Archive for XBMC

XBMC Youtube fixed, finally

Last night I thought I’d take a poke at trying to fix XBMC’s youtube plugin which has been broken for me since the summer. This was most annoying. I could still use youtube on it, but I’d have to search for videos I wanted rather than just pop into my favourites and play the damn thing. I’m quite sure I lost some hair fiddling with the script and trying various login techniques.

The root of the problem is, of course, Google. In their wisdom (read: folly), they decided to force users into G+ sideways which mucked up 3rd party attempts to use youtube in any useful way. Those who know me know I loathe social networking. I have zero desire to plaster my personal thoughts, feelings and actions across the internet especially in light of recent (though obvious) revelations that our information is not only posted, but permanently posted, used, abused, analyzed, and made to turn a profit while providing a handy information source for american spooks. Not my idea of a fun time. I will not digress into a lengthy political discussion, I refuse to waste my life.

Getting back to XBMC, one chappy posted near christmas on the open ticket I had on the YouTubeXBMC bug tracker. The entire thing can be found here. What came to light through the last post is the following:

  • it is now impossible to separate G+ from YouTube, Google has forced it down our throats
  • XBMC was logging in successfully, but it was looking for videos in the new channel created when G+ was created not the old channel as expected

The last part proved key. I was perplexed that it was logging in and finding nothing for favourites, subscriptions and history. It turns out I had two youtube channels now, one under my real name and the other being my old one. Though ostensibly connected to one another, they are separate and one could not point to, or exchange information with, the other. Annoying.

After fiddling for some time to get it to read from my old youtube account, I gave up (as probably Google intended) and just shifted everything over to the new account. Bang, it works. Finally.

The one catch here is as I mentioned above, two channels cannot exchange subscriptions and favourites. Bummer! Yes, I had to manually do it all over again. Some odd 100 faves and 30 subscriptions. Though modest by YouTube standards, it took some time and was tedious as hell. So now I’m my real name on youtube but that matters little since I only use it to save videos for playback on XBMC. I create none myself.

Really though, the kind of modifications Google is making lately are terrible. Apart from forcing us both to use our real names and G+ they have made the experience annoying. I’ve used handles to post comments since before the internet existed and I prefer it that way. I also have no use for the piece of garbage that G+ is. Hell, I have no interest in social networking at all. If I am forced to have a G+ account, I simply won’t use it and won’t give it any information. None of their business.

This is peanuts compared to what they’ve done to content creators, now they are having a hard time getting to their comments and analytics and it’s also messing with their monetization settings.Seriously – don’t stab yourself in the foot there. Remember these are the folks that make you money and make people want to use youtube. Don’t fuck with that.

In brief, Google you bungled this one, and I haven’t seen a single person out there who likes your “improvements”. Stop being evil and listen to your user base.

Keeping In-Sync

Flicker, flicker, everywhere!

No I’m not referring to the regrettable boy band, nor am I going to even touch the “cloud” as it were. This is about something much more solid, more hardware.

I remember the early days of personal computing, which (for me) was the 1980s when we had the option of a spinach-green or nuclear-orange command-line interface, or, if you were lucky, one of the primitive 256 colour machines, all of which used an electron gun shot at your eye.

Back then, owning a “flicker screen” was essential. Although the monitors were capable of refreshing in sync with mains power (60Hz), sadly the computers of the day were not and you could get all sorts of eyeball-bleeding from looking at the flickering moire-patterned mess. Remember the signs they used to put on computers “Use no longer than 15 minutes”?

Last night, finding myself alone, I sat myself down to watch a movie and have a quiet evening. To watch movies, I use my media pc (an old Acer laptop with Ubuntu + XBMC) and I just love it. Such convenience at never having to fiddle with discs and control my entertainment experience. It was working fine, or so I thought.

As I start to watch the film, an art film with lovely scenery, I notice something amiss. Some nightmare born out of the 80s. Not a flicker, quite. I notice just a subtle distortion. A flickery horizontal line that starts at the bottom of the screen and slowly winds its way up to the top, only to begin again at the bottom. That just doesn’t cut it, does it?

Setting aside my initial fears that the aging laptop simply couldn’t handle high-definition footage as panic-y, I spelunk into the settings to find out a problem.

My 80s experience saved the day: it was the vertical refresh rate being out of sync with the TV’s. This meant that the computer was refreshing the screen at a different rate than the display, causing this horizontal artifact that would progress up the screen. Much like when you used to see a computer monitor filmed on television and see it vertically dance, but more subtle, more digital.

To set it back, I simply turned on the “vertical blank sync” and the problem was solved, smooth watching again.

In a strange coincidence, with refresh rates much on my mind, there was an article posted on Slashdot today concerning the flickering of LED displays. What was neat about it is that it appears some people actually notice the flicker coming off of the latest generation displays – even though the refresh rate was in sync and fast enough for a human not to care about or notice.

The type of “flicker” is a completely unrelated issue than the type we were used to from CRTs.  In order to “dim” an LED, those of you in electronics will know that you don’t simply reduce the power to the LED, you have to flash it very fast, and the frequency of that flashing gives you the apparent brightness.

Unlike lightbulbs or CRT displays, which run on alternating current,  LEDs must run on direct current. This means it is either ON or OFF not anywhere in-between. To achieve a dimming effect, you modulate the DC current in a square wave (on-off-on-off-on-off) and set the frequency (duty cycle) to achieve the desired apparent brightness. This is called “Pulse-Width Modulation” or PWM.

I, personally, have only noticed this in my own electronics projects (using a 555 timer and a LED) or on my jailbroken iPod Touch which allows me to set the brightness lower than factory. I have never noticed this on a flatpanel television or on the purdy display of my Macbook Pro.

None of this is particularly interesting of itself. Quite a dry subject actually :). What made it interesting was the aforementioned Slashdot post. Apparently a small minority can “see” this PWM flicker, and it’s driving them nuts causing eyestrain and nausea and call on the industry to fix this.

At least two comments posted on this article assert “it’s all in your head” and put it in the same category as people who wear tin-foil hats who put microwaves in the same category as gamma radiation.

One person struck a middle ground and perhaps suggested that the 60Hz flickering of the ambient fluorescent lighting is causing an interference pattern with the display refresh or this PWM dimming.

The question is: can you see it flicker? does it bother you? would you pay more money for a monitor that doesn’t do this? does anyone care?

I’m all for no flicker, but I’m damned if I can see it. Get rid of those stupid fluorescent lights first. Those DO bother me.

Netflix uses HTML5 streams

But only for ARM devices and Chromebooks. Stumbled on this article from Slashdot:

HTML5 Brings Netflix to Samsung’s ARM Chromebook

Could this mean that someday, in this universe, Linux may take its place among the platforms served by Netflix? Better be fuckers. I’m so tired of hooking my laptop up just to use Netflix, when I have a lovely media pc that runs XBMC over Ubuntu. No, installing windows is NOT an option :).

So Netflix, support Linux already! You are out of excuses. Oh and drop Silverlight, its buggy and annoying.