Can’t Remove the Commercials!!!!

July 29, 2012

If you search for “comskip” among my older postings, you’ll see that at one time I had developed a procedure for identifying and cutting out commercials from my video recordings. I used an application called Comskip (which is a Windows app so I ran it using the Wine cross-platform emulator) for identifying commercials in a video, ffmpeg and mencoder for video data manipulation and cutting. Unfortunately, with the upgrade in my video recording software (EyeTV3) these scripts and procedures no longer work.

I’ve spent hours and long evenings trying to develop a new method, but I’ve hit a big roadblock. I can still use Comskip to identify the commercial time points in a video file, but I have no way of automatically editing the video to remove the commercial segments. In the past, I used mencoder to do the video cutting in batch mode, but now it just won’t work with the MPEG-2 file that is created by the recording software. I tried extracting the video from the original MPEG-2 file first and using that in mencoder, but no dice. I can remove the commercials  manually using the EyeTV3 software, but I want an automated procedure that just does it for me.

Unfortunately, other video processing programs such as ffmeg and Handbrake can’t cut out the commercials from a video file as effectively as how mencoder did it. So, I’m stuck now with lots of commercials that I have to manually skip by. It’s not a super big deal, but when you’re use to watching a show with no commericals, it’s hard to go back!

So if anyone reading this blog posting has any ideas or suggestions, please let me know! 🙂

Updated (12 Aug 2012): Ok, I finally figured out how to do this. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details, but the following Unix command on my iMac system is what I use to identify the commercials in a EyeTV recorded raw mpeg-2 file then create a new mp4 file with the recordings stripped out:

export DISPLAY=:0.0; /usr/bin/nice -n 5 “/Library/Application Support/ETVComskip/” “/Library/Application Support/ETVComskip/comskip/comskip.exe” –ini=”/Library/Application Support/ETVComskip/comskip/comskip.ini” /Users/dave/Documents/EyeTV\ Archive/Enemy\ of\ the\ State.eyetv/0000000015cdc458.mpg &> /dev/null; /bin/sleep 10; /usr/local/bin/mencoder /Users/dave/Music/iTunes/iTunes\ Media/Android\ Videos/Enemy\ of\ the\ State.mp4 -o /Users/dave/Music/iTunes/iTunes\ Media/Android\ Videos/Enemy\ of\ the\ State\ \(No\ Commercials\).mp4 -edl /Users/dave/Documents/EyeTV\ Archive/Enemy\ of\ the\ State.eyetv/0000000015cdc458.edl -ovc copy -oac faac -faacopts mpeg=4:object=2:raw:br=164 -srate 48000 -of lavf > /dev/null 2>&1 &

I basically use Comskip to identify the commercials in the original mpeg-2 video file, then use Mencoder to strip out the commercials from the converted video (which was created using HandbrakeCLI, converting the original mpeg-2 file to mp4 format) and create a new mp4 file. The trick, was getting the latest version of Mencoder downloaded, compiled, and installed on my iMac system.

EyeTV Recorded Shows: Upgraded Resolution for Nexus 7 Tablet

July 29, 2012

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I use a device called EyeTV HD to record TV shows on my iMac. The software that drives this recording hardware will automatically export the recorded show in a format that is smaller and viewable on a iPhone, iPod Touch, or Apple TV. Since my new Nexus 7 Tablet has a screen resolution of 1280×800, I wanted to update the resolution of my converted videos so they look as good as possible on my Nexus 7. I started by using the “Apple TV 2” (1280×720) setting in the EyeTV HD software, but the picture quality  just wasn’t very good (especially when compared to the free Transformers movie that came with my N7).

So, I decided to use an Applescript to customize the video conversion of my recordings. Fortunately, EyeTV has a hook where it will call a script called RecordingDone.scrpt after a TV show has completed recording. It is in this script I added my Applescript commands to process the video. I basically use a freeware product called Handbrake to convert the video from MPEG-2 format to MPEG-4 format with a resolution of 1280×720 HD. The Handbrake software is normally driven by a standard user-interface, so I used an add-on product called HandbrakeCLI to do the processing in batch mode.

Below is my RecordingDone.scrpt script: Read the rest of this entry »

Google Chrome OS Laptop : Not such a good deal

July 29, 2012

Google recently announced their latest revision of the Chrome OS laptops (Chromebooks) where these laptops run Google’s simplified Operating System. So, these laptops will boot up really fast (<10 seconds) and uses the Google Chrome Browser as the main interface. So you can only run Google Chrome apps (which are usually Adobe Flash apps or HTML5 apps), and most of your operations are performed while connected to the Internet.

