Getting a bit more active with music again

Music was my first love”

sang John Miles back in 1976, when I was just 19. And he was so right (and I even played that song with one of the bands I performed with). And what do you do during long and cold winter days and nights, when you don’t even want to think about going out with a camera? Right – I remembered music.

And so I read a lot; I had a bit of catching up to do since I last dealt with making or even recording some music. I stayed with free and open source software of course, and Linux has a lot of wonderful tools to get creative these days. I ended up with configuring the repositories of KXStudio on my machine, so I can still use Debian. And for Zuleikha, who started composing and writing her own first songs, I installed Ubuntu Studio on Mitchie’s old Lenovo Thinkpad SL500. And there are other guys making cool stuff like for instance AVLinux – their user manual alone is worth a look if you want to get up to this stuff real quick.

Mitchie’s old machine has only a Celeron, and 2GB of main memory – so it’s not the machine for some samples of Grand Pianos I downloaded lately (one Yamaha C5, ca. 2GB, and one Steinway, ca. 5GB). I guess it would struggle hard if you put up some audio and midi tracks in Ardour with it, but for Zuleikha it’s nice to start arranging and composing with MuseScore. So today a USB type AB cable arrived, and I hooked up the machine to Zuleikha’s Yamaha YDP-142R piano:


Mobile Ubuntu Studio

It all started when Zuleikha got some nice and easy pieces from her piano teacher, like this one:


Bluestone Alley, by Congfei Wei

I downloaded some free scores and tablatures for the guitar, and let’s see – maybe we’ll get some microphone to even record the small one playing her horn (and/or her friend Yuma, who’s perfect on her recorder)…

Of course I’ll also document this with the camera. Cannot wait. 🙂 So, with a bit of fantasy and dedication, winter is actually good for something.

As always, thanks for reading.

Back after some short maintenance tasks

Sunday afternoon I started upgrading our server, which until then was still running Debian 7.x “Wheezy”. And that will become obsolete soon – when Stretch will be released, the current 8.x “Jessie” will change its status to “oldstable”, and the current oldstable – Wheezy – will reach its end of (supported) life.

So we had to update sooner or later anyway, and a Sunday afternoon seemed like a good idea. Only that it took much longer than I thought; sometimes newer software (like Apache 2.4 instead of 2.2) does behave quite differently from what you’re used to, and new plugins and other server software also had to be learned.

But ok; we’re back, and even with a nice new layout – today, WordPress 4.7 “Vaughan” was released, and with it came what you see here: a brand new Twenty Seventeen theme which looks really pretty if you ask me. Of course you can customize it to your heart’s desires, which is what Zuleikha is doing right now. Me, I’m slower. I have to take in what I’m offered, and consider what’s good and what’s not, so I’ll leave it like that for the moment.

I still have to do some configuration jobs on the server before I can think about my site’s design. But that will be considered, too. For the moment, I’m happy with it as it is.

And as always (some things never change): thanks for reading.

Update, from 21:30h: Ok; i did go on and change the header image to one that I took. This is the Youth Hostel in Mittenwald, Bavaria, which lays beautifully on some hill between the Wetterstein and Karwendel mountains. I was out with my Olympus E-PL1 camera which had Mitchie’s Panasonic Lumix 20mm/1.7 lens mounted. Took this one on August 16th of 2013 during the sunset at f/8, and cropped and resized it here to 2000×1200 pixels which is the standard blog header image size for the WordPress Twenty Seventeen theme. Nothing else changed on the theme so far.

Thanks for viewing.

A point release to the rescue…

As it turned out yesterday, I had spent more or less the whole weekend for nothing – the IBM ‘Open Client’ layers didn’t accept my preinstalled and preconfigured version 16.04 LTS of Ubuntu. Too new, not yet supported.

