Metal Spotlight: Beast in Black

I have overlooked music in this past series of sARTSurdays, and it’s time to fix this mistake, with a metal band that is close to my heart — Beast in Black. And the reason they are close to my heart is that it was thanks to them that I met my wife — she was coming to the Rhapsody Reunion concert to see them being support, while I was there for the main act.

As you probably can guess by, uh, everything up to now (title, Rhapsody’s involvement, the style of the T-Shirts, …), Beast in Black are a metal band, and so if you don’t like that kind of music it’s unlikely you’ll be interested, but if you are, stay with me. It’s not just metal, it’s metal with 80s throwbacks, pretty much what our generation would find nostalgic if we ever went into that kind of music. Which is why my wife loved them from early on, and I found myself appreciating them with gusto.

I think that for me personally, part of the pleasure is that they are not bass-heavy music — my ears tends to prefer higher pitch sounds (funny how ears work), which is why I originally started listening to Dragonforce. So between Yannis’s voice and Anton’s guitar work, my wife didn’t have much work to convince me.

Speaking of Yannis, make sure you check out his YouTube Channel — in addition to singing in Beast in Black, he’s releasing vocal covers of… lots. Nightwish? Check. Disney’s Frozen? Check. Zayn (uh?)? Check. I shouldn’t be surprised that he seems to have quite the fan club, as proven by the folks we chatted with in the queue to see them in Amsterdam.

Okay so I should probably point out that we can come out a bit… strong in our support. After seeing them in London the night we met, my wife went to Japan explicitly to see them at a festival there, and together we saw them again in London (twice), and then went to Amsterdam and Budapest for two of their concerts — taking the time to make a proper holiday out of them. And thinking back, I’m fairly sure I gained a few kilos in Budapest, the food was so good.

You may have noticed from the t-shirt picture the Beast riding a very surprised unicorn. For once this is not a reference to Unstable Unicorns, but rather to the band joining the Scottish band Gloryhammer in their British Isles tour — Gloryhammer being known for the Unicorn Invasion of Dundee, which does make me wonder whether there’s something up in Scotland when it comes to supernatural invasions.

So, pick your poison between Spotify, Google Play Music YouTube Music, Apple Music, Amazon Music, CDs, vinyl, cassette tape — and have a listen. Pump up the volume (if you can, your mileage may vary depending on whether your neighbours would like the music), and enjoy some “expensive cheese”, as Derek once said.

Did Apple lose its advantage?

Readers of my blog for a while probably know already that I’ve been an Apple user over time. What is not obvious is that I have scaled down my (personal) Apple usage over the past two years, mostly because my habits, and partly because of Android and Linux getting better and better. One component is, though, that some of the advantages to be found when using Apple started to disappear for me.

I think that for me the start of the problems is to be found in the release of iOS 7. Beside the taste of not liking the new flashy UI, what I found is that it did not perform as well as previous releases. I think this is the same effect others have had. In particular the biggest problem with it for me had to do with the way I started using my iPad while in Ireland. Since I now have access to a high-speed connection, I started watching more content in streaming. In particular, thanks to my multiple trips to the USA over the past year, I got access to more video content on the iTunes store, so I wanted to watch some of the new TV series through it.

Turned out that for a few versions, and I mean a few months, iOS was keeping the streamed content in the cache, not accounting for it anywhere, and never cleaning it up. The result was that after streaming half a series, I would get errors telling me the iPad storage was full, but there was no way from the device itself to clear the cache. EIther you had to do a factory reset to drop off all the content of the device, or you had to use a Windows application to remove the cache files manually. Not very nice.

Another very interesting problem with the streaming the content: it can be slow. Not always but it can. One night I wanted to watch The LEGO Movie since I did not see it at the cinema. It’s not available on the Irish Netflix so I decided to rent it off iTunes. It took the iPad four hours to download it. It made no sense. And no, the connection was not hogged by something else, and running a SpeedTest from the tablet itself showed it had all the network capacity it needed.

