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Transferring an address book from a Samsung phone to the iPhone

Posted by james on Feb. 3, 2009

We finally switched Lauren over from Verizon to T-Mobile so she could use her iPhone as more than a glorified soltaire machine, so we needed to get her contacts into the iPhone. I've always hated that, since with smartphones there's usually a clear way to sync contacts with a computer, which means it's easy to get contacts on & off. However, with non-smartphones it's less clear. I had a hunch that it could be done via bluetooth, so I tried.

I first paired the Samsung SCH-u410 with my computer's bluetooth. That went easily enough, just like pairing a headset to the phone. Then I went to a contact in the address book in the phone, clicked on Options, then Send Contact, then choose Bluetooth (instead of TXT), and then it gave me the option to choose which contacts to send. I choose "Send All" then then hit done, and it sent all the contacts! The only tricky part was that the computer reported that it was receiving contacts... and then did nothing. I had to go into the bluetooth software on my computer and edit the settings for the PIM Item Transfer service. By default it did nothing, I had to change it to save the contacts to a folder (which folder??) and then hunt around for the folder, which ended up being in My Documents under Bluetooth Exchange Folder. I repeated the process on the phone, and this time I saw a list of VCF (vCard format contact files) show up in the exchange folder. Awesome!

VCF's are the common format for contacts, so they can be sync'd with almost anything. I copied them to the mac, dragged them on the Address Book, then opened iTunes and told it to sync the contacts with the Address Book. And bam, it's done! I'm really impressed that samsung made it so easy to send all contacts via bluetooth, and even more impressed that I didn't have to spend all that time typing it in. Hopefully this will help others that are migrating off old cell phones avoid the endless typing. It should even work if you have two non-smart phones... once you've got the VCF files, connect to the new phone and send them via bluetooth PIM Item Transfer. Let me know if it works.

Setting up MythTV 0.21 on Ubuntu 8.10 with a WinTV-GO card, a Verizon FIOS Motorola QIP7100-1 STB, and happiness

Posted by james on Jan. 7, 2009

MythTV DVR Setup:

I've been wanting to setup a MythTV box for a long time. I hate the idea of wasting hundreds of dollars renting a DVR from the cable company. I also want something I can stream easily to my laptop or desktop, since I rarely watch TV on my actual TV. I knew MythTV was used by a lot of people, so I figured it'd be stable and pretty solid by now. While it is stable, it's incredibly complicated to setup and took me a long time to figure out. One problem is that it's not well documented. There's a lot of holes in the documentation, and so I had to stumble upon a lot of little fixes on my own. I've written down everything here step by step, for my own benefit (in case I have to do this again), but also for other's benefit since they may run into the same problems I did.

My DVR is based off an old AMD Sempron 3100+ with 1GB ram and an 80gb harddrive. It has an NVidia 6600 AGP video card and a Hauppauge WinTV-GO TV tuner card. The motherboard is an ECS NForce-3A with built-in AC97 sound and an NForce3 chipset.

For my setup, I have Verizon FIOS digital TV with HD. I have a Motorola QIP7100-1 HD STB tuning in channels, and I have RCA cables feeding the video from the STB into the composite-in on the tv tuner card. I have the audio going from the RCA outputs on the STB to the minijack line-in on my motherboard. I'm not using the tv tuner card's tuner at all, since CableCard capable hardware isn't available unless you buy a premade system. The signal is all SD, and not great at that, but it's about on par with Slingbox quality so it's fine for streaming to the other rooms of my house.

First, I already had an install of Ubuntu 8.10 working. Without any tweaks (that I know of), most of the hardware was recognized and working. By default it boots into X windows with GDM and shows you a login screen. Here's the steps I took to install/configure mythtv and all the related parts.

  • Install ubuntu 8.10 (as mentioned above)

  • Install mythtv package (v0.21-fixes)

    • Click on System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager

    • Enter password

    • search for "mythtv"

    • double click on mythtv to mark it for installation (version 0.21.0+fixes at this time)

    • click Apply and install the packages

  • Install the NVidia video drivers

    • Without this step, video playback is extremely choppy and you get XVideo errors in the mythfrontend log. Enabling the nvidia driver also gives you fun alpha blending effects in x windows.

