Choppy Waters...

I find myself in a bit of a pickle of my own devising!

Back at the start of the year, I acquired a nice, new server and stuck TrueNAS on it (an 'appliance variant' of FreeBSD, run through a web interface). I then migrated this website off a Linux server I've used since 2014 or thereabouts and installed it into a FreeBSD 'jail' running on that machine (FreeBSD jails being that operating system's equivalent of KVM on Linux or Hyper-V on Windows: the OS's 'native', built-in and free virtualisation technology. As can be told from the fact that you're reading these words now, it's pretty obvious that everything converted across nicely and has been running well ever since. So, what's the issue? [...] 

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Service Interruption!

A couple of months ago, I bought an old 27" iMac and installed it with Endeavour OS (an Arch Linux derivative) as its operating system. All has been fine since: Linux doesn't understand how to do the iMac's 5K screen resolution, but has no problem with the hardware otherwise and the 4K resolution I'm currently using is a delight. I've never previously used anything higher than 1980x1200, so 3840x2160 has been a (literally!) eye-opening experience. I'm never going back to 'standard high res' after this, anyway. Short version is, therefore: Apple make gorgeous hardware and an appalling operating system, but at least with Intel Macs, you can have the hardware with a sensible operating system after all!

Unfortunately, just last Thursday I attempted to install ZFS on the PC and although the installation seemed to work fine, rebooting the computer resulted in a 'no boot disk found' error state. I thought perhaps the internal SSD had failed, which would have been an expensive thing to fix... but, booting a live distro from a USB stick, the internal SSD was there, present and correct. Clearly, I had mangled its 'bootability' somehow, however, and rather than faff around with a bazillion possible fixes, I decided to wipe and re-install. [...] 

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Giocoso Version 3.06 Released

A new release of Giocoso has been made available, fixing a recently-discovered minor, but annoying, bug. This brings the current version of Giocoso up to 3.06.

The bug was that if you used any of the non-default methods of selecting music to play from the Play Music menu (such as Option 2, where you specify filters to control the selection, or Option 5, where a playlist is used to determine what to play and in what order), the number of 'selections' to be played would be remembered if you halted those non-default plays early and then switched to using Option 1's 'play music with defaults' menu option. For example: take Option 2 and say 'play only music that lasts less than 10 minutes': maybe that will generate a list of things to be played that numbers 1345. After playing 4 things from that list, you interrupt the play (by issuing an Autostop request, for example) but do not quit Giocoso. Then you take Play Music option 1: the default, randomised selection of music now takes place... but Giocoso will still declare that there are 1345 items to be played (the top right-hand corner will display something like 'Selection 1 of 1345'). That's because it's a bug of omission: the default play method didn't explicitly set the limit on plays, so if another play option did, the default play method was stuck using that number of selections. [...] 

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Reaching the limits

The graph at the left tells a tale! The context for that tale is that since June 3rd 2021, I've been using Giocoso to play (almost exclusively) only those recordings which have not previously been recorded as having been played, in an attempt to ensure that by the time I come to kick the bucket, I can say, hand-on-heart, that I've listened to every recording I ever bought. On the one hand, the tale is of good news: the graph shows that only 7.1% of my entire collection has not yet been played by Giocoso. So, I've played around 93% of it, which is pretty good going.

It's even better going when you consider that for much of the time since June 2021, I've had time restrictions on my plays: in other words, I've told Giocoso 'play unplayed recordings that last less than 20 minutes' or something similar. As a result, I haven't listened to Wagner's Ring cycle with Giocoso, but I know for certain I've played those recordings multiple, multiple times in the years before 2021. Which is to say: even the 7.1% I haven't 'officially' played contains substantial chunks of recorded music which I know I've played using different tools... so the amount of my collection which is truly unplayed is significantly less than 7%. [...] 

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Work in Progress: Semplice Version 2

It's finally time to mention what I've been up to for the past couple of months: re-writing Semplice, my digital music file manager. It's the tool that lets you tag your FLACs, volume boost them, merge them into 'SuperFLACs' (and split them back out into per-track FLACs if you prefer), convert them into MP3s or most other audio formats, analyse them to make sure they're really high resolution FLACs, and much more besides.

