Shimmery OLED Pixels

I upgraded to a not-so-bright and very shiny Sony A1E OLED 4K TV this week (from my ten-year-old Samsung). It’s basically very nice, but there’s one very, very weird effect that I’ve seen nobody mention:

This is an episode of Doctor Who paused, but it’ll do those shimmery teal pixels even when the video is running.

Like, WTF?

The only reason I’m not freaking completely out and taking the TV back to the shop is 1) it’s really heavy and 2) I’m going to an all 4K video line next week and I want to see whether that fixes this problem. I’m hoping it’s an 1080p->4K upsampling artifact of some kind.

But even so, it’s … not acceptable. So what’s up? I’ve done a full factory reset to check whether any of my settings made it go wonky, but that’s not it.

At first I thought “DEAD PIXELS”, but it’s not that, either: The shimmery pixel effect is visible all over the screen when the base colour is about what you see on the screen here. So in most scenes there are no glitches, but in some darkish, bluish scenes there are glitches all over the place.

Has anybody heard of this… thing before? Is there a setting to make it go away?

My New Fashion Designer Blog x Useful Consumer Review

I’ve been trying to use an Android device as my “lug around the apt. while doing stuff” device, but it’s just not good enough. None of the apps for sshfs file browsing or video watching are beyond the “well, it kinda works” level. The ssh times out and doesn’t come back again until you do *stuff* and all the video apps have audio/video sync issues.

(Don’t all Android users play TV via sshfs?)

So! Back to Linux!

I got this laptop which has a “tent” configuration where the keyboard is in the back. Since it’s Linux, sshfs and mplayer work perfectly. The only issue is just the portability.  Physically. See, it’s all tent-ey and stuff, but when it’s in that configuration, picking it up is very awkward. There’s nothing to grab hold on.

So! I got my sewing kit out (a gift from my mother like ten years ago and seldom used since) and bought a ribbon thingie.

Oh, yeah, the computer is a… is that a d and a q? So it’s a … Dairy Queen laptop?

Let’s go with that.

I had planned on wrapping the ribbon around a wine cork, but the wine tonight turned out to be from New Zealand and had a screw cap. So instead I just rolled the ribbon up…

… and then expertly stitched it up. (Don’t show that seam to anybody with sewing skills unless you want them to have a heart attack.)

I did one at either end and now I have a handle!

See! It works!!! (He says while gingerly walking around with it.)

(Oh, the thing being shown is an episode of … Killjoys. Yeah, that’s what it’s called. It’s about people pointing guns at each other… IN SPACE!)

This is what the Dairy Queen looks like from the other angle. Not quite as … TV-ey. That’s a word. (The keyboard is switched off when it’s in this position.)

I had to adapt my Emacs video viewer for touch action, and I used Touchéegg along the lines for the music player. Seems to work OK. I added touch actions for mplayer, too, so that I can pause and skip and stuff.

THIS ALL MAKES SENSE!

Android Is Still Fucking Useless

I’ve been trying to use Android (instead of a Linux laptop) for various things lately, because some Android devices have a pretty nice form factor, and I don’t really need a keyboard for all things.  But time and time again, I find that the apps that are available on Android just aren’t good enough.  They are at the “will this do?” level: They almost basically do what they’re supposed to, but they have no polish and are REALLY ANNOYING.

Take watching films and stuff.

For about a month, I’ve been trying to use a Galaxy View as my “moving around the house and tidying stuff up” device. You know, I drag it around while watching Saturday Night Live, basically.

This is what it looks like. It’s an 18 inch huge “tablet” that I carry around while doing chores.

My previous device here was a Linux laptop, but it had a kinda small screen and there’s a keyboard I don’t need and you know, I thought that surely the Android ecology would have progressed beyond my simple sshfs + mplayer setup.

So: I got a Samsung Galaxy View, and it’s pretty nice. The screen is all reflective and stuff, but very clear. And I get the recommended apps, which is the “FX” file browser and “MX Player Pro” for watching films.

