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Another PVR bug

When the PVR is turned into standby, and back 'on' again. Or sometimes when it is turned on from 'cold', it can sometimes get the picture 'size' incorrect. This tends to show up as a slightly narrower image with a blue bar down the right-hand side, as shown below:

[Japanese weather forecast on NHK World, broadcast 2009/01/15; scaled to 75%]

The above can be repaired using VirtualDub to crop off the blue bar part, if it really bugs you.

However, there is a version that can manifest rather more seriously. This is not repairable, as half the picture is missing:

["Home & Away", broadcast on Five on 2009/01/16; scaled to 75%]

Luckily the latter is rare, but the first example is quite common.

Luckily, also, if you choose "Record Video" from the PVR's menu by pressing the Play button once quickly, the PVR will enter a sort of preview mode where you will see exactly what would be recorded; only it is not yet recording - you can press Play again to begin recording, or Stop to abort; note that pressing Rec will bypass this and begin recording immediately.

The way I have found to 'resolve' this is to pull the power lead out the back.
It is recommended that you put the PVR into standby first. This will write any scheduled recordings to NVRAM. If you don't, scheduled recordings will be lost and 'reverted' to whatever was present in NVRAM from before.

Count to ten, then plug the lead back in and power up. With a little bit of luck, all will be well.

This operation, sadly, may be required from time to time as a side-effect of bringing back the 'date' which can, for some unknown reason, vanish from the top left of the main menu. And if the date vanishes, so does any hope of the scheduled recordings starting and stopping correctly...


Relative resolutions

I thought I would try comparing effective 'resolutions' to take a deeper look at why the Zen's 320×240 display is so much better than the MP4Fiesta's 160×120 display.
Okay, okay, the resolution of the Zen is exactly twice that of the other; but it isn't quite that simple. The Zen's display is also twice the size. So all things considered the perceptual quality should be about the same, no?

Definitely not.

Take a look at this. It's a promotional picture of Angela Chase (as in "My So-Called Life), with a faint ABC stamp on it... I downloaded it from a BBS some fourteen-odd years ago!

This is the MP4Fiesta's version of her head:

Now for the Zen version:

And for comparison, how it looks on a 14" monitor. I have stepped up the shutter speed and focussed into the screen slightly so you can see the patterning of the "shadow mask"; and as a result of this, the image will appear darker than the others.

That showed the three all at the same size, which was not a completely fair test of the Mp4Fiesta due to its lower resolution. So for this test we shall show a matrix of 16×16 pixels, scaled to be the same size, based just below her right eye...

From left to right: MP4Fiesta, Zen, and monitor:

This test leads us to several conclusions:

  • You can't comment on the colour variations between the examples - it's a factor of how the camera 'sees' the display and how it decides to set the automatic colour balance...
  • Does the MP4Fiesta support a reduced range of colours - 64K, 200K, something like that? It seems to be lacking in the finer graduations. Look at how Angela's face appears "blotchy".
  • What's with the Zen's display? I'm wondering if the display is actually a matrix of colour triangles as opposed to traditional square pixels. Certainly, whatever magic Creative have in their display unit makes the perceptual resolution decidely higher than the quoted 320×240. That, along with a true 16 million colour display, and decent anti-aliasing, altogether make for a pleasant viewing experience. I have (and do!) lie in bed at night watching films on my Zen. Even those subtitled Japanese ones. It's all very pleasant, good on the eyes, and provides a picture that it quite acceptable if I lie there with my glasses off...
  • Monitor technology differs, as does the 'dot pitch' of the display. This is an old cathode-ray-tube monitor that can manage 800×600 but not really anything higher. I would guess perhaps the dot pitch is in the neighbourhood of .28? It is, additionally, a fine mesh of round holes. Other technologies and concepts exist. This is just a bog-standard early '90s monitor.



