The state of the internet, according to YT/Google

Are you logged into Youtube, like me? Do you get personalized recommendations, and does your browser filter out ads and other unwanted stuff? Wondering what might be hiding behind all of that? Read on…

My browser (ESR versions of Firefox, mostly – the only more or less “free” one of the big browsers) doesn’t have many plugins installed, but one I couldn’t live without is ublock origin. It gets most of the unwanted crap out of my view, and sites which even try to circumvent this won’t be on my daily list of sites to visit.

But one thing it did as I just found out is to also reduce the opening (self-) ads from Youtube – you saw a short flickering, then the usual list of new videos comes up. Wondering what might be behind that blocked content, I decided to dig out another browser which I rarely use, and which isn’t personalized (means me not being logged into anything), and which also doesn’t have any plugins installed. At work this morning that was Epiphany.

So let’s see what was flashing away from my eyes this morning:

Youtube opening screen, unfiltered

Aha. “Youtube Originals”, yeah I remember, had seen some of these announcements before – looks like they’re trying to become more of a real content provider (to monetize that of course). Ok. Not for me, thanks.

Under it, “Trending”, which I also never see normally. The state of mankind is a poor one if these are the topics of interest, frankly. Don’t want to be reminded of that each day, thanks. So let’s scroll down a bit more…

… where it becomes even worse:

The infamous Googe / Youtube “Topics”

“Topics” – yeah, these I see as well, and these are frankly a pain in your lower end. Ok, I get it – Google / Youtube knows nothing about me at this point, because I’m not logged in, so they show me the topics of most clicks or views or whatever their algorithm might be – and oh man, is this really the world we’re living in? What a strange species we must be…

I closed that browser after this, sorry, but cannot stand it. Google / Youtube is mostly wrong about getting my interest, but at least I don’t see crap like that when I’m being logged in. Instead of that, I see the umpteenth recommendation of old Miles Davis stuff, or Ella Fitzgerald just because I listened to *one* of her songs lately – but that is still worlds apart from… THIS (there was no other word coming to my mind, sorry).

It’s not only Youtube and Google – Vimeo or DailyMotion or all of the daily news aggregators aren’t much better, no one really has any kind of “artificial intelligence” which might be even worth that description of its own. Computers are thick (“Computer sind doof”), as a German pop song of the eighties used to state. Mostly of course, it’s *us* who are programming them. And we want self-driving cars, really? Robots in medicine? Thanks but no thanks.

Ok – enough of brutal truths of reality for one morning – now hand me that blue pill again, thanksverymuch…

Other news, for my/our German readers: in case you didn’t notice it yet, the German Wikipedia will be switched off tomorrow for 24 hours. Their form of protest:

Protest…

So read all about it today while you can – tomorrow you’ll have to do with English or other languages.

And as always, thanks for reading.

Installing and testing Joe’s Wikiloops plugin

Today I was reading the Wikiloops Howto and Forum sections again to see how one can contribute back, and promote Wikiloops a bit.

And sometimes it’s interesting to do just that and to see what others have done already. I found for instance Joe’s (jmrukkers) WordPress plugin that way – so I downloaded and installed it right away.

Joe describes two ways it should work, like with a single line, or the id in brackets.

So let’s test that with his latest two tracks here. For “Fun Time Funk”, I’ll try his method 1:

Hey, that looks cool – I now see the Wikiloops player embedded in the new “Gutenberg” editor. Wow.

Ok, his second method, with the track number in a bracketed ID now:

Hmmm ok – that doesn’t update itself in the editor, but then it wasn’t tested in WP 5.x and its “Gutenberg” editor – the plugin page says:

Tested up to: 4.9.10

(and I’m on WordPress 5.1.1)

So I’ll see after saving the thing as draft, or after refreshing the page… and yes, that worked as well, tho the first method is maybe both easier to remember and more direct in its result – showing you the track right away.

Anyway, great work from my friend and fellow musician Joe; thanks a lot for that, man!

In case you want to see us playing together, we did that already, in one of last year’s video collaborations – see here:

Reggae Town – wikiloops.com video collaboration series 2018

So that’s Joe and me together with a few more friends, some of which – including Joe – I have met shortly after this at last year’s members’ meeting.

