Monday, June 29, 2009

No Internet access

Yeah, so Verizon has returned to meeting my expectations (they absolutely suck). They scheduled my repair for 5:30 to 9:00pm, and then I called and found out there is no such repair window. Now I'm scheduled for 8am to 12pm tomorrow (and since they cut off my DSL service I will have to miss work). Apparently the support representative was baffled, not knowing how they other person managed to schedule me for that time in the computer.

Got home from work at 7pm. Watched Jeopardy while eating salad for dinner. Spent about an hour with an oscilloscope working on the PCTV 340e, and isolated the i2c problems preventing the bridge from talking to the xc4000 tuner.

I found out that both Subtle Tea and Keiko Cafe both close early. I thought this was supposed to be the city that never sleeps...

I'm at Bryant Park now, taking advantage of the free wireless with the outdoor movie in the background. It's funny, since years ago I would leave work early in New Jersey, drive to Bridgewater Station, catch a train to New York City, and come to the park to see the movie with Carter. Now I just walk six blocks up the street from my apartment.


So, I spoke to soon: I came home last night from the weekend in Philadelphia and found my FIOS was down. Called to put in a support ticket, and they scheduled me for 5:30pm to 9:00pm tonight.

I got a phone call at 9:25 this morning by a tech asking if I was home. Unfortunately, I came into work early so I could be home at 5:30. If I had known they were going to show up at 9:30, I would have just gone in late. However, since their window during the day is 8am to 5pm, I couldn't afford to take the risk that they would show up at 4:30pm and miss a whole day of work.

And for once Verizon did something right and shut off my DSL within 72 hour of my asking them to. Unfortunately, that means I now don't have any Internet access at all from home.

Here's a quick read that I found entertaining:

13 Year Old Uses Walkman for a Week. Result: Embarrassment

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Been a few days since I've posted. I'm having trouble now that I have three different blogs - this one,, and Trying to figure out which one to post to, and how to handle cases where the content overlaps. Annoying.

Here's another fine case where AT&T cannot figure out that there is a difference between 0.015 dollars and 0.015 cents (here's a hint: one is a little over one penny, and one is about 1/100 of one penny). This time though, it was MythBuster's Adam Savage who resulted in an $11,000 bill, and with 60,000 users following his Twitter account AT&T seems to have bent over backwards to resolve the issue pretty quickly.

MythBuster Adam Savage Leads Twitter Revolt Against AT&T

In a Philly coffeehouse this afternoon while Victoria is at trapeze. A couple of her friends are coming over tonight, and then her cousin moves in tomorrow. Going to try to look a little closer at a couple of the bug reports that came up this week with 950q analog.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Indian CEO Says Most US Tech Grads "Unemployable"

Well, as someone who does quite a bit of hiring in the tech sector, I couldn't agree more with this headline.

Indian CEO Says Most US Tech Grads "Unemployable"

So depressing, but *so* true.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Quiet weekend...

Victoria and I had a nice quiet weekend. On Saturday night she went out with her friends for dinner, and I got the Terratec Cinergy T XS working (the version with the zl10353). Also wrapped up the EVGA inDtube work which got merged today into the mainline (more details can be found on

Also, because of all the people complaining about the analog bug for the HVR-1250 and HVR-1800, I broke out my boards to debug the issue and discovered that the HVR-1250 has a bad eeprom and the HVR-1800 didn't even register in lspci. Since this is the first time I've tried to use the PCIe port on my Dell 530n, I'm not sure if I just had bad luck and both cards are actually bad or whether there's something wrong with my PC.

I've also been debating what to work on next. After upgrading to the alpha release of Ubuntu Karmic Koala, I discovered that they are now bundling Kaffeine 1.0pre2 instead of the older 0.8.x codebase, which means I should do some work there to make ATSC work well or else people will see a regression. I've also responded to a few different emails over the weekend about em28xx audio, em28xx remote control support, and the em28xx power problem, which suggests perhaps I should give them some attention. On top of that, I would like to get the xc4000 project started, but without a generator the best approach would probably be to get analog working first - except the dib0700 driver doesn't have analog support so I would have to do that work first. The upside of that approach would be though that the Pinnacle PCTV 801e would finally get analog support, something many users have asked for.

Ok, enough rambling for now on things I could be working on...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Relatively productive evening...

Took a break from LinuxTV stuff tonight. Cleaned my apartment. Did laundry. Watched episodes from the first season of 30 Rock on Netflix. Made a big hole in my wall over the bathroom so I could see about converting it to storage space.

I did do some more debugging on the EVGA inDtube based on the logs Alan sent, and I think I might have uncovered the same race condition that I saw on cx88, where hald connects to the analog side of the board while the DVB driver is still initializing. I've seen it before on other bridges (I hit it on both cx88 and au0828), but I had never noticed it before in em28xx.

Ok, so I guess I didn't actually take a break from LinuxTV stuff. I only worked on it for an hour compared to most days where I do it all evening.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New Hampshire Pictures

Here are the pics from our New Hampshire trip last week.

