Discreet Cosine Transform

A few thoughts on ruby, video and other things

Loading Only the Data You Want in Ohai

Ohai is a great little gem for gathering data about a system - used in Chef but also useful on its own.  The documentation for it from the Chef site shows you how to load all available plugins, but you might have reason to load only a select one or two, then query the data.  What reasons?  Performance and memory footprint are two that come to mind - and if you are wondering if there is really that much different between 1 plugin and all of the ones that ship with Ohai, there definitely is - I found (in very unscientific dabbling) that the time to load a single plugin, say, networking, versus the whole complement to be 0.5 seconds faster and 2 MB smaller.  Depending on the environment you are trying to use Ohai in, that could be a big difference.

First step is to get a list of the plugins available.  After loading all the plugins, you can inspect your laoded-up object to get a list, like this:

require 'pp'
puts my_loaded_ohai_object.seen_plugins.sort.pretty_inspect

The seen_plugins array has the list of all plugins your system loaded (and pretty_inspect just outputs that list with line ends inserted, you could do that a lot of other ways too). You will notice in this list a lot of plugins, many of them with a generic name, like network, and then a specific implementation like linux::network.  You are going to use the general implementation, which then relies on the specific implementation underneath, rather than call the specific implementation directly.

Looking into the Ohai source at the code for all_plugins, we see that each individual plugin is required via require_plugin, and that the plugin os is required first.

So the code to require only network would be:

puts my_ohai_object_with_no_plugins['network']

You might also notice that all_plugins waits on any child processes to complete - I guess because some plugins fork to complete their work, but have not peaked through all the plugins to verify this. Either way, its easy to move that waiting code to a separate function you can call on your Ohai::System object:

class Ohai::System
 def wait_on_children
   unless RUBY_PLATFORM =~ /mswin|mingw32|windows/
     # Catch any errant children who need to be reaped
       true while Process.wait(-1, Process::WNOHANG)
     rescue Errno::ECHILD
# then, after the code above to load only certain plugins: 

That breaks encapsulation a bit, of course, forcing the object to reveal too much of how it gets its job done, but as a hack to load only certain plugins, is not that bad.

If you want to load most of the plugins, and only exclude a few, probably much easier to use the built-in Ohai procedure for disabling plugins one at a time.



How Can Closed Captioning Still Be This Hard?

After working with digital video for a good 6 or 7 years now, I have spent a decent amount of time with a lot of tools, and like all technologies, seen tools go from exotic and wildly expensive to common and reasonable (though good video tools are not yet cheap, and don't believe all of the freely available ones out there - you often get what you pay for, though not always).

However, the missing magic feature remains Closed Captioning, after all these years.  Want to transcode a file from same format to same format and keep CC?  Good luck.  Want to transcode from one format to another and keep CC? Forget it.  Want to convert VBI data into video auxiliary data?  That will be between $3,500 and $5,000, please.  There are some interesting OSS tools out there (look up McPoodle), but performance, reliability, and documentation are big concerns - I have not yet been able to successfully create a full chain of tools that can do any of the tasks outline above.

Did you know HDMI has no provision for CC at all?  It expects CC to be handled upstream, at the set-top box, and only passes video over its wire.  Information on standards (like EIA 608 and 708) is hard to find, and a lot of conflicting data remains in the ecosystem about how exactly CC works in different systems (this is also true of other video techniques, especially ones inherited from the analog world - like interlacing).

Are there great tools out there I am just missing?

Ruby Thought of the Day

ruby thought of the day - if you ‘load’ a file that in turn ‘requires’ other files, the rules of *require* apply to the children, not *load*