All change at work

I am no longer on production.
Having been perhaps the only person on 'menage' to ever bother to use the Delladet (it's a "Johnson Diversey" product - perhaps the boring info of what it does is on their website?) to clean the equipment, I was chosen for working in the night-time clean-down crew. I might have mentioned this before? Whatever, something I will not due because of our remoteness from anything is to leave mom here alone. Not that I will be much good if a axe-wielding psycho turns up. I would like to be all gung-ho and wield my... um... brushcutter? I dunno. Something. But I have a horrible feeling I'd probably scream like a girl and run in the opposite direction.
Of course, the brushcutter is 'tempermental', so it would be like:
<crank> Please Mr. Axe murderer <crank> could you <crank> wait for a <crank> minute so that <crank> I can get my <crank> weapon started... <crank> <VROOOM> <hic!> <splutter> <splutter> Oh #@&%@*&$!!!!!

Anyway, I said no to nights on the times I was asked. So now, and now that the previously-contracted guys have left, we are working 3pm to 10.30pm (or earlier if we finish earlier, obviously). Today was the first day, and it was a great day. The condi (conditionnement - people who put the stuff in the plastic moulds ready for boxing up) was all some early so we could get the mousse cannon onto that area right away. The production line was then finished in the "sucré" part so that was next, and the girls finished the nappage and everybody had more or less gone by quarter past four. Previously that was unheard of, so maybe it's a one-off? By the time the girls had all gone, half the place had been moussed. I expected today to be a bit 'slow' as we would need to get our 'bearings' and know what had to be done, but we finished at quarter to ten! Big kudos to the prepa (preparation - a kitchen where all the potions are made) guys who left the place in impeccable state - we barely had to do anything. Okay, they'll never read this as they probably don't even know I have a b.log, not to mention it being in another language. But hey, thanks anyway!
Thanks also to the quality control girl, Florine (isn't that something you put in water?) who went home at about seven and came back again for a few minutes to make sure we were getting on okay and there weren't any problems. It was a nice thought.

It was odd thinking we were the only two people in the building. For a brief moment I had a thought of "parteeeee!", but then I looked at my cow-orker and wondered if he'd be able to pull. You don't need to ask about me, if I could pull I'd be married by now. And, besides, my idea of a fun time would be to whip the cover off the Seria (it's the automatic doser-machine) to expose a mess of control devices (think PLCs) with a maze of wiring so freaky it's a wonder the maintenance guys ever get it set up correctly! ... Like, zoiks, what happened to the concept of a microprocessor board with an I/O board piggybacking? I know there's some sort of CPU as there is a colour touchscreen to set the things up for what it is they are making - gunk into little plastic beakers, cake-mix into baking moulds (various sizes) or... um... well, whatever. I'd still get mileage out of idly reading the instruction booklet while on break. ☺ Maybe some day.

Well, that was day one. We closed all the doors (I think? don't recall any missing) and turned off all the lights. So tomorrow hopefully we'll go in, get stuck in, and not have a few sides of A4 of snag-sheet for "oi, dick, how could you miss...".


