Saturday, September 27, 2008

DRM: Digital Remorse Management

So you played by the rules. You purchased your music through Wal-Mart's DRM service. Guess what, you just lost by playing fairly. This isn't right, but it is indicative of what DRM really means to consumers. It's one of the reasons why I still buy CDs...

See Boing Boing 9/26/08:
Beginning October 9, we [Wal-Mart] will no longer be able to assist with digital rights management issues for protected WMA files purchased from Walmart.com. If you do not back up your files before this date, you will no longer be able to transfer your songs to other computers or access your songs after changing or reinstalling your operating system or in the event of a system crash. Your music and video collections will still play on the originally authorized computer.
Nothing lasts forever but the earth & sky...

Don't count on it...

Update: Wal-Mart has a change of heart and reinstates their DRM servers "for the present time."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Reviewer's Notes

I always feel trepidation when it comes to "reviewing" someone else's work. Music particularly.

If I throw out my thoughts about the songs on an album should each song be compared against the others on that particular album or should they be viewed individually without reference to the others? On my last review here (Out of It), I did the first--stacking each song up against the others on the album. How would it come out using the other method without that kind of comparison? I tend to think that I would have generalized that they were all very well done and that I liked all of them. The fact is though, I liked some better then others, and I think that's OK.

It's all totally subjective anyway. And what's worse is the fact that an opinion can change from one day to the next depending on the mood you're in and how a song hits you at a particular moment. That's the nature of the art form I suppose.

Not that my opionion amounts to anything anyway, but since I have the temerity to put something up for anyone in the world to see, I want to reflect my view (at that moment) accurately. I mean, it's easy if an album is really lame--you can say that in one line! LOL But when you get something of quality and you're trying to quantify it, it's not so cut & dry.

One liners would be a lot easier in either case but probably not very helpful:
  • This album rocks, you'll love it!
  • This album is hideous, don't waste your time!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Review: Out of It

Out of It by Brad Sucks

Firstly, I am a huge fan of I Don't Know What I'm Doing so I had very high expectations for Out of It. I was not disappointed.

The progression in the quality of production from the first album to Out of It is immediately apparent. Much improved. (Note: I am listening to the 128k mp3 tracks. Bet the sound on the CD is superb!)

Unfortunately (IMO), this album lost to the Loudness War. It is brick walled mastered (you can learn all about it at Turn Me Up!), and according to Audacity it's clipping--fortunately you don't notice it (at least I don't). Unlike the totally unacceptable horrendous clipping all over the place on Metallica's new album, Death Magnetic. Death Magnetic contains some of the best music (and worst lyrics) Metallica has put out since ...And Justice for All but the sound quality is horrible. A real shame. Death Magnetic (according to rumors floating around on the net) was delivered to the mastering engineer in that state--what could he do? You can't remove clipping in post-production.

But I digress...

I don't see brick walling on the I Don't Know What I'm Doing tracks. What's up with that? New mastering engineer? Fortunately Out of It still sounds really good. I'm just really curious, what would it have sounded like if more dynamics had been left in the mix?

The drum sound & patterns are very good, my only complaint is the percussion is in your face on most of the tracks. The drums are just mixed too loud. Everything else seems to be mixed at levels complimentary to the songs--it's just that the drums can be a little overwhelming on some of the songs.

The acoustic guitar sounds superb and is used extensively throughout the album to great effect.

The electric guitar sounds pretty cool in my headphones (not iPod). Unfortunately they sound a little muddy in my car--what can ya do? It's probably my crappy stock car stereo. I should play it in my wife's car--much better sound system.

The lyrics make the songs of course. I just wonder what this fascination with dying & suicide is all about--metaphor, I'm sure (well, I hope anyway)? Artists?! Sometimes you just can't figure them out... Personally, as I was climbing my ladder yesterday to cut limbs from the tress, I was not amused at the thoughts of falling to my death, and I certainly wasn't interested in causing myself personal injury/death by intentionally jumping! (I hate heights enough as it is.) Can't make (or listen to) much music when your impaled on your fence. I'm sure I'm missing the point of some of the songs--still enjoy them.

The synth fills & bridges are tastefully done and add just the right touch to the songs. Effective and not overdone.

The musical arrangements are very well done and you can tell a lot of work and attention to detail were put into them. It all comes together into a really great album....

Dropping out of School **** (The intro was just right for the opening track, definitely. It moves you right from I Don't Know What I'm Doing into the new album. "The teachers are coming to jump you at recess", I guess they save the cop from being killed by "me and my friends... at recess." The hyper-compressed electric guitar is an, uh, interesting choice.)

