Archive

Archive for January, 2016

Listener Feedback podcast episode 52: Silence – L’autre Endroit

January 24th, 2016 No comments

Listener Feedback podcast is a royalty free and Creative Commons music podcast. This episode, titled “Episode 52: Full Album – Silence – L’autre Endroit” was released on Sunday January 24th, 2016. To suggest artists and albums that should be featured you can send an e-mail to contact@listenerfeedback.net or message @LFpodcast on Twitter.

To subscribe to the podcast add the feed here or listen to this episode by clicking here.

Enter the Void! First impressions of Void Linux

January 23rd, 2016 1 comment
Void Linux

Void Linux

While Gentoo is a great way to spin your own flavour of Linux, after a year I’ve found that recompiling packages every time you do an update becomes a bit of a drag. With that in mind I decided to look around for an alternative distribution, and while nothing is 100% perfect I have to say I really am very happy with Void Linux. There are a number of “live” iso images which will happily boot from a USB stick, I only looked at two of the images Cinnamon and Xfce, while Cinnamon was all very pretty and all that, I couldn’t get the audio volume widget to show itself and besides I didn’t see any real advantage. I’ve long been a fan of Xfce basically because of what it doesn’t try to do, you don’t get the kitchen sink (thankfully) but what you do get works solidly.

Now its entirely possible that I missed something obvious with the void_installer script but it has two distinct behaviours depending on what installation source you choose. If you choose to install from the internet what you get is a bare minimum of packages (command line only) and you’ll be left with a fair bit of configuration to do for yourself – this isn’t always a bad thing if for example you have some specific use maybe an embedded kiosk for example. For more usual desktop use, its better to choose the installation media itself as the source, this basically copies and configures the “live” image onto your machine. I did find that after an update I had to manually delete the old kernel, but once I did that and a few more of the usual chores one normally expects when installing a new system – (eventually after correctly using the installer!) I found myself in possession of a really nice system.

Void is a sleek system, obviously well engineered and the best thing has to be the package manager – xbps comprises in a small suite of interrelated console applications, which do just one narrow function each, for example given the choice of xbps-install, xbps-query, xbps-remove etc you can make a good guess at what they do. As you’d expect each xbps app if run without parameters gives you a quick run down of commands and parameters. One thing I did notice with xbps is its fast, and no mistake! There is a graphical package manager too (octoxbps) which is both familiar but refreshingly slightly different (and not just for the sake of it either) I didn’t manage to find an update reminder but the xbps tools are easy to work with and I was able to make a simple script to do a dry run update (so nothing’s changed) from this I can infer the number of updates that need to be done.

#!/bin/bash
n=`xbps-install -Snu | wc -l`
if [ $n -gt 0 ]
 then
 if [ $n -eq 1 ]
 then
 m="there is a system update to do"
 else
 m="there are $n system updates to do"
 fi
 zenity --info --text="$m"
 fi

I auto run this when the desktop environment starts, keeping package information synced and warning me of updates – this will be most useful when installed on machines that I maintain for others who let us say just need a gentle reminder about updates…

Of course everything was going far too well (spoiling my fun! just working like that) the only one big issue I had was with steam, but the Void forum soon came to my aid with a work around, a particular version of the Xorg driver for Intel gpu’s was causing some kind of networking issue (of all things) I won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say its working with a “little” persuasion!

I did notice pulse audio is installed by default, which seemed a little odd as I’m not sure it provides a great deal for the extra overhead, uninstalling pulse audio doesn’t break anything and getting Alsa going is just a case of enabling the daemon in the alsa-utils package and adding the usual Alsa configuration (~/.asoundrc)

pcm.!default {
 type plug
 slave {
 pcm "hw:1,0"
 }
 }
 ctl.!default {
 type hw
 card 1
 }

I’ve since found a better way to configure ALSA – a quote from their website

Neither .asoundrc or /etc/asound.conf is normally required. You should be able to play and record sound without either (assuming your mic and speakers are hooked up properly). If your system won’t work without one, and you are running the most current version of ALSA, you probably should file a bug report.

That said it did assume the HDMI output was the default so an even simpler config for the kernel module itself allowed me to disable HDMI sound which I have no use for…

/etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf 

options snd_hda_intel enable=1 index=0
options snd_hda_intel enable=0 index=1

Your system might differ but its not really a problem, its just nice there are no enforced and/or needless package dependencies like there are with some other distributions.

Further testing centred on Java development, I knew if I was going to hit any major show stoppers that Jgles2 (with its multiple build systems) would likely show up issues. Not unusually for Void, Ant’s package was bang up to date (wish I could say the same of Gentoo – as at the time of writing Ant is languishing at version 1.9.2 which isn’t enough to compile Lwjgl….) installing g++, make and pkg-config had the complete build system for Jgles2 working as I’d expect.

While its still early days, and its not impossible I could find some wrinkles – all in all so far Void seems a positive experience and well worth considering.

Introducing Chris C, our occasional guest writer.
This article was originally published at his personal website here.

Categories: Chris C, Linux Tags:

Open formats are… the best formats?

