Posted by: qyot27 | July 29, 2013

Daybreak

Two years, ha!

Diverting a bit from my usual theme naming, I’ve released a new AMV after a four-year hiatus.  The announcement on the A-M-V.org forum is here:

http://www.animemusicvideos.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=116285

Posted by: qyot27 | August 23, 2011

It’s not the past that you’re afraid to see

There was something I was musing about earlier, regarding how things have changed for audio CDs in the last 10-12 years.

In the late 90s/early 00s, if there was a video packed on the disc, it was typically those atrocious CDEXTRA setups that relied heavily on Shockwave and the video was in one of three formats:

1) Cinepak; bonus points if it was at a horrendously-small resolution like 256×200 or something like that. Almost always in MOV files, but occasionally you’d find them in AVI. In both cases, the audio would be some 11kHz ADPCM variant or something. (The Offspring, Americana, 1999)

2) Sorenson Video (and Sorenson Video 3), for the big resolution 512×288/384 stuff that was still banded to hell and back, and audio that was marginally better sounding – likely to be 22kHz or 24kHz, in QDM or one of those aforementioned PCM variants. Again, definitely in MOV. (Orgy, “Opticon” remixes maxi-single, 2000 or 2001)

3) 352×240 MPEG1, but with settings that made it incompatible with Video CD, but probably could be used on DVD thanks to 48kHz MP2 audio (Linkin Park, Meteora, 2003)

(I’m not counting DualDiscs that had normal DVD-Video capability on their DVD-Audio sides)

Fast forward to the late 00s, and I certainly haven’t seen Shockwave-laden discs in a while (not saying they aren’t out there, of course). The last two or three video-bearing CDs I’ve gotten have also used H.264 and AAC as their format, still in MOV though. The point at which I realized how ridiculous this could be was reached yesterday (and inspired my once-yearly blog post), since my copy of The Birthday Massacre’s Imaginary Monsters EP arrived.

The Looking Glass EP had a video on it too (for “Looking Glass” itself), but if I recall correctly, that was still in 640×360. The “In The Dark” video on Imaginary Monsters? Freaking 1080p. It literally takes up just under half of the space on the CD, and is just a few megabytes’ difference from the size of the audio session’s data. It honestly makes me wonder if the video stream is actually Blu-ray compliant; it probably uses the same settings used for the trailers on the Quicktime trailer site/iTunes…I have no idea if those are compliant or not (when the resolution is actually 1920×1080, anyway).

 

 

And on a completely different train of thought: whiskey and Coke tastes much better when you use the regular stuff. We’d run out of that, though, so I had to make do with Vanilla Coke Zero. Exceedingly bland, although it did help mask the awful taste of aspartame somewhat.

Posted by: qyot27 | April 14, 2010

Self Deception

Must resist 'Berries & Creme' joke...

Muskrat Love, bitches

So I guess I’m actually going to post something…after all, it’s only been 8 months.  There’s a part of me that wanted to do a post about my views on the whole ‘moe’ thing (hence the picture of Mugi), but I’ve decided against it.  Mainly because I would just be repeating myself.  So instead, I’ll just offer some takes on a couple of this season’s shows – being that I can only comment on a couple of them because I’ve not really looked much at the lineup and only usually watch two or three, on rare occasion four, per season (even if I put several other concurrent shows in my queue).

Since I started off with a K-ON! tie-in, I may as well begin there.  Trollsubs aside (Windmill, fuck yeah!), I am actually watching the 2nd season.  I don’t really have an opinion on how things started out this time around, which sort of makes commenting on it difficult.  Probably worth it more to mention that doujin where Yui overdoses on drugs and life has proverbially raped Mio.  The sad part is that the situation there hit a little too close to home for me, seeing as how I feel like I’ve been stuck in limbo for at least the past 4, if not 6, years and can’t help but see myself as powerless to dig myself out.  Anyone trying to pin that scene on attempting to evoke a stereotypical moe response from the reader is missing the point – it really is a nightmare you can’t wake up from.  Honestly, though, even in that future where she’d let herself go, I still couldn’t help but think ‘damn, that’s sexy’, even if things had gotten pretty pathetic.  Putting on a little weight doesn’t make someone fat, and even if a couple of those angles were more unflattering, it wasn’t revolting or anything.  It doesn’t really look all that worse than Suigintou’s Private Life.  Ok, well, maybe it does – after all, Rozen Weapon’s stuff doesn’t emphasize rolls instead of curves with height-proportionate fitness, but you see what I’m saying?  Where exactly is the dividing line between ‘healthy but out-of-shape’ and ‘fat’?  Of course it depends somewhat on height, but personally I would probably peg it somewhere around 160lbs. (and even that would be okay, even expected, given circumstances like pregnancy).

