscan, I avoided having Myth tune through all 83 channels. That mitigated the pain of the longer timeouts. Presto! I successfully added the channels back into Myth.

And boy, do they look good. The previous HDTV signals were good, but they were also spotty. Now that the digital antennas have claimed the top spots on the stations’ transmission towers, the digital signals are coming in rock solid.

Myth should save our sanity a bit at home, as the kids can now watch something other than the DVD shows they’ve seen 1,000 times already!

Myth and speed

Ever since I upgraded to an HD capture card in my MythTV backend, I’ve noticed a wide variation in the playback speeds of the recordings it makes. Some play back at normal speed while others play back far too slowly or quickly. It’s frustrating.

I was going to blame MythTV for this craziness until I remembered the dvb-utils application azap. This little app tunes the HD card and dumps the output to a pipe, thus it provides a way of testing the card (and driver) outside of Myth. I’ve never used it before but it seems to be the perfect test tool. It turns out the streams produced by the driver and card exhibit the same synchronization issues I’ve seen in Myth itself. That means Myth isn’t to blame.

But what is? My card or its driver? I suppose the next step is to somehow get Windows running on my server long enough to test the card using the Windows driver. If that works, I know Linux or the Linux driver is to blame.

The investigation continues…

Satellite Myth

Last night I took another hack at getting MythTV working with my DVB card. This time I was much more successful! The key was configuring Myth to use the LNB, which was hidden in the mythtv-setup under “capture cards-DiSEqC options. An LNB is not a DiSEqC, so I would’ve never thought to look there, but there it was.
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