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Why Pulseaudio sucks...

A while back, I got really annoyed from the fact that when I was running Gentoo and I decided to play a game (Wine/Cedega) like EVE Online, I either have the sound from EVE-Online, or from my desktop - but not both.

This is usually due to a crappy sound card (no hardware mixing) and a driver which fails to fix this. I knew ALSA had dmix for software mixing but I read somewhere that pulseaudio was the new hot shot in the mixing scene. I was wrong.

You see, after enabling pulseaudio in Gentoo, rebuilding a number of packages to support it (Xine-lib for example) and following the guides to make ALSA-only applications use pulseaudio as well (in fact by looping the sound back from ALSA to pulse and again to ALSA), it should just work (tm).

My first attempts were fine, I used aplay to select the pulse channel, played 6 songs at once and all was well. When it was time to make Phonon (KDE4) use the new pulseaudio sink, nothing happened. I even used the workaround as explained on the pulseaudio page - but nothing helped. I finally made the default audio-sink pulseaudio.

Next up: Wine. The first attempt to start Winamp went fine, except for the fact that I didn't hear no sound. Looking in the logs, I see wine attempting to open the ALSA/Pulseaudio library from '/lib32'. For the more perceptive of you: yes, it want 32-bit libraries on my 64-bit system. Normally this is handled by a emulation package but guess what? The Gentoo emulation packages don't feature these only slightly vital libraries.

After reading the bug page which explained the problem, I found a site of someone who provided the 32-bit binary drivers for ALSA/Pulseaudio. And indeed, after extraction into '/lib32', sound came to life from the mysterious world inside Wine.

Then I tried to start World of Warcraft. The stuttering sound of a screwed up sound mixer emerged from my speakers and no matter how I started the game, the sound was useless. Finally I gave EVE-Online a try and it had the same, horrible sound output...

So I reverted everything I did, read up on how dmix was supposed to work (which seemed like a lot less work after following the 'simple' guide on the pulseaudio site), set up a software mixer and made it default and there we go - audio output for all!

Now I don't know who decided that pulseaudio was 'lightweight' and 'fast' but I know for sure that its neither - the default dmix extension for ALSA works a million times better...

Review of Ergo Proxy

Last week I finished watching Ergo Proxy, an series of 23 episodes and I just can't resist to put up a small review about it.


Click for full version

The story begins in a futuristic domed city called Romdo, built to protect its citizens after a global ecological disaster. In this utopia, humans and androids coexist with each other peacefully under a total management system. For some reason, some androids go on a killing spree. Re-l Mayer (see image) is assigned to investigate some of the murders with her android partner Iggy.

Ergo Proxy has it all: dark, sinister surroundings, animation which is far above standard - I dare say most of the time on par with Ghost in the Shell 2 (which I consider the ultimate anime style, a mix of computer generated and good old hand work). The main character has a gothic like appearance and she is just plain hot. During the series we get a few shots of the female lead in her undies, even a short flash of some under-boob but nothing more than that: kiddy-save and not even close to the ecchi category.

So far, its all the ingredients far a kick ass show... But wait, it gets even better. During the series we get some awesome action scenes and all of the eye candy is accompanied by a truly awesome soundtrack. Actually the production team of Manglobe did pretty much everything right to create a truly fantastic series.

So here comes the 'but'. The animation, sound, characters - all great, but the story just blows... Its horrible: the first half of the series everything slowly becomes clear and everything is peachy - no even better than peachy as I was sitting on the edge of my seat. But after 14 or so episodes you get this uneasy feeling that something is off.

I still can't pinpoint it but by the time it goes really off the rails you have been watching for some time while having this suspicion that its all wrong - just plain wrong. I still had high hopes right up until the end - I mean, a show which has such outstanding looks can't just suck, right?

Unfortunately the ending does not safe this sinking ship. I have to applaud the creator of this masterpiece of an ending: it was certainly nowhere near what I would expect. I'm still pondering if I think it makes sense - so far I concluded the beginning and the end must be the product of different writers while a 3rd attempted to link the 2 together.

To be honest, this show is one of my biggest disappointments: I randomly ended up with Ergo Proxy and after 2 episodes I was hooked and expected a treat like GITS was (which one? Pretty much all GITS series/movies) but was seriously let down. I'm giving the show a 5 out of 10 rating for the simple fact that it was cool to watch (most of it anyway), but for the shear lack of a decent story it doesn't get a single point more...

