New UI for FIOS Cable Boxes

Over on the Verizon FIOS Website they have a preview of the new User Interface they plan to roll out to their FIOS TV Settop boxes over the next few months.

As a current customer all I can say is ‘about time’. Although the current UI is remarkably ‘snappy’ in comparison to the UI on many cable settop boxes (my experience with older Comcast offerings comes to mind) it’s still pretty poorly designed and implemented.

In particular the current search functionality is frustratingly bad, it’s slow and rarely actually seems to find the program you want since it seems to do a string search on programs that start with the phrase you enter not merely contain it. Furthermore prepositions like ‘The’ seem to either be placed at the end or dropped entirely. So searching for ‘State’ may or may not find ‘The State Within‘ since it could be listed as ‘State Within, The’ or just ‘State Within’. If nothing else the new search mechanism looks like it’s substring based and should find the program no matter how it’s listed.

The new keyboard navigation/text entry mechanisms look like an improvement too. It’s funny by the current horizontal layout of the onscreen keyboard just seems much slower to use than TIVO‘s vertical layout, the new UI looks to adopt a vertical layout – hopefully that’s an improvement too.

It’s not been deployed yet to my home – but as soon as it is I’ll try and write a mini-review.

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on May 23, 2007

Great tip for OS X App Developers

If you’re developing an app that wants to host plugins that either you or a third party will develop Terence Talbot has a great tip for how to set things up to make it straightforward for the plugin developer and also keep things simple in the app hosting the plugin.

Posted under Development

This post was written by awk on May 18, 2007

“Final” Handbrake Transport Streams Patch

Probably not totally final – since it has at least one issue (but I think it’s a edge case) – but I’ve put a pretty much complete patch at http://awkward.org/handbrake/mpeg2-ts-patch.tar.gz

In addition to applying the patch you’ll need to manually add libhb/stream.c to the XCode project (and/or Makefile if you use that).

This patch should handle program streams with both MPEG and AC-3/A.52 audio formats, it will also handle transport streams with AC-3/A.52. However transport streams with audio formats won’t work (you’ll probably just get silence, it might crash). Unfortunately I don’t have much sample media to divine what’s really going on, and for my other project it’s not something I need (otherwise I’d have a lot more test data 8-).

So try it out – let me know of bugs – on the Handbrake Forum is probably best.

Posted under Handbrake

This post was written by awk on May 16, 2007

MPEG-2 Audio in Handbrake – A Patch

I’ve put a patch for the MPEG-2 audio handling problems in handbrake at http://awkward.org/handbrake/mpeg2-audio-patch.txt . The patch is just for libhb/decavcodec.c since that’s the only bit that needs any changes. However it can be combined with my transport stream patch to decode the output from EyeTV etc in Europe.

There’s still a chance that some stream formats may not decode properly – basically it looks like anything other than stereo may still be broken (but was broken before).

Posted under Handbrake

This post was written by awk on May 2, 2007

MPEG Audio in Handbrake

Unfortunately transcoding anything other than AC-3/A52 audio in Handbrake seems broken right now. For a lot of people in Europe where digital broadcasting uses MPEG Audio rather than AC-3 this makes my stream support a lot less interesting since they can’t transcode from (for example) EyeTV saved files to H.264 with Handbrake.

So I’m taking a look at the problem. Basically it looks like a change to the ffmpeg/libavcodec libraries in late 2006 was not matched with the appropriate ‘client’ changes in Handbrake. The ffmpeg project removed some redundant parsing code from the audio decoding functions which means that clients must now call the parser seperately before handing the data to the decoder.

I had just enough time last night to drop in the parser calls and things have definately improved, however since decoding is now slightly decoupled (through the parser) from the actual presentation of data the timestamps on the decoded data are not advancing correctly. The timestamp problems cause Handbrake’s sync code to introduce chunks of silence. Hopefully this evening I’ll find the time to fix up the timestamps and create a patch folk can try out.

Posted under Handbrake

This post was written by awk on May 2, 2007