Lots of media updates

Wow. It’s been a really long time since I had the time to do an update to this blog. May have something to do with the baby. This will be a quick one, just wanted to quickly list off the new dvd’s and blu-rays that have wandered into my collection since last time, and I will be getting back to the whole demoscene business and things in Germany and such later. So.

Let’s start with the dvd’s; I got a John Wayne Double Bill from Elstree Hill Entertainment of Rainbow Valley (1935) and The Desert Trail (1935, EAN: 5050457615994), A Norwegian edition of Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears (2007, EAN: 7046685005179), A four-movie collection of Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies, including Prelude To Murder (1946), Secret Weapon (1942), The Woman In Green (1945) and Terror By Night (1946, EAN: 7046689004277), John Wayne’s Gold Strike River (1934, EAN: 7046686003280), The McMasters (1970, EAN: 5055201810212), After Dark Originals’ Scream of the Banshee (2011, EAN: 5060255690260), Young Bill Hickok (1940, EAN: 5050232728185), and Shooting Fish (1997, EAN: 5017239191107). Then, the blu-rays that have been waiting patiently in a shelf in my office for their write-up. Mean Streets (1973, UPC: 883929239566), True Grit (2010, EAN: 5051368226637), Robert Rodriguez’ The Faculty (1988, EAN: 5060223761855), The International (2009, EAN: 5051124094449),the Special Edition of The French Connection (1971, EAN: 5039036039338) and finally I upgraded my earlier Avatar (2009) release with the “Extended Collector’s 6 Disc Edition” (EAN: 7036984601325). Phew. I will return with a minor update of 8 dvd’s I got at a flea market last weekend, and an actual boxfull I got from a friend.

Set-top box adventures

The TNR-2850ST

The TNR-2850ST

Later today or on monday – depending on the installers timetable – this household will retain the services of satellite television. I finally bucked under the pressure of family members wanting over-the-air television. I’m guessing a lot has happened on the hardware side since the last time I ventured down this path, and I wanted to find out more. My receipt from the cable company detailed the receiver box as “HD 2850 ST + PLC”, and I took this information to the internet to see what I could find out – and if the box could be made to do some fun things apart from the stuff it was SUPPOSED to do.

First stop: The website of our merchant, which has a page dedicated specifically to the box in question here (link in Norwegian). It doesn’t tell us much, but there are a few things though. It appears this entry-level box actually has pvr capabilities, if you connect some sort of external storage. It also supports a couple of online services, notably Canal Digital’s Go!, which is their on-demand video renting service, and the streaming music service WiMP. I doubt I will be using either much. Notably, the page also mentions it supports 3D, which is surprising. It also has support for the companys unified app remote system – but it’s iOS only, so of absolutely no use to me. It would also appear the box comes with a set of homeplug adapters, which is interesting. More info on those once the box appear. Clicking the link for more info on those however, revealed a further page with more technical details. Weird that they wouldn’t hotlink that from the page we visited earlier.

This further links to a user manual PDF in Norwegian, which reveals fun stuff like the fact that the tuner in fact supports both DVB-S and DVB-T! It only has one card reader though, so unfortunately you’re limited to one service at a time. I am not knowledgeable enough about how DVB-T works in Norway, to know if there would be any benefit to me in trying that function – are there FTA channels that I would not receive in my normal satellite package? Further investigation required. The PDF further details the PVR functionality; with an USB of 16GB or 32GB, you get pause tv functionality and with larger drives/sticks PVR gets activated. The maximum is apparently 1TB, and larger drives will be limited to 1TB, regardless of actual capacity. According to the manual, the functionality formats the stick/drive in a non-Windows/OS X-readable format – which begs the question of what filesystem it uses. Let’s hope further investigation will reveal that – would be quite interesting if the disks could be mounted and read under Linux. :) Other than that, the manual contains very little in the way of interesting information except for the very last page – the CE information states that “Herved erklærer ADB S.A. at TNR-2850ST oppfyller” and so on – so we know the make and model of the receiver. Now, let’s see what we can find out with that information.