The iPad is not, though, the only Apple device I own; I also bought an iPod Touch back in LA when my Classic died. even though I was not really happy with downgrading from 80G down to 64G. But it’s mostly okay, as my main use for the iPod is to listen to audiobooks and podcasts when I sleep — which recently I have been doing through Creative D80 Bluetooth speakers, which are honestly not great but at least don’t force me to wear earphones all night long.

I had no problem before switching the iPod from one computer to the next, as I moved from iMac to a Windows disk for my laptop. When I decided to just use iTunes on the one Windows desktop I keep around (mostly to play games), then a few things stopped working as intended. It might have been related to me dropping the iTunes Match subscription, but I’m not sure about that. But what happens is that only a single track for each of the albums was being copied on the iPod and nothing else.

I tried factory reset, cable and wireless sync, I tried deleting the iTunes data on my computer to force it to figure out the iPod is new, and the current situation I’m in is only partially working: the audiobooks have been synced, but without cover art and without the playlists — some of the audiobooks I have are part of a series, or are split in multiple files if I bought them before Audible started providing single-file downloads. This is of course not very good when the audio only lasts three hours, and then I start having nightmares.

It does not help that I can’t listen to my audiobooks with VLC for Android because it thinks that the chapter art is a video stream, and thus puts the stream to pause as soon as I turn off the screen. I should probably write a separate rant about the lack of proper audiobooks tools for Android. Audible has an app, but it does not allow you to sideload audiobooks (i.e. stuff I ripped from my original CDs, or that I bought on iTunes), nor it allows you to build a playlist of books, say for all the books in a series.

As I write this, I asked iTunes again to sync all the music to my iPod Touch as 128kbps AAC files (as otherwise it does not fit into the device); iTunes is now copying 624 files; I’m sure my collection contains more than 600 albums — and I would venture to say more than half I have in physical media. Mostly because no store allows me to buy metal in FLAC or ALAC. And before somebody suggests Jamendo or other similar services: yes, great, I actually bought lots of Jazz on Magnatune before it became a subscription service and I loved it, but that is not a replacement for mainstream content. Also, Magnatune has terrible security practices, don’t use it.

Sorry Apple, but given these small-but-not-so-small issues with your software recently, I’m not going to buy any more devices from you. If any of the two devices I have fails, I’ll just get someone to build a decent audiobook software for me one way or the other…

Some new notes about AppleTV

Another braindump so I can actually put in public what I’ve been doing in my spare time lately, given that most likely a lot of that won’t continue in the next months, as I’m trying to find more stable, solid jobs than what I’ve been doing as of lately.

If you follow me for a long time you might remember that a few years ago I bought an AppleTV (don’t laugh) for two main reasons: because I actually wanted something in my bedroom to watch Anime and listen to music and was curious about the implementation of it from a multimedia geek point of view. Now, a lot of what I have seen with the AppleTV is negative, and I’m pretty sure Apple noticed it just as well as I have. Indeed they learn from a lot of their previous mistakes with the release of the new AppleTV. Some of the “mistakes they learnt from” would probably not be shared by Free Software activists and hackers, as they were designed to keep people out of their platform, but that’s beside the point now.

The obvious problems (bulkiness, heat, power) were mostly fixed in hardware by moving from a mobile i686-class CPU to an ARM-based embedded system; the main way around their locks (the fact that the USB port is a standard host one, not a gadget one, and it only gets disabled by the lack of the Darwin kernel driver for USB) is also dropped, but only to be replaced with the same jailbreak situation they ahve on iPhone and other devices. So basically while they tried to make things lot more difficult, the result is simply that they hacked it in a different way. While it definitely looks sleeker to keep near your TV, I’m not sure I would have bought it if it was released the first time around this way.

