My thoughts on Slackware, life and everything

Tag: oss

PulseAudio comes to Slackware-current Beta

pulseaudio_medHah! Got you there! Oh wait – it’s true.

Yup folks, thanks to the new bluetooth stack in slackware-current (brought to you by BlueZ 5.x) we have introduced a dependency on PulseAudio. Bluetooth audio no longer accepts ALSA as the output driver.

So, Pat has added a pulseaudio package and with it, a lot of dependency packages: ap/pamixer l/alsa-plugins l/atkmm l/cairomm l/glibmm l/gtkmm3 l/json-c l/libasyncns l/libsigc++ l/pangomm l/speexdsp xap/pavucontrol and finally xfce/xfce4-pulseaudio-plugin

Also, we have a Beta!

Wed Jan 13 00:01:23 UTC 2016
Also, enjoy a shiny new LTS 4.4.0 kernel and consider this 14.2 beta 1.

Coming back to PulseAudio: the alsa-plugins package ensures that ALSA applications can remain unaware that PulseAudio is now handling audio in- and output. A file “/etc/asound.conf” will be installed by a recompiled “alsa-libs” package. This configures Pulse as the default audio device. Please take care in case you created a “/etc/asound.conf” yourself that you have to merge yours with the freshly installed “/etc/” !

Several other Slackware core packages needed a recompile against PulseAudio, but note that you may not have to. As said before, ALSA output still works transparently, it’s just that ALSA’s output is now an input for PulseAudio which in turn controls your audio hardware.

Yes, some people will be opiniated. We invited the Devil into our house and stuff. Well, PulseAudio is not maintained by Lennart anymore, and saner people took the helm. We expect no big mess as a result, just a learning curve to understand the new sound configuration. And truthfully, we were left no choice. The alternative would have been to say bye-bye to bluetooth in Slackware because already, major pieces of software are dropping or preparing to drop support the old and incompatible BlueZ 4.x API.

Note: Slackware is NOT going to add systemd. It’s too controversial and there is no need. Your sleep will be sound now.

People who installed the Jack audio connection kit should probably carefully evaluate the possible changes to their configuration. I stopped using “jackd” here  so I can not tell you at the moment.

Happy hacking! Eric

Freedom of Choice 2013 Members Choice Awards

LinuxQuestionsFellow Slackers and other friends!

It’s that time of the year again where Jeremy calls upon the masses to enter the poll for the 2013 Members Choice Awards. Remember last year, when Slackware made it to Desktop Distro of 2012 and was beaten to a hair-width by Debian for Server Distro of the year?

Please have a look at this year’s poll, it’s full of interesting choices. And make a honest selection! I don’t really care if Slackware ends up on top, it is more important that you experience that moment of realization that there is a wealth of Open Source Software out there which allows us to succeed in doing the things we like most. Freedom of choice usually comes at a high price, but Open Source Software & Standards allow you to make your choices for free and in freedom.

Please, take a moment to consider if there are ways for you to contribute back – it does not have to cost you money out of your pocket. If you are poor or can’t spare the money, your give-back can still be trememdously valuable. For instance, by helping friends with their adoption of Open Source, or by writing down your knowledge so that others can in turn advance their own knowledge; maybe you could check at your children’s school to see if there is room for a “Linux college” of sorts or prepare a hack-fest where everyone brings their computer and you bring a bunch of Slackware install CD’s 😉 Or perhaps this is the perfect time to start coding on some cool program so that we can forget about SystemD!

Realize that the Open Source (and Open Standards) ecosystem is about respect, sharing, growth and advancement. You and I, we are both part of this ecosystem. By working together without artificial boundaries or constraints and treating each other as equals, we can try to make this world a better place for all.

It’s like the spirit of Christmas which your Granny keeps talking about, but then without the turkey and the tree.

Happy polling! Happy holidays! Eric


Education and Open Source

I really need to rant and fume a bit about the dutch education system – and I will end with some free promotion for an Open Source centered conference in my own city.

I have a son, he is in Secondary School now. But even in Primary School, he was exposed to a Microsoft-dominated IT infrastructure. He would work on texts in MS Word, and create presentations in MS PowerPoint or even MS Visio.

The problems for parents would inevitably start when the kids were sent home with instructions to finish their school assignments at home, effectively forcing the parents to buy copies of MS Office Professional or “go illegal”. The LibreOffice suite did not exist back then, and OpenOffice was not able to cope with Visio files (and quite honesly, could not cope well with complex Word documents either). at the time, I used a web-based MS Office conversion tool to create PDF files of the stuff my son brought home for printing (because colour printing at school would cost money).

