Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pidgin Guifications theme for Gnome

Pidgin is my favourite IM client. It does IM's well, and also tells me about new emails, but only when I open the Buddy list. Recently I found the Guifications plugin (install via Synaptic in Debian), which does a popup notification when new emails arrive. Unfortunately, the default popup is rather poor- it doesn't match Gnome pop-ups, the information it contains is unreadable, and the icon used is the old Gaim icon, not the Pidgin icon.
Well this is Linux- if you don't like it, you're supposed to fix it, so I had a go.
Guifications includes a theme editor. It doesn't work on the themes that come pre-installed, so I grabbed a copy of the default theme from /usr/share/pixmaps/pidgin/guifications/themes and put it in ~/.purple/guifications/themes/.

Here is the default Guifications theme:

The first step was to try widening the background image:

OK, at least the information is readable now. Next, I updated the log using the Gimp:

Not bad, but it doesn't match Gnome popups:

I edited my screenshot of a Gnome popup and added the Pidgin logo. Text and account icon positions were off:

After another edit, the icon was positioned in the right corner, but I'd borked the text positioning:

Another edit sorted out vertical positioning, but clipping and the icon position still needed adjustment:

Another edit sorted out those problems. The popup looked like it needed a title in bold:

The email address in the 'From' field is not the sender, it's account- and that information is obvious from the account icon, so the email address was redundant:

If I say so myself, I was impressed with the result! A very nice popup which matches Gnome popups almost exactly.
[NB: There a glitch in Guifications which means email notifications don't appear unless you deselect 'Email' from the 'Notifications' tab in the Guifications configuration window and then reselect it again after changing themes. Bear this in mind if you try alternative themes.]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tagging audio files using Music Brainz Picard- Some more examples

Here are some more screen shots to illustrate identifying music files by use of an acoustic fingerprint, and adding tag information, using Music Brainz Picard.
I've added a folder containing 19 music files which are not tagged with meta-information- album, artist, track etc.- and used the scan button to have Music Brainz Picard check the acoustic fingerprints of the tracks against its database. The application has suggested four possible album matches:

The first suggestion is actually the album I'd ripped to MP3.

The complete green bars indicate a match with high confidence; the incomplete green bars a slightly less confident match, and the incomplete orange bar (track 16) a tentative match. (As we saw in the previous post, matches with low confidence are shown by a red bar.)
There are three tracks (5, 15 & 19) for which the application has not found a matching file. If we select this album and save, the corresponding files will not have their tag information added. We need to tell the application that three of our files in the added folder correspond with these tracks- we'll either find them in the unmatched files, or in the three other album suggestions.
In this case, my unidentified album was a soundtrack, which included tracks originally found on other albums, so it won't be surprising if Music Brainz Picard thinks they belong on another CD.
Here is our missing track 19, track 18 on another CD: we need to drag and drop it to track 19 on the first CD suggestion.

Here is our missing track 5: again we need to drag and drop it onto track 5 in the first CD suggestion.

And here is our missing track 15: drag and drop to the first CD suggestion as before.

In this example, Music Brainz Picard had correctly identified all the tracks, but understandably not been able to tell which CD the tracks were from.
It's also possible to see the acoustic identification completely misidentify a track, it which case it's again necessary to manually drag the misidentified file to the correct CD suggestion, and drop it on the correct track number.
(If there is a way to tell Music Brainz Picard "this suggestion is the correct album, and all my files belong to that album, in the order that they appear as files in the folder", then I haven't found it. If anybody knows better, or can simply or clarify the instructions given, please leave a comment.
Update: Forgot to RTFM.
You can drag whole directories, multiple files or album clusters onto albums and Picard will attempt to match the dragged files to the album. Any track that doesn't match up well enough, will be added to an "Unmatched Files" sub-folder specific to that album. You can drag files out of this folder and into the right slots in the album to fix up the files that Picard couldn't get right.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tagging audio files using Music Brainz Picard

As described in the previous post, I recently converted some audio files from the FLAC format to MP3 using Sound Converter. Now sound converter is very clever, and when it converts files with no tags, it goes online to look for the appropriate information: album, artist, title etc. As far as I can work out, (see a previous post), it does this using a discid calculated from track lengths and an online database of CD discid's.
For several of my CD folders, Sound Converter correctly added MP3 tag information (although it left the files without meaningful filenames). Other folder it could not identify, and I had to use a different system of file identification, an acoustic fingerprint, and a different application Music Brainz Picard (which can also take care of the file name issue, renaming files according to the track name*).
It took me a while previously to work out how to use Music Brainz Picard, and when I cam to use it again, I realised I forgotten what I'd learnt, so I thought I'd write a short tutorial.
The first step is to add a folder containing tracks you want to identify from the menu.

The unidentified tracks should appear as unmatched files.

[Update: Anonymous has commented that it would be more efficient to use the Cluster and Lookup features here first- see comment for details.]
I can then select the unmatched files and use the Scan option from the menu, which will create an acoustic fingerprint and check it against the Music Brainz database. Suggested matches will appear in the right-hand window. In this case, there are only two hits- the red bars show that the confidence in a match is low, but the result is correct.