    • Click on System > Administration > Hardware Drivers

    • There will be multiple versions of the "NVIDIA accelerated graphics driver". Click on the recommended/latest one (v177 for me) and click Activate.

    • You may have to reboot here.

  • Setup mythtv ("mythtv-setup"):

    • Run "mythtv-setup"

    • A dialog will popup to ask if it can stop mythbackend. For me, it pops up behind all other windows (??). Make sure you click ok, otherwise it'll look like the command is frozen.

      • Choose "Capture Cards", "New Capture Card"

      • Video device is /dev/video0

      • VBI is /dev/vbi0

      • Audio device is /dev/dsp

      • Default input is Compsite1

      • Select "Video Source", "New Video Source"

      • Give it any name (Video Source 1)

      • Listings Grabber = "No grabber"

      • Select "Input Connections"

      • Choose "[ V4L: /dev/video0 ] (Composite1) -> (none)"

      • Video Source = [the name of the video source]

      • Starting Channel = 3 (this may not be needed?)

      • In "Channel Editor"

      • If I didn't setup a dummy channel, mythfrontend would choke when trying to set the channel and fail. Setting up a dummy channel allowed the composite in to work with mythtv. You wont need this later when you get the real channel data.

      • Select "New Channel"

      • Name = anything

      • Channel Number = anything

      • Video Source = [video source name]

    • Press escape a few times to exit setup

    • Select yes to fill the database

    • wait...

  • Setup listings with mc2xml

    • You don't think about it since tv guide data is freely available on the web, but it's actually a bit hard to get. The problem is that while you can browse to many tv listing sources (full of ads), not many people want to give it away for free in XML or machine readable formats. This is because it costs them money, and they can only afford to give it away when they're making money off the ads. Zap2it used to publish free listings, but apparantly has stopped a while ago. You can still get the data from Microsoft, since they publish the data for their Media Center Edition PC's. This site (http://www.mythtvtalk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8164&start=0) was invaluable in setting up listings, and the below instructions are based directly off that page.

    • Go to http://mc2xml.110mb.com/

    • Download the linux version binary

    • Save it to your home folder, then open a Terminal and copy it to your bin directory ("sudo mv ~/mc2xml /usr/bin")

    • In terminal, create a directory for the listings data ("sudo mkdir /usr/share/mythtv/mc2xml")

    • Run "mc2xml -c us -g [your_zip_code_here]"

    • Choose your tv provider, mine was "Verizon Fios [city] (Digital)". The one without (Digital) only had ~50 channels. The real one had about 2000.

    • As in the page linked to above, I recommend choosing the channels you want and putting it in a file "mc2xml.ch", like:

      • 1

      • 2-10

      • 50

      • 51

      • 52

      • 100-400

    • The less channels you put in the better, since importing into mythtv will take forever. I think you may have better luck running the import in parts with smaller XML files, since my XML file ended up being 100MB big with about 500 channels, 30000 programs, and it took about 4 hours to import mostly choking on memory. Maybe if you run a few updates with smaller files it wont overload the memory and thrash the paging file. Just a guess.

    • run "nice -n 19 mythfilldatabase --update --file 1 xmltv.xl" You can also use --refresh-all instead of --update, I'm not sure when you'd want to use either in this case.

    • You should now have listings in mythfrontend. Yay!

  • Change mixer settings

    • This took me the longest time to figure out. I couldn't get any sound recorders to work in Ubuntu/gnome, and in mythtv I just got a high pitched hissing/whine sound (not static). However, in one of the volume mixers I could unmute the line-in for playback and hear TV audio from the STB, so I knew my sound card drivers were working, just the mixers were setup. I say mixers, because on Ubuntu you have a few different sound systems (Why???). There are drivers that allow they kernel to use the sound card. Then there is the sound server, that allows multiple other programs to use the sound card at once, instead of each program taking over the sound card completely.

