I saw the Lights

Not that these were lights that you want to see…

Unless you’re in need, or being led through a situation by them…

These lights –

lightsNo, it’s not the traffic lights saying that while you try to go straight, you can’t; it’s the lights causing everyone to go into the right hand lane…the red & blue lights.

Yes. I have finally been pulled over by the police. Call it an inevitable experience or not…or just a silly thing that I did…

What did I do, exactly? I flashed my brights at the wrong car. I knew it was the wrong car immediately after flashing them (in the incorrect impression that their high-beam lights were on) because they had the sign of a cop car in Wisconsin – the brown plate with a star on it.

Oh shit…and then he slows and turns around, so I turn onto the side street that I was going to go on anyway, and pull off to the side as I knew he was pulling me over.

Upon stopping, I set my brake, placed the car in park, turned the radio off, rolled down the window and turned the engine off. I also took out my wallet in order to get two things – licence  & proof of insurance. After about a minute or so, the officer comes up to my window, and asks why I flashed my lights. I explained that I thought that he had his brights on.

He informed me that it is something that is unlawful to do* that as it can blind people, and he asks for my license, so I give it to him along with my insurance card.

His response?

“Since I see that you have a valid license, there will be no citation, just a warn and go, drive safely.”

And he walked away. He didn’t even give me a written warning, just the verbal advice :)

The moral of the story? Keep your nose clean, and if you ever do get pulled over, be pleasant, and you wind up learning new things and get an interesting experience.

Now, let’s hope this doesn’t make me a marked man around town…a known light flasher yano 😀

*So, of course, I had to check into the state statute when it comes to using high-beams, and this is an extract from Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 347.12

Whenever the operator of a vehicle equipped with multiple-beam headlamps approaches an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet, the operator shall dim, depress or tilt the vehicle’s headlights so that the glaring rays are not directed into the eyes of the operator of the other vehicle. This paragraph does not prohibit an operator from intermittently flashing the vehicle’s high-beam headlamps at an oncoming vehicle whose high-beam headlamps are lit.

Legally, I was well within my rights to flash my lights (which was maybe for a second at most, just a quick flash) as I had (mistakenly, as it turns out) thought the oncoming vehicle did have its high-beam headlights lit

I can haz KRudd Tea?

Why, yes I can! 😀

Every night after I go to the gym, it’s a habit to stop at the mailbox to check the post for the day. However, this time there wasn’t anything in the post, when there should have been at the very least a newspaper. There are two possible explanations for this –

1. Someone has gone down and picked up the mail, which doesn’t happen all too frequently; or
2. There was a package in the post, so the mailman brought it to the door.

As it turned out, answer number 2 was the correct one :)

airmail

Now, the Airmail sticker wasn’t exactly the first thing that I saw, but I can’t really show the first thing I saw since it’s the real signature of my bestest friend in the whole world (who I’ve known now for 10 years), Snoskred 😉 It was a package that came to me as a surprise – the best kind of packages!

Of course, as you do, the first thing you do is to send a quick message on Kakaotalk (which I was shown to when she switched phones over from the iPhone to Galaxy), saying that a fing arive. Then you frantically search for a scissor to open the package not realising that there is a easy-pull tab on the back. Luckily I noticed the pulltab prior to trying to slice the package open.

The first thing that I pull out is this –

caratam

At the sight of Salted Caramel Tim Tams, I literally squealed. Maybe not my proudest moment…though of course, there was also hockey on the teevee so a close play could make me gasp or make other involuntary noises…such as cursing the referees for disallowing a goal. I will note that the size is a bit weird to me – 171g, otherwise known as 19g per biscuit as there are 9 in the packet.

There was also a packet of dark choc Tim Tams in the package – and I actually liked them better maybe because the salted caramel was a little bit too subtle…I may revisit this later :)

Next up is an item I knew would wind its way to me at one point in time or another, the KRudd Tea (legally, I must note that the packet’s marketing claims it was crafted by Australians plural, but the truth is that it was Kevin Rudd’s blend that won from the five celebrities that were chosen)

tea1

In trying out the tea, I really like it. I know that it claims to be a full-bodied tea, but I think it’s actually a milder cuppa especially when I tried a taste test of sorts at work – I first had a cuppa of English Teatime tea (from Bigelow) and then the Twinings tea in similar circumstances – two bags (for a ~500mL cup) with 4 teaspoons of sugar for sweetness, and the Bigelow tea actually seemed a bit stronger.

There were two other items in the package – the first is the Original Source Surfing Tropical Pineapple shower gel…I had never used shower gel until I was in Australia, and ever since I’ve been converted to it from using bar soap – mostly because of the different scents :) This one has a great scent and it was a great pick-me-up when I had my shower Wednesday morning 😉

The other item was a very beautiful card with some words in it, partly saying that it was sent from Australia with ❤:)

I will leave you a picture here of the things in the packet and many millions of thanks so Snoskred :), with a note about the wrapping of the shower gel – I am fairly certain that the bag that was used to protect the other items in the bag from leakage was a repatriated bag that we had purchased in Hawaii in order to protect some of the shower gels and liquids that were bought there in the epic shoppery that was done. I suspect that because of the bag being a Ziploc bag with both English and French on it. I somehow don’t see the Aussie bags having French on them :p

fings

Oh, and neither the shuttle nor the MacBook were in the package 😀

Again, many thankies 😉 and as you know, there is a new package headed your way shortly as well :)

 

Rules of the Gas Pump…

Sunoco Station

Clearly, the above is a gas station. There is something strange about this particular station, however.

