regtiangha’s blog

Roller Coasters

On the whole, I like roller coasters, although they used to terrify me when I was young. You see, I was always short and skinny growing up, and the restraining harnesses were never enough to secure me since I was so tiny. So whenever there was a drop, my butt would literally lift off of the seat. Quite unnerving in the beginning, but once I realized for myself that the safety restraints were good enough to keep me from flying off, I began to quite enjoy the ride.

Metaphorically speaking, these last two months have been one hell of a roller coaster ride. I feel like I’ve just been through one of those loop-de-loops where your whole world gets turned upside down and you emerge on the other side feeling not quite as good as you did going in.

So where to begin? Well, for starters, that MythTV project didn’t quite work out. I was using two TV cards, a Hauppauge PVR-250 and a Hauppauge WinTV-GO sporting a Linux friendly bt878 chipset. The problem was in getting the two of them to work together (the same problem occurs under Windows, which is easily rectified by using third-party drivers for the bt878 card). Under Linux, they both rely on the same driver module. The problem is that the PVR-250 needs a custom version of that module to function correctly. So if I used the custom module, the bt878 card wouldn’t work correctly, and vice versa. It wasn’t possible to have two seperate versions of the module at the same time either. So I gave up and returned to a Windows based HTPC.

After that, I added a Hauppauge PVR-500MCE primarily for it’s dual-tuner based architecture (although the FM tuner was a nice bonus). After finally getting it all working right, I knew something would have to go wrong. Before, it was a faulty power supply. Then, it was the hard drive and optical drives dying. So I was wondering what in the system would die next. Since I got one of those old Soltek Golden Flames, I figured the motherboard would be the next to go. But I was wrong.

IT WAS THE FREAKIN’ TV!!!!

Apparently, my 27 inch JVC TV had a fautly power supply (as evidence by the fact that it won’t even power on). Searching on-line, I found two other cases that matched mine. I also learned that the TV I bought was some bastardized model that is really hard to find. Big surprise. Since the picture tube is probably still good, I suppose I can still get it repaired, but I’m afraid that I’ll get charged more like the other people with the same problem, since the Repairman would probably claim that “since he couldn’t find the schematics, it’ll cost more.”

So I used one of my extra monitors as a temporary display. Things seemed to work fine until the damn motherboard finally began to go wonky (was only a matter of time). Bad capacitors. Powered down the system and didn’t turn it on again until I got a replacement.

So I decided to go wild and rebuild from almost scratch. Got a sexy new case (an Antec Sonata), a new motherboard (ABIT NF7-S2) and even got a Hauppauge PVR-150 that was on sale from BestBuy, down from $150 to $99. Even decided to splurge on a MSI 6600GT with VIVO so I could play that damn 1080p version of the Step Into Liquid trailer without skipping. Now everything is hunky-dory; couldn’t be happier.

And that pretty much sums up my HTPC experience for now.

Of course, I still need a new TV.

Now, what else? Oh yeah, I finally found a job after a year of looking. My official title is “Software Developer” although my unofficial title is more like “Jack-of-all-Trades”. I now work for a company called Userful and they’re doing some pretty neat stuff. Expect big things from this company, hopefully. Can’t say much about it myself, though, since I’m not sure if I’m under a NDA or not. Here’s a funky Globe and Mail article that recently appeared. If you’ve got any imagination at all, then you can see the possiblilities.

And I got dumped by my girlfriend. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. The gallant thing would have been for me to leave her before she could work up the nerve to do it herself. It was great in the beginning, but for me, at least, it felt like I was giving a lot more that I was getting back. I mean a lot more, in terms of time, money and commitment.

I guess the time thing was understandable since I didn’t have a job at the time, so I could be flexible and adapt to her schedule. The money thing was tough, though, since I didn’t really have any funds. The commitment thing is a little tough to swallow, considering all the time I invested listening to her complain about trivial problems for hours on end despite the fact that there are others out there with even worse problems (for example, when she started her new job, she kept telling me how she hated it, how she wished she didn’t have it when all I could think about was that “I’d kill to be in that position” and “at least you have a job”). Of course, that all led to a pretty hefty cell phone bill which I’ve never really recovered from (and my financial future has definetly suffered from it, if you know what I mean). I got fed up with it and with the fact that I couldn’t provide for her like I should have and wanted to, and I think I took a little of it out on her, even though she probably didn’t deserve it. I got tired of being under appreciated, tired of listening to her complain, tired of offering advice that was never heeded and having to listen to her complain for hours on end as my reward for trying to help. I got frustrated at not being able to provide for her. I got frustrated not being able to buy her the things that she wanted and afford to give her tokens and trinkets that she deserved and I wanted to give, not being able to afford to eat at fancy restaurants, frustrated at not being able to take her to fancy places on the account that I don’t have a car, etc, etc.

