dinsdag 18 juni 2013

Movie genres in Plex media center: huh?

This post is not so much about a quirk in a particular program. Read through to the end and you'll see that it exposes a problem with crowd-sourced internet databases in general.

A few updates ago, Plex switched to a a new database for movie genres. According to what I can find from a cursory scan, it is Freebase). Previously it used IMDb, which only had a very limited set of genres. So it was supposed to be an improvement. However, when I browse through movies in Plex I now see things like this:

If someone would pick REC or The Fly for a romantic evening with their girlfriend, things would not end well. And in what way is “black-and-white” a genre? And don't get me started about “airplanes and airports”. Apparently I misunderstood the whole point of Indiana Jones. They should have made it more obvious that it was all about Indy hopping from one airport terminal to another.

When browsing through the films in Plex Media Manager, they prove to have multiple genres and the second genre often makes a lot more sense than the first (e.g. Thriller for Sin City, Horror for REC).

I can guess how this database came into existence even by only taking a glance at the Google results page for the “freebase” thing I did not know until now. It probably works in a similar way as the good old Google Image labeler, where random people are encouraged to slap as many labels onto random images as possible. The people who have the most time for doing this are children and teenagers, whose first impression of a film like Sin City is “it's black-and-white!” (Which is wrong by the way, there is quite a bit of colour in it.) Therefore the labels that get the most weight, are the ones that these age groups consider relevant. Maybe it would be helpful if the database would keep track of what labels were assigned by what age groups. Any user of the database could then re-weight the entries according to an age group of interest.

zondag 2 juni 2013

Assassin's Creed II & Brotherhood on Mac OS X: avoiding the keyboard bug

Anyone who has tried to play the Mac OS X version of Assassin's Creed II or Assassin's Creed Brotherhood on a machine with more than one keyboard or with a fancy gaming mouse, will have encountered the annoying bug that causes the keyboard not to work. The game must be started multiple times before it reacts to the desired keyboard.

The reason for this is that the game can only handle one keyboard. When it starts, it will pick a keyboard at random. Gaming mice like the ones from Razer or SteelSeries also present themselves to the OS as a keyboard, therefore it is possible that the game will pick your mouse as the keyboard device and you have no keyboard input at all.

The workaround is simple in theory: make sure that only the keyboard you want to use is plugged in while starting the game (from the UPlay interface). In practice this is problematic in case you want to play with an external USB keyboard on a MacBook: you cannot unplug the internal keyboard. Luckily there is a way to disable the built-in keyboard on a MacBook Pro as reported on the MacRumors forums. The following console command will unload the kernel extension that drives the keyboard:

sudo kextunload /System/Library/Extensions/AppleUSBTopCase.kext/Contents/PlugIns/AppleUSBTCKeyboard.kext

(Ignore any errors that may appear.) The following command will re-enable it:

sudo kextload /System/Library/Extensions/AppleUSBTopCase.kext/Contents/PlugIns/AppleUSBTCKeyboard.kext

Obviously you will want to put these commands into scripts to make your life easier.

In case you have a gaming mouse and a Mac with no built-in trackpad, you will need to either launch the game by navigating the UPlay game launcher by keyboard, or you can quickly unplug the mouse right after having clicked the “Play!” button. It suffices that the keyboard you want to use must be the only keyboard-like device at the moment the game is booting. After the menu screen has appeared, you can plug in anything at leisure. One consequence of all this, is that you will not be able to use fancy keyboard macros with a gaming mouse.

By the way, the only way to play AC II in OS X without getting horribly frustrated by the mouse controls, is to use a high DPI gaming mouse, disabling all acceleration, and setting the X&Y sensitivity in the game's setting to minimum. Let's all thank Ubisoft for adding a bit of extra challenge to their games! (not)