I was considering getting one of these laptops for when I travel, since it would be nice to have a long-battery life laptop on the plane or while waiting in the Airport. Of course, I’d like to do the usual stuff (e.g., read emails, web browse, check the weather, check maps) which I believe I can do using the Google Chrome OS. One thing that is a major requirement is to have the ability to develop Android apps which I often do while on a long flight (since I have a few hours of uninterrupted time). Since Android apps are developed using a Java-based app called Eclipse, getting this to work on the Chromebook is probably unlikely.

Besides that, these Chromebooks (made by Acer and Samsung) are kind of expensive considering the have limited functionality (and limited storage space). The prices seem to be $400+ US which is high to me. If they were going for $200 to $300 that would be more reasonable, since I can get a full Windows OS laptop for $300+ range. So in my opinion, these Chromebooks have a ways to go before they get accepted in the world of cheap laptops and tablets.

Currently, I have a 2-year old Dell 11z netbook laptop which has worked well (with Windows 7), but on my last trip the 6-cell battery that usually lasts 3-4 hours died after only 1 hour on a flight. So, I guess I’ll just visit and spend another $50 to get a new battery!

Tasker: My Automated Robot

July 29, 2012

I’ve been using a great Android app called Tasker on my HTC EVO LTE smartphone, and it’s been working fantastic. Tasker allows you to define certain tasks that get fired off under certain conditions, events, etc. For example, I’ve defined a Tasker entry that will turn on the WiFi on my smartphone if I’m getting close to my house (based on cell tower proximity) and will turn off my WiFi if I leave my house area. That way, I know my WiFi is always turned on when I get home and turned off when I leave.

Another good use case is my for my weekday morning drives to work. Normally, I listen to a podcast using an app called “Podkicker”, so I have a task that will activate this app every weekday at 5:00 am. I also have another task that will turn up the media volume on my smartphone when it connects to the Ford Sync system in my Ford Explorer vehicle (via Bluetooth), and will later mute the media volume when this Bluetooth connection is severed.

Finally, I have a task that will read out-loud any SMS messages while my phone is connected to my Ford Sync system.

Tasker is a great app, and definitely worth its price. My big dilemma now, is coming up with more useful Tasker tasks to implement!

Google Nexus 7 Tablet Mini-Review

July 15, 2012

Currently, I have a the following Android tablets which I use for my app development testing as well as personal use:

  • Acer Iconia A500 (10″) Tablet – This was my first tablet device which I purchase about a year ago for $300 US (which was discounted by $100 at Staples during a promotion). I still use this tablet almost daily at home for reading news and web browsing while eating breakfast, and also for watching Netflix movies on the couch. The battery life is great. I’ve also rooted it and installed a custom Honeycomb OS ROM to have a better performing tablet.
  • Kindle Fire (7″) Tablet – Toting around my 10″ Acer tablet can be a bit cumbersome, so instead I decided to get the 7″ Kindle Fire when it was first released late last year. The hardware is solid, and at that time you couldn’t beat the $199 US price. Amazon sold these devices at a loss so they could use it as a delivery system for customers to purchase their other online services (e.g., apps, books, movies, music, etc). I’ve used this tablet on a daily basis also, taking it with me to coffee shops and restaurants, as well as being my companion on business trips. I use it for listening to Pandora (on WiFi), web browsing, and also accessing my Mac home computer via a VNC connection. Since the Kindle Fire has a limited and restricted version of the Android OS, I decided to root it and install a custom Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) OS ROM to modernize it. It does work better, but as with all custom ROMs it does have it’s quirks (e.g., the battery charging light doesn’t work nor does the OS report accurate battery power levels).
  • Blackberry Playbook (7″) Tablet – I was given this tablet through a developer’s program with RIM. It’s physically almost identical to the Kindle Fire, but it runs a proprietary Android OS developed by Blackberry, and you can only install apps from the Blackberry app store (even though they are standard Android apps). I played around with this tablet for about 30 minutes, then promptly put it back in the box and stored it on my office shelf. I don’t have plans to use it for development work (since RIM is about to go out of business), and will probably sell it on eBay.

