Archive for the 'TV' Category

iOS 4.3

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

True to form, I updated all our iOS devices to 4.3 (well 4.2 for the AppleTV 2) the day of release now almost 2 weeks ago. The changes are are almost imperceptible so far. Safari does feel a bit faster, but that’s about it. I’m looking forward to app updates that use the newly exposed AirPlay video feature. It’s already cool with the YouTube app, but having it with something like ABC Player would be nice. I haven’t tried using home sharing yet. I did try using IPv6 with Atomic Web Browser and it works now. I don’t know if that’s a 4.3 change or from an app update, though.

Armadillo Aerospace in BlackBerry Torch Commercial

Monday, November 1st, 2010

You ever have one of those moments where you see or notice something and you absolutely know that nobody you know would catch it?  I had one last week.  I was fast forwarding through commercials while watching a recorded show and I saw a quick blip of a rocket in flight.  So, naturally, I stopped to see what it was all about.  It turned out to be a commercial for the BlackBerry Torch and they changed between a lot of clips of the phone in action with some context around it.  The rockets and operation seemed familiar and then there it was, a quick flash of text where I made out “arma”.  I knew it had to be Armadillo Aerospace.  I rewatched it to be sure and I was absolutely positive.  Cool stuff.  I know not only will no one I know catch it (even if they see the commercial), but I’ll have a hard time explaining it to anyone.  Here’s a link to an article about it:



Red Bull Air Race OTA on Fox in HD

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

I watched my first Red Bull Air Race in HD yesterday, and it was over the air (OTA) for free on Fox! It’s one of the few things I missed from having cable, but even there I didn’t get it in HD. I’d discovered that the World Cup was on ABC and was pulling it up on the big screen for Grandpa and I flipped past the air race. Whoa. I quickly pressed the record button. After the World Cup game was over (it was Brazil vs the Ivory Coast), I went back to the recording. Very cool. I hope there are more. It was truly awesome.

Blu-ray – now I understand the low adoption rates

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

So we got a good deal on a 65 inch plasma at hhgregg.  They included a Blu-ray player as part of the package.  I’d thought to myself that someday when I got a Blu-ray player it’d probably be a PS3, but I guess not.  I ran and picked up the BBC’s Planet Earth box set to have some content.  I’d seen it on Discovery when it was first released and was amazed.  I knew I had to have it in HD someday.  We’ve now rented several movies on Blu-ray and my verdict is that it can be quite amazing (like Planet Earth), but mostly not so much.  This has to be a big part of the low adoption rate.  I’ve got to rent some more  to see if I’ve just made bad picks, but so far — I’m not that impressed.

The Devil is in the Details

Friday, November 20th, 2009

The devil is always in the details.  Software systems can be quite complex and assumptions about how they work can get you in trouble.  On my previously mentioned TV server, this week, I noticed some nearly unwatchable shows.  My initial thought was that I needed to realign my antenna, but I noticed that the shows were all recorded at the same time and I was watching another.  Maybe they were bandwidth starved?  The worst stutters were during scenes with lots of motion.  Now, in my previous setup, I know I was not able to watch anything while recording 4 HD shows.  At least I could record 4 HD show simultaneously.  The old setup was only one disk, though.  Now I’m running a one disk ZFS RAIDZ.  I absolutely know RAID5 type setups don’t perform like RAID0 setups (and that RAIDZ isn’t exactly RAID5), but early generalizations I’d read lead me to expect RAID5 type performance.  I didn’t investigate further and made assumptions based on my understanding of the technology.  Boy was I wrong.  Take a look at the numbers from bonnie++:

Version  1.96       ------Sequential Output------ --Sequential Input- --Random-
Concurrency   1     -Per Chr- --Block-- -Rewrite- -Per Chr- --Block-- --Seeks--
Machine        Size K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP  /sec %CP
dagobah.boonthe 16G    96  99 131609  34 104142  31   277  99 271779  41 116.4  14
Latency               253ms    7136ms    7453ms   36211us     731ms     785ms
Version  1.96       ------Sequential Create------ --------Random Create--------
dagobah.boontheekul -Create-- --Read--- -Delete-- -Create-- --Read--- -Delete--
 files  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP
 16 22615  96 +++++ +++ 17543  97 20137  91 +++++ +++ 18455  98
Latency             12940us    9652us     227us   18233us     153us     377us

Those are crazy numbers.  So, I turned to Google and did some more reading.  It turns out a RAIDZ’s write performance is much worse than I expected.  This quote (well, quote of a quote) is very good:

"Now we come to the crucial decision ZFS has made for raidz and
raidz2: in raidz and raidz2, the data block is striped across all of
the disks. Instead of a model where a parity stripe is a bunch of data
blocks, each with an independent checksum, ZFS stripes a single data
block (and its parity), with a single checksum, across all the disks
(or as many of them as necessary).