Wow, that went off on a tangent, didn’t it?  Anyway, on to the next one.

What?

She just saw a tiger. No, really.

B Gata H Kei.  Where to start on this one.  To summarize, girl who’s clueless about sex but can’t get her mind out of the gutter enters high school, and sets a goal to have a hundred sexual partners…at that point, I was thinking, wait, what?  That sounds horrid.  Sure, I think that the double standard about girls liking/wanting sex is unfair, but a hundred?  That’s just disgusting, no matter if you’re male or female.  The point where this gets better is that in her cluelessness, she sets her sights on a very plain, ordinary guy and doesn’t leave him alone in the attempt to get him to bed her, with awkward and genuinely passable comedy ensuing.  This could easily set up a scenario that falls into basic school romance territory, and if it does, so be it.

I think what bothers me the most about it, and this is clearly evident in some of the dialogue Yamada throws out, is the focus she has on using him and throwing him away.  Even moreso in the second episode, where Kosuda’s childhood friend Mayu – a shy, klutzy, glasses-wearing girl – is introduced.  The scene where Yamada confronts her, and the situation is confused thoroughly on Mayu’s part, while funny in the classic harem comedy sense, is terrible when you know what Yamada’s motives are.  It seems more cruel than anything to me.  Even if she does realize just how much of a heel she is and comes to genuinely care about Kosuda through the course of the show, you know that Mayu is just going to end up getting hurt (even if she would be anyway, seeing as he’s pretty dense as it is) because the show is focused on Kosuda and Yamada.  In any case, we’ll see how it goes.  On the upside,  the comic relief in Kosuda’s older sister Kazuki is hilarious.

Like a deer in the headlights...metaphorically speaking.

Might as well stare into your soul while I'm at it.

And finally, we have Kiss x Sis TV.  My main draw to this series is actually because it’s from Bow Ditama – I loved the art for Mahoromatic, so even though this is not anything like it at all, I’m still interested even if just over the character design (similar character design being why I also watched This Ugly Yet Beautiful World, which actually is more similar to Mahoromatic in plot).  The concept, being guy’s older twin stepsisters lusting after him with copious amounts of fanservice added in, isn’t squicky to me conceptually, but the way it plays out, at least in the OVA, is uncomfortable at times (basically because it seems to run counter to the Westermarck effect, and that’s what makes it kinda strange and uncomfortable) – especially the incredibly weird parental approval (wha-ha? even if they aren’t related, their parents shouldn’t be approving of it).  I really should go and read the manga first, though.

There’s also The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, which I have not watched yet, and honestly I’m a little hesitant – I don’t want my eyes to bleed, especially in the case of having to put up with that level of quality for almost 3 hours.  Maybe I will, or maybe I’ll just wait until the DVD or Blu-ray arrives.

In other news, I also spent most of the evening switching out my two monitors for each other.  I was sick and tired of the first monitor having problems retaining it’s R spectrum and tinting everything green.  I need to find a way to fix VGA cables, because I think that’s where the problem is.

Posted by: qyot27 | August 17, 2009

Calm down, my heart – don’t beat so fast

I’ve been on something of a Touhou bent lately, as anyone who has seen my KDE and GNOME desktops can assume. I’d first come across the series due to the massive number of doujin on Gaku Gaku Animal Land’s site a few years ago, and after getting tired of being in utter confusion over where the heck to start with this, I finally settled on the games (not that that has cleared it up any, but at least it’s something). Now I usually get my Touhou doujin fix from solelo, but whatever.

And well, in all of that, I was testing out some of the games to see if my computer could handle them. The first 5 PC-98 games yeah, that was easy, but I started hitting snags with the Windows-based games. I’m not quite sure in which game it occurs, but the switch from 16 to 32 bit color is what I pinned the behavior down to. I can play Embodiment of Scarlet Devil just fine if I set my display down to 16 bit High Color first, but if I try firing up Subterranean Animism, it crashes with a Direct3D error. This also occurs with MegaMari, one of the spinoff games from Twilight Frontier. The issue, of course, is that my display options only go up to 24 bpp True Color, not 32 bpp True Color. Now, if that’s anything like the difference between RGB24 and RGB32, it’s just junk data or transparency info (although the latter generally goes by RGBA).

Speaking of MegaMari, I absolutely love the game, as I’ve always loved playing Mega Man games (Original and X series mostly, although I have all the Zero entries and both ZX games too; haven’t played Mega Man 9* yet, though). Is it just a little bit sad that the best Mega Man game I’ve played in years isn’t even a Mega Man game? Seriously, it’s that good – I really hope there’ll be a sequel.

