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XP Screen Madness
Date: 31/1/2006
I've found that when you hook an XP machine up to a KVM and boot it while the KVM is displaying the other machine, XP sees there is no monitor attached and ignores the refresh rate set in the display settings. In my case I want 1280x1024@32bpp and 75hz refresh. Which is fine if I boot the machine with the KVM switched to the XP box, otherwise the machine boots into 1280x1024@32bpp and 85hz refresh. When I do switch the KVM to the XP box the LCD says "Input Out Of Range". Now I wrote a command line program to tell me the current screen mode, ssh'd in from the Mac mini while XP was in this "Out Of Range" mode and ran the cmd line app. Thus I actually know what the out of range mode is.

The next step of course is to stop XP from setting the refresh to 85hz. Now I've googled around and some people seem to think that there might be an Nvidia registry setting that forces the refresh rate but so far no luck in getting that to work.

I added some functionality to my cmd line app to set the video mode (inc refresh) as well, and then called it from a remote ssh shell, but it complains about not being able to set the video mode. Which is not surprising I guess. (It does work fine from the local console.)

Now I'm thinking that maybe a Windows service needs to be installed that sits there polling the video mode and then if it sees an out of range mode it tries to reset the screen to some default. I havn't written a service before and I have my doubts as to whether a service can change the screen resolution/refresh. But it's worth a try.

The reason I would have to run it as a service is that when the machine boots, it goes to the select account screen that has no user actually logged in. At this point I only have services running, thus the need to run as a service. Otherwise I have to log in blind. Which is actually what I do to fix the problem at the moment. Log in as one user and then log in as another user, all blind, using the keyboard only. XP resets the screen mode when logging in to the 2nd account and the LCD shows the desktop.

I'm not even sure if it's the video card, XP or the KVM at fault but it's really really annoying.

*sigh*

Update: Last night I installed the resolution check cmd line app in the "All Users" startup folder such that it checks the resolution and refresh and changes it to something acceptable while logging in to each account. This way all I have to do is hit enter when the machine has finished booting and it'll switch to a valid screen mode. So while it's not "ideal" it's now a fairly benign problem.

I've packaged the res/refresh change program (with source) and made it available here.
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Quiet PC
Date: 29/1/2006
After years of tinkering with making my PC quiet I think I'm finally on the verge of actually acheiving an almost silent PC. Recently I installed a Zalman fanless northbridge chipset heatsink because the little 40mm chipset fan was making disturbing noises like the bearings were failing and the PC was still far too noisy. And over the last few days I've been getting a number of load related system freezes. So I thought I'll pull the cover off and trouble shoot.

Over the years I've been picking up super quiet fans like the Pabst 8412NGL (12db) which I'm using on the CPU and the SilenX 120mm (14db) on the case. And I never really saw the point and the system wasn't much quieter. So finally I figured that I could test the system components in isolation to see how noisy each was. So I pulled all the fans (bar the CPU) and HD power cables and powered up. Silence. System booted... wow! Ok... so I worked my way around the system pluging each device back in one at a time and lo and behold one of the hard disks was making 90% of the noise. So it's out and the system is finally almost silent. The fans I bought are actually very good.

My remaining issue is that under load the Pabst fan doesn't push enough air to cool the CPU and it overheats and hangs. So I'm schemeing up plans to beef up the CPU fan with either a temperature sensitive unit or maybe some ducting to adapt one of the 120mm SilenX fans to the 70mm copper heat sink. The SilenX fan pushs twice the air the Pabst fan does.

If only I'd been lateral minded enough to use my code optimisation skillz sooner *sigh*
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Mpeg2 Non-Destructive Editing Workflow
Date: 27/1/2006
I am in the process of editing out duplicate scenes in 6+ hours of DVD format MPEG2 files. Joy!

And at the moment the workflow consists of:
  • Load file in to Media Player Classic and write down rough start/end points of each duplicate scene.
  • Load PVAStrumento to demux the MPEG2 stream into separate video and audio.
  • Load these files into Cuttermaran and mark all the in/out points in the file. Generally the "in" point marks the beginning of a part you want to keep and the "out" point marks the end. You should not make the out point the first I frame of the next scene but rather the last B or P frame of the previous scene, otherwise you get a 1 frame flicker of that scene at the out point.
  • Then as I'm saving the edited video in Cuttermaran I ask it to remux the streams together.


