Monday, October 6, 2008

Another Three Months...

I've got to do better in the "updating the blog" department. Three months is just a wee bit too long, but it's been a busy three months, although, not busy for Mater Dei Television. Well, not too busy...

I've come to a crossroads at the fledgling TV apostolate. I needed to have this up like last year, and it's not up yet. I know the direction with VoD is the right way to go, at least for now and probably in some form in the future as well. I just don't have the bandwidth to use the streaming servers like I'd like to. If I want to have more than three or four viewers at a time, that bandwidth is going to need to be somewhere around, well, T3 speed. At least two T1s, which is not one less than a T3 (for those non-techs reading this, a T3 actually has the same bandwidth as 27 T1 lines).

I figured maybe embedding video is going to be the best option, at least for now, but I don't want YouTube. I'm not thrilled with the quality of flash video in general and YouTube's quality in particular. If I could get an MP4 to play back, especially one with the H.264 compression, that wouldn't be long as the player could go full screen without that annoying navigation bar.

Well, after consulting with a friend who does webhosting and web development, I found out that embedding MP4 video is, in fact, possible. I had to find a good player, though, and I may have. The JW FLV Media Player plays MP4 format with the H.264 compression. If you follow the link and look at the quality full screen, you'll notice it's fantastic quality for embedded video, and I believe that's because when you look at that demo clip, that is AVC/AAC that you're looking at. When you choose full screen, the navigation bar comes up, but disappears with a slick fade after a few seconds. That wouldn't be bad, because it looks cheap when it stays up there. Having it up there initially and then letting it fade out would be the best of both words. It also does playlists too, so I can actually have some clips on a loop on the menu screen that people could be watching while looking over the programs.

By the way, if you download this player and try to use it without embedding it, it's not going to work. It's written to be uploaded to a website and then coded to use on a website. It IS a slick player though. I can wait to try it out.

It's not so much that I'm admitting defeat by using embedded video; I'm just starting out a little more within my means. Perhaps someday we'll have the IPTV VoD setup, but let's learn to crawl before we run.

Stay Tuned!

Chuck, MI

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

OK...another change for the web server...

When I was still racing mountain bikes in the mid 90s, the term that comes to mind was "retro-grouch"...

I was being a retro-grouch myself when I was trying to force the issue of using an old 486 (also from the mid 90s) as a web server, largely because I could. When that didn't work, I decided to use a Pentium 1 instead (likely from the mid to late 90s).

And I DID get that to work, but...

I started thinking about something I read about Freesco. One of the limitations of it was that there was no way that it'd ever take a gigabit ethernet card. This may not be an extreme problem for the time being, but it could be in the future (especially if I used the 486, since I couldn't even find a 10/100Mbps card for an ISA bus - I'd have to stick with a 10Mbps card). The other limitation that was standing out was the version of the Linux kernel it uses. It was so old that even it'd only run the first version of the Apache web server.

These things stuck in my head, and I started reasoning things this way...

1) I would like a more up to date version of Apache web server running.
2) I just installed Absolute Linux on a spare PC. Why couldn't I run something Slackware based to run the web server?
3) The PC I just got from my Freecycle list was already running Ubuntu. Why not just run Ubuntu instead of Slackware or Freesco and make my life simpler for the time being.
4) I can always go back and play with Slackware later.
5) I'm getting about three old Pentium III grade computers from someone else on my Freecycle list tomorrow. Why not build the web server from that?

So with that reasoning, I took the wife and kids to my favorite electronics store (also known as the Happiest Place on Earth - sorry Walt, not THAT place) and picked up another gigabit ethernet card and three Cat-6 cables to start the infrastructure of Mater Dei Television's future connection. I almost bought a gigabit router, too, but the salesman talked me out of it, saying that we'll get "bottlenecked at our ISP". He has no idea I intend on running this on a T1, perhaps even in the short term, and a much thicker pipeline in the longer term.

Keep praying. We're close!

Stay Tuned...

Chuck, MI

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Web Server the web server isn't going to be an old 486...

It looks like I'll be building it up with an old Pentium 233 MMX instead.

Granted, the older computer would have been nicer to use, and I got it to boot Freesco and post and whatnot, but nevertheless, those old IDE controller cards are next to impossible to come by, and if you do have any (I have two), they're near impossible to configure.

