Monday, August 11, 2008

web: life of a Beijing pirate is hard, yarrrr

Even with an outside high-def antenna from AntennaPros, I can't tune in to over-the-air NBC ever since the station moved to San Jose. Curse you, hilly geography!

So no Olympics (or Heroes, or Tonight Show) for me. Yet the opening ceremonies are meant to be the greatest ever!

Ahh, but I hear there be “pirates” a-sailing the IntarWub tubes who make TV booty available to landlubbers. (Though what, exactly, is the piracy in taking something freely broadcast over the air to anyone who can receive it and making it available to others?)

I knew from my experience trying to grab early Joanna Newsom albums how difficult this would be.
  • Google for Olympics 2008 opening ceremony torrent
  • Update to latest BitTorrent program just to be safe.
  • Download the small .torrent file, it opens in BitTorrent.
  • My download speed is close to zero, so I reconfigure my router's port forwarding for my current IP address
  • It starts downloading, dozens of computers world-wide handing me pieces!
  • The torrent contains two files
    1. Beijing.Summer.Olympics.2008.Torch.and.Fireworks.BBC-HD.1080p.H.264.AC3.2.0.mkv (1.12 GB)
    2. Olympic Opening Ceremony [2008] (minus athletes entering).avi (598 MB)
    The first file downloads in a few hours, the second file never gets started.
  • I watch the first file, in Media Player Classic. It's insanely high resolution but choppy as hell and it's only the five minute climax of the guy running around the scroll!
  • Search again, find torrents on The Pirate Bay yarrr, arrrr, together with user reviews. Everyone wants a torrent without commercials and without the irritating commentators, nobody has one. For a bunch of freeloaders we sure are demanding.
  • I settle on Beijing.Olympics.2008.Opening.Ceremony.720p.HDTV.x264-ORENJi, not-quite-so high-def
  • download the .torrent and BitTorrent starts grabbing pieces of the file.
  • It's 5 gigabytes, 53 files 95.3 MB each!
  • The next morning it's all downloaded, but my BitTorrent program continues to offer bits of the file to other users. Arrr, they're not just pirates, they be Communist pirates sharing amongst themselves!
  • Try to play the first file, orenji-x264-beijing.olympics.2008.opening.ceremony.720p.hdtv.x264-orenji.r00, but no luck: Windows Media Player, Media Player Classic, and VLC Player all can't play it. Media Player Classic knows a few details about it like the encoding rate, but there's no sound or video in any of them.
  • Google for x264 "Media Player Classic", figure out it's a variant of H264 video compression, this forum post tells me I need ffdshow plus Haali Matroska Splitter
  • I download and install those decoder packs, adding to the half-dozen media-playing bits and pieces on my computer. Both have dozens of setup options for which formats they should own and mostly incomprehensible video settings.
  • Again, try to play that first 95MB file, nothing doing.
  • I look more closely, there's also a orenji-x264-beijing.olympics.2008.opening.ceremony.720p.hdtv.x264-orenji.rar file, which sounds like a compressed file.
  • Try opening this, 7-Zip volunteers to open it.
  • Indeed, it's a compressed file, so I extract the original file blahblah.mkv
  • 15 minutes later, it's still extracting.
  • The original file is 5,157,477 kB!! 5GB! And there are 50 of these! I'll need to dedicate a hard drive just for this one TV program!
And even with these encoders, the sound is staticky and choppy; I guess not only is my disk too small, but my Athlon 64 3000 with 1GB of RAM isn't powerful enough. The insane file sizes and CPU demands demonstrate that high-quality computer video has barely entered the realm of possibility, unlike computer audio where any $40 cellphone or $2 birthday card can play music.

Yet clearly there are many people who have mastered this hassle and happily grab a daily buffet of free TV shows and movies from the pirates' distributed digital treasure chest.

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  • That's nothing! There's another version of the Beijing Olympics in full HD for 42GB!!!!! I didn't even attempt to download it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 13, 2010 12:27 AM  

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