Again, thanks Joe, and thanks to you for reading, viewing, and listening.

Olympus Workspace – New Free Image Post-Processing Software from Olympus

First, I found a video by Peter Forsgard about it. Then I searched and found Robin Wong’s article about it. And he also had a link to it:

This replaces the older Olympus Viewer 3 which itself replaced Olympus Viewer 2. And yes it’s free (as in cost) software in 32 and/or 64 bit for Windows and Mac computers, Linux users are still not considered worth the effort/cost.

So I downloaded it and tried it first on a virtual Windows 10 machine, and it didn’t destroy any previous software. After this I also installed it to my dual boot Windows 10 on bare metal and to Mitchie’s new notebook as well.

Tried a fast raw conversion of 3 older images, all from 2010, and all taken with my E-520 DSLR (two with the longer of its “kit” zooms, one with a manual OM Zuiko lens) – and yes, they look nicer than ever:

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Flamingos, Frankfurt 2010
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Butterfly, Malaysia 2010
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Tuna the cat, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2010

So thank you very much, Olympus – very nice of you that you’re still providing awesome software at no cost for your customers. Really appreciated!

Thanks for reading.

My weekend of week 6, 2019

Yesterday I had some “fun” (read: work) again with Mitchie’s new computer. It started with lots of slow updates of Windows 10, about which I wrote already in my last post, and it went on after I finally got a nice new external casing for her SSD which came with the machine.

As it turned out, I had forgotten or at least not considered the fact that before installing both Windows and then Linux on her new SSD I had switched off SecureBoot in the machine’s UEFI (formerly called ‘BIOS’). Tho Ubuntu could have dealt with it as well as Windows, it just didn’t seem worth the hassle. But what I hadn’t known and considered was the fact that Lenovo was so friendly as to turn on Bitlocker encryption on the drive as well, so even with jumping through several hoops to even get that key from Microsoft, I still couldn’t get Windows to de-encrypt the whole shebang again. In the end I gave up on this – there are things to do during your lifetime which are more worth of your time than dealing with stupid stuff like this. And the fact that a commercial vendor like Microsoft has keys to your machine which they don’t even tell you about seems more than questionable to me… So I formatted that old SSD and put a FAT32 partition onto it, so that it can be used as a bigger (and much faster and more reliable) USB “stick” with 128GB.

One more positive side note about Lenovo: their support pages are first class. If you allow them, they scan your machine and install all the drivers (for Windows of course) you might need. That’s almost as good as Linux which simply installs them without even bothering you with it.

Another topic:

Mike Johnston wrote a nice short article titled “Mike’s Seven Laws of Lenses” on his site The Online Photographer. And – not for the first time – he included a photo of a lens which he seems to love, and which I even have:

Panasonic Leica Summilux 25mm/1.4 on Mike’s page

This is a nice one indeed, and well worth having should you consider a Micro Four Thirds camera (or even have one already). With my copy of that lens I took the following snapshot of Mitchie’s new machine, with the additional SSD leaning against it:

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Mitchie’s new machine, with an additional SSD leaning against it, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2019

This is btw such a dark scene that I had to underexpose it in camera with -2.3EV to keep the blacks real black (pictures such as this one confuse the metering of even the best cameras, they would turn the photo into an average grey instead of mostly black). Anyway, you see her new “USB stick” (her old SSD) and its size as well. The machine with its 13.3″ screen is tiny, the drive even more so.

So that was my Saturday. My Sunday started with getting another new piano which was described in an article (in German) on Delamar – an online magazine from musicians for musicians from Darmstadt (ca. 18km from here). That virtual piano was interesting me because it’s some kind of hybrid between a sampled (=recorded), and a modeled (=computer generated) one, and because the sound sample on Delamar’s page sounded really nice (and some of its users even claimed that it’s better than the commercial modeled Pianoteq which I’ve tried (and liked) on Manjaro lately).