At any rate, the one I have here is in its last months, and as soon as I can find something that fits into its space and on which I can run XBMC (fetching videos out of a Samba share on Yamato), I’ll probably simply get rid of it, or sell it to some poor fellow who can’t be bothered with getting something trickier but more useful. But while I want the device to actually accept the data as I have it already for what concerns Anime and TV series (assuming I can’t get them under decent terms legally), some months ago I decided that at least the music can bend over to the Apple formats — for the simple reason that they are quite reasonable, as long as I can play them just fine in Europe.

Beside a number of original music CDs (Metal music isn’t really flattered by the compression most online music stores apply!), I also have (fewer) music DVDs with videos and concerts; plus I sometime “procure” myself Japanese music videos that haven’t been published in the western world (I’m pretty much a lover of the genre, but they don’t make it too easy to get much of it here; I have almost all of Hikaru Utada’s discography in original forms though). For the formers, Handbrake (on OS X) did a pretty good job, but for the new music videos, which are usually in High Definition, it did a pretty bad job.

Let’s cue back FFmpeg, which, since last time I ranted actually gained a support for the mov/mp4 format that is finally able to keep up with Apple (I have reported some of the problems about it myself, so while I didn’t have a direct bearing in getting it to work, I can say that at least I feel more confident of what it does now). To be honest, I have tried doing the conversion with FFmpeg a few times already; main problem was to find a proper preset for x264 that didn’t enable features that AppleTV failed to work with (funnily enough, since Handbrake also uses x264, I know that sometimes even though iTunes does allow the files to be copied over the AppleTV, they don’t play straight). Well, this time I was able to find the correct preset on the AwkwardTV wiki so after saving it to ~/.ffmpeg/libx264-appletv.ffpreset the conversion process seemed almost immediate.

A few tests afterward, I can tell it’s neither immediate in procedure, nor in time required to complete. First of all, iTunes enforces a frame size limits on the file; while this is never a problem for content in standard definition, like the stuff I ripped from my DVDs, this can be a problem with High-Definition content. So I wrote a simple script (that I have pasted online earlier tonight but I’ll publish once polished a bit more) that through ffprobe, grep and awk could maintain the correct aspect ratio of the original file but resize it to a frame size that AppleTV is compatible with (720p maximum). This worked file for a few videoclips, but then it started to fail again.

Turns out, 1280×720 which is the 720p “HD Ready” resolution, is too much for AppleTV. Indeed, if you use those parameters to encode a video, iTunes will refuse to sync it over to the device. A quick check around pointed me at a possible reasoning/solution. Turns out that while all the video files have a Source Aspect-Ratio of 16:9, their Pixel Aspect-Ratio is sometimes 1:1, sometimes 4:3 (see Wikipedia’s Anamorphic Widescreen article for the details and links to the description of SAR and PAR). While Bluray and most other Full HD systems are designed to work fine with a 1:1 PAR (non-anamorphic), AppleTV doesn’t, probably because it’s just HD Ready.

So a quick way to get the AppleTV to accept the content is simply to scale it back to anamorphic widescreen, and you’re done. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to cut it just yet; I have at least one video that doesn’t work even though the size is the same as before. Plus another has 5.1 (6-channels) audio, and FFmpeg seems to be unable to scale it back to stereo (from and to AAC).

The impact of free in everyday life

Free

When I was hoping to make use of Kobo’s offer (failing), I bought the book Free, by Chris Anderson out of curiosity. I didn’t, and haven’t yet, read The Long Tail, but I’m now curious about it — too bad it isn’t available as ePub anywhere!

It is a very interesting read, especially for those of us who work on Free Software and services; it also made me think a lot about it. For instance it ties in with what I wrote about Sony and their way to get even more of my money by offering “free” games with the PlayStation Plus subscription.

But also it ties in with what O’Reilly does with their Ebook of the Day deals (you can get them through their Twitter ) where they sell for $9.99 books that would cost even quite a lot more; I actually used one of their special offers, where they let you get one of their books at that price… and I went for an otherwise too expensive CJKV Information Processing (it’s sold at $47.99).

