Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Disappearing or Invisible Fonts on Debian/MintPPC

It seems a lot of people besides myself have had a slight problem lately when updating our Wheezy installs. All fonts in GTK apps render as a very light purple making them invisible. This only seems to affect people using the Radeon driver and the solution for me was ultimately a simple one. First generate a xorg.conf file if you don't already have one by switching to a console and entering:

sudo /etc/init.d/slim stop

Replace slim with gdm or lightdm or whatever your login manager is. At this point all the text in your console might be jumbled. That seems to be another bug. Just type the following commands blind:

sudo Xorg -configure

and then:

sudo cp /root/ /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Next, edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf in a text editor by adding the following line under the "Device" section where you see the "radeon" driver:

Option "AccelMethod" "XAA"

You also want to tab in the Option and make sure it lines up with the section. Then save and exit, type startx or restart the computer, and you should have your fonts back.

At first I tried to fix this with the xorg option "NoAccel" "True", but that turned off all acceleration and made my desktop unacceptably slow. But changing the "AccelMethod" from EXA (default) to XAA, it preserves 2D desktop acceleration and fixes the font issue. There's more information in these threads here and here.

Just thought I'd leave this here in case anybody googles, "WHERE THE HELL DID MY FREAKING FONTS GO LINUX WHEEZY HELP."

UPDATE: Peter S. reports he can get fonts back with EXA acceleration using the following xorg.conf edits:

Option "AccelMethod" "EXA"
Option "RenderAcceleration" "false"

And you may also need:

Option "MigrationHeuristic" "greedy"

He also says he can now use Compiz without it "lagging like crazy" on his G3 :)

UPDATE II: Here's a bug report, Bug #702480 xserver-xorg-video-radeon: GTK fonts are invisible on PowerPC

Monday, January 28, 2013

GarageBand Alternative for Linux

It's called LMMS (Linux MultiMedia Studio). Recently I decided to get more into learning about and making music. I'm always on the lookout for productive outlets for my OCDing and thought this could be the ticket. Also it has the added benefit of making me stop regretting that I couldn't play a note of music.

When looking for music production software on Linux, the first thing I became aware of is a lot of these programs require the JACK Audio server. So I installed it along with qjackctl (a settings GUI that also turns the daemon on and off) but got errors when I tried to start it. After a bit of googling, I found there are two separate JACKs, jackd1 and jackd2. jackd2 is not a sequel to jackd1. It's a different fork. So given I had jackd2 installed, I replaced it with jackd1 and...success! Got the server running, so now I can pass audio around between different applications if I ever need that function (moduler work environment is the applicable phrase). I don't know what the problem with jackd2 was. I got the same errors on an iBook and a Power Mac and the common advice about realtime settings didn't work. But for now I'm not gonna care.

Onto LMMS. This is probably your best bet as far as GarageBand alternatives go in that it's fairly easy to get started with but is also complex as hell just with the sheer number of options available to you. Here's the default setup with a triple oscillator synth selected:

LMMS screenshot

It has a song editor for writing melodies and a beat/baseline editor for writing repetitious things and baselines. You bring up a piano roll for composing notes, and it's pretty flexible as far as copying/pasting and moving things around, etc. It also comes with plenty of instrument presets and samples for you to mess around with. And the GUI's pretty slick.

I've only found a couple of problems. If your computer's too slow, playing back songs with too many simultaneous elements may result in distorted sound, so you'd have to export to wav or ogg to hear the whole thing at once. Also, I thought at first that LMMS required JACK and I couldn't get it to start up with a JACK server running. When I stopped the server LMMS started fine, and I found in the preferences it's set to use ALSA by default. Cool, but just to see, I switched it to use JACK and got the same failure to start up even with the JACK server turned off. I had to trash the .lmmsrc.xml file just to get it to launch again. Maybe the JACK problem will be an inconvenience down the road, but as is the theme of this post, for now I'm not gonna care.

Be sure to check out LMMS's online manual beginning with the Getting Started section.

As for other programs, there's also Rosegarden. When I installed it it wanted to install Latex as a recommended package for typesetting music notation, but since I wasn't in the mood for a 1 GB download and I don't need to produce fancy musical sheets I installed Rosegarden with the --without-recommends argument. It basically does the same thing as LMMS, but in different way, so it's a matter of taste. Rosegarden requires JACK.

Also requiring JACK is Hydrogen, which is like an LMMS for drum machines. There's also Superlooper, which is about making loops presumably super. And QTractor is a newer program people are talking about.