So what to do? I asked the few colleagues which run Linux on their older notebooks – at least older than mine. Andreas was/is using Red Hat 7, which comes with a Linux 3.10 kernel – even older than my Debian Jessie, which had/has 3.16, so I knew that some things wouldn’t work. Daniel has Ubuntu 14.04, and when I asked him which kernel that one brings, he told me: 4.4…

Hmmm, same like 16.04? How could that be? Turns out that Ubuntu has introduced something they call the “LTS Hardware Enablement Stack”, with so-called “point releases”. He has 14.04.5, and the official IBM Open Client Live image with which he started has 14.04.1. So his recommendation was to install that official Open Client, and upgrade it to 14.04.5 like he did.

Which I tried at home yesterday evening, and which failed miserably – 14.04.1 couldn’t even initialize the graphics, with no way out except a hard reset (cold boot). No terminal window(s), no nothing.

Slowly I got frustrated. Compiling a kernel myself? Bah; haven’t done that since years. But what if…

I downloaded 14.04.5 which has the same 4.4 Xenial kernel like 16.04, and that installed like a breeze. So from first try and frustration to a readily installed machine it took me less than an hour. Plus it’s “Trusty Tahr”, and today the Open Client scripts at work didn’t complain and installed mostly everything I need (I manually installed some things like conky and VirtualBox before that).

Read more about that point release here if you’re interested.

So starting tomorrow I’ll go on and install the not-so-common stuff which we need for work, like the ICSW frontend for IBM’s Retain system to handle our calls. That’s built on Eclipse, and integrated into Notes, which sometimes makes updates more complicated than necessary – integrated all-in-one tools and Linux are quite contrary in their whole philosophy, and in their design. But ok; these Java-based tools have to run on everything including Macs and Windows boxes, so I can’t really complain.

I also ordered a HDMI cable to connect the machine to the 24″ 16:9 monitor I have at work; should arrive soon. Guess I’ll have a working environment until the end of this week, and then my W520 goes to a colleague who’ll give it to his father.

So I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and to using that shiny new machine.

Oh, and before I forget it: Mathias, one of my colleagues today asked me to take a few photos of him, which he needed for some forum or so. And when I asked him if I could use and show one of these here, he said sure. So here’s Mathias from today:


As always, thanks for reading.

A new machine for work

Three days ago at work, I received an email with the ‘final approval’ for a new notebook/laptop computer (everyone around here calls them ‘laptops’, but they’re sometimes too hot and/or too heavy to keep them on your lap for long). And yesterday, I got another mail telling me that the item was ‘shipped’, plus one from our local post office in Frankfurt – it had arrived.

Of course it didn’t arrive with what I had ordered – the IBM Open Client, based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.3. Instead, it had an image based on Windows 7 on it – which I wiped, and until the end of our office hours I had Debian GNU/Linux (the stable version 8, codename “Jessie”) running on it. But nevertheless, I wasn’t finished trying out the hardware, so I took it home. Here are some detail shots of it:



It’s a Lenovo Thinkpad P50, and I had to wait for it – all the colleagues who wanted a new machine right away got an older one. But my W520 was and is still doing a great job, so I had the time anyway.

It’s good tho that I took it home – newer hardware and Linux is still something which could cause you headaches. Turned out that the 3.16 kernel in the stable Debian wouldn’t recognize and detect a few items which are much younger than itself, such as the wireless card, or the sound. Some of the installed hardware required a kernel 4.x or higher, so instead of upgrading Debian to “testing” or “unstable”, I decided to put Ubuntu onto it – which is also Debian “unstable”, together with a bit of polish. With that – it has a kernel 4.4 – everything worked out of the proverbial box. Here’s a screenshot I made for my brother yesterday, while typing an email for him on that new machine:

Screenshot from 2016-08-26 23-46-43-1024

The machine has HDMI, Mini-Display-Port, and Thunderbolt outputs, so today I tried it on our 42″ Panasonic TV, which also worked. Good; my monitor at work has VGA and HDMI inputs, so I only need to order a cable for HDMI. And after adding the IBM ‘Open Client’ layer and copying some files from the old machine to this new one, I’ll be done.

This is a nice one. Should be fun to use it.

Thanks for reading and for viewing, as always.

