Question 198

September 15, 2010
What three questions do YOU wish you knew the answers to?

via Thought Questions by Marc on 9/14/10


HDCP ‘master key’ supposedly released, unlocks HDTV copy protection permanently

September 14, 2010

via Engadget by Richard Lawler on 9/13/10

Just as the MPAA is preparing to offer movies to customers at home while they’re still in theaters by limiting playback to DRM-protected digital outputs only, the HDCP protocol they rely on may have been cracked wide open. All devices that support HDCP, like Blu-ray players, set-top boxes and displays with HDMI inputs, have their own set of keys to encrypt and decrypt protected data and if keys for a particular device are compromised, they can be revoked by content released in the future which will then refuse to play. Now, posts have been floating around on Twitter about a supposed “master key” which renders that protection unusable since it allows anyone to create their own source and sink keys.

Who discovered this and by what technique isn’t immediately clear, but as early as 2001 security researcher Niels Ferguson proposed that it could be easily revealed by knowing the keys of less than 50 different devices. Hardware HDCP rippers like the HDfury2 and DVIMAGIC have been around for a while and various AACS cracks easily allow rips of Blu-ray discs but if this information is what it claims to be, then the DRM genie could be permanently out of the bag allowing perfect high definition copies of anything as long as the current connector standards are around. While it’s unlikely your average user would flash their capture device with a brand new key and get to copying uncompressed HD audio and video, keeping those early releases off of the torrents in bit perfect quality could go from difficult to impossible.

HDCP ‘master key’ supposedly released, unlocks HDTV copy protection permanently originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 14 Sep 2010 00:14:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Australia’s Downfall

August 22, 2010
It had to be done.  Hitler reacts to the 2010 Election result.

So what is spam – @Ed_Dale ?

March 13, 2009

“Chris, there is only one definition of spam — unsolicited email”

Nope, not really. That’s your definition. Spam is a repeated bombardment of essentially unwanted information. Go watch the python sketch that gives it it’s name. I’m sure it’s on youtube.

Eg: “We’ve got SPAM, egg and SPAM, SPAM SPAM sausage and SPAM, SPAM SPAM….” (well I’m sure you get the idea).

The folks in the restaurant in the skit actually did “opt in” by walking in the door. They agreed to some level of interaction with the business. What then happened was the proprietor took advantage of that relationship in an attempt, perhaps, to offload a surplus of SPAM by putting it in every dish.

So I’d argue your definition of spam, in the first instance.

Secondly, the “just opt out” argument. I’m happy to join your mailing list. I’ll even follow your recommendations, Ed, to “go here and sign up, hey, don’t actually buy anything, but take the free information”. Now I’m not an idiot, and I can understand you’re marketing there, but the cumulative result is 20 of you then bombarding me with crap about the latest product launch.

The point was, with the latest version of that, mass control, people are sick and tired (I imagine) of all the nonsensical hype of “hey, this is a great product. You know what, I haven’t actually bought it, but I’m getting paid to say so” messages. We know how the product launch formula works, we’ve seen it a lot (high volume) were’ familiar’ (read, resistant). Hmm, high volume of requests to do something we’re resistant to? Sure sounds like SPAM to me, and certainly abuse of the relasionship.

I know you’re big on relationship, Ed, and I get that – and you also talk about the dangers of abusing it – so please don’t complain when someone calls you out for doing just that. I unsubscribed from your list, and also no longer follow you on twitter.

I’m sure it won’t make a dent in your sales 🙂 And I don’t bear you any grudges. I love your work, and I love your material. If I want to read your tweets now and keep in touch, there’s always the RSS version of your twitter feed, and that’s far, far less intrusive on my life, and I can choose to read it whenever I want.

THAT, in my opinion, is the power of twitter: Your public feed is availble by RSS for me to read, even though I *don’t* follow you, whenever I want, in a format I want (google reader).

Originally posted as a comment by Rich on The Tubbynerd using Disqus.

Free web hosting (as in beer)

December 23, 2007

Do you have a domain registered, but can’t decide what to do with it?

