Rockbox and playlist loading times

This is more for my own reference.  Rockbox, if you aren’t familiar, is a WONDERFUL open-source firmware replacement available for several MP3/media players.  I have a SanDisk Sansa Clip+ that, with Rockbox, supports at least 64gb MicroSD cards and likely beyond, which is way more than the stock firmware will support.  It also supports FLAC, Vorbis, and a cadre of other codecs.  I’ve been using this tiny player with near 70gb of storage as my main portable player since the day I installed Rockbox a couple years ago.  Recently, something happened after I dropped the player a couple times – it got stuck in a strange loop.  I thought I was hearing a song I heard before, but with about 9000 songs on the player, which I listen to in one big shuffled playlist, I have several remixes of some songs, so it took me a while to notice the same three songs in a row over a number of days.

In the course of looking into the problem, I recreated my playlist several times.  I did this mostly using Rockbox’s Database functionality.  I would find a top-level node in the Database (Artists, for instance) and long-press the select button to bring up the context menu, then choose Play Next.  This does insert them into the playlist.  The problem, though, was that it took like 2-3 minutes every single time I turned it on to resume playing.  This was new, it was instantaneous before.  I also tried saving the dynamic playlist to a file and loading it via the Playlist Catalog, but same delay.  Worse, when I plugged it in to a computer, it would take 2-3 minutes upon unplugging it, AND 2-3 minutes to resume playing.  The issue felt vaguely familiar, so I scoured the internet and found articles about database loading issues with the original Sansa firmware… lots of them.  I tried twiddling settings.  I created playlists in different ways.  I used crazy tricks regarding how the player is turned off and disconnected.  None of this made any difference.

Then, after really just a couple days of minor annoyance, I created the playlist in a very subtly different way.  In the Database, instead of using the context menu on a top-level node, I browsed into Artists and just selected the first item – incidentally, “<Untagged>” – which I assumed would open another “folder.”  Instead, it asked if I wanted to clear the playlist (I selected yes) and watched it load everything.  At that moment, I remembered having figured this all out before.  Instantaneous resumes once more.  I really don’t see why this is different from the other method, and the playlist it creates seems identical.  However, I’m glad to have a very snappy player once more.

Seldom annoying playlist issues aside, I do heartily recommend using Rockbox if you have one of the many supported players.  And the Sansa Clip+ is a very nice little media player that, with Rockbox and a large memory card, makes a good main portable.

Personal Websites

I just re-registered the mattschuette.com domain after a few weeks of it being expired and nearly past the grace period. It got me thinking about what a personal website is for these days. We have several social websites for day-to-day thoughts, text messaging or maybe an IM for more immediate needs, flickr or other sites for pictures (though probably just on a social network), and LinkedIn for resumes. What is left?

Why do people have personal websites now? If you have code to share, put it on github or wherever. I guess there’s the about page, but static content is boring. I enjoyed maintaining my own webserver, but what’s the point? For that matter, why have a blog? Most of my posts, not that there are many, lately are just rants or screeds, and that gets old after maybe two.

So I’m honestly asking any friends still stopping by here or random passers-by — what are the reasons? What is interesting to read about? What content rises above just ego stroking?

Political Climate Control

Lots of political stuff going around, and it’s just depressing. Why are we becoming either devout Republicans or bleeding heart liberals? Where did the middle ground go? An election should NEVER be about getting more of your color to beat out the other one in the US map. That implies that someone is wrong. There is no wrong in politics, is there? Every opinion matters, and sometimes you give a little and sometimes it goes your way. I generally vote Democrat simply because I can’t endorse a party that, among other things, believes gay marriage should even be up for a vote, ever. HOW can you not see that severely limits the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness? However, I can’t say I’m entirely disappointed that the parties are coming back in balance, but unfortunately, I think that means the bickering and pissing matches will prevent anything from actually getting done. I guess, what I’m saying is, we’re all doing it wrong.

Excel Graybar, with feeling!

Some four years ago, I posted on my old blog about making a nice alternating graybar in Excel with conditional formatting.  Once every 6 months or so, I need to do it again, and look up my old post on the Wayback Machine since my old blog isn’t all that accessible at the moment.  I decided that was crazy, plus I had the need for something a little more sophisticated.

Generalized, the formula is =MOD(INT((ROW()-1)/N),2) = 1, where N is the number of rows in each group. Standard graybar is strictly alternating, so the group size is one, but division by one is boring/pointless, so you can leave that out. The -1 assumes you are starting with Row 1 and want N non-formatted rows first, then N formatted rows, etc. If your range is in the middle of the spreadsheet, fiddle with this number, though anything outside the range -N to +N is the same as something in that range (-N and +N are always the same configuration).  To format the “base” rows use <formula> = 0.

I had remembered reading an article on ALA regarding zebra striping and the observed effectiveness for tables on the web. It may not be that useful according the article, but sometimes it feels right.