(Very X.)

And it all kinda sorta works. When deleting files in “MX”, you go through this:

Yes, that’s a long hold to get the menu, then press “Delete”, and then check off the checkbox and then press “delete”. If you think that’s ridiculous as a default, then there’s a setting for fixing this, so you just hold “long”, then press “delete”, and then press “delete”. Yes! The “dangerous” setting makes the checkbox in-between the “delete” and the “delete” go away!

ANYWAY!

I could live with all this nonsense, but when playing from sftp, MX Player would not recall where I had left off when playing the last time.

The audio/visual sync in MX player would also require manual adjustment up to about a minute to get in sync.

AND! In addition, FX would drop connections after being inactive for a few minutes, meaning that after pausing for some minutes in MX, I would have to exit, go to the menu in FX and press “reload”, and then find the file again, and then go to where I left off.

STILL!

This wasn’t enough to make me abandon the setup.

It’s like Stockholm syndrome, but for gadgets.

The breaking point came tonight, when I was watching Saturday Night Live (making fun of Trump, as usual).

It didn’t manage to decode the video fast enough, so everything lagged and stuttered and general sadness.

It’s like every app took the hint from Google Central and thought:  “Will this do?”  Then clicked on “publish”.

So I’m back to my six year old Linux laptop:

That has exactly none of these problems. No audio/visual sync things, no reconnecting over sftp, no lags.

Android app people: This is sad.

Sad.

… when we first practice to watch some movies

As I’m sure you remember from yesterday, I got an external HDMI screenshotting box to do screenshots while watching films from Amazon Video.

That worked fine, but using an infra-red remote to trigger the screenshots is slightly awkward: The line of sight thing means that I either have to have the (not very pretty) box in line of sight (and pretty close by), or I had to use an IR repeater of some kind.

Yay. More gadgets.

But then I though… “This box can also record video! Let’s try that!”

The upside here would be that I could just play the videos on my normal Linux machine, and everything would, like, work the way I wanted, without stressing with the Ipad, using remotes, switching the source, etc.

Besides: Freedom!  DRM is obnoxious!  You’re not the boss of me!  Etc!

Let’s have a look at today’s experimental set up:

First of all, a nice and big SD card is necessary, since the recorded H.264 (AVC) video files the recorder box creates rather big files. (About 12GB for a film.) So I use my normal filming card for this, which has the added advantage that it’s an UHS-II card (Ultra High Speed: The Second!). Note all the additional contact points on the card.

The “HDMI splitter”, the Aven video recorder, and the hated HDMI switch (which I no longer need, kinda).

And instead of using my ginormous Ipad, I got a used Iphone Touch (6th gen) cheap. I didn’t know whether that would work, but look how much smaller it is! It’s much more practical than carrying the Ipad around and plugging in here and there…

Finally, my USB 3.0 UHS-II SD card reader to transfer the files to my computer. I get about 100MB/s reading speed with this setup, so transferring an entire film takes less than two minutes.

I had a peek at a recorded film (a review of which will be coming to these very pages later today, I guess?) and it looks nice. The video is a bit “soft”, but no more artifacty than the film I watched directly from my Ipad yesterday. We’ll see…

But! I then thought that it would be nice to trim down the recorded bits to the actual film length (since I had forgotten that it was running and there were two hours of blackness at the end of the file), so I loaded it up in LightWorks…

And the exported film had an audio/video mismatch of over three seconds.

Whaaa!?

And that program re-encodes everything, so I didn’t really want to use it, anyway. So I installed avidemux, which had a very strange interface, but managed to chop off the black parts at the end without re-encoding. Very fast.

And the resulting file had a six second audio/video lag.

Wat.

Just about to give up, I found Lossless-Cut, a simple editor written in JavaScript (!) that uses ffmpeg under the hood.

I loaded in the file, set the start and end points in the excellent and easy-to-use editor and clicked “save”. Amazingly fast, it saved the resulting file at 100% of theoretical disk bandwidth speed, and…

The audio/video sync was perfect!

