HDR is here, sigh…

First, here is a good quick article on the difference of 8-bit vs 10-bit colour. Give it a quick one, two. Thumbs up the guy that took the time to write that.

My opinion is as follows.

First HDR should not be called HDR. It should be called Colour+ or something. Because it’s not what traditional HDR is or does. There are 3 HDR formats as of this writing, HDR, HDR10+ and, Dolby Vision.

HDR offers a singular benefit which is the colour depth, but as is with Dolby and Samsungs HDR10+ everything else about it is a gimmick. Just like Curved screens, and the likes of 8K Televisions. Perhaps 8K is useful for larger cinema screens but to me as a consumer 8K won’t offer any value in the near future. HDR offers a singular benefit, this is the wider colour gamut or depth(10 bit vs 8 bit). This has been a long ways in the making and started in the days of DVD past.

While yes the capability of the wider colour gamut or depth is welcome, things such as changing meta data is riding on borderline gimmicky and stupid. Also I would prefer there be no changing meta data in my video streams, thank you very much. I’d rather my Television have less capability to spy on me than they already do. I’m looking at you Samsung. I don’t own any Samsung products by the way, and there is a good reason for that, explosions and spying aside, I don’t buy into what they sell. While LG has adopted HDR and Dolby Vision(Netflix), Samsung has opted for HDR and HDR10+(Amazon). Amazon opted to adopt the HDR10+ standard.

I have experienced both Netflix and Amazon HDR, except for HDR10+ on Amazon. Based on my experience I will say this; the quality of Netflix and Dolby Vision leaves something to be desired. While it can offer benefits for edge lit LCD panels I see no benefit for OLED TVs. The idea behind Dolby Vision is such that it adjusts the contrast and brightness levels so that one can see the darks or shadows in a scene better and with greater detail than before. Is this true? Yes, somewhat but it comes at a price. To me it reeks of gimmick that only Edge Lit LCD panels benefit from. Let me explain. The problem with edge lit LCDs is that if a single pixel on the screen needs to be lit, and depending on the TV weather it has local dimming zones or not, the entire screen or sections of it will be lit up with the back light to provide illumination to the single pixel. LCD pixels are a passive technology and do not emit light. That is not the case with OLED. This means that on LCD/LED/QLED panels you will see a beam of light dropping down from the top to the bottom for a single pixel on an edge lit LCD panel, or LED panel as the manufacturers like to call them. QLED does something similar as well. While Dolby Vision aims to minimize this. Testing DV(Dolby Vision) on the LG 65UH8500 which is an LED edge lit LCD TV, this effect is very noticeable. Dolby Vision somewhat corrected this problem, but I also noticed that the contrast, the whites and, overall brightness of the image suffered in DV. Having watched and tested many DV shows, it was all the same across the board. Most noticeably in Luke Cage, DV rendered the image and show unwatchable and I had to make adjustments to the DV settings. Note that this was a calibrated television screen. In Marco Polo it did improve the dark scenes, however during the bright scenes I noticed that the colours and whites were way off. The whites weren’t white anymore and colour had a dark brown tint to it. But then again Netflix streaming quality is nothing to rave about. While Amazon streaming quality is slightly better than Netflix, this is only true for their UHD stuff. Also Amazon’s HDR implementation is a little simpler than DV and having watched the Grand Tour in HDR I can say, it’s just ok. HDR is simple and does what it’s supposed to without gimmicks. It adds a larger colour gamut, while HDR10+ and Dolby Vision add changing meta data to the stream. Thanks but no thanks.

The likes of 4 HDR standards exist right now, or soon will. Each vying for TV supremacy.
This smells to me like the next format war, Beta Max vs VHS, HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray, well Dolby Vision vs HDR10+ is here. So get ready folks, get ready to stop buying new TVs because a new format war is about to come to your living room.

