DVD Studio Pro, Jukebox scripts, random playback

Thanks to Alex Blanc today – he worked through a lot of binary based maths with me to help answer a fairly challenging question… how to set up a user selected playlist so that it plays back in a random order.

The issue is actually very complex. Last year we developed a user selected playlist allowing the viewer to choose up to nine clips from a total of 24 on offer. If you consider that each viewer will make their own choice this is in itself a random playback engine. However, what if the viewer wants to select the first nine clips and then play those back randomly without repeating any clips? This is the challenge!

It turns out to be possible, but all of the available memory slots in DVDSP are used at some point in the scripting. We adapted the Jukebox scripts as our starting point and used the same basic script structure – i.e. a selection script, a playback control script, a pre- playback script to clear some of the registers, a script to clear all registers and a script with all of the ‘jump’ statements in it.

Alex’s mastery of the coding environment meant that no script was over long, and he also introduced me to the ‘XOR’ function… if you have never used any binary maths functions then this is a tricky one to explain. It basically looks at two given memory slots and compares the entries in them. If both are the same it evaluates to ‘true’ otherwise it gives a ‘false’ response. Quite why we used XOR is more obvious when you look at the scripts themselves.

They are not fully finished yet – some fine tuning to do and so on, but you can get to them by going here:


and looking for the item called Jukebox_randomiser.sit. You will also see the original jukebox files there, too.

The basic mechanics of the scripting is that the user chooses a clip to play. The value of the button they select is then lodged into a five bit long section within a 16 bit register (there are eight of these at our disposal). The script then adds one to a counter and sends you back to the menu for the next choice if the counter is less than 9. Once the ninth choice has been made the script sends you to a menu to play the choices back. To do this it first generates a random number between 0 and 9 and uses this to look within one of three memory slots where the choices are stored. It then masks off the two sets of five bits that it isn’t using and works with the five bits it needs. These are then blanked to be zeros so that when it next looks it knows whether or not the choice has been played. By repeating this process the script tracks what has been played. If the random number generator picks the same number a second time the script subtracts one from it to attempt to find a new number not yet chosen…

I told you it was complex!

In time I will tidy this set of scripts up and sort out the remaining ‘end jumps’ for the tracks that use the scripts, then build a disc image for folks to download and try out. Currently there is also a section within two of the scripts which should be tidied up as it is very long winded (we couldn’t think of the shorter way to do it…sigh), but otherwise it all works as it should. I will eventually add comments to the scripts as well so as to keep track of what is going on should anyone else want to use them.

Alpine N333RRS quality

Right – now this is in the car and working, let’s talk about how good it is (or isn’t).

First off, I have a bog standard audi audio system – which by all accounts is actually pretty good. I always loved the warmth of the sound and the strength of the bass was OK. But now I have an Alpine system – what differences are there?

Well, for one, I found that I do in fact have a sub woofer in my car – not particularly obvious but it is now punching out some more serious bass than before. The speakers consist of fronts split into two – mid range and tweeters, plus an additional centre channel on the dashboard top, and the rears which are standard single cone stuff.

Adding the Alpine unit and I can honestly say everything is that much cleaner and crisper – the bass has added punch and I can hear things I couldn’t hear before… low volumes seems to allow me to still hear the quietest intro – even at high speeds in my turbo diesel. I still get a punch in the chest when I listen to the right kind of music – and the high end is just so much cleaner as to be unreal. A colleague actually thought I had upgraded the speakers – the sound was that different.

I also don’t get as much audio compression in the car- the sound is less ‘oppressive’ if I can describe it that way – the Audi unit seems wooly be comparison to the Alpine. I guess it is a bit like the difference between a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Stratocaster – you either like one or the other, seldom both.

Overall, quality has improved. The standard speaker set up copes really well and with the iPod unit all working I am enjoying the music far more than I have ever done before. That’s not to say the Dension ICE>Link wasn’t any good – it is – just that the Alpine unit has faster response rates and just, well, works!

What about the navigation?

This has been interesting. So far I have only driven in areas I know really well. On some occasions the accuracy of the unit has been off by about 30 yards (quite normal), but on other occasions I have driven along well known roads and the unit lost navigation. It also tried to direct me through the centre of a town when I could have used the by-pass (I used the ‘short’ route option and not the ‘quick’ which could have something to do with it). It also has some ambiguity at cross roads where there is a ‘straight ahead’ option. It sometimes tells me to turn left and then right. Hmm. Also, on exiting roundabouts it is about 70% accurate as to where the exit lane really is.