Bonus – the article mentioned two color single striping, so I deduced a formula for that. This probably isn’t the best way, but it works nicely… What I came up with is =MOD(ROW()-1,4) = 1 and =MOD(ROW()-1,4) = 3. For the base row formatting here, use =MOD(ROW()-1,2) = 0. Conditional Formatting is pretty powerful, so play around with it if the format you want doesn’t fit into these examples. Also, these formulas without the comparison at the end can be pasted directly into a spreadsheet to see how they evaluate. Enjoy.

Power Supply, Interrupted

Perhaps you remember my numerous computer problems.  My server died in 2007.  Shawn graciously replaced it with the donation of a freaking awesome machine that I honestly haven’t had the time to prep, but I will.  My latest build crapped out in like Feb 2008.  I replaced most every major component in the box, some twice, and eventually it rose as a Phoenix from the ashes of my desire to mess with it anymore (but, no, it wasn’t literally a bird on fire… or was it?).  Well, weekend before Christmas we trekked up to Carlinville for the Schuette family early Christmas and upon returning, the computer was off.  This actually happens relatively often… power outages generally overextend the capacity of my UPS, so I turned the UPS back on.  It’s nothing special, a CyberPower brick from Best Buy.  Well, after a few seconds, it started chirping, so I switched it to the other plug in the outlet (the non-battery surge strip that I swapped with worked fine in both), and no joy.  I figured the battery had completely discharged, so I let it charge up for a few hours.  Now when I turned it on, it would go about 5 seconds, chip, then turn back on.  Did that probably 10 times in a row before it turned itself off.

Now, I’m sure I’m crazy, but my thought is that a battery backup could certainly degrade into a simple power strip in the event of “battery no chargey”.  I mean, it gets power from the wall, it has six (or eight?) outlets… figure it out.  Oops, battery is out, let’s bypass that circuit and just send the juice through the line filter and to the plugs.  Nope, try as I might, I couldn’t get it to be any more or less than a hefty and super annoying outlet tester.  My guess is the battery is shot.  My guess is the battery is the single most expensive component there… power strip – $5, UPS – $60, and UPS = power strip + battery.  My guess is I won’t be that interested in fixing a low-end UPS.  Found a simple, unassuming power strip and all is well.

So, if anyone reads this and cares… is it odd that a UPS sans battery can’t function as a power strip?  I suppose if you had servers attached to it you wouldn’t want it NOT complaining if the battery were shot.  It’s not like this is something a huge operations center would (should) use, though.  At least give me a “y’know what, I’m gonna chance it” switch to bypass the “without a battery I’m nothing” circuitry.  Anyone looking for an Interruptible Power Supply?  An Uninterruptible Lack-of-Power Supply?  A paperweight?  A flail?  A good time?  Wait, what?

California Prop 8

I’m not from California, and I’m not gay, but it’s still a shame to me that a liberal state such as California can’t overturn a proposition to hate other people.  You know what, same-sex marriage doesn’t make me treasure my marriage and relationship with my wife any less.  I can’t say that I understand being gay… I understand being in love, but that’s probably the extent to which I could truly empathize with a gay couple.  Then again, I don’t really understand Judaism, but I don’t think Jewish people shouldn’t be allowed to marry.  So, Prop 8 supporters, who are you to tell everyone gay people can’t have the same level of relationship as you?  We’re all just people, right?  We all have the same inalienable rights, do we not?  I don’t care how you feel about the issues personally; your lack of understanding and sympathy must never deny other people their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Quite an eventful day

Today (October 16th, technically yesterday) was a bit of a strange day for me.  Around 11:15 or 11:30 at work, we noticed the not entirely unusual din of sirens were all stopping nearby.  Then we noticed a flood of people coming out of the building next door.  There were cops all around.  The one we could see most clearly was very adamantly stopping people from driving near the building.  Several people attempted to re-enter and were quickly turned around.  We couldn’t really see anything but people outside, though.  Then, maybe 20 minutes later, we hear that we are to evacuate our building (200 South Hanley).  Not a huge deal, a break from work on a gorgeous, if slightly cool, day.

Throng of people lined up along Hanley doesn’t really know what’s going on.  I heard everything from having to do with Barack Obama (who will be in town on Saturday) to an explosion or bomb of some sort.  After about an hour standing around, we hear it would be at least 4 hours to get back into our building, so we should just go home.  I park in the lot under the building where all this is happening, so, I have no car.  By this time, word on the street is that it was a bomb, also heard a description of a pretty badly-injured person.  Several people felt it and heard it, but I did not.  Figuring there was not a chance I’d see my car anytime soon, I hitched a ride with someone that parks in our building.

Turns out, word on the street was pretty much right.  A packaged incendiary device in the parking garage exploded and severely injured one man, though the press release said “non life threatening”.  So, at some point today, I was parking my car in the garage, and someone could have been planting a bomb then.  That is really pretty terrifying!  I parked way down on the lowest level and this all took place on the highest level that I believe is only for tenants of the adjacent condo high-rise, but still.  I’ve heard that anyone parked in that garage can now be escorted to their car, and I would imagine they will still be fairly tight about security tomorrow – I suppose I’ll find out.

I hope I don’t see another day that eventful for quite some time.


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I would like to thank Mike Hellrich for hosting a couple redirects for me while I sort out my web server problems.

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