Loss of auto-rotate

Posted in technology with tags , , , , on March 10, 2014 by bytor

This is the first in a series of quick posts on my experiences with the Asus Transformer T100. This will include tips etc. and this first case gives a solution for the problem of when the auto rotate feature seems to have disappeared.

Normally when you open the charm bar and select settings (bottom icon) you then have a “screen” icon which has a brightness slider and a rotation lock control at the top. Well today the rotate control mysteriously disappeared. If this happens try the following:

Open Device Manager, then InvenSense Sensor Collection. Under the properties tab, disable then re-enable this driver. For me this seemed to cure the problem.

PVRs, file transfers, large hard disk drives and odd filesystems…

Posted in technology, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2014 by bytor

OK this is a somewhat minority interest post, but it might help someone who is trying to do the same tasks as I was, or experiences some or all of the same difficulties.

First some keywords for the search engines: PVR, ext2, ext3, linux, FAT16, FAT32, FAT16/32

OK first up: what was I trying to do:

  • transfer files from my PVR (personal video recorder, a Humax Foxsat HDR) to my Windows 7 PC, for the purposes of archiving, and converting to compressed MP4 files using Handbrake, for playing on my tablet (a 1st generation Google Nexus 7)

Humax FoxSAT HDR

Problems:

  • Some files are too large to be transferred. Previously I was using a portable external drive of about 30GB size, which in actual fact was a repurposed iRiver MP3 player (iHP140) which I had long ago installed some 3rd party firmware (Rockbox) to extend its functionality, and subsequently stopped using when I got a smartphone that doubled as a portable music player.
  • iRiver iHP140
  • This device could be mounted as a USB drive, and I believe it was formatted in FAT 16 or FAT32. This has a filesize limit of 4GB and some of the uncompressed video files (for exampla a movie longer than about 2 1/2 hours) would exceed this limit.
  • The iRiver was getting a bit flaky and I suspect, recahing the end of its reliable natural life. Sometimes it would not be recognized, or files would randomly disappear, then reappear when it was powered down, rested, and remounted.

Initial solution seemed simple. External hard disks these days are larger, cheaper (and one hopes) more reliable. PC World had a good deal on Western Digital 1TB “My Passport” small external drives for £60. I snapped one up.

western_digital_my_passport_ultra_1tb_blue

First problem encountered. The Western Digital HDD was formatted in NTFS. This was not recognized by my Humax PVR. Since there is no chance to alter the Humax, my options were limited. It recognizes either FAT 16/32, or linux EXT3. So if I was to continue my plan I would have to reformat the WD HDD to one of these. But which?

FAT 16/32 has the advantage of very wide compatibilty. Windows of all flavours would read it, and so would the Humax. But it is somewhat ill suited to the large size of modern HDDs. On Windows you can format a drive in FAT32 but with some severe limitations. The first is that maximum volume size if a meagre 32GB. Not very useful if your drive capacity is 1TB! Yyou can use one of many 3rd party partition manager programs to format a FAT32 drive with a larger volume size than this, but then you also come across other potential problems: cluster size, file allocation table size and performance. Now I don’t pretend to really understand the intricacies of this sort of stuff but some more info on this is here.

Anyway, I read enough to decide that maybe formatting to FAT16 or FAT32 was not likely to be the best use of my new 1TB drive, so I decided to investigate formatting in EXT3. Now what is EXT3? I knew that it was one of the commonly used filesystems in many Linux systems, but apart from that I was ignorant. I soon discovered that Windows doesn’t read this filesystem natively, and this was going to be a major problem in my original task of transferring files from the PVR to the Windows PC.

However a quick search revealed that there were a number of ways to allow Windows to access, at least on a read-only basis, EXT filesystems.  The EXT2fsd project seemed to be one of the one that came up most frequently in searches. However I was made a bit wary by the fact that it doesn’t seemed to have been updated since 2011, and also many webpages mentioned its risk of data corruption and other teething troubles. It sounded like a possible solution, but not perhaps ideal.

