Well, it has been a (relatively) long wait, but it looks like it’s finally here, an application like Couch Potato and Sick Beard, but for music! Headphones is a very young project (first commit was posted on May 20, 2011), but is already showing significant promise!
For those that aren’t familiar, Sick Beard and Couch Potato (and now Headphones) are programs that function similarly to a Personal or Digital Video Recorder (PVR/DVR). These programs can be configured to monitor certain shows, movies, or artists (respectively) and will actively search for any relevant and desired content. Once a show, movie, or album is found it will be sent to SABnzbd+ so that it can be downloaded. Once downloaded, Sick Beard, Couch Potato (and soon, Headphones) will take the show, movie, or album and rename it properly, fetch any relevant meta-information (posters, fan art, trailers, lyrics, etc), move it to the proper directory for storage, and then tell XBMC Media Center to update its library with the new content.
From start to finish, using Sick Beard, Couch Potato, (soon, Headphones), SABnzbd+, and XBMC provides for an extremely automated, low maintenance, and polished media center experience. This has been a major focus of the guides at Ainer.org, and Headphones should round out that last missing media type (music).
I have been actively on the lookout for a program to fill this roll for months and while there have been some potential candidates (Audio-Matic, FlexGet), none have really shown themselves to be in the same ease of use realm or of a similar design philosophy as Sick Beard and Couch Potato. Headphones is the first that I’m really excited by and I’m already running it for testing purposes.
Like Sick Beard and Couch Potato, Headphones is a python based project and the installation is going to be very familiar to those already running Sick Beard or Couch Potato. Similarly, Headphones runs great under Ubuntu or Linux Mint (and will also run under any other Operating System that supports python). While Sick Beard utilizes TheTVDB.com and TVRage.com for metadata and scraping, and Couch Potato uses TheMovieDB.org and the IMDb.com, Headphones uses MusicBrainz. MusicBrainz is similar to TheTVDB and TheMovieDB in that it is an open and community resource that relies on the community for contributions.
As Headphones is a very new project, it is still quite rough around the edges and is currently more of a proof-of-concept than a ready-to-use application. With that said, the main developer has clear goals and plans for the application and has been working on it steady since the initial commit not even two months ago. Given enough time, and the growing interest it is already receiving I have little doubt this program could be right up there with Sick Beard and Couch Potato in terms of ease of use, and functionality.
For those that are itching to give it a go, it currently does not support post-processing and is unable to determine what albums are already in your collection. It can determine which artists are in your collection, and can be used to automate searching for new content but it wont rename what is found and wont even track new content (there are only two statuses for media currently, skipped and wanted). In a future release the developer plans to use beets for the post processing.
Apart from the lack of post-processing currently, Headphones refers to iTunes frequently in its webui, though this apparently can be ignored and “music folder” read in its place. If, like me, you prefer free or lossless formats, Headphones currently focuses on MP3s primarily with an option to also search for FLAC files. There is also no mention of Ogg or any other format or quality options (at this time). Also, before anyone asks there is no auto-update (though it is already the most requested feature and is slated for the next release)!
Again, this is a very new program that is not ready for mainstream users by any means. But if you’re more technically inclined, and wish to help in testing or just sate your curiosity by taking it for a spin, it’s definitely worth doing so. I will be running a copy from here on out and look forward to watching this project mature.
Before I close, I wish to thank Mar2zz for referring me on to Headphones. Mar2zz maintains a Dutch language website that writes guides and news similar to Ainer.org (and has based some guides off of ours). For those of you that read Dutch, or that wish to use Google Translate, a link to Mar2zz’s site, Entertainment from the Sofa can always be found under our Featured News & Community Site links on the far right column!
Well, it’s just about that time again, Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) was just released and the developers over at Linux Mint are readying for the subsequent release of their flagship Main Edition, Linux Mint 11 (Katya). To kick things off, Clem, the founder and lead developer of Linux Mint, released a preview this morning over at their blog. Since then, a private 32-bit testing release has dropped in for the tester’s group over at the community site. For those wanting to keep tabs on the progress of the Linux Mint 11 development process, this will be an ideal place to do so.
