Monday, October 19, 2009

GB english spellchecker in Opera 10 on Linux

Opera 10 has added an inline spell checker which checks spelling in web forms, but the default (and only) dictionary in the Linux version is US English. Here is how to add GB English, and other languages.
Curiously, the Windows version already has a GB English dictionary option.
UPDATE: This post is now obsolete (and the link above dead). The current version of Opera has a menu option to add spell check dictionaries.

Monday, October 12, 2009

MSN video chat in Ubuntu

Video chat is possible in Ubuntu (Ekiga does it). But video chat with somebody running Windows MSN has, up to now, meant a reboot into Windows. In Ubuntu 9.10, video chat via MSN will be possible using Emesene 1.5. (More information at OMG! Ubuntu!)
Ubuntu 9.10 will also bring the new IM client Empathy (replacing Pidgin), which will also support MSN video chat at some point in the future. (OMG! Ubuntu again).

Ununtu 9.10

Ubuntu 9.10 will be out at the end of October. As usual, there'll be a lot of changes under the hood, and also changes to default (and optional) themes, icons and wallpapers. Ubuntu users may have guessed the direction Ubuntu is going in from the log-on screen and pop-up notifications in Ubuntu 9.04- dark. I've using the dark New Wave theme for a month or so and have got to like it- I'm hoping the new dark themes will have better integration with other programs- at the moment the menu bar with Open Office is unreadable with a dark theme. Anyway, the reviews of 9.10 are good. Here's one from

Linux MP3 tag editors- a review

The story so far. In the beginning, the universe was created...
OK, skip that bit. I have a collection of MP3 files, and the tags attached to some of the files are causing errors in the way albums are displayed in some music players. I want to view and edit MP3 tags. My last post on the subject ended with some confusion as to which tag editors can do what, so here is a quick review.

Kid3 is the clear winner in KDE. (It's perfectly usable in Gnome- but the KDE dependencies make it a little slow to load, and it uses the KDE theme.) The Gnome alternative, Audio Tag Tool, produces errors when reading ID3v2 Version 2.3 tags, and cannot read ID3v2 Version 2.4 tags- the default used by such applications as Sound Juicer.
Applications using the Mutagen backend are a very usable alternative in Gnome, only lacking the ability to see which ID3 standard is being used, and if an ID3v2 tag exists, to see which version, and to switch view between tag standards if both exist.
UPDATE: A comment points out that there is a version of Kid3 for Gnome (kid3-qt) which doesn't have the KDE dependencies- a tip of the hat there.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Music file tags

Rip a CD and the ripping program will often go online and look up the album, artist and track information, and append this information to the audio file as a tag. Sound Juicer does this in Ubuntu. But how does it work, and is it possible to automatically tag audio files that have been ripped without tagging? This issue caused me some confusion recently.
I used Audiograbber to rip some CD's into MP3 on a Windows computer. The program didn't prompt me to add the tag information, so I assumed it didn't have this facility (looking at the website now, I see it does). The result was several folders of MP3 files with no meaningful file names or tag information.
I decided to look for a way to automatically tag and name the files. I found EasyTAG. The program gave me an option to search the something called the CDDB database to look up the CD details. For several of my folders of MP3's, this worked. For one folder, the program found the CD in the database, but one track didn't match up. In frustration, I tried MP3Tag in Windows. Using the same CDDB database ( and entry, the program correctly tagged the folder. (Ho hum.)
But I was left in some confusion. Apart from not seeing that I could have used Audiograbber to look up the files when I ripped them, I hadn't really understood what how EasyTAG and MP3Tag found the metadata for my files, as this post to the Ubuntu Forum proves.
So how does CDDB work? Wikipedia has a good explanation. The CDDB database uses a "discid" created from track duration information stored in the table-of-contents of the CD.
So how had EasyTAG recognised my already-ripped MP3 files without a table-of-contents? I'd assumed it must have used an "audio fingerprint", but I was obviously wrong. I can only guess that EasyTAG and MP3Tag use track length information to create a discid.
So is there a way to identify audio files using an "acoustic fingerprint"? Yes, MusicBrainz Picard can do it in Linux. (Winamp in Windows uses Gracenote.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Audio file tags- and problems therewith