This is a rational implementation decision, but when combined with the
need to verify checksums, it has an important consequence: in ZFS,
reads always involve all disks, because ZFS always must verify the
data block's checksum, which requires reading all of the data block,
which is spread across all of the drives. This is unlike normal RAID-5
or RAID-6, in which a small enough read will only touch one drive, and
means that adding more disks to a ZFS raidz pool does not increase how
many random reads you can do per second.

(A normal RAID-5 or RAID-6 array has a (theoretical) random read IO
capacity equal to the sum of the random IO operations rate of each of
the disks in the array, and so adding another disk adds its IOPs per
second to your read capacity. A ZFS raidz or raidz2 pool instead has a
capacity equal to the slowest disk's IOPs per second, and adding
another disk does nothing to help. Effectively a raidz ZFS gives you a
single disk's read IOPs per second rate.)"

This was on a blog of a SUN engineer (although a post from a few years
ago), unfortunately I don't have the link, I actually had to go
through my posting history on the Ars Technica forum to even find this
quote in the first place. If the situation has changed and the above
quote no longer holds true, it would be nice if someone more
knowledgeable on the performance implications could elaborate what
kind of performance is to be expected on a raidz system :) 

- Sincerely,
Dan Naumov

Wow.  In that same thread and in another I found, someone posted some benchmarking results they had done.  They are very interesting.  Follow these links:




I was quite surprised.  Further reading has lead me to rethink my setup.  For this TV/media server I need the ability to read and write simultaneously at high rates.  Write speed is more important in that I’ll likely be recording more shows at any given time than I’m watching, but I’ll still need to be able to stream a couple of HD shows at the same time.  Heck, my 4 tuners haven’t been enough on a couple of occasions.  So, I’m going to have to sacrifice space for speed.  I don’t know how I’m going to do the data shuffle, but I’m considering picking up another pair of 1TB drives and a PCI-Express SATA controller (only one free one left on the mainboard).  That’ll help.  Then I guess I’ll build the pool from mirrored pairs of 1TB drives.  My read/write performance should improve, but the addition of 2TB more drives won’t give me any more space.  It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers I get out of it.

Update: I reconfigured the pool from a 4 disk RAIDZ to a pool of 2 2 disk mirrors.  Bonnie++ results:

Version  1.96       ------Sequential Output------ --Sequential Input- --Random-
Concurrency   1     -Per Chr- --Block-- -Rewrite- -Per Chr- --Block-- --Seeks--
Machine        Size K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP  /sec %CP
dagobah.boonthe 16G    89  99 95149  25 87337  23   289  99 270826  31 214.8  28
Latency               354ms   11106ms   10391ms   40391us    3882ms     464ms
Version  1.96       ------Sequential Create------ --------Random Create--------
dagobah.boontheekul -Create-- --Read--- -Delete-- -Create-- --Read--- -Delete--
 files  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP
 16 20303  95 +++++ +++  8108  99 19027  97 11837  99  4149  99
Latency             13531us     265us     478us   39328us     308us    5922us

Update: I got in 2 more 1TB disks (and a HighPoint 2310, as I’ve used up all 6 on-board SATA ports).  I added the 2 new disks (via the HighPoint, no other rearranging of the drives) as another mirror in the pool.  Now the capacity is back up to what it was as a RAIDZ.  Bonnie++ results:

Version  1.96       ------Sequential Output------ --Sequential Input- --Random-
Concurrency   1     -Per Chr- --Block-- -Rewrite- -Per Chr- --Block-- --Seeks--
Machine        Size K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP  /sec %CP
dagobah.boonthe 16G   112  99 145807  39 124058  33   289  99 372925  46 274.9  22
Latency               331ms    3891ms    7095ms   31678us    2229ms     457ms
Version  1.96       ------Sequential Create------ --------Random Create--------
dagobah.boontheekul -Create-- --Read--- -Delete-- -Create-- --Read--- -Delete--
 files  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP
 16 22492  94 +++++ +++ 19562  97 16765  97 18918  99  6837  99
Latency             18093us    1113us     185us   37416us     203us     386us

It’s hard to make any conclusions from this.  The numbers for the pool of mirrors are completely different than what I expected.  In addition, I can say that interactive performance with similar workloads to what caused me problems previously have much improved.  Just from the reconfiguration of the existing drives, I was able to record 4 HD streams simultaneously while watching another and no apparent stuttering or the like in any recording or the playback.  Adding the 2 additional disks as another mirror in the pool had apparent impact in the bonnie++ numbers and brought my usable space back up to previous levels, but I’m still rather surprised at the bonnie++ numbers.

