Wednesday, July 31, 2013

sharing audio links - sharethis custom link

One of the requests from our listeners was an easy way to share audio links. Exploring the different ways to share, found that does support custom urls and custom text, as given in their documentation. But directly plugging this into the Download.php page would make it a bit ugly, with a separate email for each download link. Something better needs to be designed.

Friday, July 26, 2013

More Seeker bugs

Seeker Theater Edition, Build 828 as per the startup splash screen - The items under Help menu don't seem to be working - Help -> Manual... , Help -> Support... , Help -> About Seeker don't have any effect.

Also, the 'Solar System Map' doesn't seem to be working. When it is enabled, the Sun and planets (if they were visible) disappear. But the map as such does not appear.

Edit: The About Seeker and Solar System Map work when not in "Fulldome" mode, and when the flat screen version of "None" is selected in Settings -> Dome Projection. More info in the post on further experiments with Seeker

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Software Bisque Theater Suite trials

Trying out the Seeker Theater Edition, found that my machine is not capable enough to do realtime rendering of hi-res - 1920x0180 or more - accelerated video. Frame rates hover around 5 fps. Offline rendering is good, though. Offline rendering of the "Grand Tour" into warped 1920x1080 movies averaged around
5.5 fps for MJPEG / Photo-JPEG codec mov
4 fps for targa frames (slowed down by hard disk)
2 fps for PNG frames (slowed down by compression)
2 fps for H.264 codec mov (slowed down by compression)

and so on.

JPG frame export fails - the files are written as 0 kB files.

Offline rendering of 2K movies averaged
3 fps for MJPEG / Photo-JPEG codec mov

2 fps for targa frames (slowed down by hard disk)
1 fps for PNG frames (slowed down by compression)

Offline rendering of 4K went at around 1 fps for MJPEG / Photo-JPEG codec mov.

Noted that the anti-aliasing option under Settings -> Graphics setup don't seem to affect the offline rendering. The offline rendering seems to be done without anti-aliasing. Sample parts of the 4K frame, zoomed in and cropped,

But the whole frame by itself looks good,

Interestingly, the stars render much smaller in relative size in the 4K frame as compared to a 1K frame, as below:

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any setting option to control the size of the stars. They seem to render the same size whatever be the size of the entire frame, so in a lower resolution frame, the stars are too clunky. So, if the stars look too big, I have to render as large fisheye masters - 3K or 4K - and then warp them down to our 1920x1080 warped files.

Now, all this was about Seeker. The Theater Suite also has Mojo, Syzygy and SkyX Theater Edition. Mojo doesn't seem to do realtime warping - just makes a timeline of multiple video files. Syzygy launches all the components of the Theater Suite in a multi-monitor configuration. SkyX has similar capabilities to Stellarium and accepts map files for warping. Probably I'll be using only Seeker, and doing offline renders.

Edit: More Seeker bugs are reported here, as well as on (login required). Also, documentation is lacking on script commands like WAYPOINT2.

bug fixes to audio search

V had come over for Gurupoornima, and kindly helped bug-fix the radiosai audio search results page.

The first bug was displayed when searching for Discourses: if the description is exactly the same, in the search result, only one of the DDs is displayed, even though there are two different versions in different languages. Solution was simple - changed line

$dataQuery.= " group by description ";
$dataQuery.= " group by description, language ";

The next bug was harder. If the search result had a very large number of files within a single line, i.e. with the same description, clicking the download button used to fail, or give a truncated list. Checking out the database calls one by one by giving echo statements, V found that the truncation was happening at the group_concat sql command. Apparently mysql has a group_concat default size limit of 1 kB. The blob returned is truncated to 1024 bytes. Googling found the answer. Since we don't have system-wide access on that server, we had to change the size limit for the particular session. Just adding the line

$inc_result= mysql_query("SET @@group_concat_max_len = 512000;");

just before the relevant queries were fired did the trick. The @@ means for this session.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

online buying of physical products from overseas

Found out the hard way about Indian customs laws when we ordered the Theater Suite from Software Bisque. The package, sent via UPS, was detained at customs, and the Indian UPS partner asked us for IEC code. Luckily in our case the University has import licence (and duty exemption) so we got the package cleared, even the process took a month. But other institutions may not be so lucky.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Google Reader shutdown - Google player widget no longer up

HMHV blog had all player code hot-linked to the google audio player at

 Google Reader shut down on the 1st of July 2013 and along with it all its allied services. So I was asked for a simple solution. I suggested:

Where it says upload on your own site, you could use or something like that.

The solution preferred was a direct HTML5 embed, like

But of course this has mp3 embeds, which did not work on Firefox. But the latest versions of FF on Windows do support this.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

HDMI to VGA convertor

V wanted to use the Toshiba AC-100 smartbook for his presentations. Since the projector did not have a HDMI port, he had to convert to VGA. We ordered this product, and tried it out. First testing with the Blu-ray player, did not work. Probably the Blu-ray player does not supply enough power via HDMI. Tried with the AC-100, worked fine. Default output is 1920x1080 @ 60 Hz. Saw the output both with the LG Studioworks 221U monitor as well as with the Optoma TX1080 projector.

Monday, July 08, 2013

catalogue of astronomy software

Some of these would be useful for those interested in hands-on astronomy, and there are some for PC-based simulations also. But the list is a bit old, some of the links have to be looked up on's wayback machine. But very interesting and very long list of astronomy software, many of them freeware to do particular tasks - listed at

Categories like 3D Simulation, Planetarium, Astrophotography, Atlases, Ephemeris, Planets, Satellites and so on.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

multiple videos on dome

Checking out different ways to do multiple videos on the dome.

1. Tried making a three-video wide panel, and using DMProjector to warp it for the dome. Using avisynth overlay, something like
video1=Audiodub(Overlay(bg1, top, 834, 771), audio)
video2=Audiodub(Overlay(video1, top2, 234, 771), audio2)
video3=Audiodub(Overlay(video2, top3, 1434, 771), audio3)

resulted in a clip like this after appropriate cropping: 

Using DMProjector to show it onscreen with 40 degrees vertical field of view starting with the horizon (altitude of 20 deg) resulted in a dome master like this,

As you can see, the side videos have been squished. When I used gimp and duplicated the middle video, rotating it and pasting it on the two sides to get

Although the videos are supposed to be identical, on the dome the side videos came out much bigger than the centre video. That's all for now, probably I'll revisit this theme later.