*I do mean Mega Man 9, not a mislabelled Rockman & Forte SNES ROM, although I have played Rockman & Forte also. IMO I think the items system in R&F was far better than the one in Mega Man 8, although I generally prefer the more traditional approach the regular series took in regard to choosing which enemy to fight. Those King levels are murder.

Anyway, MegaMari plays fine over at my grandparents’ house, which makes sense because their display has the option for 32 bit color. At first though I wasn’t sure if I simply had DirectX-related problems. I went and tried to run the DirectX 9c installer, which told me everything was already installed, and I even allowed the installer on Subterranean Animism to add the extra DirectX stuff it had the option for. Neither solution worked.

As a last-ditch effort, I wanted to see if maybe I could play the games through Wine on my Ubuntu setup. So I copied EoSD and MegaMari over to an external drive and booted into the other side of my computer. I moved the games back over to a storage partition that’s nearly empty (I had to create it because of the 137GB limit situation, and because I barely ever do work with huge files in Linux, it tends to sit empty), and attempted to run them from there. Lo and behold, even though I have X11 set to 24 bit display depth, both games ran. Of course, the performance was absolutely abysmal – EoSD on Windows under 16 bpp would average 29-48fps, but when I tried on Linux under 24bpp I was lucky to get 2fps; MegaMari was even slower – but they ran (slightly better under KDE, I might add, but still horrible). I haven’t tried setting xorg.conf to 16bpp to see if that would help any, or if I even could safely set it to 32bpp with my hardware, but it at least gives me the assurance that *something* works.

EDIT 23 August 2009: It seems setting X11 to 16bpp does improve performance somewhat; on EoSD I got between 10-20fps, and was actually able to more or less get to the level selection screen in MegaMari, so take that as you will.

On a slightly more humorous note, I couldn’t believe I found this on the U.S. Amazon storefront:
http://www.amazon.com/Touhou-Yukkuri-Take-Easy-Shirt/dp/B002BFRYSS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1250517056&sr=8-2

Posted by: qyot27 | July 14, 2009

The Great Big No

My resentment for some modern ‘anime fandom’ (I use that phrase loosely for this purpose) and the general Internet culture has been stewing quite aggressively lately. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me getting older and whatnot, but some of it is really wearing on my last nerve.

* People complaining about Adult Swim’s programming choices as if they didn’t know anime existed outside of it. Underline this a few times.

* Obsessing over English dub actors (I’m sorry, I refuse to use the inane loanwording pervasive amongst some of these groups and use seiyuu – heck, I pretty heartily detest it when people use that term for the Japanese voice actors; using Japanese replacement words to sound cool or authentic when you don’t even speak the language only makes you look like a clueless, annoying, and/or pretentious twit – and there’s nothing, other than these people’s nationality, to distinguish them from any other kind of actor, except that some of them also sing – but wait, we have that too, and the term is usually either actor-singer or double- threat, or…you get my point).

* Those that act authoritative just because they can transcribe syllables from katakana to roman characters and then proceed to butcher the word’s intended language just because ‘it isn’t pronounced that way in Japanese’ – seriously, how hard is it to realize that when a word comes from English or German or French or Spanish, you render the word as English or German or French or Spanish, not as a mess of near-unintelligible Engrish (or respective manglings of other languages). It’s forgivable and somewhat amusing when it happens in a vacuum (see Engrish.com); it’s a poor job when it’s done in the framework of a language which allows for a proper transliteration. Some of this gets at me because not only do I have a prevailing interest in the Japanese language, I also took German for 7 years, and French for 2, so I know that translation and transliteration is more of an art than a science.

One glaring example of this is the insistence of so many fansub/scanlation groups to use the term ‘vice-captain’ for the lieutenants in Bleach. Namely, it’s a bad translation – ‘fukutaichou’ may literally mean ‘vice-captain’, but that rendering completely misses the way the rank is treated in the series itself. ‘Vice’ in English is a prefix used to indicate equal or near-equal status as the person being viced under: a vice president is assumed to be just as qualified as the president to lead the country or business in the event the latter is incapacitated. In Bleach, this is only true insofar as adminstration is concerned. But look at actual militaries – adjutants of a captain are their lieutenants, and perform in a virtually identical fashion as the ones in Bleach, not to mention that it’s pretty clear the power gap between a captain and lieutenant is huge in that series, so the two are obviously not equal or even near-equal.

* Kingdom Hearts, anything. Seriously, this was the point where Square lost all of the respect I had for them (Einhänder excluded). I mean, they went and anally raped Final Fantasy with Scrooge McDuck’s pimp cane…I’ll just let that image settle in your minds for now. The fandom surrounding it is again, one of my top picks for things that make me hate the post-2003 anime scene. It’s the same sort of revile I hold for Harry Potter fandom over the age of 11. I suppose it’s great for the kids, but by the time you’re in middle school and most definitely high school, sorry, I don’t pity you for getting picked on.