Also did you know that that UHD television in your living room will not display UHD Television content for a long time, if ever, except for a couple channels. For the most part TV producers opted for HDR instead of UHD resolution. On top of that, said live television HDR format is a new standard which has not been added to any TV manufacturers lineups yet. Planned obsolescence? Maybe. Who knows maybe it’s just a firmware update, but if you’re dreaming of watching sports in UHD, think again, it might not ever happen. Yes Direct TV streamed some UHD channels last year, but have a look around, most Television broadcasts are still in 720p or 1080i, nothing has changed in the last little while.

So as it stands right now the only benefit HDR offers is via UHD-BluRay. You get uncompressed HDR video with wider colour range and uncompressed audio. However, UHD-BluRays aren’t flying off the shelves either. I have a sneaking suspicion that UHD BluRay will go the way of BetaMax, HD-DVD, and the Dodo. As such I could not recommend a new LCD panel that supports HDR at the moment to anyone. Let alone UHD LCD panel, that is unless you plan to use it with a PC. There really is no benefit at the moment to the average consumer purchasing a UHD TV unless you are buying a large format screeen, 80″ + I’d say. Be patient, sit and wait, watch, and then make an informed purchase.

If you’re are going to upgrade your LCD panel do it because you’re upgrading it to an OLED TV. That is the single best upgrade you can make to your TV, you will be stunned at the difference between OLED and LCD. Once you look at OLED you will realize how trashy LCD, LED and, Samsung’s QLED panels really are. This is truly the future of Television displays, and Goggles rumored $800 Million investment in LGs OLED technologies is proof of that. Christ, go to any robotics hobby shops and they are stocking OLED monochrome displays, some even colour. OLED is the future display tech for the time being. QLED or Quantum dot Light Emitting Diodes are just LCD panels with a gimmicky name to try and fool you into buying Samsung’s panels which are LCD/LED edge lit displays of the last 10 years past.

OLED or go home I say. This is what the industry should be concentrating on.

References:

http://www.techhive.com/article/171223/10_bit_color.html

http://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/directv-4k-uhd-masters-broadcast/

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/10/google-offers-at-least-880-mln-to-lg-display-for-oled-investment-electronic-times.html

http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/hdr-tv-high-dynamic-television-explained

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-high-definition_television#Americas

Generate Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC) Using CertUtil

A CRC is used to detect any changes to the original data/content, the most common reason being accidental data modification and corruption. CRCs are used to validate integrity, to ensure that the data sent is the data received.

It’s quite easy to create a CRC with tools built into the Windows operating system. Open a command prompt window, browse to the location of your file and run the following command:

CertUtil -hashfile <file_name> MD5

By default CertUtil uses SHA1 if the algorithm is not specified, for this example we’re using MD5. CertUtil supports many different algorithm types.

  • MD2
  • MD4
  • MD5
  • SHA1
  • SHA256
  • SHA384
  • SHA512

Once the command has completed successfully CertUtil will output a sequence of numbers and characters, this is the MD5 hash. We will use this hash to validate the integrity of the file once it’s transferred. Once the file is copied we will run the same command and compare the values. If they match the file is valid, if not we know the data was altered. To simplify this process I’ve written a small script in PowerShell that you can leverage.

if ( $(CertUtil -hashfile "<file_name>" MD5) -eq "<hash_from_certutil>" ) { 
  Write-Host "CRC File Integrity Check Passed." -ForegroundColor "Green"

  Write-Host "`nPress any key to exit..."
  $x = $host.UI.RawUI.ReadKey("NoEcho,IncludeKeyDown")
  exit 0
}
else {
  Write-Host "CRC File Integrity Check Failed." -ForegroundColor "Red"
  Write-Host "Please re-download file and re-run CRC check."

  Write-Host "`nPress any key to exit..."
  $x = $host.UI.RawUI.ReadKey("NoEcho,IncludeKeyDown")
  exit 1
}

Home Media – Part 3 – The Rip

It’s been a while but finally I got around to completing and old series.

Part 1: The NAS build, can be found here. 

Part 2 The Setup can be found here.

The whole idea of this was so you could have your media at your finger tips. Your movies, your TV shows and your Music. If you’re like me you have shelves and shelves full of Movies and Television shows, and plastic bins full of CDs.