Finally I settled on another solution that sounded a little more stable and also seemed to allow writing a Windows system to a EXT3 system – Paragon Software EXTfs for Windows.

I downloaded this and installed it easily on my Windows PC. I then downloaded a ISO CD ROM image of a linux partition manager software called GParted. This worked very well and I was able to boot to Linux and using Gparted, formatted the Western Digital HDD to EXT3. I thought it might take a very long time on account of the large size of the drive, but actually it only took 11 minutes. Then I mounted it using the Paragon EXTfs software and it was recognized straight away. It appeared in Windows Explorer just like any other drive.

This is easy! I did a quick test file transfer of a small file from Windows to WD without problems. Next up I deleted all the files to start from a blank slate and connected the WD to my Humax. Recognized! Success! I straight away transferred one of the files that had been too large for my old iRiver. No problems there. Connected back up to the Windows PC and transferred said file to the laptop. All my problems are solved. (Or so I thought).

The Sting In The Tail

I was about to have some annual leave, and one of my ideas was to catch up on some TV that I had been missing recently. I transferred a large amount of video and audio files to the WD drive. I checked them on the Windows PC using the Paragon extfs driver. Then I relocated to where I was spending my leave (where there is another Windows PC and a different PVR, this time a Humax Freeview FOX-T2 HDR – note this is different model from the PVR I have at home which is a Freesat one.)

humax hdr fox t2-580-100

First thing I wanted to do was watch one of the files I had transported on the WD HDD, but on my Nexus tablet. I installed Paragon extfs on the PC in my new location and transferred the file there. Then I transferred to my Nexus without problems.

Now came my big mistake. I discovered that the 2nd Humax PVR (the Freeview one) had a recording that I wanted to keep. I thought I could simply connect the newly EXT3 formatted external drive to it, copy the file onto it, then onto the Windows PC to shrink using Handbrake, then onto my Nexus or just keep on the external drive until I got back home in a week. After all I wasn’t pushed for space on this 1TB drive.

However, when I connected it to the Freeview PVR and browsed to the drive, I was a bit surprised to find it appeared “empty” instead of the dozen or so files that I had just looked at a few minutes before. I thought it was a bit odd, but continued to copy the file from the Freeview PVR onto the WD HDD.

When I connected it to the Windows PC and viewed it using Paragon extfs I was alarmed to see that now all those files that I thought were safely stored on the external drive, were GONE! In their place was the newly transferred file from the Freeview PVR, and a small collection of files that I had previously transferred from my other PVR a couple of days ago, but subsequently erased (or so I thought).

It soon dawned on me that somehow, by connecting the external EXT3 formatted drive to the second PVR I had caused the old files to reappear and newer ones to “disappear”. Don’t ask me the technicalities of what had happened. Some linux guru might be able to explain. However I suspected that they might still be accessible and recoverable…. somehow. I had only written one time to the drive (the transfer from the second PVR), so I thought there was a fair chance most of the data would sti8ll be intact.

I searched for file recovery/undelete software. This needed to work on EXT partitions, but run from Windows, so this narrowed it down a bit. To cut a long story short, I tried a few. DiskInternals have a piece of software called Linux Reader which I thought might fit the bill. However after installation it seemed to take an exceedingly long time to read the drives. Eventually I gave up and searched again. Next I tried EaseUS Data recovery Wizard. This actually did work in that it did eventually (after a good many hours in the background) read and index all the files on the WD external drive, including all the ones that had “disappeared” and which I wanted to recover. BUT, when I tried to recover them I found to my dismay that the free trial version only allowed you to view and search but to actually recover the files you had to buy the “pro” version for $80.

Finally, I tried a free piece of software from RTT (R-Tools Technology, @RTT-inc on Twitter) called R-Linux. This looked like it was going to take an unrealistic time to scan my 1TB drive (the “time remaining” indicator went up to 5 days!) but it actually completed the scan in about an hour. After that I was successfully able to recover (and transfer intact to a Windows folder) most of the files I had lost. A few were incomplete, probably as a result of some disk writing on the second PVR but I was able to get most of what I wanted and it didn’t take too long.

