Three flashships fight head to head – Sony Z3 vs Moto X (2014) vs LG G3

Hello folks,

A colleague today just said that December is the Friday of the year. The festive period (Christmas) is coming soon and many are excited to upgrade their smartphones by Christmas. Thus, I have leased three top flagship phones in view to compare them. Yes, that is a first world problem and I am always trying to find the best smartphone every. Somehow, I found it hard to get all the perfect and desirable features in one device. Hopefully in the coming years, Project Ara (or similar projects) will attempt to solve this problem.

As we speak right now, some flagship specifications would be:

  1. 5.x inch display

I have big hands and I consume a lot of content on my phone. Therefore, any screen smaller than 5 inches would be too small for me. On the other hand, while I could do with a 6-inch phone like the Nexus 6, I would have an issue carrying my phone around as my jean pockets are not designed for such devices.

  1. 3500+ mAh battery which hopefully translates to more than 6 hours of screen-on time.

The bigger the better. Naturally, this can lead to a heavier device. A heavy device is undesirable as the latter becomes cumbersome while doing sports activities (such as running). As a result, using fitness tracking software such as Runtastic becomes difficult. I could invest in additional fitness bracelets amongst others, but the market is still nascent at the moment and I do not want to maintain too many devices.

  1. Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor + Adreno 440

At we speak right now, Qualcomm has a leading edge on mobile processors, although there is increasing competition at the moment. Samsung is pushing its ARM-based Exynos processors, LG plans to publicly release its own in-house ARM-based BIG.little Nuclun (previously known as Odin) processor in 2015 and nVidia has its own System on Chip (SoC) which integrates an ARM-based CPU and their own in-house built CPU. Apple has its own ARM-based Cortex mobile processors. Somewhere in this big crowd, Intel offers some powerful solutions based on the x86 microarchitecture. The year 2015 will be very interesting as Intel (as publicly announced) plans to push forward a high-performance, battery-friendly SoC based on the 14nm Cherry Trail platform.

In the end, it will be a war between ARM vs x86. Healthy competition is crucial for the sake of technological progress. I am eagerly looking forward to 2015.

  1. micro-SD card slot

Not everybody has access to high-speed mobile internet. LTE coverage is still very limited, even in developed countries. Lastly, a sizable proportion of people (I do not have a source/quote for this, but this is my general impression, especially following the NSA scandal) do not trust online storage service. In this limelight, some people would prefer storing their pictures and other files locally on their phone. The storage size to price ratio is increasing and therefore, micro-SD cards are very desirable.

  1. A 12 MP + camera that can record in at least 2K and support optical image stabilization (OIS).

Mobile cameras are a pocket-camera market killer. Life is beautiful. I would not want to miss taking pictures of beautiful sceneries or of silly friends.

A flagship phone this year will naturally support LTE (at least cat.4)

Now, coming to the head-to-head clash among the three top phones of Q4 2014:

My (subjective) experiences with the Sony Xperia Z3:

The Good:

  • The Sony Xperia UI is nicer more productive than stock Android. I am able to search for apps in the drawer and organise my apps in folders in the app drawer itself. When I switched to the Moto X, I immediately found it very annoying to scroll many pages to find my apps.

The Bad:

  • The bezels are too big. This unnecessarily makes the phone very long. Sony could have done a better job to trim these bezels. Sharp Aquos rings any bells?
  • The glass back can easily be scratched. I searched but I could not find whether the glass was Gorilla Glass 3. In any case, what I know is that the glass is covered with a shatter-proof layer of plastic. The glass itself is scratch resistant (thus probably a Gorilla glass). As a result, the (permanent) scratches on my phone were on the shatter-resistant layer hence having a scratch-resistant gorilla glass is a little bit an overstatement to me.
  • I prefer the direction that Intel is going – no wires! Thus wireless charging is important for me. The Z3 lacks wireless charging. With these water-proof flaps, wireless charging would have been a great addition.

The Ugly:

  • There is a serious lack of reasonably priced casing for the Sony Z3. If you manage to land yourself an expensive leather case, you will not be able to use the Magnetic Charger holder (also known as a charging dock, although I think the term dock here is an overstatement; you can only charge your phone with that holder.) properly. Yes, the phone is splash-resistant. I saw splash because I have heard somebody who plunged the phone in a 1m deep pool and the phone got damaged. However, popping up the charging flap every time one has to charge the phone is very annoying.

Although the back camera is okay, the front camera is very pixelized.

Moto X (2014)

The Good:

  • Small bezzels
  • Great AMOLED screen

This is a matter of preference. I found the AMOLED display in the Moto X more vivid (in terms of colors) than the IPS (LED) display on the Sony Z3.

