New blog, new project

I’ve started a new blog, which I’ll be sharing with a couple of colleagues. In brief, the idea is to try to do a “hobby” project as well as possible, the whole purpose being the learning experience.

Rather than waffle on about it here, I’ll just refer you to the blog of the
Quest for the Perfect Project. Hope it’s of some interest to some of you.

Oh, and this blog will carry on as normal.

Wii and MythTV: The future of my living room?

My Tivo has started playing up. A few months ago, it stopped padding programmes automatically like it used to (I haven’t investigated why – getting a console session on it is pretty tricky; it may well be a software update that removed the patch I’d put on) and now it glitches sometimes in a way that suggests the disk may be packing up.

Likewise, my cheap DVD player is pretty rubbish, and needs replacing, and my Freeview receiver is far from perfect.

I had been considering buying a spiffy DVD/HD recorder, and was probably going to start looking sometime in the next couple of months. However, using my Wii over Christmas has given me a different idea: using the Wii remote to control a MythTV box.

The Wiimote, for those of you who haven’t used one, is a small remote control that has relatively few buttons for a gaming controller, but which is able to detect when you point it at the TV, and which has accelerometers to determine tilting and motion. It’s wireless, using Bluetooth to talk to the Wii.

Now, imagine this:

  1. Point at the TV and press “home” to get to the main menu; select “Live TV” or “Recorded Programmes” by pointing at the relevant menu items and pressing the main button (A).
  2. Programme not at the right point? Pause it (with A), hold down the trigger on the back and tilt to the left or right (like a volume knob) to get to the right place quickly and accurately.
  3. Want to fast forward or reverse just a bit? Don’t bother pausing – just hold down the trigger and tilt to change the speed (and direction) of playback.
  4. Watching Live TV and want to change channel? Press “1” for favourite channels (chances are the channel will be on the first page) or “2” for all channels (in channel order, probably on more than one screen: either click on page up/down, or hold the trigger and “drag” up or down.
  5. Volume control? Why, that’s what the -/+ are for, naturally.

I’ve already got a Roku Soundbridge for playing my MP3s (from a network disk) but I suspect that choosing an album/song with a whole screen would be somewhat simpler than with a single line. (Don’t get me round – I love my Soundbridge. It’s stylish and does the job really well.)

Unfortunately, I have no experience whatsoever with MythTV, and very little time to hack around with it. The good news is that I’m not the only one to have come up with the idea (I’d be shocked if no-one else had thought of it) although it sounds like they’ve only done the buttons so far. I expect more full functionality will come along in time, assuming the underlying MythTV platform supports it.

There are two downsides I can think of at the moment:

  1. I suspect the Wii’s “sensor bar” (a misnomer as it doesn’t sense anything – it’s just an array of IR transmitters) is turned off when the Wii is on standby. I’d need to be able to give it power without the Wii being on, ideally.
  2. How can I tell the Wii that I’m controlling MythTV and vice versa? I’d rather not need an extra controller just for the sake of MythTV – although if it comes to that, they’re not that expensive.

I only had the idea of the whole package (tilting etc) earlier today, and haven’t stopped being excited about it. If I were Hauppage or a similar company, I think I’d already be contacting Nintendo to try to licence the technology – I suspect that the first company with a mainstream product which supports a “point/click/tilt” (rather than “find the button”) PVR UI could make a lot of money.

The irony is that the Wii is the only one of the three next-gen consoles not to have designs on becoming a media centre – and yet it’s the one that I suspect I’m most likely to use for that very purpose (albeit just the controller).

Groovy 1.0 released

Groovy 1.0 has finally been released, and is available for download from the Groovy home page.

For those of you who didn’t read my last blog post on it, Groovy is a dynamic language which runs on the Java platform and integrates very nicely with Java itself.

What I haven’t advertised on this blog until now is that a month or so after starting with Groovy, I became involved in the Groovy in Action book. I won’t claim that I wrote a lot of it – more polishing and adding some introductory material, really. I’m still extremely proud of it, however, and obviously I hope it’ll sell bucket-loads.

So, if you haven’t played with Groovy yet, now’s a very good time to start: download it, have a bit of a play, and then buy the book!