Archive for the ‘software’ Category

Recording from a Hauppauge HVR-950Q USB TV Tuner to VirtualDub

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics are over. IMHO, they were awesome. Unfortunately, it’s time to get back to work. Almost.

I want to record some video from Shaw On Demand of a curling event that I attended live. I have access to a Hauppauge HVR-950Q USB TV tuner – a great piece of hardware paired with terrible software.

I had multiple issues, but in the end, as I type this, I have my old laptop capturing the video from the composite (i.e. “RCA” video) input from the Shaw Digital Box.

I started this adventure on my day-to-day laptop, a 1.5 year old laptop running Vista. On this computer, the WinTV 6 software could not properly display the signal from the composite input. It would get about 1 frame per second, plus some really weird “chipmunkesque” spurts of audio. It was unusable to view the composite feed, never mind trying to record from it. I then tried the newly released WinTV 7 software from the Hauppauge website. It was worse – it is even more bloated, even slower, and still unable to view the composite input properly. Note: I have previously watched the Over-the-Air HDTV channels with this unit, so it’s specific to the composite input, and it might be specific to my laptop. There is a big difference between OTA HDTV and composite – an OTA signal is compressed MPEG2 and the unit passes it directly over the USB to the TV tuning software, whereas, the composite is fed in some sort of raw format that requires massive USB bandwidth – i.e. there is no on-device MPEG encoding.

I tried VirtualDub next, the free video capture software that I’ve used from time-to-time for years. VDub could preview the signal fine, and with much less processor overhead. Unfortunately, when I tried to start the capture, I kept getting this error: “The Capture device does not support the video format”. I eventually find a solution to this error, but only after I tried my ancient laptop.

I tried using my ancient HP Celeron 1.1Ghz laptop. It runs XP, and my theory was that the Hauppauge software just doesn’t like Vista. This might be true. I was able to use the WinTV 6 software on the old laptop fine… eventually. You have to run the install, and the setup from an administrative login. Otherwise, the software will crash hard, without giving any clues as to why. Watching the composite input in WinTV 6 used a lot of the CPU, but it is a 5 year old laptop, so it’s all relative. It was unfortunately, far too slow to do a live encoding to MPEG.

So, I knew that the composite signal worked reasonably well. I tried VirtualDub on the ancient computer. I got the same error when trying to start the capture. The fix? The trick is to look at the VirtualDub device properties to see in which format the preview was coming in. In my case, it’s 720×480 UYVY. Once I set this on my custom capture format, VirtualDub worked fine. I’m not able to encode to MPEG live, I’m using HuffYUV and 10s of GB of hard drive space to capture 2 hours of video, but it will work. I’ll have to transcode to MPEG4 later.

In the end, I could probably have used VirtualDub on the first laptop that I tried now that I knew how to get a compatible capture format. According to Google, there aren’t many people who have had these problems… I feel special. Sometimes I wish things would “just work.”

User Scripts Broken in Google Chrome?

Friday, December 11th, 2009

A little while ago my custom user script for Chrome stopped working. I’m currently using the “dev channel” at home. When I first switched to Chrome, that was the only version that supported user scripts (basically GreaseMonkey from FireFox integrated into Chrome).

My script is simple, it makes some font and color changes to a few websites that I view regularly to make them more legible (IMHO). I should bundle it into an extension some day…

Anyway, it took a bit of research to figure out what happened. Look here on the Google Chrome blog:

[r33013] Disable –enable-user-scripts. (Issue: 27520)
NOTE: You can now install user scripts by navigating to them. You will have to reinstall your current scripts (they aren’t migrated).


So, scripts are still supported, but I have to install it again. I didn’t quite understand “navigating to them” meant, but it actually means exactly what it says. In the address bar browse the file system, e.g. go to here:
C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\User Scripts

Then double click on your .JS file, and a little extension installation prompt pops up. It’s pretty cool actually.

Hmm… now that Google Chrome regular version supports extensions, I might be able to take myself off the dev channel.

Free Computer Burn-In Software

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

I thought that free burn-in software would be easier to find.

Every now and then I cobble a computer together from parts, or I have to diagnose a PC that is crashing from time to time.  Unfortunately, even though a PC can boot, it doesn’t mean that it’s stable and ready to go. The tool for this job is burn-in software.

I used to use the free-as-in-beer version of SiSoft Sandra, but over the years it has gotten rather bloated.  Anyway, SiSoft Sandra is more geared towards benchmarking a computer rather than stress testing.

Today, I found a great little tool that seems to do a good-enough job of testing the CPU and RAM – it also puts a modest amount of load on the hard drive.

The free tool that I am currently recommending: CPU Stability Test by Jouni Vuorio. It seems to run fine in all current versions of Microsoft Windows.


It’s a bit old, circa 2000, and I can’t find a current website for it… but it works.  There are several “high-quality”, i.e. non-spammy, websites that host CPU Stability Test. Just Google for it if the link above goes stale.

There is still room to find a better free utility, but for now I’m satisfied.  But, if you have other suggestions for free burn-in testing software, please leave a comment!

Update: A free utility for testing memory (i.e. looking for bad memory sticks) that runs inside Windows – If you’ve got the ability to reboot the machine, then use Memtest86.