  • great built-in software from Motorola

The Bad:

  • Lack of wireless charging

The Ugly:

  • Short battery life

Every day, I travel approximately 40 minutes each way to work. I use that time to read the news on my phone. At the same time, I stream Spotify music to my bluetooth headset. I always have Wifi, data and bluetooth because I do not want a hassle of toggling them all everyday. At work, I use my phone once a while. Thus, I approximate 3 hours of screen-on time. Such a lifestyle gives me 12 hours. If I start my day at 8:00am, by 20:00 in the evening, I am out of juice. Thus, if I am planning an evening out, I make sure to charge my phone during the day. I would have preferred a battery that fits my lifestyle. The battery in the Sony Z3 lives up to my lifestyle.

LG G3

The Good:

  • Wireless charging
  • Very nice, bright display
  • knock-on/off feature

This feature is great although I found that the knock-off feature only worked when I knocked twice on a empty space on the home screen. Thus, I always have to keep some empty space on my home screen and I have to target that empty area all the time for the feature to work.

The Bad:

  • LG UI is not enticing enough.
  • The buttons at the back are not programmable.

The Ugly:

  • Display drains the battery very fast

As a very last point, I found the sim card holders that the Sony Z3 and the Moto X use to be quite silly. Both phones require nano-SIM-sized (FF3) cards but they provide a micro-SIM-sized holder that you use to insert the nano-SIM. I guess it would have been simpler to just allow the insertion of micro-SIMs right away without the need for SIM holders. I have had to go out of the way to get my micro-SIM cut to the nano size. And my bad luck, I lost the nano-SIM holder for the Sony Z3.

I reckon you would not swap SIM cards on a frequent basis, but I found micro-to-nano-SIM tray unnecessary.

Final Words
I picked the Sony Z3 over the Moto X(2014) and the LG G3. The Sony Z3 had a better battery and is future proof in terms of specs (I am sure that the Qualcomm 801 processor and 3GB of RAM should allow me to install any apps for the next 2 years). I do not have a Playstation and therefore the bundled Playstation remote app that comes bundled with the Sony is useless for me. However, if you own a playstation and you are hesitating which phone to buy, the race suddenly becomes easier.

I hope this article helped. Have fun with your next purchase.

Posted in High Performance Computing

Disable Ads on Skype 6.x

You just updated to Skype for Desktop to enjoy the new shiny user interface and you want to get rid of the eye-breaking ads? Below is a working solution for Windows only. I am not sure whether that will work for newer updates. In any case, please let me know in the comments section whether my workaround worked and let me know which version of Skype you have.

Who would have thought that this big cashcow of Microsoft would bundle ads in one of their top products competing against Hangouts? The Hangouts plugin for Chrome is neat and sports a Material-design-ish user interface. The new Skype is not that bad either. I am still faithful to Skype since all my close family still uses that. To teach my parents a new technology would be too painful. I am not sure how much monetary benefit Microsoft makes with these ugly ads bundled in Skype. If I were at the head of the Skype division at MSFT, I would certainly make sure that I provide the best user experience to the public first. Quality first – can that be Microsoft’s moto, pretty please? Guess Metro on Windows 8.1 would be an answer to that. (Did you say ‘no’ too? Comment that below ;)

Anyway, without digressing any further, there are the steps:

Working environment:
Windows 8.1, Skype 6.22.59.107

  1. Modify some Skype settings.
  2. Go to Tools > Options > Privacy and uncheck the last three checkboxes as in the screenshot below.
    skype_settings

  3. Edit your config.xml file.
  4. Navigate to your user-folder’s App Data. The path can be something like:
    C:\Users\<your_username>\AppData\Roaming\Skype\<skype_username>

    Locate the AdvertPlaceholder xml tag and set it to -1.

    Example:
    <AdvertPlaceholder>-1</AdvertPlaceholder>

    Save and close.

    3) Modify some Internet Explorer security settings

    Navigate to Internet Explorer Options > Security tab > Restricted sites > Sites:

    Add https://apps.skype.com to the list, close and Apply.

    4) Lastly, edit your hosts file.

    You can edit the hosts file using an app open with administrator privileges. Otherwise, I find it simple enough (old habits maybe) to just copy the file on my desktop, make the changes and copy back the modified file and allow Windows to overwrite the previous file.

    Locate your hosts file. It will normally be located here (unless you have a custom windows installation):
    C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc

    Copy the hosts file to the desktop and add the following to the end of the file:

    127.0.0.1 rad.msn.com
    127.0.0.1 live.rads.msn.com
    127.0.0.1 ads1.msn.com
    127.0.0.1 static.2mdn.net
    127.0.0.1 g.msn.com
    127.0.0.1 a.ads2.msads.net
    127.0.0.1 b.ads2.msads.net
    127.0.0.1 ac3.msn.com
    127.0.0.1 apps.skype.com
    

    Save the file and overwrite the previous file in the above-mentioned folder with the modified hosts file.