Since we last heard, there have been some changes to the plans for Linux Mint 11 (Katya). Originally, Clem had indicated that Gnome 3 would be used without the Gnome Shell. However, now it looks as though Gnome 2.32 (the last stable version of Gnome 2, which was released in September 2010) will be used this time around. This may be a disappointment to some, but with the reported stability issues from people using the Gnome 3 private package archive (PPA) and the fact that neither Ubuntu nor Debian has brought Gnome 3 into their stable repositories yet, this is probably for the best (Gnome 3 can always be added after careful consideration with the Gnome 3 PPA!). Keep in mind, Gnome 3 is practically bleeding edge at this point, having just been released not even a month ago and it is a significant departure from 2.32. Also keep in mind (for what it’s worth), the seemingly significant amount of negative reviews it has received at this point (at least in relation to Gnome Shell).
Again, while it may be a bit of a disappointment not to have the shiny new Gnome 3 in Linux Mint 11, it seems to be the more reasonable decision at this point. It’s likely that Gnome 3 may be a better fit in six to seven months when Linux Mint 12 is released. Other than that, who knows what will have changed by the time Linux Mint 12 rolls around. I’ve mentioned this before, but I wouldn’t mind if Linux Mint picked up XFCE 4.8+ as the desktop environment for its Main Edition.
XFCE really does seem like the best fit for their desktop/personal computer orientation and general philosophy and I have the uptmost confidence that the Linux Mint developers could modify the native XFCE install with the mintMenu and other adjustments to get the general ease of use and polish up to what we’ve seen under Gnome 2 (not to mention that I have a soft spot in my heart for XFCE). Apart from that, in time maybe Unity or Gnome Shell will become more accepted, more mature, and be a non-issue come Linux Mint 12 or Linux Mint 13 LTS (at which point we can all look back and laugh at all the craziness that surrounded Unity’s and Gnome 3′s releases!). Whatever the case may be, I have faith and look forward to seeing what the future holds for the GNU/Linux desktop environments.
Aside from the fervor surrounding the Gnome 2.32 announcement, there seems to be a bit of unfounded concern that Linux Mint 11 will be little more than “Linux Mint 10.1″. While it’s definitely true that the Linux Mint team is taking a cautious and conservative approach this time around to make sure the standard Linux Mint fare meets the current high standards (in response to the significant upstream changes), that doesn’t mean a lot of positive changes have not also occurred upstream (Ubuntu, Debian, Linux Kernel, et al) that Linux Mint 11 will inherit.
Linux Mint 11 will feature the famous 200 line miracle Linux Kernel patch that is reported to drastically improve system responsiveness while multitasking. Firefox 4 will be included by default and OpenOffice will be replaced with an updated copy of LibreOffice. Xorg and alsa will both be updated and Nvidia and ATI drivers will also receive significant updates. This is just a very short list of the upstream changes that Linux Mint 11 will be gifted with. Directly from Linux Mint, the already rockin’ Update and Software Managers are being further improved and there are several additional changes listed on the preview that I wont restate here needlessly. Maybe I’ve become easy to satisfy, and have an unusual appreciation for reasonable and sane changes between releases, but it seems more likely that some people are at risk of missing the forest for the trees.
With that said, and on an internal, Ainer.org note, I have been waiting to write my upcoming Couch Potato guide, as well as waiting to update my RAID and SABnzbd+ guides (at very least) until Linux Mint 11 reaches release candidate or final status. So, for any that have been itching to get an updated SABnzbd+ guide for the 0.6 release, or and updated and expanded RAID 5/6 guide, stay tuned!
Yesterday, XBMC Media Center’s Private Package Archive (PPA) sneakily came through with an update for the current stable release (10.0 Dharma). Today, we find out that this incremental update from 10.0 to 10.1 brings with it several bug fixes, as well as updates for the various included add-ons in its repositories.
