Freeway Collapse near San Francisco

My parents have had their fair share of Oil Tanker fires under/on Freeways in the Tampa area over the last few years. Now it’s been the San Francisco Bay Area’s turn. There’s a photo here, and some more spectucular photos of the inferno here. The Google map for the area is here.

Needless to say this morning – and every morning’s commute in the East Bay is going suck.

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on April 30, 2007

Transport Stream Support

An initial version of patches to Handbrake to support Transport Streams (and Program Streams) is now available at–ts-patch.tar.gz . These patches should apply cleanly against SVN Rev 552 (you mileage may vary with other revisions – but libhb has been relatively stable). In addition to unpacking the archive and applying the included patches you’ll need to add libhb/stream.c to the XCode Project file -> libhb Sources folder (libhb and libhb dlib targets). I’ve not included a patch to do this since patching XCode Project files is usually a hit and miss affair.

These changes should support the style of transport streams in common use here in the US for Digital Broadcasting (MPEG-2 Video Streams and AC3/A52 audio streams). Although multiple audio streams in a transport file will be displayed in the audio tab on handbrake so you can choose the one you want only one video stream is supported (no real PMT/PAT support in this patch). Also if the transport stream contains audio other than AC3/A52 it will not be handled correctly, LPCM and MPEG-2 Audio in a program stream should work but there’s some evidence of issues in Handbrake with those audio types.

Next on my to-do list (besides any bugs that might come up) is looking into that non-AC3 audio problems in Handbrake, and then real multiple program transport stream support.

Posted under Handbrake

This post was written by awk on April 26, 2007

Spring Peepers

Although the beginning of last week was barely above 40 degrees here, the end of the week (and today) it’s been much more like 80 degrees !

Starting last Friday when it got much warmer there was a lot of noise from the wildlife in our garden, the surrounding homes and nearby Middlesex Fells. At first I thought it sounded a lot like Cicada’s which I’m used to hearing in California, but in fact the noise is frogs. Known locally a Spring Peepers but more formally as Pseudacris crucifer they make quite a racket and keep it going for most of the night (I’ve not yet waited up so late as to see when they might stop – but they’re usually still going at midnight).

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on April 23, 2007

A Blast from the Past

Catching up on my unwatched hours of TIVO video I was watching the April 11th episode of MythBusters.

Part of the program was devoted to a myth that the human voice (it’s sound – not the air coming from a mouth) can extinguish a flame. Adam & Jamie are certainly talented but vocal performers they’re not, so they called on a local a capella group to assist with the myth. The group they used was Hookslide which includes amongst it’s members my former boss at BeGeorge Hoffman !

The group got some good screen time (though I had to stop watching the program to let Michele watch something she was more interested in !). Congratulations on the casting chaps !

Also in the same episode was some scenes filmed at Marin Biofeedback in San Rafael about a mile from where used to live.

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on April 22, 2007

HandBrake 0.8.5b1 Released

The team working on HandBrake have released a new beta – the first since the project went through a bit of an upheaval. There’s lots of good stuff in the update, including preset support and a Windows GUI, the full details are at here.

None of my work is in this beta since it was being prepped before I started on the program and transport stream implementation. However there’s a strong chance that the next beta will include the work.

Posted under Handbrake

This post was written by awk on April 21, 2007

Thunderbird 2.0 Released

My email client of choice on Windows – Thunderbird has just reached V2.0

The upgrade was totally painless (and the download very small). It seems a little ‘snappier’, but to my mind the best new feature is Lightning the Calendar add-in and even better the Google Calendar provider for Lightning. This is the first (only ?) to my knowledge bi-directional calendar plugin for Google Calendar. I can now synchronize calendars between my desktop PC at home and the website, even multiple machines (so long as they’re all running Thunderbird).

This is such a great feature that it might even be enough to get me to try out Thunderbird again on Mac OS X – I stuck with Mac OS X Mail because I found Thunderbird 1.x on OS X to be a little sluggish – perhaps that’s improved.

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on April 18, 2007

Progress Update

I’ve made some more progress in handling MPEG-2 Transport Streams in Handbrake.

I have something now that pretty much seems to work (I’m doing a test transcode as I type). The ‘preview’ pictures in Handbrake seem to work fine and that’s usually a pretty good indication of things.