I suppose I should have trusted her enough with my fears and problems, but of course, anyone who really knows me knows that it’s always been hard for me to do that sort of thing. In fact, I think with her, I opened up the most (see if I ever do that again 😉 ). But obviously not enough. Anyways, long story short, after a trip back from Europe, she spent more time with someone else than with me (which really makes that commitment thing hard to swallow since I put everything else in my life on hold for her and sacrificed a lot for her (friends, other potential girlfriends, the Calgary Flames’ magnificent run to the 2003-04 playoffs) since I thought she was worth it). And that was the clincher, I guess.

Anyways, I think I’m ok. Definitely doing much better than the last time. I think I know that deep down in my heart, I did all that I could have given the limited amount I had to work with. Part of me regrets not getting a second chance because I know how I could do better the second time around (especially now that I have a job), but I know that I also did the best I could have at the time. She’s a good person, deep down, but she’s also very selfish. I think I’m selfish too, just in different ways. For example, all I want is someone who is faithful, loyal, who’ll watch my back and who’ll stand by me when I need support. Probably too much to ask for, but hey, a guy can dream, can’t he? 🙂

It’s probably better this way. At least this way, she’s free and not held down by someone who isn’t even sure anymore if he could ever provide for her the things that she deserves. She’s got her future ahead of her, and I don’t deserve a place in that.

So that’s pretty much everything major that has happened since the last time I wrote here. Not sure what’s in store for me now and I’m not sure what I have to look forward to. Superficially, there’s Harry Potter 6 to look forward to in about three weeks, and I know that I ain’t sleeping that weekend. After that, who knows.

Although it’s occured to me that I’ve never tried a roller-coaster where you stand instead of sit. I remember in Grade 11 designing a roller-coaster that you rode head first down the track (ala Superman) for a Physics assignment (even worked out the centrifugal and centripetal forces and all that; it was cool). Not sure if such a thing exists (I know that standing roller-coasters exist) but I think it would be cool to be able to try that out, at least once in my life.

Making the Switch to MythTV

HTPCs and PVRs fascinate me. It’s great to be able to record stuff to watch later. It’s even better to be able to archive a copy that will never degrade over time.

I’ve had an HTPC running Windows XP and GB-PVR for a few months now. It works great (if you like Windows), but I’ve been craving something more. I had heard about MythTV when I first started down the road of do-it-yourself PVRs, but from what I read about it, it seemed very complex. Since this would be my first time building anything of the sort, I figured I’d want something that could be easily set up, just to see if it would work. So, I picked myself up a Hauppauge PVR-250 to capture TV (because of it’s wide software support), and went to work.

My quest for an HTPC application that was full featured, that worked out of the box and was (most importantly) *free* was a tough task. There were many free applications out there at the time (of course, now, many of them have gone commercial) and I had narrowed down my choices to three applications: CTPvr, Mediaportal and GB-PVR.

I think I tried Mediaportal first. Mediaportal is open-sourced, so it had (and still has) a lot of appeal to me. At the time, Mediaportal wasn’t that stable and I couldn’t figure out how to get my remote to work with it. Today, Mediaportal is very feature rich, if a tad on the slow side (which is something they are going to address in the next major version along with stability). Setting up the Hauppauge remote to work with it is still a pain. I know how to do it now, but there just aren’t enough buttons to make it work effectively. They really recommend a Media Center Edition remote, and I agree with them.

Anyways, then I tried GB-PVR. GB-PVR was the first one I got to work correctly, and it seemed to work out of the box. After playing with it for a while, I tried CTPvr, which also worked out of the box, but didn’t look as sexy as GB-PVR, so I switched back.

Of course, configuring GB-PVR was a pain as it was obvious that a usability study was not carried out on the Config app. Still, it was very feature rich and worked fast and well once it was set up. Eventually, it added commercial detection and skip which became a must-need feature for me (and prevented me from switching to Mediaportal once it became more stable). Still, GB-PVR has its bugs and since it only has one author working on it (who’s very protective about his work), bugs sometimes don’t get addressed for months.

Which is why I wanted to switch to MythTV. I love the feature set, I love the fact that it is open-sourced and I love the fact that it is so stable. I like the fact that bugs get addressed quickly. I’m a Linux nut so I feel that I’m destined to attempt it. And most importantly, it allows me to do everything I ever could do with GB-PVR. Plus the fact that I just can’t shake the feeling that GB-PVR will also go commercial down the road. It might not, but I just don’t want to be left holding the bag like I know many users of CTPvr and myHTPC (which later became Meedio).

So I decided that the time to switch is now. Today, I will attempt to create a MythTV box.

Lord, help us all.

My First Blog

Well, this is my first attempt at a blog. I’ve never done any of this before and I’m not sure how much of an invasion of privacy this will be, but perhaps it’ll be fun. Who knows.

Welcome to Reggie’s World.

Be afraid.