(For those that are not familiar with XBMC Media Center, or are interested in trying it out on their GNU/Linux based operating system, see my XBMC Install, Setup, & Configuration Guide for Ubuntu & Linux Mint!)
A lot of the fixes in the 10.1 release look to be small changes with the Add-on updates possibly being the most significant change for the GNU/Linux platform.
Essentially, they are focusing on the next “new features” release of XBMC which, will be, 11 codenamed “Eden.” Also, in the background, they are working on cleaning up and organizing the code and structure of the program and separating the XBMC code and files from up-stream libraries and dependencies. While this may not seem like anything notable to end users, this may ultimately allow for XBMC Media Center to be included in Debian, Ubuntu, and Linux Mint repositories by default (doing away with the need for a separate PPA)!
Probably the biggest new feature hinted at for XBMC 11 (Eden) is the new audio engine which is suppose to rectify many existing issues at once as well as include possible support for bitstreaming HD audio! For more specifics please see the quote below.
- Audio is now processed in the highest possible resolution instead of conversion to S16
- The sound device is now opened in float mode, or the next best thing that is supported.
- SDLMixer has been removed and replaced with our own mixing code finally giving us consistent GUI Sound support.
- Latency of the audio stream has been greatly improved meaning GUI sounds now play on time.
- AC3 transcode has been moved into the audio engine, meaning that GUI sounds and PAPlayer can be transcoded too.
- AC3 transcode of every sample rate is now supported instead of just 48 KHz.
- No more loss of stream sync on amplifiers when bit streaming and on pause/resume of playback.
- We can now take full advantage of PulseAudio, including its sound cache ability.
- Changing audio settings are now applied instantly and do not require a player restart any more.
- SSE conversion between formats has been added as well as extensive SSE optimizations to the software audio engine.
Aside from the audio engine and code clean-up there look to be a lot of smaller, neat, new, features being worked on for XBMC 11 (Eden) (which, should be out sometime later this year as they’re working on smaller more frequent releases following Dharma). Visit the links above for more specific details if interested!
OilRush, a GNU/Linux native game featuring both real time strategy (RTS) and tower defense game play elements has become available for pre-order! This is the first game (of hopefully many) that will utilize the newly developed, multi-platform (GNU/Linux, Android, Playstation 3, Windows, and soon Macintosh), Unigine engine.
OilRush has been mentioned previously at Ainer.org/News when I lightheartedly speculated that 2011 may well be the year that gaming (both commercial and independent) may come to GNU/Linux in a big way.
Taking part in the pre-order provides immediate (and continual access) to beta versions of OilRush up until the final release of the game (currently scheduled for June, 2011). At present, the beta version of OilRush provides two tutorial and one tower defense Campaign missions, five Quick Game maps (which are played against enemy AI of multiple selectable difficulties), as well as Multiplayer functionality for playing over the Internet or a local network (using IP addresses). The Multiplayer maps include the same five as the Quick Games plus an additional “Tic Tac Toe” map.
After getting a feel for the game via the two tutorial and tower defense Campaigns, as well as a Quickplay map I find the RTS/tower defense description quite apt. Unlike traditional RTS’s where you can choose where to build at your discretion OilRush provides fixed platforms which can be captured and controlled by the various factions. From there the units and resources accumulate at a fixed rate depending on how many (and which types of) platforms you currently control.
Controlling the platforms provide various benefits such as unit and resource generation and many can be built-up using three types of turrets which can then be upgraded directly and also upgraded through skill trees indirectly (as can the units).
The controls and user interface (UI) are quite well done and provide for quick and precise direction of units and bases. With that said however, currently there is no way to re-map the keyboard keys from the UI if one prefers a different layout.
This can especially be a problem for users such as myself that don’t use the standard QWERTY keyboard mapping (I use Dvorak primarily). Starcraft and other games provide similar difficulty so hopefully this will be something that is addressed prior to the game’s final release (June, 2011).