However it has a few too many hardcoded ‘magic’ values and needs some cleanup before I can prepare a real patch. I’ve also realized that my ‘hack’ to force the duration to 4 Hours for streams where I can’t seem to calculate the duration completely throws off the ‘time remaining’ calculations of Handbrake progress bar – I probably need to revisit that problem again.

Posted under Handbrake

This post was written by awk on April 18, 2007


Michele has returned to paid employment (after several months of unpaid employment managing our move, the children and getting our kitchen remodelled).

She started work this week at MIT to ‘run’ the DSpace project. Her work there is mainly non-technical and is more about encouraging the use of DSpace and gaining funding for ongoing DSpace development. In some respects her work will be similar to that of Mitchell Baker at the Mozilla Foundation.

Congratulations Michele ! Good Luck !

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on April 18, 2007

Wet and Windy Weather

The wet and windy weather this past Monday here in the Boston area has unfortunately taken it’s toll on a tree in front of our house. Although everything was fine (just a few small branches on the streets in the neighbourhood) when I went to work on Monday morning my parents (who were visiting) called me to say that a large single pine tree in the front yard had fallen across the street and into the power and telephone cables.

Go no further

The tree is (was) about 60 to 70 feet tall and had actually been stopped from falling further not by the cables but by trees in the yard of the house across the street. Without those trees it would certainly have fallen all the way to the ground. We still had power and phone at home (we lost power during the cleanup – but the phone stayed up throughout). When I arrived home both Winchester Police and Fire Department and the Town Public Works was on the scene though there was really nothing anyone could do until NStar (our local electric utility) and a tree crew arrived to take care of the problem. The police closed the road (though at least one car ignored the police tape !) and we waited for the crews to arrive.

I had expected a long wait since the storm had knocked out power to a lot of customers (but not us), and there were no live wires in the street and our street is in no way any sort of thoroughfare, however the tree and electric crew arrived at around 2:00pm and got straight to work. They cut of our power for around an hour whilst most of the tree was removed. First by removing the limbs from the top of the tree that were not entangled across the street and then tying the top portion of the tree into the trees across the street. Then they made one cut much nearer the cables which caused the tree to swing across the street and hang from the trees opposite (with some branches breaking – but it stayed up). Next the crew removed portions of the tree back around the cables (around 1.5 – 2 feet long) freeing the cables, once the cables were free they dropped the remaining 8 foot section on to our yard.

Next is cleanup – hopefully the town public works dept. will be by in the next day or two to clear the large logs and limbs from the side of the road. An NStar crew will be back to straighten the rather bent (but not broken) power pole near the tree (the weight of the tree on the cables caused it to bend pretty dramatically). Lastly we’ll need to get the stump extracted and plant a new tree (probably not something as tall and as vulnerable as the pine though).

OK - Take a deep breath and cut here For what could have been a pretty scary experience we were actually very lucky, the tree came down away from the house and no-one was near it as it fell. No cables were broken and no-one was injured. All the same not something I look forward to happening again – but one of the prices we pay for living in such a green environment.

There are more pictures here.

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on April 16, 2007

MPEG-2 Program Streams in Handbrake

I’ve a project (up my sleeve – more in a later post) that has a requirement of being able to convert (transcode) MPEG-2 data into H.264

Handbrake is an open source project originally for BeOS (!) but now much more commonly used on Mac OS X that was written to combine a number of open source libraries into a relatively easy to use app to convert DVD’s into H.264 (and MPEG-4) for use in an iPod. Very close to what I need for my project, however it’s fairly firmly focused on working with DVD file structures and not MPEG-2 files (program streams).

So I’ve written some patches that let Handbrake open and process MPEG-2 Program Streams, and as a side effect you can also work (with some restricitions) with the raw .VOB files present on DVD’s (and sometimes emitted from other DVD ‘ripping’ applications).

There are still some limitations :

  • .VOB files have a fixed reported duration of 4 hours – the actual final duration will match the file on disk, the 4 hour value is used to present a value in the Title Duration pop-up menu on the Handbrake UI. If the file is actually longer than 4 hours you’ll only get the first 4 hours I’m afraid
  • Currently only program streams are supported, next on the list is transport streams – this is where the ‘real fun’ is.

Download the patch.

Posted under Handbrake

This post was written by awk on April 10, 2007