Of course like so many other “freebies” this piano comes as a Windows or Mac plugin only – but thanks to falkTX’s Carla the loading of an unencrypted Windows VST is no problem on Linux anymore (except of course that you’re running an additional Wine layer to emulate some Windows resources on Linux, but that’s not falkTX’s fault). So after downloading that freebie I could look at and listen to it on my Debian machine – looks like on my screenshot of it:

Screenshot from 2019-02-10 12-45-57
the freebie “NeoPiano” from Soundmagic, a Windows VST running on Linux (thanks to falkTX and his Carla plugin rack)

And yes it sounds nice tho I haven’t tried much until now. But now that Zuleikha has Mitchie’s old Core i5 notebook from Dell, she will be able to test it as well – she’s the pianist in the family, not me. 🙂

So next time Zuleikha comes up with a new composition of hers, we can compare it against the commercial xln Audio ‘Addictive Keys’ Studio Grand (a Steinway D sampled in a studio somewhere in Sweden), and the other free ones we have already like the Salamander (Yamaha C5) or the ‘Piano in 162’ (another Steinway). The files she uploaded to Wikiloops so far were all done with the commercial xln one.

And now let’s have some more coffee, and a piece of cake 🙂 As always, thanks for reading.

Windows Updates

They last forever, really. I updated Mitchie’s new notebook to the latest version of Windows 10 which took all morning and even half of the afternoon. They seem to use some sort of throttling, because neither the CPU was busy, nor was the RAM full or the disk really the bottleneck. And if you’re used to the speed and elegance of a modern Linux machine (even with my already ‘ancient’ Debian stable), then you fall asleep when you have to wait for Windows…

Anyway, hers was finally done, and so I checked mine which updated faster (I do it more often, on Mitchie’s machine it was the first time ever, with a quite old boot image of Windows 10). Still, an out of the box Linux install *and* update is way faster – tho it also brings in much more software compared to a bare naked Windows.

So here’s a screenshot from my own machine – on which I use Windows occasionally only, when I need my camera makers’ raw converter or the control software for my audio interface and such:

updated-screenshot
Sometimes even I use Windows…

As always, thanks for reading.

A Yogi Yoga for Mitchie

Today is Mitchie’s birthday, and it was time to get her a new notebook. The challenge was to find the right one, because pretty much nothing of the machines currently on offer fitted exactly the criteria of what she wanted and needed.

So in the end it became clear that we had to go modular – or better known as finding an offer of ‘built to order’ – pretty much as you would configure a car.

Not all vendors offer that, and even of the ones who did, no one really had the machine for her. Which means that part of the build had to be done by ourselves – not a big problem, because I’ve done this professionally in the past.

So this is what she got for her birthday today:

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A Yoga for Mitchie, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2019

This is a Lenovo Thinkpad L380 Yoga, which I ordered for her with Windows 10 Pro, an Intel Core i5 8xxx (8th generation) CPU, 16GB RAM, and the smallest SSD drive on offer which has the size of 128GB. And that one (with Windows on it) I took out right away, and replaced it with a Samsung 970 EVO NVMe drive with 1TB capacity. The other SATA drive with 128GB will be put into an external USB2/3 casing.

On the blank Samsung SSD I installed Windows 10 Pro first, and then Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. For Windows I had to search for a WLAN driver, with Ubuntu everything worked out of the proverbial box – including the Wacom pen which comes with that ‘Yoga’ device with its 180 degree rotatable touchscreen, which turns the machine into an artist’s tablet, and with a touch-sensitive pen as the cherry on top.

So that is what she/we wanted: a not too big (13.3″) device with a not too fast (i5) CPU, but with enough RAM (16GB) and hard drive (1TB), topped with a touch-sensitive full HD screen and even a pen. The cost? About half of a readily-configured machine which would have had everything except one thing or the other (and definitely not two operating systems, but that’s a story for another day. I’m waiting for the first vendor to offer – legally of course – machines with Apple, Microsoft, and Debian preinstalled).

It’s a nice machine. Especially with Ubuntu instead of Windows (which we need once a year for tax declarations – and the machine itself is tax-deductible of course). It even feels nice, and in no way cheap (which it wasn’t).

For those who are interested, here are the German Lenovo product page, and the Ubuntu compatibility page.

And now Mitchie needs a prescription for bifocals to read text in FullHD on a 13.3″ display…

Thanks for reading.