ADB are Advanced Digital Broadcast, a Switzerland-based producer of set-top boxes. The products link at the top of their page quickly leads us to the product page for the ADB-2850ST. It looks slightly different from the model offered by Canal Digital, which is probably the reason why that model holds a TNR prefix. It is not unlikely that TNR is short for TeleNor, which owns Canal Digital. So, what can the product page tell us. It features a flash video detailing some of the features of the box, and at least the video makes it seem mighty responsive. It appears the user interface is unchanged from the default for the Norwegian edition, based on this video and the Norwegian pdf manual. Under a section called Key Features it also lists “Open-standards platform with expandable functionalities” – which sounds a lot like “linuxbased” to me. :) It’s More Details link reveals a quick overview of the technical capabilities of the box, which I will reveal here in its entirety;

Video
MPEG-2, MPEG-4 H.264
Resolution: Up to 1080i
TV reception: PAL

Audio
MP3, AAC decoding
Dolby AC-3 (down-mix and Pass through to SPDIF)

Conditional Access
Conax
Copy protection: HDCP 1.3, Macrovision 7.01

Tuner
1 x DVB-S2
1 x DVB-T

Memory
DDRAM: 256MB

Software
ADB’s CARBO™ award-winning User Interface
Middleware: MHP 1.1.2

Resident Applications
All features of ADB Carbo HD user interface

Optional Applications
All optional features of ADB Carbo HD user interface
Recording on external Hard Drive using USB

Performance
Channel change speed: 1.3S (average)

Casing size
230x167x36mm

Certifications & Conformities
DVB-S2, ETSI EN 302 307
DVB-T, EN 300 744
PN-EN 62216-1 (section 12.7)
HDMI 1.3a
Dolby Digital
CE Marking

So – what does all this tell us, apart from the fact that they are seemingly very pleased with their trademarked but cartoonish-looking Carbo interface? A few things; it supports Conax and PAL only, which tells us it was tailored for European markets. Other than that, not a terrible lot. Luckily, they also provide a link to a PDF they call the Full Product Specification, so let’s have a look at that. It also features a Technical Specifications list, which goes into a lot more detail than what I posted above. The CPU is an STi7111 from STMicroelectronics, which according to the specs on their website actually supports VC-1 in addition to the codecs already mentioned. Not that anyone has ever broadcast in VC-1, but still – if the box can get properly hacked, it does open it up to more accelerated video formats, so “yay”. It should also support WM9 audio, which probably got left out of the spec sheets for much the same reasons as VC-1. The PDF also removes any doubt as to the operating system: This box runs Linux, which is definitely good news as far as hackability is concerned. The final bit of interesting information is in what video formats it accepts; I will paste the information directly from the PDF below;

MPEG-2 MP@ML (ISO 13818-2): up to 15 Mbps
MPEG-2 MP@HL (ISO 13818-2): up to 25 Mbps
MPEG-4 H.264 MP@L4.1 (ISO 14496-10): up to 25 Mbps
MPEG-4 H.264 HP@L4.1 (ISO 14496-10): up to 25 Mbps
Aspect Ratio: 4:3, 16:9 with Pan & Scan, Letterbox
H.264 part 10
Supported resolutions: up to1080i/30

So, there – we know a lot more than we did going in. I’ll be back for a part 2 when we actually can poke (and nmap :P) the box.

Edit: I found some more interesting info on the Canal Digital page – apparently, the TNR-2850ST differs from the standard model slightly. For one, it has 512MB RAM (DDR2 400MHz) as opposed to the standard box’s 256MB. The page also offers more information on the CA modules it supports;

Conax v7 for broadcast services, with at lease #3 Security Level.
MS DRM 10 for VC1 services
MS PlayReady for H.264,  services

Further – it also lists “Web Browser – WebKit” – which is interesting in itself, since I’ve seen no mention of any browser in any of the other materials.