So, I'm using an old PC that was freecycled to me. I just need to get a larger hard drive now so I don't have to mess with it for awhile. Ideally, when I get another computer to use as a web server, I'm going to load Absolute Linux on it and stick it in my office.

Waste not, want not.

Stay Tuned...

Chuck, MI

PS - Someday, after MDTV actually has a signal going out over the internet, I will return to actual Catholic content on this blog and move the tech talk over to another one. In the meantime, though, one blog is sufficient.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Quick Update

The MDTV Darwin Streaming Server has been up for almost a total of ten days now, running nice and steady. I've not gotten a chance to do much more on that due to a few other projects that have been in the works. My old server that was being used for DSS was decommissioned when I put the new one online, but I will be recommissioning it soon to be used as an FTP server. It makes too much sense to have one of those, especially if I'm out in the field editing video and I need to get some programming back to the "station" (if that's what you want to call it - Facing facts, it's the server in my basement).

I'm also working on a web server that is based around a (get this) 66Mhz 486...

Scary, isn't it?

The nice thing is that I'll be using Freesco on that, and I upgraded the RAM in the box so it can do all the nifty things Freesco will do. 64MB RAM is nothing these days, but in a 486 running Freesco, that's almost overkill! I plan on running the Apache Web Server with this, and since that's all this box is doing (holding web pages that will ultimately redirect the user to the videos on the VoD server, which is on a considerably faster server), I really wouldn't think that I'd need anything faster.

Besides, if this works well and keeps costs down, it helps because that would be more money to put towards either the production of new programming or the cost of obtaining old programming. And besides, the Freecycler in me says that it's best not to stick another PC in the landfill. Even the Vatican is trying to "Go Green" these days.

Stay Tuned...

Chuck, MI

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Latest Progress

Seeing that I wound up having to usher at our TLM this evening, I was only able to figure out two things today, one by default and one by research...

1) I now know how to restart Darwin Streaming Server after a reboot. This is by merely starting the Perl script in the directory to which it was installed. I had to figure this out after I came home from said TLM and there was my server sitting on the login screen...

2) I may have found the settings to use in MediaCoder for use in transcoding material to use on Darwin. This is good since I've failed pretty consistently in this regard recently. I will test this tomorrow.

Now, I just have to find that serial mouse for my son's laptop and a way to raise about $150,000 to obtain a house for my family and ample office and studio space to continue Mater Dei Television in a way that would allow me to do this full time. Please pray...

Stay Tuned!

Chuck, MI

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New Server Installed But...

The new server is up and running Ubuntu 8.04 LTS and has Darwin Streaming Server running on it as we speak, but I still can't seem to stream anything out if it was transcoded with MediaCoder (which is too bad, seeing that's a nice little program - at least as far as Windows standards go). I'm going to have to fix the transcoder issues tomorrow, as it's late and the wife wants to spend a little time with me tonight.

The good night is that I did find out that you can actually get DSS installed and running in "root" but then switch back to the user to run it. That's a good sign.

In any case, I'm tired. The new server is going and the old server will likely be made into a web server soon.

Stay Tuned!

Chuck, MI

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Server

Well, the new server seemed to be pretty stable overnight. It's not the fastest thing that I've ever built, and certainly not the prettiest, but it's faster and has more memory than what the streaming video is currently running on. I've not yet installed the OS. I'm still running Ubuntu live. Nevertheless, I'm happy thus far. Before I install anything, though, I'm going to put a gigabit ethernet card in it first, so it looks like a trip to my favorite electronics/computer store is in my foreseeable future...

Stay Tuned!

Chuck, MI

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Crossing My Fingers...

OK. I just built a server with a PC motherboard that had been giving me all sorts of fits the last time I used it. I had different memory in it back then, and that's since been changed.

I'm going to run Ubuntu on it on the live distro all night and see if I can move the mouse in the morning. If I was able to, then that's telling me the memory was the problem the first time. If it freezes, it's probably a bad motherboard and I'm going to be launching a barrage of obscenities that would make Ralphie's Dad blush...

I'd name this server Jude, after St. Jude, but believe it or not, saints aren't in my naming scheme. I can't tell you what my naming scheme is because then I'm easier to hack.