It’s not necessarily that it is a Sunoco station in Wisconsin. That, in itself is a bit of an oddity, since I did not know that there were Sunoco stations in this state until I found it using my GasBuddy app while getting my car serviced.

No, it’s that there is no attached store.

All transactions are done at the pump – as the sign states, you can pay cash or credit at the pump. If it were me, I’d make well sure that it was a cash payment.

Why?

Many stations have signs on their pumps that say “If you don’t get a receipt, you didn’t pay.” Which has always brought up a question for me, and is why this is one of my rules –

What happens if you use the pay at the pump function at a station that has closed for the night and you do not receive a receipt? It’s never happened to me as, with possibly one or two exceptions, I’ve followed a rule of mine to never get gas at a station that is closed, to avoid this particular situation.

In fact, the only gas station that I will use that does not have a dedicated convenience store is the Costco Gas, but the reality is that so many times Costco is not cheaper than other gas stations that I go to.

Maybe that is why some gas stations decide to place a small hold onto people’s cards when they use pay-at-the-pump. Though I think this was taking it a bit overboard –

IMG_1708

What are your thoughts on paying for gas/petrol at the pump?

Using AVCVideoCap to Record a Program via FireWire

In my last post, I showed you what you needed to record TV shows from your cable box. This post is an extension of that last one, which will focus on the piece of software that is included in the Apple Firewire SDK called AVCVideoCap. This is a free piece of software that is easy to use, but can seem daunting at first (especially since there are no instructions included).

Before beginning, I will note that the application will not appear in your applications stack. You will need to find it using Spotlight. After finding it, it would be a good idea to pin this application to your dock for easy access in the future.

Now, to begin recording a program, make sure that the cable box is connected to your computer prior to launching AVCVideoCap. This is what the screen will look like when you open it with the box attached –

avcvc1

In order to record a program, click on the cable box from the list above, and then click on Capture from Device. This will initiate the capture process; you’ll be asked to name your capture –

avcvc2

Then set parameters for length of recording, delayed recording and channel, if necessary. I have not tried the tune channel function as all the programming that I have captured so far is from my box’s hard drive and not being recorded from a live TV broadcast. I suspect that, having tried the ‘tune channel’ function in AVCBrowser, it will not work.

avcvc3

A very important note! The scheduling software seems to think this is the extent of all of time –

avcvctime

What this means is that in order to schedule a recording for the future, you have to take your computer back to the past…by 7 years or more! I’d highly recommend that if you are using Time Machine (highly recommended), you disable it or disconnect the drive when you go back in time. Otherwise, weird things could happen…

Once you click OK, it will start recording, and the screen will change. While recording, you will not be able to review what the hard drive is recording. One thing that I have been doing and this has been allowing me to have error-free recordings is to use an application like Caffeine to disable the screensaver and sleep mode on the computer for a length of time.

avcvc4

Now, what you will see is the status of the recording – if it’s a scheduled recording, it will tell you how long it is until the recording will begin. While recording, this line will report how long you have left in the recording period. Below there, you will see some technical information about the recording. Optimally, the only field you will want to have any numbers beside 0 in is the captured frames. Overruns and dropped frames mean that you will lose bits of data in the finished recording.

Then, you have the file name for the program you’re recording. Below that is another very important line.

This line is the “EMI Status” – this is where you will see the Copy Control Information for the program that you are recording. If this says anything other than “Copy Freely”, the program will look like it’s recording, and disk space will be used. However, when you go to play back the file, nothing will play.

The channels most likely to use “Copy Once” are going to be the premium movie channels (your HBOs, etc.). Some other channels will use this, but most of your basic channels will be Copy Freely. You’ll also see that services like Pay Per View and Video on Demand are “Copy Never” meaning that while you can view the content, you cannot save it to any format that enforces the copy protection schemes.

If you need to stop recording, you can always use the “Abort Capture Now” button, which will stop the recording immediately. This is useful if you are attending the recording and the show finishes prior to the end of the scheduled time. Otherwise, the program will automatically stop recording when the timer hits zero, and will generate the file for you.

Over to you

Is there a piece of software that you would like a text how-to done on? If so, let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to put something together. :)

How to capture recordings from your Cable Box

Recently, I was tasked by Snoskred to look into providing her with a program that we both like to watch, and just one more in a line of programs that she’s gotten me into, but that’s something for another day. :-)

In the past, it worked out really well for me to grab things off of the TV with an analog capture device, but that was in the mid-2000s, just as HD was in its beginning phases, with a low number of people actually with those kinds of TVs. Even as recently as last year, I did use an analog device to capture this video which was downconverted from 1080i HD to 480i Letterboxed SD –

Sure, it works, but it’s not of the highest quality. Realizing that my MacBook Pro was one of the final ones with a Firewire cable on it, I wondered how easy it would be to do it.