Certain Death *** (Very cool intro. Nice I Don't Know What I'm Doing feel. "Certain Death, haven't had the heart to yet"? Lyrics, most of the time you have no idea what an artist is thinking! LOL)

Fake It *****(What can I say? It's got it all. The guitar tones are just right. The mix is right on. The lyrics and vocals rule. This song and Out of It are my favorites!)

Bad Sign ****(I really like the guitar parts, they fit the song just right. Nice mix, including the drums)

There's Something Wrong ***("Everybody says it's funny, but I can't say it seems very funny to me." Mix is good.)

Gasoline **("Every time we disagree there's a place you go to because I drove you there.")

Total Breakdown ****("You're gonna do what you want." Oh how true it is (sigh). Why do the vocals remind me of a rocking version of the Beach Boys?)

Understood by Your Dad ****(The drum pattern is awesome. Love how the chorus follows the guitar line. Really rocks.)

Out of It *****(I totally love this song!)

You're not Going Anywhere ***(Bold intro. Single track of vocals and it sounds great.)

Overall it comes in at a solid ****in my book.

I really like this album. It's professionally produced, original, catchy, interesting, very well done, and I highly recommend it!

I want Brad to produce my album!

A note from Brad's website (See the little logo below? if you don't know what Creative Commons licensing is, check it out. It's an artists best friend.):
please steal this cd

I'd appreciate it if you'd copy Out of It and share with your friends. High quality MP3s are also included on the CD if you'd like to send them around.


Updated 09/15/08

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Compressed To Death (Magnetic)

I would really like to know what Metallica's Death Magnetic sounded like before it was sent out for mastering.

It definitely lost (and lost badly) to the Loudness War.

I am listening to The Day That Never Comes right now (iTunes) and they've gone beyond the brick wall, the track is clipping all over the place. Everything is painfully compressed. Compressed to death.

Post-production blues aside, the singles: Cyanide, The Day That Never Comes, My Apocalypse prove Metallica can still rock with old-school fire!

Yes!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Where's GRUB?! Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server & RAID1

Where to begin? (I guess check out my previous post?)

First, my release to release upgrade to Ubuntu 8.04 LTS server was going along fairly well. The upgrade from Edgy (6.10) to Feisty (7.04) went fairly well, except that it dropped one of my drives from the RAID arrays—easily remedied. Just added the partitions back into their respective RAID devices.

Next up, time to move from Feisty (7.04) to Gutsy (7.10) and if all went well, the final move to Hardy Heron (8.04 LTS).

All did not go well in the upgrade from 7.04 to 7.10—although, I must admit here that most of it was my fault. This time I did the upgrade the "official" way.

Network upgrade for Ubuntu servers (recommended)

If you run an Ubuntu server, you should use the new server upgrade system.
  1. enable the "dapper-updates" repository
  2. install the new "update-manager-core" package - dependencies include python-apt, python-gnupginterface and python2.4-apt.
  3. run "sudo do-release-upgrade" in a terminal window
  4. follow the steps on the terminal window
This approach seemed to work just fine, and since my box is headless I even ran it over SSH without any issue (even with the warning that doing the upgrade over SSH is probably not ideal).

When I rebooted however the box had no network connectivity. ifconfig revealed only the lo interface. eth0 was gone. sudo lshw showed that the NIC was disabled for some reason. I finally tracked the problem down to /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules that had "updated" eth0 to eth1 for whatever bizarre reason. I simply change eth0 to eth1 in /etc/network/interfaces and ran sudo /etc/init.d/network restart and all was well again.

Next (again), one of my drives was missing from the RAID array devices. It should be a simple matter of adding them back in via the Webmin Linux RAID module. However, I wasn't paying enough attention and it appears that I tried to add a partition already in use to it's own array (why Webmin would even list the partition to add when it is already in use is questionable). It is possible that I am totally confused on this point but when I did a cat /proc/mdstat it showed the array "rebuilding" so slowly that I was sure something was definitely wrong.

Here my brilliance really shines through. Since the other partitions were delaying sync until the first one finished, I thought I would stave off as much damage as I could by shutting down the box. I can't recall if I tried this via telinit 0 or if I simply powered off the box in my haste. At any rate, I really wreaked havoc on my /home & /data RAID5 partitions. / on md0 (RAID1) was fine. The important partitions did not fair so well. reiserfsck --rebuild-tree did it's best to salvage the carnage but a lot of damage was done. I quickly determined that a restore of /home & /data from my external backup drive would be necessary. [big sad sigh]

Well, if I was going to go through that grief I figured I might as just rebuild the whole box with Hardy Heron from a fresh CD install using the ext3 file system instead of reiserfs since any further development of reiserfs is almost certainly at an end.

And thus it began.

