just another web log

02 Dec 2012 11:17
I have had a writable DVD drive in computer for at least five years, only ever used it once to verify that it could write DVDs, worked fine for data.
Thing is at the time I had asked for Xmas presents writable DVDs, I even tried to give them away a few years back, no takers, so they just sat in a box.
For the first time since then I needed to write a video DVD to play on an old DVD player. Linux had lots of options, but the best/simplest seemed to be Bombono-DVD and indeed there were very few options, it just worked!
I had picked an 8.5gb DVD+R DL RW so if could use it again afterwards.
The disk played fine in the DVD player, but I had added the files in the wrong order and the old DVD player would not let me skip the 30mins of cruft at the beginning and fast forwarding took forever.
Time to rewrite the disk and make sure only the required video files were included ...
Disc with type "DVD+R" in the drive is not clear. Only clear recordable discs can be used for burning DVD-Video. Load a clear one and press OK.
After a lot of googling it turns out rewritable DVDs can not be "blanked" like rewritable CDs and you just have to force the data on.
Bombono-DVD obviously did not know how to do this and as it is open source I thought I could fix it for them.
After some interesting setup, hacking and execute paths I had it bypassing the issue, Woohoo!
No, the underlying DVD software growisofs gives "Error 5".
Much more googling and reading Wikipedia DVD+RW and DVD+R resulted in DVD+RW Alliance.
RW is not even explained on their web page which rather adds to the credence that it was a marketing scam all along.
clap clap clap
I am not the only to be duped and I doubt I will be the last.
02 Dec 2012 11:14
We got a led sign at work to display build and issue stats.
It was a cheap no-brand and came with mounting brackets a remote control and a badly photocopied copy of manual.
There was the power supply,IR remote, serial cable and a CD.
On the CD was the software for controlling the sign, but it was for Windows XP.
After some fiddling got it to run with Admin rights and compatibility mode XP sp2.
Confusing GUI, but basic sending text strings to the sign worked fine and had some fun with the custom graphics and colours/beeps etc.
So could we run it with parameters from the command line ? ... nope.
Could we find any other command line apps for dealing with this sign ? nope.
so we needed to decode what was sent across the serial port and replicate it in code.
Could we find a free (there are plenty that are not) package that would sniff the serial port ? Yes
Sysinternals now owned by Microsoft have a app called portmon.
Run it ... can not find a way to capture the data, nothing the docs or blog posts makes sense where is the "Computer" menu ?
Deep dive Googling turned up that Windows 7 64bit is NOT SUPPORTED AGHHHhhh...!
So get an old XP 32 bit machine and wire it up.
Problem one: software runs but does not update sign.
Problem two: now my Win7 64bit machine will not update sign.
The IR remote worked fine and after some fiddling just started working again, seems the sign was not in the right state.
Problem three: XP machine in the way, needs to be on the network and then we can use Remote Desktop, but no ethernet drivers.
Problem four: get driver on to machine after downloading, found someone with a USB key.
Problem five: RDP in, get sign working, run portmon .... still no "Computer" menu.
Problem six: forums suggest getting earlier version of portmon, can not find one anywhere, all links point back to the main site.
Problem seven: one post recommends Resource Hacker but then does not tell you what to do.
Worked out that you open the Menu editor add a random string and the number, compile, saved, run woohoo
Problem eight: no amount of Googling will turn up anything about this protocol.
Manually decode protocol, find terminal program, send data.
Profit !?

This sign will scream if unplugged.
All the codes required to get the sign working are 7 bit ASCII, i.e. you can type them on your keyboard so writing a program that will format a basic String and then squirt it down the Serial line is trivial.
One PITA that became a godsend was the lack of feed back from the sign when sending data. The sign does not communicate Back via the serial port, which was very annoying when we were not sure if we were sending the right data. But later when the sign was unplugged I could send data down the line as if it was there and capture the bytes making the decoding from the supplied software a breeze.
02 Dec 2012 11:02
Did some serious wood work this weekend, first time for twenty years.
Took and old shelf (that had been a desk) cut it in half and cut that half into three.
These three are the legs each 1ft long and 1" wide. Planed those down to make the ends flat.
Used a very heavy 100cm shelf of very high quality that we have had for over 6 years, no idea what it was mad for.
Measured and drilled holes including counter sinking.
This small job took about four and a bit hours and has made a huge impact on my cluttered desk.
note to self, never EVER plan across the grain !
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