Farewell MacBook, hello ZenBook

ee46f8df-b740-42e0-b8bd-241123d9c332Having lived with the same laptop at work since 2009 – a “mid 2009″ as the properties say – MacBook Pro, I had recently been thinking that something needed to change. The old workhorse was – well, getting old. So, it was time for new hardware. I considered several machines, including another MacBook, but finally settled on an Asus ZenBook UX32VD. I really liked the small formfactor (somewhere between a MacBook Pro and a an Air) combined with actual discrete graphics, a 1080p screen and a forward-thinking design (no optical drive, all-usb 3.0). The machine arrived yesterday, and I used parts of yesterday and parts of today setting it up. I found some things elegant, and some things clunky – but at least it was interesting.

Initial setup was pretty painless, except for the over-syncing it did when I logged into my Microsoft account. When I tried my desktop at home this morning, it had also reverted to the color scheme and even the same DESKTOP BACKGROUND as my new machine. I seriously hope this does not mean I will absolutely need to use the same background on all my Windows 8 machines, because that’s just… utterly silly. But I’ll hold off on putting the blame on anyone in particular until I can investigate further.

I needed to setup a few software pacakges, which gave me a chance to try out Ninite for the first time. I’ve been hearing people talk about this solution at length on various tech podcasts (Tekzilla, Linus Tech Tips) for the last few years, and I found the service awesome. Excellent and elegant. Basically, Ninite allows you to setup a number of pieces of software at once, with no clicking next-next-next and it Just Works(tm).

Mechanically, I must say that I much prefer the touchpad on the MacBook Pro. The touchpad on the ZenBook is way clickier, and doesn’t feel as good to the touch. The keyboard is pretty much exactly the same.

I’ll live with the little beast for a few days, and report back. So far, so good.

The Dump is open

I’ve been out of commission with a viral infection all week and am only now starting to feel half-human – so this seemed like a good time to get the final bits and pieces for our ftp project The Dump off the ground, and getting to some actual dumping and sharing. For those that did not catch the original blogpost where I outlined our plans, I can quickly sum them up here – The Dump is an ftp site for software dumpers. The process of “dumping” is extracting the information from older mediums, like floppy disks, and preserving them for the future. With this site, we hope to make this process more dynamic, more immediate, and in addition to hosting myself and my partner Christian’s projects, give people a place to share their own. We also hope that making images available as they appear will allow for more and better collaboration between dumpers and other interested parties.

Content on the site will be dynamic – this is the nature of the process. It is our goal to not only dump, but check and see whether this file already exists in a well preserved version (i.e. hosted on scene.org or amigascne.org and having mirrors available to absolutely rule out the possibility of it going missing in the future). If a file exists, and we can confirm our dump does not contribute to fixing something in/on it, then  we simply remove the file. If we find that our dump is entirely new and errorfree, we will take steps to make sure it is preserved for posterity (more than likely: uploading to scene.org or similar archival site).

The site is configured for anonymous access, which allows download of everything in the Public directory, as well as upload to the Incoming directory. Frequent contributors are welcome to approach us about more dynamic access, but in order to prevent misuse – this is the internet, after all – that’s how it works from the onset.

You’ll notice the login banner says we support c64, Amiga and console files, but we’re happy to expand to other platforms if there is interest from the community. We’d also like to thank h7/Divine Stylers and Accession for the lovely banner ascii (non-dynamic fonts for best experience) – be sure to check out his other work over at asciiarena.

The Dump is open NOW, so direct your ftp clients to ftp://ftp.spaceballs.no – and have fun.