Whoho! Go JavaScript!

But is this a sensible workflow for watching films? Eurhmn…

Freedom!

The Tangled Webs We Weave…

My mission: To watch films from all around the world.  My problem: Many films are only available on Amazon Prime (US Edition).  My solution: Errr…

In this part of this (seemingly never-ending series) I’ve reached the point where I’m able to watch Amazon Prime videos, but taking screenshots while doing so (AND I HAVE TO DO THAT, DON”T I?  DON”T I?!?!?!) is still not solved problem.

Until today!

I can watch (and screenshot) on my Galaxy View Android device, but it seems to all be in lo-def, and I really want HD and on my TV.  So I got an Apple HDMI dongle for my Ipad and a box for screenshotting.

But that didn’t work, because DRM.  The box doesn’t support HDCP, so the Amazon Prime app just refused to output anything.

So!  I got a (euphemistically named) “HDMI splitter”, which is really an HDCP stripper.  Figuring out which ones work this week means reading the very newest comment on Amazon and taking a chance.

AND IT WORKS!

So here’s the setup tonight:

First the Ipad to the HDMI dongle…

Into the “HDMI splitter” (cough cough HDCP stripper cough cough).

Into the Aven screenshotting box.

Into an HDMI switch (that I had to add since I now have more than one HDMI source).

Into a CEC command injector device (that I added earlier).

Into the TV!  That’s just like 20 meters of cables and stuff.

And as you could see in the previous post, it works.  (I stuck a FlashAir card into the Aven box so that I can pull down the screenshots automatically into Emacs.)

See?  IT”S SIMPLE!

DRM.  Digital Customer Fuckery.  I’m sure that’s what it stands for.

But as you can see, the picture quality from this setup is fine, although it was choppy.  For the next film, I’m going to use the same setup, but download the film onto the Ipad in advance.

Stay tuned!  In about two hours you’ll know the results!

Ipad, Screenshots and Linux

It’s become increasingly clear over the past few months that many recent, fun-sounding films from countries with smaller film industries will never get a physical DVD release. The only way to see these films is via Amazon Prime, and since Amazon Prime isn’t conveniently available on Linux machines, I’m having to use an Ipad to watch these films.

Which is fine.

But I have to take screenshots. (I mean. I have to!) That leaves a lot of images on the Ipad, and I need a convenient way to get those from the Ipad to my Linux laptop.

Now, there’s Dropbox, and… stuff, but all those things require some manual work at the Ipad end or the Linux end. I hate manual work.

So wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way to just “do something” and then all the screenshots from the Ipad would magically appear in my Emacs on the Linux laptop?

There is!

It’s a bit fiddly, though, so let’s just get started.  (“A bit fiddly” is code for “seven pages of text is to follow”.  This is the year of Linux on the Desktop.)

My Laptop runs Ubuntu Linux, and it comes with an ifuse distribution that’s built with GnuTLS and not OpenSSL. This doesn’t work with IOS 10, so you need to build it yourself.

I’ve streamlined the build instructions a bit. The utilities and libraries needed to talk to Idevices is spread over four repositories, but the following should pull them all down, build them, and install them under /usr/local.

#!/bin/bash 
sudo apt-get build-dep ifuse 
for elem in libusbmuxd libimobiledevice usbmuxd ifuse; do 
  git clone https://github.com/libimobiledevice/${elem}.git 
  (cd $elem; sh ./autogen.sh; make; sudo make install) 
done

Check that your path is picking up the correct version by saying

$ type ifuse 
ifuse is /usr/local/bin/ifuse

Then plug in the Ipad via USB, and test that you can talk to the device. You may have to press “Trust this device” on the Ipad while connecting.

$ sudo mkdir /media/ipad 
$ sudo chown larsi.users /media/ipad 
$ idevicepair pair SUCCESS: Paired with device 37b633350ab83dc815a6a97dcd6d327b12c41968 
$ ifuse /media/ipad

You should now have the Ipad mounted, and the screenshots are under /media/ipad/DCIM.