* The steaming pile of Internet waste disguised as ‘social networking’ (which I hate anyway) known as Gaia Online. Gag me with a spoon. Mainly my annoyance is in the fact that the demographic it’s aimed at is more or less what I described in the previous four points. It also has a lot to do with my next point.

* As I hear more talk about ‘texting’, or the kind of memes like ‘epic fail’/’fail’ anything, ‘doing it for the lulz’ (or the term ‘lulz’ in general), ‘rickrolling’, and all the other examples of being a douche that you find out there, the more I feel like punching a koala – proverbially, of course. I have a well-developed appreciation for dark humor and Schadenfreude, but the aforementioned memes are just mean-spirited and using the anonymity of the Internet to be as big of a jerk as possible. Those that talk like that seriously come off to me as having the maturity level of a grade schooler. Of course, they’d probably take that as a compliment…how older teens and 20- somethings can think this reflects well on them is beyond me. It’s almost as bad as the brain cell-killing tripe that passes for children’s television these days, and then people wonder why there seems to be a prevailing trend toward the dumbing-down of today’s youth. Whatever happened to 3-2-1 Contact, Carmen Sandiego, or pre-political correctness/obesity awareness Sesame Street, people? Heck, even Looney Tunes would be an improvement, but you’ll only see that on for the 5-10 year old demographics once in a blue moon these days.

Why is it that I think this is getting to me so much? I honestly believe it has to do with the fact that a generational gap is forming, but it’s not quite a traditional one, because it’s splitting even among people that are the same age, with ‘experience’ (as nebulous as a designation as that is) being the only distinction of substance. Guess what? I’m only 23. The difference, however, is that I started watching anime when I was 10, way back in 1995 or the early part of 1996. So I’ve been exposed to it much longer than the average fan you’d run into today, and have far more in common with the scene as it existed 8 or 9 years ago, and knew long before the Cartoon Network/Adult Swim era that to find the best variety of stuff, you have to – have to, without exception – look outside what the broadcasters want to throw in front of you (which is fairly obvious anyway, considering the only series that seem to appear on American cable networks are action shows, unless you count The Anime Network, and aside from their On Demand offerings, that’s not even carried in my area).

I also finally got sick and tired of hearing the same very small pool of English vocal talent handling – and in many cases, mangling – series. I’m not opposed to dubs like some ardent Subs Only people are, but with the exclusion of shows I’m nostalgic about (Robotech, Gall Force, et al) or were always reputed to have good dub work on (like Cowboy Bebop), I will pick the original Japanese over the English nowadays. It happened mostly around the time I watched This Ugly Yet Beautiful World, which was the first time I refused to watch a show with English audio when the option was there.

To go along with that first paragraph, my interest in Japanese culture and language has little to do with anime, even if it’s become my primary route of exposure to it. Before all that, I loved Godzilla movies and we even had a Japanese cultural exchange speaker come to our class weekly during the 5th grade, which provided my earliest experience with the language itself and some of the customs. Pair that with the fact I’ve always viewed anime as merely entertainment rather than a ‘lifestyle’ (whatever that’s really supposed to mean), and I don’t take very kindly to the appropriation of the term ‘otaku’, of people insinuating that all anime fans act like obnoxious 13-year-olds that continuously spew out superficial references to dance games and clichés and litter their speech with Japanese loanwords, or even that among fellow anime fans, that we all went through ‘that stage’. I’m sorry, I never went through that stage, and I’m pretty damned happy I never did.

As for my vitriol toward the texting stuff, I grew up in a time when cell phones were the size of bricks and even at that, were a luxury. Even bulky car phones were a luxury. When I was in middle and high school, we had 56k internet and my first exposure to AIM, which as far as I’m concerned, on a computer terminal is the only way instant messaging should be carried out (and I still use completely proper sentences and punctuation when talking on AIM). If you have the device in hand, use it to, you know, SPEAK to someone, not get carpal tunnel in your thumbs to do something as awkward as sending a text message. Perish the thought I’m still of the mindset that cell phones are for emergencies or convenience, not primary phone usage.

Every so often it’s really nice to rant.  And I’m fully expecting that some people probably don’t appreciate some of the things I said above, but objection or no objection, it doesn’t change how much of a gap I feel there is among those that came into this stuff during the 90s vs. those that have in the last five or six years.  Chalk it up to me being part of the old guard (albeit perhaps the youngest group therein) or whatever you use to justify it, but things have changed, exactly like times have.

