November 2003 Archives

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NEVER try to install eVC++ 3.0 and eVC++ 4.0 on the same system

BIG mistake. My workstation is terribly messed up, I can't build any of my code anymore... I never should have tried to get both of these tools on my system simultaneously. They won't even uninstall cleanly either...

To fix the problem I had to completely remove all PocketPC and SmartPhone SDKs, search the registry for all references to them, then re-install them again one-by-one. Geeze MS, when are you ever gonna get this right? The PPC developer tools are even worse than the Platform development tools...

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What the President is taking to London

Among the equipment they will bring will be:

• Two identical personal Boeing 747-200s and a third chartered jumbo.
• One personal US Marine Corps Sikorsky Sea King helicopter and a second A VH-60N, a VIP version of the Black Hawk helicopter.
• Two identical motorcades each made up of 20 mostly armoured vehicles, including the President's converted Cadillac Deville.
• The "football", a briefcase carried by a military aide which contains the launch codes for America's nuclear arsenal.

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I’ve been doing a little research on HDTV... :-)

There are four common formats:

480p = 480 scan lines, 60Hz
480i = 480 interlaced scan lines, 30Hz (regular NTSC TV)
720p = 720 scan lines, 60Hz
1080i = 1080 interlaced scan lines, 30Hz

Most HDTV's you can buy only natively support the 1080i format, which isn’t good. Better HDTV’s natively can run 480p/i, 720p and/or 1080i. If the TV can natively run 480i that’s good, because then it can display regular NTSC TV and it will look exactly the same as your old TV. If the TV doesn’t support these lower formats it has to “up-sample” the image, and that’s why it looks bad. (Many of us are still in the dark ages and have devices like VCRs and video games that only support NTSC)!

It costs a boat-load to get a device that can combine 480i with a better HD format; the cheapest I’ve found so far is a rear-projection Samsung model at $1400. It only supports 1080i and 480i/p though, so 720p images have to be up-sampled.

DVD format is 480i. I believe most DVDs are 16:9 480i, which means they are 720x480 interlaced. Some DVD players that have HD outputs up-sample the image to 1080i, some output the image as 480p. it depends upon the model. There's a big debate over which is better, I suppose it depends upon how your TV displays the two formats (up-sampling vs native support).

720p seems like the best format, but there are very few devices that support this natively under $4k. They all seem to be plasmas. Pictures look the smoothest under this format because there’s no interlacing and it’s a high resolution.

720p also seems to be the best because there’s something about the connector format for this resolution that doesn’t support broadcast flag. I don’t understand this part yet, but that appears to be what I’ve read. 720p typically uses a single RGB (DVI) plug, whereas 1080i uses a three plug Y/Cr/Cb system. A lot of people on slashdot are pissed off because they have $6k plasma displays that only support the RGB plug, but Y/Cr/Cb DVD players just dropped in price this year and they all support the broadcast flag (they were manufactured before it went into effect). So if they want a RGB DVD player they have to spend BIG bucks (actually they might not even exist, I'm not sure) or buy a very expensive external converter. Broadcast flag will be pointless, but only for those who can afford the better equipment.

The xbox seems to support all the HD formats above from what I've read. I'm not sure, but I believe when the xbox plays a DVD it outputs the signal as 480i. Sampling to any other format would require some big hardware that the xbox doesn't have in it.

Taking all of the above into consideration, I think we can conclude the FCC really screwed up. If it takes someone like me this long to just partially understand all of the different ways HDTV can work, it's too complicated. They should have made HDTV just one format and stuck with that. It's silly that some devices support some formats and others do not.

It's gonna be chaos when they announce the obsolesence of NTSC broadcasting. Which, btw, I still very much enjoy, and I'll be very upset if the FCC obsoletes my NTSC WEGA any time soon. I refuse to pay to watch television; subjecting yourself to advertisements shouldn't cost you anything. Actually, why the hell am I even worried about this? TV sucks! Kill your HDTV. ;-)

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Is broadcast flag just a big joke?

The FCC announced today that the Digital TV broadcast flag will be in effect by July 2005. I'm reading through the FCC's "order" announcing the decision, and I can't help but ask, "wait, is this some kind of big joke?" The order doesn't specify at all what the broadcast flag actually is; they just list some options that are currently on the table. I also thought the purpose of broadcast flag was to signal all your DTV ready devices to not let you copy the
broadcast, apparently broadcast flag only prevents you from copying the broadcast digitally. The analog hole is still open, so... what's the point then? Is this some kind of a big joke?

Supporters of a content protection system state that
compelling digital broadcast programming is critical to the DTV transition and that such content
is inherently at a greater risk of widespread redistribution as compared to its analog counterpart
because digital media can be easily copied and distributed with little or no degradation in
quality.


If I wanted to download a DTV broadcast off the Internet, but the only version available was one that sombody recorded using the analog-out on their DTV and a video-cap card, I'd be totally OK with that. Case in point: people today are OK downloading old Seinfeld episodes encoded with an old crappy RealPlayer codec at like 100kbps. If the broadcast flag doesn't plug the analog hole then whats the point?

In light of our decision to adopt a redistribution control scheme and to avoid any
confusion, we wish to reemphasize that our action herein in no way limits or prevents consumers
from making copies of digital broadcast television content.


If you can pull the digital feed out of your DTV into an "approved" device, what's to stop anyone from hacking that device to ignore the broadcast flag?

After reading the order, I don't think the FCC is as evil as the EFF is making them out to be right now... I think they're very smart people just leading the MPAA on. ;-)

We also recognize that with any content protection system, the potential exists
that some individuals may attempt to circumvent the protection technology. We do not believe,
however, that individual acts of circumvention necessarily undermine the value or integrity of an
entire content protection system. The DVD example is instructive in this regard. Although the
CSS copy protection system for DVDs has been “hacked” and circumvention software is
available on the Internet, DVDs remain a viable distribution platform for content owners.46 The
CSS content protection system serves as an adequate “speed bump” for most consumers, allowing
the continued flow of content to the DVD platform. We believe the same rationale applies here.


Heh heh heh... Way to go FCC! You rock!

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How has September 11th changed America's approach to human rights?

America's anti-terrorist activities have given cover to many foreign governments who want to use “anti-terrorism” to justify their own crackdowns on human rights. Examples abound. In Indonesia, the army has cited America's use of Guantánamo to propose building an offshore prison camp on Nasi Island to hold suspected terrorists from Aceh. In Australia, Parliament passed laws mandating the forcible transfer of refugees seeking entry to detention facilities in Nauru, where children as young as three years old are being held, so that Australia does not (in the words of its defence minister) become a “pipeline for terrorists”.

In 1759, Benjamin Franklin wrote: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither.” In the months ahead, I believe, we can both obtain our security and preserve our essential liberty, but only so long as we have courage from our courts, commitment from our citizens, and pressure from our foreign allies. Even after September 11th, America can still stand for human rights, but we can get there only with a little help from our friends.

--Harold Hongju Koh, professor of international law at Yale Law School

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