Sunday, December 31, 2006

Encoding PSP-compatible MP4 files on Linux

I bought a PSP at the beginning of the summer, so that Jamie could watch his favourite movies on the long plane ride to Qatar. It's a fairly straight-forward (and well-documented) task to convert DVDs on Windows, but I'd never tried on Linux.

There's a Perl copying suite called dvd::rip, which has many prerequisites. After installation, it isn't obvious how to encode a movie so that it will work on a PSP. I gave up on dvd::rip, and looked at ffmpeg, a command-line utility.

Artfahrt gives useful information about a couple of Windows conversion tools (PSP video 9 and 3GP converter), and how they both use ffmpeg to encode movies. Unfortunately, the example given doesn't work with recent versions of ffmpeg on Linux. It's clear that both tools use a specially modified version of ffmpeg, which will not compile on Linux. Another dead-end.

Finally, after much wailing and tearing of clothes, I came across this post, which provides all the information necessary to encode movies.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas photos

Sandy arrived just before Christmas - he's staying for a week. We had a walk around Khalifa Stadium, which is ghostly quiet. Here's the Sports Tower (by Sandy), and here's Jamie and the Sports Tower. Jamie had a great time opening presents on Christmas Day - he got a remote-controlled car, a scooter, and two helicopters.

While I was sorting through photos, I found one of chillis I grew before leaving the UK, and one of Jamie and Orry at the Ramada, just after we arrived in Doha.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Vista launch today

Was invited to the vista launch at the Marriott by Vinod, the local Dell guy. I won't be attending. I thought I might go along and ask about pricing, but it's not worth the effort. They'd just take my contact details then spam me for the next year.

Vista looks nice, but I can't see why anyone would upgrade from XP. Whatever the marketing department may say, Vista is bound to have stability and compatibility problems for the first year (like every previous version). Better to let others take the plunge first. Or use a proper operating system ;)

Sara now has Microsoft as a client, so I shouldn't really complain about the press hype.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dangerous vechicle

Jeff Garzik emailed me asking for comments on his DNS geolocation project. I had some spare time this morning, so released IP::Country::DNSBL.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Free time and gutenberg

Jamie's now at nursery five mornings a week, so I've got some time on my hands. A while ago, I started working on some Gutenberg-related code. I'd heard from various people that it was difficult to find books in Qatar. Personally, I've found Amazon to be fairly reliable if you're willing to wait a couple of weeks for delivery. However, there aren't many local sources of English books. The supermarkets stock a very strange selection, and the Jarir bookshop in Doha is similar to the UK outlet WHSmith - good for stationery and bestsellers, but not for bibliophiles.

Anyway, my plan is to take the 19,000 texts from the Gutenberg project and typeset them into a more friendly format. I don't know anyone who's prepared to read a whole book in plain-text format (try it if you're not convinced). A couple of friends have volunteered to review my efforts and suggest improvements.

At the moment, I'm working on improvements to a pretty obscure piece of code, known as RDF::Core. The Gutenberg catalog is published in RDF/XML format, which should be easily manipulated. However, the RDF::Core code is memory-hungry and slow, so I've been forced into fixing someone else's software before I can continue on the main project. These things happen all the time when you're writing software - either you work around the problems or fix them.