How much is it costing to O’Reilly to “give away” at 14 the price their books? Probably not so much, given that they’re probably going to sell many more copies. For instance, beside the CJKV book that I was planning to buy anyway at some point, I actually went out on a limb, and bought Inside Cyber Warfare ($31.99) during a Ebook of the Day deal, just because it vaguely interested me and it was 13 the price. And the other day I was tempted to get Being Geek for about the same reasons.

D’uh! indeed.

But it doesn’t stop there; Anderson goes on to provide a few ways to “compete with free”, and brings up a point that Jürgen wrote about (sorry, I can’t seem to find the correct post): you can make people pay for something that is available for free by making it easier/faster to procure. I have noted that before when I complained about Mininova shutdown that what I actually end up downloading “unauthorized” and not paying for is mostly stuff that I would have to jump through way too many hoops to actually make sense for me. Real Time with Bill Maher is an example of that: I would very much prefer to have a (paid) feed that automatically downloads the episodes so that I can watch them on Saturday morning, rather than have to wait till somebody who recorded them in the US or Canada uploads it to Demonoid or some other place, so that I can fetch it.

A similar issue happens with the Japanese music I love: I have a number of original albums there as well; some I bought via the iTunes Store (kudos to Apple where it’s due: they dropped DRM and made it possible for me to buy Hikaru Utada music without going through illegal ways), one or two actually reached the European market, the others… I made a single order on Amazon JP and pretty much regret it: over a €80 order I ended up paying €30 of shipment and then over €50 of customs… which were calculated not only on the value of the order but the shipment and then VAT applied over the custom services… it’s ludicrous.

On a similar fashion, I’m generally happy to pay for (or receive gifts of) CDs of Metal music such as Blind Guardian, Rhapsody of Fire or Avantasia; both because I can hear the difference in the iTunes Store compressed versions, and because Nuclear Blast, the latest label of all three of them, is actually providing a nice package with their special editions. Take At The Edge of Time – the latest album by Blind Guardian, released on August 2nd – the special edition was priced, at pre-order, £13; it’s a 2-disc edition, with a very nice boxset, and a “special online code”, that provided access to a “making of” video, the “Sacred Worlds” CGI video from Sacred 2, and a demo mp3… all without DRM. A similar situation was the case for the Avantasia double-album set. In Italy, these album would probably have been priced at no less than €50, probably €70 as well… for that price, I wouldn’t have bought them at all.

But if up to now it’s just comparing “unauthorized” copies versus paid copies, what about content that it’s already free, in some if not all senses of the word? When I first blogged about the Reader supporting ePub I was suggested by many people to rely on Project Gutenberg since they provide ePub-format books. Well, I tried, and I actually read The Picture of Dorian Gray this way; while it was a bit cumbersome, it was an acceptable ePub book. When I tried again to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, I was disappointed. Out of two versions, one with illustrations and one without, neither had a decent layout. I could have spent some time trying to fix it up so that it flowed properly on the Reader, but.. the alternative was to pay $3 and get a properly-formatted copy from KoboBooks… I went with the second option.

And another example of how free (as in gratis) content can bring sales for paid equivalent, I can bring out thinking of BBC’s NewsQuiz; the show is available for free on the same day of airing as a BBC Podcast — but only the latest episode is. On the other hand, BBC published a number of CDs with selected past episodes… mostly thanks to the caring users, I have almost the full collection; and thanks to Amazon’s recommendations I also discovered I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. Once again, a free download was the direct cause of a sale for BBC.

So even if the content is free, I’m happy to pay for the container… if it’s worth it. And the same is likely going to be true for other people. At the end of the day, this is another thing you can make people pay for… and I don’t think this should be considered “bad” by anyone who truly cares about freedom, and not just feel like “sticking it to the man”…

My stake about iTunes, iPod, Apple TV and the like

I’ve been asked a few times why do I ever use an Apple TV to watch stuff on my TV, and why I’m using an iPod and buying songs from the iTunes store. Maybe I should try to write down my opinion on the matter, which is actually quite pragmatic, I think.

