alsa cleanup

I’ve just punted all the old ALSA ebuilds from the tree.  Tah tah.  I thought they needed to be in there for old kernel compatiblity, but it turns out I was wrong.  Ah well.  The less versions to worry about, the better (from a support point-of-view).

We’re going to look at getting 1.0.20 stable here pretty quickly, and then remove *all* the old versions after that.

Oh, and if you are interested in helping out with ALSA bugs, that’d be nicely appreciated as well.

One other note — I added media-sound/alsa-driver, which is the external modules for the ALSA drivers, into package.mask.  The concept is simply to add a hurdle to users wanting to use it, and to make it clear it won’t be landing in stable-ville anytime soon.  However, there are no plans to remove it from the tree, either.  I know some people like to use it, so there ya go.

setup a few terabytes or so

I’m getting to the point with my little media library where I’m running out of space, and I need to find a way to expand my diskspace a bit.  I’d like to find a next-generation solution, one that I can use as I expand from 1.5 terabytes to (eventually) 12 or so.  That’s what I project the final size I’ll need is.  Right now, I only need about 4.

There are a couple of ways to do this, obviously, but I’m not sure what the best way to approach it is, or the one that is the least cost-prohibitive.  Generally speaking, all I need is some *way* that I can access multiple harddrives (of various sizes, since I have old ones I can use) through one mountpoint, either using LVM or RAID (I’m not that picky).

Now I could spend lots of $$$ on a Drobos or something similar, where I just cram them into one box and let it fly, but I don’t need that level of sophistication.  The idea I’m currently toying with, is just getting a bunch of eSATA HDD enclosures, and hooking those up to my fileserver.  My server currently has six internal SATA ports on it, along with one eSATA port on the back, giving me seven drives I could plug in (either internally or externally).  So that’s not a problem.  I’m curious, though, how realistic getting a bunch of external enclosures is gonna be.  Typically, the drives I use (Western Digital) don’t run that hot, so cooling doesn’t seem like a big problem.  I already have one external SATA drive that I’m using, and it silently runs and sits on my desk without a problem.

That’s not my only option though.  I’m thinking of switching out the server completely for something less beefy and much more quiet.  In fact, that’s my biggest annoyance right now, is that it’s loud.  I’m not sure what it is, and I really should pinpoint the source before I rip everything out and buy lots of hardware.  I’m fairly certain though, that it’s just the CPU fan first and the power supply second.

If I did replace the server’s hardware, then I have a few options there — I could go with a Mini ITX motherboard that doesn’t need a PSU with a fan (just get a Morex power connector that uses 120W max or something).  Since I’d be hooking up everything externally anyway, they wouldn’t draw on the PSU for power, so the chipset could be really low wattage.  I’m not sure if I want to spend money on that, though.

Ideally, I’d have a place in my apartment where I could stick a server that can be as loud and as noisy as it wants, and I wouldn’t have to hear it.  Sadly, that’s not the case, and I doubt I’ll be moving anytime soon.  So, noise pollution is a factor in this as well.

Anyway, I’m still trying to think of what the best way to go is.  There’s a few directions this could take.

summer skating '09

I finally started going out and skating about three weeks ago.  I’m glad, too, because I’m totally having the time of my life.  I’d been putting off going out all spring / summer since I was feeling pretty indifferent about the whole thing, and thought for a while I was just gonna give it up.  At the same time, though, the weather has been really cranky this year — it was pretty much raining for an entire month there and I couldn’t have gone out even if I wanted to.  It just barely started getting hot around here.  Weird.

Anyway, so I’ve been into it for a few weeks now, and I’m getting into it again.  Lots of fun.  The thing that always surprises me is how much even just a little bit of exercise will help you feel so much better.  My body which is used to a sedentary lifestyle has not taken the sudden change in much stride.  First I got some nasty stomach virus or something that knocked me out for a week — doctors didn’t even know what the heck it was.  I’m pretty sure that’s gone though.  Now, I’m dealing with sleep issues.  I guess I’m not used to having so much energy.  I can’t fall asleep at night and then I can’t get around to waking up either in the morning.  Really strange stuff.

Skating is a lot of fun, even though I still consider myself a total noob.  It can get really frustrating some times because it’s taking me so long to learn stuff.  This ol body of mine is just not used to doing this stuff, so I’m fighting years of lack of exercise, among other things.  I’ve never been much into sports, so things like balance just don’t come naturally.