My So-Called Life

There is a reason I used the picture of Angela Chase above. She was my first girlfriend. Well, in my dreams. A sensitive, intelligent, introspective person with a touch of arrogance and self-centredness to make her pleasantly imperfect. Just the sort of person I'd be interested in. Just the sort of person to look at me and think "in your dreams"... If I had to list my favourite television programmes, there's no doubt that "Buffy" would score highly, and while I quite liked season 1 of "Heroes", I think it drifted a bit in season 2, and I don't know what is going on in season 3 as my work schedule made it difficult to watch. I saw a few episodes and the timelines seemed to contradict each other so much it became irritating. Maybe if BBC2 repeat it I will try to pick up and see where it's all going. Then there's "Pushing Daisies". I love the rhyming couplet narration, the vivid colours, and I very nearly wet myself laughing when, in the last episode (2.08 I think?) Olive Snook burst into her rendition of "Eternal Flame". I'm in danger of liking this more than "Buffy"! Say it ain't so!
Also up there is "The Prisoner". As in #6, not Cell Block H. You would expect me to list "The X-Files", but I won't because after Scully's abduction I think the dynamic was broken and it got a bit, well, $#!+ really.
Same deal for "Torchwood". The first series had some quality sci-fi elements waaay bogged down with who was snogging who (it seems like the core characters were a random pick'n'mix bag with little regard for gender). They disposed of the overt sexuality in the second series and went for some hard-core sci-fi including some brilliant scenarios like Owen's death not being the end; and that one with him (dead) in that old mansion... I think that's possibly the closest a fairly mainstream programme has got to pure existentialism. It was bloody brilliant. Until Tosh, final episode. I can't forgive that.
I liked "American Gothic". Don't worry if you've never heard of it or the character Lucas Buck. I have a knack of picking to enjoy cancelled series'.
Which brings me to "My So-Called Life". A mere 19 episodes were made. Half of the problem was the American network not knowing what to do with the programme, and half was Claire Danes (who was still a child back then) wanting to move on. Large chunks of time passed in the recording of the episodes... go Wiki it if you want more info on this. Likewise if you don't even know what MSCL actually is.
For it is television gold. I fully believe Buffy's series five episode "The Body" to be the most powerful and impressive 43 minutes of programming ever; but MSCL is the programme I'd stop the world for. Forget just recording it into my PVR, I'd want to be there to watch it too. I saw most of it during its original airing on grainy Channel4 (analogue) back in... 1995? I say "most" because I think they skipped the episode "Weekend". I got to see it again circa 2000 when they repeated the series. Equally grainy, equally analogue.

I think one of the most powerful things about MSCL is, while its lead character is a girl and she experiences things as a girl would, there's a lot of it that applies equally to us non-girls. We non-girls don't have the tradition of chatting about intimate things. We are supposed to keep our feelings to ourselves. And I suspect the only people who are not intimidated by the school shower room are the openly gay and the well-endowed. These people had issues in their life, and unlike some sickly programmes with the "topic of the week", MSCL didn't necessarily resolve these issues, or even try. For instance, what was Angela going to be when she grows up? Did she ever figure it out? I didn't. I'm 35 and I still have no idea!

While in stories, scripts, and stuff I write (at least, those I've shared with selected people) I often have a rather obvious "Buffy" reference; you will have to try a little bit harder to find the MSCL reference. It's usually quite a bit harder - by way of example, a piece I wrote about dying while dreaming [it's said that if you die in your dream you will die in reality - balls! that's the point when the dream gets interesting!] carries as its title the title of one of the episodes of MSCL - "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities".

Of course, if you are the sort of boring sod who thinks I really ought to grow up and stop thinking about a high school series from the early '90s... I suggest you give up on reading my b.log. I have ordered the DVD box set from Amazon (about £18! wow!) and if they keep to their regular behaviour it ought to arrive tomorrow or the following day, so you'll no doubt hear more - including if it is how I remember it. I'm already setting up my computer to rip all 19 episodes to XviD, then down-convert to 320×240 for my Zen. I am planning to get a 2Gb SD card. That ought to hold about half the episodes at a time. It's a 5 disc set, 874 minutes. That's 14½ hours! Or 46 mins/episode. No extra features, but we Region 2 paupers are used to that crap - why d'you think we despise region coding? Released in May 2007, it took a decade and a half to make it to a DVD release. That's incredible. But it's here now, and in a matter of days, it will - literally - be here now. So don't expect b.log updates, software revisions, me turning up at work..... ☺


And also...

Leaving work at, nominally, half ten (but not today), I have to get used to it being rather later than I am used to. I've written this, made something to eat. Blah blah. It's now 02:35 and I'm starting to feel a bit tired. I've caught a few typos ("here" instead of "hear" in the previous paragraph, etc). If any others remain, apologies. But no, I don't use a spellcheck. I write this all, in HTML code form, in Metapad (think: Notepad with bells on).


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