Asking the local IT guy about Linux based education possibilities or even opportunities (my own expertise counts for something, you’d think) would only return blank stares. Apparently Microsoft has invested serious money in SURFMarket (joint venture with KennisNet and SURF) to ensure that dutch educational institutes are being supplied with Microsoft software at bargain prices, so that there is no incentive to look for alternatives. Which is detrimental to the development of the children, because they are not learning about Information Technology… they are learning how to operate MS Office.

In comparison, look at the initiatives in the UK, where the government-funded BBC sparked the development of the Acorn computer (Acorn developed the ARM CPU -originally an acronym for Acorn Risc Machine), and a few years ago this concept was rebooted by a couple of awesome guys from the University of Cambridge in the form of the Raspberry Pi, an ideal target for Computer Education in primary school. I can only look at the British in envy, and seriously think that the dutch have made fatal errors in long-term strategic decisions regarding the education of new geneations.

Fast forward to Secondary School.

Every pupil in my son’s school is required to have access to a Windows computer at home. The only software used at school is Microsoft based. Luckily the Document Foundation has spent a tremendous effort at making the LibeOffice suite more interoperable with the Microsoft counterpart, so there are ways around the Windows office requirements at school.

However there is still one major stumbling block. An by major, I mean stupid policy-makers are apparently being bought. Our Secondary school, one of many similar schools, has moved its Student Registration and Management system to Magister. Magister is built on Microsoft’s Silverlight content creation sofrtware, which is of course not cross-platform.

On Linux, an open-source Silverlight implementation called Moonlight (part of Mono) has been available for a while but its development has ceased. Petitions (from school teachers even) to provide alternatives that would work on Linux and Mac computers have not been honoured. A lot of links prove how bad the situation is and I could easily produce a lot more (most are in dutch by the way).

I am forced to use Silverlight. That is bad, when you consider that the dutch government has pledged to promote the use of Open Software and Open Standards – first through ICTU‘s OSOSS program, and later through the NOIV program. When that program ended, the message was that the government would not divert from this strategy in future. Ha ha ha.

I have been using a Chrome plugin that renders Silverlight pages on-line but the company which ran the service has closed shop last year. I am now looking at Pipelight, which is a cross-browser plugin which uses a patched version of Wine to render Silverlight pages locally. Expect Slackware packages soon, if it impresses me sufficiently. I want to be able to monitor my son’s progress on my Slackware computer dammit!

I am not venting my anger just because I can not bear it any longer. I wanted to take the opportunity and do a bit of PR for an event that will be taking place in Eindhoven, mu home town. There is a lot to learn there about proper and effective use of Open Source and Open Standards in eduction.

t-dose-square If you are interested, consider visiting  T-DOSE in the weekend of 26-27 october. T-DOSE is a free yearly recurring conference to promote the use and development of Open Source Software. I did a talk about the history of Slackware at the 2009 edition (I was so terribly ill and ran on paracetamol… but the talk was OK). This year the conference will run a full “track” consisting of several talks related to education and Open Source – I do not even mention all of them:

And for those who are interested in hands-on experience on top of the talks, an Open Source Class Room demonstration enviroment will be available during the whole event.

It’s free entry people! And if you are planning to go, leave a note here and you may meet me during drinks.

Cheers, Eric

VLC 2.0.1

The newest release of the VLC media player is ready. From the version 2.0.1’s announcement it becomes clear that “This release brings a lot of bugfixes (over 110) and more stability of the young Twoflower. This is also a security update for SA1201 and SA1202“.

Since there are no source tarballs available for download yet, I created those from the “2.0.1” tag in the VLC repository and built my packages using those sources. When the official tarball becomes available, I will add that to my repository instead of the git checkout (the official source tarball will be smaller because it does not have all the git commit history).

All the internal libraries which I use for creating this VLC media playet package (ffmpeg, x264, libvpx, lame, etc…) were kept unchanged. The new VLC code (and the two securiry fixes) is what matters. There is one thing I did fix however. Thanks to an attentive Slackware user I fixed the missing support for the Open Sound System (OSS) Apparently my VLC 2.0.0 package (as opposed to the previous 1.1,x versions) was unable to use OSS for its sound output. It turns out that I had to enable support for OSS explicitly in the code. I verified that OSS is again available in the sound preferences of the player.

This is where you’ll find the packages:

My usual warning about patents: versions that can not only DEcode but also ENcode mp3 and aac audio can be found in my alternative repository where I keep the packages containing code that might violate stupid US software patents.

Have fun! Eric

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