I’m not condoning piracy, and personally I think you should have control over the media that you own, as long as you don’t distribute it or broadcast it for the masses. Having said this you should probably check with your Country’s copyright laws. Either way it is nice to have it all at your finger tips.

I’m finding less and less compatibility between software and HD DVD movies these days, some titles I am unable to convert into a digital format form HD DVD. Also there is a draw back with HD DVDs, they only support Dolby Digital and DTS audio, where as newer Blu-Ray movies support lossless audio such as Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio formats. There are a few new ones on the horizon as well, these would be Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and, Auro-3D.

Couple of good sites where you can find a lot of information on ripping and appending videos are http://www.videohelp.com/ and http://www.doom9.org/ .

To rip movies/tv you will require a few pieces of software. Besides the necessary codecs only two, Make MKV and Handbrake. Make MKV strips the copy protection and rips 1:1 video and puts them in MKV containers. Handbrake compresses the videos to specific formats and output devices. These are both free, if you want to pay for a single piece of software I would recommend DVDFab Blu-Ray ripper.

K-Lite Codec Pack is used to decode the material and the different formats for converting the material you will be ripping.

Capture5

MakeMKV can be used to strip the AACS and BD+ protections from discs, however this software goes a step further and can also convert your Blu-Ray movie to a MKV container. Mind you the movie will be large and there will be no compression, so the files can turn out to be 20GB, great if you want a lossless 1:1 copy of your movies. This software is free while in beta and for full functionality. You must input their beta key in to the software to make if functional, the key can be found here on their forum. This software also allows you to rip 3D Blu-Ray Titles. You can actually get away using only this software for ripping content.

Capture

HandBrake requires you to have the disc already ripped and stripped, generally using MakeMKV or Fab Decrypter. I really like using the batch processing mode in HandBrake, it’s very useful for TV shows. Also with handbrake you can create a custom template so it’s nice and easy to work with TV shows or repetitive content. HandBrake is also a converter so it can convert content for portable devices, it can make the file sizes smaller and change the resolution of the source, etc.

Capture4

DVDFab HD Decrypter is used to copy movies into a file and remove the encryption on the disc. This will remove AACS and BD+ protection. This software is free and usually the first step to digitizing your library, uless you are using MakeMKV. Be aware though, some software is not able to create Rips from these backups there is something specific to this software that sometimes does not play well with other applications.

DVDFab Blu-Ray Ripper (3D Plus), I use this software to rip my 3D Bly-Rays. This software allows the movies to be ripped into a 3D half side by side MKV or a 3D half over under MKV file. It’s paid software, but worth the money. Having said this there are other options for ripping 3D movies, MakeMKV can do it as well. Nice thing about this application is that you can compress the file and there is no need for a 1:1 copy.

Pavtube ByteCopy, I’ve actually never used this software but in my research I found that people have good things to say about the software.

BDtoAVCHD is another tool that came to my attention recently, If you ever want to create discs from your ripped content this is the tool to use.

So now that you have the necessary software where do you go from here?

Note that if you are looking for menus etc, this is not the guide for you. I don’t really care for the extra content and only want Audio track/Subtitle options. Mind you with Make MKV you are able to rip the special content as well, but I reiterate there is no menu system. Also I will only cover the Make MKV how to here, the DVDFab method is a paid method and kind of an all in one package that is simple to use, so no need to get into the details of that.

Download, install, and get the beta Make MKV key from the forum. The key changes with each Beta release, and even though MakeMKV is in version 1.x it is still free/considered beta.

Capture2

Once you install the software start up Make MKV and input the key in Help > Register. If you like the software and want to purchase it go to Help > Purchase. Untitled5

Insert the disc with the material you want to rip, make sure you have the right optical drive selected in the drop down list, then press the Open Disc icon in the left pane of the application window. The icon looks like a DVD drive with a disc inside. Alternatively you can go to File > Open Disc and select the appropriate optical drive where your disc is. Untitled2

 

The icon will start to look like it’s spinning and the software will take a minute to read and decrypt the disc in the drive. Once this process completes you will be presented with a list of valid Video sources on the disc. Generally the large ones are the content that you want.

