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PCI TV card progress

By Chris Williams. Published: 20th Feb 2004, 15:39:03 | Permalink | Printable

Where the heck is it?

Cast your mind back to July last year and you may recall the news of Simon Wilson's PCI TV card project. It's now February 2004 and while there's been no official release of the telly card software, there's been a lot of progress and a lot of beta testers singing praises of Simon's work.

The project's aim is to develop "a driver and TV viewing application for RISC OS, bringing television and frame capture to the desktop". PCI TV cards, like the recommended Pinnacle PCTV Rave, cost around 30 quid these days and Simon is licensing his driver under the GPL.

We caught up with young Simon recently and armed ourselves with a number of questions whose answers would hopefully quash our fears that his project would turn out into another Cineroma case.

"PCITV is now in beta, and about a third of my alpha testers have a copy of this new beta version. I still have one large problem to fix the behaviour of the software is currently undefined if no channels are found after a channel scan," explained Simon. "Some users may just want the ability to view directly-connected video sources instead of TV, so it's important to fix this problem before release."

Simon also blames other commitments for delaying his PCI TV card work, including helping out high school students with a robotics project. Another set back was due to Pinnacle changing the tuner chip used in their Rave and Pro cards twice.

Speaking of the future, Simon revealed: "Another feature I'm working on is proper frame capture. I've listed it as a feature that PCITV supports, but that was left on there from when the BASIC version of software was around. The current C version doesn't support frame capture, but it will very soon."

Overlooking the fact that the software is GPL'ed, meaning anyone can distribute copies provided they comply with the terms of the license, we asked Simon if anyone could be a tester. In response, he confirmed: "Yes, anyone with a TV card can be a tester. I've delayed releasing the very latest version of my software to all the alpha testers as I couldn't cope with the sheer number of bug reports it would produce.

"Most people have a version of PCITV (0.02d) with an external BASIC application, written by someone else, to change channels (!Remote). The very latest version of the software (beta) is with fewer people and can do the channel changing and tuner detection itself.

"The distinction I've made between alpha and beta is to do with the numbers of features. The beta version is roughly feature-complete (with the exception of frame capture) and certainly has enough features for a proper release."


PCITV website

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I bought a PCTV Rave card a couple of weeks ago and Simon was very helpful while I was getting it set up. The tuner needs a strong signal, but on the whole it works really well.

How about a demonstration at one of the upcoming shows?

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 20/2/04 4:01PM
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Unfortunately, I can't make it to many RISC OS shows! If someone is willing to demonstrate it, that'd be great.

PCITV 0.02d does not appear to work on RISC OS 5.05, seemingly due to a change in the way memory allocated to PCI devices can be accessed in user programs. This has already been fixed and a new version of PCITV will be winging its way to testers this evening.

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 20/2/04 4:09PM
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Just to clarify, I've been assured that development of Cineroma is still ongoing and that there have been significant improvements to it. Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 20/2/04 5:51PM
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Doctor: Cineroma's existance is more dubious than almost any other RISC OS software or hardware I can recall. It even puts MD to shame... they at least have *something* to show, even if it's not finished after all this time. By the time this mythical fabled product is out, in a dozen years time, there really will be no RISC OS market left to even care. Crazy.

As for PCTV... we'll have to wait and see. So many products/ideas announced, so few finished and available. ;-(

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 20/2/04 6:29PM
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0.03e seems to work fine here under RISC OS 5.05. Demonstrations might be a bit difficult getting a signal. If the venue has cable TV connections then it would be easy otherwise a video player could be used as a source.

I use PCITV with cable TV here which is in a majority of Dutch homes. Nice piece of software.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 20/2/04 6:31PM
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Hi, I really hope that PCTV is released. It won't affect me in the slightest - I have no Iyonix, not Iyonix fund! - but I think that it will be a benefit having an announced hyped-project completed and available. Something to take the pre-announcement mess ups out of the head.

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 20/2/04 8:49PM
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I believe more in the existance of Cineroma than the existance of Select. It plays most files well, if slowly for high res files, but most should play at full speed on an Iyonix.

Just because you haven't seen it, which seems unlikely, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 20/2/04 11:05PM
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I haven't seen it. I do believe it may exist, but won't ever reach customers. Select, otoh, has been around in peoples hands for quite some time - why the hell would you suggest it doesn't even exist? Weird.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 21/2/04 1:39AM
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Can't you see mavhc's sarcasm hat?

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 21/2/04 1:30PM
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David spends his time at work developing software. To expect him to come home and spend all his remaining time doing the same is a bit much. Cineroma does NOT put MD to shame. At no time has David /ever/ given a release date and then failed to deliver. Nor has he taken peoples money and still failed to deliver. Frankly I'm shocked that you would dare to compare either David or his software to MicroDigital. David has provided his software to all RISC OS users for no financial reward.

You of all people should know what a huge task David has set himself and if you don't regard it as a huge task then perhaps you'd like to create a multi-format movie player yourself. I'll be happy to compare it to the last beta I have of Cineroma. I'm not surprised that David sometimes loses a bit of enthusiasm for the RISC OS market when he reads drobe and the comment on it.