So, I use my Acer 10″ tablet for a lot of home use, and the 7″ Kindle Fire tablet when I leave the house. When I heard about the new Google Nexus 7 tablet’s specs and price, it was a no brainer to try to get one for my own personal use. It had the latest hardware technology (hi-res screen, quad-core Tegra processor, front camera, microphone) and the latest Google OS (newly introduced Jelly Bean). And selling at $199 for the 8 GB model (same storage as Kindle Fire) or $249 for the 16 GB model, it was a great deal. Fortunately, I was able to trade in my Apple iPod Touch 64 GB device at the Gamestop store and get enough credit to fully cover the cost of the Nexus 7 (see previous posting). Read the rest of this entry »

Got my Nexus 7 Tablet Early!

July 15, 2012

I had pre-ordered my Google Android Nexus 7 Tablet a week ago from my local Gamestop store, and was told I would be in the “2nd wave” of releases with an estimated date of August 7th. But, fortunately one week later I get a text message saying my N7 is ready to be picked up at the store. If you check the Android Central Forums, you’ll see that there’s a firestorm of angry nerds who pre-ordered their N7’s through the online Google Play Store when the N7 was first announced at the Google I/O Conference. They are up-in-arms over the fact that they didn’t get their N7’s in their grubby hands before anyone else in the universe. There’s postings about getting Google to pay them back for shipping, or getting some kind of compensation for not being the very first to get an N7.

Strange, that these nerds feel so entitled to being the first to get a N7 device because they pre-ordered from Google. My definition of “pre-order” is that you’ve reserved a device with the seller to make sure you get one in case they run completely out. It doesn’t mean you’ll be the very first to get one (especially considering Google never said you would). Google gave a “2-3 weeks” delivery time, but these angry nerds who feel a sense of entitlement just simply ignore that delivery time, being upset that stores like Gamestop, Staples, Walmart, etc. are selling N7’s to customers with and without pre-ordering.

Well, I just have to say get over it. It’s just a piece of hardware, and not the end of the world if you have to wait a few days to get it. People are just so impatient these days, expecting instant gratification. If you really need an N7 now, just buy one at one of these local stores and refuse delivery of your Google purchased N7 when it arrives. End of story.

Horse trading for an Nexus Android Tablet

July 7, 2012

At the Google I/O Conference it was announced that Google would be releasing their Nexus 7 Tablet (made by ASUS) this month. Going for a price of $199 US (8 GB storage) which is the same as the Amazon Kindle Fire, it would certainly be a big competitor to Amazon’s tablet. Both are roughly the same size with a 7″ screen, however, the Nexus 7 has updated hardware, quad core processor, higher resolution screen, and will run the latest revision of the Android OS (code name, “Jelly Bean”).

I noticed that the store called Gamestop will be selling the Nexus 7 tablet later this month, and you can pre-order this tablet either online at or in-person at their local brick store. One interesting offer by Gamestop, is that you can trade in specific electronic or gaming hardware for credit towards the purchase of a Nexus 7 tablet. And during the pre-order period, Gamestop will also give you an extra 30% on top of the value of your trade in hardware if you use it towards the purchase of the Nexus 7 tablet.

The specs on the Nexus 7 definitely beats out my current Kindle Fire (which I’ve rooted and installed a custom Android ROM), so I decided to look around my home office to see if I could trade in something to offset the purchase of the new Google tablet. As it turns out, I do have an Apple iPod Touch (64 GB) that I rarely use since purchasing my Kindle Fire last year. I also have a Blackberry Playbook Tablet that I received for free from RIM during a developer’s promotion. So I headed down to Gamestop to see what kind of deal I could make.

It seems Gamestop was not interested in my Playbook Android tablet at all, but they did have an eye on my Apple iPod Touch. In fact, my iPod Touch fetched a price of $203 US and with the extras 30% promotion the price rose to $265. I was amazed at the value of my little iPod Touch, but I guess Apple products really hold their value (worth their weight in gold!). Since Gamestop only sells the 16 GB version of the Nexus 7, the cost was $250 which was completely covered by my iPod Touch trade in (with extra to boot). So I made the deal and am waiting for my Nexus 7 tablet to ship later in August (in the 2nd wave of tablets for Gamestop).

The whole deal was really quick and painless, and Gamestop gave me the going rate for used iPod Touches (based on my research at So I’m very pleased with the transaction as it allows me to get the latest Google Tablet at no extra expense to me! If you’re in the market for a 7″ Android tablet, I highly suggest you go the same route I did at Gamestop. Now, I traded in an iPod, but you could certainly trade in an unused Nintendo Wii console, XBox, iPhone, iPad, or Sony game station.