January 17th, 2016 2 comments

Over the past few years there has been a big push to replace proprietary formats with open formats. For example Open Document Format and Office Open XML have largely replaced the legacy binary formats, we’re now seeing HTML5 + JavaScript supplant Silverlight and Java applets, and even the once venerable Flash is on its deathbed.

This of course all makes sense. We’re now in an era where the computing platforms, be it Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, Android, iOS, Linux, etc., simply don’t command the individual market shares (or at least mind shares) that they once used to. Things are… more diversified now. And while they may not matter to the user the underlying differences in technologies certainly matter to the developer. This is one of the many reasons you see lots of movement to open formats where the same format can be implemented, relatively easily, on all of the aforementioned platforms.

So then the question must be asked: does this trend mean that open formats are the best formats? That is obviously quite a simple question to a deep (and perhaps subjective) subject so perhaps it’s better to look at it from a user adoption perspective. Does being an open format, given all of its advantages, translate to market adoption? There the answer is not as clear.

Open by example

Let’s take a look a few instances where a clear format winner exists and see if it is an open format or a closed/proprietary format.

Documents

When it comes to documents the Open Document Format and Open Office XML have largely taken over. This has been driven largely by Microsoft making Office Open XML the default file format in all versions of Microsoft Office since 2007. Additionally many governments and organizations around the world have standardized on the use of Open Document Format. That said older Microsoft Office binary formats (i.e. .doc, .xls, etc.) are still widely in use.

Verdict: open formats have largely won out.

Audio

For the purposes of the “audio” category let’s consider simply the audio codec that most people use to consume their music. In that regard MP3 is still the absolute dominant format. While it is somewhat encumbered by patents you will hardly find a single device out there that doesn’t support it. This is true even when there are better lossy compression formats (including the proprietary AAC or open Ogg Vorbis) as well as lossless formats like FLAC.

Verdict: the closed/proprietary MP3 format is the de facto standard.

Video

Similarly for the “video” category I’ll only be focusing on the codecs. While there are plenty of open video formats (Theora, WebM, etc.) they are not nearly as well supported as the proprietary formats like MPEG-2, H.264, etc. Additionally the open formats (in general) don’t have quite as good quality vs size ratios as the proprietary ones which is often while you’ll see websites using them in order to save on bandwidth.

Verdict: closed/proprietary formats have largely won out.

File Compression

Compression is something that most people consider more as an algorithm than a format which is why I’ll be focusing on the compressed file container formats for this category. In that regard the ZIP file format is by far the most common. It has native support in every modern operating system and offers decent compression. Other open formats, such as 7-Zip, offer better performance and even some proprietary formats, like RAR, have seen widespread use but for the most part ZIP is the go-to format. What muddies the waters here a bit is that the base ZIP format is open but some of the features added later on were not. However the majority of uses are based on the open standards.

Verdict: the open zip format is the most widely used standard.

Native Applications vs Web Apps

While applications may not, strictly speaking, be a format it does seem to be the case that every year there are stories about how Web Apps will soon replace Native Applications. So far however the results are a little mixed with e-mail being a perfect example of this paradox. For personal desktop e-mail web apps, mostly Gmail and the like, have largely replaced native applications like Microsoft Outlook and Thunderbird. On mobile however the majority of users still access their e-mail via native “apps”. And even then in enterprises the majority of e-mail usage is still done via native applications. I’m honestly not sure which will eventually win out, if either, but for now let’s call it a tie.

Verdict: tie.

The answer to the question is…

Well just on the five quick examples above we’ve got wins for 2 open formats, 2 closed/proprietary formats and one tie. So clearly based on market adoption we’re at a stand still.

Personally I’d prefer if open formats would take over because then I wouldn’t have to worry about my device supporting the format in question or not. Who knows, maybe by next year we’ll see one of the two pull ahead.

This post originally appeared on my website here.

KWLUG: Mageia Linux, Tax Software (2016-01)

January 12th, 2016 No comments

This is a podcast presentation from the Kitchener Waterloo Linux Users Group on the topic of Mageia Linux, Tax Software published on January 5th 2016. You can find the original Kitchener Waterloo Linux Users Group post here.

Read more…

Categories: Linux, Podcast, Tyler B Tags: ,

KWLUG: GNU Social (2015-12)

January 12th, 2016 No comments

This is a podcast presentation from the Kitchener Waterloo Linux Users Group on the topic of GNU Social published on December 8th 2015. You can find the original Kitchener Waterloo Linux Users Group post here.

Read more…

Categories: Linux, Podcast, Tyler B Tags: ,

Listener Feedback podcast episode 51: Other Nosies – S.L.A.S.H

January 10th, 2016 No comments

Listener Feedback podcast is a royalty free and Creative Commons music podcast. This episode, titled “Episode 51: Full Album – Other Noises – S.L.A.S.H” was released on Sunday January 10th, 2016. To suggest artists and albums that should be featured you can send an e-mail to contact@listenerfeedback.net or message @LFpodcast on Twitter.

To subscribe to the podcast add the feed here or listen to this episode by clicking here.