Thursday, December 29, 2005

How to choose a DVD writer

/. has a pointer to a good review of DVD hardware, where they actually attempt to analyze the quality data written. It seems like it might be worth using a good writer if you want your data to last more than a few years, or be readable on a different brand drive. For those that don't know, bit-setting is of interest to you.

I ended up buying a LITE ON (or is it LITEON) SHM-165H6S with Lightscribe.

Update: I guess I need a second DVD drive, now a few years later. Asus rebrands Pioneer, and they seem to have a corner on the low-noise / low-cost / good quality. DRW-1814BL gets good reviews.

Next up is a blu-ray drive - either reader or maybe reader/writer. Reviews at CDRinfo.

Monitoring the monitoring

Wired has an interesting article on monitoring closed-circuit surveillance cameras, where it is pointed out that "searching for special strings in Google, such as axis-cgi/, will return links that access internet-connected cameras around the world. Quintessenz developers entered these Google results into a database, analyzed the IP addresses and set up a website that gives users the ability to search by country or topic -- and then rate the cameras." Other strings are mentioned in this /. article.

Examples of search strings:
  • inurl:"axis-cgi/mjpg"
  • inurl:"ViewerFrame?Mode="
  • inurl:"view/index.shtml"
  • inurl:"MultiCameraFrame?Mode="
  • intitle:"Biromsoft WebCam" -4.0 -serial -ask -crack -software -a -the -build -download -v4 -3.01 -numrange:1-10000
You learn something new every day... there is such a thing as a video scanner: Icom IC-R3. It'd be worth it to have one of those.

People have gotten pretty inventive coming up with ways to non-destructively (temporarily) neutralize cameras:
Thought experiment: come up with a way to counter-act each of these neutralization methods.

On the automobile front, here is some info on the black boxes that are in (very) late 1990's and up GM vehicles. If that web page goes away, there are pdf versions. The "EDRU" is what collects the data.

Updated: Wired appears to be doing a good job of covering EFF's lawsuit against AT&T (and the government?) on the secret telephone spying. So far, AT&T is losing.

Update2: Well, AT&T wasn't doing well until the government steps in and invokes "States Secrets". Also, Bruce Schneier has interesting comments on this and other topics (as usual). Quite some time later: still dragging their feet, and starting to expose FBI abuses.

Update3: /. has a very interesting discussion on the upside and downsides of privacy. Here's another discussion on the "Nothing to Hide" argument.

Do we REALLY need yet another government run database that is bound to be difficult to correct?

Update4: /. has another very interesting discussion on what is allowed and not - and how that might differ from what the police want to think is allowed, or not.

Or maybe you need to just record everyone around you says, like this guys father did. Of course, beware of doing that, least you be charged with all types of silly offenses. At least after the media got involved, they were dropped.

Update 5: Interesting, and very logical, idea on how to determine if a digital picture has been altered: Neal Krawetz of hackerfactor presented "JPEGana" at Blackhat.

Update 6: Source Watch appears to be attempting to monitor the monitors - possibly to the extreme

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

HD solutions and nonsense

/. has had quite a number of articles on HDTV's.

Most recently, it discussed a DIY projector, not to be confused with previous discussions on DIY LCD projectors. Some (most?) of these DIY sites require a small donation to register, which these guys claim is worth it.

Some include useful things like making sure to get something with modern HDTV inputs (HDMI) and reminding people to include the possibility of a CRT HDTV, although size and weight start becoming problems for a decent sized screen.

Other hints for a good video system are here.

AACS appears to be cracked REAL good:

On another front, Samsung appears to have outstanding LCD panels right now. Sharp (Aquos) also has some good response times. Sony is known to buy at least some of their panels from others, including Samsung, but is still known for good sets (Sony Bravia). Some guidelines to investigate:
  • Look at 120 Hz. 120 is divisible by 24 fps and 30 fps. Google "3:2 pulldown" for more info.
  • The quality of the scaler is important for non-HD broadcasts. Ask the rep to switch to a non-HD channel.
  • Google Faroudja DCDi.
  • Skin-tone really matters, avoid evaluating sets when animated films are playing. Take a DVD or two.
  • You'll always need more HDMI ports than you think, shoot for at least 3.
  • Pay close attention to viewing distance and recommended set size, as in most cases you'll need a bigger set than you think (unless room aesthetics are an issue).
  • Beyond my pay grade, but at least at one point NuVision appears to have had outstanding stuff.
Other comparisons at Cnet (1, 2),

Update: Samsung LN46A650 and the A750 appear to be top-of-the-line models for reasonable prices. Maybe they don't even need to be calibrated. Might be able to calibrate some sets myself (using controlcal, an eyeone, and a null modem cable).