iGoogle problems

I’ve recently had a problem with iGoogle not working very well. Most of the gadgets were broken including Gmail and Picasaweb. I tracked it down to the fact that my homepage was set to:


Changing it to the following fixed the problems completely:


MythTV and the Winter Hill Switchover

On November 4th, BBC One and BBC Two were moved to a new transport on the Winter Hill/Granada transmitter. I retuned my MythTV box, but it did not picked up either channel. After trying out a few things it turns out that I had to tick the “ignore signal timeouts” box and retune the 801833000 transport. Made me realise just how much my household watches BBC 1 and 2!

Adam John Parker

My third child, Adam John Parker, was born on 17th August 2009. He weighed a hefty 9lb 10oz and was 58cm long. He must have been cosy in there because he was 2 weeks overdue and had to be given a little encouragement to come out. He’s now 3 weeks old and is doing extremely well. How old does he have to be before I can buy him a Scalextric?…

Adam John Parker

Changing the Order of Music Files on an SD Card

It turns out that prefixing the track number onto my music files did not fix the problem with the way my car stereo plays them. It turns out that the Pioneer does not play them in alphabetical order, but the actual order that they appear on the drive. The same order you would get if you just ran “find” with no arguments on Linux.

To fix this is fairly easy, just read the files in alphabetical order using ‘ls’ and move them. A script for doing this is here: mvmp3.sh. Run it in the directory containing the artist folders and it will process all albums in each folder. It creates a temporary directory, moves the files there and deletes the original directory (backup your collection first!!!). Because it uses mv and not copy, the process only takes a couple of seconds for a few throusand tracks. What I do is copy the files onto the SD card and then run the script.

One other point, and this baffled me for a while, the above script does not work on a Linux ext3 filesystem. No matter what order you copy the tracks to a directory on ext3 the listing order does not change. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for this. Suffice to say that it works fine on a FAT filesystem, and that’s what most MP3 players use.

iTunes – Filenames with Track Numbers

Yes, I use Linux for most stuff, but I organise my music using iTunes under Windows. I’ve done it this way for years.

Last night I brought the music system in my car into the 21st century by installing a Pioneer DEH-P4100SD. As well as CD and radio it’s got an aux in, iPod compatibility, USB and an SD card slot. I picked up a 16GB SD card for £20 and stuck a few tracks on there. Unfortunately, even though the head unit supports ID3 tags for artist/album/song names, it only supports browsing based on filename. This had the effect of playing albums in alphabetical order! Heresy against the Gods of Metal!

This is where iTunes comes in. It was storing my music without the track number in the filename. In iTunes 8 there is no longer an option for this, so I was a bit baffled as to what to do. It turned out to be very simple… iTunes 8 actually defaults to including the track number, so all I had to do was reimport my library:

Go into Edit->Preferences and select the Advanced tab.
Uncheck “Keep My iTunes Music Folder Organized”.
Exit preferences
Go back into the preferences and recheck “Keep My iTunes Music Folder Organized”.

iTunes will then add the track numbers onto all of your MP3s! Surprisingly it only took a couple of minutes for 3,000+ songs.

Sorry for the Inconvenience

I was just thinking that this site had been quiet. I hadn’t had a single comment for ages. I was just feeling lonely when I checked my apache error logs and saw that the comments table was corrupt! MySQL had spat its dummy out and was waiting for me to type “repair table wp_comments”. Why it couldn’t have done that itself I don’t know.

Anyway, if you tried to leave a comment and it got lost then I’m very sorry! Should be working again now.

Playing home videos randomly

My kids are currently obsessed with watching home videos of themselves. They’d rather do it that watch stuff on telly. I got bored with sitting there manually clicking on videos for them to watch, so I wrote a little script to play videos randomly using VLC. Given a parent directory, it searches all sub-directories for AVI files, randomises the list and then plays each one using VLC. Change DIR to the location of your videos:


To stop it, run the following script:


Freesat channel scan fixed!

After weeks of pulling my hair out, I’ve finally sorted my channel scanning problem and got BBC HD! The breakthrough was that it all worked in Windows, which narrowed it down to software on the Linux side. I’d tried scans with 3 different applications, which meant that it was either the firmware or the Linux DVB drivers causing the issue.

Because I’m on Intrepid with a 2.6.27 kernel (it all works on 2.6.28) I’d previously compiled the latest DVB drivers as described here:


So, I went through the process again with the latest snapshot of the v4l-dvb tree and… all transponders scan OK, including transponder 50 which has BBC HD. Phew!

Someone must have broken the v4l-dvb driver at the point I downloaded and compiled it the first time. A lot of effort wasted due to a bit of bad luck :-(

A week with the Lenovo S10e

After a week of owning a netbook, I have to say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever bought. I’ve spent much of the time hacking at it to get it the way I want it. It works perfectly in both Ubuntu and XP. I’ve not had a single problem with the wireless network either at home or work (both use WPA encryption). The connection to my Belkin N1 router has worked flawlessly. I’m very glad about that because a netbook isn’t much use without the ‘net.

You can use it anywhere; the sofa, the kitchen, even sat on the bog if you’re so inclined! You can stick a few movies on the hard drive. I’ve got season 7 of The Shield on there for when my wife’s watching Holby City. Even better, it’s now running a MythTV Frontend, so I have access to live TV and all my recorded programmes from any room in the house. Or even the garden when the weather gets better! Myth works brilliantly in this configuration. A proper mini-me media centre on your lap.

Downsides? It’s maybe a little plain and functional looking in matte black, and it still picks up fingerprints. The keyboard takes a bit of getting used to. A couple of the keys are annoying, especially in the Linux command line, (it requires 3 keypresses to get a pipe, for example). The battery life could be better.

I guess the most disappointing thing is the bootup time. Bootchart says 48 seconds, but that includes connecting to a wireless network and obtaining a DHCP address, which can take 10 seconds. However, from power-on to Firefox it’s more like 80 seconds. Not bad, but hardly “instant on”. I’ve optimised it as much as I can without getting in really deep and compiling my own kernel etc. I still think the 160GB hard drive was the better choice over a smaller, faster solid-state. Bootup times may be worse, but improved write speed and having the space for 2 operating systems plus a few DVDs has to be worth it.

On the whole, though, I think the Lenovo was a good choice in a crowded market. XP comes in handy, even though I use Ubuntu most of the time. The hardware works flawlessly under Linux. The big disk is great. Bluetooth is an added bonus, giving the option of a headset for Skype and a mouse with no dongle. Something to play with in the future. Plus, at the moment, you’d be lucky to pick an S10e up for £30 more than I paid! Nice one, Dabs.