Month: July 2004

When someone refuses to even consider points of view other than their own, it’s just as scary to me as when someone invokes their deity of preference to justify the opression of the ‘unbelievers’.

Don’s reaction to Kerry’s DNC keynote speech over on Jim Moore’s weblog is a case in point:

“I do like the ideas of health care for all Americans. I’m for stem cell research. I’m for a good educational system. I’ll work through my Republican representatives on those matters.

“As for security, I could never vote for a Democrat.”

Huh?!? Ok, so he likes Kerry’s policy proposals, but has already decided he can’t vote for him because he’s a Democrat? And he somehow magically expects that by working with his Republican representatives, that he can influence them to do a complete 180 on the issues on which he agrees with Kerry? Again I say: Huh?!?

Well, that just about sums it up — like so many others, Democrat and Republican alike, Don is a party-liner, who allows for no possibility that he could be persuaded to swing his vote. He gives no justification for his position, and makes rash generalizations to justify his point of view, proving little but his own shortsightedness — his unwillingness to consider the candidates’ actual policy proposals — since he’s already made up his mind.

Don goes on to say:

“Now I do want to know what President Bush intends to do to stop the threats from Iran, North Korea, and Syria. I already know diplomacy doesn’t work with those countries. So when do the military operations start?”

This is the same kind of thinking that led to the Crusades, Naziism, the KKK, the 9/11 attacks, and our current, nearly unjustifiable involvement in Iraq. Think about it. No, really: Think about it.

The deadly combination I see in people like Don and George W: self-righteousness, fear and intemperance. What we need more of: thoughtfulness, fortitude and civility.

In my opinion, this kind of empty political zealotry is just as scary as religious fundamentalism, be it Islamic or Christian… And also just as crazy.

(Put that in your pipe and smoke it.)


Last weekend, I finally pulled the A drive from my Series 1 Philips TiVo, and set it up for shell and FTP access over my LAN. More interesting to me, and maybe to you, I also now have a way to transfer video over the network, to MPEG video files on my Mac OS X machine.

I had to dig through a whole bunch of Google searches, message board posts, install instructions, and irrelevant Windows information to make this happen, but in the end I overcame the odds and got it working.

Here’s my mini how-to for transferring TiVo shows to your Mac OS X machine. They should work with any Series 1 TiVo running version 3.x TiVo software, and decent-speed Mac running Panther (OS X 10.3) or better:

  1. Get a network card and install it. I’ve had a TurboNet card installed for about two years. It was cheap and setup was a breeze.
  2. Get shell access working on your TiVo. The best instructions I found were these from Steve Jenkins. Requirements for getting this working:

  • A PC with an IDE bus, which can boot from a CD-R.
  • A way to burn an ISO CD image to a CD-R disc.
  • Willingness and ability to remove a drive from your TiVo and install it on the correct bus, with the correct jumper settings in your PC. (Not so hard for some, but daunting for most newbies — get help from a geek friend if you need it.)
  • Willingness and ability to read instructions and follow them to the letter, or at least in sequential order. 😉
  1. Install TyStudio on your Mac. Normally the download would be here, but at the moment there’s no Mac OS X version available. At one time, someone on the DealDatabase forum built an OS X version, but I’ve lost the thread now. Instead, here’s a download of the version I installed on my PowerBook G4. It’s a little over 5MB.

  2. Install tyserver on your TiVo. Basically you just want to upload to your TiVo, run it to install tyserver, then add commands to your startup script so it will run all the time. Note: I strongly recommend not letting the installer add its startup commands to your TiVo’s built-in rc.sysinit, since this can really mess things up something goes unexpectedly wrong. Instead add them to your own custom startup script — you created one when following the instructions in step 2, didn’t you? 😉

If the tyserver download link above doesn’t work anymore, you can use the version that I used on my Series 1.

