Media players

Gaaaah. I just watched Battlestar Galactica (better episode this week – maybe I won’t give up after all). Usually I’ll watch it on one of my Macs, in either QuickTime Player or VLC, but tonight I was using them both for the aforementioned ninja CSS work, and only wanted to half-watch the show for the aforementioned thinking-of-giving-up-on-it reasons. So I dumped it down the network to my PC and played it on that.

Bad move. First, I tried to watch in QuickTime Player for Windows. Now, this was a torrent download, and like many of them it had been compressed using Xvid. Which is a curious codec. It appears to generate standard (and, indeed, rather good) MPEG4… but then it bundles it up in a Windows Media AVI wrapper. MPEG4, you will recall, is itself an industry-standard container format derived from… er… QuickTime. The point of wrapping it in AVI has always escaped me, since every media player I’ve tried on Windows seems quite happy to play standard .mp4 files, but there we go.

Unfortunately, QuickTime Player for Windows decided, on this occasion, that recursion was a bad thing, and disappeared in a nifty little vanishingly-small loop all of its own. So, in desperation, I double-clicked the file instead.

That launched some weird part of Nero I’ll swear I’ve never seen before (not a great surprise – I mean, has anyone ever seen all the different applications? Is it even philosophically possible within one lifetime?). After a little poking around I discovered firstly how to switch it to full-screen mode, and secondly the keyboard combinations for volume control. Hurrah! All was well with the world.

…for about twenty minutes. After which the audio was leading the video by about three frames. Now, maybe most people wouldn’t object to that, but I make TV for a living and it bugs the hell out of me! Never something I’d noticed on the Macs, so for kicks I started playing the video over the network on my PowerBook, muted the audio, and shoved the window to the back. It stayed in sync throughout, but I probably didn’t need to say that. Meanwhile, I tried to resync the video in Nero. Start/stop didn’t do it. Neither did closing and relaunching the app; at 22 mins in, it was three frames out. Every time. Ugh.

So I tried Windows Media Player. Which is ugly as sin, but… worked! I even managed to zoom it to full screen, and after a few moments of trying to work out how to hide the chrome, it slid gracefully out of the way of its own volition. Hurrah! Only… it was too loud. Prodding at hopeful-looking keys didn’t do anything (Windows Media Player must be the only such app that doesn’t stop the video when you hit the space bar, for heaven’s sake – I can’t imagine why I thought +/- might affect audio levels), and I had to resort to the mouse. After which the window chrome refused to hide ever again. Yes, I found the little camouflaged button that’s supposed to toggle that behaviour. It merely toggled itself.

Gritting my teeth, I staggered to the end of the episode, then deleted the media file from the PC with as much aplomb as I could muster.

[sigh] Really, do people think this sort of crap is normal?


  1. Ah yes Windows Media Player. The space bar toggles whether the window chrome vanishes or not, which I’d imagine is why that particular problem manifested. Intuitive, no? It’s an immensely frustrating application, it doesn’t get any better when you have to code for it.
    BSG’s feels like it’s been treading water over the last few episodes (not nearly as much as Lost though), but this week’s effort marked a definite improvement. With only three more episodes left this season I’m hopeful that they can maintain the momentum.
    But never mind all that. Put the television torrents away and get back to your ninja css. Some of us are desperately curious to find out what you’re working on, you know…

  2. Windows Media Player is one of those immensely frustrating Microsoft applications. Not because it’s terrible, but because it’s almost reasonable. And yet, the ways it screws up are so innovatively brain-dead, one has no real alternative but to abandon hope. The space-bar-toggling-chrome-hiding thing just makes my blood boil, because it’s wrong on so many levels. Including, but by no means limited to, the tooltip for the button that performs the same action not listing the shortcut, when other tooltips in the same application do. Arrrggh!
    My theory about BSG, meanwhile, is that they’re having real trouble getting the storylines to fit the episode length. It’s all either rushed or overly-languid. It’s not the writing that’s bad – it’s the script editing. Unusual.
    Lost I gave up on after two episodes, when it became apparent that not only was there going to be a second series (which rather undermines the whole point, surely?), but it’s not at all obvious that the showrunners know what the end point is either. The only way they can get out of this is by pulling a Prisoner on us, only that’s already been done; anything less will be wussing out, and hence a betrayal of their audience. Trust me, it can only end it tears – get out now.
    As for ninja CSS: I’m hacking up a new How2 site in WordPress, fiddling with what I might do here and how much I can be bothered, and looking ahead to what would be lashed-together-but-technically-interesting MT install for the mooted NESTA project. The last is the interesting one, in part because it only has to work – looking good would be a plus, but it’s only a functional prototype/proof of concept, so is entirely optional.
    And my ninja is only a yellow belt anyway.

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