Below are the five most recent posts in my weblog. You can also see a chronological list of all posts, dating back to 2003.

boxes of CDs & the same data on MicroSD

boxes of CDs & the same data on MicroSD

There's a Vinyl resurgence going on, with vinyl record sales growing year-on-year. Many of the people buying records don't have record players. Many records are sold including a download code, granting the owner an (often one-time) opportunity to download a digital copy of the album they just bought.

Some may be tempted to look down upon those buying vinyl records, especially those who don't have a means to play them. The record itself is, now more than ever, a physical totem rather than a media for the music. But is this really that different to how we've treated audio CDs this century?

For at least 15 years, I've ripped every CD I've bought and then stored it in a shoebox. (I'm up to 10 shoeboxes). The ripped copy is the only thing I listen to. The CD is little more than a totem, albeit one which I have to use in a relatively inconvenient ritual in order to get something I can conveniently listen to.

The process of ripping CDs has improved a lot in this time, but it's still a pain. CD-ROM drives are also becoming a lot more scarce. Ripping is not necessary reliable, either. The best tool to verify a rip is AccurateRip, a privately-owned database of track checksums. The private status is a problem for the community (Remember what happened to CDDB?) and is only useful if other people using an AccurateRip-supported ripper have already successfully ripped the CD.

Then there's things like CD pre-emphasis. It turns out that the Red Book standard defines a rarely-used flag that means the CD (or individual tracks) have had pre-emphasis applied to the treble-end of the frequency spectrum. The CD player is supposed to apply de-emphasis on playback. This doesn't happen if you fetch the audio data digitally, so it becomes the CD rippers responsibility to handle this. CD rippers have only relatively recently grown support for it. Awareness has been pretty low, so low that nobody has a good idea about how many CDs actually have pre-emphasis set: it's thought to be very rare, but (as far as I know) MusicBrainz doesn't (yet) track it.

So some proportion of my already-ripped CDs may have actually been ripped incorrectly, and I can't easily determine which ones without re-ripping them all. I know that at least my Quake computer game CD has it set, and I have suspicions about some other releases.

Going forward, this could be avoided entirely if CDs were treated more like totems, as vinyl records are, than the media delivering the music itself, and if record labels routinely included download cards with audio CDs. For just about anyone, no matter how the music was obtained, media-less digital is the canonical form for engaging with it. Attention should also be paid to make sure that digital releases are of a high quality: but that's a topic for another blog post.


Back in July I had a question of mine read out on the Radcliffe and Maconie programme on BBC 6 Music. The pair were interviewing Stephen Morris of New Order and I took the opportunity to ask a question about backing vocals on the 1989 song "Run2". Here's the question and answer (318K MP3, 21s):


It's been at least a year since I last did any work on Debian, but this week I finally uploaded a new version of squishyball, an audio sample comparison tool, incorporating a patch from Thibaut Girka which fixes the X/X/Y test method. Shamefully Thibaut's patch is nearly a year old too. Better late than never...

I've also uploaded a new version of smartmontools which updates the package to the new upstream version. I'm not the regular maintainer for this package, but it is in the set of packages covered by the collab-maint team. To be polite I uploaded it to DELAYED-7, so it will take a week to hit unstable. I've temporarily put a copy of the package here in the meantime.


A little over a year ago I wrote about how I'd been using a Mac as my main work machine. I hadn't written anything on the subject since. Here are four useful Mac programs that I can recommend to people.

Sizeup, from Irradiated Software. A bit Like Windows' aero snap, but on steroids. I love this. I regularly move windows between two desktops (external and internal display), resize and centre them or put them in one quarter of the screen with just a few presses. The "snapback" feature is also great.

X Lossless Decoder (XLD). A handy transcoder that can use QuickTime encoders and so can write out Apple/Quicktime/iTunes-encoded AAC/MP4 files en-mass, translating file meta-data.



LimeChat, an IRC client. I theme it to look like Colloquy. The net result is pretty clean. I like using a proportional-font for text things, so getting IRC out of a terminal is a win for me.

LimeChat automatically fetches and thumbnails URIs to images that people paste in channels, which is either incredibly convenient or a curse, depending on the channel. You can toggle that behaviour but only across the whole client, not on a channel or network basis.

Finally, 1Password is an incredibly slick password manager. I use it in a very basic fashion: no mobile client, no syncing to anything outside of my workstation. You could also use LastPass which is similar and has a Linux client. I haven't tried it, but there's a third party tool to read 1Password password stores on Linux written by Ryan Coleman of SDL fame called 1pass.


For a while I've been wanting to tidy up some of my existing ikiwiki hacks, as well as test some changes I'd like to make to this site, but I hadn't had much success with setting up environments to play with it. That was until earlier in the year, when as a bit of an experiment I tried to put ikiwiki in docker.

I've put up a preliminary image for anyone who is curious. It's in a very early state. When you start up the image, you get a HTTP daemon listening on port 8080 and serving a basic ikiwiki from /. A single administrative user is defined, user admin and password password. The CGI is set up (path /cgi) and websetup is enabled.

The ikiwiki instance is configured with git as the vcs backend and the git HTTP backend is also enabled at path /git. It is set up for anonymous pull and HTTP basic authentication for push, with admin/password.

There's still a lot to do before this is useful for what I want to do with it, and I would strongly advise against using it for anything except testing yourself, unless you are going to layer on some changes (HTTPS and change the credentials at the very least!) but I thought I'd put it out there. If you have any suggestions for it, please either file an issue or leave a comment here.

It's built on top of the stuff I mentioned last time but it should rebase on top of the "semi-official" Debian images without problems.


Older posts are available on the all posts page.