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 21/2/04 5:02PM
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I'm also a full time software developer, but to come home and develop RISC OS (and, lately, GBA) software is a blessed relief. I also release a vast quantity of what I write for free, and work for other RISC OS companies for free. Whoopty. So what?

The point is, it may as well not exist if he never bloody releases it. Blathering on about such unreleased software for so long is worthless nonsense that basically DOESN'T exist as far as the majority is concerned. Release the stuff and then let us praise David for something good rather than keep puffing up something that we've been promised for ages and never seen. Perhaps, also, let David speak for himself, Doctor?

What the heck has this all to do with PCTV anyway?

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 21/2/04 6:30PM
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I merely mentioned the progress of Cineroma since it had been mentioned in the article. I mentioned it to let people know that it was still being worked on and hadn't been abandoned.

David is quite able to speak for himself if he wants to and I wasn't trying to speak for him. Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 21/2/04 10:17PM
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I suspect that PCITV is a somewhat smaller project than Cineroma, that is not to denigrate the work that Simon has done.

As Simon has said here in the article PCITV is stable and usable. Releasing to alpha testers first is the normal procedure for testing software so I don't see the problem (but then I wouldn't would I ;o) .......out of curiousity *who* has been 'hyping' PCITV anyway?

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 22/2/04 8:42AM
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It's off-topic, but since I've been a Cineroma beta tester for a very long time, I have to react to some of the comments here.

Cineroma does exist and it does work. If anyone thinks that it's worse than any other RISC OS software then they must have forgotten about the eternal "coming really soon now" status of TBA Quake!

I don't have the latest version of Cineroma right now, because it's still work in progress and I wouldn't be able to test the enhancements for Iyonix that David is implementing anyway. But I've probably tested more of David's software than anybody else apart from himself (at one time I was the sole beta tester because the other testers didn't seem to think they'd have to turn in test reports), and I'm in almost daily email contact with David, in which he also informs me of any Cineroma progress. So I know what he's doing, well as much as I understand about demuxers, decoders, and colour spaces.

People who constantly refer to Cineroma as some kind of vaporware simply have no understanding of the complexity of this project, and all the limitations and problems that David is running into (if he hasn't found all GCC and library bugs by now, he's likely to have done that when the project is finished). I think some people don't deserve it that David spends so much of his spare time implementing Cineroma, when this hard work isn't appreciated!

To those who support David, sorry for the rant, but some things have to be said...

 is a RISC OS UserMike42 on 23/2/04 1:35PM
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It's interesting to see the over-reaction towards the "our fears that his project would turn out into another Cineroma case" tongue-in-cheek comment in the article and specifically, the fact that people read it as some sort of derogatory quip. We know Cineroma is a long term, intensive project that's developed in Dave McEwen's spare time and we wanted to find out if PCITV was going to be a similar venture, or if Simon was close to a release.

We're certainly not doubting Dave's work and I've seen Cineroma in its early stages when Dave passed drobe.co.uk a few beta versions to look at. The mention of Iyonix targetted enhancements is particularly interesting because, with no insult to Dave intended, my RiscPC certainly couldn't keep up with a few videos I had to hand.

Chris. Off-topic, blah.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 23/2/04 2:01PM
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The reaction is not entirely towards your mention in the article. To that, I merely informed people that it was not dead and was still in development. It was Ians response to that which annoyed me a little.

As you say, the RiscPC is a tad underpowered when it comes to playing high res movies, but I can get just over 15fps playing a 480x352 DivX5 movie with sound with a version of Cineroma that is un optimised (Kinetic 266). When frame skipping is implemented that will be perfectly watchable and /most/ movies downloaded from the internet are unlikely to be of a much higher resolution.

Of course some types of movies will perform better than others but Cineroma will be well worth having even for just standard strongarm owners. Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 23/2/04 2:27PM
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Of course Cineroma isn't very fast on the old Acorn hardware. A 16MHz bus simply isn't state of the art anymore, especially when much faster PCs can have problems to play some of the formats without dropping frames. Also the lack of floating point hardware is a big issue, as always, if not for the image decoding then for most of the sound decoding. On the Iyonix David is able to use YUV directly, as well as overlay, while he has to translate YUV to RGB on a RiscPC.

Cineroma is still in development and therefore not fully optimized. But a large part of the performance issue is not caused by Cineroma but by the outdated hardware. Surely you don't expect David to fix the hardware by software, do you? A problem like a slow harddrive can be fixed by copying the movie to a ramdisk prior playing, if the movie isn't too big. And I wouldn't play movies directly from a CD-ROM anyway, at least not from the quad-speed drive in my RiscPC, which is way too slow for that task.

 is a RISC OS UserMike42 on 23/2/04 6:50PM
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Does David actually have a gob or do you lot always need to speak for him?

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 23/2/04 7:09PM
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I'm a Cineroma Beta tester as well. It certainly exists.

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 24/2/04 3:28PM
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