Category Archives: Tech

Playing Movies on the iAudio X5

I am enraptured by my new Cowan iAudio X5.
It plays both flac and ogg vorbis and appears to my linux box as a
standard USB storage device. Given this level of openness I’m willing
to forgive it for running some version of embedded windows.

However until today I hadn’t got around to trying to get it to play
back any useful videos. It comes loaded with some short video clips
which are basically adverts for other Cowan products. However by
interrogating these clips with mplayer I was able to glean the
following information.

VIDEO: [XVID] 160×108 24bpp 13.000 fps 189.4 kbps (23.1 kbyte/s)
Opening audio decoder: [mp3lib] MPEG layer-2, layer-3
AUDIO: 48000 Hz, 2 ch, s16le, 128.0 kbit/8.33% (ratio: 16000->192000)

Now I’m no whizz with mencoder so I had to do some searching around until I found a good intro to using mencoder. With that in hand I was able to put together an encoder command that worked.

mencoder inputfile.avi -o outputfile.avi -ovc lavc -oac lavc -lavcopts acodec=mp3:abitrate=96 -ofps 13 -vf scale=160:108

I added the lower bitrate for the audio as some sources suggest that
this makes playback more stable. Theoretically the X5 will play back
video at 15fps but can get unhappy so sticking at 13 seems sensible.
Now I’m not sure that I’d want to watch Lord of the Rings at 160×108
but character driven drama like House or The West Wing is remarkably
watcheable at this resolution. I doubt I’ll use this feature day to day
but if I was preparing for a long flight I might whack a couple of
seasons of my favourite TV shows onto the X5 to serve as an alternative
to the inevitabley dreadful in-flight movie.

Continue reading Playing Movies on the iAudio X5

Scripting is hard

I would like to quote for you now the opening lines of Microsoft’s Scripting Concepts and Technologies for System Administration.

This is a book about scripting for system administrators. If you are
like many system administrators, you might be wondering why this book
is targeted towards you. After all, scripting is not the sort of thing
system administrators do. Everyone knows about scripting: scripting is
hard; scripting is time-consuming; scripting requires you to learn all
sorts of technical jargon and master a whole host of acronyms – WSH,
WMI, ADSI, CDO, ADO, COM. System administrators have neither the time
nor the requisite background to become script writers.

Ye flippin’ gods. Do Microsoft Administrators really think like that?

Continue reading Scripting is hard

Region Free Firmware Goodness

Finally worked up the courage to un-lock the DVD drive on my PC. I
dislike the motion picture industry telling me from what regions I can
watch DVDs. It’s especiall irritating when considering that many fine
DVDs such as this and this are only available as Region 1. The fact that the MPAA feels I should have to jump through hoops in order to give them money has got to be corporate stupidity of the highest order.

Continue reading Region Free Firmware Goodness