The new Windows Live Messenger 2011

Logo for Windows LiveSo, I’ve been using this new Windows Live Messenger for two days now and I’ve got to say; it’s not that bad or good really. I’ve got some mixed feelings about it:

Pros

  • The new interface in compact view is crispier
  • Video chat now serves the video part much better (Bigger focus on the video/audio part)
  • The social part is interesting, presents a good way on keeping me up2date with what’s happening while being able to see who’s online. This works very well with a multi-monitor setup!
  • The new emoticons
  • The tabbed interface

Cons

  • Way too much advertising and advertising space!
  • The new emoticons (I kinda like the new ones but I also miss some of the old ones)
  • Focus on so much; social, msn, ads.
  • Unstable and/or buggy sometimes

This is not a review so don’t take my pros/cons list that serious, it’s just some of the things I like and dislike with the new edition. I have mixed feelings about the interface; I like my IM clients to be smooth, simple and present a nice interface but for a maximized application the social part of the new Live Messenger can be a nice addition to all you multi-monitor geeks!

Interface for WLM 2011

Getting Linux right on a laptop with switchable graphics (almost)

The reason why I haven’t used Linux for a while, especially on the laptop that I use is the way my laptop is built. It has a switchable graphics solution that lets me choose from the integrated Intel HD card and the ‘external’ ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 card. I must say, it’s a real good solution when it works properly; which it kinda does when I use Windows 7. The amount of battery life you get when going into the power saving mode with the Intel HD card is astonishing. I get everything from 7 to 9 hours out of the thing before I have to plug in the AC adapter. Anyways, this particular feature isn’t working too well in Linux at the moment. You can’t install the ATI drivers for the Radeon card, because it won’t work properly. I would gladly use it the way the system is set up after a clean install of say Ubuntu 10.10 or Linux Mint but without the ability to set up dual monitors or use accelerated 3D graphics there’s really no point for me.

BIOS Switchable Graphics

A while back I stumbled upon some notes while searching for a solution for this very problem and while I can’t recall where this was posted or who posted it but the solution to getting your laptop running smoothly with Linux is to change a setting in BIOS. I bet there’s an option for turning the switchable graphics from Enabled to Discrete/Disabled or maybe you’re lucky and get to choose what card to use. Disabling the switchable

graphics results in it only using the external ATI card which then allowed me to install the proprietary ATI drivers properly and getting it to work! My life was getting back on the right track..

.. until I started fiddling about with the dual-monitor settings. I haven’t done enough research or asked the right persons about this issue yet but from what I can gather from the Catalyst Control Center there’s no way to set my second monitor as my main display. I have a 26″ 1080p display that I use as my main display and then extend the desktop onto the laptop’s screen. My temporary solution was to just disable the laptop’s display from the Control Center, but turns out that might cause some problems with the accelerated graphics and compositing.

Why do I keep pursuing this Linux business? Well, those couple of hours I spent using Linux Mint was incredible. I’ve missed the sheer elegance of the GNOME desktop environment and how snappy the interface can be. Everything seemed to be going on overdrive in contrast to Windows 7 which I just did a fresh install of.

If anyone out there have a simple solution for this problem please let me know!

Installing Windows 7 Professional x64 on Acer Aspire 5943G: Thank you Linux!

After waiting a couple of weeks now and watching my lovely laptop deteriorate everytime I turned it off and on again I finally burned Windows 7 Professional x64 edition on to a DVD download legally from MSDNAA (Thank you school!). A short visit to acer.com showed me I didn’t have to download any drivers so I went ahead with the install. Everything seemed right! Or so I thought…

Minutes later a fresh Windows 7 desktop was staring at me, but something was off. There was no network connection, a low resolution and generally things were missing. A quick look in the device manager revealed that I was missing all of the drivers I was told were going to be in Windows 7 by default. I panicked a little bit, because how on God’s earth would I be able to get my system up and running in time for the evening? And why was Acer lying to me about the driver?