Untitled3

Note that with this particular disc you have 4 episodes/Titles and that the 5th 7.0GB file is all of the episodes in one seamless Title. When I was converting this I generally skipped this one Title. Select the titles you wish to rip. Change the output folder on the right side of the window to where you want to save the converted files to. Then click the Make MKV button to the right of that. Depending on the processing prowess of your PC this can take a bit, it will also prompt you to create the folder if it does not exist. Untitled6

Once the process completes go into the folder and rename the files to something meaningful.

Once you have your MKV, you can start to compress and convert the formats.

To do this use Handbrake, it has several presets available for you to use. However if you wish you can create  your own and save it. This is where you can take 1080p content and convert it to 720p, having said this this will take a long time if you have a slower computer.

handbrake

You select your source which is either a file or a folder, and you can set your resolution in the Picture tab. Notice the output settings, you can change them to MKV or MP4 in this example. This is something to keep in mind.

handbrake2

In the Video tab you can change the codec that the encoder will use to recode your video in, H.265 is an option, select the Quality and you can even do 2-Pass Encoding. While 2-Pass encoding does improve the quality you will be looking at a really long encode unless you have lots of RAM and a really fast processor.

handbrake3

Then you have your Audio section where you can downmix to stereo or upmix to a different codec all together. Note that you can have multiple audio tracks.

Once you have selected your desired settings you can save them as to use at a later time, just click the ADD button on the bottom right. If you have multiple videos to encode add them to the queue and keep going, nice thing about Handbrake is that it does batch conversions.

 

How to Create a Dell Server Update Utility (SUU) ISO

In this example we are going to walk through the creation of a Dell SUU ISO for 64-bit Windows. The SUU is crucial if you are building out Dell servers as it updates firmware and drivers.

I find the Dell documentation isn’t overly helpful so I’ve put together this quick tutorial on how to create a customized Dell SUU ISO, keep in mind this tutorial creates a Windows based installation ISO.

1. Go and download the latest Dell Repository Manager if you do not have it installed already.
http://en.community.dell.com/techcenter/systems-management/w/wiki/1767.dell-openmanage-repository-manager

2. Once installed find the icon on your Desktop and launch it.
icon

3. Once launched, you should be prompted to update some plugins, go ahead and do so. If you are prompted to update the Dell Online catalog do so as well.

4. Once the application has loaded, go to the menu bar and select Source > View Dell Online Catalog.
view_dell_catalog

5. If you have not updated the Dell Online Catalog, you should now be prompted to update, click Yes.
sync_db

6. Under Dup Format check off Windows 64-bit to narrow down the bundles.filter_catalog

7. Check off your System Bundles based on the models you’d like the ISO to support.

8. Once these are all selected click Create Deployment Tools.deployment_tools

9. A wizard will appear, select Create Server Update Utility (SUU) > SUU to ISO. Select Next.
create_suu

10. Accept the defaults on the Select Plug-ins Select Next. You will be prompted for the SUU export location, select a folder and click OK.
create_suu_2

11. On the Summary and Finish page, review the Selected Bundles and confirm that all the appropriate models have been selected for export. Click Finish if everything looks okay. The job will be added to the Jobs Queue where the progress can be seen.
create_suu_3

How to Generalize a Linux VM Template

When building out an environment of any kind, you need to have a good starting base, a strong foundation and the same holds true for many things. It’s no different when building a virtual machine (VM) template to deploy in your environment in a repeatable fashion.

Recently I spent some time developing a generalized/sanitized VM template for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) versions 6 and 7. This script should be run right before you shutdown the VM and template it for reuse.

