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Lumebox Released

Projects - January 8th, 2010

Today I released the Lumebox to the jQuery plugin repository, it’s a Lightbox clone with a few added features. One of the main features is that it can parse RSS feeds just as easily as displaying images. The plugin searches the post or page for all links leading to images and opens them in a popup instead of following them.

The RSS parser that’s built into the plugin is compatible with RSS and ATOM feeds and can be used on its own. It takes two parameters, the URL to parse and a function to execute when it has fetched and parsed the feed. Since it uses Ajax the URL must be local or go through a local proxy.

More information can be found on my Lumebox project page and it can be downloaded from the jQuery plugin repository.

Project Mediastation Upgrade

Projects - October 5th, 2009

I’ve just bought and installed a couple of new components into my Mediastation (htpc), a mini-itx motherboard with a dual core Atom 330 CPU and NVIDIA ION graphics which I removed the fan from, a 30GB OCZ Vertex SSD drive and two Scythe S-Flex 120mm fans to keep everything cool and inaudible.  Unfortunately I made a small bummer and ordered a motherboard with only a PCI slot (and not PCI-e x1 which I need for the Auzentech audio card) so I’m left with subpar audio until I can buy a new one, although this doesn’t relly matter until I can finish building a new pair of speakers.

The new configuration is completely inaudible as long as the storage harddrive (Samsung F1 1TB) is sleeping and only slightly when I’m really listening for it in a totally quiet room at night. It uses somewhere between 25 and 35W under full load and can play 1080p Blu-Ray and HD-DVD movies without any kind of stuttering. I’m really pleased with the platform performance, playback quality, form factor and power consumption.

I have a few ideas for packaging so hopefully I can start building the chassis soon. Until then it resides in a really oversized Silverstone HTPC chassis  where it almost looks lost.

Parsing dates from RSS-feeds to Groovy Date-objects in Grails

Projects - September 3rd, 2009

During my work with thurst.net i recently got into a snag when I tried to parse the publication dates from the RSS-posts and save them as Groovy-dates. After many checks and double-checks of the format for the parsing, I could’t understand why the Date.parse() function crashed and complained that there was something wrong with the format. I got closer to the solution when I tried parsing a date consisting of only numbers, since it worked I knew that the code parsing the string was correct.

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Introducing Thurst.net – Satisfying Your Thirst for News

Projects - August 31st, 2009

Today I activated thurst.net, it’s my first web application built using Grails designed to satisfy its users thirst for news. It does this by combining RSS-channels with twitters on the same subjects, this way the user can get editorial content and also see the latest buzz on the same topic as the posts.

I really like developing with Grails, it speeds up many of the mundane tasks immensely when creating applications for the web. The other side of the coin is that a lot of small problems surface during the coding and deployment of the first application in a new language on a new framework. With most of the problems out of the way thurst.net is now online (or actually on and off, it’s in heavy beta)!

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How to Setup a VPS to Run Grails on Jetty

Projects - August 27th, 2009

To keep costs down Virtual Private Servers (VPSs) are a very good way to host web applications, they provide all the benefits of a dedicated server but are much cheaper to hire. The disadvantage most of them have is that the cheapest options often have limited amounts of memory (256-512MB), when running a PHP application this is often more than enough but for running Java and Grails applications (which run on a Java application servers) this provides a little challenge. It’s not unfeasible at all, it’s just that some extra attention has to be payed when building the application stack.

The most important step is to start as minimal as possible and only adding applications and starting processes that are necessary. One way is to use Tomcat as an application server and configuring it to be used without Apache Web Server. I prefer Jetty to Tomcat since I find it easier to set up and deploy the web applications and they use about the same amounts of memory. An added benefit of using Jetty is the ability to run it on port 80 without using iptables, ipchains or a similar mechanism which sometimes can be really tricky on a VPS since you can’t fiddle with the kernel.