So, the moral of the story is that ext3 formatted drives still don’t play perfectly with Windows systems, but probably using Paragon’s extfs for Windows software is your best bet. Be careful and you should be OK. Don’t mix and match the systems you connect the drive to any more than you have too, and back up frequently (always a good idea in any computer related activity). Finally if you get into a pickle, RTT’s R-Linux is a saviour.

DIY Celebration of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary

Posted in books, comics, music, TV with tags , , , , , , on October 5, 2013 by bytor

Doctor Who 50th logo tardis

Why “D.I.Y” (Do-it-yourself, for those not in the know)? Well, despite this being the biggest year in the show’s history, for fans here in the UK at least, there seems to have been a rather underwhelming push by the BBC to highlight and celebrate one of it’s biggest successes.

We are less than 2 months away from the actual anniversary date of 23rd November, and what have we had so far on BBC TV? An (admittedly interesting) radio show about the beginnings of the series (The Reunion, Radio 4), a Doctor Who Proms (clip, another clip), an announcement show for the new twelfth doctor, and a couple of very brief idents, or “stings“. Not even a proper trailer yet for the anniversary episode. A schedule of events has been released but I would have liked much more throughout the year on BBC TV.

I would have liked to see many more classic episodes getting an airing throughout the year (as has occurred in other territories). The BBC is sitting on a goldmine of classic Doctor Who adventures dating back to 1963 and we are seeing none of it!

There are a number of other events/products that are properly celebrating the full heritage of Doctor Who (going right back to the start; this is a 50 year anniversary after all, not a celebration of just the last decade). I am presenting here a guide as to how you can celebrate the show in the manner that it deserves.

–o0o–

1. Hunt down and watch some classic episodes.

Which ones? Well that is a whole debate! The old ones from the “classic” era might be difficult for some people who only know Who from it’s 2005 revival.  The actors will all be unfamiliar, and the slower pace and lower production values from decades gone by might be a bit off-putting. But there are some great moments, and of course a lot of history. Try my guide at this post. It contains links to several other sources and suggestions of which classics to seek out.

Where to find them? Well, either buy them on DVD, or visit one of the many “unofficial” online sources. Try Dailymotion. Search for users “greendude33“, “matrixarchive“, “WHOat50“, “f630475257“. Alternatively if you are in the States I believe Netflix has some Classic Who .

First episode of “Genesis of the Daleks” at Daily Motion:

(Lost episodes) – There are many episodes of Doctor Who that unfortunately no longer exist as video recordings. However they can be experienced in other ways, and should not be discounted if you really want to get a feel of the history of the show. See my separate blog post for further details.

–o0o–

2.  Listen to The Reunion

A BBC radio show bringing together some of the creators and actors of the very first Doctor Who story, “An Unearthly Child”. (Non-UK users, if you cannot access, use a proxy service like Tunnelbear)

–o0o–

3. Check out The Guardian (UK newspaper) series of features on 50 Years of Doctor Who.

50 Years of Doctor Who

Best episodes of all time

–o0o–

 4. The Doctors Revisited. 

BBC America commisioned a series of 30 minutes documentaries, one for each doctor, starting from William Hartnell, and have been broadcasting them monthly since the beginning of the year, each accompanied by a showing of a classic serial featuring that doctor. A little lightweight but with a few nices nuggets of information and clips nonetheless, they are worth watching. You can see a list of which stories were shown for each Doctor here.

But, how can you see them? Well in another massive FAIL by the BBC, they are not being shown in the UK on BBC TV, but only on a pay TV satellite channel! So, again, internet to the rescue.  Try this playlist at DailyMotion from user Tardis_Central. You should be able to find the other episodes by a quick search.  They can also be found in the usual torrent places. Currently I am working through these with the accompanying stories.

