Wonderful Things...

Last Tuesday, myself and Mark drove off at the crack of dawn from Nottingham, en route to my favourite place in the Universe... Aldeburgh.

We had an appointment with someone at 1pm, which I'll get to. But I never like to leave things until the last moment, so I insisted we leave at 6AM, which meant -with a break for a cooked breakfast- we ended up arriving in Aldeburgh at 10.30, rather earlier than anticipated! [...] 

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Tentative Steps...

As regular readers will probably know, I'm a bit of a Linux fan: I first installed it in about 1997, with horrible results (no mouse, no network, no graphics, no printer... pretty typical for the time, I think!) I was using Red Hat 8 and 9 (the last desktop distros produced by that company, not the Enterprise Server version they make today) in around 1999/2000. My main laptop was using Fedora 18 or so in 2012. My main desktop used to oscillate back-and-forth between Windows and assorted Linux distros on a monotonously regular basis -but, around 2015, with the advent of Windows 8, I decided to ditch Windows completely. I then did the usual distro hop around the likes of Ubuntu, Fedora and Mint before finally settling down with Manjaro KDE, which (with occasional lapses in other directions) I've been with for years now.

I still maintain Windows virtual machines -and, indeed, the Other Half's PC is resolutely Windows 10 to this day, since there appears to be a general reluctance to ditch the likes of Adobe Photoshop for photograph management from that direction! [...] 

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More Pi(e)!

Giocoso has had its version number bumped again, this time to Version 1.13. The new version is not needed for anyone with an existing functioning version, but includes new software detection code allowing Giocoso to be successfully installed on the Raspberry Pi when it's running Manjaro. Giocoso was previously tested as working correctly on Raspbian (basically, Debian on Raspberry Pi and sometimes called Raspberry Pi OS), but not on the many other distros and operating systems that can be run on the Pi. I don't have the time (nor the inclination!) to test all those OS/Distro/Pi combinations, but I do run Manjaro as my main desktop (on an Intel processor), so I was naturally curious about how it would run on the Pi (OK, as it turns out!) and thus discovered by accident that Giocoso's detection of ImageMagick on that platform was faulty.

Anyway, it's fixed now. [...] 

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Foreign Character Woes...

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, I recently re-installed Manjaro on a new small form factor Lenovo PC. All has been running well, except that in the last couple of days I noticed that Giocoso had developed a strange habit of not displaying "accented characters" properly: that is, Giocoso suddenly didn't seem able to display letters with their correct diacritic marks, such as é, ê, ß, ö, ç and so on.

For example, this is what Giocoso displayed this morning: [...] 

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Emby Episode 4

To recap the story so far: I organise my music on disk in a Composer/Genre/Composition hierarchy. I sometimes play music via the Emby Media Server. Emby does not, however, really support a Composer/Genre/Composition hierarchy, tending to go directly from Composer to Composition. Fortunately, if you use Folders view, Emby will mirror your physical layout of files and folders on disk exactly. But -and this is the point we reached in the last post- Composer artwork you may have applied to Emby's Artist View doesn't display in the Folders view... but, if you arrange for JPGs of each composer to be present in each composer folder, named precisely the same as the folder, it will display composer artwork in Folders view automatically.

This gets us 90% of the way to a usable Emby interface -but, unfortunately, it leaves us with some fairly ugly display screens to wade through on the way to finding a particular piece of music to play. [...] 

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Fixing Emby

To begin with, a bit of a recap of the past two blog pieces.

I began this mini-series by reiterating the way I catalogue my music. Fundamentally, it's just organised in Composer/Genre/Composition order. Then, in the second episode, I explained how I used Emby Media Server to share my music around the house, to the car and to overseas hotel rooms... but that Emby didn't honour the cataloguing hierarchy I'd adopted, but instead simply displayed things in Composer/Composition order, missing out the Genre. This was a failing I could live with, though, since Emby isn't the main way I listen to music. [...] 

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A word about Emby

Sometimes, it takes someone asking a question to make you realise you've been doing something dumb for quite a long time! This post will tell the story of one such question, realisation and (most importantly) the fix! So, my thanks to Jeff in advance for having asked the question that made me realise I've been doing Emby wrong all these years!

But first, of course, I have to explain what 'Emby' is! Well, it's a mostly-free, but not open source, media server. You install it on a spare computer and it catalogues whatever media files you point it at. They can be music, photographs or videos -so Emby can manage a collection of movies or photo albums as well as a large classical music collection. By the power of networking, this Emby server makes the assorted media it knows about available to any other device that you can point at it. These Emby clients can be nothing more complex than a web browser, but they can also be dedicated apps, available for all sorts of operating systems and devices. To put it as simply as I can, then, Emby lets my carefully-curated music collection be accessed from a phone in a car; or from a laptop in a Polish hotel when I'm on holiday; or from a new Android tablet I might be using when score-reading in the garden. [...] 

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Putting it simply...

A reader recently got in touch to ask about my Axioms of Classical Tagging article, giving me the strong impression that my article makes it all sound too hard to tag things correctly... and I think he may have been right on that score! So I thought I'd simplify that article here, reducing its long, discursive justification of things to a few simple principles. If you want to understand why things should be as I'm about to spell it out, read the full article. For a short-cut guide to tagging correctly, however... read on!

There are just three basic principles to grasp from the outset, namely: [...] 

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Autopilot Scores

An autopilot, says Wikipedia, is a system used to control the path of an aircraft, car, marine craft or spacecraft without requiring constant manual control by a human operator. Autopilots do not replace human operators. Instead, the autopilot assists the operator's control of the vehicle, allowing the operator to focus on broader aspects of operations (for example, monitoring the trajectory, weather and on-board systems).

In that spirit, I've long wanted to produce 'autopilot full scores': that is, full scores of orchestral or choral works which have controls that allow swift and accurate navigation by the reader through the score, without requiring constant manual (and maniacal) page-turning whenever a repeat or a jump is called for. They won't replace the reader's intervention completely, but they should be able to let the reader focus on more important things than mere score navigation -like, the spectacular nature of the orchestration being employed by the composer or the economy with which the composer achieves a particular effect or other. [...] 

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"Automated" Music Score Navigation

In a mad fit of recent birthday spending, I decided to shell out rather more than I'd intended on a new Android tablet -the one you can see at the left. It's a "Chuwi HiPad Plus", which isn't a name you're likely to find tripping off the lips of many any time soon, I think! It is, however, readily available from Amazon UK.

The reason for the purchase? Well: I like listening to my music whilst following along with a full score. I have a bookcase full of such orchestral and operatic scores, and I find that seeing the music as you listen to it very helpful for drawing your attention to this or that nuance of orchestration. Trouble is, orchestral scores are fiendishly expensive to buy new... which is why I've long made a habit of trying to buy them second-hand when possible! Even el-cheapo second-hand scores, however, have a tendency to be very big and very heavy, and not something that's trivially easy to hold whilst listening to music in your favourite comfy chair! [...] 

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Target Achieved!

Back on 5th November, I wrote about how I was steadily listening to more and more of my previously-unplayed (in Giocoso, at least!) recordings. With some graphing and a line or two of best-fit, I predicted I might get to the 50%-unplayed mark by about "December 3rd or 4th" -though with some uncertainties around Benjamin Britten Day and the ever-constant acquisition of new recordings, maybe causing that date to blow out a bit.

Well, the graph at the left tells you the original prediction was fairly accurate after all: the 50% unplayed/50% played mark was finally achieved late on November 30th. [...] 

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