#!/bin/bash
echo "Generalize the template..."
echo "Remove RHN system ID..."
rm -f /etc/sysconfig/rhn/systemid

echo "Create sanitized ifcfg-eth0..."
echo -en 'DEVICE=eth0\nTYPE=Ethernet\nONBOOT=yes\nBOOTPROTO=dhcp\n' > /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0

echo "Clear /etc/sysconfig/network file..."
cat > /etc/sysconfig/network < /dev/null

echo "Remove SHH keys..."
rm -f /etc/ssh/ssh_host_*

echo "Remove udev rules..."
rm -f /etc/udev/rules.d/70-*

echo "Remove fixed hostname..."
rm -f /etc/hostname

echo "Clear Machine ID (SID)..."
> /etc/machine-id

echo "Remove all logs from /var/log..."
rm -rf /var/log/*

echo "Remove all logs from /root..."
rm -rf /root/*

Fix and Repair a Dead Hard Drive

Everyone’s got a story about losing important data one way or another, whether it’s from the accidental deletion of some files, a stolen computer, or more commonly a failed hard drive.

To be honest I’ve never been a casualty to lost data, I always kept backups… probably too many backups… like backups of backups. To others it’s “a lot of work”, probably because they don’t have a good process/mechanism in place or they are “limited” technologically and that’s fair.

It’s never fun thinking about what you can’t get back when your hard drive goes belly up… but what if you could get it back and fairly painlessly. Well if your hard drive is dead, toast, caput, it just might be salvageable as I found out this week when a friend of my sister’s dropped off their hard drive to me to see if their life memories could be retrieved.

The hard drive is a Seagate, model ST31000528AS, it’s a 1 TB SATA 3.0Gb/s.IMG_20160422_125811

It would not power on at all, my first inclination was obviously something on the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) has gone awry. First things first, let’s remove the PCB so we can take a look at it. This may require a torx screw driver, most techies will have this on hand.IMG_20160422_195902
IMG_20160422_100855

Now the first place to check is the two diodes on the PCB. You want to check the resistance of each diode, if the resistance on either is very low then there is a good chance that removing the diode will resurrect your hard drive. The diodes act as a circuit protector (similar to a fuse), when there is a power surge it “takes one for the team”
to prevent damage to other circuitry.
IMG_20160422_102131

Notice when I test the first diode, the resistance is fairly high, it’s measuring approx 48K. This diode is OK.IMG_20160422_103230
IMG_20160422_103222

However, when I measure the 2nd diode the resistance is almost nil. This diode is bad.IMG_20160422_102258
IMG_20160422_103205

Simply desolder this diode, reassemble the PCB to the hard drive, cross your fingers and power it up.
IMG_20160422_105846

If it worked, great! Remember though, going forward you no longer have the circuit protection unless you replace the diode you removed. If for whatever reason there is another power surge you probably won’t be so lucky.

Now go and backup that hard drive so next time this happens you can get a good night’s sleep!

 

Install Dash Cam (Aukey DR-H1) in 2012 Honda Civic (9th Generation)

Recently there’s been a lot of buzz around Dash Cameras with many “interesting” videos popping up all over YouTube. As a techie it’s always cool to fiddle around with new stuff and I wanted to put such a camera into my daily commuter, a 2012 Honda Civic Sedan.

I wasn’t dying to get a dash cam, but it’s one of those techie things that if it falls in my wheel house I’m going to do it no matter what. And so, I was shopping on Amazon last week and I somehow came across a cheap covert dash cam for $79.99 CDN, and it had good reviews, so I thought hmm at this price it’s worth a shot. At higher price points I was much more reluctant to pull the trigger but this definitely seemed like a good value buy.

The camera I stumbled upon is an Aukey DR-H1, it’s a small well-built little camera. The camera supports up to 32 GB of micro SD storage and records at 1080p. It doesn’t have any fancy bells and whistles like some other cameras do (gps, etc) but I wasn’t going to use those anyways. To be honest I just wanted something that was a “set it and forget it” type of product, just for piece of mind. So let’s get to my install.

What’s in the box?

