newsfeed tag

I’ve been tagged by Aaron to post my RSS newsfeeds, and here they are, a dump from my Liferea collection.

I’m always looking for good RSS feeds to subscribe to (notice the lack of annoying “news” sites like Digg, Slashdot and Reddit), so if you have any send them my way.  The only one I would really recommend from my list, which nobody else seems to have heard of lately, is Techdirt.

In the meantime, I’m going to tag Scott Morris and Hans Fugal and see if I can get them to do the same.

aquarium visit

Today during lunch, I went down to The Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy. They are building a huge one in Salt Lake at the Gateway, but it won’t be ready for two more years, I think. In the meantime they have a “preview” exhibit, which is basically this really tiny display of a few things. There’s still some cool stuff there, and I bought an annual membership for myself when I went.

I love aquariums, too. They are my favorite attraction to visit. I have a stuffed moray eel from one I went to in Tennessee. The one in Sandy is fun, even though its a little small. I didn’t have much time to look around, but I saw some cool stuff. In one tank they had a giant octopus which was really cool to see. They also had this tank of some beautiful sea anemones, and another of a huge lobster which must have been at least a foot and a half long.

Perhaps the coolest part though was that there is also a touchpool there, with a bunch of sting rays swimming around. You can stick your hand in there and pet them if you like. There was one that was really friendly, and kept swimming up to the side and would actually stick the front of his head out of the water and just flap his sides and kind of bob up and down. It was really funny seeing them so playful.

The thing that really gets to me is just how beautiful these animals are, though. It really gets me thinking about how God designed all these plants and animals not only for our use, but for our enjoyment as well.

I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to poke around all I could, but on my way out I saw they had a little gift shop and a theater showing some videos as well. Which reminds me of a great DVD I have, called Into the Deep. It’s an IMAX movie which I got to see on the big screen a long time ago. If you ever get a chance to see it, don’t miss out. Great stuff.


Right after I complained about how I don’t like blogging about bumps in portage, here I am writing another post about that same topic.  Well, this time this one is a package addition, so that doesn’t count, right?  Oh, who am I fooling.

Something I’ve been meaning to mention is that I added a new library to the tree the other day, media-libs/libnut.  NUT is a container format being developed by ffmpeg and mplayer developers.  At least, that’s what the multimedia wiki page says.

And now you know just about as much about as I do.

Actually, NUT is something I see mentioned all over the place, and I was always curious … where’s the code?  Where’s the packages?  Apparently, they’re in subversion.  So the ebuild is just the latest subversion snapshot.

There’s really not much you can do with it.  You can create a NUT file with nutmerge, though the video has to be MPEG4 and the audio MP3.  Watch out for funky errors, too.  It does work fine with MPlayer, too.  There’s no nut use flag on that ebuild, since I didn’t really feel like adding one for one thing, and since the library is in development as well.  But, if you install it, mplayer will automatically detect and add support for it.

Go on, have fun with it.

mplayer subversion snapshots

I’m really starting to dislike me writing blog posts about stuff that I bump in portage, and hopefully this will be the last one.  Actually the only reason I’m doing this one is because I want to get the ebuild tested and as many bugs fleshed out as I can.

I started working on an ebuild for an SVN snapshot of MPlayer about a few weeks ago.  Upstream doesn’t do point releases very often, which is fine since they provide daily snapshots and they are pretty stable anyway.  It does make it a little hard on people like me though who are sometimes wanting something a little more recent.

Well, I think the complexity and time it took to put this thing together beat that desire out of me for a while.  MPlayer in itself is a beast, though a lovable wonderful one, and writing an ebuild for it is not the easiest thing in the world.  In fact, this was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to put together.  I have to give a lot of thanks to Lu (lu_zero) who not only gave me the green light to go through with this crazy idea, but mentored me quite a bit on what I was doing wrong and how to fix it.