This seams to provide excellent results but it is somewhat time consuming. Is there a better way to delete scenes in MPEG2 without re-encoding any video? (No shareware or warez please)
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Mac Port
Date: 21/1/2006
Let it be known henceforth that the memory bitmap code in Lgi doth draw upon thine Quartz 2d contexts in wonderous colour.

And late on the Saturday evening, fret saw it was good and went henceforth unto his rest.

Selah ;)
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DirectShow Filter Graphs
Date: 12/1/2006
I'm trying to write a directshow filter graph that will convert a dvd-ms file into a normal AVI with standard compression filters (like XviD and Mp3).





I seems to get all the filters hooked up right but then when I "Run" the graph nothing happens... it just sits there in the running state not doing anything. The CPU is idle and the output file is either 0kb or a few hundred K. Same thing happens in the DX8.1 graphedit application.

As a side issue I can't figure out how to bring up the codec filter's settings dialog.

Ideas?
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Review: XpertVision nVidia 6200 256mb AGP
Date: 8/1/2006
Product: ExpertVision nVidia 6200 256mb AGP

Score: 3/5


Pros:
  • Price (cheap)
  • No fan (quiet)
  • Great video out options
Cons:
  • Output corruption
  • Flakey TV breakout connector
  • Average 3d performance
I needed a better 3d card to work on some software I was developing so I ditched my aging (but still good) Matrox G400 and went shopping for a new video card. My primary concern was low cost, but low noise was a close second. So after a bit of poking around on the internet the ExpertVision 6200 seemed like it fit the bill, cheap, no fan and some decent 3d support, as well as TV out. So I picked one up for the low margin retails around here and plonked it into my box (Athlon 1.4ghz, 512mb). It installed fairly easily and I was up and running in 2d in no time. All the PCI slots are full on my motherboard and yet the heat sink fitted anyway, however it was a bit snug.

The first area I tried was the 3d performance so I downloaded some current game demos and fired them up. 3d performance was reasonable, but I'm not going to benchmark anything, as I don't have an array of cards to test against. And thats not the point of this review. However I did find that some games, notably Doom 3 had lots of texture corruption and shearing issues. Which I found annoying. Less demanding games seemed to run fine, e.g. Counter Strike has no issues. I don't however do a lot of gaming so it doesn't really worry me.

2D performance is fine, I get a sharp picture with both the analogue and digital outputs. For everyday browsing and so on it's as good as more expensive cards. However for the first few months I had the card it would occasionally cease functioning by turning the screen blank, well almost blank... if you turn the monitor bightness all the way up you can faintly see a distorted view of the desktop. I made a video of this here. You can fix it on the fly by changing video modes, and everything returns the normal. After thinking about this I wondered whether heat build up could be a contributing factor, so I openned up my case and ripped out the PCI card right next to the AGP slot (leaving it open to the outside) and turned the case fans up a bit. This improved the air flow around the card and as far as I can tell the problem hasn't re-occured since then. So the price you pay for "noiseless" operation is that you need to be air flow aware. Make sure it gets plenty of cool air or it'll flake out.

One of the must have features for me was the TV out. I specifically wanted a TV that supported composite video for the short term, which my TV is limited to, but also supported component video. So that when I upgrade our TV to a component system I don't need to get a new video card. The ExpertVision 6200 supports all 3 video formats; Composite, S-Video and Component video via a breakout cable that plugs into the card between the DVI connector and the VGA dsub connector. The breakout cable however has seating issues and it's quite hard to get it to connect pins in the cable to the sockets in the card securely. I often have to fiddle with it to get my TV out to work after moving the PC. It's just a build quality issue, but it's annoying enough to mention. So far I can only test the composite output, and it's quality is only fair. Everytime I use it I need to adjust the brightness and contrast on the TV to suit. The picture isn't quite as clear as my old G400, but because the video processor is so much more capable the frame rate is far steadier. I think the G400 struggled to scale some video for output due to lack of processing power. The EV6200 however scales the video fine, however to my eye the output is a little less sharp and the colours a little more washed out. A marginal differece but present none the less. By default the TV out acts as a 2nd monitor in XP. Which is fine if thats what you want, but most people want the overlay window used by media players to map to the TV when active. By default the nVidia drivers don't do this. However there is a somewhat obscure option that lets you set this up. It took me a long time to figure this option out, in fact my friend ended up showing it to me.

All in all it's an alright card.
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