Here’s what I put in my startup script:

  1. Restart your TiVo. I’m not sure if you need to do Standby and then power-cycle, or just do Standby and then wake your TiVo again. (If you’re command-line savvy, you can launch tyserver and tyindex in your telnet client instead of restarting.)

5a. Stop here, and wait for a couple of hours. The tyindex software running on your TiVo needs some time to collect data about the shows you’ve already recorded. In my case, I stopped here, and went to bed, then woke up on Sunday, and did the rest. The amount of time it takes for tyindex to complete will depend on the number of shows in your TiVo’s Now Showing list.

5b. Did you read 5a? I’m serious — wait for a bit. If you don’t, you’ll just be frustrated and think this won’t work. Trust me — it’ll work. (Or not. It worked for me, that’s all I’m saying.)

  1. Launch X11 on your Mac — it’s in your Applications/Utilities folder. (You should be able to do this in Jaguar as well, provided that you first install X11.)
  • Choose Customize from the Applications menu in X11. Then add a menu link for tyeditor from the TyStudio install you did in step 3. I’d installed my copy in /Applications/Video/tystudio/, so the path I used was /Applications/Video/tystudio/tyeditor. Now you should have a tyeditor command in your Applications menu, for launching TyStudio whenever you need it.

  • Choose your spiffy new tyeditor command from the Applications menu in X11. This brings up the TyStudio GUI. (Now we’re cooking with gas!)

  • Click the ‘Click here to load from Now Showing’ button. You should now see a list of shows. Double-click one whose value for ‘Indexed’ is ‘Yes’. (Ref: step 5.) I recommend you start with a short one — 1/2 hour or less.

  • Choose ‘Generic MPEG2’ from the Video to pop-up menu, and ‘No Transcoding’ from the Audio to pop-up menu. This will give you basically the same audio/video that your TiVo would play on your TV. Then click the Process button, choose a place to save the file, and you should be off to the races!

  • Just a few notes:

    • These files are really big. We’re talking about 1GB or more per hour, depending on your TiVo’s quality settings. Make sure you have enough drive space.
    • If you’re going to do a lot of this, I recommend that you use Tools -> Options in tyeditor to choose the video and audio options you’re going to use most frequently, so you don’t have to change them every time in the tyeditor main window.
    • I haven’t done much messing with the transcoding options, since I’m mostly using TyStudio to make digital archives of stuff that I want to keep around, that my TiVo has recorded. If you use transcoding, you’re going to lose quality. Series 1 TiVo’s record PCM audio at 32KHz. (PCM is roughly equivalent to AIFF or WAV.) Video is recorded at varying rates depending on the quality setting the recording was made with, but is always much larger than the audio portion of a recording.
    • If your network is fast enough (as 802.11b on my mac, with 10-base-T on the TiVo and a 10-base-T hub seems to be me), you should be able to start downloading a show on your Mac, and then start playing it a few seconds or minutes later, to in essence stream the show to your Mac’s video screen. Unfortunately, you can’t do this using QuickTime Player, since it checks the size of the file when you first open it, and will stop at that point despite the fact that you’re still downloading. VLC on the other hand, will keep playing a file until it either gets an error, or it reaches the actual end of the file. If you’re going to watch shows as they’re downloading, I recommend that you use VLC for playback instead of QuickTime Player. (MPlayer may work as well, but I like VLC better.)
    • While you’re hacking, you might as well install TivoWebPlus — this is a great app that no TiVo should be without.
    • TyStudio works on Windows and Linux as well. A quick search should make it very clear that they’re much easier to find than the Mac version was.

    Feel free to post a comment if you have a question about any of the above. If I have an answer, I’ll let you know. If not, I’ll ignore you. If you’re rude I’ll delete your comment, and if you’re rude again, I’ll block you, so be nice.

    Also, I haven’t found a way to stream MPEG data directly from the TiVo to a movie playing application on the Mac, without also downloading it to a disk on the Mac side. If you figure this out, please let me know. My filesystem will thank you. 😉

    Happy TiVo hacking!