I like stuff that works. Even though AppleTV requires me some fiddling, once it got the videos in, it works. And I can be assured that if I get in my bed, I can watch something, or listen to something, without further issues. Of course it has to get the stuff right first.

The iPod lasts almost a week without charging, and I listen to it almost every night, it plays my music in formats that I can deal with, on Linux, just fine: the very common AAC and the ALAC format (Apple Lossless Audio Codec). FFmpeg plays ALAC; xine and mpd use FFmpeg. And with a container that I don’t dislike. Sure it really could use some more software implemented to deal with it on Linux, like an easy way to get the album art out of it (mpd does not seem to get that), and some better tagging too; I guess I could just buy the PDFs of the standard and try to implement some library to deal with it, or extend libavformat to do that).

I have most of my music collection ripped off the original CDs I have here. I used to have it in FLAC (even though I find its container a bit flakey), then I moved to wavpack which had a series of advantages but still used a custom container format. A few months ago I moved everything to ALAC instead, having a single copy of everything and having it in a container format that is a standard (even though a bit of a hard one).

As for what concerns the iTunes (Music) Store, I’m really happy that Apple is improving it and removing the DRM, even if it means that some songs will cost more than they do now. So you cannot use it from Linux because it only works with iTunes, but the music in the “Plus” format, without DRM, work just as fine under Linux, which is basically the only thing I care about. I’d sincerely be glad to buy TV Series on there if they were without DRM and in the usual compatible format; unfortunately this does not seem to be the case, yet. I bite the bullet with audiobooks, mostly because they are at an affordable price even though they are locked in. This is mostly a pragmatic choice.

Sure I’d love if it had a web-based interface that wouldn’t require me to use iTunes to buy the songs, but it works just as fine to me as it is now, since the one alternative that everybody told me when I was looking for one was Amazon’s MP3 Store. But that does not work where I live (Italy), while the iTunes Store does. What I totally don’t agree with is the people who scream to privacy breach because of the watermarking of the music files bought from the iTunes store. Sure there is my name and my ID in the file that I downloaded, but why should I care? The file is supposed only to be used on my systems, isn’t it? I can run it on any device I own, as long as it can understand the format, and I can re-encode it on a different format for devices that don’t use that. It’s not supposed to be published I’m sure, but the only place where having those data is a problem is usually for music piracy. Which by the way is not much hindered since it’s not too difficult to just get the data out. DRM bad. Watermarking no.

On the other hand, I really cannot get on the Xiph train with Ogg, Theora and Vorbis. Sure they are open formats and all that but the fact they aren’t really working on higher end devices makes them just vendor lock-ins just as bad as DRM is, in my opinion. Since even the patent-freeness of those formats is not entirely clear yet (beside the fact that nobody challenged it for now), I don’t see the point in having my music stored in a format that my devices can’t play just for the sake of it. But, I guess, I live somewhere in the world where this is still sane enough to be dealt with.

All in all, I’d be very glad if Apple extended even more the coverage of Japanese music, since paying customs for it is pretty bad and I cannot find most of the artists I’m interested in here in Italy otherwise.

And before I’m misunderstood, I’m not trying to just do advertising for Apple, I’m just saying that pragmatically I don’t count them off just because they sell proprietary software, beside the fact as you can probably tell by other posts in my blog, I tend to use or learn from their open source pieces too. I just grow tired of people saying that one should stay away from the ITunes Store because of DRM (which is going away) or watermarking (which is a good thing in my opinion).

Pills and schedules

Before my last visit to the hospital I had a schedule that, for most people, would have seen totally bogus and uncommon, but it’s probably not so uncommon in the geek community (to the point that XKCD talked about it).

Even though some of my relatives thought that it meant I slept for the biggest part of the day (which I didn’t, I woke up at 14 almost every other day, but I was going to sleep at 7am..), it wasn’t a bad schedule for me; I’m most productive when it’s not hot and humid outside, and during the day here it’s both.

Of course in the hospital I wasn’t able to keep such a schedule as you’re forced the hospital’s, but that’s the least. And I wanted to keep a more local schedule at home too, just for the sake of not having to switch schedule again when surgery-time arrived.

