Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Guess the Object

A new game at Linux & Things: Below are several pictures of an object which is rather famous in some circles. What I want to know is if those circles intersect with the readership of this blog. So give me your guesses in the comment section below.

Note: no, I didn't make this. But I did guess what it was right away.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Getting a Grip

One of most useful thing your computer can do is to take a giant slew of CDs, compress all the songs into mp3 format, and put a couple hundred songs on one disk, all playable from your car stereo.

This is especially useful when you can shock your children by showing that you know all the words to Dancing in the Dark (which for some reason is considered modern).

The key to this trick, of course, is that you need to convert the songs into mp3 format. This isn't the preferred compression trick in the Open Source world, where we'd rather use something like ogg, but my Ford doesn't speak caveman, so mp3 it is.

In the past, I've used sound juicer, which worked well in both Fedora Core and Ubuntu's Hoary Hedgehog, once the proper libraries for mp3 conversion were installed. But once I upgraded to Dapper Drake, Sound Juicer stopped ripping to MP3s, and would only rip to OGG or an uncompressed format. The problem seems to be with the various versions of the gstreamer pluggins available in the Ubuntu Multiverse. I've got a conflict somewhere.

I could yank all of the gstreamer stuff and rebuild, but gstreamer is at the heart of Rhythmbox, my preferred Linux music player. Under Hedgehog, Rhythmbox had trouble playing MP3s that were, in its humble opinion, undersampled. This doesn't occur in Dapper, and the reason is the updating of the gstreamer MP3 libraries.

So what to do? File a bug report and wait for a fix? There have been various fixes discussed in the Ubuntu forums, but none worked for me. So the answer is to look for another CD ripping program. I did, and found grip. It's available from Ubuntu's warehouse of fine software, so I did

$ sudo apt-get install grip

and there it was. (Well, if you want to be picky, it's at /usr/bin/grep.

Grip works fine, but it takes a bit of configuration and a bit of getting used to. The getting used to part is one of the hard parts. Grip rips the files on the CD to .wav format and then "encodes" them to MP3 or OGG, erasing (if you want) the .WAV file. That's fine, but you have to remember that the encoding is still going on after the CD has been ejected, so you need to keep Grip running until the encoding is finished.

The configuration isn't much worse than Sound Juicer. First, you have to pick a directory and a format for the Wave files, Config => Ripper => Rip file format. I chose ~audio/albums/%A/%d/%t_%n.wav, where "%A" is the artist, "%d" the album title, "%t" the track number, and "%n" the song title. (All of this is explained in the Grip on-line help. It's actually useful help, unlike many open-source projects.)

Second, we need to get the "encode" options right (Config => Encode). The defaults work pretty well, grip looks for the lame utility. We just need to pick a file name format, and I chose (duh) ~/audio/albums/%A/%d/%t_%n.mp3. You can also look at the Options tab here and click the ones you like.

Finally, we go to Config => ID3 and click the "Add ID3" and "Add ID3v2" boxes. This puts all of the song title/track/artist/album information into the MP3. This lets the Ford display this information, meaning the Child can figure out what the Hell song Dad's singing.

OK, there are a lot more options, but those are the basics. And it works. Grip rips CDs to MP3s in about the same time as Sound Juicer, and Rhythmbox plays them just fine.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Up and Running

And we're back. The upgrade went very well. It took about four hours on the clock, maybe 90 minutes +/- 30 of actual downloading and reconfiguring. The discrepancy occurred because Ubuntu thoughtfully paused when it encountered configuration files that I had changed, waiting for me to tell it that it was OK (or not) to replace them. I was out mowing the lawn the first time this happened, and washing off the second time. Hence the longer download time.

A lot of information is downloaded. If you don't have at least DSL, you might as well order a new CD, because you won't live long enough to download everything.

As far as I can tell, only one major package wasn't properly uploaded. That was xscreensaver. However, it did appear in the Synaptic update manager, and it's running now.

I haven't talked a whole lot about the Ubuntu experience. In most part, that's because it hasn't been necessary. Under Fedora Core, I had to get the source and compile a lot of programs. Ubuntu doesn't seem to have that problem, (if it is a problem). Most things I've wanted are already compiled.

Now, one of the things I enjoy about a computer is the ability to tweak it, so I kind of miss the search/download/configure/compile/install process. But not too much. After all, it's not like I don't have other computer projects that can be tweaked.

So for now, at least, I'll stick with Ubuntu. I probably won't keep at 6.06 for it's entire five year life cycle, but I'll stick around for the next upgrade.

Updating to Dapper Drake

Well, Ubuntu's new release, 6.06 LTS, aka "Dapper Drake," has been out for a couple of weeks and I haven't heard anything bad about it, so it's time to upgrade.

(BTW, "LTS" means "Long Term Support," meaning that this distribution is supposed to have security upgrades, at least for servers, for the next five years. Not important to someone who's used to Fedora Core's 6-9 month update schedule, but it's of interest to IT professionals who might want to use Ubuntu.)

When you run Ubuntu's update manager (gksudo update-manager from your command line, enter your password when asked if you have sudo administrative privileges), it tells you that you can update to Dapper Drake by just pressing one button. Well, I tried something like that to go from Fedora Core 4 to Fedora Core 5, and it wasn't pretty at all, which is why I'm now using using Ubuntu.

So, keeping in mind what happened then, let's make a full backup of all the user installed parts of the system. This takes 3 nearly full DVDs this time. Lots of pictures, music, etc. have been added lately. I burned the DVDs using k3b, which I can't recommend highly enough, and checked them on another machine, just to be sure.

All seems to be ready. I'm going to post this, then shut down everything else, then hit the button.

Dave ... Quiet Hal

Back in a few.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Well, the World Didn't End

nor have I been excessively punished for the snarkiness of the last post. Which means that I can't avoid the fact any longer:

Today I'm the proud father of an Official Adult. A child now entitled to all the privileges pertaining thereto, except the drinking thing for a couple of years, and with a bona fide summer job offer.

Of course, I'm still responsible for paying for the College bit.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The 06/06/06 post

Yes, it's that day of days, the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year of the millennium — unless you were one of those that insisted the millennium started on January 1, 2000. Just to drive home the point, they're releasing a remake of The Omen.

This brings to mind the hoards of people who have prophesied about the end of the world. For some reason, I suspect that this isn't a good idea.

First of all, of course, Jesus said "About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36) So you can't figure it out anyway.

But suppose, just suppose, that you predicted the last day, and you were transported to your eternal home. What would happen?

  • You'd start bragging about it. Can't help it really. I mean, all of those people making all of those predictions, and you were the only one that got it right? Even if it was just random chance — someone was bound to get it right some day — you were the lucky one.
  • The people sharing your eternal home would begin to get tired of listening to you. Eternity is a long time, after all.
  • Eventually, one of the would say, loudly, "It's Hell listening to that guy!"
  • He'd be right.
  • So he's in Hell.
  • But you just heard him complain.
  • So you're in Hell, too.

And that, children is why you shouldn't try to predict the end of days.