Should clean up a bit soon

Here is how my home directory is currently filled:

my /home directory

I should clean up a bit soon, and put some of the /pictures folders from the past years into an external hard drive and keep that in our bookshelf…

I had a short look at…

Manjaro Linux, and also Pianoteq.

In the LinuxMusicians forum there was a thread about Manjaro lately, so I thought why not try it? Manjaro, for those who don’t know it, is based on Arch Linux and as such has a “rolling release” strategy instead of publishing more or less fixed versions and updates. This means that your software will always be fresh and up to date, a bit like if you would use the Debian unstable repository aka “Sid”.

Manjaro also uses XFCE as their default desktop environment, so I wanted to see its status as well – and as I’ve learnt from the forum post mentioned above it also comes with packages for almost everything including trial versions of Pianoteq, Reaper, and Bitwig. I have tried Reaper on Windows already (and really, it looks very similar on Linux), not so much interested in Bitwig (tho I did have a short look), but Pianoteq was of interest to me, and after trying their standard version first, I also had a look at the lesser (and with 99$/€ cheaper) “Stage” variant of the software. Looks like this on a standard Manjaro (in a VirtualBox VM):

Pianoteq “Stage” on Manjaro Linux

Of course I could only dream of having realtime, being in a VM, but for a first look it was good enough – and those piano models really sound wonderful. I’d really like to hear some of Zuleikha’s tracks with these sounds, so I could compare them with the (also commercial) Addictive Keys xln audio “Studio Grand”, and with the free “Salamander Grand” which is a nicely sampled Yamaha C5. Maybe I’ll come back to that at a later point, let’s see.

As for Manjaro, yes it looks and performs good, so for anyone who wants to try something new and fresh, go and give it a try. I don’t really need it because Debian already provides everything I need (ok, together with the KXStudio repositories for music-related stuff), but in case you’re interested, why not? From what I saw I liked it.

As always, thanks for reading.

Three good articles from SJVN

I read (and I’m even a member of) LXer – a news aggregation site for anything Linux and open source. And while we’re linking to other media there, over the years one name is standing out because of his continuing work for the same old media company, and his good and thoughtful articles about Linux and other open source software and hardware. That name is Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, and he writes for ZD Net (yes, they still exist).

Let me cite the man in his latest article MS-Linux? Lindows? Could Microsoft release a desktop Linux? which I read today, after again finding it through LXer:

I used to say that Microsoft would release a Microsoft desktop Linux — MS-Linux or Lindows — when pigs fly. Lately, though, I’ve been hearing oinking from the sky.

SVJN in the ZD Net article linked above

It’s interesting as always to read the man – and here are two other notable articles of his which I read lately:

Edge goes Chromium, and open source wins the browser wars

and

Dell XPS 13: The best Linux laptop of 2018

Enjoy, if you’re interested in stories like these.

Edit: If you already have Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise on your machine and want to try and get your feet wet testing Linux, here’s an article of Steven’s colleague Ed Bott on that topic:

Windows 10 tip: Run Ubuntu Linux in an enhanced Hyper-V session

Enjoy.

New headphones for work

At work, my headphones were pretty damaged, and about to give up the ghost and just fall apart. Well that is what 3 or 4 years of daily usage do to a pair of 20€ headphones I guess. So I had to get some replacement.

At home, I have the Sennheiser HD598SE which are just awesome – best I’ve ever had, so I was thinking of Sennheiser again. But the ones at home are ‘open’, which means that they don’t isolate you from your surrounding, and they also won’t isolate your surrounding from you and whatever you’re listening to. So a comparable set as a ‘closed’ design would be much better for work – where the main purpose is to isolate myself against the office cacophonia (hear marmotte’s awesome title with that name).

Turns out the Sennheiser HD569 – a bit cheaper than my HD598SE – are exactly that:

They arrived today, and I compared them to the ones I had already. The result: if you just want or need the better pair of headphones and don’t mind a few extra Euros, get the HD598 (or now its successor, the HD599). But the HD569 is pretty good, and it really takes you out of your surrounding should you want or need that. I would call them ‘honest’, and although they lack the last tiny bit of deep bass or crisp highs which the HD598 will give you, they are really good for what they are.

I think I’ve made the right choice. Maybe I’ll write more about this after a few days at work.

Thanks for reading.