  • Dash Cam
  • Fuse Box Wiring Power Cable (with video out – which is used to customize settings)
  • Cigarette Lighter/12 Volt Accessory Power Cable
  • Manual + Registration Card (extends warranty by 6 months to 30 months warranty)

IMG_20160331_131411
IMG_20160331_132845IMG_20160331_163146

Camera Closeup

It’s very small and covert when installed, seems solid with great build quality. As you can see it uses the 3M double-sided tape, so once you stick it, it should hold solidly.

IMG_20160331_162839IMG_20160331_162850IMG_20160331_162859IMG_20160331_164042

Initial Testing:

I wanted to go the fuse box route for installation, it’s much cleaner and routing the cable in the civic took minimal time, maybe 10 minutes max. In my opinion, the manual provided did not give great directions for installing the camera into the fuse box. As a first time dash cam installer I thought the camera could just operate on acc power (ignition 12 v), I didn’t understand why the camera needed constant 12v and acc (ignition) 12v so before installing the camera in the car I did some testing externally to better understand.

My testing came to the conclusion that the acc ignition power wire was basically a normally open switch, but when energized, it closed and the camera powered on. It made sense after playing with this, because if the camera were to work just off acc power it would never shut down cleanly unless it had some internal circuitry/battery. What I mean is when the car is turned off, the power to the camera would be cut immediately and the camera would not have had a chance to shut down gracefully. Through testing it was easy to see this, when the car was turned off the camera continued to run for about 3 seconds afterwards.

IMG_20160401_180749Constant voltage applied, note dash cam is powered off.

IMG_20160401_180803
Acc voltage applied, note dash cam is now powered on.

Fuse Box in Civic:

First order of business was to find constant 12v power and acc 12v power… so I pulled out the multi meter and found fuse location 10 (constant) and 23 (acc). There are obviously more possible locations and the ability to tap other spots as well but these worked for me.

IMG_20160331_164759fuse

IMG_20160401_182319Here’s the successful test configuration with the supplied wiring.

Prepare Ground Wire and Locate Grounding Location

The only modification I had to make to the supplied wiring was to turn the black (ground) wire into a usable ground wire for installation. The process is quite simple, it just requires cutting the end of the cable and crimping on a more appropriate end.

IMG_20160401_200917IMG_20160401_202347

There are certainly many spots to ground this off, I picked a location that I thought was suitable for this application.

IMG_20160401_200635IMG_20160401_200439

Install the Dash Cam and Run the Wire

Now that we have everything ready to go, find a spot to stick the dash cam. The most common spot is right behind the rear view mirror so it does not obstruct your vision in any way. I chose to go right behind the mirror just on the right hand side.

IMG_20160401_203310

Run the wire… it seems daunting but really it’s rather simple as you will find out. I’ve marked the pictures in red to illustrate where the wire is running.

IMG_20160401_204330IMG_20160401_204335

IMG_20160401_204747IMG_20160401_204847

IMG_20160401_204855IMG_20160401_205252

IMG_20160401_205307

Wire it up

As described early, this is wired to a 9th generation Honda Civic (model year 2012). Yellow wire (constant 12v) fuse 10, red wire (acc) fuse 23, black wire (ground).

IMG_20160402_130451

Configure Settings

Plug the yellow rca/composite wire into some kind of display. I didn’t have a free TV kicking around so I ended up having to make a custom rca cable with some left over cables I had lying around. I ran it to my TV inside and used Facetime to program it… funny I know but it worked well and rather quickly. This allowed me to configure a few settings, the most important being date/time. 2 other settings of value are the 720p/1080p and the 1, 3, or 5 minute length setting.

IMG_20160402_124433

File Size and Recording Capacity

I set my camera to use the 5 minute video length setting. I did some rough calculations and it appears that the camera can record a maximum of approximately 300 minutes of footage at 1080p. The camera is geared to roll over on it’s own, so it’s maintenance free.

size

Final Thoughts

All in all it was fun little project, it didn’t break the bank and it was a good learning experience. Overall the camera is not too bad, at night it’s not the greatest but as I always say you get what you pay for.

I’ve taken some video and I have posted it up, enjoy and as a side note I’m sorry about the slightly distorted sound during the night-time clip, my music was a tad too loud.