Pulseaudio networked audio

PulseAudio is a sound server for POSIX and Win32 systems. A sound server is basically a proxy for your sound applications. It allows you to do advanced operations on your sound data as it passes between your application and your hardware. Things like transferring the audio to a different machine, changing the sample format or channel count and mixing several sounds into one are easily achieved using a sound server.

So I've recently been playing with Pulseaudio to send audio back and forth between the different ubuntu machines I have in my house. If you look at the Frequently asked questions section there's solutions for the most complex setups. There's even one to push audio from multiple machines into one surround mix. It doesn't create AC3 or DTS signals instead multichannel PCM which some surround receiver can decode. Looking at the instructions you can get slightly scared of the commands you need to feed it. But I've found using Pulse Audio Device Chooser which is in the Ubuntu Universe repository you can do most of the simple tasks without touching the command line.

My only problem at the moment is that I don't boot into Ubuntu when using xbmc or Boxee so I don't get a chance to play with the gui device chooser. Plus xbmc doesn't work well with pulseaudio currently. So the main machine plugged into my largest sound source is currently not setup to receive network audio right now. Expect that to change very soon.

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What happened to me on stage at Next09

You might have heard how my machine had a meltdown on stage at Next09 but it wasn't that simple. First up I was covering for David Brain of Edelman who was booked to talk about Crowd Surfing, I didn't want to just talk about the same thing as my other talk so I put together a presentation during the first day on my laptop and finally finished it late in the night after the party. Actually some people might remember me working during the after party working on the presentation instead of blogging because the hotel I booked didn't have decent wifi.

The next day I turned up 15mins early and had some problems getting my head mic on because of the size of my head. Anyway the moment came to plug in my laptop and the German Technician looked at my laptop puzzled because it wasn't what he was expecting. He was expecting Windows. So unfortunately in a rush while trying to communicate in sudo english/german he tried to plug my laptop in. I was trying to help because he was getting very confused with my multiple workspaces and the general layout of ubuntu. What made things even worst was there was no local loop display of the 2nd screen, so when it was working I couldn't see what was actually on it till they switched the main display. And thats the thing, it was working. We got extended desktop display working but I couldn't see where to drag the presentation to show it. So we decided to go for mirror or cloned display. We changed the settings and resolution and suddenly the screen refreshed and there was nothing on screen. Of course I couldn't see the other screen to see what was really going on. At this point the the Moderator Patrick de Laive, stopped talking and I was there just in silence.

The silence was only broken with people getting up and leaving. I rebooted my machine and tried plan B which was to get the presentation off on to another machine. Usually I have a copy on a thumb drive/my phone and email/internet but because I had finished the presentation so late I had not done either. When rebooted, the screen was still blank, so I switch to the commend line and tried to copy it that way but the usb devices didn't seem to mount in there usual way. By now its already 10mins into the time and so I give up and they provide another PC laptop. This laptop takes time to setup and has no internet access so I call to the crowd for someone to lend me there laptop which is online. After a while someone did come forward but by then over 15mins had gone and you know what conference wifi is like, so it was difficult to show any of the videos or even sites.

They always say this happens at the worst of times, and it certainly did. Luckily the talk on Open Media later went smooth and without any technical hitches.

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JaikuEngine vs Laconica

In addition to the post I wrote about slowly moving to Identi.ca. I found this very nice forum thread about Jaiku and Laconi.ca in Jyri's bookmarks. Some take aways….

However the code runs on Google AppEngine. This means setting up your own instance takes less than 5 minutes. You don't need your own hosting. You don't have to pay any money for hosting unless you get enough traffic that you go over AppEngine's free quota: http://code.google.com/appengine/docs/quotas.html

In general my advice is that you sign up to both Identi.ca and Jaiku.com (as they're the single biggest instances of both Laconica and JaikuEngine) to get a feel for how the two systems work. Not only will this give you an understanding of how they compare to each other but you'll see how they differ from Twitter and be able to interact with the respective development teams.