I really don’t feel like going into details, so I’ll just summarize and say that there’s a new version in the portage tree, and it adds lots of use flags and should fix a lot of bugs.  If you do find problems with the ebuild, please comment about it in this forum post and I’ll try to take a look at it.  I have spent at least a combined total of 20 hours working on this ebuild, and I want it to be nice and clean.  Well, that, and I want to move onto other stuff, too. :)

So, lemme know if you find any problems.  Thanks, guys.

no more cookies

About a week ago, I was poking through my browser preferences for some reason or another, and I decided I would try turning off my cookies completely for a change.  I’m not a privacy advocate or paranoid by any means, but I do like to blacklist the obvious ones that are going to advertising sites, just because I hate ads, mostly.

I figured I would have a lot of problems with sites yelling at me for not having cookies enabled, but in fact its been quite the opposite.  I’ve only had one site so far croak on me (Circuit City) even when I modified the permissions manually.  Other than that, since then I’ve only had to allow about five other sites to set cookies as well.  It’s been pretty nice.

I realize that there are other ways of course to track my clicking habits and browser history server side, but at least I made it a little harder for some of them.

My other pet peeve is that so many websites do set cookies.  Why do they need them?  And then there’s the websites that set dozens of them for no apparent reason.  It’s just odd when you think about it.

happy birthday, jerk

Well, today’s my birthday. I bought myself something cool just now. I got the score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I remember XM Radio played a bunch of tracks from all the Star Trek movie scores once on Cinemagic, and that was the first time I’d gotten a good sampling of them. Really good stuff, so I hope I like it. Usually James Horner’s stuff tends to be kind of the same thing across different albums, and in fact I noticed the other day that this one sounds a lot like the score to Krull. Or there are a lot of borrowed parts, that is.

I also just remembered I’m wearing my Starfleet Academy t-shirt today. I’m such a nerd.  Just call me Ensign Steve. :)

classic storytime records

I read about this website on Earl Kress’ blog the other day, and I just have to pass it along.

There’s this great website called Kiddie Records Weekly: Classics From the Golden Age which puts up a cover scan and an audio MP3 of old time story records from back in the day. I am in heaven, can I tell you what?

Anyone whose read my blog for more than a few minutes will know that I’m very nostalgic. I loved stories and fairy tales as a kid, and as an adult I appreciate them even more for their quality, simplicity and entertainment. I remember we used to have an old, brown portable Fisher Price record player that we would listen to all kinds of stories on. I’ve recently started to collect some old ones myself, in hopes of recording them to MP3 (similar to how this guy has done it) to preserve the audio. And by “start to collect” I mean I’ve bought one on eBay and my Mom sent me one from home. I haven’t really gotten into it yet, but my DVD collecting is winding down quickly (movies, at least) so it’s time to move onto other stuff.

One thing I absolutely love about these old story books is the artwork. It is just some of the most amazing stuff I have ever seen. I absolutely love it.

I really love listening to audio stories, too. I’ve been hooked on Old Time Radio since I first heard some a long time ago as a teenager, and that’s one of the main reasons I subscribe to XM Radio today, is for their Radio Classics channel that plays it around the clock.

I kinda wish his website had an RSS feed, that would be kind of cool. It might not be hard to set one up with a cron job and a little imagination, though. We’ll see.

Ah, man. This is one of those subjects that I just can’t talk about enough. I’ve really got to get my collection started before too long. There’s a lot of great stuff out there, and I’m glad that someone else is also doing something to see that they are well preserved.

transcode snapshots

I just put a new version of transcode in the tree, this time a CVS snapshot of upstream’s development branch (v1.1.0).

It won’t work with dvd::rip, though, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play around with it. Besides, look at this as a perfect chance to get familiar with finally learning some CLI arguments and really learning to command your applications. That’s where all the fun is, anyway. :)

After a quick glance, it looks like the man page has a few errors. Nothing major, just small parts of it are incomplete. Actually, everything seems much cleaner, really. The output of transcode is a little nicer, and the man page seems trimmed down and more organized. I noticed while writing the ebuild that a few options were dropped in this branch, and a few other things added as well. I’m interested to take a look at it sometime and get a closer look at what’s improved. I haven’t played with encoding stuff in a long time, since I’ve kind of given up on my idea of having a massive library of encoded files on my mythbox. Truth be told, I don’t mind changing discs at all. I’m sure my position would change, though if I had some rugrats who enjoyed putting DVDs in the toaster or something like that. All in good time, though.