    If the above steps helped solve the ads problem in Skype, please let me know!

    Cheers,

    Shailen.

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Posted in General

How to embark on the HPC bandwagon?

Ladies and gentlemen,

Note: Until the end of this blog article, I talk about my history why I came where I am now. You may fast-forward to the next articles.

Times have changed. I still remember the time when I was kid and I was starting with computers. My father bought the first family computer to do his basic office work (mainly using Word.) It was an Acer desktop PC running Windows 95. It had 2.1 GB of hard disk space and 32 MB of RAM. At the time of purchase, this desktop PC was supposedly the top-in the line machine.

Back in the days, nobody really knew how to use the computer. My father knew only the basics of the basics (turn the computer on, and open a program.). Next in the line, came my elder brother who, at the time, at best knew how to install a PC game.

Internet was scarce commodity since we were using dial-up. Dial-up networks were ridiculously slow and we paid per minute.

Then there was me. I was not allowed to use to computer at all, since I was known to break stuff. However, a couple of months later, I was allowed to have access since we were learning how to use Microsoft Paint at school. And they were right; I did end up breaking the computer – at least the software. I somehow crashed Windows entirely and it would boot anymore. Needless to say, my father was extremely furious as he had to pay the technician to fix it.

Speeding up a bit and skipping some part, a few months later, I had started programming. It was the most basic of things. I was automating some tasks with batch. Batch was fun. It was sequential, logical and loved the jumps, done with the goto: statement. I was still small when I started with Visual Basic, all on my own. I did some stupid programs and they were fun.

A bit a year after the purchase of that desktop machine, the latter was upgraded to Windows 98 and to 64MB of RAM. I was already more knowledgeable in computer stuffs than anybody else in the family.

It appears that a significantly large amount computer professionals these days happen to learn their first programming language on their own. All of them started with proper languages (like C, C++, python) or scripting languages or markup languages (like HTML).[sources: sampling my immediately network].

Well, my generation of people were born in the age of uni-processors which makes sense why we start with such languages. We then get acquainted to MPI and OpenMP at the university.

Times have changed now, and as multi-core processors are becoming the de facto standard these days. Even low-powered devices like mobile phones are multicore. As the trend speaks for itself, it will be time to start teaching MPI and co. right in high school itself (or even before).

While I started with serial programs, I guess in a few years to come, kids will start right away with algorithms. The basic books about programming will already guide them to think into parallel ways of solving problems. Serial algorithms will be a thing of the past and will not even be teached at all (maybe in history classes.). Just kidding.

Anyway, if you were like me and were raised in the uni-processor world and you want to embark on the HPC bandwagon, it is paramount to understand some core computer architecture concepts before you are able to grasp why things are done the way they are.

You will need to understand what is going on when a processor is multicore. You will need to know what is a NUMA architecture. (I assume you know clearly the von Neumann architecture. What, no? Don’t panic :)) I will introduce it, and briefly tell you about the Flynn’s taxonomy. Knowing these fundamental architectures, you will have the basic foundation to embrace the parallel world.

More coming soon..

Posted in High Performance Computing

High Performance Computing

Hello everybody,

I will share a little bit of insider information that I am allowed to talk about. Stock prices, market trends and technology expectations speak for themselves – there are two fields of technology that will grow massively in the next 10 years. These two fields are High Performance Computing (HPC), and Internet of Things (IoT).

Needless to say, Intel Corporation, the largest semiconductor in the world does not plan to play second fiddle to these market needs. Intel and its partners are pushing massively to bring IoT to the public. Now what does that mean?

Heard of the PC dying? Well, the death is true, but it is a very slow death. Actually, the birth rate of IoT is so high that top technology companies have decided to refocus their resources for what would be meaningful in the future.

The Internet of Things, or the Cloud of Things, enables small, low-energy embedded devices to collect information such that the aggregate data becomes meaningful.

This brings us to High Performance Computing. If one has millions of tiny minions gathering information, one would need a big data cruncher to process all the information to make sense of the latter. Therefore, on one side, we have small simple devices and on the other hand, large complex devices. As a result, the middle layer of “medium-powered” devices (PCs etc.) will be superseded.

This page will be dedicated to articles related to IoT and HPC. I started my education from an IoT point of view and I am currently working in HPC. During my bachelor thesis, I was inspired by the Near-Field-Communications technology and I implemented an infrastructure where I modified the Android kernel to enable the NFC Card Emulation mode. After this step was implemented, I wrapped up an NFC client/reader using Arduino and an NFC Shield to show how I could use my NFC-Enabled smartphone to operate as a switch. A switch is basically a device that is either on and off. In my setup, I showcased how I could open a door with my phone while at the same time ensuring a proper authentication.