Stay Tuned!

Chuck, MI

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Deciding to do some much overdue cleaning (due to the necessity of needing to swap out TVs and I couldn't get to the one I needed until I moved a bunch of stuff), I decided to put together another server.

This should come as no surprise, as what I currently have Darwin running on right now is an older, somewhat slower, but certainly very reliable Ubuntu box. I figured at some point I'm going to need about three servers to start with: One to run Darwin, one to run a web server (likely Apache), and one as an FTP server. I thought of actually getting the FTP server done first, but decided to build another streaming server instead because I have the parts for it and if it works, then it's going to be a much faster box. Even if it's slightly faster, we'll be money ahead.

I've heard that the new Celerons are so poor compared to the Pentium 4 that it's as much as a 60% drop in performance compared to a P4 of the same speed. The old Celerons are only 10% from what I understand. We'll find out. It might wind up a total wash for all I know seeing that the current streaming server is running on an 866MHz PIII in a Dell Precision 420 and I'm about to build up an old eMachines box with a 2.2GHz Celeron. 60% of 2.2GHz comes out to 880MHz, which would only be slightly faster but with faster RAM and much more of it (the old server RAM is kind of slow and pricey in comparison).

So if it works, and I've got about three more eMachine motherboards if it doesn't (one of which is rumored to work but needing a video card), then I'll build it up with Ubuntu and Darwin and the old Dell will run Apache. The FTP server will likely be an older box that will run something more utilitarian that I can set up and access from the other computers on the network. I don't need a fancy GUI with that one.

In any case, it's late, it's been a long day, and I'll write more tomorrow...

Stay Tuned!

Chuck, MI

Monday, June 9, 2008

OK...So that's a good sign...

OK. I have my wife's FluxBuntu laptop hooked into the same local network which is running my Darwin Streaming Server, and currently, I can actually stream the test clips from the server to the laptop, which again is within the network. This is a positive thing. This means that Darwin is, in fact, working.

However, I can't seem to stream anything I've actually transcoded myself, nor can I stream to my other internet circuit.

While I think streaming outside the network is a port forwarding issue that I need to look at deeper tomorrow, I'm still not sure why I can't stream anything that I've encoded with MediaCoder. What I've done was sent myself a couple of the sample files so I can pull them down and open them up with MediaCoder to see what the settings are, then I can use those settings to transcode my clips.

I'm not thrilled with reverse engineering, but whatever works, right?

Either way, another victory tonight. I'm happy that the DSS is at least talking with another computer inside the network.

"I said WOO! HOO!" - Homer Simpson

Stay Tuned!

Chuck, MI

The Switch to Darwin

No, I'm not opening up THAT can of worms...

I'm talking about Apple's open-source project, the Darwin Streaming Server. I finally got it running on Ubuntu. It's currently been up for about the last 15 minutes or so, and I don't have any videos on there as of yet, but I got the sucker running.

This should be an improvement over VLC as far as a VoD server goes. VLC, while a virtual Swiss Army knife of media programs, just doesn't quite have the bugs worked out of their server portion yet and as a result, I've went ahead and switched it over to DSS. DSS is supposed to be a Red Hat/Fedora Core thing, but after searching through the Ubuntu forums, I found that someone actually came up with a way to get this thing going on Ubuntu.

So now we know what the next two things to do are...

1) Move the videos into the movies folder.
2) Read how to configure it for VoD.

After those two things happen, we'll worry about the port forwarding if it's necessary at all (which it may be) and firewall issues (again, if it's necessary at all). After that we may actually have a worthwhile beta test to do...

Also, I've finally found a good banner to use for Ubuntu, so I've added that to this blog too. Check it out. Ubuntu is free and easy to use and stable. It beats the hell out of spending $99.00 on an operating system, and even that's on the cheap.

Stay Tuned! I think we're finally close...

Chuck, MI

Friday, June 6, 2008

I'm Not Dead Yet...

...although this is where Terry Jones of Monty Python fame would say "...but I was coughing up blood this morning" in a falsetto voice meant to be imitating a female...

