Archive for the ‘Lamentations’ Category

Amarok 2.x – HUGE Dissapointment

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

I was actually really psyched when I noticed the new Amarok when I upgraded my Ubuntu workstation to 9.04/Jaunty. I was expecting the same, great, feature-laden audio/media player I’ve been using for the last several years with a slick new GUI and tons more new features to mess around with. Unfortunately it seems it’s got all the same problems Amarok 1.x had, but most of the great features of Amarok 1.x that were good enough to make one overlook its flaws have been removed.

Here’s my first list of things that made this upgrade a huge downgrade for me:

1. It’s still slow and bloaty feeling with a large (>1TB) collection of audio and covers. I.e. still locking up and interrupting the current audio playing while doing CPU intensive tasks, like using “cover manager” to manage/view album covers. To their credit, so far, it seems that the collection tab searches are less prone to lock the system up. In fact, adding/removing/editing audio seems a little smoother. But then again, I haven’t been doing a lot of reorganizing since I started playing with the new Amarok, so the verdict’s still out. Update 03/03/2009 – The verdict’s in. It’s still crashing and interrupting when calculating new music (say 100-200MB of new music added to the overall collection). In fact, it seems much worse as it wasn’t even allowing me to play music while this was going on.

2. The 50 random tracks (from the entire collection) is gone. This is unforgivable! (And how hard could it have been to bring this over from 1.x? Silly.) In fact, the new Playlist menu is just plain confusing. It did actually seem to have a random tracks type functionality, but it only loaded like 8 tracks. And, figuring out what “repopulate” and “on” mean under “dynamic playlists” seems weird since you have to toggle between them. Not very intuitive at all.

3. I lost my previously customized (Amarok 1.x) playlists. Okay, so that’s deprecated. It still sucks. And those regexp-friendly playlists were one of my favorite features of Amarok — and something that distinguished Amarok from other media players. Yet, the Amarok site mentions wanting the new 2.x version to distinguish itself in a field full of competing products. Way to go!

4. The “statistics” tool that gives you overall collection stats is gone. Duh!

5. The new GUI isn’t that great. I added a few of the newer widgets to the center screen and they laid out oddly and overall the feeling is kinda’ squishy and not clean. I think the simple layout of 1.x Amarok with the ability to toggle “Context” on the left with more details was a very sleek and efficient look. I also prefered having the track list be central, not shoved over to the right frame –thereby not allowing you to have lots of fields in view (bitrate, year, date, title, artist, length, filesize, etc. etc.). Also, the widgets available by default, like the “lyrics applet” and “albums” fall squarely in the “who cares?” category. Were people really dying to have these weak applets added to the old Amarok?

So this upgrade is a huge disappointment for someone like me who has been a big fan of Amarok for 3-4 years. FWIW, their site mentions that since this is a complete re-write and since they’re using the new KDE4, they are forced to work around the limitations of the new systems and how they interact. They also indicated that many of the lost features will reappear with each new version of Amarok 2.x. I’m hoping for a speedy recovery since the new one is making me re-think my previous love of Amarok.

Update 03/03/2009 – It got so bad on the new Ubuntu that I couldn’t even play music anymore. Amarok kept crashing and restarting it (or X) wasn’t helping. I could load music, but not play it. The crash reports it was giving contained no useful information whatever.

Note: I have since used this version to better effect on Fedora 10 & 11. Maybe Ubuntu’s Gnome-centric nature¬† is part of the problem. Perhaps the newer KDE stuff just isn’t that well integrated. (Yes, I’ve heard of and tried Kubuntu. It was 3-4 years ago and I was not impressed,¬† and am not in the mood to try it again.) That being said, the new Amarok still seems feature-depleted in comparison to its 1.x predecessor. In fact, on my main workstation at home I’ve gone back to Ubuntu 8.10 and am feeling so much happier with the old Amarok.

Catastrophic Personal Data Loss

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Do you know how much space all the files you’ve been collecting and saving for the last 10 years takes up? You know what I’m talking about, all your backed up files, your contacts, old emails, old correspondence, old Word docs, your various downloads, your various license keys/serial numbers, every digital photo you’ve ever taken or had taken of you, your pr0n, your vast collection of ebooks & audio books, your wicked collection of ultra cool and ultra rare (out-of-print) music books, sheet music, play-along CDs, backing tracks, tabs, magazine scans, etc., etc.?

In my case it was 255GB (yes, gigabytes, not megabytes). The reason I know is because although I’ve always been careful about backing this huge store of amassed information to a second hard drive across the network (thus having two live copies always available), I (along with the help of a failing <brand> hard drive), may have just wiped it all off the face of the earth in a couple of stupid, fell swoops.

I always slept well at night knowing I have done a recent rsync to sync up any changes made/files added from my master data drive to my backup data drive. Why just this month I was in there tagging some of the (complete collection of) Aebersold CDs and renaming things to a more logical, easy to find system. Piles of this kind of data take hours of painstaking work to categorize and organize. It’s something I’ve never felt finished with and am always in there tinkering to make the system better, finding new ways to automate the process, etc. etc. It’s like a rather large hobby of mine. I guess I’m kind of an archivist at heart.