Currently, I am researching on ways to model the power consumption of large scientific software (for instance benchmarking software like HPCG and Linpack). The goal is to improve the power efficiency of software.

Posted in High Performance Computing, Internet, Linux, Supercomputers

Refill and Reset the Canon MP150 Printer

 

Canon MP150

Canon MP150

 

 

In my humble opinion, the Canon MP150 is the best printer available. If I were to enumerate the reasons, I would list them as:

1) The Canon MP150 is easy to refill

2) Its cartridges are easily available (At least in Mauritius, 2008)

3) No hassles, it prints flawlessly (unlike HP,Epson)

4) The printer can be reset via a series of button presses. (unlike HP,Epson. Some Epson users were so frustrated that an Epson reset utility had to be created. However, it supports only some select models. I am deeply sorry they do not own a Canon MP150) See below for more details how to reset the MP150.

5) The Canon CL-41 cartridge for the MP150 is just an ink tank. Unlike most Epson and HP (and some Lexmark) cartridges which have and embedded chip, the Canon ink tank is easy to refill. A chip on a cartridge is normally used by the manufacturer to ensure that the customer uses only genuine ink. Also, when an attempt to refill the cartridge is detected, the printer posts a message on the screen informing the user that his/her warranty is void. These tactics are usually for commercial ends to ensure that the company continues to earn money from accessories and replacement cartridges.

6) Its just..a Canon.

 

Since now, I have noticed only one downside from the Canon MP150. It will refuse to print in grayscale when the colour cartridge has been removed, even though you choose Print Black only from the Canon Preferences/Maintenance Tab. I have searched for any possible hack to force the apparatus to print in black, but in vain.

How to reset the Canon MP150 after a refill (Step 10 concerns refill; instructions below the steps):

Method1 (Safe Factory Method):

1) Disconnect the printer’s power outlet 

2) Press and hold the power button while connecting the power outlet back.
3) While still holding down the power button, press the reset button twice.(red circle with a triangle) 

4) Release the power button 

    The printer takes about 10 seconds to show the number 0. 

5) Press + to change the value from 0 to 1. 
6) When this value is 1, press colour button; this will light up two leds.

    One is for plain paper and the other for photo paper. At this point is feed the printer with paper. 
7) Press the power button, the color button then the Reset button in order. The Canon will print some stripped lines and some numbers and letters ( all black if colored ink is empty).

When you print this sheet the value in the display returns to zero.
8 ) Open the printer cover cover (not the scanner cover) and remove the cartridges. With the printer still open, disconnect the power outlet.
9) Close the lid, re-connect the printer to the power outlet and turn on the printer. 
10) Refill cartridges and place them back in their nice little abode in the printer.

Method2 (Use at you own risk – Hardware Manipulation):

This method works in Factory Mode. I have not personally tested it because I do not wish to void my warranty by reverse engineering my printer hardware. Nevertheless, if you have a stock of printers in the back of your garage and wish to experiment, give it a try. See below for instructions how to set the MP150 to Factory Mode.

Upgrade to the latest MP150 Driver (version1.10) and download MPTool 0.9.6 here (Driver+Tool). This little software supports Pixma models MP150, MP160, MP170, MP180, MP450, MP460. MP150, MP160, MP170, MP180, MP450, MP460.

MPTool Reset

MPTool Reset

Features:

 

* Expanded information on the level of ink in the cartridge and containers for the waste of ink.
* Reading, recording and reset the printer EEPROM.
* Reset counters level for black and coloured ink cartridges.
* Clear the counters occupancy “core” and “supplementary” containers for the waste of ink.

Ink Level – shows the level of occupancy ink:
BK – black cartridge.
CY – colored ink cartridge Cyan.
MG – colored Magenta ink cartridge.
YL – Yellow colored ink cartridge.
WM – “core” container for the waste of ink.
WP – “additional” container for the waste of ink.
Port Name – displays the name of the printer port on the system.More info: here

Setting the MP150 to Factory Mode:
1) Turn off the printer on the network.
2) Click and hold power button.
3) Add a printer to the network.
4) Press cancel / resume printing.
5) Drop button. (If the system reports the discovery of “new device”, install the printer driver; after the installation is complete name the new printer as “Canon MPXXX Factory Mode”).

How to refill? Check this picture:

 

How to refill the Canon MP150
How to refill the Canon MP150

For best results, wait 8 hours so that the ink settles to the ink head.

I hope this helps to make this world printer friendly. If this articles has made you less frustrated today, post a comment.

Update:
Corrected Method 1, Step 7. Thanks to Jun dela Cruz (Philippines) for the update.