Posted by: qyot27 | May 23, 2009

All The Kids Are Right

Before I go any further, no I haven’t watched the first episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya S2 yet, although I have read the Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody section of the light novels.  I really need to get off my ass and read volumes 4-9…I kind of stalled after reading the first 3, and have been getting sidetracked by other tasks ever since.  Which is also the same reason I’ve not finished playing Kagetsu Tohya nor attempted to really start Fate/Stay Night.

Anyway, one of the things I recently got interested in was authoring DVD-Audio disks.  Not DVD-Video disks that have been fudged into being audio-only, but honest-to-goodness DVD-Audio (you know the AUDIO_TS folder on DVDs that always seems to be empty?  This is the reason it exists; pop the DVD side of a DualDisc into your computer and you’ll see my point – DualDiscs are usually either CD/DVD-Audio or CD/Hybrid-DVD setups, where ‘Hybrid-DVD’ is an easy way of saying both DVD-Audio and DVD-Video).

And there actually does happen to be an open-source solution here, in the form of DVD-A Author. However, it was a terror trying to figure out just what the heck I was doing wrong for a while. And after struggling with it for about a day or so, I finally figured it out, so I’m sharing this info for anyone else interested in the idea.

Why DVD-Audio, though? Well, it comes down to the technical aspects of audio, mainly. A normal Audio CD is supposed to adhere to something called the Red Book Standard, which specifies that the audio is stored as stereo, 44.1 kHz frequency, and a 16-bit depth precision in Linear PCM format (which most people know as ‘uncompressed’ audio). Not all CDs strictly adhere to Red Book, though – HDCDs are one example, along with CD EXTRA/Enhanced CD, or any Audio CD containing DRM or copy prevention measures. DVD-Audio discs, by contrast, allow a plethora of other channel/frequency/precision combinations, as you can see in this chart on Wikipedia. They also include provisions for using DRM in the forms of CPPM and Verance watermarking, the first of which has been overcome and the second of which only has a reference document describing how to overcome it. But for home-authored discs, that part shouldn’t matter.

Simply put, it allows a much more faithful reproduction of the audio signal – doesn’t necessarily mean that you can automatically hear the difference from a regular CD, but from a technical standpoint it preserves more of the original sound than a CD does, which is better in principle. If you’re an audiophile, then the difference probably can be heard, especially on high-end sound systems (one reference I saw was that DVD-Audio, or specifically 96kHz/24-bit, more closely preserves the sound from vinyl transfers). The one catch, is that the chart doesn’t make a point of showing which combinations are allowed by the formats that DVD-Audio supports, they list it further down in the paragraph instead – those formats are LPCM (the same format used on CD, although with the advantages I listed earlier), and Meridian Lossless Packing or MLP (which also forms the core of Dolby TrueHD; the main differences between regular MLP and TrueHD are mainly in the number of channels and maximum bitrate, and how robust secondary features like channel placement and metadata are). The big difference between LPCM and MLP in terms of DVD-Audio is that the higher the bit depth and frequency, the more likely it is that MLP is necessary – as quoted from the article, “In uncompressed modes, it is possible to get up to 96/16 or 48/24 in 5.1, and 192/24 in stereo. To store 5.1 tracks in 88.2/20, 88.2/24, 96/20 or 96/24 MLP encoding is mandatory.” (emphasis mine). In addition, while there is work on an open-source MLP encoder to be included in ffmpeg, it still isn’t bitstream-compatible (ffmpeg can decode it, but apparently nothing else can yet – also, ffmpeg output is limited to 16-bit, or at least I couldn’t figure out how to do 24-bit output when I tried), nor does DVD-A Author support MLP at this time. What this means is that you just can’t do super-high frequency surround sound yet (unless it’s 96/16, anyway). 5.1 is possible for 48/24 LPCM, though.

Now, with all that heavy technical stuff out of the way, we get to the much much simpler how-to. For this I do use the command-line, and it is easier if you’ve installed either the XP Open Command Window Here Powertoy or the Open Command Prompt Shell Extension. I also mention adding directories to Windows’ PATH, which can be done by going to Settings->Control Panel->System->’Advanced’ tab->’Environment variables’ button, and then scrolling down in the System variables pane until you reach the line that says Path. Click on that, and then click Edit. That will bring up a dialog where you can append a new directory to the end of the listing – entries are separated by semi-colons. Alternately, you can create a Path variable in the User variables pane so that it only applies to your user account. You may need to restart Windows Explorer or your computer after you modify your Path.