Audio files like MP3 files can contain metadata (information about the information) in a "tag" (an appendage to the file.). That's why when a music player plays a music file, it can show the album, artist and track information even if the folder and file names do not carry this information. Of course, if there is no metadata, a music player will not show album, artist and track information, even if the folder and files do carry this information.
Ripping a CD to MP3 will result in files that play as "Track 1, Unknown Album, Unknown Artist" or similar- unless the ripping program is capable of looking up these details and appending them to the MP3 file. (See a later post.)
A problem can arise if music tracks are incorrectly tagged, because music players use the tags (not folder and file names) to organise a library. So a stray space or upper case letter in the wrong place in a track or artist title can mean an album appears twice in a music library.
Some music players are better at dealing with minor errors like this and will group tracks and albums correctly even if there are minor differences in tags. Winamp in Windows is pretty good in this respect; music players in Gnome seem to be more fussy. (Amarok is as good or better than Winamp, but it's a KDE application- usable in Gnome, but slow to load and a different theme.)
A error in the way a music player organises tracks and albums in a music library means looking at the file tags for errors. Here's where the fun starts. There are two different standards for tagging MP3 files, and several different versions of the second standard. (Wikipedia has a good write-up.) How to view and edit tag information?
My music collection is on a Windows partition, and I've always used Winamp for tag editing, but recently I had a problem with an MP3 file tag causing problems, so I thought I'd try some Gnome alternatives. Amarok has excellent tag editing, but, as I've mentioned before, it's a KDE application- usable, but not ideal in Gnome.)
I tried Rhythmbox and Banshee (two music players with tag editors) but couldn't see the problem. I also tried a couple of tag editors- Audio Tag Tool and EasyTAG. I booted into Windows and looked at the album with Winamp: the problem was obvious in Winamp's excellent tag editor: a superfluous "Album Artist" compilation ID3V2 tag was causing a music player to mis-identify an album as a compilation. ("The Pot" in this screenshot.)

The tag didn't show up in EasyTAG:

Going back to Audio Tag Tool and clicking the "Advanced" button, I was able to see the offending tag, this time in a field called "Band".

Deleting the "Album Artist" tag in Winamp allowed the music player to list the album correctly, but curiously left Audio Tag Tool unable to view any of the ID3V2 tags.

This illustrates another problem: there are different versions of the ID3V2 standard, and tags written in one version may not be readable in another.
I later came across Kid3, a KDE tag editor, which listed the "Album Artist" tag correctly: in fact, as clearly as Winamp.

The problem with Kid3 on Gnome is it requires a lot of KDE dependencies, and uses the KDE theme. Not show-stoppers, but a good Gnome application would have been nice.
UPDATE: A comment to a subsequent post points out that kid3-qt is available in Gnome without the KDE dependencies.
Verdict: If you want to edit tags in Linux, KDE has the best applications: Amarok and Kid3.
In Gnome, there is nothing which will view and edit all standards and versions of MP3 tag accurately and without errors. Or if there is, I haven't found it.
UPDATE: Maybe I have! It's called Mutagen: it's used by several Gnome programs to edit MP3. Here's a couple of examples of programs which use it, and how they found the error described in the post.
The first is the Edit>Details screen of MusicBrainz Picard.

Next we have Ex Falso.

Exaile, which also uses the Mutagen backend, also displayed the "Album Artist" tag correctly.
I'm not sure why Ex Falso labelled the tag as "Performer" rather than "Album Artist", but I think it's an issue with the ID3V2 standard.
Mutagen can read all versions of the ID3V2 standard.
UPDATE 2: Mutagen doesn't appear to recognise ID3V1 tags: trying out Quod Libet and Exaile, I found that tracks tagged only in ID3V1 are listed as "unrecognised".
UPDATE 3: Even if the above players can't recognise tracks on the basis of ID3v1 information, Mutagen based tag editors have no problem doing so see this test.