    Hacks and Mash-Ups



    Billmon, over at the Whiskey Bar: “How many times does the Bush family have to steal a Florida election before they finally get it right?”

    Indeed. The Whiskey Bar is becoming one of my favorite politico-blogs. Most posts are long-ish, but almost always a good read — witty, left-leaning, and with references.


    I spent the better part of a day over the weekend scanning old pictures — probably about 200 of them. Many I scanned one at a time, but that got too slow, so I started at some point scanning two, three or four at a time.

    This is part of an ongoing project — a DVD that I’m making for favors at our wedding reception in September, with a slide-show of Cindy and I, along with the people we care about, set to music. (It’s a very cool idea, and props to Cindy for thinking of it.)

    Anyway, this round of scans, when I’ve scanned more than one photo at a time, I’ve been careful to keep the orientation straight, so that I minimise the amount of work I have to do later in Photoshop. An ounce of prevention and all that…

    But it’s still too hard.

    Why can’t someone come up with a scanner that takes a photo in one end, and spits out a scan and the photo for returning to your album at the other end. It would automatically (with a couple of $0.02 sensors, and a $0.25 motor) rotate the picture if needed, and sense its dimensions, so you wouldn’t have to rotate or crop anything once it was digital.

    I can handle making sure that it’s right-side-up when I stick it in the slot at the front, but I don’t want to have to finesse the thing when laying it on a flat, slippery piece of glass, while not getting finger prints on anything, and not breathing so I don’t screw it up. I mean really — what if I were 70 and had a tremor — it would be impossible.

    Once the hardware is covered, couple it with some software to do some basic level balancing, flagging you on the go if it thought it was about to make adjustments too far outside of the normal range. (A dialog box with Ok, Edit, Cancel, Skip — or something like that sounds right.) I think along with an auto-sensing/auto-positioning scanner, we’d have a very powerful little scanning suite capable of dispatching large numbers of pictures without too much chance for error, and without unnecessary interaction or uncommon exterity.

    Ok, so that’s version 1. For version 2, add some automatic (and sensible) solution for delivery — give me a DVD, a web directory, and 3×5 prints on my BubbleJet™…

    Version 3 could add a slide scanner option with an auto-feeder tray and 1200dpi. Version 4 could do noise reduction, anti-red-eye, and Photoshop integration.

    I think there’s a small fortune to be made here by someone. I’d pay $350 for a scanner and software that did version 1, at medium quality (300dpi), without bothering with noise reduction and fancy Photoshop plugins, and I’m pretty sure that I’m basically mid-market as far as scanning is concerned.

    I guess what I want is a consumer version of the digital archiving stuff that commercial and government folks are presumably using, because scanning pictures is a pain in the ass. And if they aren’t using something like this, then there’s an even bigger opportunity here.


    Here I am with a new website… again.

    It’s been a while since I’ve done much writing for the web, and even longer since I wrote anything of a personal nature. I think because I’d not made a clear distinction between the personal and work-related on my other sites, I got a little crossed up, and (probably incorrectly) came to the conclusion that my personal writing didn’t belong on my site: it had become a place for work-related stuff only. Odd, since my main motivation in starting to write online in the first place was personal, and my writing reflected that.

    So this is a new place for me to write, one not afflicted with any motivational conflicts. It’s a place for me to write personal stuff, not work stuff, and will remain so. The other site will remain what it had become — a place for work-related stuff.

    I may over time move (or duplicate) some of my favorite past, personal things here, or I may link to it from here, or I may do neither. One of the nice things about having a personal space is that I don’t have to worry about it looking professional. Hopefully that will make me feel more free to express myself, which is what I got into the Web for in the first place.

    That’s all for now. I’ll leave you with a link to the lyrics that my tagline came from: Elephant Talk by King Crimson. “Talk talk talk, it’s only talk”