One thing is for certain — writing ebuilds of development snapshots is not nearly as easy as I thought. Configuration options change quite a bit, and you have to test things pretty thoroughly. I’m glad for the experience, though, that’s for sure. I feel like I’m getting a little better at it after each one.

multimedia bumpage

I don’t usually like talking about writing about stuff that I’m just bumping in the tree, but since there’s been a lot of it lately, I figure if I roll it all into one post it might be somewhat interesting.

I’ve been focusing mostly on just multimedia applications lately, since other Gentoo stuff has been annoying me, and this is the most fun to work on. Last week I went through the sound bugs and cleaned up some crufty old bugs that were simple fixes to ebuilds. I think that’s actually the first time I’ve fixed almost anything in the sound herd since I joined oh so long ago. There’s still a lot of stuff to be done there, but from a quick glance most of it seems pretty trivial. There’s a lot of requests for version bumps in there, which I’ll get around to sooner or later, usually depending on how tricky the ebuild is.

Here’s a helpful note to users filing bugs, btw. If you can attach a working ebuild, that helps a lot. I usually have to go in and tweak them anyway and fix errors, but most of the time they are just cosmetic in nature, or are missing a DEPEND flag or something. Even a little effort helps, though. And if you don’t know how to write ebuilds, learn! It’s not that hard for most of the packages that use a simple configure, make and make install. I recommend checking out the excellent devmanual for guidance on getting started.

Or, if you’re already good at writing ebuilds, try to find a proxy maintainer to put the ebuilds in the tree for you, while you do all the hard work (I really need to write more about that when I get some time). Or maybe get them into one of the Sunrise overlays. I’ve already dragged one user into the fray and put some of his multimedia applications in the tree. Proxy maintenance seems to work really well for me. I’m already doing it for a few applications. All I have to do is look over the ebuilds, fix them up, test the program and I’m done. The maintainer gets to do all the hard work like write the original ebuild and bug me when the version gets bumped.

Now that the wordpress security saga is finally over (it’s hard masked), I’ve been able to get back to my own ebuilds as well, too. Here’s some of the stuff that is new and I’m hoping people will check out and test.

IVTV released a new version, 0.10.1 which works across three different kernels this time (2.6.18 through 2.6.20). I upgraded my mythbox last weekend to the new kernel and version, and while it may be my imagination, I’ll swear that the picture is a little cleaner than before. The ebuilds just barely got unmasked because there was a bug in pre- kernels that would bork loading the firmware for certain devices. So if you are going to use a 2.6.20 kernel with IVTV, be sure to use either gentoo-sources-2.6.20-r1 (or higher) or vanilla-sources- Those are patched, so you should be good to go.

I’m thinking about masking the other, older IVTV ebuilds in a bit here, since technically they are all deprecated now by upstream because of this new release. I probably won’t remove them from the tree, though, because I’m all too familiar of the symptom of some funky version being the only one working on your hardware for some ungodly reason. Please do migrate and move onto the newer versions, though, since if any bugs come in on the older ones, I’m just going to start ignoring them.

In other IVTV news, the drivers are going to be in the mainline kernel starting with 2.6.22. I’m pretty excited about that too, since that means I’ll just have to maintain a set of userland tools after that. Speaking of which, 0.10.x have a few more than before, so be sure to check them out if you’re looking for some help. And please, for the love, read the README if you have any questions about the package. It contains lots of useful information.

Something else I bumped the other day was dvd::rip. It seems to have stabled up pretty good (I haven’t heard any complaints). I was a bit worried at first about removing the 0.5.x series from the tree (the old GTK+ v1 releases), but things seem to be okay. I don’t even remember what’s new in this version of dvd::rip. I remember glancing at the changelog, but nothing exciting is coming to mind, so who knows.

I also did a CVS snapshot of transcode, which is in the tree now. Their last point release was November of 2005 (eek!) and their website recommends running the CVS version instead. A lot of multimedia applications tend to do that it seems like (mythtv, mplayer being some other examples), and while it usually works just fine (except for myth of course, where upgrading is like russian roullette … sorry, I just can’t resist ripping on Myth ;) ) it makes it difficult for users that don’t want to or don’t know how to get CVS snapshots.