Backlog Update

stuff_300This is just a quick check-in to update some of the recent additions to my movie collection. I will just go straight into some blu-rays; I quite enjoyed The Adjustment Bureau (2011, EAN: 5050582854145) when I first saw it, and I now own it on blu-ray. I picked up The Guard (2011, EAN: 5055201815750) and The Last Exorcism (2010, EAN: 505520181269) from play.com for €4.49 each, which I felt was a good deal. My edition is the bd + dvd combo pack, but has the cover from the single edition and not the one I linked to. Don’t know what’s up with that. And finally on the blu-ray front, I received 5 out of the 6 orders I placed on Amazon.com that I previously mentioned in my post So Many Things. The titles I received so far were  Where The Wild Things Are (2009, UPC: 883929068166), Cobra (1986, UPC: 883929189687), Red Planet (2000, UPC: 883929180073), Battle of the Bulge (1965, UPC: 085391142621) and The Wild Bunch – The Original Director’s Cut (1969, UPC: 085391142669) – which means I am still waitin for Mean Streets (1973). That’s the blu-rays done away with, and just to round things off I would like to mention two dvd titles as well. I picked up a doublepack of Billy Connolly standup routines, which includes Live In New York and Was It Something I Said for €7.29 and the Christian Slater show My Own Worst Enemy – Complete Series for the ridiculously low price of €4.49 – both from play.com.

I just installed a couple of new shelves, so hopefully I still have capacity for a couple of years more of collecting. :)

In more demoscene-related news, The Dump is currently installed and is undergoing testing. I expect we will launch soon. Oh, and I’m going to Revision 2013. So there’s that.

So Many Things

Superpack 01 by Brainstorm

Merry Christmas everyone! I’ve been enjoying my Christmas Eve morning tremendously, poking away at both Demozoo and The Dump. Since I received a shipment of Amiga floppy disks from Axel/Brainstorm earlier this month, I’ve slowly started sorting and dumping them, and carefully picking out some images for further examination. So far today, I stumbled across a “lost” demopack with an interesting history, and documented it for Demozoo – and uploaded it to ftp.amigascne.org and Pouët.net for good measure. I also spammed the link in the BitWorld irc channel (#amigaexotic on ircnet) – I know those guys will have fun with it. The interesting bit about Superpack 01 is that it was seemingly never meant for release at all – it was a brand-new packmenu (dated september 27th, 1991) given to the then-new Brainstorm member The Pride for his new packseries. That series later turned out to be Obsession, but it seems very few issues were ever released (only three, according to BitWorld). Back in 1991, most software distribution happened through the mail, and a having a great mailswapper onboard was crucial for a groups success. After all, if nobody saw your productions, you were never going to get recognized. Swappers were also often the people who put together demopacks, and The Pride was one of the top guys in those days – so getting him aboard was surely a big capture for Brainstorm. The Pride released a great number of packs in the series Evolution (for Flash Productions in the time between 1989 and 1991, before his stint in Brainstorm) and Velveteen (for Sanity in 1992, after Brainstorm).

Another cool find today was an alternative version of the music module Stagebox, called Stagebox Final, by Jester/Sanity, on another of Axel’s disks. It is currently sitting in the Modland upload directory, waiting for approval. As a happy sidenote, I discovered that my favourite mininal music player for Windows, XMPlay,  had just been updated to version 3.7! Cool beans all around.

I also migrated to a new twitter client on all my Android devices yesterday, and I guess that warrants mentioning. Since my previous favourite Tweet Lanes was discontinued over problems with Twitter’s new 3rd-party app limitations, I had been in the market for a new one for a small while. While my previous priority was speed and simplicity, I went for something with a bit more eyecandy this time; a new contender called Falcon Pro. Falcon Pro is a paid app, but for your money you do get an app that looks absolutely stunning, and which has put a lot of the fun back into browsing twitter on a tablet for me. So far, I have the app installed on my Galaxy S2 (GT-I1900) running stock Android 4.0.4, as well as on my Asus Transformer TF101 tablet running TeamEOS Android 4.2.1. It is a good experience on both devices, but as mentioned – perhaps particularly so on the tablet. Of course I am speaking from less than 1 full day of experience here, but so far I am very happy with how things are working out. Not at all sad I switched.

