Sunday, September 26, 2010

Radio Streams +

There are several audio players and managers in Linux which function as alternatives to iTunes. I started off using the default application (for Ubuntu) Rhythmbox but later switched to Banshee as Rhythmbox had a few unacceptable problems: not transferring tracks to an iPod on occasion, not downloading podcasts on occasion, and not playing music on occasion. I have also tried Amarok, Exaile, Songbird, and a few other minor ones but all of these failed to support iPods, podcasts, or my computer's audio. I need iPod support because I have a few iPods around and probably will for a long time, although the mass-storage USB is a much better way than the closed iTunes-managed corporate podware which crAAPL grants its devotees.

I recently misplaced the (2005?) 1st-generation Shuffle that never seemed to die, so I went to a second or third generation clippy Shuffle Emerald(?) that someone else didn't need. My needs are simple: just to be able to play 3-6 hours of podcasts and some music every day during my commutes. Banshee doesn't recognize it, so I've switched back to Rhythmbox. Rhythmbox seems to be working better than before, so far, although some podcasts seem to go offline much of the time.

One thing I noticed when I was giving Exaile a spin again was the excellent selection of internet radio stations. Because they are pre-installed in Exaile, you tend to use them. I decided to add some radio stations to the poor selection that pre-exists in Rhythmbox. Here are the URLs I added, in rough order from higher bitrates to lower. I can't stand commercials, so I selected mostly public and college radio.



WGBH Boston


64kbps - Boston's NPR news source



WKCR Columbia University NY

In addition to those, I am still looking into these:

Soma FM - 19 unique channels

That's beginning to be too much choice.

One of the best places to search is Shoutcast.

Shoutcast - "39,740 free internet radio stations"

If you don't find what you are looking for there, try radio-locator, which lets you search by city, zip-code, country, format (genre), or call letters.


Update: Rhythmbox still sucks. "...could not parse the feed contents..." Banshee chocked on the iPod mb229 a few more times but finally rebuilt the database without crashing and now is good. Banshee wins.
Here's another way to rebuild the (Shuffle) database.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ubuntu Upgrades

Recently Linux visitors to my site seem to outnumber Mac visitors, sometimes by 2 to 1. Ten percent of visitors are from Japan (at the moment), so those LXers are not just me re-loading my own page. I really do think there could be a stampede to Linux in the form of Google's Chrome OS. I'd like to see Chrome pass Mac OS and get alot of attention in the process, bursting Steve's bubble. I expect that it has a fairly good chance of doing that and becoming a phenomenon similar to what they've done with Android. This might make a major dent in the Microsoft monopoly or Win-Mac duopoly.

I recently upgraded two machines to Ubuntu 10.04.1. I hadn't made the change earlier because Lucid came out in late April, several weeks into the first semester of the new school year in Japan. And since I immediately went on vacation in August, I didn't have a chance to install until late August. The exception is the Asus Eee 4G, my most expendable computer and therefore a test bed, which has had Xubuntu 10.04 on the SSD and Ubuntu 10.04 on the SD card and which performed excellently as a vacation computer, within the limitations of the 7" screen and a slow processor. That's a configuration I can recommend; I usually boot the SD Ubuntu rather than the Xubuntu option.

The two others were the Asus 1000HE and the Apple Mac Mini. I upgraded the 1000HE through the Update Manager (Preferences>Update Manager>Distribution Upgrade). That seemed to go well, but afterwards the computer had devolved into the Netbook Edition that it had begun as long ago when I first made it dual-boot. I despise the Netbook Edition since it uses space less efficiently than regular Ubuntu. However, it was a deformed and disfigured Netbook Edition, with a stub menu and nothing there. I was able to add an item to the menu and restart it. I found that the solution is to select a GNOME session at startup, not Netbook Edition, and then use Synaptic to remove all Netbook Edition packages so it can only boot as GNOME or something equally reasonable at startup. If Lucid is stable on this machine I may be able to stick with that for a few years. Some Skype test calls were a little dodgy at first; I'll have to check some real calls to see if audio is really OK.

