2014 — 9 January: Thursday

It's just as well that Handel's "Dixit Dominus"1 was soothing me a few minutes ago. I've just uncovered yet another unpleasant wrinkle that I can only — at this stage of the criminal investigation — provisionally attribute to the ongoing horror in my life that is the HDCP protocol.

All began normally...

... as I stumbled, as usual, into the living room, powered on BlackBeast, and the "radio" subset of my audio system, and proceeded in a kitchenward direction with a cuppa in mind. Armed with the cup that wakes, I then checked my email, refreshed and ran my PC anti-viral measures, and only then fired up my web browser. Erm, it seems to be taking a long time. Where's the window?

I habitually run the browser in the right-hand Dell on my desk. The lights were on, but the mouse pointer blackholed on that screen. Hang on. What's that one-pixel thin line down the left-hand edge of the right-hand screen? And why does the browser appear in the taskbar on the left-hand Dell as a miniature icon, complete with thumbnail (when I hover the mouse over it) of the page I expect to see without that page automagically manifesting on the right-hand Dell?


Check Display settings. It turns out — I conclude, wearily and warily — that the Oppo (which I was since quite late yesterday evening now plugging BlackBeast's onboard graphics adapter directly into in hopes of getting an even better picture from it) simply doesn't play nice2 with my combination of HDCP-compliant adapter and HDCP-compliant Kuro plasma screen. Who gnu?

Workaround? Simple. Give up the childish boyhood dream (some might say futile Herculean Labour) — simply because it should be possible — of trying to get BlackBeast's video display on to the Kuro as its third PC screen without simultaneously screwing up (a technical term) one of the two Dell worktop displays. Settle for DVD, and Blu-ray, and network file, playback perfection via the Oppo to the directly-connected Kuro. Sorry, son, some things jest ain't meant to be.

Dagnabbit. [Pause] Have some breakfast. It will make you feel better.

My chums...

... at Taschen suggest I should hand them £99-99 for a lovely book on Bosch. As I've mentioned, I've had a "thing" about Surrealism,3 not to mention Bosch,4 for quite a long time now.

There's a remark...

... along the lines of if our brains were simple enough to understand, we would be too simple to understand them. This chap understands that:

One researcher in the EU-funded project, simply called the Human Brain Project and based in Switzerland, inadvertently revealed the paucity of theory within this information glut: "It is a chicken and egg situation. Once we know how the brain works, we'll know how to look at the data." Of course, the Human Brain Project isn't quite that clueless, but this hardly mitigates the enormity of this flippant statement. Science has never worked by shooting first and asking questions later, and it never will.

Philip Ball in Aeon

Lest I forget, take 2

I used to print out a table somewhat like this and fix it to the wall above the A/V system. Getting Christa or Peter to read it, though, was a trick I never mastered.

Source   Audiolab setting
CD   cd
UK radio   dab
US NPR   vcr
PC audio   dtv
Blu-ray   hdmi #1
PVR   dx2
Minidisc   md
Cassette   tape


BoJo can(n)onised?

Steve Bell's excellent cartoon.

Following a brisk blast...

... of fresh air to clear away some cobwebs, I was sipping a coffee and reminding myself what Russ Allbery had had to say about "Catch-22" when I noticed he'd now added a fascinating update that took me here. It's very well worth the diversion, trust me.

Da Capo

Actually, there is a very simple way of restoring BlackBeast's desktop display to the Kuro, but it involves scrabbling awkwardly around the back of a not exactly lightweight plasma screen — preferably without knocking it over — in search of the currently-unused second hdmi input I know lurks there, and simply hooking that up directly to BlackBeast's hdmi output without any involvement or 'knowledge' of the A/V system — I figure not even HDCP can get in the way in this case. The question is: Just how badly do I want to be able to show the Win8.1 desktop on the Kuro?

It means two separate hdmi leads going to the Kuro where, strictly speaking, only one should be needed. That offends me. But not anywhere near as much as not being able to do whatever I want to do with my own kit, dammit!

A mere 48 minutes later, and all is back in place. The experiment worked perfectly: BlackBeast has untroubled direct access to the Kuro screen on input #5 while the Oppo still comes in equally directly on input #6 as before. Neither is 'aware' in any way of the other, so HDCP can go whistle. Furthermore, the upgraded firmware from Intel on the motherboard's video chippery has no hesitation or any trace of the green screen flashes that were a feature in the past. Digital audio from Blackbeast gets to the pre-amp via an optical lead, and digital audio from the Oppo gets to it via a co-ax for those pesky 24-bit 192 KHz FLAC files, and via its second hdmi output, delivering down-mixed stereo in an LPCM format.




1  I first heard it when I borrowed a CD from Roger a while ago.
2  It occurs to me that, one way and another, I've been bashing my head against the HDCP brick wall for six years!
3  Last time I looked, a "Used - very good" hardback copy of William Gaunt's 1972 "The Surrealists" commanded over £70 on Amazon. My own (mint condition) copy cost me £6 in October 1972. (Had I left it until December its price would have been £7 according to a note printed on the dust jacket.)
4  Back in 1979 I bought three copies of John Rowlands' large-format paperback of "The garden of Earthly Delights". It reproduced the triptych at full size, and my cunning plan was to take apart two of the copies, stick all the segments of the image together, and mount it on a huge piece of hardboard (a bit of which leans, to this day, against the garage wall). It wasn't too long into this giant jigsaw puzzle before I realised the end result was ("in the large") far too weird to finish and would in any case have been banished from exhibition at Christa's command!