Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Walmart Has Non-DRM mp3 Downloads


Even though my family has at least four personal media players (Cowon iAudio X5's and F2's), we have been stuck with buying CD's and ripping them into files (mostly OGG Vorbis format) for the players. The reason: I could not find any legal music download sites with a decent selection of music that supports linux. There was the now-defunct and questionably legal allofmp3.com site that would work in just about any system/browser and supported many formats (mp3, ogg, flac). There were also some mostly indie sites that did not have much selection... especially when it comes to Christian music, but I could not find anything legal with both a good selection of titles and the ability to download and play the music in both linux and on media players.

Walmart has had a music download site for a while, and it was in the same boat with the other sites I had found. They had a good selection, but it only supported Windows with DRM (Digital Rights Management) encumbered media files. This week I learned that they are now offering non-DRM mp3 downloads that will play on just about any music player and linux (if you load mp3 support in it)! When I first heard about it I immediately went to walmart.com and tried to browse to the music downloads, but I was disappointed to see a message saying I needed Windows to continue. A bit later, though, I found a link that got me in to where I could actually browse, purchase and download music in mp3 format. Yay!!! They don't have their entire selection available in mp3 format yet, but it looks like a good start and I hope they will continue to add more. Now if they would only support Ogg Vorbis!

BTW: I run RockBox on my X5.

FC7 Linux Sound Config on Toshiba A75-S231 Notebook

Every time I install a new linux release on my notebook I go for about a month or so with manually rmmoding and modprobing the snd-atiixp driver to get the sound to work until I come up with an automatic way again to make it just work at boot. So I will put it here so I can remember it in the future and make it available to anyone els that can use it.

It seems that at one point in the past I was able to make it work by blacklisting something (in /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist I think), but I haven't been able to remember what that solution was. I did find that after booting I could simply do an "rmmod snd-atiixp ; modprobe snd-atiixp" to make it work, so my previous solution was to create an init script in /etc/init.d/soundcard to remove and reinstall the kernel module.

This time I did it by hacking up /etc/modprobe.conf. Here are the relevant lines from my system... ymmv:

install snd-atiixp /sbin/modprobe --ignore-install snd-atiixp && \\
/sbin/modprobe -r --ignore-remove snd-atiixp && \\
/sbin/modprobe --ignore-install snd-atiixp && \\
/usr/sbin/alsactl restore >/dev/null || :
remove snd-atiixp \\
{ /usr/sbin/alsactl store 0 >/dev/null 2>&1 || : ; }; \\
/sbin/modprobe -r --ignore-remove snd-atiixp

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Web Clipping: Clipmarks and Google Notebook

Clipmarks and Google Notebook both provide ways to easily clip, store and share parts of web pages. Here are some of my initial impressions from my brief experience with both of them.

Clipmarks gives you a lot of flexibility in what you clip on a page. You can put text, images and video from separate parts of a page all together in the same clipping. There is a Firefox extension available to help you clip and manage your clips. You can attach tags and comments to clips, and select whether a clip is private or public. Clipmarks seems to be oriented towards the social network aspect of sharing the clips with others. You can search through everyones public clips, vote for clips you like, and comment on others clips. One thing I don't like is that Clipmarks only gives you a small window for viewing clips.

Google Notebook seems to be more oriented towards clipping for your own use. It does have a facility for publishing and sharing clips, but as far as I can tell you can not simply search for other people's clips... they must give you a cryptic URL to get to their clips. Google notebook does not seem to be quite as flexible in clipping separate parts of pages either... it seems that to do that you must save each part in a separate clip. Google provides a Firefox extension to help you clip and manage your clips. Unlike Clipmarks you can even use the extension to view the clip without having to open a web page. Google notebook also gives you a large area to view the clips. It works with your Google id so you can use the same id that you use with other Google services.

I am not certain which one I will end up using. For now I plan to play with both for a biit.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Front of House



FOH at CCC
This past Sunday was my third time running FOH at church, and the first time without having anyone with me in the booth to help in case things go awry. The DigiDesign Venue board is an awesome tool to work with... once you get past the complexities of the board itself. Being able to save and recall queues makes it alot easier to run a service that may have music, drama, videos and multiple speakers. And being able to see the EQ and dynamics curves helps me to better visualize the changes I am making. And that is not even scratching the surface of what that board has to offer!



CCC Monitor World

Up until now I have only been running monitors (sometimes called foldback) on an older analog Allen & Heath ML4000 board. Boy would I love to have the Venue there for monitors! In some ways monitors is more challenging than FOH because there are anywhere from four to six monitor mixes to deal with, each with its own set of judgment calls to make while trying to figure out what each musician needs. At FOH there is really only one mix to deal with (I don't count the matrix mixes for the lobby, video, ALD, etc... they are pretty much set and forget). I feel more pressure at FOH though... if I mess up on monitors there may only be a dozen people that know, but at FOH there may be a couple thousand people that hear my oops.

My biggest weakness is probably EQ. I pretty much understand the signal flow of the system and enough of the basic effects I need (compression, verb, delay) to get by, but EQ seems to be the most troublesome part for me. It takes me a while to relate what I am hearing to where it lies in the spectrum... and once the whole band is playing it gets really hard for me to clean up the EQ on individual instruments. Hopefully with some time and practice I'll get to where I am really comfortable with EQ.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Three Awesome Apps

Here are some tools and stuff that I have been starting to use and so far they look pretty cool.

First, a little background: I am a software developer and I pretty much exclusively develop software for unix (linux and AIX to be specific). I also mostly use linux at home. When I need to I will use windows, but linux is pretty much where I live. Therefore I need tools that work well in the linux environment.

My main environments are currently a Pentium 4 notebook running Fedora 7, a home-built Athlon box with Fedora 6 and 7, and at work a P4 Gateway box running Fedora 6 and 7. On all these machines I use Firefox for my browser.

Del.icio.us
Del.icio.us Screenshot

One of the big annoyances I had was trying to keep my bookmarks synced up between my different machines. I've tried various solutions with limited success, but del.icio.us seems to have everything I need and more. It lets me import all my bookmarks from Firefox, categorize them with keywords, search them and publish them. There is also an add-on for Firefox that makes it easy to add bookmarks and navigate through them.

Clipmarks.com
Clipmarks.com screenshot

Clip, save and publish the best parts of web sites you visit. Kind of like saving bookmarks along with excerpts of the site. Clips can be categorized and easily posted to a blog.

Picasa


Google has produced this app that helps you manage a collection of digital photographs. There is a linux version, but it is really just a windows app packaged with wine. I would rather see a native linux app, but as it is it works pretty well and does what I need. One thing that has really come in handy is the ability to upload files to various labs to have prints made. In the past I had to manually upload a handful of photos at a time, but with Picasa I can upload as many as I need. Google also has a web-based version of Picasa that is handy for making photos available on-line.