Trailer for Doctors Revisited (Second Doctor)

–o0o–

5. BFI Doctor Who 50th Anniversary events.

The British Film Institute has, throughout the year, been hosting a series of special screenings of serials from each era of Doctor Who. They have of course been incredibly popular, and nigh on impossible to get tickets for. At each show there has been a panel Q&A session with many guest stars, ranging from actors (including doctors, companions, and guests) and writers, directors and other notable related people. Luckily the BFI has recorded these sessions and you can view them at the BFI YouTube channel. The most recent of these events was held last night (4th October) and focussed on the eighth doctor Paul McGann. Paul himself was a guest, along with Daphne Ashbrook (who played the companion in the TV Movie), writer and script editor Andrew Cartmel, and Nicholas Briggs provider of many alien voices in the current revived series.

Tom Baker talking at the Fourth Doctor BFI Q&A Event:

–o0o–

6. Big Finish

Big Finish is a company that has been producing original audio adventures related to Doctor Who for many years, and was instrumental in keeping interest in the show alive in the years when it was off our TV screens. Personally I have not really listened to many of these, but the special that has been commissioned for the 50th Anniversary has piqued my interest. “The Light At The End” is a lavish production starring Doctors 4-8 (all original actors: Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann as well as classic companions Louise Jameson (Leela), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa).

Check out the trailer here.

And here is a nice advert detailing the various formats in which the story is being released.

–o0o–

7. IDW Comics series – Prisoners Of Time

doctor-who-prisoners-of-time-1 idw-prisoners-of-time-4

For those who like their graphic novels, have a look at IDW’s serial Prisoners Of Time. Again this is a currently running series, featuring all the doctors and many companions, and scheduled to finish in the Anniversary month of November. The series is available as physical media and also digitally at ComiXology.

–o0o–

8. Anniversary books. 

Puffin, in conjunction with the BBC are publishing a series of short eBooks each featuring one of the doctors. They are written by well known authors, and each is announced at the start of the month. A list of the books and authors is here. Each of the announcements of a addition to the series is accompanied by a YouTube video of the author giving some insights into their book and why they decided to do it. Example of Richelle Mead talking about her sixth Doctor book here.

–o0o–

9. Fan blogs

Finally, I would like to give a shout out to a couple of fan blogs that I have enjoyed.

First is the Confused Companion. This is a blog by an American Doctor Who fan who chronicles her marathon odyssey from the very first episode of the William Hartnell era, right through to the present day. Although a fan of the genre, she had never seen any Who before starting this and it is fascinating, and fun to see her reaction to these stories for the first time. Her perspective is unusual (if not unique) in being completely new to Who, but watching stories originally made in the 60s from a 21st century perspective, and also in a very compressed time frame. I have enjoyed reliving many classics of my youth vicariously through her blog.

Another different take on the task of watching all the Doctor Who from the beginning is the Doctor Who Mind Robber blog. This is written by an Australian fan who obviously is a big fan with an extensive experience of the show. But as she rewatches from the start she gives some interesting comment on how the show related to fashions and events of the time in which it was made. Here is the first post which explains her plans. Also you get some great Doctor Who news and factoids!

So, although we have the official BBC 50th Anniversary epsiode on the 23rd of November to look forward to, as well Mark Gatiss’s dramatisation of the story behind the series back in the 1960s, there are a lot of other ways to make your own Doctor Who celebration. I hope you enjoy it!

Using the Eurosport Player

Posted in sport, TV with tags , , , on May 5, 2013 by bytor

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Here are some brief experiences using the Eurosport Player service, which I am trying so I can follow the Giro d’Italia bike race.