My first attempt was to use my Samsung Galaxy S phone to download the necessary LAN driver but with no luck. Turns out the browser won’t allow me to download files that aren’t supported/associated by Android and the Acer support site doesn’t work properly on the Android device. I realized later that I’m a Linux fanboy/enthusiast and that I always keep a couple of distros laying around. My savior? Linux Mint. Booting up the Live CD allowed me to browse the net and download the LAN driver for Windows. That’s what I love about Linux distributions, they’ve got almost every driver in place for use. Of course there’s some devices that aren’t supported or need to download restricted drivers but yeah.. My savior was Linux Mint.

Turns out that Acer wasn’t lying to me. I just didn’t see the drop-down box showing me what version of Windows 7 I wanted at first, so it defaults to one of the  32-bit Home versions. So if you’re going to reinstall your operating system on an Acer laptop, be sure to check that you have the necessary drivers or have a Live CD with a Linux distribution at hand.

Creating a bootable Windows 7 USB Drive

Since I bought my laptop (Acer Aspire 5943G) I haven’t reinstalled Windows or anything on it, but I should have because it came loaded with bloatware and what not. Whenever I’m going to format my harddrive and do a reinstall I always go to my brother’s blog for his excellent guide on how to create a bootable usb drive with Windows 7 so I can easily install it from USB 🙂

So head on over to http://tommynation.com/installing-windows-7-or-vista-from-usb-stick/ for a quick and easy guide!

Ja-ja-java!

My second (serious) day at school is over and what a joy it’s been so far! Yesterday we had TK110; a subject covering how computers work, the history, binary/hex etc, you get the picture 🙂 Anyways, it was real fun and the tests/assignments was also enjoyable. It’s been way way too long ago since I had anything IT related school work to do.

Today we had Java class. Even though I had to get up at 6 AM to get on school on time it was a interesting lecture and I’m looking forward to the next ones and the assignments we’ll get 🙂 Programming is a subject that has always intrigued me and I’ve been involved in smallish coding sessions since I was a young kid with PHP, Visual Basic, VB.NET and to this day I use C# and WPF often.

I’ll include this little YouTube video for you to watch, it’s a music video for JavaZone 2010 (8-9th September). It’s a “parody” of Lady Gaga – Poker Face. Now it’s Lady Java with JavaZone, enjoy!

A fresh start

Hello there!

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll notice that I’ve deleted some of my original posts but kept some important ones that I couldn’t just throw away. The reason for the deletion is that I just started at my bachelor degree in Gamedesign at NITH and I want to use this website as the portal for my work done during those days.

Don’t worry, there will be some posts like I’ve done in the past, but will be more technological for sure 🙂 Over the course of the next days/weeks I will add some more pages to this blog, and I’ve already started with adding the page “Java”. That page will contain most of my Java code and projects that I end up doing that might or might not be of any interest.

Why do I want to do this? It might end up being a motivator at school as I will try to showcase my current skills and the new skills and knowledge I will gain attending NITH.

I think these next three years will be great!

Eurosport Player in Linux.. revisited!

Last post I mentioned how you could use a shell-script to play the Eurosport Player streams in VLC, well guess what? There’s a simpler way! My brother pointed me to userscripts.org which is a place you can get scripts for Greasemonkey, a Firefox extension. He found a script that was written by a Dominik Grafenhofer that finds the MMS url and replaces the non-existing embedded player object with a link you can click which will start your videoplayer. Can’t get any simpler than that (except maybe if Eurosport made their player Linux compatible).

His script was written to work with the French Eurosport website which has some different URLs than the UK & Scandinavian ones I believe so I made a quick fix to it and you can download and install it from my blog.

While drafting this post, the author himself actually commented on my previous post which I find awesome and it gives me the ability to contribute to the script, so here you go Dominik: You’ll find the URLs in the script. Script: Eurosport Player COM version

Before ending this post I just have to say, I watched the Blake vs Del Potro match earlier and I was amazed! These first rounds have really brought some exciting tennis, going to five sets with both Blake vs Del Potro and Richard Gasquet vs Mikhail Youzhny! I can’t wait to see what’s to come next.

Get ready for allnighters or early mornings! … May be some hacking involved

It has finally begun!  Well… Actually we’ve come to the second day of the years first Grand Slam tournament! What am I talking about? It’s the Australian Open of course and you be sure to follow it LIVE whenever you have the chance to.

