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{ Monthly Archives } July 2008


they can fall to bits from too much love!

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Babylon 5, the adventure with DVD copy protection

I still have not found an apartment so as I have no internet to entertain me on the weekend I got a copy of the first season of Babylon 5 (it was only $20.00 AUD for the whole season). I had been working my way through Andromeda but no where seems to have the third season.

Anyway when I put the DVD video in the drive in my Sony Vaio Laptop running Ubuntu Hardy all I got where I/O errors, some examples are below;

[ 2283.614887] end_request: I/O error, dev sr0, sector 418256
[ 2283.620351] end_request: I/O error, dev sr0, sector 418264
[ 2283.626273] end_request: I/O error, dev sr0, sector 418264
[ 2283.631766] end_request: I/O error, dev sr0, sector 418272
[ 2283.637013] end_request: I/O error, dev sr0, sector 418272
[ 2283.642384] end_request: I/O error, dev sr0, sector 418280

The Vaio’s DVD drive is connected via the USB bus. This is done so that drive can be completely powered down. The device turned out to be a MATSHITA DVD-RAM drive as shown via the dmesg output below;

[ 2909.596251] scsi11 : SCSI emulation for USB Mass Storage devices
[ 2909.596944] usb-storage: device found at 24
[ 2909.596952] usb-storage: waiting for device to settle before scanning
[ 2911.901103] usb-storage: device scan complete
[ 2911.903506] scsi 11:0:0:0: CD-ROM            MATSHITA DVD-RAM UJ-852S  1.31 PQ: 0 ANSI: 0
[ 2911.948247] sr1: scsi3-mmc drive: 24x/24x writer dvd-ram cd/rw xa/form2 cdda tray
[ 2911.948372] sr 11:0:0:0: Attached scsi CD-ROM sr1
[ 2911.948460] sr 11:0:0:0: Attached scsi generic sg1 type 5

It took me forever to figure out what was going on. I had seen similar problems on my desktop before when the disk was scratched but these where brand new disks. So I took the disks into work and tested it out on a friends Mac, it played perfectly. There happened to be a Steve Irwin DVD video disk lying around, so I popped it in the Vaio, it also played perfectly! What was going on?

After much searching I came across some reference to problems with region coding. It turns out that  MATSHITA drives won’t let you read a dvd unless they they have a region set. As I had never played a DVD video before the region on the drive had never been set.

There is a tool in Linux which can be used to do the region setting, it is helpfully called regionset. After setting the region to “Region 4” I am now able to play my new DVDs! I wonder if I will be able to read my discs from the US and the UK. The libdvdcss2 should be able to decode the data if it can be read, hopefully the drive will still let that occurring. I will report back in comments here when I find out for sure.

It has been repetitively found that region encoding is anticompetitive and hence un-unenforceable in Australia. I have included a quote from the Stevens v Kabushiki Kaisha Sony Computer Entertainment case from 2005.

Ordinary principles of statutory construction, observed by this Court since its earliest days, have construed legislation, where there is doubt, to protect the fundamental rights of the individual. The right of the individual to enjoy lawfully acquired private property (a CD ROM game or a PlayStation console purchased in another region of the world or possibly to make a backup copy of the CD ROM) would ordinarily be a right inherent in Australian law upon the acquisition of such a chattel. This is a further reason why s 116A of the Copyright Act and the definition of TPM in s 10(1) of that Act should be read strictly. Doing so avoids an interpretation that would deprive the property owner of an incident of that person’s ordinary legal rights.

I thought I would just log my info here as there was very little information in Google about this problem. Hopefully I help some poor fool which brought a Sony Vaio like me.

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My three weeks on a Mac

As everyone knows, I recently started at Google. When I started I was given a MacBook Pro to use as the company laptop before I had a chance to change it, I had to head off to Mountain View for training. This meant I ended up using a Mac for 3 and half weeks.

Now I am back in Australia I have decided to trade in my Mac for a nice PC running Linux. People have continually told me that Macs are the epitome for polished UI and once you get use to them, there is no going back. When I suggested that this might not be the case, I was told “but you have never used Mac” – well now I have and I have specific examples of why Apple’s are less usable then Linux.

My first bone to pick is with the unlock screen. As I work at Google and might have the codes for the orbital space laser on my laptop, I need to lock my screen anytime I walk away from my desk. In gnome on Linux I can just walk back to my computer and start typing my password, it makes sure that all the keys end up in the password box – no so on a Mac. When I get back, I first have to move the mouse or hit a key, I then have to wait for the twirling multi-color ball and then I get to type my password. If I just start typing I loose the first 3 or more characters of the password.

Next is the useless wireless indicator that Mac has. On Linux I can clearly see if I am connected, trying to connect or waiting, I can also see if I am on wireless or wired network. This is all thanks to Network Manager which is very, very cool. On Mac, you can’t tell if you are connected or the Mac is having a shit and still trying to connect. Often, I had to bring up a ping program to see if the wireless bars meant I was actually connected or not. If I plug in the ethernet, without specifically disabling the Airport how do I know where my packets are going?

The twirling ball of doom. Normally programs either lock hard or work. Not on Mac, instead you get a ball which twirls forever. After waiting for 15 minutes I just hard reset my computer. At least if I knew the computer was locked up I wouldn’t have to wait that 15 minutes.

I have often gotten this error “You cannot move any item to the Trash because it is being emptied” when doing a secure empty of my trash bin. How hard is it to put things in the trash while emptying it?

Alt Tab doesn’t work. It doesn’t change between windows, only applications. Often I have multiple windows open in one application. I first have to “alt tab” to the correct application, then I have to “command tab” to the correct window. How annoying!

So that was just a few issues I have had. Overall, I am much happier with Ubuntu and it keeps getting even better.

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