Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Day 14 - Channels 16-24 no longer used

It looks like the rest of the Olympics should be a "breeze" recording-wise because the BBC have now stopped broadcasting any live sport on channels 16-24 with this message in the EIT data on those 9 channels:

"Coverage of the London 2012 Olympic Games has now concluded on this BBC Olympics channel."

In case you're wondering why the BBC didn't just shut down those 9 channels completely, I suspect it was for several reasons:
  • If 16-24 went completely blank (no signal), there would be mass panic that those 9 channels "weren't working" and that there was a transmission fault - cue loads of complaints to the BBC.
  • The deal for the 24 channels probably always included the 9 that aren't transmitting live sport now for the same time period as the remaining active 15 channels, so it doesn't save money (though Sky are actually paying for the sat space, not the BBC!) if they were fully shut down.
  • You get to transmit the timetable video/BBC Olympic theme in the same comforting/annoying manner that we've seen in the previous 3 weeks or so.
However, I still think the BBC should put up a caption on the 9 "inactive" channels with the same sort of text that the EIT message has to inform people that it's really not worth going above channel 15 any more now. Interestingly, channels 16-24 are now grouped as being an "alternative broadcast group", which tvheadend does mention in its dialogue box when you click one of those channels to record in them.

However, it doesn't handle the Now/Next program titles for channels within that group very well, because the first "Now" programme title it picks up from any channel is the group is used for all 9 channels' programme titles - whoops! So, for example, pc2's tvheadend is now showing "This is BBC Olympics 18 HD" for all channels 16-24...oh dear.

One thought has struck me - if the BBC replaced the timetable video with a static computer-generated caption like I mentioned (which maybe moved slightly over time to avoid any burn-ins on plasma), then wouldn't the bandwidth required to transmit those 9 channels fall drastically (it could be set to a low constant bitrate for example)? And then - you're twigging now - couldn't that released bandwidth be used to increase the bitrate of the remaining 15 HD channels on satellite? I wonder if any of the BBC engineers have thought about this? Perhaps a) it's extra work and b) it would give the final week of events a better picture quality then the first two, which would be inconsistent.

This reduction of more than a third of the active channels is reflected by another drop in recordings today - 15 channels, 20 sports and 38 slots totalling 120 hours and 59 minutes. Yes, just as we get the lightest recording load for a full day to date, I also moved from 6 to 7 available tuners - 3 on pc1 and 4 on pc2. The Now/Next system seems to be working on both PCs, so I won't touch the config again for that until after the Olympics.

Due to the way channels are allocated to transponders, although pc2 can record 16 simul channels now, its quad sat tuner can only record on 4 transponders of course, whereas all 6 transponders remain in use (1-6, 7-12, 15-13 is the grouping for the 15 channels). Hence, it makes very little difference to the "tuner juggling" I tend to have to do (which is why I wrote a program to tell me which channel to allocate to which PC and this is now skewed towards pc2 because of the extra tuner it now has). It does mean that doubling up recordings can happen more often though.

I'm also hoping that the revamped EPG stuff in the new tvheadend I've installed will stop that annoying multiple identical recording scheduling bug I've seen several times in the older version (in one case over 200 identical recordings crippled the system and I had to take emergency action).

An excellent 19th GB gold medal today from Alistair Brownlee in the men's triathlon today (and his brother Jonathan took bronze too), which has equalled the number of golds we got in Beijing with still 5-odd days of events to go. Sadly, our athletics is trailing off with a bunch of injuries and bad performances somewhat taking the edge off the "super" bit of last Saturday.

I do think dressage is a bizarre "sport" - force a horse into an unnatural set of choreographed moves to get a subjective score from judges. Who cares today, when we got our first ever dressage gold and this means the 20th gold for GB! It means we've officially beaten our Beijing medal table at 16:08 on 7th August 2012.

Laura Trott's cycling gold (21st for GB) in the omnium was very impressive indeed, what more can you say? Well, perhaps mention that we have a lead of 10 golds over South Korea, which means it's likely we'll be in 3rd place in the medal table at the end of the Olympics.

Sir Chris Hoy's 6th Olympic cycling gold - this time in the keirin and it was the 22nd gold for GB in these Olympics - means he has now more Olympic golds than any other Briton in history, beating Sir Steve Redgrave's 5 rowing golds. As the late David Coleman would have said: "remarkable".

A slightly disappointing high jump bronze for Robbie Grabbarz was more notable for pushing our medal total to 48, which is now one more than we won in Beijing. I believe this makes it our most successful Olympics in over a century in terms of total medals - a metric that no-one other than the USA cares about in the entire world.

The USA sorting the Olympic medal table in terms of total medals won is simply 100% incorrect, because that rates gold = silver = bronze, which is just ridiculous on every level. It's even a little insulting to gold and silver medal winners that their performance is rated no better than the bronze medal performance. It's wrong, USA, so fix your medal table sorting criteria right now :-)

I'm still not happy with the Now/Next (EIT) info on the latest tvheadend release I installed on pc1 and pc2. It seems to work initially and then intermittently fail, no matter what settings (e.g. with or without the Freesat EPG option, which has never worked anyway). So it was more scrambling to put some manual events in this evening and that means rolling back to the previous tvheadend on both PCs from now on because manually inputting recording slots of this sort of volume is infeasible really (plus dodgy Now/Next means potentially missing out on schedule changes too).

 Day 14 recording size: 783GB - grand total so far: 11957GB (11.7TB)

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