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OT: HDTV’s and dutch digital tv subscription options

This is not really an on topic post for so hence the OT: in the title in usenet style formatting.


Lets say you have a nice large screen that is able to display 1080p content. The analogue signals are ‘only’ PAL (720x576i@50Hz) so now you see all those low resolution details on your beautifull HD screen. This is not what you want thus you go searching for digital providers. There are four types in the Netherlands:
 – Your cable providers digital system (digital cable, DVB-C)
 – Your ISP video-ip service (in Netherlands only ADSL)
 – Canal digitaal (digital satelite, DVB-S)
 – Digitenne (digital air, DVB-T)

We have a PAL signal in the Netherlands which corresponds to the previous 720x576i@50Hz (SDTV). HD signals should be one of the following:
– 1920 x 1080 progressive @ 24/25/30Hz (Full HDTV)
– 1920 x 1080 interlaced @ 50Hz/60Hz
– 1280 x 720 progressing @ 24/25/30Hz

All HDTV resolutions above are in 16:9 but PAL standard is 4:3. This is where it gets interesting! The dutch RTL group (RTL4/5/7) have said that they will go to the 16:9 factor for all of their programs in the near future. But the cable providers will send this signal in 4:3! This will result in a 720x576i@50Hz signal that will only use 720×432 pixels! So a resolution that is even worse then NTSC (720×480@60Hz) while PAL is superioir over NTSC quality because of the extra 92 scanlines and 50Hz frequency because the motion pictures use 24fps for their recordings. Digital providers will use this to say “hey our digital channels offer superiour quality over analogue channels with 16:9 channels!”. This because digital SDTV uses the full 720×576 resolution for 16:9 channels in the same way as DVD’s. Most PAL DVD’s are mpeg2 streams in 720×576@25Hz where the original factor of the movie is

Digital cable (DVB-C)
The cable provider in Rotterdam is offering digital television. You
would expect that the quality of those digital channels would atleast
be the same as the analogue ones right? This is not the current
situation. The bitrate for most channels is that low that you see all
sorts of compression artifacts on screen. This is because the allocated bandwith on the cable is too low to have enough bandwidth for all channels.

But lets take a look at the channels that you can receive by
subscribing to a extra channel pack. The subscription costs some
additional money so I would assume that I would get high bitrates for
these channels then. Obviously the anwser is no šŸ™ The quality is even
worse! It almost looks like the video quality of YouTube posts which is
rather poor to say the least.

But what is even worse is that the digital channels arent HD 1080i/p! Not even HDTV 720p but just SDTV! So bye bye UPC!

Some dutch ADSL providers (KPN, Planet and XS4ALL) have a video over op service (mine tv). This service is just SDTV and I cannot find any information about upgrading this service to HDTV specifications. SDTV requires a bandwidth of only 1.5-3mbps. Which most ADSL subscribers have. The problem with this service is that the videostream is send when it is needed thus you do not receive all channels simultaniously like satellite or cable. Ipv4 is also not really suitable for this kind of network traffic. Ipv4 has multicast support but not in the way that ipv6 has. It amazes me not one dutch ISP supplies native ipv6. Full HDTV is possible with ADSL2+ but have have a serious with bandwith if you would want to record one channel and view another.

Digital satelite (DVB-S)
So lets take a look at ‘Canal digitaal’. I discovered after some browsing that most channels that UPC digital cable provides are bitcopied streams from ‘Canal digitaal’. They have an agreement. But most forums say that ‘Canal digitaal’ provides better quality. It seems that some channels are re-encoded to a lower bitrate for the cable networks available bandwidth.

Digital air (DVB-T)
Then the last digital system that is available here. Digitenne by KPN. This system is currently not even worth mentioning. Quality is not on par with good cable and worse then digital cable and probably is about the same in quality as the current video-ip services.

So I was wondering. Why is it that these providers don’t have good digital channels (dutch and foreign)? It seems that almost none of the mainstream channels here is digital thus it is currently not interesting to ‘go digital’ as the current ‘Canal digitaal’s’ slogan is.

You can see how many channels are in HD digital video and/or in AC3 (Dolby Digital) at King of sat.

Kids programming language becomes game studio express?

I just read an article about a new product at Ars-Technica called Game Studio Express that Microsoft is planning to launch.

Microsoft has a product called KPL (Kids Programming Language) to easily create nice graphical applications in minutes. It lacks features in the IDE when you want to get deeper into certain stuff but it is a nice environment to learn basic programming skills. KPL is based on .net 1.1 and I think that KPL has now evolved in a more professional/mature product. I will read the Microsoft Express page more often now because there isn’t any information about Game Studio Express at this moment.


July 19, 2006 / 1 Comment on Regulazy

I just found a nice little regular expression tool called Regulazy. It helps generate simple regular expressions based on the text that you select. The following description is from its website

Regulazy is a visual Regex Creation tool for beginners. Easy point and click user interfaces, predictive technology and much more! Still in alpha, but more features are coming!

Haven’t seen such a tool before that can analyze text and supply you with a simple regular expression. Don’t expect miracles for difficult types of text though.

Windows Live Messenger

Windows Live Messenger is now available as a public release. But I really don’t like a lot of things like:

  • The new interface takes up yet more screen estate and doesn’t look good in Vista.
  • The contactlist margins are bigger then the previous lay-out.
  • In the previous version you had the option to see all the users displaypictures in the contactlist.