Installing from the 8.04 LTS is really quick and fairly painless, aside from manually setting up the RAID partitions--even that goes pretty fast though (once you've got through it about a dozen times). This is where most of my troubles began. I would set up the RAID arrays & partitions during the install but it would go crazy. The arrays would start rebuilding before the process was completed. RAID devices would show up that weren't even added during the partitioning process. On & on the troubles went.

I can't tell you how many times I tried getting things to work and how many different approaches I took to the problem. I will save you the gory details. The fix is rather arcane and it took forever to figure out. Google was not my friend on this matter. Am I the only one to have these issues? Lucky me...

Here is the problem: Even though I would completely delete the partitions and format them with ext3 instead of reiserfs it didn't fix anything. What was happening is that the install program was seeing the old RAID superblocks from my original setup and using them to rebuild arrays during the install process. This had dreadful effects. I had to get rid of those old RAID superblocks and start fresh. Enter Knoppix.

Initially, I thought I would completely wipe the three drives with the following from Knoppix CLI command:

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda (hde & hdg)

As each drive is 320GB, this would have taken FOR-EV-ER. Forget it. Next please...

Note: If you ever need to use the following procedure, don't delete your partitions before running this command (because you won't be able to).

You can probably do the same thing from the install CD by exiting to a shell, but Knoppix booted to init 2 was fine for my purposes...

If you are doing this from the install CD use the following first:
make sure the RAID devices are not mounted (i.e. umount /dev/md0 etc.)
sudo mdadm –stop /dev/md0 (repeat until all RAID arrays are stopped, i.e. md1, md2, etc.)

Using either Knoppix or install CD, kill the RAID super-blocks:
mdadm –-misc –-zero-superblock /dev/hda1 (or sda1 if the distro installed shows your IDE drives as SCSI.)

Repeat for each RAID partitions on each of the drives! For example:

mdadm –-misc –-zero-superblock /dev/sda1
mdadm –-misc –-zero-superblock /dev/sda2
mdadm –-misc –-zero-superblock /dev/sdb1
mdadm –-misc –-zero-superblock /dev/sdb2

You get the idea...

OK. The partitioning problem is solved. Your back to installing via CD and partitioning is working just as you want it to. The rest of the installation process runs smooth as glass.

Enter problem two...

Upon completion of the installation , the system WILL NOT BOOT?!?!

And when I say it won't boot, I mean not at all. Grub doesn't even try to load. I was stuck at "Booting CD" and it just hung there!

Unbelievable. I tried reinstalling Grub from the install CD in Rescue Mode to no avail. I tried nuking the MBR on each drive via dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda bs=512 count=1 (same command for the other two drives, hde & hdg) and then attempted to install Grub again... Nothing I did mattered. It would not boot!

At this point I gave up on installing Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Hardy Heron server edition.

I was beaten.

Since Dapper Drake 6.06 LTS is still supported (until June 2011) and I had the install disc. I decided to give it a go--what the heck, after all the time I'd wasted already, why not give it a go?

It installed perfectly. It booted perfectly. It updated via apt-get perfectly.

After I determined I wasn't dreaming and I had not as yet spent the hours it would take to restore the backup files to the server drives, I figured I would try a network upgrade from 6.06 to 8.04 LTS (since you can skip all the intermediate releases when going from one LTS version to the next).

It worked!

Everything appears to be in order. It booted up just fine. The network started properly. The RAID arrays are running. cat /proc/mdstat indicates no problems with them. All is well so far.

I just had to make a slight change in the (official) upgrade process:

sudo apt-get install update-manager-core

sudo do-release-upgrade --mode=server


Without --mode=server it didn't think there was an upgrade available.

Time to install Webmin (it just makes life easier). Don't use apt-get to install Webmin, get it from the main site. This is what I did to get it rolling:

sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Add the following lines:

deb http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ hardy universe
deb-src http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ hardy universe
deb http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu hardy-security universe
deb-src http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu hardy-security universe
# deb http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ hardy-backports main restricted universe multiverse
# deb-src http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ hardy-backports main restricted universe multiverse

Next run the following:

wget -v http://some-mirror/sourceforge/webadmin/webmin_some-version_all.deb

md5sum webmin_
some-version_all.deb and check it against the hash listed at webmin.com

Follow these instructions when ready:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install perl libnet-ssleay-perl openssl libauthen-pam-perl libpam-runtime libio-pty-perl libmd5-perl

sudo dpkg --install webmin_some-version_all.deb

And that's it. I restored my files to the /data & /home partitions, configured my Samba shares and all is right with the world.

For now...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ubuntu Upgrade & Software RAID

You never know what you are going to get when you do a distribution upgrade.