But there’s a difference between trying to keep a local schedule and being forced one. Right now, I have to take four pills in a day: one of Deursil 300 during breakfast, one of Lansox 30 at mid morning, and again Deursil, this time 450, once during lunch and once during dinner. This means that I cannot skip breakfast, and I cannot have a breakfast too near the lunch.

The past couple of days, when I write, I woke up at 11, and it was a true mess as I’d have to eat late, and skip a mid-afternoon snack. Very bad for my health.

So instead, I’ve now to force myself on a very local schedule, waking up at 8am and going to sleep as early as possible. Which is a problem as eve though I do listen to podcasts before going to sleep, two of my favourite ones won’t be available until September (Real time with Bill Maher – which I hope will be available again for Europeans too once the new season begins – and Friday Night Comedy), plus it doesn’t help because I’d tend to just listen to podcasts for hours rather than sleep.

One thing that lets me sleep at any hour is the sound of rain on my rooftop. Unfortunately finding recordings of that isn’t simple, I have seen something on the iTunes store (no-DRM, which makes it not evil), but the price is a bit high (€10) for the task. Now I just tried requesting Magnatune’s Relaxing compilation and I’ll see if I find some author that might help me sleeping, in there.

I wish I could go back to my own schedule :(

Refreshing break

I took a few days of break in the past days, if you haven’t noticed. This was mostly due to a shift in my own biorhythm after a little midsummer celebration, and then the need to be awake for a support call I got last Tuesday.

I’ve spent the last few days sleeping, watching anime and TV series in my room, or playing Yu-Gi-Oh Championship on my Nintendo DS (and I’m becoming almost decent to it! Beside, I’m surprised that no one reading this blog also plays with it.. well if there is someone, might be worth to try a challenge someday, eh?). Today, I’ll try to do something more productive.

I’ve also started looking at lilypond seriously, especially since copying scores with Rosegarden or KNoteEdit is obnoxious; the syntax is not bad, although it uses a different notes notation than the one I’m used to since school days (Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si), but I can survive. It actually helps me to find myself comfortable with the C D E F G A B notation, as the keyboard has those printed on it, rather than the usual ones.

Lilypond to me is useful because a lot of public domain music scores you find on pages like International Music Score Library Project are scans from books, which sometimes aren’t really clear to read, at least to me (for instance in a copy of Für Elise found on that site, I wasn’t able to discern between ♯ and ♮); if I copy the score into lilypond, I can do a first read of the whole score, get myself accustomed with all the annotations, and with the notes to read.

Anyway back to work now! Jack has to be updated.

Music overdose?

Finally, yesterday I received the package from Amazon JP!

Let’s ignore the fact that on a €110 order I had to pay €41 for custom duties (oh well, the cost of a single CD I ordered in a shop around here I asked before was way higher anyway), and I’ll also try not to repeat too often the ridiculousness that DHL Express was able to ship the package in three days from Narita to Marcon (Venice) and then it took three more days to ship from there to my home (because last Saturday they didn’t deliver, and the package was received there just Friday evening); all things considered, four working days is not a bad delivery time.

Now as crazy as I am, I do like some Japanese music… I started loving L’Arc~en~Ciel music when I heard Driver’s High as opening for Great Teacher Onizuka anime. I was able to buy myself Awake some time ago, and yesterday I received ark in the special 15th anniversary edition, CD with DVD, so I was more than happy! :)

Now this doesn’t mean I passed the whole day listening to music, eh.. I was actually working for part of the time on finishing the details of my (now expired) job, then I took a shopping tour to a bookshop in Mestre, looking for something from Dario Fo (with scarce results, I was able only to find a single book of him), but of course this without forgetting working on xine; as I said, mercurial is something useful.

The 1.2 series, on which I’m focusing at the moment, is now spotting a cleaner support for packed attributes, and I’m working on adding Doxygen documentation to the code; currently I’m converting documentation in the buffer.h file, just because it’s the one I found most difficult to understand myself.

