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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 12:09 pm 
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I guess this working group is the right one although we probably need some wider feedback about this.

I think there are 3 problems with the Mac that we're using as jukebox in the cafe right now:

1. There's no backup of the music, as far as I know. When the Mac has a hardware failure (Apple is known for good quality hardware, but I do mean when) then all the music will possibly be lost forever. Has there ever been a backup made?

2. We are using Mac OS X and particularly iTunes which are Proprietary/Non-Free Software. I care about this and think we should not use this software on principle.

It might not be so important with the Mac that is locked away in a cupboard, BUT whenever an artist gives us a CD and we rip it using iTunes it is probably storing that music in a hideous proprietary file format. This means that iTunes encodes the music in such a way that only software produced by Apple can use the music. This is a corporate tactic known as Vendor Lock-In: once you have a large collection of music that you can only play on Apple software, then you become dependent on Apple.

This is potentially very shit, because if our Mac should stop working, even if we had a backup of the music, we might not be able to play any of our music until we got another Mac, not a PC.

Ofcourse, there are ways around the problem, we could probably find a way to convert the music into a free format that can be played on any computer with freely available software. Ogg Vorbis is a free audio format.

3. When you rip a CD with iTunes, iTunes decides what to name the files, and where to put them, probably creating a huge mess. Not such a big deal, but annoying.

A friend of mine, Erik, has an Apple laptop and has offered to use it to backup all the music from the jukebox. We would copy all the music to his laptop, then burn it to DVDs. We might also convert it to a free format while we're at it. That would solve problem 1. Does anyone know roughly how much music (in GigaBytes) is on there?

As for problem 2, there are two things we could do:

1. Get a decent spec PC, install Ubuntu on it, put the music on that, and put it where the Mac is. Move the Mac downstairs as a backup. We can both play and rip music easily with Ubuntu. This disadvantage of this option is we will probably have to spend money to get a computer, though not much.

2. Install Ubuntu on the Mac, which according to Erik is child's play and exactly like installing Ubuntu on a PC, so should not cause any problems. This would not cost us anything. The disadvantage is that if something goes wrong, not that I think it would, but if something went wrong and Ubuntu was not doing the job, we wouldn't simply be able to bring the Mac back upstairs and use it as before. We could however reinstall OS X if we had to, as I think we have an OS X CD.

I realise that the jukebox is needed to play music all day every day and has always just worked, and must continue to do so, so I think it's important to do any change with no disruption. Ubuntu is very reliable -- as far as I know the two Ubuntu machines in the cafe, which are running on really crappy scavenged old hardware, have never crashed.

How do people feel about this?


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 4:13 pm 
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Totally agree with what's here, my only worry is possible loss of sound quality converting to ogg. Nothing against ogg, but it's always a issue coverting between compressed formats. My only experience is ogg to mp3 (to make stuff work on an ipod) and the result wasn't great.

I think if we're backing up we should keep copies in the existing format as well as converting, unless someone knows of conversion software that really is spot on fidelity wise.

I personally use Winamp all the time (I know it's corporate owned now, which is a shame, but..). I guess you don't get winamp for mac ? Anyway much better to have something that rips to mp3.

While I'm at it, a plug for the Brian Jonestown Massacre who've made most of their albums available free on ogg.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 4:50 pm 
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i'm in favor of the work it will take to make our computing more ethical but also echo duncan's concern.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 5:20 pm 
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Duncan:

you're right that converting the Apple files to Ogg will lose some quality. This is unavoidable regardless of the file conversion software used, because both are lossy formats. Different conversion softwares may lose less quality though. Me and Erik decided the result would not be noticeable, as when ripping a CD which was previously burned. This is a matter of opinion though. We'd keep the original files, yes.

If we really care about audio quality, FLAC is a free compressed file format that is lossless -- the FLAC file sounds exactly as good as the original CD it was ripped from (or, I guess, the other file format it was converted from). FLAC's take up more space than Ogg's or other lossy files, but not too much as they're still compressed. We could use FLAC instead of Ogg Vorbis, the trade-off is disk space for audio quality.

About Winamp, the people who made it are now making Songbird, a free (ethical) media player that works on Windows, Mac and Linux and that 'plays the web' as well as playing the music on your computer. It's like iTunes and Firefox combined into one, it integrates music blogs, music search engines, etc. Very cool.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 9:10 pm 
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itunes just rips to mp3, and anything that plays that can use it...(just for info)

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 9:19 pm 
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I think it depends on the version of iTunes and how it's setup. But if it's ripping to mp3 that's a relief. It's still a proprietary format, but free (illegal) codecs for it are so widespread that in practical terms it doesn't really matter to us. And there probably won't be any really nasty stuff like DRM preventing us from copying the files off the mac or something.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 10:12 pm 
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i think itunes only does that if you buy the songs from its store...