All in all you still need a fair degree of common sense. This unit isn’t going to turn on your indicators for you and some roads which bend sharply are considered to be junctions when they are not. Keep some common sense about what you are doing, use the road signs as well and you are going to be OK.

The map feature is fine – all that is needed for most journeys. I really don’t believe a 7″ screen in full colour will add anything to the experience – I’m happy with my ‘Bio-lite’ display.

So have I ditched the map book yet? In short, no – I still think it has a place in the car, if just to be able to show me the ‘bigger picture’ when going to new places.

The one thing I adore with this unit is post code searching… so overall I wouldn’t give it up even if I have violated my manufacturer’s warranty! It sounds great, is very practical and looks the bees knees too… what more could you ask?

(well, a phone kit that works, of course…)


Alpine N333RRS in Audi A3

OK – job is done… Alpine N333RRS head unit is sitting in my Audi A3 car and all seems well.

Well, that is except for a couple of small things…

Firstly, the audi factory fitted phone kit no longer works- calls coming in are not muting the head unit and I cannot hear the phone through the speakers as before. The fitters did add a new dedicated speaker for the phone, but the output volume from the kit is so small it is inaudible. This needs amplification, at the very least.

It also seems that some functions of the driver’s info system are not working – the most significant of which is the display of the CD or radio station info. Wow – no great loss there – all other stuff seems fine.

It’s the phone which gets me irritated -that was one of the main things I needed to retain. I ahve sent a few emails around asking if there is an adapter available, since I don’t really want to be cutting through any wires and taping them together to get it to work. Fortunately I have heard from auto-connect.co.uk who say they do have an adapter which will give me the basic functionality. I’d pay well just for that bit!! Everyone else seems to think it is impossible to do – and I can’t believe that for a moment.

I have had some interesting discussion on what to do from the http://www.audi-sport.net/ forums… but only from one fellow in Johannesburg (don’t you just love the international possibilities of the Internet??)

However, beyond any of that the most worrying aspect to fitting this after market unit is that my car is less than three years old and yet I may have inadvertently invalidated the warranty! Oops! Can you imagine taking the unit out of the car, refitting the old unit and then going for some warranty work, only to have to reverse the process when done? No, me neither. Let’s hope the car stays in good enough condition not to need it…

ICE>LINK software, Dension config files, iPod in your car, update ice>LINK

Following on from previous posts, you can now download all versions of Dension’s firmware here, including versions 2.03, 2.04, 2.05, 2.06, 2.07 and 2.10. Included in the zip file are the config files for all of the head units that Dension supported, both OEM and aftermarket. Additionally there are the update instructions and the start update.mp3 file.

Click here to download them all – it is a 4.1MB download…

Edited – Feb 18th 06, Check out the page for Dension files – all versions in the updates library are now listed individually, along with the config files and a .pdf about how to run the updates. Hopefully this will help folk get to the exact update they want more swiftly.

Buying from the Internet

I have been caught out once or twice with dodgy dealers who haunt places like eBay (check out any threads you can find on Jason Pitcock, who ripped me and about 60 other folk off for Apple kit and is now being put on trial by the FBI). So it is with a great deal of trepidation that I enter into any online deal that looks too good to be true.

However, I have to say that the Alpine sat nav gear which Kara got me for my recent birthday has made me think again – there *are* some decent people ‘out there’.

We bought the unit from http://www.caraudio-versand.de/ and throughout I was worried that I couldn’t speak German and didn’t want to appear too ignorant by ringing them and speaking in English. How wrong could I get… I *did* pluck up the courage to ring after I had exchanged several emails.

What a thoroughly nice lot of people to do business with!

I dealt with Marta (or rather, she dealt with me), who has answered all of my questions graciously and basically worked really hard to make me feel at ease with it all. The money for the unit was sent via a bank transfer and I received a UPS tracking number almost right away. The goods came, they are all fine and there was no hitch at all.

Well, perhaps one small one – the actual DVD with the navigation details on it didn’t arrive – no worry though, a quick email to Marta and I got a most polite and apologetic reply, with a UPS tracking number the next day.


I am pretty easily pleased, but sceptical of online deals. This deal and this company have challenged my view – they are based in Memmingen, about 80 miles west of Munich. I think when the unit is installed I’ll use it to drive over to them and say thank you in person.

The unit is due to be fitted this coming week – I’ll write about how that all goes as soon as it happens.