Anyway, here we go. Grab the necessary downloads:
FLAC 1.2.1b
DVD-A Author Package 09.02-2

1. Create directory C:\test\g1 (this a temporary directory; you can delete this after all is said and done)

2. Create directory C:\dvda (this a temporary directory; you can delete this after all is said and done)

3. Copy .wav files to C:\test\g1

4. Use flac -0 to convert .wav files to FLAC – this is to ensure the files are correct; the .wav files’ headers can sometimes be wonky and DVD-A Author won’t accept them. Converting to FLAC will solve this, since flac.exe will prune bad header info during the conversion and standardize the input files. Using Level 0 compression is mainly for speed, since these are only temporary files. It would help if you added C:\Program Files\FLAC to Windows’ PATH variable so that it can be run from any directory. You don’t need to specify an output file, flac.exe will output the .flac files in the same directory as the input files.

flac -0 01.wav

You can even batch script this part by typing the lines out in Notepad with each flac command on a new line, and then saving the file with a .bat extension. Then just double-click and it’ll convert them without any further user input.

I’d recommend deleting the .wav files after the conversion to FLAC is done.

5. In DVD-A Author GUI, navigate to C:\test\g1, select the .flac files, and add them to group 1 (groups can be used to separate stereo from surround versions, just add another group and place correct files in group 2 or so on; you can have a maximum of 9 groups, with 99 files per group). Using the Audio input button to specify a directory isn’t necessary – specifying the actual files is enough.

6. Navigate to C:\dvda and press the Output directory button.

7. Click the Encode button.

8. To compile the ISO, use this command-line with the version of mkisofs included with DVD-A Author (like with FLAC, it might be a good idea to add DVD-A Author’s directory to Windows’ PATH):

mkisofs -o output.iso -V volume_label -dvd-audio input_directory

So in my case, it would look like this (my test sample was the 96/24 Wave version of Nine Inch Nails’ The Slip*, which is available on the official website). Of course, the locations can be anywhere – I just used C:\Documents as an example.

mkisofs -o C:\Documents\NIN_THESLIP_DVDA.iso -V NIN_THESLIP_DVDA -dvd-audio C:\dvda

Now, you might be asking yourself why do it on the command-line when we were using the GUI a second ago. The simple answer to that is, the -V option (which tells mkisofs what the volume label should be); if we’d let the GUI create the ISO, the volume label would’ve been CDROM, which isn’t good for archival purposes. By doing it this way, you can specify what the disc should show up as when you insert it into your computer’s DVD drive.

*This is primarily the reason I converted to FLAC in the first place – apparently those .wav files have some non-standard data that DVD-A Author chokes on, in addition to the fact that they don’t have WAVE_FORMAT_EXTENSIBLE headers.  DVD-A Author is supposed to be able to open LPCM .wav files, but as I had problems with these files in particular, I feel the best course of action is to make the whole point irrelevant and convert them to FLAC first.

Also, as HCenc 0.24 beta has been updated, and one of the updates was the inclusion of an Auto IntraVLC function, I now include this in the 024 profiles.  Using *INTRAVLC 2 enables it, so all those *INTRAVLC 1 lines should be changed to 2’s.  I might decide to update and re-upload the profiles at some point in the future (more than likely when 0.24 reaches non-beta status), but for right now you’ll have to update the profiles yourself.

Posted by: qyot27 | May 19, 2009

Anchorage

Sometimes I hate my computer. For the last week, I’ve been trying to get everything properly restored because a power surge knocked my ancient desktop dizzy, requiring me to unplug and replug the thing just to get it to power on, and last Monday then refused to boot Windows – just an endless cycle of the machine’s boot screen. The thing, though, is that the power surge happened on the previous Saturday morning, and worked fine for the following 48 hours or so. And then, on Wednesday evening, after I got the bulk of my programs restored and Windows updated, another power surge goes and does it again (although thankfully, it didn’t result in the boot loop or other weirdness, knock on wood).

With this I decided my best option was to look for a way of making an updated restore disk rather than relying on the nearly 8-year-old ones that came with the computer (yes, you read that correctly – my main setup is a 2001 eMachines T1110 that runs Windows XP, and when I don’t have a bunch of crap taking up extra space, whatever the current version of Ubuntu is).

So in my search I happened upon PING (Partimage Is Not Ghost), an open source alternative to Norton Ghost. I’d originally hoped to find a trial of Ghost itself to use, or see if one of my relatives had a copy they weren’t using that I could borrow, but no dice. So I figured I’d try my luck on this. It wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought to be able to back up all my essential system files and configuration and make a bootable, spanned, 2-disc restore set. Let’s hope it actually works when I need it to – as my comp is working fine now, they’re going up on the shelf for the next time I need this.