Thing I do like are:

  • Offline messaging although ICQ had this since it’s first release.
  • Extended contact information like dob, names, spous info, etc. just like in outlook.

I got a msn8 invitation from Dennis some time ago and tried to use messenger plus! with msn8 but this didn’t work. An msn8 (live messenger) compatible version should have been release a week ago or something but it is now scheduled for this saturday. I hope that it will have all features from the previous msn 7.5 version and maybe even a couple of more cool extensions. I really like:

  • the auto-response
  • the (un)block a group
  • tabbed messaging
  • sound extensions
  • the /me switch
  • the word replacement filter
  • !IP
  • custom away messages.

Website : MessengerPlus (msn7.x)
Website : MessengerPlusLive (msn8)

Vista beta 2 installation troubles

I downloaded the beta 2 iso of Vista and wanted it to install today. So I configured a new virtual machine in vmware and thought 8GB would be enough for installation. I booted the iso and did the usual installation stuff. But then the following message appeared:

"Setup was unable to locate a locally attached hard drive suitable for holding temporary Setup files".

WTF? My first thought was that Vista didn’t like the vmware scsi setup so reconfirured it with an ide setup but I got the same message. Then my eyes saw a nice message at the partition selection screen that said "8.1GB is recommended". So it seemed that Vista beta 2 needs at least that amount of storage for installation. I reconfigured the virtual machine again and gave it 16GB to play with and now it is installing! Hooray!.

But guess what? The message that said "8.1GB recommended" didn’t appear this time.

I just hope that Vista will run a bit under vmware. I’ll know after about an hour I think…..

Fun : A byte and an integer are sitting in a bar…..

Just received this from a collegue.

A byte and an integer are sitting in a bar showing off to a hot ArrayList.

They’re telling her stories about how cool they are, but she’s plainly bored. After a long time of this, the byte and the integer at last get the hint and leave.

A String who was sitting in the corner comes over and says to her, "hey – were those two primitive types giving you a hard time?"

She says, "Yes! I guess they’re nice enough, but well, they just had no class!"

I thought is was pretty funny.

Someone stole my unique nickname!

I subscribed to Google Alerts some weeks ago and added two search queries. One where I search for my IRL name (Ramon Smits) and one with my unique nickname (Exyll). Up until this montht this nickname was unique on the web and identified me directly but now someone took my identity. You really don’t have an idea about how amazed I was when I discovered this today. Imagine "Googling" on your social security number to find out that people are using it for their convinience..  now you might imagine how I feel today.

Gonna play a game of Need For Speed Most Wanted to feel better….

Instant messaging hell

So here we are in 2006 with all those instant messaging networks that don’t cooperate. Well there is Microsoft that made a deal with Yahoo but who uses Yahoo Messenger outside the states anyway? My first IM experience was with ICQ. I had a very intimate relation with ICQ and it was obvious that ICQ was way better then Windows Messenger those days. Since the beginnen of ICQ you had invisibility, blocking, file-transfers, offline messages and the ability to give certain contacts still the option to see that your invisible. The last is a feature I mis with all other networks.

But around MSN version 6 Microsoft created a competitive messenger with good audio and video support and filetransfers that also worked behind nat routers. Due to Microsofts aggressive marketing through Internet Explorer default page (the MSN portal) it became THE messenger for the masses in most parts of the world. I like MSN for it’s feature set but the UI isn’t professional at all. It is cluttered and just too BIG!

Then Skype came around. It had excellent nat support for voice conversations. The UI was fresh and small and it had no advertisement banner that ICQ and MSN still have. They just released a new version with video support and I must say that it works very well! It is the only vendor that has a multi-platform Messenger and what is also a very nice feature of Skype is that eveything is encrypted by default.. well.. there isn’t a way to disable encryption. This is interesting for businesses that would like to add services through an IM network to exchange personal or financial data. No commercial IM has encryption AFAIK.

Then there is this weird other IM GoogleTalk. I really don’t understand why Google released it. Google used the XMPP standard so thumbs up for that! Although they used XMPP their IM network was private but they opened it up after a small period. I like the small UI of GoogleTalk. A straight to the point IM to do what is has to do! But I miss the video/webcam feature to cam with friends and the audio quality isn’t on par with Skype.

So which IM do I use everyday? MSN currently wins. Just because all of my friends and relatives use it. I also have Skype running most of the time because I have family accross the borders and it is nice to have good audio conversations then. I also run Miranda quite alot to be online on the Yabber,  ICQ and Yahoo network but doesn’t get launched when I logon. Yeah I know that Miranda also supports the MSN network but then you don’t have the webcam and custom emoticons feature.

What would be the ultimate messenger? Well I think that ain’t possible. It would be nice if all IM networks would embrace the XMPP messaging standard. This way you can atleast do the basic IM stuff with eveybody. XMPP IM messages are easily extensible with nice features like custom emoticons, winks and such  because it uses xml. XMPP can also be used for feature negotiation and handshaking to startup services like video/audio calls. The first MSN messenger versions used Netmeeting to do video-audio conferencing. A very good example to let each tool do in what it does best. ICQ had this feature to negotiate features between clients and you could easily start those. I used it  to launch a game of quake world deathmatch. This isn’t possible anymore in ICQ and not in MSN too. Maybe a nice feature request for MSNplus!…….

How do you think about IM these days? What is your IM client? Did you customize it? Do you use IM alot?

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