Unfortunately, emacs support for Doxygen seems to be pretty much non-existant, and even the doxymacs extension does a lousy job, as it fails to highlight the Doxygen comments properly. Add to that that emacs insists on putting two spaces in front of every line after an extern "C" { block (that has to stay there as it’s a public header, although nowadays I think it should be C++ code that should use extern "C" { before includes, rather than polluting the C header files), and you can see why I haven’t converted the whole xine-lib yet.

Unfortunately, I’m not yet sure on how many of the improvements I hoped for I’ll be able to implement in 1.2 series, considering that I’d hope for 1.2 to be released more or less with KDE4 release (before if possible, if not possible not too much afterward), as the 10MB improvement in memory usage is a killer feature.

I’m also trying now to handle a few things in a slightly different way, for instance I’ll be trying to move all of the contributed code in the contrib/ subdirectory, rather than having it scattered among xine proper sources. The problem is that having to deal with both build system and code changes makes quite more difficult to track down the changes, but this should not be a big problem on the long run.

And for who’s curious, yes, I also have an Amazon JP wishlist but it’s mostly for my own use, as the customs duties are a problem.

New chapter in the ALSA mess

So, there we are, Linus released kernel version 2.6.20, and alsa-driver-1.0.14_rc2 does not work; I had to create a new snapshot, and to get into the tree.

The problem is that this time the snapshot is after rc2 and before, well, I’m not sure if rc3 or final release, so I couldn’t just use _pre or _p; I ended up setting the version as 1.0.14_rc2_p3234, but this required me to ping and prod Zac because I wasn’t sure which versions of Portage supported this format, and because repoman decided not to allow me to commit this version. Thanks to him and Brian, now this is fixed.

Now ALSA should be all fine and ready for people to upgrade the kernel, without having to use the mercurial versions. Today was a day off, tomorrow it will be a work day, I’ll probably just be going to sleep soon, but I admit that listening to Dream Theater was quite relaxing today; too bad I can’t really work with DTs in the background, I’d need some Jazz music for that, it has proved to be quite good while designing and coding.

Anyway, for tonight I did my share of stuff.

Rip, rip, rip

Well, today I have a pretty long TODO list that I’d like to accomplish, although at the top of my list was also to watch Ice Age 2, while relaxing on the couch, that would probably stop me from finishing any other entry on that list… so I’ll remove that one for now. After all yesterday I as lucky, and tired, enough to watch Pirates of the Carribean (which was, by the way, a quite good movie, especially for someone like me so fascinated with swords of all kinds, thanks Alberto for «forcing» me to watch it ;) ).

I also tried to get pan (not PAM this time) to compile on Gentoo/FreeBSD, but after fixing enchant, I found myself stuck with gmime, as that needs a patch too but I’m not sure how to handle it yet (there’s an extra _POSIX_SOURCE that breaks on FreeBSD). I’ll fix this later on today.

Also Bruce M Simpson from FreeBSD contacted me about the nss-mdns port, so I’ve resumed looking for it, I’ll tonight if I can apply what I found today in the sources to get it working somehow. I don’t think it’s too difficult, it’s just scarcely documented.

But in this whole lot of stuff to do, I was hoping to relax by listening to some music.. something I wanted to try, was to rip the 5.1 tracks out of the Rhapsody’s Live in Canada 2005 to compress to WavPack so that I could listen to it through Amarok (one of the reasons I had was also to test the WavPack 5.1 support in xine/ffmpeg and the ability for PulseAudio to play 5.1 files from xine). Unfortunately, even if there are tricks with mencoder to dump the audio of a track through mplayer to an ac3 file (no way to get it through a GUI it seems), I can’t find a way to pass it to wavpack, as both ffmpeg and a52dec produce a stereo wav file, rather than a multichannel one, and WavPack does not work with AC3. I suppose my best bet would be to code myself a bridge between the two, but I don’t have enough time. Sigh.