Friday, April 27, 2007

Audio CD Creation on Ubuntu

My wife asked me to make a compilation of R.E.M. songs for her father and burn them to a CD that he could play at home or in his car. Believe it or not, I have never tried to make an audio CD before. I hardly knew where to start.

The first thing I checked was what programs came with Ubuntu that might help me. In the Applications --> Sound & Video menu, I found Sound Juicer CD Extractor and Serpentine Audio CD Creator.

Sound Juicer pops up when I put an audio CD in my computer. It was very easy to see how to rip the music off the CD, but I didn't know what format I should rip it in so that it could be burned onto a CD-R and played in a normal CD player. I figured that if I created MP3 or OGG files, only special, modern CD players could read the data. After some Googling, I found that I was right - I would need to rip the music as .wav (WAVE) files if I wanted to support normal CD players.

Unfortunately, Sound Juicer did not contain a gstreamer audio profile for the lossless .wav format. I had to add one using these instructions. After that, I was able to easily rip music into the .wav format and then setup a playlist of music to burn onto a CD using Serpentine. With Serpentine, it was as easy as opening the audio files, ordering them, and clicking one button to burn them to a CD. Serpentine also kept track of the time taken up by the playlist, letting me know how much more room was left on the CD. Easy as pie.

The resulting CD, however, was not perfect. It plays fine on Ubuntu Linux, Windows XP, and in my new car CD player, but it fails to play in my portable Sony CD player and an old Toshiba DVD player.

I assume there is something special about newer CD players and computers that give them the capability to play an audio CD created on a computer, but I have no idea what it is. I am wondering if there was some different CD-R type or some way I could have burned the music so that it would play on the oldest of CD players. If you know anything about this, please share.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Del Rey Arts District

At the Del Rey Planning and Land Use Committee and Transportation Committee meeting tonight, a representative from the Sugarman Communications Group came to speak about the naming of the Glencoe-Maxella area where they're developing a lot of new lofts-style condos like Del Rey Lofts.

The rep said that they were considering naming the area bounded by Del Rey Ave on the west, Beach Ave on the north, Redwood Ave on the east, and Maxella Ave on the south. If the area had a name, he argued, it would make it easier for the developers and surrounding businesses to advertise and attract people.

There were two names that were under consideration:
  1. Marina Arts District
  2. Del Rey Arts District
The term Arts was chosen to reflect the fact that many of the new units under development are live/work lofts in which they expect a lot of artist-type people (graphic designers, media producers, and others that can work out of their home).

It probably isn't a surprise that the people at the meeting unanimously voted for the latter option, Del Rey Arts District, since the area is technically within the Del Rey boundaries and it would greatly help the neighborhood council's effort of establishing a Del Rey identity. A motion was made for the joint committees to endorse the naming of this district as the Del Rey Arts District.

I think it would be cool if this name is chosen and the area becomes well-known by that name. I am generally in favor of establishing a sense of place, and I think the artsy image being associated with Del Rey will favorably help the home values in the surrounding areas.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Easy Upgrade to Ubuntu Feisty Fawn

Last Thursday, April 19, Ubuntu released its latest version, 7.04 (Feisty Fawn). The announcement is here. I decided to wait a few days before upgrading my operating system at home from 6.10 (Edgy Eft) to 7.04 just in case there were any bugs in the upgrade process that would get fixed immediately after the release. Even though a fair amount of people were reporting various problems with the upgrade process on the Ubuntu Forums, I decided to give it a go.

I didn't customize my installation very much so I figured the upgrade process had a good chance of succeeding. Ubuntu's upgrade instructions recommend upgrading via the network, but since many people were reporting that the upgrade servers were getting hammered due to the recent release, I decided to upgrade using the "Alternate CD". I downloaded the ISO using Azureus, my favorite BitTorrent client. It took a while to download, so I just let it go overnight. Then I burned it to a CD and popped it it. Ubuntu immediately popped up a window asking me if I wanted to upgrade to 7.04. I clicked "Upgrade", followed the instructions, and everything went smoothly! In less than an hour later, I was fully upgraded to Feisty Fawn.

I haven't really noticed any major differences between Edgy and Feisty yet other than the fact that the "Hibernate" feature of my computer is working now and it never worked with Edgy. That is pretty exciting for me actually, since I had been completely shutting down the computer before, and now I can let it go to sleep. I think it works now because Feisty has a new version of the Kernel, 2.6.20, which probably contains recently added support for newer hardware. The rest of the new features in Feisty are listed here. There are also two new games included with Feisty: Sudoku and Chess.

I can't decide whether or not to try the upgrade at work. I can't afford any downtime at work, so if it doesn't go as smoothly, I would be screwed. I will probably wait until things at work slow down a bit, and then try the upgrade on a Friday. That way, if I end up having to reinstall, I can do it over the weekend.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Poppy Day

The Theodore Payne Foundation held their annual Poppy Day today. I arrived there just after noon, in time to attend one of the workshops about native plant propagation by cuttings. It was given by a very nice English woman volunteer whose name I failed to catch. I learned a lot in the workshop -- before I had no knowledge of how to propagate plants. These are the steps (roughly) involved in propagation:
  • Cut off a few inches of a plant's stem.
  • Strip off all the leaves and flowers except for one or two. The cutting can lose too much moisture if too many leaves are left on. You don't want to leave any flowers because they use up the plants energy which you want to be spent on making new roots.
  • Immerse the bottoms of the cuttings in water if it is going to be a while before you transfer them into their medium.
  • Prepare 2 inch high trays or small pots with a medium consisting of perlite and sand. Other types of mediums can be used, but in general, you want something sterile with no nutrition that can absorb water.
  • Add the cuttings to the medium, keep them out of direct sun light, keep them moist, and wait about a month or so until they produce roots.
  • Transfer the cuttings to a 4 inch pot with a soil mixture such as SuperSoil once they have rooted.
  • When the roots reach the bottom of the 4 inch pot, the cuttings can be planted in the ground.
After the workshop, I browsed through the plants in the nursery which were all on sale today. I ended up buying 10 plants:
The Bush Poppy is going to go in the front yard and serve as a hedge near the front door. Surrounding it will be the Hearst Ceanothus. The blue flowers from the ceanothus should contrast nicely with the bright yellow flowers of the bush poppy.

The California Fushia will be planted in the parkway area between my house and my neighbor's house. It will replace the dead grass that has been there since I moved in.

I bought the red fescue to plant as an experiment. I want to see if it is something that will work well as a lawn substitute that my dog can relax on. If it works, I'll buy more in the future and cover a large area with it.

The Island Snapdragon is going to go with 2 others I bought last fall. I just needed an extra one to cover the large area behind by garage surrounding my compost bins.

By the way, the California Poppies I planted in the fall are blooming like crazy now. It is quite a display. I'll try to remember to post a picture of it soon.