Weighing in at just over 200MB the current beta definitely needs some polish on the installer prior to going final. Currently it is provided as a self-extracting .run file which must be set to allow executing file as program and then ran. This will extract the contents to a folder within the same folder as the download is currently in. From there there are two options to start the game (both .sh files). One allows for initial windowed viewing of the game and one for a full screen. Once the game is launched however, different video settings can be chosen (as can be seen from the screen shot above).
Presently, OilRush is offering the pre-order at $19.95 which seems reasonable if not a bit too low. Hopefully at this price and with some additional marketing they will be able to pick up a solid number of early adopters and then maybe raise the price once the game has gone final. Additionally they could consider offering some premium type options for people wanting to support the game with additional funds. Further, trying to sell the game through Ubuntu’s Software Center or through Amazon.com may also provide exposure to a greater audience (and thus greater returns even if they are at lower margins).
In the end, if you’re interested in RTS or tower defense type games, or if you simply wish to support an independent, commercial, GNU/Linux native game developer, I suggest seriously considering investing some of your money into this game. I have enjoyed it thus far and plan to continue playing it at my leisure.
Whether or not you’re interested in the beta, participating in the pre-order will help ensure that come launch you’ll have easy access to the final product and help show Unigine Corp. that they haven’t wasted their time on GNU/Linux as a gaming platform!
Shade is my absolute preferred skin for XBMC Media Center (and is to be featured in my upcoming XBMC Install, Setup and Configuration Guide for Linux Mint and Ubuntu). It combines the best features and views as popular skins (as well as some found nowhere else!) like Alaska, Confluence, and Aeon (and their mods and variants) while having a higher level of polish and professional aesthetic over the lot. (This conclusion has been researched and reached first hand over many hours of trying and configuring the various skins as well as demonstrating for others and getting their opinions on the aesthetics and appeals of the various skins.)
So, it is with that in mind, that I am excited to feature a preview of the new skin which the authors of Shade are now developing, Simplicity!
While it is still in early development (about a month now), and only just approaching its first public beta, Simplicity is already showing signs that it may well surpass Shade in most, if not every, way.
Simplicity already features a much more Web 2.0 or modern aesthetic while Shade is more classically styled (though both are incredibly professionally done and polished!). The TV Guide is now much more usable, refined, and accessible and provides listings for the next week instead of just the coming day. The novel, but questionably useful, “Featured” entries on the Home screen for Movies, TV Shows, and
Music have now been dropped and the “Latest” and “New” entries have been more fleshed out and developed (and now flow much better with the Home screen’s layout). The XBMC RSS feed can now be replaced with “TV Alert’s” which show a side-scrolling quick view on the latest TV Guide entries providing a quick few about upcoming listings.
As for the views, Simplicity already has several interesting options in all the major categories (Movies, Music, TV Shows). I am personally not a fan of any list or wall type views, but those seem to be well covered already. The ones I am more interested
in are the various “slide” views. These are also coming about nicely already, and
have partially fixed one of my major complaints about Shade and that is a lack of easy to reference Watched indicator. I’m hoping by release this will be a standard feature on all slide views for both Movies and TV Shows.
Another feature that is currently missing, and that I hope to see in the final revision, is a similar view style for all media types. This is one of my favorite features of Shade (Fanart with View A enabled) and allows me a consistent navigation experience no matter if I’m watching Movies, TV Shows, or listening to music and I greatly appreciate this consistency.
Currently my favorite views in Simplicity are probably the Fanart Slide for Movies and the Landscape Slide and Episode Slide for TV Shows. I would like to see these (or others) become more similar and consistent across the three major media types so that Simplicity ultimately has the same benefit as Shade currently does.
One last feature I hope to see as Simplicity approaches a stable release is the addition of clear art or poster art on the pause screens for Movie and TV Show playback. I really like this on Shade and it is one of the features I look for in quality XBMC skins.
With that said, this skin looks highly promising and I’m excited to see it mature! I will continue to follow it and will post another news article on it once it is officially released. If it does indeed end up covering all the bases that Shade currently does and then goes on to exceed them I will undoubtedly switch to it as my preferred XBMC Media Center skin!