Saturday, November 25, 2006

Peer to peer downloads

Most people know about downloading media from peer to peer networks so I won't go into too much detail. There are the usual issues of "should I be downloading copyrighted material?". "am I sure that I am taking the right steps to ensure that I don't catch any nasty viruses?". As this is a blog about me learning Mandarin Chinese I will let you deal with those issues.

Firstly you will soon realise that there are a lot of Chinese users online that have no qualms about copyright issues. As there are a lot of Chinese users online you can bet that there is a lot of Chinese media online too. You can download and watch Chinese media without sub_titles, with sub_titles, with English sub_titles or even English media with Chinese sub_titles (sounds crazy but great reading practice).

I used to use bittorent initially but have found it a lot easier to find things on the Emule network (acutally the client is built on the old edonkey).

The easiest way to find things the Emule network that I have found is at the verycd site. For example a link to the Water Margin series (Chinese). It is probably best to understand the software first if you have never used it before. Also remember the links you may find are not direct downloads they just connect you to the users currently sharing a particular file. I can take a long time to complete a download.

Hope you can find something useful...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Even more media! (phew)

Thanks to an orginal tip off from Mashood I have also been playing with streaming peer to peer TV channels. And to get hold of some targeted media I have also resorted to bittorrent and the Emule network. There is too much for this post already so another will follow with more information on Emule and bittorrent.

Again apologies for not posting full tutorials, my free time and Chinese language learning just don't allow that much attention to detail. I will provide a few links where possible though and that give you a better start than I had.

Peer to peer TV sounds crazy, but very simply if you connect normally to a TV stream you have maintain enough bandwith to that single nework location for your media player to output the picture and sound. On a peer to peer networks bits of the stream are being distributed amongst many people. The peer to peer software will be grabbing bits of the stream from lots of different places and also sharing the data you have with other people likewise. The more people sharing the stream the better! you may not all be watching quite in sync. but that is just like time-shifted TV on TIVO etc. but on a smaller scale.

This peer to peer TV seems to have caught on mostly in China so the software is Chinese and most of the media is Chinese also (perfect if you are learning Mandarin). There is some heavy European interest, not surprisingly many Europeans are using the p2p TV networks to watch football.

I have tried PPStream and PPLive the two links I have given you are information pages on football fansites. It is best if you do some google searches to get all the information you can. Thanks to a tip from Pepper I have also tried the TVU player. Assuming you have a reasonable network connect you should be able to get a wide variety of Chinese television from one or all of these.

My quick impressions are as follows: PPStream does the trick, you can find a version to download that has English menus and there is a lot of viewing choice. The downside is that most of channels work best when a lot of Chinese people are online, it often slowed down or interrupted other online stuff I was doing and a few of channels never seem to be available.

PPLive was harder because at the time I tried it I could not get hold of English menus. However often I found I could get channels on PPLIVE even when there wasn't enough data coming down through PPStream (maybe more Chinese people use it?). Also PPLIVE didn't seem to intefere with other network performance.

TVU player is clunky looking however I think this is the most accesible of the players to start off with. It is easy to use and although it has considerably less TV stations there is plenty of choice and it does what it says on the tin. I am currently watching an early episode of 24 dubbed in Mandarin with subtitles as I type this :) (Keifer Sutherland sounds very weird as a Chinese guy). Hot tip time: I never waste an opportunatiy if I am at home posting/reading forums etc. I am almost always listening to Chinese audio or even watching chinese TV. This is one reason why my English grammar and spelling appear so bad.

Now for the best bit, in a previous post I pointed out that you can use Videolan player to record streaming media. Well each of the players described above works by turning your PC into a local media server, so if you connect Videolan to the correct port on your PC you can record it. The address you need for the TVU player is likely to be

If like me you are attempting to learn Chinese from a non-Chinese speaking country then I think the biggest initial hurdle is that you have no idea of, or ear for the language. Unlike some learning experiances you have nothing to lose by diving in. You won't fall off and hurt yourself, your brain will not explode. If you don't understand any of it then put that aside and concentrate on getting a feel for what it sounds like. I bet that if you are English like me you can easily tell the difference between German, Spanish and French language, even if you don't understand them. This is your first and essential goal for Chinese. Step 1 find a way to test if you can learn to easy tell between Chinese and Japanease, then do the same with Cantonese.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chinese (not just for linguists!)

I will be returning to the Chinese media again shortly, but first a rather warming interview that Ken Carrol at Chinesepod conducted with Professor Cyndy Ning.

I agree wholeheartedly with many of sentiments expressed. Since I started learning Mandarin I have been surprised by the general impression (often not explicitly stated) that it is somewhat different to other languages. Not a language that is for Westerners that are mere mortals, but rather for those who can elevate themselves to a higher plane of existence.

I happen to think that Chinese is just another language that can be learned just like many other languages. My main obstacle as a European simply being that I have not built up any background exposure already at the time I start to learn.

I happen to believe that a late thirty something Western guy with a full-time job and family can (if committed) adopt learning Chinese as his main hobby for a while and learn to understand, speak, read and write reasonable everyday Mandarin in far less time that a University student will finish his/her course in Chinese language. Without the Internet it would be a different story, but with it you don't even need to attend Chinese classes.

I happen to think that I don't really need to study any complicated linguistics or learn any complicated grammar terms to do so.

I keep happening upon many people who happen to think that I am sadly mistaken.

If you happen to agree with me then listen to the interview it will make you feel better. If you don't agree with me then listen anyway it could be one of those things that help you wake up and smell the coffee (it might happen).

Disclaimer: if you are a linguist or a grammar fanatic then I wish you well, but please don't add to the impression that an average guy can't learn Chinese just because they want to.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Feeling somewhat like Bilbo Baggins when he screams "time" in The Hobbit. My requirements for studying of Chinese are changing drastically. The importance of time is becoming more and more evident.

Job, family and all that comes with approaching middle-age mean a lack of time in real-terms. If I had been wildly successfully in the earning stakes I might have been able to carve out some free time for my-self but sadly not.

None of this seemed to be a problem during the early stages of learning Chinese as there was a lot of dead-time in which I could learn just by listening. This is still the case to some extent but I find more and more that I need or want to sit down and actually study a little bit too. My favorite situation being some juicy text and accompanying audio.

I also need to talk more and although I am getting some wonderful help from Skype, to fit it in I need to do silly things like get up at 5:30 in the morning. Some of the younger people I encounter seem to be available to chat on Skype for hours each day (a completly alien concept :)).

I need to re-think my strategies somewhat. I have posted and interacted in forums a lot, usually whilst listening to Chinese. Now that time would seem better suited directed to studying.

Not a whinge as such (although I would like more free time :)). I think I see a light at the end of the tunnel. The lower intermediate lessons at Chinespod are more accesible to me now so I can learn from them just by repeated listening. Also at some point I will get more out of just listening to Chinese radio etc.

It does kind of highlight that all of us have to customise our own lesson plans (assuming we are self-learners) to fit our own life-styles. And there is not a day goes by without some sort of Chinese learning going on, even if just within my own head (a vastly under-rated classroom).

This blog is negleted but normal service will be resumed shortly and I feel a podcast coming on (after all it is all in the sound).