Tag Archives: Linux

RHEL is never right

Okay it has been known for a while, but I just recently found out so I figure I should help put the light on a recent hilarious article published in the Red Hat Magazine: It is never correct to abbreviate “Red Hat Enterprise Linux” as “RHEL”. (That’s actually not the correct title of the article, but the correct title is so ridiculously long I won’t paste it here since it’d take everyone’s breaths away.)

According to this article, RHEL is “never correct” as an abbrivation for Redhat Enterprise Linux – even though Google finds almost 2 million pages mentioning it, and the top search result it shows links to www.redhat.com/rhel/. Limiting the search to within redhat.com gives more than 52,000 hits.

Some people complicate matters more than others…

Audacious it is!


Based on suggestions from friends I did ‘apt-get install audacious‘ and gave it a go. It certainly looks very similar to xmms and it also provides the same simple features I like and use when it comes to music playback on my computer.

Audacious logo

While I’m really not bothering much about looks of software and my computer desktop in general, the default skin in Audacious really is quite awful. But really, mosts skins for winamp and xmms that (rather nicely) work for this player are just graphics-crammed overworked stuff so finding a “bare” and “simple” skin that looks nice isn’t that easy.

I just settled with one that looks a bit better than the default.

Distros Going Their Own Way

Lemme take the opportunity to express my serious dislike about a particular habit in the open source world, frequently seen performed by various distros (and by distro I then mean in the wider sense, not limited to only Linux distros):

They fix problems by patching code in projects they ship/offer, but they don’t discuss the problem upstream and they don’t ship their patch upstream. In fact, in one particular case in a project near to me (make a guess!) I’ve even tried to contact the patch author(s) over the years but they’ve never responded so even though I know of their patch, I can’t get anyone to explain to me why they think they need it…

So hello hey you packagers working on distros! When you get a bug report that clearly is a problem with the particular tool/project and that isn’t really a problem with your particular distro’s way of doing things, please please please forward it upstream or at least involve the actual project team behind the tool in the discussions around the bug and possible solutions. And if you don’t do that, the very least you should do is to make sure the patches you do and apply are forwarded upstream to the project team.

How else are we gonna be able to improve the project if you absorb the bug reports and you keep fixes hidden? That’s not a very open source’ish attitude, methinks.

Recent example that triggered this post.

File Based Music Players Going Extinct?

Ok, I have a range of various hardware players that run Rockbox that can play all the music I have in my stored collection. But when I’m in front of my Linux box I prefer using the computer to play the music,my 4 rockbox targets not only because then I can select from all my music (that don’t fit on most of my players) and I have quick and easy access to changing the volume or skipping to the next song etc.

Here’s the thing: I use xmms for this (and I want to mention explictly that I don’t mean xmms2). I know this will make most of you reading this go what? and then suggest a billion other players. I know xmms is pretty much abandoned developer-wise and it doesn’t do gapless playback and has all sort of other drawbacks (including the silly winamp-mimicing GUI). I’ve seen that it’s even been discussed to get dumped from the debian packages (although people similar-minded to me spoke up and prevented this).

xmms screenshotI want a simple player with a GUI that can play songs from a mere directory. I want to point out a root dir and it could play all songs in there recursively. I’ve tried several different players over time, but I always go back to this simple xmms one simply for the reason that all the new and fancy players seem to be so focused on getting the music into a database and then arranging and viewing it all based on their tags and what not. I really really don’t want no database or anything, I just want my player to play everything in the dir I ask it to. And I want it to be available in a debian package preferably.

Any recommendations?

uclinux is weird

I do a lot of work on various types of embedded systems. Professionally I’ve been working more or less exclusively with embedded development since 1996 (pSOS, VxWorks, OS9000, etc) and privately I hack a lot on Rockbox. The embedded work of mine has grown to become pure Linux-based since around the year 2000.

I’ve worked with (embedded) Linux on more than 10 different chip families, using cores such as x86, AMD64, ARM9, StrongARM, XScale, PPC, MIPS, SH4, m68k, MicroBlaze, Nios II etc.

And this is what I’ve learned: uClinux is weird.

I’ll of course admit that the fact that uclinux is currently more or less integrated into the regular kernel development is a good thing and all, and even though I haven’t done much uclinux hacking with older kernels I bet things were worse before.

The problem with uClinux that I think is the major obstacle is their build system. Oh wait, perhaps the problem is actually two: the first being that they ship as an entire distribution with kernel and tools and stuff all lumped together instead of doing it like all the other embedded (real) Linuxes do: assume that people fix their kernel in one go and the entire rest of the user-land universe in a separate tree.