Any questions?

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Posted in Fedora, Linux, Ubuntu, Windows

How to hide the RealVNC Tray Icon.

RealVNC No Tray Icon

RealVNC No Tray Icon

RealVNC has become popular not only for its appealing user interface, but also because of its faultless, swift and fast connection between the host and the client. There are notable contenders boasting the same powerful features and some of such software are UltraVNC, TightVNC, TridiaVNC, just to name a few. However, in my humble opinion, RealVNC seems to be most popular. I am still perplexed and confused how people tend to think that paid software is best. RealVNC is not free (at least, the Enterprise version), while the other software stated above are.

I would appreciate if you could post, as a comment below, why you prefer RealVNC to other free software.

I remained loyal to RealVNC because it was the first Virtual Network Computing tool I tried. I got so used to its interface that using another brand would be like starting to left-hand drive when you are used to right-hand driving. Nevertheless, the major reason unlies the interface. RealVNC has basic and advanced interfaces which greatly boost your speed at handling commands. Meddle with the software a little, and you will realise how swift you can be at switching into view mode (no inputs) to ‘admin mode’ (with full inputs).

Now, coming to the crux of this article, how do you hide the tray icon. I understand that all the people viewing this piece of text use RealVNC to monitor other people. Lets be realist. If it were for you own purpose, a tray icon would not bother you at all, just like the time and the audio icon do not.

RealVNC 3 has a parameter, from the registry, that could hide its trayicon. This feature was discontinued in RealVNC 4 because the developers realised that people purchased (?) their software for ulterior motives other than remote support. I personally consider RealVNC the most stable vnc tool, which can be easily deployed, twisted and modified to be stealth, except for one stumble block – the mouse flickering.

This is a nuisance – and the RealVNC developers say that they introduced the mouse flickering to notify people that their computers were being monitored. I haven’t yet delved into that problem, but I believe there is a way to prevent the mouse from flickering by changing some offset bytes in the binary file. Definitely, there are many ways and I would leave that hack for the diligent people who have a lot of time to reverse engineer this software. I could,  but I don’t have much time to do all this.

I have provided a modified RealVNC Enterprise 4.4.2 server executable that you will need to overwrite in your RealVNC setup folder.

Link: http://rapidshare.com/files/136219294/realvnc_4.4.2_No_trayicon.rar

The archive contains the winvnc4.exe server file and the standalone realvnc viewer, which is useful to carry around without having to perform a setup.

Step1:

Shut down RealVNC completely by right-clicking on the trayicon and choosing Stop server. Then ensure winvnc4.exe is not running from the task manager (alt-ctrl-delete).

Step 2:

Overwrite the original executable with mine.

Step3:

Issue start>run> services.msc

This will load all the services running on your computer. Scroll down to ‘VNC Server Version 4′. Right-Click>Properties>Startup Type:Automatic > Service Status:Started.

Step4:

You should be done right now. Restart your computer and RealVNC will run in stealth mode – except for the mouse flickering. I use the old realVNC 3 just because of this problem. I have hacked the core completely and made the version 3 totally stealth, and use the viewer from version RealVNC 4, which is standalone.

Any questions?

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Posted in Windows

All about AVI movie tags

AVI Movie Tags

Are you frivolous over downloading movies, be it torrents or file servers?

If the answer is a succint, short Yes, then this article is for you.

Recently, with the boom of file servers all around the world and the overwhelming global prevalence of the popular Rapidshare.com, a huge mass of people have started to download movies, which can be obtained without a single penny (albeit for the connection you pay your ISP) . And while downloading video is your past-time hobby, some groups like aXXo, Diamond, Pukka, DMT amongst others, which you might have come across, have built a fame and encrusted their name on movie blogs. See a list of uploaders here.

Meanwhile, you might have come across tags like CAM, TELESYNC (TS) , DVDRIP, SCREENER (SCR), PROPER, REPACKED etc. The rest of this article is a short description of these words.

Quality/Sources

CAM

A cam is a theater rip usually done with a digital video camera. A mini tripod is sometimes used, but a lot of the time this wont be possible, so the camera make shake. Also seating placement isn’t always idle, and it might be filmed from an angle. If cropped properly, this is hard to tell unless there’s text on the screen, but a lot of times these are left with triangular borders on the top and bottom of the screen. Sound is taken from the onboard microphone of the camera, and especially in comedies, laughter can often be heard during the film. Due to these factors picture and sound quality are usually quite poor, but sometimes we’re lucky, and the theater will be fairly empty and a fairly clear signal will be heard.