(Click on the picture above to see the full gallery)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The economics of LinuxTV driver development

For the eighteen months or so, I've been actively contributing to the LinuxTV project. It all started with a personal need - I wanted the Hauppauge HVR-950 to work under the default Linux kernel so I could watch TV. This prompted me to learn the intricacies of the DVB subsystem, how devices such as this are designed, how ATSC worked, the relationships between demodulators, tuners, bridges, i2c, etc. I got the device working, and then wanted to leverage the time and knowledge gained to see if I could make other devices work. So I bought another device... And another... And the next thing you know I have a rather sizable collection of devices that now all work under Linux.

Hundreds of dollars spent. Hundreds of hours spent. Lots of devices working, even though I only needed one of them myself. I've convinced myself to buy devices that I failed to successfully debug in the field with users, since I didn't want to admit that all the time was wasted for nothing. To this day, I have never received a single dollar for any of this work.

Now, I'm more than happy to help the community with my time and energy. But the situation with the money has gotten out of control. More recently a couple of vendors have been kind enough to provide free sample hardware under the presumption that I would improve the driver support, which helps alot. However, I'm getting requests from people abroad now to help them with devices that use European broadcast protocols such as DVB-T (even sending me the hardware in some cases). I've reluctantly agreed to help, under the presumption that the devices would be relatively easy to get working (given a number of them were variants of pre-existing designs I've worked with).

This was a mistake.

I was able to bootstrap the driver support relatively quickly, but without a legitimate signal source to test with, debugging is a nightmare. I'm forced to have users in those countries test the support. Case in point: I've now exchanged 35 emails on the Terratec Cinergy T XS that a user sent me, and I still haven't gotten it to work. I don't know if there is a driver problem, user error, a lack of a reliable signal source, etc. If I had a DVB generator, I could probably get it to work in a couple of nights, iteratively debugging the various components. However, doing this over email with relatively inexperienced users in an unknown software environment is just not practical.

Now I am faced with a decision: do I continue to email back and forth with the users to continue trying to isolate the problem? Do I go out and spend $2000 to buy a DVB signal generator? Or do I just admit failure and send the hardware back to the users?

I cannot keep doing this while personally spending money buying stuff I don't personally have any user for. I'm not trying to be greedy. I am willing to donate my time, but my volunteering to make these devices work should not be *costing* me actual money.

There needs to be a new model.

If a user plugs in his tuner under Linux and it "just works", he never gives it a second though. Just like I never give a second thought to who wrote the Ethernet driver for my PC. The user has no incentive to pay after-the-fact for all the work that was done to make it work. Likewise, the manufacturers who make the tuners have no way of determining how many people are actually using them under Linux, so they have no incentive to pay for consulting services, even if it's just to cover the cost of test equipment.

The last time I needed a soldering iron, I had to take a subway 90 blocks uptown to City College to use the iron a very nice Electical Engineering student was nice enough to make available. I couldn't bring myself to spend eighty bucks to buy an iron to fix some random user's device.

Another fine example: When I was doing the HVR-950q analog support, and I spent a week debugging what ended up being a bug in the chip's i2c implementation. The only way I ultimately figured out the problem was when I spent $150 and bought a logic analyzer to look at the i2c bus waveform.

I was fine spending the 100 hours of my time to make analog support work on the 950q, even though I had no personal interest in analog support. But the fact that I spent $150 of my own money is something that just rubs me the wrong way.

Suggestions certainly welcome regarding how this problem can be dealt with.

Anyway, Devin's LinuxTV tip jar sits here, in case any of those people who have benefited from my work feel like contributing to future development...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Back from New Hampshire

Got back from New Hampshire yesterday afternoon. Had a fun time.

The B&B we stayed was called The Bartlett Inn, and the two hosts were very nice. The cottage we stayed in was quiet and included a kitchenette, so we could cook meals other than breakfast. The breakfast was served from 8am to 9am and delicious (each day you had the choice of "the special" or a choice of eggs any style). The eggs Florentine was outstanding. When we told them that we were vegetarian, they offered us vegetarian sausage and pointed out that they always cook it separately from the meat products.

They were also very familiar with the area and spent ten minutes each day marking up our map with all the stuff in the area worth seeing. Very useful if you don't know the area or have difficulty planning...

Some highlights we saw:
  • Flume Gorge
  • Sabbaday Falls
  • Glen Boulder trail - perhaps not the best choice given our lack of appropriate footwear
  • Glen Ellis Falls
  • A road sign that says, "Break for Moose - it could save your life!" I remember a friend having such a bumper sticker in high school, but I thought it was a joke - I didn't know that the state actually put such signs on the highway.
  • The auto-tour up Mt. Washington. We drove up the highest mountain in the Northeast US, complete with an audio CD giving the history and a complimentary bumper sticker!
  • Various scenic overlooks of the mountain range
Unfortunately, I left the camera in Victoria's car, so she has the camera and I have the memory card reader. As a result, no pictures will be available until next weekend.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Hampshire

Victoria and I just arrived in New Hampshire. We're staying a quiet little cottage at a B&B in Bartlett, which has a little kitchenette so we can prep meals, etc.

Looks like the wireless is working. The very nice gentlemen said the WiFi only worked from within the main house, but I would not have expected him to be familiar with the term "line-of-sight".

Will post some pics and more info soon!

Monday, June 1, 2009


Was a pretty quiet evening. Finished the book I was reading (which presents a bit of a problem because I'm about to go on vacation). Downloaded Jaunty in the background. Took it easy.

Not much else to report. Off to bed.