Go get an SSD!

I got an SSD (Solid State Drive) for a laptop early last year. I noticed the overwhelming speed experience and became a fan. Today, after installing it on my own laptop, I noticed that in addition to the speed, the battery life’s now extended by a whopping 2 hours or more!

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Yes, you can buy a massive internal drive for the price of a 128 or 256 GB SSD. I think the time and energy savings of buying a smaller SSD are worth it, unless you’re doing massive video edits or dealing with larger files. In that case you might just want to splurge on a larger SSD.

If you’re in India, I can say that the SanDisk X21 is a steal. I’ve tried Samsung’s EVO and they’re awesome – but they’re consumer SSDs. The X21 is targeted at the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) market, and low end server market. So you won’t get a fancy box, or the software to help transfer your current hard drive over, but you’ll get a great bargain for the price and something that’s going to last you a long while!

Debian Jessie on Dell Latitude 6220

I guess I should’ve read my own posts comparing Linux and Windows, before raving on about Windows last time. The updates on Win7 were a nightmare, with me having to boot and reboot every other hour for a day or two until the download floodgate was shut, almost. I don’t think I’m done. I see that sign next to “Shut Down” where I’m being warned of another upcoming update.

Debian 8That aside, I did want to get my Latitude E6220 on Linux. This time, I’ve chosen to go with Debian, and since I couldn’t choose, I went for both Cinnamon and Mate desktops. Mate gives me the creeps just from the look of the Menu. Cinnamon feels more comfy that way. Next step was to get the drivers all sorted. Frankly, that was a bit easier than getting it done on Windows! You could download the drivers from http://support.dell.com but it wasn’t a clean one-time thing.  I noticed two issues on Linux from the get go:

  • WLAN not working
  • Reboots left the computer hanging

Mercifully, the Ethernet worked right away on Linux – which it did not on Windows on first install. I had to download the Ethernet drivers from Dell’s support site via another PC. So Linux scores better here! A short bit of searching brought me to this resource on the reboot issue. I went into the nearest Latitude on that list and it did mention the reboot issue. The solution was simple:

To solve the reboot issue you’ve to pass the kernel reboot=pci. You can achieve this by adding reboot=pci to GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="" in /etc/default/grub.

And after updating that file, I ran update-grub and suffered my final hang.

The WLAN issue was a bit less straightforward. Reading through the WiFi wiki, I identified the adaptor as BCM43228. And I’d have saved myself some time if I’d just scrolled to the end of the PCI section. The wl section covered what I needed. Chased that with a now working reboot and ta da, laptop configured. Since Linux is friendly with Windows, grub handles my dual-boot and I seem to have no issues on that front. I guess I might have issues with the clock as I did previously, but thankfully I do have my old post to help me out.

Back on WLW, Windows & Office

Wow, never thought I’d make it back into the Microsoft world again, but here I am. Got myself a machine set up with Windows 7 and currently installing Office 2013 Home & Student. And I can say it is a relief, in some ways. In other ways, I still want  to ensure that I can dual boot this machine with a Linux distro. Smile

So, what’s changed? I guess, I got older and started thinking of rational decision making, at least on a personal level. That’s the gist of it. And there have been a lot of changes in the state of play in the IT arena.

Just to try my hand at storytelling, I do want to get into this a bit more, however, I’m working on my resume and time’s a-flying. Hopefully, by tomorrow evening I’ll have polished up my resume enough to do just that.

Signing off with a sigh of relief at being back on Live Writer.

A bit late for 2015

For a first post, it seems a bit late to start in April – towards the end of the month too. *Skip waffling*

Been busy working for The Outdoor Journal for most of my long break since last year and catching up on some travelling before that.

Now, I’m working towards moving to Berlin, and the many things to wrap up before I get there.

At the moment, I’ve been studying grammar again, to better my German. I’m a mired for two reasons and it’s a bit of a catch 22:

  • Don’t know the gender of most of German nouns
  • And have an issue with the 4 cases

And so it’s to YouTube that I go, hunting for some interesting video to give me some dope. Thankfully got a good grasp of the difference between indirect and direct objects. Now to memorize article genders and apply the cases. Such fun!