Update, from Sunday morning:

I finished pre-configuring that new machine. At work, I will have to install the Open Client layer on top of it all, but for now I have 3 operating systems running on it: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, and virtualized Windows 7 and 10 environments (both using 2 CPU cores and 8GB of RAM; this machine is powerful enough to even run them all at once – it has 8 cores and 32GB of RAM). Here are a few screenshots plus one I made using my camera:

Screenshot from 2016-08-28 11-05-42

Ubuntu 16.04 LTS running on Lenovo Thinkpad P50

Screenshot from 2016-08-28 11-07-35

Windows 7 (on Oracle VirtualBox 5) running on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS running on Lenovo Thinkpad P50

Screenshot from 2016-08-28 11-09-12

Windows 10 (on Oracle VirtualBox 5) running on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS running on Lenovo Thinkpad P50


Lenovo Thinkpad P50 (running Ubuntu 16.04 LTS) in front of my 24″ monitor (showing Debian 8 “Jessie”)

Again, thanks for viewing/reading.

Happy birthday

Today is not only my sister Silvia’s birthday. It’s also Linux which was announced on a mailing list 25 years ago. And so, the “article of the day” on the German Wikipedia start page is about Linux:

Screenshot-Wikipedia – Die freie Enzyklopädie - Mozilla Firefox: IBM Edition

Screenshot-Linux – Wikipedia - Mozilla Firefox: IBM Edition

Working with and using it each day – so thanks, Linus (and Richard and all the others). And congrats again to my sister.

P.S.: Two links in German which show the importance of Linux today:
25 Jahre Linux: Das Jedermann-Betriebssystem and
25 Jahre Linux: vom Nerd-Spielzeug zum Allround-Betriebssystem

Road block

We have road works at Frankfurt Sossenheim, where I work. This will last at least two weeks and will delay us all, especially in the evenings when we try to get home (in the mornings I’m early enough to avoid the main traffic). This is how it looked today:


Baustelle – Road works

On another note, I’ve tried and converted this image using Darktable 2.01 on Linux, no Olympus Viewer – so no starting of a virtualized Windows instance – and no RawTherapee. Tagging etc. works as expected, and I’ve done no fancy stuff, just basic conversion mostly like the program recommended by itself. Oh, what’s really cool is that you can add geotags quite easily, with searching on a map if your camera doesn’t have built-in GPS already. So this one – on Flickr – will show you where I took it, without anything done in Flickr at all.

Cool stuff. I knew that Darktable is powerful, but never got around to getting used to it. I like this idea of Open Source Photography, done with free (as in speech) tools.

Thanks for viewing.

P.S.: Here’s another one which I took yesterday, and which I “developed” using Darktable (instead of my usual “workflow” with first using OV3 on Windows, and then RawTherapee on Linux):


IBM Frankfurt Sossenheim, 2016

What I like so far about this program, except from the really easy and convenient GPS tagging is that it approximates colours close enough to the Olympus “original” in-camera colours which aren’t super accurate, but very nice. Haven’t played around with own ICC profiles etc. yet; I’m still discovering the many things you can do with this. Darktable even has layers which makes it even more powerful than Lightroom, and you can do selective edits with either brushes and/or these layers, which I didn’t try until now.

What I also like is the very good dynamic range. Ok, we’ve had some dramatic clouds yesterday, and it started to rain short after I was in again, but OV3 (or the in-camera jpgs of Olympus) is a bit more contrasty out of the box, while RawTherapee doesn’t get these colours. So here it gives you some additional headroom, reminds me of photos taken with Nikon cameras which are very good in that regard.

Plus they have a nice manual, so you could go and have a look if you like. No Windows version tho… 😉

What I don’t like is that the program really takes some resources. It makes use of GPU acceleration if you have a compatible card (Nvidia or ATI only, doesn’t work with my onboard Intel graphics). I wouldn’t try this on a machine with less than 8GB of RAM (I have 16GB), and with a quad core processor like mine. And read the manual and save the (very good profiled) denoising until the end – some steps slow down the machine more than others (didn’t do any denoising here).

Again, thanks for reading / viewing.