Rating:

  • Animation: 9 / 10
  • Sound: 8 / 10
  • Characters 7 / 10
  • Story: 3 / 10
  • Overall: 5 / 10
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Postfix Queues and Amavis trouble

After I had not received mail for a couple of days I suddenly started to receive postmaster errors from one of the servers I maintained. The message told me the mail could not be delivered. On further inspection it seemed that this was a problem because postfix could not connect to [127.0.0.1].

This meant of course that some daemon on the server was out for lunch and it was screwing up the mail deliveries. Using 'postqueue -p' to inspect the queues I found out that 4000 messages where packed up in the queue, filling her up to the maximum I allowed.

After running 'postsuper -r ALL' (which means, re-queue all messages for instant delivery) I tailed the '/var/log/mail.log' file to find out that 20% of the messages got delivered and the rest wound up back in line.

One error that kept flashing by was: 'TROUBLE in check_mail: parts_decode_ext FAILED: run_command (open pipe): Can't fork at...'. It had something to do with the FileIO class. Now the message came from Amavis and in fact, amavisd is nothing more than a Perl framework, hooking all kinds of filters together. This means its memory hungry but won't totally crash upon hitting the floor.

This explained why a part of the messages made it through: a few threads fitted in memory, allowing for completing the delivery, however most mail got rejected once again and returned faithfully to the waiting queue. Another inspection of the queue confirmed this: after 2 attempts 3200 messages where still there.

Then it dawned on me: I had not enabled the swap memory! After fixing this (and adding 1GB swap to the 256MB of RAM) and reloading Amavis I tried once again to requeue all mail. This time the mail got through the filters in one piece (and well within the memory boundaries). I wish all issues with servers were as simple as this ^-^.

Windows Live Writer and Linux, How To Do It

I've seen lots of discussions floating around the internet, talking about people attempting to install Windows Live Writer. Some are using Mono, others the .NET Framework - all of them are using Wine. In this article I'll explain How I Did It.

In this case the limits of Wine and Mono become visible. The .NET frameworks work partially in Wine so relying on them is useless (to be precise: all the external libraries needed in this case screw up this valiant attempt).

In the other corner we have Mono. Because WLW is in fact a Win32 executable, we have to use Mono in Wine (install the Windows version of Mono using Wine) but even the big anti-Microsoft framework fails here.

To be honest, Mono keeps failing every time for me. This is because Mono can run managed (byte-code only) executables fine, even the ones compiled for .NET (unless I'm mistaken). However, the windows in a GUI program are drawn using a native interface for .NET, one that Mono does not have as it uses a cross-platform windowing toolkit called GTK#. In short: any program that is used in a modern desktop environment and which is designed for .NET will not run on Mono. Thanks for the effort there guys...

So WLW on Linux is a no-go. And every other blogging tool out there for the Linux platform pretty much sucks or costs muchos dineros. I still have hopes for KBlogger but after 3 months its still at alpha 2 - so I stopped hoping that would be any help any time soon. I was using Bleezer before but it keeps screwing up source code which I am trying to post (I am hoping WLW will do this a LOT better). But how do we get out of this dark age, you might wonder? The solution? VirtualBox!

Read more...

Integrity issues

That's what I get for toying with stuff I should leave alone... I tried to merge the articles from my other Joomla installation back into my main site. After clicking around for a bit it seemed like the manual database merge worked out.

Next I found a number of modules with version number 1.0.x - assuming these were remains of the original 1.0.x installation I selected them all and hit delete. On the page refresh I noticed something was off... The menu was gone! Most of the Joomla Administrator panel was working but without a menu, a lot of sections are unavailable...

After installing a second installation over the existing one I managed to get the missing modules back (note to self: make sure to download the full package AND copy all the files...) by copying tables between the 2 installations. Finally I had a working installation again but now the other users (a.k.a not me) did not show up anymore...

After Googling for weeks I finally found a thread in which somebody made a whole database schema for Joomla! 1.5. The schema can be found here.

Even though I had restored most of the key references within Joomla! I somehow missed the 'jos_core_acl_groups_aro_maps' table - this only had one entry: for admin only. As soon as I realized my mistake, I manually added the missing rows and everything started working properly again.

Note to self: stop breaking the site...