For those of you that might not know what it is, Australian Open is one of the four really major tournaments in the wonderful sport of Tennis and all the biggest stars have gathered to face each other on the blue hard-court in the heating sun in Melbourne. I’m aware that this sounds more like a commercial than anything else but I’d like to give these tournaments the attention it needs. If you follow it from the start it really grows on you and you start paying more attention to it and when the Men’s Singles finale is finished you’ll think of it as a good two-week journey and can’t wait until the next Grand Slam begins.

Here in Norway we do get good coverage of the Grand Slams thanks to Eurosport and they really have done a good job in providing not only great TV channels like Eurosport, Eurosport 2 and the Eurosport HD but also doing the same thing online meaning you can buy your way into the world of Eurosport Player. This online streaming service actually gives you more for the buck than the TV channels do because not only do you get to view the regular Eurosport & Eurosport 2 with commentary but you also get to choose different courts to watch. If your favorite player ain’t getting air-time on the regular channels be sure to check out which court he or she plays on and you can watch it in an instant. I’ve used Eurosport Player for several years and they’ve really improved the service.

My main concern is that it doesn’t really support Linux out of the box, and I use Linux on my laptops and I do bring those around, especially at night when I want to watch some tennis in bed and I don’t have a TV in my room. So that’s something they could have improved, the overall compatibility so all users can enjoy the wonderful service. There’s probably plug-ins or something that can make this work easier but by viewing the page source after you’ve chosen which channel/court to view and selected the quality you can scroll down and find the Stream URL which you can just copy & paste into VLC and it will stream.

A screenshot of the Eurosport 1 streaming in VLC
A screenshot of the Eurosport 1 streaming in VLC

eurosport.user

ps3m2ts

I’ve used mkv2vob sometimes to convert my .mkv files to either a .vob or .m2ts file that my Playstation 3 console can play. Why? I’ve hooked it up to our big screen (well actually a projector) and surround system in my loft and so I thought it would be easier if I could watch all my media on the PS3 instead of switching between that and a PC. That may sound lazy but I really do enjoy the XMB interface and using the controller to navigate through folders etc. It just feels right.

The only problem with mkv2vob is that I have to manually add the files/folders I want to convert and I’m a guy that enjoys when things can run automatically. Mkv2vob does not have a command-line interface which makes running it from within a script or another application really difficult. So I began searching through the forums only to discover that it’s a feature request and intended for later; also the source code for the application isn’t available at this time.

I’m a software developer, self-taught in C# and other programming/scripting languages so I thought I might give it a try to write a command-line application that can do what mkv2vob can — so I can implement it in future projects for automating the process of converting media files. I attempted to write something similar maybe a year before but I never got anywhere because I didn’t know how I would fix the .h264 streams to work with the PS3. Back then you could and you still can use a tool called h264info that you could input the .h264 file and specify fps etc and it would add the necessary parts to the h264 file so the PS3 can read it. It would allow you to change the H.264 profile (PS3 won’t handle H.264 level 5.1 properly). I encountered the same problem, there was no command-line interface for h264info and I was unaware of any other methods at the time so I gave up after trying to rewrite h264info in C#.

This time around things are different. Thanks to a great tool made by SmartLabs called tsmuxer I can now do all of the necessary things to make a .mkv work on PS3. tsmuxer can demux .mkv and provide the same functionality as h264info in regards of fixing the .h264 parts and mux it back together as a .m2ts file which can be read and played back by the PS3. This made my work much easier.

I made a tool I call ps3m2ts (orginally ps3video but it might have been confusing with PS3 Video 9 etc). The tools used are actually the same tools found in mk2vob except that I don’t use mencoder or the dts applications provided with mkv2vob (yet). That’s the only minor setback with my tool as of now. If the media file contains a DTS stream it converts it to AC3 so you’ll know it will work. I haven’t figured out the DTS thing that mkv2vob does yet, but then again I started developing this tool three days or go.