Gnome music players & Complilation albums

Winamp was my prefered music player in Windows because it was:
  • quick to start
  • easy to find and play albums
  • easy to hide the player in the notification area while doing other things.
  • excellent at tag editing
The only niggle I had was that it didn't recognise some compilation albums correctly, so I had to resort to playing the folder.
So what is the equivalent in Linux? Amarok seemed to be the answer, doing everything Winamp did and more- it even recognised my compilation albums and would play them without fuss- the only problem being it is a KDE application, and launching in Gnome takes a few seconds for required KDE dependencies to load. I wanted something which would launch quickly and play songs simply, but missed the excellence of Amarok- I tried Rhythmbox, Exaile and Banshee, eventually settling on Rhythmbox.
Meanwhile, Amarok was updated to version 2 with Ubuntu 9.04, and I didn't like the new GUI much, so I uninstalled it. Recently I was looking at my compilation albums spread all over Rhythmbox and thinking about how I was going to play them.
Why can't Rhythmbox recognise compilation albums?
The problem is that it's tricky to 1) detect compilations and 2) to know where to store the info. You can't always know if a particular track belongs to a compilation, because there may be duplicate album names. (Link here.)
So Rhythmbox is still working on it: are there any music players for Gnome that can list and play compilation albums correctly?
I was doing a search recently and came across Gejengel. (It's not in the Ubuntu repositories, but a Deb package for Ubuntu is available here- one dependency is also required.) It's a lean and simple player that nonetheless looks quite elegant and claims to properly handle compilation albums. It did manage to recognise one of my compilation albums, but split the tracks into two albums with the same name for some reason*. [* See update below.] However, the big drawback of this program is it only recognises the MP3 format. There are also still a few bugs in the program (not surprising as it seems to be a one-man effort). Still, I'll be keeping an eye on future developments.
So I was back to searching for a music player that could handle compilation albums. I found a reference to Banshee handling compilation albums well, but when I had tried it, all my compilation tracks were spread out over the music library. I did another search and found this:
Since version 1.2 Banshee has had good support for multi-artist (compilation) albums. If your files already contained album-artist metadata, Banshee should have picked that up and things should Just Work. If not, you can always manually edit the Album Artist by selecting the tracks of the album, pressing e to Edit Information, and setting a common value (e.g. "Various Artists" or the main artist on the album) in the Album Artist field. When sorting by anything except Artist, your tracks will get sorted by Album Artist as you'd expect. (Link here.)
Trying Banshee again, I found that selecting a track and clicking Edit Track Information, there is a Compilation Album Artist tick box. Ticking this and entering Various Artists means that compilation albums are correctly grouped. Success! (I did have one problem with Banshee- it wouldn't show album art until I started playing each album. I had to do that manually for each album- but now all my album art is nicely displayed.) Looks like Banshee is going to be my chosen player from now on- and there's a new version coming soon with lots of bug fixes and new features, so it can only get better! (A repository is here.)
UPDATE: Gejengel split my compilation album into two because it found a "Various Artists" tag in one track. If no track has this field completed, or all tracks have it competed correctly, Gejengel lists the album correctly. (A stray "Various Artists" tag in a non-compilation album also causes the same problem- an album split into two.) If you try the program and have a similar problem, try looking at the MP3 tags with a good tag editor. (See post above.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Browser market share

PC Pro has a story on bowser market share.
I suspect Internet Explorer sucks less than it did the last time I used it (which was back in the days of IE6), but still, try Opera, Firefox, Safari or Chrome.

Usable avast! beta

A new version of avast! is coming, and the scanner GUI doesn't suck. (See previous post.) The latest beta seems to be usable: it has up-to-date definitions, which previous betas didn't.