The only thing that slightly annoyed me wasn’t anything about PING itself, it was that my files just didn’t compress enough to either fit snugly on one DVD, or to actually make good use of the second disc. Using bz2 compression, it compressed to 4.40 GB (and that’s what Windows reported) – that one I had to delete because I’d forgotten to fix some of my configuration choices before doing it, and also because I mis-named the archive and ended up making a folder with a \ in its name, and Windows couldn’t access it. The second time around I chose gzip so that the compression wouldn’t take 5 hours to perform (it took about 1h40m or thereabouts instead), and it came out to 4.48 GBs. The original files were 8.53 GBs, which means that if I’d chosen ‘no compression’ I would’ve been stuck with 2 filled discs and a 3rd that was barely filled (my DVD-R drive won’t read DL discs anymore, fyi). And instead of that, I went with the more efficient options that resulted in 1 filled disc and a 2nd that was barely filled.

But at least it’s done now.

Posted by: qyot27 | April 21, 2009

Policy Of Truth

I’m often amazed how I can feel happy/satisfied and totally like crap at the same time.

Recently (as in, just last night) I finished watching Toradora!, which is one of those few series I genuinely enjoyed watching and it didn’t feel like a task to get through an episode.  And those last few episodes did a number on me like an even fewer number of series can.  Concerning the show itself, there are things I was happy and not-quite-so-happy about, but overall I loved it.  My biggest gripe is that there seemed to be less development on Ryuuji’s part during that final stretch, which made all of it seem rather sudden when it started to shift toward the ending everyone knew was coming, but thankfully it leveled out reasonably by the final two or three episodes.  Had the series been, say, 36 episodes long rather than 25, I think that would have been represented better (then again, I’ve not read the light novels, so I can’t say if there was anything there to begin with).

Initially, it was easy for those standard-fare warm fuzzy sentiments to come out because of the subject matter, but the reason I mention how terrible it made me feel is because a lot of the plot points seemed to hit a little too close to home, and I saw myself as I was in high school a tad too much in there.  That, in turn, made me start dwelling on those problems again and my own self-loathing over my inability to do anything about my situation then and the wall of hesitation I always hit when I start thinking about rectifying it.  I’m still living with my mistakes from 5 years ago.  Series like this work very well at tearing open those wounds again – which, ironically, is part of the reason I love these kinds of shows so much.  Call it emotional masochism, but deep down, it’s like I want to feel terrible about it, because maybe then it’ll finally motivate me to fix things.  The isolation I’ve been in for the last 5 years makes for a state of numbness that I can’t stand but feels too safe for me to jeopardize.  Couple that with a monumental fear of rejection and it’s a recipe for disaster.

I honestly haven’t felt this raw emotionally since I read RE-TAKE, and that was almost three years ago.  The thing that makes this sting even worse is that the underlying feelings and situations that precipitated me being so affected by these types of series originated 10 years ago this coming fall.  I’ve been trapped by my own emotions since I was 14, and I just don’t know when it’ll finally be resolved, or if it ever will.

I love rain.  And I love the sort of atmospheric, ethereal music that fits so perfectly with those kinds of days.  I mean, I’ve had an appreciation for Goth Rock and Industrial music since I was first introduced to them in 8th/9th grade, but when I get into this kind of mood I really tend to listen to those bands that straddle both genres.

Of course, the particular style goes under several different names (Goth-Industrial, Elektro-Goth, Darkwave, etc.), to the point that some make it a point of contention over what unique stylistic concerns differentiate one term from the next, but I’m not nearly that anally-retented about it.

So what bands are considered to be in this category?  Well, the main ones I listen to would be The Birthday Massacre (“Promise Me” being the inspiration behind this post’s title) and The Last Dance, although The Crüxshadows, L’Âme Immortelle, and VAST would even be counted in various amounts as well.  Some individual songs from predominantly Goth, Synthpop, or Industrial bands would also figure in as well.  Aleixa’s “Rain In The Air” is a good example from a predominantly Industrial group, as would be ThouShaltNot’s “The Ocean Is Your Voice” or “100 Generations” (the band figuring mostly in the Dark Synthpop category – and honestly, if I have to hear one more person misattributing their song “If I Only Were A Goth” to Voltaire…).  So, without further ado, a mere playlist highlighting some favorite selections of mine from the aforementioned bands:

  • The Birthday Massacre – “Promise Me”, “Video Kid”, and “Under The Stairs” (from Nothing and Nowhere), “Play Dead” and “Nevermind” (from Violet), and “Shiver” (from the Looking Glass EP), etc.
  • ThouShaltNot – “The Ocean Is Your Voice” and “100 Generations”
  • The Last Dance – “Flesh” (from Staring At The Sky, not the remix on Now And Forever After), “Lost” and “Parade” (from Perfect), “Nightmares”, “Rage”, “Wonderlust”, “Breath” (and the Myself Into You mix from Reflections Of Rage), “Dead Man’s Party”*, and “Terribly When” (from Whispers In Rage), “Distantly”, “Wish Me Closer”, and “Special Little Gift” (from Once Beautiful), “Cages”, etc.
  • Aleixa – “Rain In The Air”
  • VAST – “Touched”, “Pretty When You Cry (from Visual Audio Sensory Theater), “I Don’t Have Anything” (from Music For People), “Lost” (from Nude)
  • Scala and Kolacny Brothers – “The Bitter End”* (not exactly fitting in the genres I was discussing previously, but very stirring)
  • L’Âme Immortelle – “Tiefster Winter”, “Life Will Never Be The Same Again”
  • The Crüxshadows – “Return (Coming Home)”, “Sympathy (For Tomorrow)”, “Täuschung”, “Cruelty”, “Deception”
  • Faith and the Muse – “Running Up That Hill”* (the Placebo, Within Temptation, and Lund Hill Clements Churchill Trio covers as well)
  • Monolithic – “The Sound Of Tears” (another Synthpop entry)

*denotes covers; “Dead Man’s Party” originally by Oingo Boingo, “The Bitter End” originally by Placebo, “Running Up That Hill” originally by Kate Bush.

I certainly could list more stuff, but I don’t want to spend more time plumbing my music collection.

Posted by: qyot27 | March 27, 2009

The rain that falls in synch with me…

Since I keep mentioning it around on various forums, I guess it would be a good idea to actually have a link for my HCenc profiles (RAR archive).

http://www.mediafire.com/?ziotqmnmzon

I typically use HCenc from the command-line, with which these profiles can be called with the -ini option.  A description of the profiles follows below.

Included in that archive are two sets of nearly identical profiles – one set for HCenc 0.23 and one set for HCenc 0.24 beta.  Generally speaking, the names of the profiles are self-explanatory as to their purpose.  The syntax goes like this:

Aspect-ratio_fps-bitrate (for instance, 16-9_29fps-6000.ini)

This applies to the main profiles for full DVD resolution.  The 16:9 profiles are anamorphic, meaning that the video you give to HCenc should be 720×480 and squished.

Device_fps (example, vcddvd_29fps.ini)

This applies to the vcddvd profiles.  ‘vcddvd’ is just the colloquial name I decided to give to CIF resolution (352×240) files that I put on DVD, since VCD operated at CIF resolution and it’s easier for me to remember ‘vcd’ than ‘cif’.  Despite the fact they’re called vcddvd, they aren’t actually VCD-compliant.  They use MPEG-2 instead of MPEG-1, and a bitrate of 2000kbps instead of 1150kbps.  I mainly use these to encode low-resolution videos, such as ones I’ve grabbed from YouTube.

Personal profiles (only the ASI marked profiles)

These are the profiles I would use to encode my AMVs, if I used HCenc to do that.  I still stick to using TMPGEnc Plus for that because TMPGEnc’s MPEG Default matrix produces better-quality output with those settings than what I’ve gotten from these profiles (however, if the HCenc matrix is changed from mpeg to fox1 the HCenc encodes actually look about the same and have a higher SSIM value than TMPGEnc’s MPEG Default).  They operate on much the same syntax principle as the others, denoting aspect ratio and framerate, with the special separate vcddvd profiles for my low-res encodes.

The difference between the 0.23 profiles and the 0.24 beta profiles (which are in the ‘024’ folder) is that the 0.24 profiles use the *INTRAVLC 1  and *1PASS options that were introduced in 0.24 beta.  The 0.23 profiles use *CQ_MAXBITRATE instead.  The exceptions to both are the ASI profiles, which always use *2PASS encoding.

The sets have several things in common.  They all use *PROGRESSIVE, *LASTIFRAME, *PROFILE best, *MATRIX mpeg, *CLOSEDGOPS, *DC_PREC 9 (except the ASI profiles, which use *DC_PREC 10), *NOSMP (which is only because I don’t have a multithreading processor), *AQ 1, *MPEGLEVEL MP@ML, and *GOP 12 2.  The 23fps profiles all use *PULLDOWN.

Finally, there’s the issue of the 25fps profiles.  These exist in all of the different sets save for the ASI profiles (because I live in NTSC land and therefore don’t produce 25fps content to begin with), and there’s nothing that distinguishes them from the 29fps profiles.  The reason they exist at all is because it makes it easier to set up my batch scripts.  After I encode them, I use DGPulldown to do the proper flagging so that the streams become compliant.  Also worth noting is that these 25->29.97 streams that DGPulldown outputs are processed correctly by mplex from the MJPEG Tools project – I don’t know of any other muxing app that deals with them correctly.

The other relevant links:

HCenc 0.23 (main site), http://www.bitburners.com/hc-encoder/
HCenc 0.24 beta, http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=143850
DGPulldown, http://neuron2.net/dgpulldown/dgpulldown.html
MJPEG Tools, http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=5776

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