Do you want to find the best price for hosting your website?

(Wow, this sounds like and Ad. Sorry!)

Just in case you haven’t come across this one yet – check out

I’ve been tossing up whether or not to host one of the domains I own for a while now. I’ve always been put off by the cost of doing so, considering that it’s not really the sort of domain name I really want to do anything but experiment with.

You can’t beat $0.00, right? So with that sort of overhead, I can play to my heart’s content, and you can too.

Unlike most thing that sound too good to be true, this one isn’t. There are no catches, and you don’t have to serve ads on your website.

Go check it out. It really is free, as in beer.

I want Sandy, and you will too!

November 27, 2007

(Notice, This post describes the now-defunct “I want Sandy”.  Sandy was taken off line as of December 19th, 2008.  Another victim of the web 2.0 bubble.  You know, where a useful service people have come to rely on is ripped out from under you without warning.  I’m looking at you, twitter!)

If you haven’t met Sandy yet, let me introduce you. You can thank me later.

Sandy lives at This is a short guide on how to put Sandy to work for you.

Sandy is your free personal assistant, alert service and your new best friend. Although Sandy works great over email and SMS, today we’re going to focus specifically on integrating her with twitter.

Far from being just another dull, run-of-the-mill calendar service, Sandy is a powerful, flexible life management system. Team her up with twitter, and you’ll quickly find her to be the best thing to happen to you in a long, long time.

Introduce yourself to Sandy and let’s get started.

Visit her website and click on the red “sign up” section on the webpage. I won’t insult your intelligence by walking you through the signup process.

At the end of it, Sandy will send you an email. In that message will be a link to a unique email address that you can use to add things to your calendar. Click on that link and send Sandy a message like “remember to subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed”. This will activate your account and you can move on to setting up twitter.

From the webpage, click on the “Settings” tab and find the “twitter” configuration.

From there you can see that you need to visit Sandy’s twitter page.

Assuming that you already have a twitter account, start following Sandy and make sure that you also set “notifications” to “on”. This presumes that you have already set up SMS alerts inside twitter, which is the subject of an entirely seperate post.

Once you’ve done that, Sandy will automatically start following you as well. Flip back to the page under the twitter settings and enter your twitter username in the box provided. Sandy will send you a direct message on twitter with an authentication code. Once you have that, make sure you enter it and check the box to turn “twitter reminders” on and hit “save”.

And that’s it. Sandy is now hooked up to twitter and you can not only receive her reminders over twitter directly to your phone, but you can twitter entries for Sandy to add to your schedule. Try it. From your favorite twitter client (eg: twitterific, twitbin, twitterfox, etc.) or even your cell phone, send a tweet like this:

d s remember to eat more vegetables
d s remind me to go jogging tomorrow at 6pm
d s remember 5th november gunpowder, treason and plot

You can even get fancy and tag your entries:

d s remember Rich’s birthday july 29 @birthday @yearly
d s remind me to install ubuntu linux on my laptop @todo
d s remember cute girl at bar’s phone number is 123456789

There are plenty of examples on so I won’t repeat them here. If you’re sending them via twitter, just make sure that you start with “d s” eg: send a direct message to the user called “s”. If you’re sending Sandy instructions via email, you can ignore the “d s” part.

One last thing – make sure that your timezone and date format is correct. Under “Settings” click “Dates & Times” and set them correctly for your timezone and date format.

Once you’ve met Sandy, you’ll wonder how you ever did without her.

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How to make a video for youtube with linux

October 16, 2007

Today our aim is to create a slideshow set to music that we can upload to youtube. Since I prefer to use linux, this guide will focus on how to do it in ubuntu.

Here’s the video I created as part of my blog about emo hair cuts:

Here’s the sequence of steps required:

  1. Decide on the piece of music you’re going to use. For this example I’m going to select a random .mp3 from my collection. Work out how long it plays for. I fired up a player to work this out, there may be an easier way. My chosen .mp3 file was 3 minutes, 52 seconds in duration.Total time in seconds := 232.
  2. I decided on 5 seconds per image, including transitions. You don’t need to use transitions if you don’t want to. I think it looks nicer. Since we’re talking about 232 seconds of audio, we’ll need:232 seconds ÷ 5 seconds per image = 46 images.