    • So Ubuntu 8.10 uses ALSA drivers for the sound card, which give you OSS style /dev/dsp and /dev/audio devices. Now you need a sound server. The ALSA package also includes a sound server to use with their drivers, but Ubuntu has chosen to use PulseAudio as a sound server instead. So instead of ALSA Driver > ALSA Sound Server > Program, you're now using ALSA Driver > PulseAudio Sound Server > ALSA Sound Server Emulation > Program. Normally this is transparent, but the problem now becoms mixers. The sound card's inputs and outputs (pcm, main, line-in, mic, etc) are separate from the mixer devices that control the volume, muting, input source, etc. ALSA has amixer and alsamixer, gnome has gnome-audio-control, and PulseAudio has pavucontrol. I had no luck on alsamixer, gnome-audio-control, or pavucontrol. I had to use amixer. I found a page (http://tldp.org/HOWTO/BTTV/recording.html) that gave me a starting point of how to use it.

    • Find out card number

      • > cat /proc/asound/cards

      • I had 0 for NVidia CK8S (my motherboard sound card) and 1 for Bt878 (the tv tuner's sound). Many WinTV-GO tuners do not have digital sound capture, they simple have a jack on the back that outputs sound that you must connect to your sound card's line-in. I bypassed this completely and just ran audio from the STB straight into the line-in, so I'm only interested in card #0 here.

    • List controls for the card

      • > amixer -c 0 controls

    • Select the correct input source

      • > amixer -c 0 cget name='Capture Source'

      • Find the input marked 'Line', which is the line-in. This was #4 for me:

      • > amixer -c 0 cset name='Capture Source' 4

    • Create a script to do this on bootup:

      • > sudo vi /etc/init.d/set_capture_source.sh

      • Copy & paste this:

        • > amixer -c 0 cset name='Capture Source' 4

      • > sudo chmod a+x set_capture_source.sh

      • > update-rc.d set_capture_source.sh defaults

    • Fix scratchy audio

      • Now that the audio mixer was finally set to allow sound in mythtv, the audio was noticeably scratchy and distorted. The problem was a sampling rate mismatch

      • > mythfrontend

      • Go to Utilities/Setup > Setup > TV Settings > Recording Profiles > Software Encoders (v4l based)

        • For each encoder (default, live tv, high quality, low quality), click on the profile name to edit it

        • Next, Next, Next, then change "Sampling Rate" to 48000 (the default for the sound card)

        • Repeat for each profile so they're all 48000 hz

  • Setup firewire channel changing script:

    • The WinTV-GO has a built-in IR receiver and transmitter (ie. an "IR blaster"), however I've lost the cables a while ago and can't find any instructions on how to use the built-in IR transmitter. I'd probably have to use LIRC, but since I couldn't figure that out I used firewire instead. I was lucky enough to have an extra firewire card for my DVR, but firewire is a more reliable way of changing channels anyway.

    • Install firewire support:

      • Run synaptic package manager, search for 1394.

      • Choose libavc1394, libavc1394-dev, libraw1394, and libiec1394. The -dev packages are needed to compile 6200ch.c below.

      • To use firewire, run > sudo modprobe raw1394

      • To enable firewire for every reboot:

        • > sudo gedit /etc/modules

        • add the lines "dv1394" and "raw1394" to the end

      • You should now have /dev/raw1394 available

    • Compile and modify the channel changer script:

      • > cd /usr/share/doc/mythtv-backend/contrib/channel_changers/

      • > gunzip 6200ch.c.gz (creates the 6200ch.c file)

      • > cc -std=gnu99 -o 6200ch 6200ch.c -lavc1394 -lrom1394 -lraw1394

      • Test changing a channel to get the vendor/device ID's:

        • > ./6200ch -v 1

        • I got "node 1: vendor_id = 0x00002180 model_id = 0x00008100"

      • > sudo gedit 6200ch.c

        • I had to edit 6200ch.c to add the QIP7100-1 vendor & device ID's. If this is beyond you, ask me for my file.

        • I also added 4 digit slow channel changing, since FIOS has >1000 channels now. With 3 digit changing, it sends 3 digits and then the STB waits a few seconds for the last digit before changing the channel. So instead of sending "020" it sends "0020".

        • Update: here's a link to my modified code

      • Recompile to pick up the changes:

        • > cc -std=gnu99 -o 6200ch 6200ch.c -lavc1394 -lrom1394 -lraw1394

      • Copy the file to the bin directory:

        • > sudo cp 6200ch /usr/bin

    • To manually change to channel 100:

      • > 6200ch 100 (or with my script, "6200ch -4 100" for 4 digit changing)

    • Add the channel changing script to mythtv

      • > mythtv-setup

      • Go to Input Connections

      • Select "[ V4L: /dev/video0 ] (Composite1) -> Video Source 1"

      • For "External channel change command:" enter "6200ch" (or "6200ch -4")

      • Next, Finish, press escape to exit. Run mythfilldatabase if you want to, not sure if it's needed.

