Friday, 27 July 2012

Day 3 - Wherefore art thou archery?

If I were an Olympic archer (especially a British one in my home Olympics), I'd be somewhat miffed that the BBC is staggeringly refusing to air any of the first day of my sport, despite having 24 (and more!) channels available doing nothing until this evening's Teletubbies opening ceremony (which I won't watch live cos the EuroMillions on BBC Two is actually more exciting).

The "Now and Next" info on the 24 BBC Olympics channels this morning has no mention of the sport, neither does (either in the "normal" BBC channels or in the 24 Olympics channels) and it appears that even the BBC Website has an ominous "No video coverage" for 8 hours that the archery ranking competition is on. Yes, it's just a method of seeding who plays who in the "real" rounds, but it's still part of the Olympics and really should be aired. Shame on you BBC!

Archery update 1:
To compound the mistake the BBC made in not airing any of the 8 hours of archery today, two world records - both involving a blind man! - were set in the archery ranking competition that the BBC deemed apparently not worth airing. Yes, the whole of the UK missed the first two world records of the Olympics thanks to the BBC's ridiculous omission of any actual Olympics sport on their 30-odd channels today. What's even more galling is the world record article I've linked to now has bleeding video of the competitors in action (complete with the standard event captions etc.). Yes, the BBC cameras were actually there, filming it all and then not broadcasting any of it - arrrrgh!

Archery update 2:
Even in real life, it appears much confusion (and a fake ticketing web site) led to many people thinking they could go in person to the archery ranking competition and watch it because it was deemed "non-ticketed". However, the Guardian reports that it was always intended to be behind closed doors with no spectators. With the BBC not airing it either, this surely must rank as the least viewed event of the whole of the Olympics? A real shame, because a blind archer setting world records is a great Olympics story - sadly, all we're left with as a record is an 80 seconds video and a few paragraphs on the BBC Web site.

I just powered on pc2 this morning and tried re-configuring sat tuner 4 and - lo and behold - it's now working perfectly. This is quite mystifying because I did a load of test recordings on both PCs with up to 20 simultaneous channels without an issue (we've had 6 or 7 simultaneous so far). I have some time until the evening opening ceremony to test this out (some dummy recordings etc.) and decide whether to use tuner 4 at all. Most of today, though, will be spend finishing the coding for my "find the best Automatic Recording strings per PC" that I started coding in C yesterday.

What's slightly bizarre on the radio front though (and they ignore archery too) is that Radio 5 Live is spending a ludicrous amount of time today covering the "build-up" - the whole channel is dedicated to that from 10.00am this morning onwards, even pushing the more important Hungarian F1 GP practice sessions - which is actually, you know, live sport - to Radio 5 Live Sports Extra! At least the BBC TV channels are only airing a few build-up programmes during the day, which I'll be recording. I'm not going to record any of that radio build-up coverage though - far too much of it with no live sport (which is the whole point of that radio channel!).

It doesn't help casual viewing of the 24 Olympics channels that the BBC have three major issues with their 24 channel allocations:
  1. I was under the impression that with 24 channels, there would be an absolute maximum of two sports on a particular channel (and they wouldn't wander channel numbers between days, which they sadly do) and only then when there was an unavoidable clash due to a busy day across the board. At least half of the time you'd hope for one channel per sport. Nope, the first full day on Saturday 28th July has six channels (1, 2, 7, 8, 9 and 12) each all showing three different sports during the day on the same channel.
  2. The number of channels carrying a particular sport on a particular day should also hopefully be limited to the minimum required for actual schedule clashes of the sport. Again, half the time you'd hope for one channel and perhaps two (or even three) when there's simultaneous events in the sport. Nope, the BBC has allocated four channels (3, 9, 13 and 22) to badminton on Saturday 28th July, made even worse that channel 3, 9 and 22 badminton could have been put on one channel, because they don't overlap themselves at all!
  3. After the first two points showing how haphazard the scheduling is, the BBC compound it by leaving channels 23 and 24 completely empty on Saturday 28th July! A huge waste of half a transponder on a busy Olympics day that no-one will bother viewing or recording (it'll just be timetable video and the dreary Olympic theme).
Luckily, I just finished coding my program to use Automatic Recording strings in tvheadend ("Olympic Equestrian" and so on) with a few hours to spare. The bad news is that if you have two PCs with a quad tuner card in each like I do, the minimum tuners you can use to cover tomorrow's over-crammed schedule is 7 (3 on one and 4 on the other). Here's some of the example output for Saturday 28th July:

22 channels/19 sports/49 slots totalling 200 hour(s) 12 min(s) recording time
Earliest time: 08:22, latest time: 24:15 (this includes 2 min pre/5 min post padding)

With 3 tuners in each, allocations work only until 09:17 on Saturday, when volleyball on channel 18 wrecks everything and can't be recorded.

With 3 tuners in pc1 and 4 tuners in pc2, the allocations work, with 16 of the 19 sports on pc1 and 15 of the 19 sports on pc2 (11 of the 19 sports are doubled on both PCs). Because of multiple sports on certain channels, this does work out on pc1 (in case you think it only has 3 * 4 channels it can record from - we're talking sports, not channels here).

I have some optimisation code that tries to double up on my favoured sports if they're not already, but I suspect it won't work with only 7 tuners. I may try it at some point though. In case you're curious, it's 427 lines of C code so far including comments, but it's not had some user-friendly code added for parsing command line options yet.

Tomorrow is getting me a bit worried now - with me being one tuner short and hopefully not going to get transponder clashes with the automatic recording strings, I can see a hotspot at 09:17 tomorrow as I mentioned. I'll be nervously checking the system at that point - if it gets past that point, my code works. If not, there'll be a frantic scamble (to do what?! Stop some of the double-ups until the programme can be recorded?).

It'll also be the first stern test of my "transmedia" program which copies recorded programmes from SSD to HDD with a verify pass and a file sync to confirm it's written to physical disk. It can do 50-60 Mbytes/second, but it could get tight on free SSD space, particularly with the two 8 hour slots I can see for the tennis tomorrow. It's the long slots that are the problem - they leave 10's of GBs of recordings on the 200GB SSD that I can't copy/delete until about 10 minutes after the recording ends. I think I will have to monitor the SSD space free on Saturday evening - one trick is to stop the recording as soon as the action ends (i.e. it goes back to the timetable video), which means it'll get copied off a bit earlier. One thing I can do with transmedia is turn off the verify pass, which cuts a lot off the copy time at an increased risk of bad/failed copies not being spotted.

Opening Ceremony update 1:
Although I won't be watching it live, I've just realised I will be recording the opening ceremony fourteen times over (10 in HD, 4 in SD). WIll this be a world record for an individual recording the Olympics opening ceremony? Yes, this includes all three versions on Olympics channels 1-3 twice over and even the 3D version (on BBC HD) twice over, despite me not having a 3D set!  I believe this may well be the first BBC Olympics 3D broadcast, right at the end of day 3, sigh...

Opening Ceremony update 2:
In a predictable scheduling cock-up, the Opening Ceremony programme overran by 21 minutes - it's a good job I tuned in at 12.30am expecting to see closing credits, only for the ceremony still to be in full swing. ho hum. I quickly added some extra programmes to the schedule manually - it's always a bit of a panic when there's no EPG entries for it! I wonder how many people got knackered watching, set it to record the rest before going to bed and then missed out on Sir Paul McCartney and the finale completely? The pre-ceremony rumour was that the show was to be cut short a bit, but obviously that wasn't the case!

Day 3 recording size: 217GB - grand total so far: 820GB

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