TELESYNC (TS)

A telesync is the same spec as a CAM except it uses an external audio source (most likely an audio jack in the chair for hard of hearing people). A direct audio source does not ensure a good quality audio source, as a lot of background noise can interfere. A lot of the times a telesync is filmed in an empty cinema or from the projection booth with a professional camera, giving a better picture quality. Quality ranges drastically, check the sample before downloading the full release. A high percentage of Telesyncs are CAMs that have been mislabeled.

TELECINE (TC)

A telecine machine copies the film digitally from the reels. Sound and picture should be very good, but due to the equipment involved and cost telecines are fairly uncommon. Generally the film will be in correct aspect ratio, although 4:3 telecines have existed. A great example is the JURASSIC PARK 3 TC done last year. TC should not be confused with TimeCode , which is a visible counter on screen throughout the film.

SCREENER (SCR)

A pre VHS tape, sent to rental stores, and various other places for promotional use. A screener is supplied on a VHS tape, and is usually in a 4:3 (full screen) a/r, although letterboxed screeners are sometimes found. The main draw back is a “ticker” (a message that scrolls past at the bottom of the screen, with the copyright and anti-copy telephone number). Also, if the tape contains any serial numbers, or any other markings that could lead to the source of the tape, these will have to be blocked, usually with a black mark over the section. This is sometimes only for a few seconds, but unfortunately on some copies this will last for the entire film, and some can be quite big. Depending on the equipment used, screener quality can range from excellent if done from a MASTER copy, to very poor if done on an old VHS recorder thru poor capture equipment on a copied tape. Most screeners are transferred to VCD, but a few attempts at SVCD have occurred, some looking better than others.

DVD-SCREENER (DVDscr)

Same premise as a screener, but transferred off a DVD. Usually letterbox , but without the extras that a DVD retail would contain. The ticker is not usually in the black bars, and will disrupt the viewing. If the ripper has any skill, a DVDscr should be very good. Usually transferred to SVCD or DivX/XviD.

DVDRip

A copy of the final released DVD. If possible this is released PRE retail (for example, Star Wars episode 2) again, should be excellent quality. DVDrips are released in SVCD and DivX/XviD.

VHSRip

Transferred off a retail VHS, mainly skating/sports videos and XXX releases.

TVRip

TV episode that is either from Network (capped using digital cable/satellite boxes are preferable) or PRE-AIR from satellite feeds sending the program around to networks a few days earlier (do not contain “dogs” but sometimes have flickers etc) Some programs such as WWF Raw Is War contain extra parts, and the “dark matches” and camera/commentary tests are included on the rips. PDTV is capped from a digital TV PCI card, generally giving the best results, and groups tend to release in SVCD for these. VCD/SVCD/DivX/XviD rips are all supported by the TV scene.

WORKPRINT (WP)

A workprint is a copy of the film that has not been finished. It can be missing scenes, music, and quality can range from excellent to very poor. Some WPs are very different from the final print (Men In Black is missing all the aliens, and has actors in their places) and others can contain extra scenes (Jay and Silent Bob) . WPs can be nice additions to the collection once a good quality final has been obtained.

DivX Re-Enc

A DivX re-enc is a film that has been taken from its original VCD source, and re-encoded into a small DivX file. Most commonly found on file sharers, these are usually labeled something like Film.Name.Group(1of2) etc. Common groups are SMR and TND. These aren’t really worth downloading, unless you’re that unsure about a film u only want a 200mb copy of it. Generally avoid.

Watermarks

A lot of films come from Asian Silvers/PDVD (see below) and these are tagged by the people responsible. Usually with a letter/initials or a little logo, generally in one of the corners. Most famous are the “Z” “A” and “Globe” watermarks.

Asian Silvers / PDVD

These are films put out by eastern bootleggers, and these are usually bought by some groups to put out as their own. Silvers are very cheap and easily available in a lot of countries, and its easy to put out a release, which is why there are so many in the scene at the moment, mainly from smaller groups who don’t last more than a few releases. PDVDs are the same thing pressed onto a DVD. They have removable subtitles, and the quality is usually better than the silvers. These are ripped like a normal DVD, but usually released as VCD.

R5 LiNE

An R5 DVD rip with usually English audio dubbed over.

R5

In the world of movie piracy, R5, or Region 5, is a kind of professional release to counter the widespread of Telecines. Studios release these R5 retails in Russia much earlier than a movie would actually appear on DVD.

Quality is almost always better than TS or CAM and a little better/the same as a Screener.

Formats

VCD

VCD is an mpeg1 based format, with a constant bitrate of 1150kbit at a resolution of 352×240 (NTCS). VCDs are generally used for lower quality transfers (CAM/TS/TC/Screener(VHS)/TVrip(analogue) in order to make smaller file sizes, and fit as much on a single disc as possible. Both VCDs and SVCDs are timed in minutes, rather than MB, so when looking at an mpeg, it may appear larger than the disc capacity, and in reality u can fit 74min on a CDR74.