  • I am using a Windows 7 laptop and Chrome browser, and using the service from UK
  • i have a fairly decent broadband connection (about 20Mbps)
  • You can subscribe to the service either on a month by month (cancel anytime) for £4.99, or a yearly subscription (£2.99)
  • There is a separate Android (and iOS) service, I believe it is a separate subscription
  • The Android app gets the worst ever reviews on the Google Play store. In fact, now I can’t even download that app even if I wanted too, as it has mysteriously become “unavailable” for my devices, or my location. (It wasn’t like that a few days ago)
  • The streaming quality is not bad, about standard def, but definitely not HD. I had a pretty constant connection while watching for a couple of hours. Only the very occasion short pause or buffering.
  • It looked reasonably good when fed into a 40″ LCD TV using standard VGA cables.
  • The video quality is better than those types of streams or videos you see on youtube or other “unofficial” sources.
  • There does NOT appear to be any “catch-up” or on-demand facility to watch videos for Giro after they have been broadcast.
  • Eurosport are showing all the stages of the Giro live on one of their two channels, and there is a highlights show about 10:30pm each evening which lasts about 60-90 minutes.
  • Since the Giro occurs during the day, I can’t watch the live broadcasts except weekends, although there is a lot of good action on the weekends including the main time trial and the climax in a couple of weekends from now. So will be reliant on the highlights shows (and their timing since no catchup) during weekdays.
  • the support from Eurosport regarding this service is pretty poor. Their twitter account hasn’t been active since about 2 years ago. The comments on the Google Play store about the Android app suggest attempts to contact Eurosport for service issues fall on deaf ears.

The Lost Stories of Classic Doctor Who

Posted in TV with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2013 by bytor

In my last post I looked at what were generally considered to be “classics” of the “Classic” era (1963-89) of Doctor Who. As I have become more familiar with the Hartnell and Troughton eras, it has become obvious that a lot of the lost episodes were at least worth investigating, and some might be considered classics in themselves.

In total 106 episodes are currently missing from the first two doctors’ eras, and it seems unlikely that any more will be recovered. So how can you enjoy them?

Well you need a little dedication and persistance, but here are several ways:

  • First check out which serials are missing here at Wikipedia
  • There are novelisations of all of these stories available from the usual places. Example for “Marco Polo” from the first season.
  • The audio soundtracks from the original TV episodes still exist, and many are available individually as CDs or download (E.g. Marco Polo). There are also 5 boxed sets of CDs containing between them all the missing serials, along with some interesting additional info as data on the CDs e.g. original scripts.

Doctor Who photonovel exampleSometimes, however, you need a visual cue to really engage with the story even in audio form. The official BBC Doctor Who website has hidden away in the “Classic” section, a number of “photonovels” that are basically still pictures with captions to tell the story. Some of them have links to sound effects, but these are clearly from another era, as they are Real Audio links which most broswers no longer accept. These give a surprisingly good feel for the stories.

In addition, the episode guide at the BBC Doctor Who website also gives additional insights into each story. (Example: Marco Polo). Strangely, there is another, separate, episode guide also on the BBC DW site, that contains further different information about each of the old episodes. These often include a picture gallery, and sometimes even video clips. (Example again, Marco Polo).

Finally, there is the synthesis of the soundtracks and available clips and photos, in the form of fan-made “reconstructions” (or recons). These are certainly unofficial, and no doubt infringe BBC copyright, but appear to be tolerated by the Beeb. These are made by various groups of fans, but one of the best collections is by Loose Cannon Productions who have a full collection covering all the missing serials. You can find them from various sources that you might expect, such as their website, on video sharing sites like YouTube. If you really like them, the whole collection is floating about the internet in one big 8GB torrent. It’s not too difficult to find.

Essential Classic Doctor Who

Posted in TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2013 by bytor

dw banner

With the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who taking place later this year, my interest in “classic” (i.e. 1963-1989, before the 2005 restart) Doctor Who has resurfaced. I have scoured various blogs, and websites and taken a consensus view on which are the classics to seek out.

A significant number of the old shows (especially from Patrick Troughton years) are lost forever, but the majority of what exists is available in some form on DVD. (see wikipedia list). Also quite a few are on various online video sites like Daily Motion etc.

Stories that were recommended more than once among my sources, have been marked with an asterisk.

It’s well worth having a look at the source web pages (listed at the foot of this post), to see why the various stories were recommended.