To be honest, I didn't think there was a lot wrong with the original version of Semplice (currently sitting at version 1.02). There wasn't a huge amount of functionality that was missing, in other words: it was more that the user interface was a bit klunky and old-fashioned, particularly in light of the user interface advances I'd implemented when developing Giocoso Version 3. So, Semplice Version 2 was going to be more of a user interface refresh than anything else... but, as I suspected it would, mission creep has resulted in a few additions to Semplice functionality that it turns out I'm rather fond of! [...] 

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Giocoso Tips

I just thought I'd show you how I run Giocoso on my main desktop these days: see the screenshot at the left.

That's just a picture of KDE's default terminal, Konsole, running in 'split view' mode. Open Konsole, click the Split View button at the top of the program area to obtain the drop-down menu and from that select Split View Left/Right[...] 

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Further Giocoso News

Version 3.04 of Giocoso has just been released. It's a small bug fix and a minor addition.

Dealing with the bug fix first: Giocoso has always checked that, if you say you're using a database called (say), classical_music.db, a file of that name actually exists in the appropriate folder on your hard disk. If it didn't (perhaps because you hadn't created it yet!), it would display a nice error message and quit cleanly. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me, some database commands cause sqlite to create a zero byte file of the right name which isn't, internally, a database. That means Giocoso's file check passes, because a file of the right name exists. However, that means Giocoso goes on to query it for music to play -and since the file is just a blank file, those queries fail horribly: [...] 

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Is AccurateRip Accurate?

I mentioned last time that when ripping an audio CD to digital files, it's important to know that this optical drive reads the first audio sample from (say) sample 103, whereas that optical drive reads the same first audio sample from sample 6. The inability to precisely and accurately read the first audio sample from, er... the first audio sample is, unfortunately, inherent in the design of the audio CD standard in the first place (which has no absolute positioning information encoded in the data stream) and in the vagaries of hardware manufacturing, where tolerances vary between manufacturers, designs and even batches of the same design by the same manufacturer!

On the whole, however, a given optical device product will be consistent about its failings. If one specific ASUS DRW-20B1 device reads its first sample from actual sample -6, then you can be fairly sure that almost all ASUS DRW-20B1's will do the same thing. You can therefore build up a database of known optical device models with a record of what their read positioning errors are -and this is exactly what the AccurateRip database of CD drive offsets is. Knowing these 'offset corrections', you can then tell your device to read (say) sample 103 knowing that this will actually make it read sample 0 (computers usually start counting at zero!), which means you now know you're actually reading the correct 'start of audio'. Thus, once you know the read offset that applies to each make of optical drive, then the same audio CD can be read from the same absolute starting position in the audio signal no matter which make of drive is doing the reading. AccurateRip therefore lets you produce consistent rips with different optical drives, because applying the read offsets always ensures each drive can read the start of the audio data on the CD correctly. The story of me doing precisely this (once my code was correct and tools like EAC and dbPowerAMP were configured correctly!) is what my last blog post was all about, after all. [...] 

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Ripping Yarns

Down the rabbit hole we go! I wanted to rip a new CD I purchased recently, shown at the left, of the reconstructed Elgar 3rd Symphony. Prestoclassical had the physical CD listed at £5.75, where the FLAC download was £8.04 -which, by the by, is a very oddly specific number!- so I went for the physical product rather than the digital download because I'm a cheapskate! Physical product is rather unusual for me these days, though. So I then had to rip the purchased CD to FLAC files myself -and that's where the fun started! Bear with me as I set the scene...

My desktop PC doesn't have an optical drive, so I use USB-connected ones when I need to. I have two: a DVD-ROM (i.e., reader only) that identifies as a TEAC; and a DVD-RW (reader/burner) that identifies as an HP device. So I ripped the Elgar with each drive in turn, using my own somewhat unloved CCDR program. Out of interest, I then checked the MD5 sums per ripped file (essentially, the digital fingerprint of the audio component of each file), using the command metaflac --show-md5sum "filename" and... they were different, depending on which optical drive they'd been ripped with! [...] 

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Cataloguing Schubert Symphonies

Schubert's symphonies are surprisingly tricky things to catalogue correctly, although as someone who hasn't exactly been been a huge a fan of the man or his works, it's taken me quite a long time to realise the extent of the problem!

I noticed it today, though, as Giocoso decided to randomly select Schubert for a couple of plays: [...] 

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