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New Website – Semantic HTML 5, SEO and Transcendent CSS

Projects - July 30th, 2009

Over the last week I’ve been rebuilding my website from the ground up, at first it started as a small project to transform the core parts to object-oriented php as a learning excercise. However, I soon realized that once I was at it I might as well take the opportunity and rewrite the output the embrace some new technologies and better practices to generate cleaner and more modern HTML that hopefully is easier to style and even better for Search Engine Optimization.

The goal with the HTML output was to reduce the code to content-ratio (which was already quite good), reduce the amount of code and content before the main content of the page and provide more semantic tags by using HTML 5 (<article> for blog posts etc.) instead of using divs’s with different classes. In the classic practice of using both belt and suspenders I’ve also incorporated microformats into the output. Microformats clutter the code with more classes that it might otherwise be possible to skip but I think that it’ll be good for better search engine indexing and that the pro’s outweigh the con’s. Specifically, Google has said thay they embrace microformats and they provide more hooks to which CSS can be added until all browsers support CSS3.

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Hardware Acceleration of Matroska X264 Files in Windows Vista and 7

Projects - April 21st, 2009

By using hardware acceleration a big workload is off-loaded from the CPU to the GPU on the graphic card when playing compressed video content. Apart from freeing up resources for background tasks this also makes it possible to have a low clocked power efficient CPU and still get perfectly smooth and well-decoded (even better decode than pure software in some instances) x264 video. In some instances it’s even necessary to use hardware decode since 1080p video requires a heavy amount of processing to even play without dropped frames and only the faster multi-core processors can do that at the moment.

Most current graphic cards have some form of hardware acceleration but the best implementation is usually found on the second or third line of cards from the two manufacturers and not on the most powerful gaming cards. Apart from drawing significantly less power than their bigger brothers (10w instead of 100w+) they are also much cheaper and produce less heat and noise (with passive versions available).

To get the x264 hardware acceleration going the first step is to set up Windows Vista and Windows 7 to understand Matroska .mkv (or .avi) container files. This is usually done by installing Haali Media Splitter which adds OS-wide support for a couple of containers.

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Posted in Projects April 21st, 2009 by
Anders
and last updated January 4th, 2010. Tagged with .

Project Mediastation is Officially Underway

Projects - March 30th, 2009

My long-time project of creating a computer based high-end surround pre-amp/processor and audio- and video source has now officially started. It’ll be a mix of newly purchased components and pieces from my current HTPC for the electronic bits and then a custom designed and manufactured chassis made from aluminium and brass.

The Mediastation is built to provide the highest possible audio and video quality while using as little energy as possible. I’m using an AMD Be-2350 CPU, an Auzentech soundcard (the X-Fi 7.1 Forte) feeding an amplifier with an analog signal, an Asus HD4350 Silent HDMI graphics card for hardware 1080p decoding and processing, a 5.25″ Blu-Ray drive and a couple of hard drives together with an mATX motherboard and an ATX power supply. These components need to be housed in a good looking, solid small case that is noiseless from a normal viewing and listening distance (2m). The end result is a system that can rival the very best stand-alone high-end audio pre-amps, processors and audio- and video sources using less power than many digital-broadcast set-top boxes.

When using hardware acceleration on the current generation of graphics cards there’s no need for a powerful CPU, even an Atom can just about manage to play Blu-Ray titles using decent graphic circuitry. Both AMD and NVIDIA score about even (and very good) in Silicon Optix HD HQV tests but the ATI Avivo UVD2 seems to display more detail at the cost of a slightly cooler-colored image. My choice of the Asus HD 4350 card comes from the fact that it’s passive, inexpensive, draws less power than the NVIDIA competitors and has a HDMI output. I’m certain that the image quality is spectacular and the CPU off-loading is equal with either manufacturer.

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Posted in Projects March 30th, 2009 by
Anders
and last updated January 4th, 2010. Tagged with .

Thoughts on the Audio Playback Chain

Projects - March 13th, 2009

The advent and breakthrough of digital music formats have changed the way music is played and consumed. By working with the new formats instead of palying them through a system devised for analogue sources significant strides can be taken to optimize the audio signal.

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