You’d Think I’d Be In Withdrawal

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

So, I did the unpredictable, impossible thing — I cut my cable TV.  Yes.  I did it.  You’d think I’d be in withdrawal.  Well, the fates are working against me.  The ones in Hollywood anyway.  They decided to put some good shows on the regular networks (all made possible by OTA HD).  A lot of them.  It’s ridiculous.  I have more shows set to record than I ever have.  It’s crazy.  Anyway, saving $600 a year on TV services is a great bonus.  My top new show: Modern Family.  Although, I haven’t gotten through all the new shows yet.

New Adventures in BSD Land

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Recently, I started moving from BeyondTV to SageTV for my PVR needs.  Maybe I’ll hash out all the reasons in a future post, but in the end it leaves me with my old BeyondTV “server” hardware free to move on to other purposes.  As such, I’m building out FreeBSD on it for it’s next task.  I decided to build out with gjournal from the start.  I’ve build a few boxes with gjournal after the fact and I hated having the extra slices.  Besides, I quickly run out of available slices.  So this time I wanted to build it out from scratch with gjournal such that I could have the journal in the same filesystem AND I decided to go with GPT as it’s the next big thing.  Well, to accomplish this I used Fix-it mode on the installer DVD and for the first time in a dozen years of FreeBSD usage, I installed without sysinstall.  I’d never contemplated not using sysinstall, but having done some reading on ZFSroot installations people were doing I used some similar procedures.  I must admit, I was surprised how simple it was and there’s a good bet this is going to be the way I do installs from now on (until gjournal and/or ZFS are available in sysinstall).  It worked beautifully and in a single attempt.  Disks are just too big now for fsck.  I lived through one 800GB UFS2 filesystem having to be fsck’d when someone decided to turn off a system on me and it’s just way too slow (and I was lucky to have enough RAM).  I’ve got probably 9TB of hard drive space now (6TB in 1TB drives; 3 of them in 1 system) and there’s now way I could fsck many of them if something happened.  Gjournal and/or ZFS are the answers in FreeBSD land.  Manual install is the way to get them going from the beginning.

Bought An iPhone

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

So, I finally got an iPhone. I know it’s a few years behind the time, but the 3GS and 3.0 OS finally made it seem like a complete product. Also, the 32GB model seemed like it was the first to really be big enough as a convergence device. Additionally, the App Store “ecosystem” looked like it had reached the size needed to sustain itself. So, I dumped my no-longer-on-a-contract T-mobile account over to AT&T. So far so good. It’s nice to have a reasonable Internet browser all the time. I’m an NPR addict, so having instant access to their podcasts is awesome. Weather radar in your hand is amazing. I’ve got enough space to hold an enormous number of apps, music, podcasts, pictures, movies, and TV shows to remain computerless for a good chunk of time. I’ve even managed to connect to my office VPN, but I haven’t bought an SSH app to do my normal thing with yet (I live on a terminal). I even found this blog app, so maybe I will get back to posting again.

2007 Spring Vesta Home Show

Monday, April 30th, 2007

We went to the 2007 Spring Vesta Home Show on Saturday.  Having been to the South End Home Show last weekend I wasn’t sure how much walking this was going to be, but I was prepared for a lot.  It turned out to be unnecessary.  The show was well organized and setup.  It justified the ticket prices a bit.  There were 7 homes to see and each were basically next door neighbors.  It turns out that the show was more than just seeing what’s out there, it’s a giant for sale ad.  The homes are already sold, but the contents seemed to mostly be setup specifically for the show.  Some things I’m sure will be staying in the homes (ie, garage flooring systems, cabinets, appliances), but much of the other stuff I’m not so sure.  Anyway, we got to see some really cool stuff and have a lot of ideas for the house.