With the right equipment, it’s easier than you think. 😀

Equipment –

Here’s what you’ll need to capture video in HD from a cable box –

  • The correct Firewire cable for your computer and box
  • Capture software
  • Conversion software
  • Editing software to cut commercials

Getting the correct Firewire cable –

The cable box is fairly easy. If you live in the US, an FCC regulation requires that all cable boxes manufactured after a certain point have a Firewire output built into it. Almost all boxes have a 6-pin output for Firewire. Somehow, I knew that inherently. What I did not know was which size to get for my MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro Ports

These are the ports on it – from right to left we have: MagSafe V.1, RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet), Firewire, DisplayPort, 2x USB 2.0, SD Card and Headphone/Microphone 3.5mm

Looking at the size, my assumption based on the options (4, 6, and 9-Pin), this must be a 4-pin port. I go to order it and 5 days later it arrives in the post. I connect it to the box and I go to connect it to the computer.

It’s too small. Damn.

Some frantic googling later, I discover that the MacBook actually has a 9-pin connector. I then purchase a new cable and it arrives on the next Friday; I take it out of the bag, look at the connector and look at my MacBook…and it fits!

That’s the cable sorted.

Capture Software

This is actually quite easy if you have an Apple product. All I had to do was go to the Apple Developer site and download Firewire SDK 26 from there, which was free.

One thing to note is that you will need an Apple ID to access the downloads. If you have an iOS device, or use iTunes for your music, you have an Apple account.

Once you install the SDK, making sure that if you’re using Yosemite or later you allow “untrusted” developers’ apps to be installed (despite this being from Apple Computer), there is a piece of embedded software called AVCVideoCap.

I will do a separate post on how to use AVCVideoCap, but one important thing to know is that when you first launch the application, you will need to find it through Spotlight; I would then recommend either placing an alias on your desktop or pinning the icon to your dock.

Important! When you are recording something, you must watch it on your box at the same time; you can of course watch something else if you have another input or a smart TV, but the box must stay on the program in order for it to correctly capture the program..

Step 3 – Converting the file.

After your recording is completed, you will be left with an .m2t or .ts file. This is what’s known as a transport stream. This is the file I got from a 5-minute recording –

1.01 GB for just over 5 minutes of video.

No, this is not a misread on the file size. Since this is literally the raw output for the channel, it’s at full bitrate which is in the range of 5-8 Megabytes per second. A 60-minute recording will take 12 GB of space on your hard drive, etc.

You can see where this is going, and it’s not a friendly situation to share the file with your friends. Or, for that matter, to sites like YouTube if you are using a Digital Video camera that doesn’t support SD cards.

You’ll need to have some software to convert this monstrosity of a file to a more consumable size. Not only that, very few programs can read transport streams – VLC will, but not much else can handle it.

That’s where Handbrake comes in. I’ve used Handbrake to convert files from DVD to digital, and even to transcode movies to a more manageable format for my iPad.

This is something that is fairly straightforward. The only things that I will do when I do a conversion in Handbrake from the raw to an intermediate file is to downsize the image from 1920×1080 (full 1080i) to 1280×720. This helps reduce the file size greatly.

If you’re using a newer computer, you can expect this to take about the length of the program that you recorded or less. On an older computer, it can take upwards of 2-3x the length of the program due to it needing more processing power than the computer may have.

In the end, you’re left with this –

Keen-eyed folk will notice that the filename is different. That's because this is actually the original file I tested out to see if this scheme will work.

You’ll notice how much smaller this file is compared to the source file – from nearly 1 GB down to under 70MB, or a 94% savings in size! Typically, my intermediate file will be in the 1.5-2GB range.

Step 4 – Trimming the Fat

Since PythagoraSwitch is a 5-minute program, there isn’t any need to cut things from there for the most part. However, the show that I am recording for Snoskred is an hour-long program with about 19 minutes of commercials per episode, I needed to get something to delete the advertising from the program. :)

In one of the YouTube tutorials that I watched, the person recommended a program called MPEGStreamClip to edit your videos. So, I downloaded it. And it didn’t work. The video kept stuttering and the program was totally unusable.

This time instead of just going to Google and picking whatever comes up, I think…there has to be something on Reddit…and I find /r/videoediting which has a quick list of editors by price. Of them, I chose Avidemux, which I can tell is modern since it has both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

Avidemux is very easy to use even for a complete novice like myself. The keyboard shortcuts are straightforward (i.e. you can do things with single keystrokes) and it gets the job done quite efficiently.

In the end, if you have the correct equipment, this is a great way to preserve any TV shows that you may have been keeping on your DVR for ages and want to keep. :)