SVCD

SVCD is an mpeg2 based (same as DVD) which allows variable bit-rates of up to 2500kbits at a resolution of 480×480 (NTSC) which is then decompressed into a 4:3 aspect ratio when played back. Due to the variable bit-rate, the length you can fit on a single CDR is not fixed, but generally between 35-60 Mins are the most common. To get a better SVCD encode using variable bit-rates, it is important to use multiple “passes”. this takes a lot longer, but the results are far clearer.

XVCD/XSVCD

These are basically VCD/SVCD that don’t obey the “rules”. They are both capable of much higher resolutions and bit-rates, but it all depends on the player to whether the disc can be played. X(S)VCD are total non-standards, and are usually for home-ripping by people who don’t intend to release them.

DivX / XviD

DivX is a format designed for multimedia platforms. It uses two codecs, one low motion, one high motion. most older films were encoded in low motion only, and they have problems with high motion too. A method known as SBC (Smart Bit-rate Control) was developed which switches codecs at the encoding stage, making a much better print. The format is Ana orphic and the bit-rate/resolution are interchangeable. Due to the higher processing power required, and the different codecs for playback, its unlikely we’ll see a DVD player capable of play DivX for quite a while, if at all. There have been players in development which are supposedly capable, but nothing has ever arisen. The majority of PROPER DivX rips (not Re-Encs) are taken from DVDs, and generally up to 2hours in good quality is possible per disc. Various codecs exist, most popular being the original Divx3.11a and the new XviD codecs.

CVD

CVD is a combination of VCD and SVCD formats, and is generally supported by a majority of DVD players. It supports MPEG2 bit-rates of SVCD, but uses a resolution of 352×480(ntsc) as the horizontal resolution is generally less important. Currently no groups release in CVD.

DVD-R

Is the recordable DVD solution that seems to be the most popular (out of DVD-RAM, DVD-R and DVD+R). it holds 4.7gb of data per side, and double sided discs are available, so discs can hold nearly 10gb in some circumstances. SVCD mpeg2 images must be converted before they can be burnt to DVD-R and played successfully. DVD>DVDR copies are possible, but sometimes extras/languages have to be removed to stick within the available 4.7gb.

MiniDVD

MiniDVD/cDVD is the same format as DVD but on a standard CDR/CDRW. Because of the high resolution/bit-rates, its only possible to fit about 18-21 mins of footage per disc, and the format is only compatible with a few players.

Misc Info

Regional Coding

This was designed to stop people buying American DVDs and watching them earlier in other countries, or for older films where world distribution is handled by different companies. A lot of players can either be hacked with a chip, or via a remote to disable this.

RCE

RCE (Regional Coding Enhancement) was designed to overcome “Multiregion” players, but it had a lot of faults and was overcome. Very few titles are RCE encoded now, and it was very unpopular.

Macrovision

Macrovision is the copy protection employed on most commercial DVDs. Its a system that will display lines and darken the images of copies that are made by sending the VHS signals it can’t understand. Certain DVD players (for example the Dansai 852 from Tescos) have a secret menu where you can disable the macrovision, or a “video stabaliser” costs about 30UKP from Maplin (www.maplin.co.uk)

NTSC/PAL

NTSC and PAL are the two main standards used across the world. NTSC has a higher frame rate than pal (29fps compared to 25fps) but PAL has an increased resolution, and gives off a generally sharper picture. Playing NTSC discs on PAL systems seems a lot easier than vice-versa, which is good news for the Brits :) An RGB enabled scart lead will play an NTSC picture in full colour on most modern tv sets, but to record this to a VHS tape, you will need to convert it to PAL50 (not PAL60 as the majority of DVD players do.) This is either achieved by an expensive converter box (in the regions of £200+) an onboard converter (such as the Dansai 852 / certain Daewoos / Samsung 709 ) or using a World Standards VCR which can record in any format.

News Sites

There are generally 2 news sites, and I’m allowed to be biased :) For Games/Apps/Console :: http://www.theisonews.com is generally regarded as the best, but for VCD/SVCD/DivX/TV/XXX http://www.vcdquality.com displays screen grabs and allows feedback. **NOTICE** neither site offers movie downloads, and requesting movies/trades etc on the forums of either is NOT permitted.

Release Files

RARset

The movies are all supplied in RAR form, whether its v2 (rar>.rxx) or v3 (part01.rar > partxx.rar) form.