Now for the fun part: Make the laptop copy over the files automatically whenever you plug in the Ipad.  I’m using the general setup from the usb-automount setup I did a few months ago.

The main difference is this udev.rules file:

ATTR{idVendor}="05ac", ATTR{idProduct}="12ab", PROGRAM="/bin/systemd-escape -p --template=usb-automount@.service $env{DEVNAME}", ENV{SYSTEMD_WANTS}+="%c"

And then I use the following script to actually copy over the contents to the current “viewing directory”.

#!/bin/bash

command="$1"

if [ "$command" = "remove" ]; then
    umount /media/ipad
    exit
fi

# Mount the Ipad.
ifuse /media/ipad

if [ -d "/media/ipad/DCIM/100APPLE" ]; then
    cd /media/ipad/DCIM/100APPLE
    for pic in IMG*; do
        to="/home/larsi/pics/ipad"
        if [ ! -f "$to/$pic" ]; then
            cp -av "$pic" "$to/$pic"
            chown larsi.users "$to/$pic"
            if echo "$pic" | grep PNG > /dev/null; then
                shot=`echo "$pic" | sed 's/IMG_/shot/' | sed 's/PNG/png/'`
                if [ ! -f "/home/larsi/.movie-current/$shot" ]; then
                    ln "$to/$pic" "/home/larsi/.movie-current/$shot"
                fi
            fi
        fi
    done
fi

cd /
umount /media/ipad

Or something like that.  You obviously have to adjust the script to your needs if you want to do something like this, but the general idea should be sound, I think…

Look!  The images appeared in Emacs!  As if by magic!

It seems to work reliably, also after rebooting the laptop.  Apparently the “idevicepair pair” think only has to be done once?  Or something?

The only minor annoyance is that Ubuntu pops up an icon in the right-hand menu every time I plug in the Ipad.  Is there any way to say to Ubuntu “ignore this device in the UI”?  There is a way to make Ubuntu ignore all auto-mounted devices, but that’s not what I want, and there is a way to make Linux ignore a specific USB device completely (echo 0 > /sys/bus/usb/devices/2-1/authorized), but that’s not what I want, either.  I just want the UI to ignore this specific device…

Oh, never mind.

[Edit: I’ve now put the scripts on github.  That should make it easier to customize if anybody wants to use this setup…]

My New Concert Blog vs Useful Consumer Review

I’ve been using a Panasonic GH4 camera for a couple of years to do concerts.  It’s a very nice camera, but it has a few problems.  1) When recording video, it splits the video into 4GB chunks that I then have to piece together.  It’s not a biggie, but it’s annoying.  2) More seriously, the microphone on that camera kinda sucks.  Whenever there’s a really steep sound gradient, it freaks out and goes into white noise, which means that I’ve had to discard more than a few recordings.  IV) It’s big and bulky. f) I use it for other things, too, which means that I have to swap settings and SD cards all the time.

So I got a Panasonic GX85!

.

I’ve been using it for some weeks now, and it’s pretty spiffy.  All the previous concerts I’ve done with the camera have been very low-volume affairs, so I had no idea whether the microphone works or not in high volume environments.  Until tonight!

Excuse the wobbly camera work, but I was resting it on my knee.  But the sound is kinda OK, eh?  And it was pretty loud.

So I think this camera’s going to work out.

One funny quirk about the GX85, though, is the EU video length limit.  In case you didn’t know, in the EU, things termed “video cameras” are subject to a pretty steep tax.  Camera producers work around this by limiting their cameras to 29:59 minutes, because they don’t have to pay the tax.

When filming in most modes, the GX85 camera heeds that limit, but it appears that the Panasonic people “forgot” to program that limit when you’re doing 4K video.  Then you can film as long as you want.  Or until the battery runs out, which takes more than two hours.

So…  From now on, the concerts I post on Youtube are going to be in 4K.  You can thank Panasonic and their absent-minded engineers.