      • run mythfrontend and check that channel changing works.

  • Setup mythweb:

    • svn co

Cox is unreliable, unhelful, and stupid.

Posted by james on Dec. 31, 2008

We have Cox here at the house for Internet and TV, and Lauren's had it for the past 3 or 4 years. It's been ok, but lately we've been having problems with the internet cutting out randomly. It would appear to be really slow, since eventually pages would load. Looking at a ping log it was obvious that the signal was cutting out for about 10 seconds out of every minute or so. This would happen in episodes, so the internet would be fine all day, then this would start happening every minute for a half hour, then it'd be fine again.

First, I called Cox tech support to see if there were any issues in the area. The tech said no, no issues in the area and he could see that my modem had been online and fine for more than 30 days. This definitely wasn't true, since I'd been having trouble recently. I waited a few days, then called back because it kept happening. This time the tech said he could see on my modem's log that the signal was just barely adequate, and would gradually get worse until it reset. He said there's no reason the first tech shouldn't have seen it, it was right there. So the first tech lied to me... not good.

They sent out a tech to come to the house to try to fix it. He inspected everything, tested signals, and got them to boost the signals by enough to bring the modem within spec. It was working then, since it was not experiencing an episode at that moment. He left, and about 30 minutes later the same thing happened. I called back to Cox tech support, and they told me that a tech had looked it over, and that there didn't seem to be anything wrong with the modem, so it might be an issue with my router and they would not send someone out to check out. What a lame cop out! Especially in light of the fact that I can consistently ping the modem's internal IP, even when the dropouts are occurring, so that means my router is totally fine. The problem lies somewhere between the modem and anything outside the modem (even Cox's DHCP servers).

But they just wont send someone out to take a look, since they insist that it "could be your router". Lame.

Then recently I decided to try to work on a PVR (personal video recorder, like a DVR), and I wanted to hook up my computer to the firewire port on the DVR we rent from Cox. Normally all of the ports are disabled by Cox, but the firewire must be enabled:

According to the FCC's Rules, on page 50:
(4) Cable operators shall:
(i) Effective April 1, 2004, upon request of a customer,
replace any leased high definition set-top box, which does not
include a functional IEEE 1394 interface, with one that includes a
functional IEEE 1394 interface or upgrade the customer's set-top
box by download or other means to ensure that the IEEE 1394
interface is functional.
(ii) Effective July 1, 2005, include both a DVI or HDMI
interface and an IEEE 1394 interface on all high definition set-top
boxes acquired by a cable operator for distribution to customers.

So Cox is required by law to provide an HD box with a working firewire port. Seems pretty simple and straightforward. I plug my computer into Cox's DVR, and no firewire. So I call them up. I ask them if the firewire ports are enabled on the DVR (and spent a bit of time explaining what "firewire" and "IEEE1394" are, to tech support!). They say no, they're not enabled. So I ask them to exchange my DVR for one with firewire enabled. They say they can't, none of the ports are enabled. I tell them about the FCC ruling that states they are required by law to enable the firewire on request. And here's where the excuses start. I can't even remember all of them, they were such BS. "That rule must be new, I haven't heard anything about it." Nope, the first part was effective April 1, 2004. "We have an HDMI port, you can use that instead." Nope, I want a firewire port, since HDMI can't be connected to a computer, and it says specifically "both a DVI or HDMI interface and an IEEE 1394 interface". "Well, we must have some reason we don't have to conform to that law, so that must be why we don't do it. No, sorry, pulling fabricated nonsense out of your butt is not a valid reason (I didn't say this, but probably should have). In the end, the woman on the phone (a supervisor, since the original tech couldn't get past "What's a firewire?") simply told me that she wouldn't do it, that they didn't have to, and have a nice day *click*.

I'm done with Cox. Their tech support have been incompetent or belligerent 2 times too many, and even then my service was still having problems. Add on top of that the fact that we're paying them over $130/mo, for service that is flawed, and my mind was made up. I'm calling Cox tomorrow to cancel my service, since we already have something else in place...

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