Rockbox – audiobooks, podcasts and sorting

Since I moved to Rockbox, I’ve had two issues that have been bugging me:
1. Keeping my podcasts and audiobooks separate
2. Sorting my podcasts (reverse chronological order and separating the ones I’ve listened to already)

I finally got tired of ignoring the issue and decided to give it a serious shot today. And it goes on to prove to me that with sufficient motivation, you need not fear doing things you’re unfamiliar with. In this case it was editing some config files in Rockbox.

For those not interested in the story, but just the job, here’s the file:

#! rockbox/tagbrowser/2.0
# ^ Version header must be the first line of every file

# Tag Browser configuration file, do not edit as changes will be lost!
# Instead, you can modify “/.rockbox/tagnavi_custom.config” which will never
# get overwritten automatically.
# Basic format declarations
%format “fmt_podcast_album” “%s” album ? genre == “podcast”
%format “fmt_podcast_title” “%s %s – %02d:%02d” basename title Lm Ls %sort = “inverse” %strip = “15” ? genre == “podcast”
%format “fmt_podcast_alphanum_title” “%s – %02d:%02d (%s)” basename Lm Ls filename ? title == “” & genre == “podcast”
%format “fmt_podcast_alphanum_title” “%s – %02d:%02d” title Lm Ls & genre == “podcast”

%menu_start “podcasts” “Podcasts”
“New podcasts” -> album ? genre == “podcast” -> title = “fmt_podcast_title” ? playcount == “0” & genre == “podcast”
“Old podcasts” -> album ? genre == “podcast” -> title = “fmt_podcast_title” ? playcount != “0” & genre == “podcast”

%menu_start “main2” “Database”
“Artist” -> artist ? genre != “podcast” & genre != “audiobook” -> album -> title = “fmt_title” ? genre != “podcast”
“Album Artist” -> albumartist ? genre != “podcast” & genre != “audiobook” -> album -> title = “fmt_title” ? genre != “podcast”
“Album” -> album ? genre != “podcast” & genre != “audiobook” -> title = “fmt_title” ? genre != “podcast”
“Audiobooks” -> album ? genre == “audiobook” -> title = “fmt_title” ? genre == “audiobook”
“Podcasts” ==> “podcasts”
“Genre” -> genre -> artist -> album -> title = “fmt_title” ? genre != “podcast”
“Composer” -> composer -> album -> title = “fmt_title” ? genre != “podcast”
“Track” -> title = “fmt_alphanum_title” ? genre != “podcast”
“Year” -> year ? year > “0” -> artist -> album -> title = “fmt_title” ? genre != “podcast”
“User Rating” -> rating -> title = “fmt_title” ? genre != “podcast”
“Recently Added” -> album ? entryage < “4” & commitid > “0” -> title = “fmt_title” ? genre != “podcast”
“A to Z…” ==> “a2z”
“History…” ==> “runtime”
“Same as current…” ==> “same”
“Search…” ==> “search”
“Custom view…” ==> “custom”

# And finally set main menu as our root menu
%root_menu “main2”

To solve this issue I had to approach the problem from two ends:
1. The files – correct tagging (podcast/audiobook) and in the case of podcasts, I had to ensure that the podcast filename was just the date the podcast was produced.
2. Rockbox – making the menus and the filtering

The files were relatively easy in terms of tagging. For podcasts, I use gPodder. I upgraded to the latest version on the debian repository (in Testing) and changed the config settings in gPodder to set the synchronized filename as just the “sortdate” as gPodder puts it.

In Rockbox, I had to pore over this page: http://www.rockbox.org/wiki/DataBase, and then experiment with the things listed until I finally got to the desired result. My key challenge was to understand how filters worked in the menus!

For example, initially, I had added the podcast menu as follows:
%menu_start “podcasts” “Podcasts”
“New podcasts” -> album -> title = “fmt_podcast_title” ? playcount == “0” & genre == “podcast”

This resulted in me seeing all the albums on my player, not just the podcasts! So after poring over the Database wiki some more, I realized that I needed to add the conditional inside the menu!