One good thing that happened that indicates I’m on the right track, though, is I noticed that when I started up this year, my body dropped into the stances of stuff almost immediately.  Mentally, I had forgotten the steps necessary, like where to focus my position and stuff, but just riding around and going on ramps and stuff was really simple.  So that’s good. :)

Anyway, in no particular order, here’s some stuff I’ve learned about skating in general and practicing:

  • The shotgun approach doesn’t work (randomly trying different things all at once).  In order to learn something, you have to focus specifically on what (trick) you’re trying to do, make sure everything is right (posture, stance, balance, position, etc.) and then practice, practice, practice.  Just going out there and screwing around doesn’t help.  It’s fun, but it won’t get you to where you wanna be.
  • My best sessions are always ones where I’ve been out there for a few hours.  Every single time.  It takes me a good hour or two to really get my body limbered up and feel like its flexible.  I noticed this morning that I was just generally stiff when I first started out — I should probably look at finding some specific warmup exercises so it’s not such a hard transition.
  • I’m extremely averse to risk.  For me, this isn’t just physically related, but everything else.  I’m an introvert by nature, and tend to not do anything unless I know what to expect and have a reasonable estimation of how things will turn out.  Any kind of sport (especially one that involves risk) takes a completely opposite approach, so I’m extremely hesitant sometimes to do pretty much anything, which I think is the biggest drag on my progress.  The thing I probably like the most about skating is that it teaches me to take acceptable risk.  Besides, I haven’t broken any bones yet, though I have pulled muscles quite a few times.  The lesson, though, is that you’ve gotta put yourself out there and try different stuff to learn.  I have such a huge mental blocker that keeps me from doing that, it makes things much harder.  No fear would be nice.
  • So much of any trick is learning how to land it.  It’s super easy to pop yourself into the air (ollie, shuvit, whatever) but actually getting your feet and legs and everything else in the right place to land is much harder.  It’s like, “Oh, whee, I’m in the air!  Now what?”
  • It’s gotta be fun, or you won’t do it.  Practice is important to develop skills and find what you’re looking for, but if you’re not having fun, you won’t *ever* want to go out, at all.  So be sure to have sessions where you screw around and just do whatever.
  • The more I want to go out skating (for that day), the worse my performance is gonna be.  It happens every freaking time.  Whenever I’m totally indifferent or don’t want to go (and force myself to), I do my best.  Whenever I’m pumped up and stoked, I can’t figure out how to turn.  What the crap.

All things considered, it’s a rough ride for me, but it’s sooooo much fun.  I go out, on average, about 10 hours a week, which isn’t enough in my opinion.  What happens though is I just run out of energy and have to stop.  Those are the best sessions, though, when you physically just can’t do any more.

I’m still hoping I’ll be able to learn some more stuff, but right now I’m focusing on one thing at a time and trying to make sure I can get that down.  It’s boring and methodical I know, but hey, I figure it’s better to be frustrated on one trick than five of em.

Good times all around. :)


letterbox movies with mplayer

Non-anamorphic widescreen movies can be a bit of a pain to watch on a widescreen monitor or TV these days. I don’t have very many of them myself, but one I do have is I accidentally bought the original Star Wars trilogy in fullscreen, but it has the original theatrical version in widescreen — albeit in letterbox format. Basically that means that instead of presenting it in 16:9 format natively, it’s widescreen in 4:3. There’s no really easy way to play it on my HDTV since I’d have to break all my normal settings to get it work for just this one. So what happens is it gets pulled more than normal and looks really bad. Fitting fullscreen to widescreen is tolerable, but stretching a picture that is already in scope just does not look good.

The simplest way I’m dealing with it now is just rip the DVD and use MPlayer to play it back correctly. I only need a few switches, and I’m done.

There’s two ways to deal with it. The first, I just crop it myself with this:

$ mplayer -vf crop=704:352:8:64

Here’s a before:

and the after:

You can’t tell from these since I had to rescale them for the blog, but the second one was slightly less narrow than the first by a few pixels. Can be a bit of an annoyance.

The second way is much simpler.