Generally Laconica is a little further down the path but both are mature enough for large scale use. Jaiku has a advantage of running on Google App Engine, which means it can be setup fast and scale super large. Laconica has better support in clients because of the Twitter like API it uses. Federation support is also unique to Laconica at the moment but Jaikuengine does have plans for that and the Twitter like API support. The only other thing which separates them is one is Laconica is PHP based and is AGPL while Jaiku is Python and Apache licensed. So as Evan says in the comments So, wouldn't it be awesome if this were the main question people were deciding right now?

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I should be a Apple fan but I’m so not

People keep getting at me about my Apple hating. “Why is it I'm not a Mac fan?” On paper I should be a fan and should own some of its hardware. So what happened? Here's some history which you may find interesting, even from the point of pure nostalgia.

So with a background in design and running a ST computer back in the early 90's I really wanted to get a Mac. I mean the mac as symbolised in that famous 1984 advert was about breaking the mold, not being a boring grey suit, yadda, yadda. Well at that young age, I was amazed and wanted one. In school they only had boring RM PCs running Windows 3.1 and trust me that added to the myth that PC's were so boring. After leaving school, I had pushed my ST to its limit and I landed a job working for a local newspaper working with Adobe Photoshop 2.x and Quark Express 3.1 while at college. The work place had macs for most of its output and the college had macs for the design school, and pcs on the other side of the campus to this thing called the internet. So there was this dilemma, should I want to do any work, I'd have to use the macs if I wanted to download or check out the web I had to go across the road to the business school and use there pcs. After about a year or so they finally hooked up a sub-powermac (think it was a quadra) with a 28.8k modem and you use the internet on that one machine, but only a few months later they also put in a load of 486's in the room next to mac design suite. They were unlocked and we were able to find software like paintshop pro to put on the pcs. So although the macs could do some amazing things like video editing (we had a couple of powermacs 132's with miro dc030 cards in them, they were no match for the lure of the open internet.

About this time I was big into POV Ray and being able to run this on the pcs was great. I was even able to run it on the PC's really easily, plus late at night I could run super complex scenes over many machines in parallel. It was really liberating. I also discovered with other friends that the UWE (University of the west of england) had a 24hour computer lab with 486's and super fast (at the time) internet over 2 rooms and 40 machines in each one. And security was really lax, so lax that after a while we got to know the security guards and we would just pop in and out without being asked for ID ever. Anyway, this is about the time I also got into PC networked gaming with Quake and learned how to build myself a PC with the help of a guy from the Newspaper called Mike. I need a new computer as the ST really wasn't cutting it any more, and I did crazily consider getting a Silicon Graphics 02 with all the money I could scrap together but thankfully couldn't afford it with everything I had, So the next best thing was a mac but it didn't happen because it was so much cheaper to buy and make a PC. But the Mac had a lot going for it. Quicktime for example was untapped features in it which I'd wished I had more time with at the time. I remember being so amazed with QTVR, that I ended up buying a book on it, which I still own today. At one point I borrowed a Mac from my friend Carl while he was on holiday somewhere and although I did enjoy it and never felt like quite like my own. But I digress,

At the time Intel and AMD were neck and neck but Intel was seen as the enemy, so I made a 200mhz AMD K6 because only the Microsoft fans would pick the expensive and slower Pentium chip. (I also remember this was not long before the whole CPU benchmark thing where Apple compared the G3 to a Pentium 3 but never a AMD. This further fuelled my dislike for Apple, I mean the AMD's were beating the Intel chips on everything non MMX or SSE based. Once I learned how to build my own, that was pretty much it. I customised my PC, by pained the case black replaced the leds with blue ones and played with stardocks object desktop to create insane hacker (the film) type startup screens etc. Software was easily available and sharing it was currency. Life was all good.

So running Windows was my prefered choice but it gave me more alleged freedom that a mac. I did try switching over to linux at some point but decided it was too command like, and I wanted something more visual like the mac desktop. So I choose BeOS which was around at the time and was still a viable alternative. Obviously that all went down the pan, and I only ever installed it on a spare machine thankfully.