Somewhere along the way I "upgraded" my little fileserver from Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (Long Term Support) to 6.10 (NOT Long Term Support). Why? I do not know. Support for 6.06 LTS will end June 2011 but support for 6.10 ended April 2008!! Unfortunately, I only realized this yesterday. No wonder I hadn't seen any package updates for some time. :-(

Time to upgrade, NOW!

Ubuntu's latest is another LTS release, 8.04. So my big plan is go to somehow get from 6.10 to this latest LTS release. Supposedly you can do it if you upgrade a release at a time. Away we went using Method 2 here...

Changed my sources in /etc/apt/sources.list replacing all instances of edgy to feisty.

sudo apt-get update


sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

sudo apt-get -f install


sudo dpkg --configure -a


sudo telinit 6


It rebooted, so I thought I was probably safe.
sudo lsb_release -a showed me that I was indeed upgraded to 7.04. All was right with the world...

Not so.

My RAID5 & RAID1 devices were missing a drive! What happened?!

It turns out that upgrading turned two of my IDE drives into SCSI devices and left one as a regular IDE device. Bizarre. The missing RAID drives were the partitions from the one IDE device that was left. I used Webmin to simply add the appropriate partions from the IDE drive to the SCSI RAID devices and that was it. It worked without sending my data to /dev/null.

The RAID5 devices rebuilt and the RAID1 was back to mirroring with a spare. All was right with the world.

My question is, what's going to happen during my upgrade from 7.04 - 7.10 - 8.04? Will I be so lucky. I was pretty freaked out when my IDE drives "turned" into SCSI devices. Just weird, and why the heck did it leave one of the IDE drives as such instead of making it a SCSI device? I do not know...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Identify Your Hardware With Linux

I wanted to find out if the old mainboard I am using for my little file server supported USB 2.0 and not a measly 1.1--let's keep that USB drive (used to back up the server) flying along as fast as possible, eh?

Came across this thread which lead me to the answer. I could now get the needed information without shutting down the box, opening it up and hopefully finding the model number so I could google up the answers, etc. etc.

No GUI app need apply, I wanted a command line solution. Here are some options I found:

lspci -vv or sudo lspci -vv

But the really cool one is:

sudo lshw

That shows you just about everything you could want regarding your hardware. I found out what model mainboard I am running and the USB info I was looking for...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Compile Perl Into Win32 Executable Applications

Want to run Perl scripts on Windows systems that don't have Perl installed? Compile them into standalone executable applications!

There's always a way...

After much Googling and much frustration trying to get it to work, it did!

I am using ActiveState ActivePerl 5.8.8 Build 822 on my Windows XP systems. I read much about PAR & perlcc, etc. but nothing seemed to magically turn my paltry Perl scripts into mighty Windows Executable files. Finally I found the answer hidden away in a little URL tucked away on some message board.

Here's the short sweet version: You can add Perl module repositories with ActiveState's included Perl Package Manager. You add the repository and install PAR-Packer (not just any PAR-Packer, see below for the particulars).

  1. Open the Package Manager
  2. Click Edit Preferences (or the little gear icon on the left)
  3. Select the Repositories tab
  4. Enter a name in the Name field (I chose theoryx5 for obvious reasons following)
  5. Enter the following URL in the Location field:

    • http://theoryx5.uwinnipeg.ca/ppms/

  6. Click Add
  7. Click OK
  8. Click File --> Refresh All Data if the app doesn't do it automagically
  9. Click View --> All Packages
  10. In the Search field (you know, the field with the little magnifying glass in it) Enter Packer
  11. You will see a few listings (or maybe more then a few, depending). Two in particular you will find: PAR-Packer 0.976 & PAR-Packer-588 0.973. Select the first (the one without the -588 this is important!).
  12. Either right-click on it and choose Install... or click the little package icon that has the green + on it.
  13. Click the little play arrow icon or choose Action Install... at the top
  14. Once it's installed with all it's dependencies, close the Package Manager
  15. Add the following to your path (if Perl is found at C:\Perl): C:\Perl\site\bin;

    1. In Windows XP you can do this by right-clicking My Computer
    2. Click Properties
    3. Select the Advanced tab
    4. Click Environment Variables
    5. Scroll down in System variables & select Path
    6. Click Edit
    7. Add C:\Perl\site\bin; to your path
    8. Click OK & exit Evironmental variables, etc.
    9. You may need to log off and back on for the change to take effect

Now open up a Windows shell (you know, Start --> Run --> cmd --> OK), navigate to the directory with your perl script to compile and enter: pp -o myfile.exe myfile.pl and ta-da your newly minted .exe will magically appear.

Well, it should anyway. Remember, use this at your own risk, your millage may vary, etc. etc.

It worked for me and I was very happy.

Note: You can review all of the available packages for the aforementioned repository at the same URL: http://theoryx5.uwinnipeg.ca/ppms/