Transcode actually has two CVS branches as well, one for stable bugfixes, which would be the 1.0.3 release, and one for the next development release of 1.1.0. I put a snapshot of 1.0.3 in the tree, and I’ll get around to doing one for 1.1.0 later on. In the meantime, I’ve created a forum post if you find any issues with the snapshot, I’ll see what I can do.

I should mention that I have a secret love affair with transcode. I know I fawn over MPlayer and MEncoder constantly, but I love using transcode, especially for DVD encoding. The controls are a bit different, and may seem somewhat unorganized at first glance, but once you read through the entire man page, it’s not bad at all. It’s a great little encoding app, and I’ll put a cap on my fanboyism and just suggest giving it a try in your free time. I tested it with the latest dvd::rip and it seemed just fine, so go ahead and be daring and do the same.

One thing I did notice that was new in this release was that if you started transcode and canceled the process (ctl-c), it would kill the pipes as well. That’s actually very nice, since it was somewhat annoying before having to stop up to four processes just to kill transcode completely.

Other stuff that’s new, there’s a new version of OGMRip in the tree. I really like this slim frontend to MEncoder. The things I like the most is that it handles subtitles for me (I’m still really unclear on how those work, I need to do some manual encoding some time), wraps the output straight into Matroska, and of course is GTK+. :) I would say it’s been pretty stable for a good while now, so if you’re looking for a good ripper, I would recommend that one as well. So there you go, two recommendations for two rippers that use different backends (transcode and mencoder). There are more of course, but if you want the simplification of a GUI, you’ve got a few good options.

Speaking of subtitles, I somehow got roped into maintaining all the subtitle programs in the portage tree some time ago. I bumped gnome-subtitles again this week (thanks again to proxy maintenance), and there’s another ebuild in bugzilla for a new one that I’ll be looking at sometime soon. And I must in good conscience mention gaupol, your third option for subtitlely goodness.

I also got roped into helping out on ALSA now that Diego has left us. I’m still not sure how I got suckered into that one. I’m not making any claims to fixing things up nice and pretty, though. At the very least I hope to keep us on track to staying current with upstream and fixing some minor bugs. I’m still not convinced that I can be of any help on the team, but I’ll see what happens. Just don’t expect me to fix any major borkage. :)

Last but not least is mplayer. I finally got a new version of mplayer-bin in the tree, though that’s already old news. Thankfully the biggest complaint I’ve gotten so far is that I’ve ripped out AAC support. I’m actually glad for that, because it was a royal pain in the pooty pants getting that thing even working in the first place. As far as missing media libraries go, though, that is not not really my area of expertise. I’ll see what I can do about it sometime, but to be honest I’m not really in a huge hurry. I figure if you can play either the audio or video stream in the native mplayer / mencoder, then just separate the two and use mencoder-bin to do the other half. That’s poor reasoning, I know, but that’s why it’s not high on my list to fix right away. I should also mention that there’s a RealVideo stream I watch on a regular basis, half of which will only work in each player. So, I can sympathize. And yes, I do download it and then re-encode it with mplayer-bin just so I can watch it in mplayer.

I’ve also been working with Luca (lu_zero) on a new mplayer SVN snapshot. It’s coming along quite nicely, I’d say, and hopefully should be ready and in the tree real soon now.

That’s it for now, I guess there was more stuff to write about than I imagined. Sheesh. I hope the multimedia experience on Gentoo is working well for everyone. As I’ve said before, it was one of the main things that made me pick and stick with this distribution years ago, and I’m glad that I can finally get the chance to help out and give back at least a little bit.

As a final note, there really are a lot of bugs for sound, video and cdr stuff in the tree (well, not so much media-optical). They almost all register pretty much the same as far as importance goes to me, so if there’s something that’s been just nagging you for a while now, feel free to ping me on IRC (beandog on Freenode), or e-mail me (beandog at gentoo dot org) and I’ll see if there’s something I can’t help move along a bit. No promises, though. :)