Posts Tagged 'tips'

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.

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.

REPOST: Excel Graybar

Repost from my old blog so I can refer to this in a new post:

I really thought I had posted this, but I can’t find it. I like when printed Excel sheets have some formatting to let you scan the page easily, and graybar (or greenbar) is usually the best way to format. If you just need something very simple, probably the easiest way to get graybar in Excel is to use Conditional Formatting. Here’s what you do:

  1. Select the range you want formatted
  2. Click Format | Conditional Formatting…
  3. Change the dropdown to “Formula Is”
  4. Type in the formula: =MOD(ROW(), 2) = 0
  5. Click the “Format…” button and set your formatting – background color is on the Patterns tab, but you can apply any formatting you want… bold, outline, etc.

This will apply the formatting to even rows and not odd rows. If you add or remove rows, the formatting will adjust because it’s based on the row number. If you need the ODD rows to have the formatting, the formula is MOD(ROW(), 2) = 1. You can even click the “Add >>” button and use both formulas to apply different formatting to both even and odd rows.


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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.