So, to round this sort-of random blog post off, perhaps some movies? I received quite a few updates since last I wrote on the subject, and I will just open with the jewel of the crop first: Universal Monsters: The Essential Collection (EAN: 5050582907261) on blu-ray. And yes, this is the coffin-shaped boxset. I paid 495 Swedish Kroner for it, and… well, it’s just gorgeous. The boxset collects Dracula (1931) English & Spanish Versions, Frankenstein (1931), Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), and The Phantom of the Opera (1932). It rests nicely alongside my Monster Legacy Collection DVD boxset, which includes busts of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man. Man, does this make me a happy film geek. :)

Apart from those titles, I am now the proud owner of Twelve Monkeys (1995, EAN: 5050582726077), Shaun of the Dead (2004, EAN: 5050582726053), Inglorious Basterds (2009, EAN: 5050582713381), Collateral Damage (2002, EAN: 5051892004732), Tango And Cash (1989, EAN: 5051892005357), How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000, EAN: 5050582735130), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, EAN: 8717418177096), Ben Hur (1959, EAN: 5051892027892), the adorable Despicable Me (2010, EAN: 5050582838503) and finally Jurassic Park: Ultimate Trilogy (EAN: 5050582830767). I see Shaun has since been launched in a Universal Studios 100th Anniversary Edition in april of this year (both as a normal release and as a play.com exclusive steelbook), but I couldn’t find any information on whether this edition is a remaster or has extra features over the one I’ve got, so I think I’m good with my edition for now. Shaun of the Dead and The Nightmare Before Christmas both replace dvd copies previously in my collection.

I did, however, just place an order on Amazon.com for a further 6 titles – a steal at just $4.99 each and all region free – Where The Wild Things Are (2009), Cobra (1986), Red Planet (2000), Battle of the Bulge (1965), The Wild Bunch (1969) and finally Mean Streets (1973). Can’t wait.

The Dump

For quite some time now, I’ve been actively involved with getting floppy disks from the Amiga and C64 scenes dumped, so that the software on them can be preserved – with a specific focus towards the demoscene. Even today, there are lots and lots of demos, slideshows, musicdisks and diskmagazines that are seemingly lost forever – that is, until someone dumps it and shares it on the internet.

Preservationists like myself also tend to be hoarders, and I am certainly guilty of this myself – I have multiple gigs of stuff on my DropBox that I’ve been meaning to find the time to go through and upload to the appropriate places. I even have dumps of floppies from people that have put their faith in me, just waiting in an ever-growing folder-of-stuff-to-sort. During my interactions with other dumpers, I have learned that I am far from the worst – some will happily sit on their stuff, so that they have something unique to trade if another dumper should come along that is also unwilling to share if there is nothing in it for him.

This is a problem.

I have enjoyed a long-standing friendship with a fellow called Christian – known to a lot of you guys in the demoscene as Dozer, co-organizer of such demoparties as Kindergarden and Solskogen – with who I also share this passion for preserving old software. Together, we have dumped a great deal of floppies over the years, some of which have found their way to amigascne.org (of which I am an admin, and I take no little pride in saying – the guy who reignited their mirroring to scene.org servers so that stuff gets mirrored and hence is safely stored for posterity) and a lot of it never really left our harddrives for some of the reasons above. Recently, we’ve both come in a position to acquire a great deal of new floppies, and we discussed on irc how to solve The Problem. We both decided that we needed a low-maintenance arena for sharing files quickly and immediately, and we needed good functionality for getting feedback back to us. We figured out part 1, we are still working on part 2. We’ll fix it when part 1 goes online, probably.

So with that, I introduce to everyone a new ftp site called simply and fittingly The Dump. With this site, we are hoping to feed the scene freshly dumped images as they are getting dumped, complete with metadata on the donator of the disk, the dumper, the software used to accomplish the task, and much much more. Disks are in the mail, and the other hardware is already online, so hopefully you will be seeing the site and disks starting to appear very soon. We currently have large collections from Ziphoid/Razor 1911 (Sweden) and Axel/Brainstorm (Switzerland) ready to start getting processed, and we are expecting about 1000 disks from Aero/The Silents (UK) in the coming weeks.

I’ll return with a new blog post once we launch, which I hope will be in the very very near future. Let’s hope the world doesn’t end first.