I was a little worried about the Mac Mini since the install seems rather fragile, and after rEFIt hands the boot off to GRUB2, it all took about 5-7 minutes to re-boot. Of course, you could go months between reboots. I usually log out and log back in if something appears glitchy. Sometimes it froze during bootup and I worried that it was lost. I used an Ubuntu Studio DVD for this upgrade. It went very well, although it didn't seem to transform from Edubuntu to Ubuntu Studio as I had thought it would. Perhaps only packages relevant to Edubuntu were upgraded from the DVD as one source, the rest from the internet. Performance has improved: the Mac Mini goes to sleep and the on/off/sleep light pulses gently as it does as a Mac, Bluetooth is working perfectly now where it didn't before (or maybe I was just doing it wrong before?), and that troublesome bootup is now about 2-3 minutes, slightly long but better than some Windows machines I use in universities and perhaps just about par for the Linux-on-a-Mac course.

The UNE is a waste because you can simply set your top (and bottom) panels to auto-hide by configuring them with a right-click. This saves more space than the UNE. In addition, the UNE launcher is a huge waste of space and time. Using GNOME Main Menu, you can have a single icon in the auto-hide menubar and with a single click, drag, and release open any application. Using F11 toggles the tab I am viewing in and out of full screen view. The "Run" applet in the menu bar lets you launch an app with a few letters of its name. By comparison, the launcher of UNE requires a click (on the ever-present menubar) to bring it forward, another click to navigate to the right section, a few more clicks or scrollwheel to scroll down the list of apps (which are not the size of text but have huge space-wasting icons and the name of the app in a box!) and finally a click on the icon to launch the app which will then appear in the tiny space left available to you in UNE. Just use regular Ubuntu is my advice (or Debian or Mint or Mandriva or openSuSE...). I am not a fan of "Docks" either.

Update: Not only does sleep work, bluetooth work, and bootup go faster, "Restart" works properly now, too. In 9.10, I had shutdown but restart went to darkness requiring physically powering off. There have been a few new Linux kernel updates and thus a few restarts recently. It takes about 1 minute 15 seconds from selecting "Restart" until the EFI/rEFIt/BootCamp stuff goes away and GRUB comes into the scene, then one minute to my Login screen and about 30 seconds (?) more after that. I guess it's OK. Anyway, there is much better support for the 2009 Mac Mini in Lucid than in Karmic.

Eels: Tomorrow Morning

I ran across this new interview with E about a week ago.

Tomorrow Morning is something to look forward to. By the way, Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives has become available again on YouTube after having been taken down sometime after I last referred to it. ("This video has been removed due to a copyright claim by the BBC.")You may want to DLHelper yourself to those mp4s before they get taken down again, because the price of buying the dvd ($40.49!) is a ridiculous price to pay for not recording it when it was broadcast on TV.

Just for the hell of it, here's an NPR interview from June 2009.

...and an official Eels video from April 2009.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Macbots and Dia Sobin have noted the passing of Mac Tonnies' birthday on August 20. Coincidentally, Mac's birthday was the launch date for the Viking 1 lander. Almost a year later, on July 25, 1976, the "Face on Mars" was photographed by the Viking Orbiter 1 as it examined possible landing sites for Viking 2.

Mac Tonnies-tagged content continues to be created on the internets despite his physical death. Below are some recent YouTube movies.

Question authority.
Empower yourself.
Seek truth.

I haven't been blogging much because I was travelling. In fact, August 20 itself was a day that partly disappeared for me as my plane crossed the international date line. However, I kept my cellphone on Tokyo time, and photos of my visit to the Science Fiction Museum (and Experience Music Project) of Seattle are all dated 2010-08-20.

Those were 2010-08-20 in Japan but this last one was 2010-08-20 in the US, the last shot I took before leaving.

Efforts are being made to name a crater on Mars for Mac Tonnies. If interested, you can join a Facebook group dedicated to it.