So anyway, I've spent the last couple of months in rediscernment of my calling to this apostolate (that and kind of busy with a multitude of other things, such as job hunting, getting the TLM going with my Una Voce chapter, now known as the St. John Bosco Latin Mass Community, and other things not to be discussed here). Anywho, I was getting frustrated and asked God to give me a sign. Afterwards, I went on eBay and saw that someone was selling another reel of "The Catholic Hour".

This was too easy, so I asked Him again for one more film, JUST to be sure...

No more episodes of "The Catholic Hour", but there were THREE films there that would be of use to MDTV.

I guess that answers my question. The answer was simply God saying "Back to work, Dummy..."

In addition to that, we have our first videotaped TLM in the can! The only issue with it, however, is that the lighting was awful and I only used one camera on it. Actually, the lighting was alright as long as I didn't zoom in to where Fr. Roberts was giving his homily. The lighting from my position wasn't good. If I had a camera in the back of the chapel where I was taping, it would have been better. Perhaps next time...

Also, I may have come up with another theory as to why VLC isn't working well as a VoD server. I've got my wife's laptop (with FluxBuntu loaded on it) hooked up to the same router. I thought I'd read on the VLC forums that there was no problem using it with intranet, but it didn't work well over the internet. I'm going to test this to see if it's true. If it is true, I'm going to look at possibly using a VPN in order to connect outside the network. If we use something like OpenVPN, then people just connect to the network and view videos that way. At least for the time being, that might be the best way to go.

Stay tuned...

Chuck, MI

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Good Old Forums...

Seeing that I'm still having the same trouble that I had during my last post, I decided to post it on VLC's forum page and see what actually happens. These open source forums are generally pretty good, so I figured it'd be a good idea. I checked it with an MPEG1 file also, and it's still doing essentially the same thing. I think the linux firewall needs to be tweaked, so I may be asking for some help on that one from a friend of mine.

Stay tuned...AND KEEP PRAYING!!!

Chuck, MI

Thursday, March 13, 2008

SOME Progress...

Well, that was fruitful...

After setting the port forwarding and whatnot, I started VLC up with at nice little test clip (in the case, I used "The Trail of Fr. Kino"), and it was actually coming through to my other internet circuit and I could see action on the terminal window of the Linux box. On the Windows box, VLC even started up with 9:06 on the clip duration time.

It just didn't play.

It's frustrating in some ways, but I have to admit: We're further along than we were yesterday. This is good news in some ways. Now, I'll just have to get into the forums and figure out why...

Stay tuned! We'll get this up and going yet!

Chuck, MI

Monday, March 10, 2008

Port Forwarding Finished

While still not at 100% health with the cold that I had after my flu subsided at the beginning of February, I finally got a chance to get down here and get the port forwarding done on the main VoD server. In other words, what I did should allow people to access the video files up there. Now, we'll just have to see if it works.

I'll write something more with Catholic content one of these days! I promise! I'll have to write about the little recon we did down in downtown Indy where there's an old Catholic Church that's basically been sitting abandoned since 1949. I wish we could get in and save it, but I think it's about to be turned into some apartments. Never know, though; the guy who owns it is planning on selling a bunch of the items inside, so perhaps my local Una Voce chapter will be able to pick some up and restore them. We may have to buy a few of them for MDTV too.

More later...

Chuck, MI

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I'm Not Dead!

It has been awhile since I've posted, but I got busy at the end of January and then have been sick (or attending to sick people) most of February. I have the information needed to go live. I'm just waiting on being reasonably well enough to sit in my basement some night and work on it (it's cold down here in the winter).

More later...

Chuck, MI

Saturday, January 12, 2008

100th Post!

Too bad it's going to be technical... :)

I sat down here the other day and got the other internet circuit hooked up, but I had to go through another router. I'm beginning to think that's my caveat. What's happening now is that I can actually use VLC's web interface and actually set up VLC for VoD. It's taking successfully taking my MPEG-4 files to which the videos are encoded, and it looks like everything is behaving the way it's supposed to, except for ONE detail...

I can't get it to stream to my Windows box on a different internet circuit.

In a word, grumble.

I think I'll post the question to the VLC forum tomorrow. I'm kind tired, and not extremely happy that I wound up missing the Una Voce meeting in my neck of the woods today. Not that it could be avoided today, but it happened.