First Doctor (William Hartnell, 1963-65)

*An Unearthly Child

The Edge of Destruction

*The Dalek Invasion of Earth

The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve (unavailable on DVD)

The War Machines

Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton, 1966-68)

*Tomb of the Cybermen

*The Mind Robber

The Invasion

Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee, 1970-73)

*The Spearhead From Space

The Silurians

The Ambassadors of Death

*Inferno

Terror of the Autons

The Daemons

The Green Death

The Time Warrior

Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker, 1974-80)

The Ark in Space

*Genesis of the Daleks

Pyramids of Mars

The Deadly Assassin

The Robots of Death

*The Talons of Weng-Chiang

Horror of Fang Rock

*The City of Death

Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison, 1982-84)

The Visitation

Earthshock

*The Caves of Androzani

Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker, 1985-86)

Trial of a Time Lord series

Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy, 1987-89)

Remembrance of the Daleks

Ghost Light

*The Curse of Fenric

Sources: (thanks to each)

http://io9.com/5939314/old+school-doctor-who-episodes-that-everyone-should-watch

http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/series/the-best-doctor-who-episodes-of-all-time

http://www.geeksofdoom.com/2011/04/18/new-to-who-10-classic-doctor-who-adventures-worth-checking-out

http://flavorwire.com/380883/11-classic-doctor-who-episodes-for-fans-of-the-reboot

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3674193/The-10-greatest-episodes-of-Doctor-Who-ever.html

http://theoncominghope.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/5-best-classic-who-episodes-for-newbies.html

Fun for obsessives! – Organizing your media with PlexApp

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by bytor

I would like to tell you about PlexApp, a fantastic service that helps with all your digital media needs.

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Basically it is a media server that runs on MacOSX, Windows and linux, and has a multitude of clients (some third party) e.g. mobile devices (iOS, Android) and hardware set-top boxes like Roku, but importantly for me there is a native app for my Samsung D6530 TV.

There are two things that PlexApp does really well, better than any other similar service I have tried. First, it actually works as a server over wifi. I have tried a few: AllShare, Serviio, Windows Media Player, Twonky, but none of them seemed reliable. Either they wouldn’t always connect, or the PS3 would see them but the TV wouldn’t, or vice-versa or they could be seen, but the video wouldn’t play correctly or some other hassle.

PlexApp (so far) has worked every time. There is a great looking and surprisingly fast and slick app which is downloadable to the TV, and it has a great interface. It always connects with the server (my Windows laptop) and lets me stream HD video easily.

This is what it looks like on the Samsung TV:

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The second thing PlexApp does really well is something that all obsessives like me will love. It organizes you meta data and thus organizes your media in a logical and standardized way, and does this almost automagically. I have a Freesat PVR (discontinued model) but unfortunately its hard disk (500GB) is bulging to bursting point and I am constantly fighting to delete stuff. I have a bunch of video stored on a large 2TB external HDD which is attached to my laptop. The sources of the video are varied: downloaded from the internet, some ripped off DVD, BBC iPlayer (you must get Get_iPlayer it is a godsend), and now I have discovered that I can export the recorded video from my Freesat PVR. There is a USB connection on the machine and you can connect a flash stick or portable HDD and export files fairly easily. Transfer is a bit slow, and the native export format is not compressed very much (=large files) but the important thing is you can do it.

I export files from the PVR and then re-encode them to a more compact MP4 file using Handbrake. Once you have decided your preferred settings, it is a simple drag and drop process although the actually re-encoding can take some time so best left as an overnight task.

Now the PlexApp magic can begin! You are forced to adhere to a strict folder and naming structure (great for us obsessive compulsives ), but if you comply, PlexApp has “agents”, software pixies that go out onto the internet and pull down the relevant metadata for your movies and TV shows. This includes cover/poster art, titles, info about actors, directors etc. and even theme music for TV series. It gets this right most of the time, although you may have to occasionally “nudge” it with a manual correction.

What you are left with is a beautifully organized and annotated collection, which is on your external hard disk, but which can be easily and reliably streamed to you big screen TV over your home wifi network. You can search by genre, title, actor, director and many other ways. Just beautiful.

If you haven’t got an LG TV (which apparently have PlexApp built in) or a Samsung like me, you can use your PS3 or XBox 360 as a client box which then can throw the video at your TV.

 

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