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 11:36 am 
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The conversion would be a good thing. I much prefer the FLAC idea for converting what we have - any loss of quality should be avoided.

Backups definitely also good. I was doing it, but I don't have the room on my hard drive anymore. The sooner Erik can do a backup the better as my last one was a while ago, and anyway I've deleted it all as I needed the room!


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 1:22 pm 
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Okay, I think we'll use FLAC for converting what we have and try to avoid any loss of quality. If it's too much trouble we could even just leave it as mp3. Once we have a free software jukebox though I think we'll set it to rip to Ogg Vorbis, not FLAC, just because FLAC takes up a lot of disk space compared to Ogg (30-50% compression for FLAC, 80%+ for Ogg). We could set it to quite high quality Ogg though...

I'll talk to Erik about when a good time to do the backup is.

What I really wanted to get some feedback on was... should we install Ubuntu on the Mac? Or should we try to leave the Mac untouched, so it can be brought back into service if it's ever needed, and get a PC to install Ubuntu on and replace the Mac as jukebox?


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 4:04 pm 
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I would say if we can get these FLAC's sorted out then we should aim to use a PC running linux. We're gonna need more disc space than the Mac has, and also I don't think the Mac will create Ogg's, which is clearly the way forward.

I hear you can get a 1 terabyte hard drive these days!

The Mac could be useful in the office, or as another ubuntu web computer in the cafe. Or as our listening station.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 4:18 pm 
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There's been talk of either getting a new PC for the office from Duncan or buying one. Maybe we could move the Mac into the office instead and use this new PC as a jukebox. That would work very nicely. What do people think?

Me and Erik would like to do the backup to DVD on Saturday, Does the forest have any blank DVDs or shall we buy some? Does anyone know how much music there is to backup?

An Ubuntu PC as jukebox could possibly even double as a listening station if it had two soundcards...


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 9:06 pm 
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Quote:
There's been talk of either getting a new PC for the office from Duncan or buying one. Maybe we could move the Mac into the office instead and use this new PC as a jukebox. That would work very nicely. What do people think?


From what I understand from Duncan the new PC he's got lined up is as good as, if not better, spec than the current office PC....which is just what we need for film editing and other projects, so no, it shouldn't be used as a jukebox, as it would be a waste of potential resources.

Is there any movement on the laptop listening station btw? If it's not coming why not use the mac as the listening post?

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 9:59 pm 
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Maybe when the new office computer comes we can move the current office computer upstairs and turn it into a jukebox with Ubuntu installed, and move the Mac downstairs as a second office computer?

This would still allow there to be a Windows PC downstairs (the new one Duncan's bringing) if people feel they need that.

Btw they are working towards setting up PCs for video editing in Infoseed. Tom has installed the non-linear video editor Cinelerra on all the machines, and I think the quest now is to find enough good spec hardware to use it with.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 10:47 pm 
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Quote:
Mac downstairs as a second office computer


I don't think this is viable. It is a slow machine with little capacity for expansion. The 2 PCs in the office is what we are aiming for.

Is there something offensive about/wrong with the mac that means you don't want to see it in the cafe area anymore? Maybe you can explain...

Again I was just wondering...is there any movement on the laptop listening station? If it's not coming why not use the mac as the listening post?

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 11:07 am 
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Listening station: someone did promise to post us a laptop (again) but it never arrived (again). In my opinion we should give up on trying to find a laptop for free and ask the forest working group for a little money for this project. We should be able to buy a second-hand laptop cheap. Or an iPod (shudder).

Chris wanted the listening station to be mounted on a wall, not take much space, and not require a keyboard or mouse, so the Mac is no good. I wouldn't mind using it as the listening post personally, but then we'd have to find somewhere to put it, and we'd still need a PC to replace it, plus another PC for the office... If we're gonna be using a PC as a jukebox anyway then we can put two soundcards in it and have it double as a listening station. Just hook one soundcard up to the soundsystem, the other to some headphones, and have two music player softwares running, one using each soundcard.

I don't mind the mac being in the cafe if it's running free software. It's not so much a case of Mac OS X if offensive and wrong, more that it'd be better with Ubuntu. The reason I'm pushing for setting up a PC as jukebox and swapping it for the mac is that it's zero risk -- we can leave the mac untouched and with all the music on it, so that even if the PC melts after two weeks we can still just bring the mac back upstairs and it's no huge disaster.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 11:09 am 
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Quote:
Maybe when the new office computer comes we can move the current office computer upstairs and turn it into a jukebox with Ubuntu installed, and move the Mac downstairs as a second office computer?

Was thinking this myself. Current office comp has a nice big hard drive - necessary for the future jukebox.