If you’re playing back on a widescreen monitor, just do this:

$ mplayer -panscan 1 -aspect 4:3

And it will frame it perfectly. :)

writing lds-scriptures docs

Yesterday, I was at home, and I sat down at the computer wanting to work on something. It was Sunday, so I felt like working on one of my church projects. I pulled up and started poking around, then I thought about getting the lds-scriptures 3.0 release ready to go. I wasn’t really in the mood to start fussing over database exports (I have to clean up the Access ones still, prepare the XML ones, and make sure the CSV ones are correct), but I did get the bug to work on the documentation a bit.

Now, when I first started working on this — years ago, I forgot how many — I started writing the documentation in DocBook format. And I’m so glad I did. I’m kind of amazed, looking back, that I managed to pull it off, considering how little I knew back then. I do remember, though, that putting the original scriptures release was a lot of hard work for me. I specifically wanted to learn more how to use the console, so I used a very old Dell laptop (a Pentium 1, I think) with Gentoo on it, and would only use the console to do everything. That translates to a lot of work when you’re accessing PostgreSQL, MySQL and SQLite 2 and 3 all at once on the command line, but it was worth it. It really taught me a lot more about the small and large differences between each database, and how to export stuff and transfer it between the two. Not to mention just learning lots more SQL in general.

I also wrote the DocBook XML just using vim. So, yesterday, I opened up the original file, and started poking at it. The documentation isn’t complex, by any means, but for a total noob to all of this, I think I did pretty well back then.

Writing documentation is one thing I take very seriously, as I think it stands as sort of a legacy over time. As long as there’s a copy floating around somewhere on the web or in an old package, people will read it. As such, I put a lot of pressure on myself when writing docs of any kind. I just wanna get it right, because I know that chances are that I’ll probably never come back and update it once the project is finished, so it’ll be that way for a long time.

What happens though, is that the process just wears me out. It’s not that it’s a lot of work, it’s that I just pour a lot of energy into this. On top of that, this is a project I feel really meticulous about — not only is it religious material, but I’m documenting how I’ve created a database schema for the standard works of the scriptures.

Anyway. It’s just one of those few projects that I really can’t work on it for more than an hour at a time or so, and just get a small amount of work done before I need take a long break again. Which probably explains why I’ve been putting this one project off for so long, for which I feel really bad.

I have no idea why I’m writing this either, I just thought it’d be interesting to write about. I hope I can get this done soon. It really is the last leg. The schema is done, even though in my mind I fret over it and look over it and double and triple-check the whole thing making sure I didn’t miss anything. I can, of course, do a release update if I really did miss something, but this is one of things where I just want everything to be just right.

I realize it sounds kind of corny, only because I’ve always kind of been confused by the concept, but I guess this would be one of those “for God” things. Like, “skating for God” comes to mind (important point: that’s not me or my video — I’m not that good at skating, heh. Just found it on youtube.). I’ve grown up Christian, but I didn’t really get a good feel for what other denominations other than our own was like — something I deeply regret to this day (Even though I live in Utah, I didn’t move here til I was about 22. I grew up in Missouri, Indiana and Georgia). As such, I wouldn’t say I have intolerance for other religions, just a bit of social curiosity. What seems normal, culturally, to others in their faiths, seems a bit odd to me. I really wish I had a chance to grow up, around, and with people of other faiths more.

The whole concept kind of just clicked for me though — it’s basically just trying to do the very best you can with your limited talents and skills, and have the work dedicated to the Lord — or more specifically, to building up His kingdom on earth.

It may seem like “skating for God” would be, in that vein, pretty irrelevant, but the fact of the matter is that anytime you build yourself or anyone else up, you are building the kingdom of God (Cue a quote from some religious talk I can vaguely remember). That’s the real reason this is taking so long, quite honestly, is that all this is for Him. It’s a dedicatory work.

Well, I really didn’t intend to go off on a tangent like that, but now you know how I feel about some of the stuff I work on.  I’m still not really sure how I feel about it, or how this all mixes together.  In fact, merging a religious lifestyle and a cultural lifestyle has always been a confusing topic for me.  I actually like the way evangelists carry it in their lives so much, and make it such a positive aspect of their life all the time, and so freely talk about it.  There’s definitely some characteristics like that I’d like to apply in my life.

website downage

Apparently, if you forget to  pay your ISP bills for three months, they’ll cut off your access.  Hmm, whoops.  That’s why my blog as well as * went down for a few days.

I signed up for a Linode (and did automatic billing), and I’ll be moving the sites there rather soonly.  That’ll save us all from other responsibility-addled issues.  Well, financial ones at least. :)