More later...

Chuck, MI

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Columbia Magazine and the Tridentine Mass

Like most other members of the Knights of Columbus, I got my copy of Columbia magazine late last week. There was an article in this issue about Summorum Pontificum and the Traditional Latin Mass called "What's Old Is New Again", written by former Our Sunday Visitor editor Gerald Korson. It was actually a good article, even referencing Sts. Philomenia and Cecilia Catholic Church in Oak Forest, IN (for which, unfortunately, I don't have a working link), which offers only the Tridentine Mass and is served by the FSSP, going over the recent history with the initial indult granted by Pope John Paul II in 1984 and his call for a greater use of the 1962 Roman Missal in 1988's Ecclesia Dei, and various other smaller items in the article that were either informative or in favor of the Tridentine Mass.

One part of the article that was problematic for me, though, was when they interviewed Msgr. M. Francis Mannon, a founding director of the Liturgical Institute in Chicago. He said training for the extraordinary rite would be difficult to institute in many seminaries.

"Liturgical formation in seminaries already consumes a good deal of time. How can an additional curriculum be incorporated?" He then goes on to say "(Formation programs) will have to ensure that the current liturgy is not in any way compromised."

While I can understand where Msgr. Mannon is coming from, I think the problem that we have today in this regard is the disappearance of Latin from the curriculum in many seminaries across the country. While being fluent in Latin would be ideal, at the very least Church Latin needs to be taught. And that's regardless whether or not programs for learning the extraordinary form would be implemented in a seminary. We, as Latin Rite Catholics, need to get back to Latin. It's still the official language of the Church and according to Sacrosanctum Consilium 36 (The Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), is still the primary language of the Latin Rite liturgy, and so much gets lost in the translation between the Magisterium and the people here in the United States. The ICEL has not given a good translation of even the Novus Ordo. When Latin is once again taught in seminaries in the United States, it'll be easier for a priest to learn the Tridentine Mass, and likely help the Novus Ordo with a more faithful understanding of the liturgy, which would improve translation to any other language as well.

Regardless, Latin must return to the seminaries, if not for the Old Mass, for the good of the whole Church.

More later...

Chuck, MI

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Technical and Film Notes

Well, thanks to a person on one of my local freecycle lists, I now have a router that I can hook up the extra internet circuit to. This will be handy. Although I fully intend, at least at first, to hook the linux box directly up to the modem, the router will be needed when I hook up a web server for the front end of the VOD system. Now, all I have to do is figure out a few details on NATting and routing and I think we'll be in business. I mean, I think we'll be in business from a functional standpoint before that, but having the front end would be nice too...

The copy of "The Vatican of Pius XII" came in today. This is good; I was beginning to wonder about it. I haven't gotten a chance to preview it yet. I do have a 16mm projector that I can't use for telecine but is good for just watching films on. I just can't really bring it out until I have room to set it up. I did look at what was written on the leader though. Someone put "The VACATION of Pius XII" on there. That would have been interesting. Shots of Castel Gandolfo...taking in a football (soccer) match between Juventus and AC Milan...just kinda hanging out...

Of course, as rare as that film would be, I think someone accidently wrote "vacation" instead of "Vatican". I'm not sure if Pope Pius XII was a football (soccer) fan. I know our current Holy Father, Benedict XVI, and Pope John Paul II both are/were fans of the game. I'm really becoming a fan myself, but I generally prefer the English Premiership over Serie A in Italy, and I'm a supporter for East London side West Ham United and not AS Roma or Juventus.

But I digress. I have to admit, between daily prayer and watching football (soccer), I've been able to maintain sanity in an otherwise hectic and stressful life. Mater Dei Television is closer than it ever was before of going up permanently, but our family finances are still pretty tight. My daily prayer, at this point, consists of my Militia Immaculata daily consecration prayer, the Miraculous Medal prayer, and sometimes an act of contrition in the morning, a Hail Mary and a St. Michael exorcism prayer before I start work, and an Our Father, Hail Mary, Angel of God, Glory Be, and another St. Michael before bed with my two older sons. It's good, but it can always be better. Watching the football (soccer) helps my brain relax like the prayers help my soul relax.

In any case, I've droned on enough. More later...