Tools:

  • Mediainfo
    I use this tool to extract information from the .mkv file, what video streams and audio streams are available and what codecs they use, FPS and etc. This is most useful.
  • Tsmuxer
    As mentioned, this is the holy grail, the main tool used. If your .mkv contains a .h264 and AC3 audio this is the only tool used in the process of converting because it demuxes, fixes and mux the files back together all by itself.
  • eac3to
    This tool is used for converting the .dts audio stream to .ac3 so it can easily be played back on the PS3.
  • mkvextract
    A part of a set of tools, mkvtoolnix; this tool is used to extract the different tracks (files) contained in your .mkv file. This is only used when there’s a .dts audio stream because we need it to convert it to .ac3

If you want to create your own little tool for doing the same thing I did tsmuxer needs a META file to be created containing the information required so it can do it magic. The .meta file tells tsmuxer what options and what input files to be used. Here’s an example .meta for the movie Eurotrip:

MUXOPT –no-pcr-on-video-pid –new-audio-pes –vbr –split-size=4GB –vbv-len=500
V_MPEG4/ISO/AVC, “EuroTrip.2004.AC3D.720p.HDTV.x264.mkv”, fps=23.976, level=4.1, insertSEI, contSPS, ar=As source, track=1
A_AC3, “EuroTrip.2004.AC3D.720p.HDTV.x264.mkv”, track=2

The first line contains muxing options (I got these from the tsmuxer-GUI) except for the –split-size=4GB where you can specify if you want tsmuxer to split the file if you plan on copying it to a FAT32 drive where the max filesize is 4GB. So very useful. I don’t use the split options as I use a media server to stream it from my computer.

The next two lines specify the input files and the options. The format is as following:

<code name>, <file name>, <parameters>

The code name is the Codec ID we get from Mediainfo, in this case it’s AVC (H264), the file name and the parameters. A full listing of the different parameters and mux options you can go to this site and read up. The important ones to use when creating a .m2ts for playback on the PS3 is

insertSEI, contSPS
level=4.1  — If the level is higher than 4.1 use this so tsmuxer can change the profile level to 4.1 which is playable on the PS3

The other parameters you see like fps should be straight forward. We get this from Mediainfo and pass it a long so we hopefully won’t get wrong framerate and mess up the result. You also see track=ID parameter which is used if you don’t use external file but just want to use a track in the original .mkv. Save your file as something.meta and launch the tsmuxer

tsmuxer.exe something.meta output.m2ts

tsmuxer can output to m2ts, ts, Blu-Ray Disc or AVCHD folder.

This is a very long post, and I’m sorry you had to read until the end to get your hands on my tool but hopefully you have learned something (or not). Either way I give you the Binary and source versions. It’s written in C#, .NET version 3.0

Binary files: ps3m2ts-binary-v0.1.zip
Source code: ps3m2ts-source-v0.1.zip

To use the application

ps3m2ts.exe “file” [split]

Hopefully this application works for you, if it doesn’t give me a comment or send me an e-mail to me at henningms at gmail.com. If you’re a software developer hopefully you can improve upon the code and give me tips and ideas, it’s still a work in progress but all help is welcome. Join me!
Thanks for your time


Operation on file “*.vmdk” failed..

I have been struggling at work with VMWare for the last week to the point where I wanted to pull my hair out. I got the error “Operation on file ‘something.vmdk’ failed” and the rest of the message indicated that there perhaps was a problem with IO, my harddrive or something. So I ran chkdsk to make sure that my partitions were OK and all and turns out they were. What a bummer. Searching the internet for the phrase “Operation on file .vmdk failed” didn’t exactly turn out the way I wanted.

Scavaging through the logfiles I gained more knowledge about the problem, or at least some new error codes I could look up. “Failed to write: Unknown error 1453 (0x5ad) (1453)”. After a while of googling I finally found what I think is the solution to the problem. I’ve allocated too much memory for my VM!! A forum member over at the VMWare Community called magi had this to say:

“(Windows has a couple error messages like this, which unfortunately sound like they’re talking about disk space but actually refer to physical memory used to buffer disk transfers. )”. After reducing the amount of memory for my virtual machine it behaves smoothly (for now at least). Too bad I didn’t figure this out earlier as I’ve deleted some VMs that I thought had corrupt files.

The thread with the helpful post can be found here