Happy Benjamin Britten Day!

The thumbnail at the left will tell those in the know where I have spent the past day: it’s the beach at Aldeburgh, in Suffolk. It was the home of Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears for about 20 years from the late 1950s on.

The reason for the visit now? Well, today is 22nd November, which is St. Cecilia’s Day (Cecilia being the Patron Saint of Music). It also happens to be Benjamin Britten’s birthday! Coincidence? I think not!! [...] 

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Minisforum UM250 Thermals

Stock picture of a Minisforum UM250 small form factor PC

About a month ago, as I wrote at the time, I stopped using my 2012-vintage PC and once again started using the Minisforum UM250 small form factor PC you see at the left as my main PC. I had tried once before (back in May), but had been put off by the tendency of the Minisforum to crash or have strange graphical glitches. Second time was mostly a charm, however: the use of Kubuntu, rather than Arch or Manjaro, seems to have calmed the beast down to the point where it didn’t crash and didn’t do weird things with screen drawing.

I’ve accordingly been using the Minisforum UM250 very happily for a month or so. It doesn’t have the memory heft of my old PC (that had 96GB of ECC RAM; this only has 16GB of ordinary stuff!) and its CPU, though a shiny (but not-so-new) AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 2500U, doesn’t seem to have the raw power of my former Intel Xeon CPU E5-2680 v2: despite dating from 2013, its 20 threads seem to easily outpace the Minisforum’s mere 8. [...] 

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Where we’re at…

I thought maybe a ‘year in review’ as regards to listening to music might be in order. It has been almost a year since I wrote and started using the ‘Absolutely Baching Music Player’ or AMP, beginning on January 9th 2021. On June 1st, AMP was superseded by Giocoso. But, using one or the other, I’ve been playing my music in more-or-less randomised form for the best part of a year.

I say ‘more or less’, because -by means of Giocoso’s run-time switches- I’ve been tweaking and influencing what ‘random’ means. For example, when I started playing things in Giocoso on 1st June, it turned out that some 87% of my music collection was listed as having not been played in either player. That is, AMP or Giocoso between them only had records of having played a mere 13% of my music collection. [...] 

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News from Niente

Today, I’m releasing Version 2.0 of my Niente FLAC integrity-testing tool. It comes about 4 months after version 1.0 was made available -and during those 4 months I’ve spent a lot more time focussed on PC migrations and cataloguing my backlog of new music acquisitions than on checking the internal integrity of my existing music files (which is never a wise trade-off!) But hopefully that explains the distinct lack of updates to Niente in all that time: I was barely paying it any attention at all, to be honest.

Had I been doing so, however, I would have swiftly realised that whatever medication I was taking at the time of the Version 1.0 release (and I think at this point I’m going to blame the Covid vaccine; or Aspirin; or something!), it was having serious effects on my coding abilities! Because, putting it bluntly, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks reviewing the code and wondering what on Earth I thought I was doing releasing it at all, since it was total rubbish, to the point where if you didn’t run it with the ––force switch, it barely did anything functional[...] 

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Giocoso on [K]ubuntu

Back in April of this year, as I mentioned previously, I bought myself a new Minisforum UM250 small-form-factor PC. The experiment with using it with Arch and/or Manjaro proved less than successful -so I reverted back to my vintage 2012 PC and retired the UM250 back to its box, in which it has sat ever since, on one of the bookshelves in my study.

Around June of this year (I think), I happened to be laid up in bed (after one of my Covid-19 vaccine shots) and was thus using an old laptop for browsing the web. It was a 2016-vintage Dell of some bog-standard sort. But way-back-when, I had installed multiple operating systems on it, so I could boot into Windows 10, Ubuntu 18.x and Manjaro as and when I chose… and I happened to notice that the laptop’s fan noise was considerably worse when booted into Manjaro than it was if I booted into Ubuntu. I can’t remember if it was any worse or better in Windows, but it struck me at the time that in the presence of laptop-style hardware, Ubuntu seemed to have a better lid on thermal management than Manjaro did. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not -or, if it is, why that might be. But if made me think that if I had conducted my earlier Minisforum experiment with Ubuntu (or one of its derivative flavours) rather than with Arch or Manjaro, maybe it would have run more quietly too, and thus the outcome might have been happier all round. [...] 

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Worst Transition Ever!

This website is brought to you from a server in my loft. It’s been that way for over a year now, I think. That is only possible, of course, because my Internet Service Provider provides a reasonably-fast, robust connection with a static IP address. For the past 18 months, Vodafone has provided such a service, for around £24 a month, using Fibre-to-the-Cabinet technology. That means that whilst Vodafone provides fibre connections to a green box/cabinet half-way up my street, the ‘last mile’ connection to my home is in the form of a fairly standard phone line, using DSL technology.