BIN/CUE

VCD and SVCD films will extract to give a BIN/CUE. Load the .CUE into notepad and make sure the first line contains only a filename, and no path information. Then load the cue into Nero/CDRWin etc and this will burn the VCD/SVCD correctly. TV rips are released as MPEG. DivX files are just the plain DivX – .AVI

NFO

An NFO file is supplied with each movie to promote the group, and give general iNFOrmation about the release, such as format, source, size, and any notes that may be of use. They are also used to recruit members and acquire hardware for the group.

SFV

Also supplied for each disc is an SFV file. These are mainly used on site level to check each file has been uploaded correctly, but are also handy for people downloading to check they have all the files, and the CRC is correct. A program such as pdSFV or hkSFV is required to use these files.

Usenet Information

Access

To get onto newsgroups, you will need a news server. Most ISPs supply one, but this is usually of poor retention (the amount of time the files are on server for) and poor completition (the amount of files that make it there). For the best service, a premium news server should be paid for, and these will often have bandwidth restrictions in place

Software

You will need a newsreader to access the files in the binary newsgroups. There are many different readers, and its usually down to personal opinion which is best. Xnews / Forte Agent / BNR 1 / BNR 2 are amongst the popular choices. Outlook has the ability to read newsgroups, but its recommended to not use that.

Format

Usenet posts are often the same as those listed on VCDQUALiTY (i.e., untouched group releases) but you have to check the filenames and the description to make sure you get what you think you are getting. Generally releases should come down in .RAR sets. Posts will usually take more than one day to be uploaded, and can be spread out as far as a week.

PAR files

As well as the .rxx files, you will also see files listed as .pxx/.par . These are PARITY files. Parity files are common in usenet posts, as a lot of times, there will be at least one or two damaged files on some servers. A parity file can be used to replace ANY ONE file that is missing from the rar set. The more PAR files you have, the more files you can replace. You will need a program called SMARTPAR for this.

Scene Tags

PROPER

Due to scene rules, whoever releases the first Telesync has won that race (for example). But if the quality of that release is fairly poor, if another group has another telesync (or the same source in higher quality) then the tag PROPER is added to the folder to avoid being duped. PROPER is the most subjective tag in the scene, and a lot of people will generally argue whether the PROPER is better than the original release. A lot of groups release PROPERS just out of desperation due to losing the race. A reason for the PROPER should always be included in the NFO.

SUBBED

In the case of a VCD, if a release is subbed, it usually means it has hard encoded subtitles burnt throughout the movie. These are generally in malaysian/chinese/thai etc, and sometimes there are two different languages, which can take up quite a large amount of the screen. SVCD supports switch able subtitles, so some DVDRips are released with switch able subs. This will be mentioned in the NFO file if included.

UNSUBBED

When a film has had a subbed release in the past, an Unsubbed release may be released

LIMITED

A limited movie means it has had a limited theater run, generally opening in less than 250 theaters, generally smaller films (such as art house films) are released as limited.

INTERNAL

An internal release is done for several reasons. Classic DVD groups do a lot of .INTERNAL. releases, as they wont be dupe’d on it. Also lower quality theater rips are done INTERNAL so not to lower the reputation of the group, or due to the amount of rips done already. An INTERNAL release is available as normal on the groups affiliate sites, but they can’t be traded to other sites without request from the site ops. Some INTERNAL releases still trickle down to IRC/Newsgroups, it usually depends on the title and the popularity. Earlier in the year people referred to Centropy going “internal”. This meant the group were only releasing the movies to their members and site ops. This is in a different context to the usual definition.

STV

Straight To Video. Was never released in theaters, and therefore a lot of sites do not allow these.

ASPECT RATIO TAGS

These are *WS* for widescreen (letterbox) and *FS* for Fullscreen.

RECODE

A recode is a previously released version, usually filtered through TMPGenc to remove subtitles, fix color etc. Whilst they can look better, its not looked upon highly as groups are expected to obtain their own sources.

REPACK

If a group releases a bad rip, they will release a Repack which will fix the problems.

NUKED

A film can be nuked for various reasons. Individual sites will nuke for breaking their rules (such as “No Telesyncs”) but if the film has something extremely wrong with it (no soundtrack for 20mins, CD2 is incorrect film/game etc) then a global nuke will occur, and people trading it across sites will lose their credits. Nuked films can still reach other sources such as p2p/usenet, but its a good idea to check why it was nuked first in case. If a group realise there is something wrong, they can request a nuke.

NUKE REASONS :: this is a list of common reasons a film can be nuked for (generally DVDRip)

** BAD A/R ** :: bad aspect ratio, ie people appear too fat/thin
** BAD IVTC ** :: bad inverse telecine. process of converting framerates was incorrect.
** INTERLACED ** :: black lines on movement as the field order is incorrect.

DUPE

Dupe is quite simply, if something exists already, then theres no reason for it to exist again without proper reason.

Source: http://www.vcdquality.com/index.php?page=faq

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