Anyway, what’s the actual problem is the build system. There’s no scattered Kconfig files that you’d expect if you based a build on that concept, and it is really hard to figure out where to poke to change a build to do what you want. Then, there’s a top-level make that take ages and runs through all sorts of hoops even when there’s nothing at all changed. Not to mention that it alerts about make -j “sometimes not working”. In a recent project of mine I learned that I usually had to run make twice(!) in the uclinux-dist directory to be really sure that the output image was correctly made!

Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to dig into this issue properly to work on or suggest proper fixes but I hope that I will one day. Of course a factor in all this is that many people (like the entire embedded Linux universe) use very old versions of the packages so fixes can have been made in the recent years(!) without them having yet get absorbed at many companies.

So the truth is: I do recommend customers to go “full”, “real” Linux not only for the powers a real MMU gives but also for the more mature and nicer build environments.

3gp movies on Debian

Sony Ericsson w580iI recently shot a little video with my phone (SE w580i) and when I copied it over to my Debian Linux box I of course immediately realized I had no video players that would show a 3GP film. Or rather, they all showed it but none of them played the sound! It seems the phone uses the ‘amr_nb‘ codec for audio, which is a non-free thing that my “Debian unstable” players (not very surprisingly) don’t have built-in support for…

Anyway, if you close your eyes for the problems with closed proprietary evil, I got pointed to the cool site www.debian-multimedia.org and then I could add the following line to my /etc/apt/sources.list

deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org unstable main

… and do a plain plain “apt-get update” and “apt-get dist-upgrade” and wham, my mplayer could now show the 3gp video with sound.Film and Sound icon

The only slightly quirk remaining is that I didn’t manage to transcode the movie with audio nicely with mencode, but I didn’t really spend enough time to figure out why.

Plenty Pointless Printer Processes

I recently got a new printer for my home network. My old Epson Photo 870 printer with a D-Link Ethernet-to-parallel port printer server thing suddenly died one day not too long ago.

HP Photosmart C6180I opted for a solution with native Ethernet support that could also work as a copier and scanner so that those (even though rather rarely needed) functions would also be dealt with nicely. (In fact fax too, but I can’t think I’ll ever use that so I haven’t bothered to connect it to the phone system.) I went with the HP C6180 thing, since seemed like a nice setup for a fairly low price. Even though I don’t necessarily plan to print to it from my Linux hosts, I did read some positive reviews about it when used from Linux with CUPS so that was another point talking for this particular model. The printer even has wifi support but I’m using wired Ethernet since it is faster and I have the printer standing next to my wifi router anyway. Also, having scanner supported would mean I can finally put away my 7 year old USB scanner that I’ve been lugging out to use on occasion.

Sometimes (or is it often?) we get to hear that the printer situation on Linux is horrible or at least far from perfect, and while I agree with that I find the situation on Windows horrible – but for entirely different reasons

I followed the printer’s user manual on how to install it on Anja‘s (my wife’s) laptop that runs Windows XP, by inserting the CD and clicking “yes – over Ethernet” etc and it went on and and installed. And wow, did it get installed!

It brought four new icons to the desktop and after the lengthy process was at the end there were at least ten new processes running in the system and for some reason they actually made an impact and the system felt slower! I had to go on a kill frenzy to clear up the worst mess. The amazing part is that even though I killed every single process starting with “HP”, everything still worked exactly like I wanted. And with “msconfig” I could also prevent some of the worst stuff to start again at next reboot… (This kind of behavior is sadly not specific for printers-only on Windows…)

I did have some initial quirks with the printer, until I set it to use a fixed IP address. I’m not sure it really had something to do with it, but I wanted fixed IP anyway and the problems seemed to vanish.

Sony Ericsson w580i on Windows

Sony Ericsson w580iI have a fairly new phone, the Sony Ericsson w580i and I think it is a neat little thing.

I’ve been using it as a usb-storage device at home under Linux without any problems, and I’ve pretty much filled my extra 4GB M2 card with music from my collection.

Today I decided to try to get a picture from my phone to my work PC (which is running… eh, Windows XP) and guess if I’m up to a shock: it doesn’t talk to the phone. It claims it can’t find any drivers for it and for some reason it doesn’t just go for usb-storage (even though we know now that it is OHCI compatible – at least).

Crap. On the Sony Ericsson site they offer the Sony Ericsson PC Suite 2.10.38 (for Windows Vista/XP) which is a whopping 44.8 megabytes! And all I want is to access my phone as UMS. Grrrr.

Once installed, I can access the phone fine but now I get that bonus popup annoyance windows that repeatedly asks me if I want to reboot the computer so that the new stuff can take effect…