First and foremost, I wasn’t really impressed with the appliances chosen for the homes.  I’ve done a LOT of reading.  It seemed to me that each house pretty much chose each of the major appliances one shouldn’t.  I was a bit surprised.  At least they looked nice.  There were some nice features to the kitchens in terms of cook tops, cabinets, islands, counter tops, and back splashes, but none of the kitchens stood out and made me go “wow”.

If there were a single thing that was consistent among the homes (which do vary widely in theme and content) it was hardwood floors.  Hardwood floors were almost everywhere.  That’s not to say there wasn’t carpet, there certainly was carpet in some rooms, but I believe ALL the homes had hardwood floors for the majority of the lower level (with various kinds of tiling being the other material).  I’m starting to get convinced of it’s value.

Garage floors are something I am interested in, so I made sure to see all of them.  Particularly, I was looking for something done by Ultimate Garage Solutions.  There appeared to be two homes that they did.  I was pretty happy with the flooring.  I kind of wished the homes had chosen some of the more exciting coloring options, but they were still good.  They also provided their cabinet system (which was cool).  One home didn’t have their garage flooring done at all (and having seen the other homes it made it seem incomplete).  Another home had a really interesting flooring that I had not found in my research.  It was done by Victory Swiss Floors.  This flooring consists of polymer tiles that interlock.  It’s a bit hard to describe beyond that.  You just have to see them (take a look at the website).  I don’t think we’ll use them for the garage, but maybe when we get around to doing the gym and maybe even the patio.  They’re cool.  The other homes used flooring systems from a couple of other vendors.  One type was the Williams floor paint (basically).  The other was some sort of flaked system that didn’t feel very durable to my hand.

Home media systems were an interesting thing to see too.  The type and size varied.  There were a few with dedicated media rooms, while others simply had large TVs in the family room.  I recall two having projector systems.  One was large, the other was larger.  Interesting setups.  The others all had LCD and/or Plasma screens.  One, that I think was cool, had the TV mounted up over the fireplace in such a way that at the press of a button on a remote, a screen came down in front of the TV making the setup look like a framed painting print setting above the mantle.  I may try to replicate that.  It was awesome.  The modern minimalist style is really starting to appeal to me and it would be a great way to help accomplish that.

Something I’ve been thinking about is a screened in porch/patio.  I haven’t figured out how to do such a thing with our house, but it’s simmering at the back of my mind for the future.  Each of these homes had some sort of shaded outside sitting area.  Some were more extravagant than others, but they each had them and now I want one.  A couple of homes had these really cool retractable screens.  I didn’t even know such a thing existed.  At the press of a button, these screens come down from small bays running the edges of the roof and completely enclose the porch.  It’s awesome.

Another something I hadn’t really thought about, but now want are organizer systems.  Each home had all kinds of neat little (or not so little) organizers.  Every master bedroom closet had something and most other closets, pantries, and cabinets also had something.  These don’t just look neat now, they look necessary.  Once the house is done, looks like I’m going to be building a bunch.

All in all, neat show and I’m excited to see the next one.

Updated the “TV”

Monday, March 5th, 2007

I updated the TV this weekend.  I should first clarify a bit.  Our TV is a computer.  I use a PC with a dual TV tuner in it and Snapstream’s BeyondTV to manage them.  This basically gives us a PVR/DVR.  It’s really nice and takes TV watching to a new level.  With the dual tuners we can record 2 TV shows simultaneously (or watch one while recording another, etc).  Recording shows is as easy as looking them up in the title, keyword, and genre searchable programming guide and telling it to record.  You can even select option like only recording all new episodes of a TV series.  Anyway, we’ve had problems with the box for a couple of years now where it doesn’t like to boot.  If it goes down (crash, reboot, shutdown, power loss, etc) it doesn’t like to come back up.  I’ve suspected that it was the hard drive.  I can’t guarantee that’s it, but I’ve had enough anecdotal evidence to truly convince me.  Well, it finally bugged Shinta enough that we went and bought a new hard drive for the thing on Saturday and I went about the long, arduous process of backing up all our saved TV shows over the network, reinstalling Windows XP (from a pre SP1 disc, I was an early XP adopter), the hours and hours of running Windows Update, installing Snapstream’s software suite (I also have BeyondMedia and the Firefly Remote), and then transferring the backups back.  It took about 24 hours to complete the process.  Things are looking good.  Reboots are clean and easy.  The box works great with just a remote for control.  Now all I need is a big LCD HDTV with DVI or HDMI inputs to hook it up to.