nVidia’s Hardware H.264 (1080p) codec for Linux

I spent a couple of hours getting a proprietary software H.264 codec working in Linux and even published a writeup to help others. A day later I learned from one of the people I sourced in my article that nVidia started releasing Linux drivers last November for the hardware high definition decoders found on the 8xxx series of video cards as well as a customized version of mplayer to support the new drivers.

A mixture of emotions came across as I realized I wasted an entire day on a software decoder when a hardware solution was available for $30 to $40. The software solution was fairly disappointing, so I decided to try one of these new cards, an nVidia GeForce 8500 GT, to see if it provided a better solution. It took some work with my setup, but the results were worth it.

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1080 Video in Linux with CoreAVC

I’ve got an old Pentium D 920. Over two years old, with the right ffmpeg options for mplayer and frame dropping enabled, this CPU can still play H.264 720p video at amazing quality in Linux. However, all 1080p and 1080i60 (camcorder M2TS files) choke horribly. The video drags, audio skips and the video is totally unwatchable. In my search for a better video codec, I came across CoreAVC, a closed source commercial codec for Windows, as well as the coreavc-for-linux project: an attempt to use those closed source drivers with various media players in Linux.

Unfortunately, the installation documents for coreavc-for-linux were months old, out-of-date and had few corrections for new bugs. The following are some of the common errors I found as well as the solutions I’ve found to get the trail version of the CoreAVC codec working on my Gentoo Linux system.

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Upgrading the MacBook

My MacBook is about two and a half years old. Aside from upgrading the memory to 2GB when I initially purchased it, I’ve kept it stock and it’s been a fairly reliable laptop and the most convenient laptop I’ve owned. Currently it’s also the only computer I own that will let me edit and play HD content. Even then, the video becomes jumpy after about fifteen to twenty seconds during the editing process. Also, the battery no longer holds enough power to keep the laptop operational for over an hour. So a few weeks back I decided some upgrades were in order: upgrading to OS X 10.5, a new 500GB hard drive and new battery.

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Guide for New WordPressMu Administrators

Recently I migrated several websites from various web applications and frameworks onto a common WordPress base. I chose WordPress because it has a large adoption audience, a massive range of plug-ins and a good release cycle. I decided to use WordPressMu (multi-user) to handle several websites from one base install. I ran into a couple of interesting caveats and unique gotchas I’ve decided to document here in hopes of assisting other WordPressMu administrators.

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Joe Lance for Chattanooga

Rear View Mirror Released

A new version of RearViewMirror is out. This version fixes several of the crashing problems, uses the camera name as the viewer window title, improves the URL list saving and contains various other bug fixes.

Tennessee River Gorge Explorer

Rear View Mirror 0.8.6 Released

I’ve released a new version of RearViewMirror, an application that turns an ordinary web camera into a fancy mirror. The application also has a motion detector that will keep the camera window hidden until somebody is actually sneaking up on you (or walking behind you).

The biggest new feature of this release is support for multiple cameras. Not only can you view multiple locally connected cameras, but you can connect to remote cameras and share your cameras with others. This is a beta release so use it an your own risk.

BlueHost is a Failure at Customer Service

A few weeks ago my hosting provider, BlueHost, upgraded their servers. In doing so, they also removed the options of using PHP4 and went to PHP5 exclusively. Several angry phone calls to them later resulted in yielding no meaningful resolution. Many of my sites work fine on PHP5, however I had one legacy site from a rather large customer still on an old version of Drupal.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had trouble with BlueHost. They had upgraded their rails installation twice, also without any prior notice, breaking several of my production websites. I’ve read other horror stories concerning BluHhost, including one from my favorite webcomic, but in the several years I had been with them I didn’t have any major issues. It is only this past year that they preformed lots of random upgrades without telling anyone.

When I asked why they hadn’t sent out any notices, the manager on their support line told me they had sent out a notice a year ago that PHP4 would be phased out. I asked repeatedly why they hadn’t sent out a recent notice within the past month or week? He felt as if the notice a year previous had been enough. I checked my e-mail and sure enough, the very last message I ever received from BlueHost was dated November 29, 2007.

The past three week has been spent moving to a much faster and more reliable web hosting solution. I’ve migrated several old legacy applications that were originally managed by Drupal and Ruby on Rails into WordPress. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Rails so far and with my new host charging extra for Rails, I decided I’m better off migrating those sites to WordPress. I’ve been impressed with WordPress and all its functionality and plug-ins. I’ve come to realize I’d rather spend more time doing what I want to do rather than trying to figure out how to do it.

The last time I had to move web hosts was from DarkFiles. They gave their customers plenty of notice when they decided to get out of the web hosting industry. At the time I was in school and had more time to work on the transition (and fewer sites). This transition has helped me deal with a lot of things that needed to be upgraded and changed. In ways I am glad, but the timing couldn’t have been worse. Moving forward, I would highly suggest to anyone using BlueHost to migrate their web hosting provider soon. BlueHost’s service has been absolutely horrible and is only suitable for the smallest and least relevant website. Their hosting may be cheap, but you do get what you pay for.

Breaking the Multi-Colored Box

I’ve released an alpha version of Bmcb or Breaking the Multi-Colored Box, a framework intended to generate known CAPTCHA challenges and then test various techniques to break them. Although it’s fully functional and has a decent amount of preliminary documentation, it’s far from being really useful. The built in analysis and filtering techniques can only solve the most trivial cases efficiently.

However, the framework is well structured and sound. I’m hoping I can develop interested from other open source developers who have skills in fields I lack in such as image recognition, analysis and AI. It will be the first project I’ve had where I’m actively seeking developers from the community. Anyone interested in a challenge?

If I can generate a decent amount of interest, I’ll move it over to a full project hosting repository such as SourceForge or Google Code.