    If you’re planning on creating an image for the beginning and end of the video, obviously subtract 2 from that number.

  3. Grab a bunch of photos from somewhere. Don’t worry about how big they are. We’re going to resize them to 640×480. Ideally the images you chose will be as big or bigger than 640×480 to start with, but it really doesn’t matter all that much.
  4. For each photo in turn, run this command: convert <filename> -resize 640x480 <newfilename>'.

    ‘convert’ is part of the ImageMagick suite. If you don’t have it already, you can install that with:

    sudo apt-get install imagemagick

    This resizes each image to fit in a 640×480 frame. It does not force them all to that size, so your aspect ratio is kept.

  5. If you’re planning on creating an image for the start and/or the end, fire up the gimp and create a new 640×480 image. Use the bucket tool to fill the frame with a color (black is a good choice), select a text color and use the text tool to type your text into the image. Save it as a .jpg.If you don’t have the gimp, install it with: sudo apt-get install gimp
  6. At this point you have all your images ready and resized to fit in a 640×480 canvas. You also have your audio track ready. Now it’s time to create the slideshow. For that we need dvd-slideshow. sudo apt-get install dvd-slideshow
  7. dvd-slideshow runs from the command line based on a ‘recipe’ or script that you create. Ours is going to look like this: audiotrack.mp3:1

    Notice that firstimage.jpg runs for 3 seconds, then there is a crossfade of 2 seconds. That takes the total time for the image to the 5 seconds we wanted. If you want to display the image for a shorter or longer time, adjust as necessary. Notice also that there is a ‘fadein’ after the first image. We don’t want the first image to fade in, and we can’t use crossfade for the first image. I displayed the footer image for 10 seconds. You can display the last frame for as long or as short a space of time as you like.

  8. Run dvd-slideshow as follows:

    dvd-slideshow <recipe file.txt>

  9. Watch the magic happen. When it’s finished you’ll be left with a .vob file. If you wanted to, you could burn that directly to a dvd. I don’t know why you’d want to do that, however! VOB files are pretty large, so we’ll need to resize it before we upload it to youtube.
  10. Use mplayer or (my preference) vlc media player to play the .vob file and make sure it looks like you expected it to. Once you’re happy you’ll want to turn your huge .vob into a much smaller .avi that youtube will like. You’ll need mencoder and lame for this:

    sudo apt-get install mencoder lame

  11. You’ll probably want to save this to a script. Execute the following commands. There are 2 passes, so we run mencoder twice. Replace $FILE with your .vob file and $OUT with whatever you want to call the resulting file. The ‘crop’ commands aren’t strictly necessary, but won’t hurt. The first time I ran this I left the slideshow at 640×480 and had mencoder resize it.

    mencoder "$FILE" \
    -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vbitrate=1000:vhq:keyint=250:threads=2:vpass=1 \
    -oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr:br=128 \
    -ffourcc XVID \
    -vf scale=320:-2,crop=320:240,expand=320:240 \
    -af resample=44100:0:0 \
    -o "$OUT"

    mencoder "$FILE" \
    -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vbitrate=1000:vhq:keyint=250:threads=2:vpass=2 \
    -oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr:br=128 \
    -ffourcc XVID \
    -vf scale=320:-2,crop=320:240,expand=320:240 \
    -af resample=44100:0:0 \
    -o "$OUT"

  12. Alternatively, it’s been pointed out to me that you can encode directly to .flv, (which is what youtube will turn a .avi file into) with ffmpeg (sudo apt-get install ffmpeg) as follows:

    ffmpeg -i FILE.vob -s 320x240 FILE.flv

  13. Once that’s completed check out your .avi or .flv file in your player of choice. You should have a (much smaller) video at 320×240 that you can upload to youtube

That’s all!

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