Well, yesterday I realized it’s quite possible I’ve lost it all to a couple of seriously boneheaded actions on my part and a surprise disk failure on a 320GB “back up” hard drive on my LAN’s file server (running Ubuntu server + Samba). It started with my other post from this week about Windows Vista. I was in my main workstation (2 system disks that are smaller 10K RPM raptors for the OSes + 2 data 500GB data disks full of audio + 1 320GB external USB drive on which these data files reside). I was smart enough to unplug the 500GB drives before messing around with the OS b/c I’ve had enough experience to know that it’s easy to wipe one of these when messing around with partitioning software in any OS. At some point I saw that the light on the USB drive was on and I thought to myself I should go ahead and turn that drive off until I was done. I got distracted and forgot to do it. (Bad move #1). Then when I was reinstalling XP, I was in the partition menu, I saw two drives with byte counts starting with “3” something. So I wiped the first one thinking it was the 36GB raptor I use for the OS. (Bad move #2) It turned out to be the friggin’ data drive. I realized it almost immediately. I breathed a sigh of relief however, since I knew I’d done an rsync between that drive and the “backup” drive about a day or two before, so there probably wasn’t any data loss. Also, I hadn’t checked the health of my backup drive before doing anything serious like installing an OS, and I don’t have any automated log monitoring set up to send me email or SMS alerts to things like drive failures. (Bad move #3).

So out of the 5 hard drives in my workstation, and the 4-5 hard drives in my LAN file server, guess which one turns out to be experiencing a total failure? Guess how I found out that the drive was failing? If you guessed that it was when I was desperately in need of a backup of the 255GB of data existing on that very 1 drive out of 9-10 hard drives I have spun up at any given time, then you guessed right.

BLERG!!!

I spent all day in a kind of semi-catatonic daze. I think I was partially in denial about it. I was also racking my brain for what I was going to do to recover it (and also trying to get a feel for the scope of my loss — which just got worse and worse the more I realized I was storing on these hard drives). I even had to go to my history class and take a test while I was waiting for fsck to stop spewing errors to my screen while running it (which may have made the situation worse for any hope of recovering anything from that drive). By the end of the night I couldn’t even mount the drive as the file system was no longer recognized as a valid Linux filesystem, I started getting IDE controller errors in the logs as well, which was a change from the earlier imagic & bad block errors I was getting when I first realized I’d just dicked myself out of all this data (and man hours collecting and organizing it).

Today I was home from work, so I got right up, got a coffee and brought my Knoppix CD to try and see what could be done. Much to my surprise I could mount the drive and it appears I was able to x-fer a few of the smaller directories over to a spare 320GB USB hard drive. While I was waiting for the transfers to finish, I got to thinking that the dd utility might be better than mounting this disk up and copying/rsyncing the files over. (Actually certain directories were unreadable and had very weird user info and perms, nothing I could do would change the perms and rsync just wasn’t dealing with the errors — as it probably shouldn’t have). Then I stumbled onto to something even better than dd (I hope) called dd_recover, which changes the block size of the x-fer on the fly to better accommodate a drive that is throwing errors. It’s a utility specifically designed for recovering data from a failing drive. So I’m very hopeful I can get something back. I have yet another 320GB USB drive hooked up and am running it. It seems to be taking a while (like 25GB x-fered in about 2-3 hours), but it’s also IDE to USB — and if it took 3 weeks and worked it’d be well worth it.

Man, Linux fucking rules. The native logging and the native tool chain that is available for troubleshooting, fixing stuff like this is unbelievable. You know what it cost for an OS that is stable and feature-laden? A single CD-R and a 699MB download. I’m sure there’s a Windows solution like Winternals, or some other 3rd party app that would do what the free dd (or dd_recover) does, but it’d cost at least $150. and have some license that times out in a year — or the app will be outdated in 6 months and you’ll have to buy it all over again. And that’s all after I had to pay for the OS, pay for the rsync-like utility that does backups, and all the other software that I’d have to pay for to do what Knoppix does out of the box. Pfft!

Anyway, back to my recovery…. I’ll post the outcome when it’s done.

Ever have one of those days?

Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

So it started off bad. I tripped over my Gibson ES-175 that was sitting in its case right in the middle of the living room where I had placed it after playing last night. I was in the LR first thing after pissing to check on some file transfers I had going on (which of course were still going). Luckily the Gibby was in its pretty heavy duty case and my falling on it probably didn’t do anything to the guitar inside. I do feel bad for my downstairs neighbor b/c my big ass falling on the floor was probably enough to wake him. If that wasn’t enough to wake him up then my knocking down a clock thing that hangs over my bathroom sink while wiping the steam off the mirror probably was. It fell with a horrible, prolonged clatter.

Of course once I got the steam off the mirror and moved all the pieces from the clock thing to the side I proceded to drop almost everything in my medicine cabinet into the sink because it’s so cluttered in there that when I go to replace one of my overpriced razor blades I can’t do it without losing a bunch of shit. Once that was cleared up, my first two whacks with the razor on my face resulted in long cuts that are much bigger than the typical razor cut. I then spent 20 minutes of my (already late for work) morning looking for this new razor cut treatment my wife got me a couple months back but hadn’t had a need for. After much freaking out and re-org’ing my bathroom looking for this stuff, my wife pointed out that it was right under my freaking nose in the medicine cabinet. (I had re-org’ed around it several times without taking notice of it).

With that start, I probably should have just called it quits for the day, called in sick and went back to bed. I didn’t. But when I got to work I was checking my bank account and I saw that some greaseball outfit in Ankara Turkey had charged $500. to my CC and the charge had gone through. It’s totally either a mistake or an attempt at a scam. Now I have to go through a minimum of several days waiting for this to be resolved. Though my bank was pretty helpful and not negative about my chances of recovery, I’m still half thinking I can get screwed out of this money. All because probably some web site I’ve bought something from recently got hacked by some 3rd world loser and gave up all my personal info. Fuckers! Anyway, so far those are the most terrible things to happen. But the day’s still young.