In the case of a more certain match, the bars will be green. If the track appears on more than one album, or the acoustic fingerprint created matches more than one track, alternative album or track suggestions will be displayed.
This is where some manual work comes in- I have to drag the unmatched file to the appropriate track (on the appropriate album, if applicable). (In the case of mismatched files, I have to drag those from the wrongly suggested album to the correct album.)
[Update: From reading the Music Brainz Picard documentation, it seems I can drag all of my unmatched files and drop them on the identified album, and Music Brainz Picard will attempt to sort them out.]
Note: If I click Save above, Music Brainz Picard will only add tag information for two tracks in the folder. I have to do some dragging and dropping:

Now I have matched all the tracks, I can click Save.

The correct tags have been appended to my files. (To change the file names to something more meaningful, select Options>Rename Files.)
In the event that acoustic fingerprinting can't suggest an album match, enter album, artist or track details and click the search icon. This will open a web page in your default browser. Check the suggested hits and click the green Tagger button to return details to Music Brainz Picard.

* To change file names to match tag information, select a folder and use the Lookup button to match tag information against Music Brainz Picard's database, select Options>Rename Files and save.)
Update: More example screen shots in this post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Split Flac audio file

I recently downloaded some rips of audio CD's. In each CD folder, I found one huge .flac file and a .cue file. Professor Google told me that Flac is a lossless audio codec, and that I could split the .flac file into individual tracks using a command-line tool and the .cue file.
I installed flac, shntool and cuetools from the Debian repository and ran the following command:
shntool split -f *.cue -o flac *.flac
This splits the one big flac file, whatever its name, into separate flac files, according to the information in the .cue file, whatever its name. (It is of course possible to specify the file names if there's more than one in the directory.)
I didn't have any luck trying to change the output format to MP3, or trying to add file tags using the .cue file, and simply used Sound Converter instead.
Users of Ubuntu and Debian Unstable can get this good looking GUI application to split audio files. It's called gCue2tracks. The screenshot I found here.

Update: If you experience the following error message, see this post:
shntool [split]: error: m:ss.ff format can only be used with CD-quality files

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Debian swirl in Gnome

The Debian desktop is pretty much Gnome with some Debian wallpaper. The default Main Menu icon is the Gnome foot.
To replace the Gnome foot with the Debian Swirl, replace the start-here.svg or start-here.png image with an appropriate Debian Swirl image. (Other Gnome foot icons in the directory are just shortcuts to those images and will change automatically.)
Then update the icon cache:
# gtk-update-icon-cache -f '/usr/share/icons/'
For a user-installed theme, the location and the image filename will be different:
/home/user/.icons/icon theme/scalable/places
/home/user/.icons/icon theme/32x32/places
/home/user/.icons/icon theme/24x24/places
/home/user/.icons/icon theme/22x22/places
/home/user/.icons/icon theme/16x16/places
A similar icon cache update will be required:
$ gtk-update-icon-cache -f '/home//.icons/'
Or simply delete the icon-theme.cache file from the icon theme directory and it will be rebuilt with the new icon.

Credit goes here and here.

Update : Edited the gtk-update-icon-cache commands following these instructions.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Upgrade kernel from backports in Debian Stable

Debian Stable (currently Lenny) is, as the version name implies, stable. If there are any annoying bugs, I haven't come across any, and I haven't experienced any crashes or lock-ups in the OS itself. Some of the packages in Stable are, however, rather long in the tooth- they haven't been updated for a couple of years or more.
Recently I've been using Debian backports to update versions of some applications- Pidgin, Transmission, Open Office. I'd come across a few recommendations to upgrade the kernel, but had trouble finding a simple guide to doing so. There are hundreds of kernel entries in the list of software packages in Debian Lenny: which one to choose? The best guide I found was this one.
For an example one package I recommend updating on a desktop system is the Linux kernel. Debian ships Linux kernels that are geared towards server use by default. This is fine if you are running Debian on a server, and if you are, I strongly suggest you stick with the default kernel. However, there are other kernels available that are optimised for desktop use...
The guide goes on to recommend a couple of kernel packages that are not in the current list of packages- so I guess they've been updated. I went ahead and installed linux-image-2.6.32-bpo.5-686, Linux 2.6.32 for modern PCs.
This seems to be the kernel for duel-core processors. There are many different kernels for different computer architectures. I'm guessing "bpo.5" stands for backport (something) 5- but if any reader knows better, or of a guide to choosing the best kernel for a particular computer, please leave a comment.
UPDATE: A comment informs "bpo.5" stands for backport.org.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gnome 3 mockups

[Update, June 2011: for some reason this page has been getting a lot of hits recently. Gnome 3 has been released, people. If you want screenshots, visit the Gnome 3 site for screenshots of the finished product.]
I found some screenshots of the new Gnome 3 mockup on the Debian forum. (The Gnome 3 release has apparently been delayed to accommodate the changes.)
I'm looking forward to using Gnome 3. The present desktop model in Gnome dates back to 1995. Time for a change. I've used the Gnome 3 shell in Ubuntu and (briefly) in Fedora and liked it. In both distros it caused computer lock-ups, but I'm pretty sure these were due to using it with Compiz running at the same time. Now I'm running Debian Stable, where the Gnome shell is not available. If Gnome 3 comes out in March, I guess it will miss the next release of Debian Stable too (due around the end of the year). Sigh.