“New podcasts” -> album? genre == “podcast”

Once I’d figured this out, the rest was a matter of tuning the gPodder output and figuring out what works!

Hope this helps.

Buttons and Stock Images in Python

Thanks to codecademy.com I’ve learnt the basics of Python, and now I’m trying to figure out pygtk. I looked up the tutorial on the pygtk website and even found a package python-gtk2-tutorial on the debian repository. Awesome. In Chapter 6 of the tutorial, there’s an exercise to add an image to a button. Now, the way the author does it is by using a pixmap, but gtk also has a ton of stock images, which you can use.

There is a catch – which is why this blog post’s here! In GTK, it appears that you cannot set a label and an image for a button at the same time, and have them both show by default. If you set the button as a stock.

button = gtk.Button(stock=gtk.STOCK_ADD) – for example, then you’ll see the text "Add".

To allow buttons to have both icons and labels, use the following bit of code before you type window.show()

settings = gtk.settings_get_default()
settings.props.gtk_button_images = True

However, you still can’t use a stock image with a custom label directly. So here’s the workaround:

 button = gtk.Button()
image = gtk.Image()
image.set_from_stock(gtk.STOCK_ADD,gtk.ICON_SIZE_BUTTON)
button.set_image(image)
button.set_label("button 1")
button.connect("clicked", self.callback, "button 1")
button.show()

(courtesy: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/2188659/stock-icons-not-shown-on-buttons)

Audiobooks on the iPod

Librivox is amazing. You can find some excellent books that you can listen to, when you just don’t have the energy to read. Now, like a podcast, when you’re listening to an audiobook, you may want to stop in the middle and resume your listening at a later time. If you’ve got an iPod and are ok with using iTunes, that’s pretty straightforward. You can download either the m4b or the mp3s and join them to make an audiobook. If you’re on linux you run into several issues.

First, what’s an m4b? It’s just like an m4a which has been renamed (one solution) or you can look at the wikipedia article here to find out more. The cool thing about it is that you can have chapters, just like those in your books, for audio, and all of those can be in one file. Additionally, when you listen to an audiobook on the ipod it saves your last position, so even if you ran out of juice or decided to take a break, you can always get back to where you were. So, a very useful format indeed.

Now, on linux, I know of no one who has a working version of iTunes on WINE. The only option is to install it in a virtual windows machine. Sucks. And I do want to get away from iTunes. So, the problems faced are:

  1. Convert your mp3s to a m4b audiobook
  2. Load those onto the iPod.

I researched the first for a long long while (2 weeks on and off) and then kicked myself when I stumbled across m4baker in the debian stable repository!! What could be easier? You can download it here if you’re on linux – in case it’s not in your repository. If you’re not on linux, well you can easily use iTunes, can’t you? 🙂

Loading it onto the iPod – I’ve got a gen5 classic (video iPod – see? All the stuff you learn when you use Linux. I wouldn’t have to think about this otherwise). Tried using Rhythmbox, and gtkpod (crashed repeatedly) to copy the file over. It copied fine. BUT – and that’s the killer – it did not have the bookmark function. At first I scratched my head and wondered if it was a format issue. That kept me busy for a few days, but then I figured I’d move it over with iTunes. I did and the file worked just fine… so after much fiddling, I figured it was Apple. They’re just messing around. I tried looking for software on linux that’d help. Nothing. So, I was stuck with two options – a) Change the genre to a podcast (which I know would work) or b) use iTunes to transfer the file over – which sucks!

I’m trying out option 3. Install Rockbox onto your iPod and get rid of Apple’s software. 🙂 And the best part about Rockbox? Actually there are 2 good things:

  1. Installation is a breeze – I mean it. I couldn’t believe it was installed when it was!
  2. You can dualboot it. So you can have Rockbox and you can have the iOS, coexisting on your iPod. And switching betweem then couldn’t be easier.

And I realized something. The Apple iPod’s been hacked like mad and I think that works in Apple’s favor. The Zune was built way too securely, and look where it is now… anyone heard of it? Lessons to learn…