Monday, June 28, 2010

Rip CD's to MP3 in Debian

[Update 27/10/2012: this  information was written for Squeeze over a year ago, but the situation in Wheezy is very different. Wheezy will of course become the stable release in a few months, so bear this in mind when reading.]

My portable music player only plays MP3 and WMA format files, so I rip CD's into MP3. I hadn't ripped a CD since installing Debian, so coming across this post on the Debian forum, I checked and found that MP3 in Audio CD Extractor was not enabled. Following the instructions in the post, I was able to enable ripping into MP3.
For various legal reasons (Zzzz*) Debian doesn't come with the ability to rip CD's to MP3. The issue is discussed on the Debian forum (before drifting off into a more interesting discussion of football). Ripping CD's requires an encoder. LAME is the MP3 encoder used by Debian, and gstreamer0.10-lame is the package required. It can be installed by adding the Debian Multimedia repository.

*Here's the legal stuff, as far as I can work it out.

An MP3 encoder can be downloaded for personal use. license is needed for private, non-commercial activities (e.g., home-entertainment, receiving broadcasts and creating a personal music library), not generating revenue or other consideration of any kind or for entities with associated annual gross revenue less than US$ 100 000.00.
The legal stipulation here is that it can only be distributed in countries not covered by software patents.
Distributing compiled binaries of LAME, its libraries, or programs which are derivative works of LAME in countries which recognize those patents, may be considered infringing on the relevant patents.
But this does not affect the end-user, because it is the responsibility of the distributor to comply with local laws.

The legality of ripping CD's varies from country to country.
In the United Kingdom, making a private copy of copyrighted media without the copyright owner's consent is illegal: this includes ripping music from a CD to a computer or digital music player. The UK government has made proposals to allow people to make copies of music for personal use. According to one survey, 55% of British consumers believed ripping a CD to be legal, and 59% admitted to doing it. Wikipedia

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Install a scanner in debian (and problem solving in general)

My scanner worked for years with Ubuntu, after a fairly simple procedure of downloading some firmware from the manufacturer's website, and, as far as I remember, simply placing in in a specific directory in Ubuntu.
Recently I'd installed Debian Lenny, and yesterday I needed to get the scanner working again. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember exactly what I'd done in Ubuntu or where I'd found the instructions. I tried a Google search. This was the advice from the first link I found:

Did a make menuconfig and added USB-scanner support to the kernel
Damn! That sounds hard! I sure I didn't do anything that difficult before.

In fact, installing the scanner in Debian wasn't too difficult in the end. After quite a bit more Googling, I found an installation guide for Debian [Update: the link seems to be dead, but the document is now available at SourceForge.], the "backend" for my scanner and the correct firmware.

The problem with the advice above is that it dates from 2002 and is no longer appropriate. This is illustrative of a pitfall when using Google to look for answers to problems in Linux- a lot of the solutions offered my be out of date, no longer appropriate, and quite simply the wrong thing to do.

Two tips are:
  • Limit a wed search to the last year to look for current advice,
  • Look for general guides like the Debian NewbieDocs [Now at SourceForge] guide above, and check it's still current.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Debian Squeeze: ETA, end of 2010...

... but could be April 2011.

Code freeze is expected in August.

The H Open has the details.