Switched to the Chrome browser for the moment

As much as I like the idea of a free browser, the latest decisions from Firefox (like dropping RSS “Live” bookmarks which is their one and single most outstanding feature) are hard to understand.

And a few days ago they deactivated and maybe even deinstalled my “uBlock Origin” ad blocker – the best there is. Investigating a bit about this brought news like: “we’ll update soonish with a new version which supports these (deactivated) plugins again”.

Thanks, but no thanks. Keep your crap for yourself. And consider me gone until you wake up from whatever dope you had…

I wanted to use Chromium (also more or less free, and it’s the basis for Chrome), but their version 73 still has some funky colour gamut displaying, which Chrome doesn’t do. So for the moment I’m with Google. Could have investigated further about smaller browsers, and whether they also have a “Foxish” plugin which brings back RSS Live bookmarks, but my time for this stuff is limited. Bad enough that Mozilla puts all of this on our shoulders instead of getting to grips with what once made them different from others.

Have a nice Sunday y’all – and thanks for reading.

Update, from Sunday afternoon: at least it wasn’t on purpose this time as it seems. Here’s a report from ZDNet about what happened, and here is a statement from Mozilla about it. Make of that what you will, I call it sloppy and bad management still. Open Source deserves better.

F-Droid, Aptoide, and Firefox Klar

I don’t have a mobile phone. Or rather, I didn’t – and still have none that I would describe and use as such. That is why I gave my mobile phone which I once received from my wife (after buying her a new one) back to her to send it to Malaysia when the one of a relative there failed.

Except it never reached its destination. Turns out that you cannot send battery-containing devices to relatives, they will be returned to you; too dangerous to send such potentially explosive devices.

So the phone – my old phone which I never really used or liked – came back and was laying around in our house with us not really sure about what to do with it.

Thinking about such devices I thought that having had it as a remote control for my camera was ok, having it as a phone just laying around doing nothing except updating itself was a waste of time and money. So what about…

… I thought about saving that SIM card, didn’t want to have another costly (and for me at least, useless) “Flatrate” (which isn’t, so the word itself is a lie already). Oh, and I also didn’t fancy being tracked by Google or other “Enterprise” grade companies to give them even more data, and as such, more power and money. What if…

… using just our network router and WiFi instead of a cellphone network? Works.

… using an Android phone without using Google? Doesn’t really work, all you have when you start such a device is Chrome – a browser developed by Google. If you want another one, sure, you can download it – using Chrome. After doing that? Adieu Chrome. Works.

But. And that’s a big ‘But’. Google makes it really hard – no way to use their app store without having (or using) a Google account which you might have already, or maybe not. But without any form of login to Google, no downloads. If you don’t wanna play with them, they won’t play with you.

So I ‘duckduckgo’ed (‘duckduckwent’?) around using Chrome for a while, assuming that I could be a user who actually has nothing else than this phone, and a hotspot. And I found:

F-Droid (link is to its English Wikipedia page). That’s a free store with free (and open source) apps which doesn’t even ask for a login. Perfect.

Except that now I found an app like Firefox Klar (link is to its English Wikipedia page, internationally it’s slightly different and called ‘Firefox Focus’ instead), but I still didn’t have any access to non open source apps like the one from my camera maker, Olympus.

So I also installed Aptoide (link again, you guessed it, to the English Wikipedia page which describes it) which is more or less the father of F-Droid (the latter being a ‘fork’ as it is called in software development).

And with using Aptoide I also got the Olympus apps like the one for remote-controlling my camera. Perfect.

So what I have now is more or less equivalent to a small tablet PC with no cellphone access (except for emergency calls), without any contract, and without using Google too much (at least not being logged into any of their services, even updates for Google apps come via Aptoide instead).

So I can surf while sitting on the couch, or listen to Wikiloops outside of the living room. And I can remotely start and stop videos on my camera which might be outside on the veranda, filming birds or whatever. And I can tune my guitar and bass (or Zuleikha’s Ukulele, but that has a built-in tuner) with the device and Cythara.

Perfect.

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.

Take a rest (video)

Made a short video of my latest collaboration on Wikiloops:

Wikiloops collaboration #159026 – Take a rest

It shows that I haven’t used many effects, just a bit of eq and compression. It also shows the Wikiloops page of the track, and our cat who took a rest (which is what cats do best) 🙂

Enjoy…

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:

7e3_2090333-mitchies-new-machine
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.

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:

7e3_2050326-yoga-4-mitchie
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.

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.

How to use free instruments in free software

Just a small example here:

I had integrated the XLN Audio Addictive Keys (windows version) “Studio Grand” piano into Ardour on Linux – but Windows VSTs (virtual instruments) on Linux need something like Wine, and are more resource-hungry than they’d need to be. Meaning that yes, I can play nice sounds from that awesome Steinberg D grand piano somewhere in Sweden, but the cost is that I’ll get lots of xruns (basically buffer overflows) in my software if I need more than one of these tracks.

The solution? Free samples of course – and yes, they exist like free software does exist. So I just set up my latest key presses (on my 49-key MIDI keyboard) to use the free “Salamander” grand piano which is a nicely sampled Yamaha C5.

And there’s an article on LibreMusicProduction on how to do just that, using Ardour, LinuxSampler, QSampler plus whichever soundfonts you’d need.

Maybe I’ll still buy PianoTeq for Zuleikha one day – first, the basic stuff isn’t that expensive, second, it’s a modeled piano, not a resource-hungry sampled one, and third, it even comes in a version for Linux. And this alone should be honoured. It also should sound much better than Zuleikha’s Yamaha Arius piano which she uses to record stuff (that one has a MIDI out of course).

So – let’s make some music… 🙂

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.

After careful consideration

After careful consideration of various options (which also included doing nothing, or investing heavily in updating the code), we’ve decided to go ahead and remove builtin feed support from Firefox. This metabug covers both the removal and creating public documentation for users (e.g. on support.mozilla.org ) of alternatives.

After careful consideration of various options, we’ve decided to go ahead and cease using Firefox as soon as this most useful feature is removed.

A sad day.

See also here and here (in German), as answers to this (also in German).

Update from Saturday, July 28th, 2018:

I’ve read about alternative browsers, and found several. Some which sound interesting are simply clones/forks of Mozilla’s Firefox at different stages, like Waterfox, Pale Moon, or Basilisk.

For the moment tho I think I’ll go with Chromium – the free alternative to Google’s Chrome browser – together with the ‘Foxish’ (and of course the uBlock Origin) add-ons. ‘Foxish’ works almost as nicely as Mozilla’s ‘Live Bookmarks’, as you can see here:

So I’ll let you know how that works for me. Goodbye Firefox – we’ve had a good time, sad to see you drifting into insignificancy.

Second update, also from Saturday July 28th, 2018:

Hm. Chromium doesn’t play those Wikiloops songs, something I wouldn’t have expected (but, thinking of it, on my colleague Arno’s Chrome browser it’s the same). Of course this renders Chromium unusable for me in an instant. Imagine I couldn’t hear something like this, from my (virtual) friend and one of the greatest bass players ever, Jussef from Mexico:

This track is embedded with the friendly permission by the creatives on wikiloops.com.

Thanks for listening, and for reading.

Third update from Saturday, July 28th, 2018:

Hm. Wikiloops (and its jplayer which plays music) does work with my Version 65.0.3325.181 (Official Build) (64-bit) of Google’s Chrome browser, so it must be something with Chromium. So let’s try Chrome again…

Thanks for reading.