I also tried Ardour, but I couldn't get it to launch. Maybe it's a RAM issue as the iBook I tried it on only has 256 MB (UPDATE: It was a RAM issue. I upgraded to 640 MB and it started up fine.). And Jokosher failed at the Create New Project prompt. It sounds like this PowerPC bug is still there. Oh well, Jokosher. Your screenshots looked good, but you'll have to remain a mannequin in the window.

So now I'm in the market for a midi keyboard and having to answer the existential question that has ruined larger men than me: 49 or 61 keys?

Friday, January 18, 2013

TenFourFox 19 Beta

A new TenFourFox beta is out for testing. This is an important update as it's the first build under a new compiler and there were previous warnings that it would push minimum memory requirements up to 1 GB. I can echo Cameron Kaiser's finding that those fears have not come to pass. In my testing, memory use is up slightly, maybe 30-40 MB on average, not enough for me to care about. He also says he's eager for Leopard and G3 users to test this as he doesn't have a G3 or a Leopard machine, so give it a download.

In my couple of days testing, it's been stable. In that respect, TenFourFox remains as boring as ever. Page rendering seems less jumpy and a tad quicker, but that could be a placebo effect. Altivec acceleration has been added for pages that shadow out the background. This will make me hate web developers a little less. Also, clicking scrollbars and tabs with the window in the background are now active, like with Safari/TenFourKit.

Check out Cameron's blog for the longer version. His posts are always packed with information without being overwhelming to the layperson. Glad to see TenFourFox still has a bright future.

UPDATE: And for Leopard users, SeaMonkey 2.16b1 has been released.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Some Cross-Platform Flash Alternatives

(UPDATE: A lot of this is outdated. Mplayer doesn't work with the https links Youtube now throws up, so for OS X I'd recommend PPC Media Center, and on Linux you can use Mpv with the following bash script:

mpv --framedrop=vo --cache 8192 --cache-initial 820 $(youtube-dl -gf 18 $(xsel --clipboard))

Save it in a text editor as and make it executable with "chmod u+x /the/path/to/". The script requires Mpv, Youtube-dl, and xsel, and when you copy a video URL to the clipboard launching the script will stream the video. END UPDATE)

Put that in a #!/bin/bash script and you can just copy the video URL to clipboard and launch. This is assuming you have mpv, youtube-dl, and xsel all installed. END UPDATE)

By now you probably know about MacTubes for OS X, and I've written about quvi on Linux, but I think it's worthwhile to go through a few other Flash/Youtube alternatives given the way Google likes to break third party apps by changing its URL paths. Also, MacTubes hasn't been updated in quite awhile and has difficulty on videos with embedded ads, so who knows how long before it completely breaks? We need workarounds that have a history of rapid updates, and that's what this post is about.

Like the title says, the three alternatives I've found are cross-platform. One's a python script, and the other two are Greasemonkey scripts that work in Firefox/Iceweasel/TenFourFox.

We're also going to be using Mplayer from the shell to stream the video. You could just as easily use VLC or the new Mplayer fork, Mpv, but since I primarily use Mplayer I'll focus on that.

On Linux you can install Mplayer with your package manager, unless you're on a G3, in which case you have to compile it with the configuration option --disable-altivec (Mpv doesn't have this complication, but it's not yet available in Debian Stable). OS X users can use Macports or Tigerbrew to install Mplayer, or you can find an older pre-compiled binary inside the application package distributed at MPlayer for MacOS X.

Now to the best command line arguments for streaming Youtube, which are:

mplayer -framedrop -cache 8192 -cache-min 10

Those arguments will prevent the picture from lagging the audio, though if you have a slower computer and lagging is still a problem, you can add the argument -lavdopts skiploopfilter=all on h.264 files. Note that last argument will slightly degrade picture quality.

Next, OS X users will want to copy and paste B-G's Mplayer scripts. They're easy to edit if you need to change Mplayer's path or add arguments, and you can save them in your ~/Library/Scripts folder so you won't have to open a terminal to start a vid. As you can see from my scripts menu (enabled in AppleScript Utility), I've created way too many for every conceivable scenario:

AppleScript menu

On Linux we'll set up quick video launching with a bash script. First, install "xsel" with aptitude/apt-get. Then create a text file and paste the following (no carriage returns on the second line):

mplayer -framedrop -cache 8192 -cache-min 10 -cookies -cookies-file ~/.cookie.txt $(youtube-dl -gf 18 --prefer-insecure --cookies ~/.cookie.txt $(xsel --clipboard))

Save it as and make it executable with chmod +x path to Don't worry, that script will all make sense in a minute.