I can't remember exact times or dates, but here's a few things which put me off Apple even more over the last ten years. I remember the imac, it was loved by everyone in the community but when I tried to actually use it, it was shockingly slow and troublesome. The round pluck like USB mouse really got to me, I think it was about then I become aware of the Steve Jobs approach to design and products. Maybe it was also the software OS8 and 9 but I saw people on there knees over the look of the imac and general use was anything but good. Apple sold this and all other mac since as aspirational machines, when frankly there anything but. The religion of the Apple Mac really rubbed me up the wrong way, even with the serious mistakes of OSX/Classic. It wasn't till OSX.3 when things starting getting good enough again. But back to the cult of the mac, remember those Mac vs PC adverts. Apple totally shot themselves in the foot with me. And to double back Microsoft's advertising campaign, I'm a PC is pure genius.

Funny enough this Guardian Article sums up my thoughts till OSX.3, adding FreeBSD is the only saving grace.

I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don't use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.

PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis /images/emoticons/laugh.gifoctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, “I hate Macs”, and then I think, “Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?” Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb. If the ads were really honest, Webb would be standing there with one arm, struggling to open a packet of peanuts while Mitchell effortlessly tore his apart with both hands. But then, if the ads were really honest, Webb would be dressed in unbelievably po-faced avant-garde clothing with a gigantic glowing apple on his back. And instead of conducting a proper conversation, he would be repeatedly congratulating himself for looking so cool, and banging on about how he was going to use his new laptop to write a novel, without ever getting round to doing it, like a mediocre idiot.

The Mac and Apple always stood for creativity and thinking differently, even now there are some amazing software created by its insanely dedicated community which can't be found on other platforms. I've never even looked at development in Cocoa but there's certainly heard good things about it. I also think OSX is actually not bad with its BSD backbone but I'm not keen on the Gui. The whole iPod and iPhone thing drives me totally insane. Most companies create different versions of consumer electronic products to capture the market, but Apple don't do that. Fair enough but to argue that Apple products are better that anything else and thats why there's only one type or two types is simply arrogant. A while back I looked into getting a new laptop and did consider a Mac book but for me the size was a little too big, general ports very low and actual spec not as efficient as the many models by Dell, HP, IBM, etc. I'm not saying there better but I am saying my requirements are different to Steve Jobs. For example the iphone still has not got stereo bluetooth support, for most people this is a who cares? But when you already have 2 sets of headphones and a set of speakers at home with Bluetooth support, this is a deal breaker.

To finish, I already touched on the snobbery of most Mac users. But there's something equally strange about this snobbery. Maybe in the same way there's iphone socks and macbook screen protectors. Most PC users have a love/hate relationship with there machine. Well this seems to be less so with Mac users. Is this because the fisher price machine does exactly what its told to do or maybe because the Mac users have self brainwashed themselves into believing the hype? I think I know which one it is but thats for another post. I'll leave you thinking with this.

Cue 10 years of nasal bleating from Mac-likers who profess to like Macs not because they are fashionable, but because “they are just better”. Mac owners often sneer that kind of defence back at you when you mock their silly, posturing contraptions, because in doing so, you have inadvertently put your finger on the dark fear haunting their feeble, quivering soul – that in some sense, they are a superficial semi-person assembled from packaging; an infinitely sad, second-rate replicant who doesn't really know what they are doing here, but feels vaguely significant and creative each time they gaze at their sleek designer machine. And the more deftly constructed and wittily argued their defence, the more terrified and wounded they secretly are.

Ultimately the campaign's biggest flaw is that it perpetuates the notion that consumers somehow “define themselves” with the technology they choose. If you truly believe you need to pick a mobile phone that “says something” about your personality, don't bother. You don't have a personality. A mental illness, maybe – but not a personality. Of course, that hasn't stopped me slagging off Mac owners, with a series of sweeping generalisations, for the past 900 words, but that is what the ads do to PCs. Besides, that's what we PC owners are like – unreliable, idiosyncratic and gleefully unfair. And if you'll excuse me now, I feel an unexpected crash coming.

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