The Mac would maybe make a good internet browser and music player in the office, either with Ubuntu or a more up to date version of OS X. The new comp would be perfect for stuff that needs more power.

Btw, to check the amount of music on the Mac, just look at the bottom of the iTunes window when it's showing the library/all. It should tell you how many songs and how many GB of memory.

Also, iTunes is quite good at organising the music files. It's puts them all in a folder called iTunes and organises them by album and, in turn, by artist. The files are very easy to find/navigate if you need to.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 11:33 am 
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okay...we've got a few ideas flying around. that's good.

a lot of this depends on when duncan can set up the new computer.
how's it going duncan?

also maybe we should think about what it is we want exactly in the office.

i would like to see 2 computers of the size and spec of the current computer so 2 people can do work.

i have been in many times to do work but someone else was working on the computer, meaning i couldn't do any work. this is a problem. i will give up trying if there's no solution soon.

having the mac in the office as the 2nd computer won't solve this problem. we don't need a music player in the office. it could be used as internet browser of course, but will it be able to do all the other jobs?

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 11:52 am 
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Quote:
having the mac in the office as the 2nd computer won't solve this problem. we don't need a music player in the office. it could be used as internet browser of course, but will it be able to do all the other jobs?


I don't know about the Apple software that's on there now or exactly what spec the mac is, but if we install Ubuntu on it then yes, it ought to do more or less whatever you want.

About trying to get more decent-spec computers in the office so we can do more work... I feel there's a big overlap with Infoseed here, and it might be silly for the forest to be setting up new computers when there's a room full of them next door. The Infoseed lab is there in large part to provide free Internet and computing access. There's about 12 computers in there all perfectly usable, setup with all the software you could want, including video editing software. And there's a team of geeks to be your personal systems administrators. I'm sure access to infoseed for certain forest peeps could be arranged. What do you think?


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 3:43 pm 
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Quote:
i have been in many times to do work but someone else was working on the computer, meaning i couldn't do any work. this is a problem. i will give up trying if there's no solution soon.


If you are in to do Forest related work, you should definitely bump anyone who is on there doing there own stuff. This doesn't solve the problem, but we should keep in mind that the computer is for Forest stuff first.

Also, if it's for grants stuff, you could have a regular time set aside where we know the computer is yours?


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:49 pm 
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Erik and I backed up the music from the Mac today. We found 12GB of music in a folder called 'Shared'. Assume that's all of it. It's all on Erik's laptop now. We burned one DVDs worth (A-F) which is on my shelf in the office. Erik will burn the rest of the DVDs and bring them into the forest sometime.

Someone with the Mac password needs to reset the time on the Mac now.

I've stuck a bit of card on the bottom of the mac keyword with the passwords for the two ubuntu machines and the Internet server. The passwords for the mac and the office PC and any other passwords we get should be added to it. It's much better than only certain people knowing the password and maybe forgetting it.

We discovered that iTunes was set to rip the music to AAC (or m4a) format. 1711 of the tracks are mp3, 719 are AAC/m4a. This is quite unfortunate because m4a's not a widely supported format. You're basically stuck with iTunes or Winamp or a handful of other players if you want to be able to play your music. And because it's a lossy codec you can't convert the music to another format without losing audio quality. I think it is possible to get Ubuntu to play m4a using additional codecs but this is not ideal and may not work if iTunes has added some extra restrictions into the files.

We've set iTunes to rip to mp3 now.

Doing backups is PAIN IN THE ASS and takes HOURS. It would be much easier if we had one really big external hard drive that we could just copy everything over to. And the Mac is running out of disk space: only 6GB left. So it may be a good idea to think about buying an external drive.

I think we should try to install Ubuntu on the Mac and use it to play music instead of iTunes, and rip all our music into Ogg Vorbis format.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2007 1:56 pm 
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Good news, Erik ran a test and found that the m4a/aac files can be played on Ubuntu by installing a plugin. So, they do not present a problem.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 5:18 pm 
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dvd with all the forest tracks has been dropped off and lives in the archive drawer of the filing cabnit in the office.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 5:38 pm 
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Okay I'll put the other DVD that I already put in the office with the rest sometime.

I've been thinking about the Mac... main thing is we have a backup now. And the file format it uses is relatively benign (it's set to mp3 now, and Chris is right that iTunes only does the really bad stuff if you buy music from their store). So I think if it's not broke don't fix it. It would be nice to install Ubuntu on there and if we ever do replace the Mac we should use Ubuntu with the music from our backup. But I'm not sure it's worthwhile doing it now since it's working fine as it is. Basically I don't want to make more work for myself. Lets just stick with OS X.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:44 pm 
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hurray! sense prevails!

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