Now that Mplayer is set up, let's switch to the video downloader youtube-dl. It's a python script that requires Python 2.6, 2.7, or 3.3. Tiger and Leopard came with 2.3 and 2.5 respectively, so you'll have to update. Python 2.7 works great for me on Tiger. Next, Linux and OS X users can follow the instructions on youtube-dl's download page to install (if curl or wget mysteriously won't work on your OS X system, you can also paste the download URL in your address bar and save the file). Once it's in your /usr/local/bin and made executable, run youtube-dl -U to update to the newest version.

Ordinarily youtube-dl is used to download videos to disk, but for streaming we'll use it to retrieve the video link only. Not the page URL, but the long URL to the actual video. Before we get to the shortcuts, let's do this from the command line to see it all under the hood. In a terminal, enter (on one line):

youtube-dl -gf 18 --prefer-insecure "Youtube page URL inside quotes"

The -g option outputs the video link only, -f 18 specifies the format of the vid, in this case 360p mp4 (with no arguments it defaults to the highest resolution, and -F outputs all available formats). The --prefer-insecure is a new option to deal with Youtube throwing up https links, which Mplayer doesn't handle (Mpv, however, does). Now you'll notice the output is a really long link. That's the link to your video! So to get Mplayer to play it, you enter in a terminal (on one line):

mplayer -quiet -framedrop -cache 8192 -cache-min 10 "youtube-dl output link inside quotes"

and to retrieve the link and play, all in one command, enter (on one line):

mplayer -quiet -framedrop -cache 8192 -cache-min 10 -cookies -cookies-file ~/.cookie.txt $(youtube-dl -gf 18 --prefer-insecure --cookies ~/.cookie.txt "Youtube page URL inside quotes")

Some people say you need those cookies options on some rare videos, so that's why I'm including them. Otherwise, they're harmless.

Now to the shortcuts. In OS X, copying the long link from the youtube-dl output and choosing B-G's streaming script from your AppleScript menu will play the video. Alternately, you can "Save As..." in, and where it says "Execute this command (specify complete path)" enter:

mplayer -quiet -framedrop -cache 8192 -cache-min 10 -cookies -cookies-file ~/.cookie.txt $(youtube-dl -gf 18 --prefer-insecure --cookies ~/.cookie.txt $(pbpaste))

and check "Execute command in a shell". Now when you copy a Youtube page URL to clipboard, choose the command from the File | Library submenu in and the video will play.

On Linux it's even easier. Just copy the Youtube page URL to clipboard and launch that bash script I showed you above. Your video will now play.

So that's one Flash alternative, but I mentioned there were two others. These two are Greasemonkey scripts for Firefox/Iceweasel/TenFourFox, so first install Greasemonkey. Then install the user script Youtube EZ Download. Now when you go to a Youtube page you'll see a box on the lower right corner with a list of download links:

Youtube - EZ Download

In OS X, copy a link to the clipboard, then choose B-G's streaming script from the AppleScript menu and watch the video. In Linux, use the Firefox add-on Open With to create a new menu item for Mplayer and its args. Then right-click a link in the Youtube EZ Download box and choose "Open Link with Mplayer".

Open With add-on

The other Greasemonkey script has been around awhile and is called Viewtube (also in the screenshots). It replaces Youtube's video player with a picture preview and several buttons for playback and downloading. You can use the Play function to play back videos with the gecko-mediaplayer browser plugin and gnome-mplayer, but that's not cross-platform to OS X. OS X users will still find it useful as the Get button works for downloading, and it replaces Youtube's CPU eating no-flash warning with the aforementioned picture preview. It also works with Youtube's Feather Beta.

So there you have it. Streaming Youtube through Mplayer with just a couple of clicks. Also, youtube-dl and these two Greasemonkey scripts have a history of frequent updates so any of Google's periodic breakages shouldn't last long.

I found a couple of other Youtube browsers I didn't try. One was yt, a command line browser, but it didn't have thumbnails so it wasn't for me. Also, there's gtk-youtube-viewer (bottom of page), but I didn't see any documentation about compiling on Debian, and knowing my compiling skills...

Thanks to Peter S. for telling me about youtube-dl :)

UPDATE: There's some good stuff in the comments, too, about UnPlug and more AppleScripts. Read on!

UPDATE II: Peter S. reports playback on his G3 is way smoother with VLC than Mplayer. Here's his VLC + youtube-dl command:

/Applications/ $(youtube-dl -gf 18 --prefer-insecure "")

So you can adjust all the above commands by pointing to the binary in the VLC app package.