It’s certainly been robust and reasonably cheap -and whilst the speed has been adequate, it’s never been great. Downloads have usually maxed out at around 1.4MBps (Megabytes per second), with uploads at around 1MBps. Not great, but just about sufficient. [...] 

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A Musical Guessing Game?

I don’t know about you, but if I tune into the radio randomly as a piece of classical music is playing, I then like to test myself and see if I can guess the composer of the piece before the announcer returns to give away the crucial information. I’ll maybe even try guessing the name of the piece, if I’m feeling particularly confident. Once or twice, I’ve even gone for a guess as to who the conductor or soloist might be: those ones usually don’t pan out so well, but I’m pretty good with composers and not so bad at the piece-names.

Anyway: I’ve been using Giocoso since June 2021 (and AMP for six months before that) to play all my classical music and thus have built up a ‘listening history’ of some 6000+ recordings in just over 9 months, as you can see from the bottom of my ‘all time graphs’ listening history page. And since Giocoso says I’ve listened to all those pieces of music, I ought to be able to recognise them when I hear selections from them again, right? [...] 

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Giocoso Bug-fix for Dual Screen Setups

Another small bug-fix, this time to Giocoso.

It was occasioned by my switching away from using a 4K TV as my monitor and replacing it with two 1920×1200 monitors in a dual-screen setup. Since I had never used a dual screen display before, I had not realised that when Giocoso is asked to display album art as a new recording plays, it would break when confronted with the decision as to which monitor it would display the art on! [...] 

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ISO-handling Bug Fixes

If you rip SACDs to ISO files, which I’ve previously documented how to do, you will subsequently need to be able to split the ISOs out into separate FLAC files, in order to catalogue and tag them properly. If you do, you need to be aware of a couple of bug-fixes that have recently been made to the AUAC script and associated software.

The usual approach I take is to break apart an ISO is to issue the command: auac -i=iso. But that recently failed to work correctly, and here’s why. [...] 

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Another Giocoso Update

Just when I thought I’d got away with not having to do lots of updates to Giocoso, I found another bug in the Stats report. This time, it’s a really silly one, based on a flawed piece of selection logic in the program’s code.

The short version is: the Stats report was computing the number of things that have yet to be played by looking for composition names known to exist, but which haven’t yet been recorded as played. That *almost* works (because we’re talking about the ‘extended composition name’, which therefore includes the actual composition name, plus the ‘significant artist’ making the recording, plus the year of recording… so that combo is fairly unique). But it’s not perfect, under edge cases I won’t bore you with. [...] 

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Giocoso – First Update

Somewhat annoyingly, I just discovered an error in Giocoso’s ––stats reporting function. It’s not a particularly terrible one: more a question of labelling the various numbers.

The stats report shows how many recordings you’ve got that last for various ‘time bands’ (i.e., 0 to 5 minutes long, 5 to 10 minutes long and so on). One of the bands said ’10 to 30 minutes’… but the actual query  submitted to the Giocoso database was querying for durations between 600 seconds and 1200 seconds. [...] 

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Giocoso – A New Randomising FLAC Player

Today, I’m announcing the initial release of Giocoso, the randomising FLAC player for Linux, which is a replacement for my old AMP program. Giocoso is built on much the same code-base as AMP, but with quite a few changes. The most significant differences between Giocoso and AMP are, probably:

  • AMP scrobbled by default and had to be told not to; Giocoso does not scrobble by default, and has to be told to do so if it’s required.
  • AMP scrobbling required the installation and running of a separate ‘amp-scrobbler’ script. Giocoso uses no external functionality to scrobble: it’s all built-in to the main program.
  • AMP had acquired a bunch of ‘statistical overrides’ (such as ––levelup, ––xlevelup and ––xxlevelup); those are now gone from Giocoso.
  • AMP could only apply ––minduration and ––maxduration filters after selecting something to play. This could result in a significant pause before stumbling across something randomly selected that happened to have the correct duration. Giocoso now knows the durations of pieces from the get-go, so duration-based selections are done successfully within fractions of a second.
  • AMP only displayed album art; when Giocoso displays album art, it adds a ‘caption’ to it, with its text derived from the ALBUM tag of the music being played: the album art can therefore now visually provide you with all information about what, precisely, is being played.

There are lots of other differences, detailed in Appendix A of Giocoso’s User Manual, which is available for download on Giocoso’s new product page[...] 

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