That audio I do!

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When I looked at my audio files recently, I realized that that I wanted them organized in a consistent way. As it were naming standards varied, some tags were missing, different encoding types were used… I decided I was gonna Feng Shui my way out of it.

The reorganization department

I decided there should be consistent naming and it should be condensed as much as possible, yet still being understandable.

For the directory format I use $artist—$album. For many people the format is $artist/$album, however, I came to the term that I would have to have about 100 CDs in my collection before the list would get too cumbersome to navigate.

I decided also to do one directory per album. Before I had directory names like Fleetwood Mac — The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac (disc 1), but I discovered it was much tidier to use a base title: Fleetwood Mac — The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac then prepend the disc number to the audio files:

? ls Fleetwood Mac — The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac/
...
1-15 Songbird.m4a
1-16 Big Love (Live, 1997).m4a
1-17 Storms.m4a
2-01 The Chain.m4a
2-02 Don't Stop.m4a
2-03 What Makes You Think You're the One.m4a
...

There is another program that organizes multiple CDs in this fashion and I like the thought behind it.

Just the FAACs

I had been creating high-quality MP3s (256kbps) and just accidentally stumbled into trying MP4s—and was delighted by the difference. Similar bitrates of audio sounded fractionally, but for me, appreciatively better. So I encoded all CDs to .m4a (MPEG-4 audio extension). (I will probably go to loss-free audio format in the future if the gods favor.)

By the way, I think (clearly subjectively) that FAAC (Free Advanced Audio Coding encoder) is great. It mentions in the manual that “it is not up to par with the currently best AAC encoders” but from my semi-proficient audio setup it did well.

I tested encoding with a FAAC at a setting of 320 (~256kbps) versus the iTunes setting of 256kbps. I did find iTunes better. Audiophiles looking for every detail might talk but for me difference could be left alone.

Here is a partially non-scientific (but should be fairly representative) graph of FAAC’s quality settings compared to kilobytes per second:

I can verify for the first and fourth values as I have tested a number of times. The second and third values I got from hydrogen audio. The fifth value is a projected value based from the other values.

A FAAC setting of 150 has been recommended for “casual, non-critical listening”; however, I use FAAC 320 for my tunes and 55 for voice. Though similar bitrates to the iTunes encoder created slightly less quality, the file size reflected too: iTunes 8.4MB, FAAC 7.6MB.)

Softer player detritus

Software audio players that I have used tended to put a some extraneous files in my audio folders. I’ve seen album cover art put here, lyrics, some unnecessary metadata, and hidden folders. I did myself a favor and deleted them out. Nothing should be here but the audio files. If an audio player insists on putting stuff here, I would recommend to their users to file a bug so the developer can remedy it. Some may argue that album playlists should be put here but these I believe belong to saving along with the configuration files.

Book ’em, Danno!

I discovered a nice feature call the audiobook format. Instead of 100 tracks splayed over a directory, or directories, from a audiobook CD, I can reduce this to a reasonable amount (say, one file per disc or even less if I choose). These book formats can also contain chapter indexes so navigating a file is just like navigating a disc. The process isn’t incredibly difficult and I documented it here. If the audio player supports them, it is a nice feature.

Home directory organization

organizing-my-home-directory

Being a Type A personality, I’ve probably thought more about this than many. I have a certain organizational style and formatting schema that I consistently think about.

Folder layouts

I keep all my home directories about the same as everyone:

# cd ~; ls -1p
Audio/
Desktop/
Development/
Documents/
Downloads/
Pictures/
Public/
Videos/

One exception to the above is the “Audio” directory which I use for multiple audio types:

# tree -L 1 -d Audio/
Audio/
├── Audiobooks
├── Music
├── Other
└── Podcasts

The other exceptions is I also hide the Templates directory (.Templates) as I don’t use it often.

Desktop

Even though I use GNOME I’ve enabled the Desktop—this is my workspace. If I can see them, I can remember them.

# ls -1 Desktop/ | head -n 3
arch-install.md
arch-linux-wiki-css-box_00.svg
command-line-dictionary.md
...

Development

I’ve come to be a big fan of VCSs. If I build something that others can use on their computer, I’ll create a VCS for it. I’ve put all of these VCS directories in their own directory:

# tree -L 1 -F -i --dirsfirst Development/
_vault/
archpkgs/
armrr/
arpa/
ar-utils/
daeme/
dotfiles/
general-scripts/
rback/
wordnet-dict/
xuserrun/

Documents

I put all the Documents in one directory whether I wrote them or obtained them:

# ls -1p Documents/
Blog/
Guides/
Receipts/
_vault/
car-maintenance-schedule.ods
recipes.md
wish-list.md
work-schedule-weekly-two-person.xls

Pictures

I do the same with Pictures as I do my Documents; whether I designed, photographed, or obtained them, I put them here:

# ls -1p Pictures/ | head -n 7
Camera/
Designs/
Nostalgia/
_vault/
aqua pr09studios.png
arch-pseudo3d_PJ.svg
architectural-intent.svg

Naming conventions

For the major folders, I use single words with the first letter uppercase. For files and other folders, I try to keep to the somewhat-traditional Linux method of naming my files as lowercase. For spaces in files, I generally use a hyphen (-) which I see used a lot these days though I think an underscore was originally used. Underscores I will use if there is a category I would like separated in the name (portrait-of-bach_etching.svg).

Audio files

Read this post to learn how I organize my audio files.

Vaults

When I come across a file that I won’t use anymore, is outdated, a misdirection, I create a folder called _vault and I place them in it. I then always have them around as I find that sometimes I like to.

Home directory regenesis

When some unexpected event occurs on my computer, I may begin by troubleshooting in the home directory. Lately, I was having several program loadings that were taking a good deal of time that explanation thereof was baffling—a resolution I was unfortunately not able to find an answer for. The realistic solution for me was to create a new user and copy the trusted files over to a new home folder. It turned out to be a fairly easy thing to do.

The quick and the darned

In the past methodically I would clean out my home directory. I did this every year or twice a year. I did this because usually a quirk developed here or there but also because I’m a type A personality. Why quirks occur can be of one of several reasons but it might be related to a program’s configuration files: like with the addition of a new feature to a program, or with an older setting interfering with a new feature, databases getting too large…

I have much respect for my configurations and I do my best to keep them. The methodology I have learned of how to interact with my programs I respect and try to keep around and develop. However, at times, configuration renewal may become necessary. I do this only when I have to.

All work and no play is OK

Business if more important when I come down to it. Going through all the files, is no doubt, a laborious process, however, the result is worth it when everything is again running correctly.

First, I create a new user:

# useradd --gid users --groups games,wheel --shell "/bin/bash" USERNAME 
# install --directory --owner=USERNAME --group=users --mode=700 /home/USERNAME
# passwd USERNAME

I then put all the directories and trusted configurations in a list:

.local/share/applications/
.local/share/gedit/styles/autumnal.xml
Audio
Desktop
Development
Documents
Downloads
Pictures
Public
Videos

Then transfer them using rsync:

rsync --archive --files-from=include.txt --exclude-from=exclude.txt /home/USERNAME-OLD/ /home/USERNAME-NEW/

Since both users are in the same initial group (users), I just need to change user ownership from the old own to the new and then I’m done:

find /home/USERNAME-NEW/ -user USERNAME-OLD -exec chown USERNAME-NEW {} \;

This process took me about an hour.

Vim colorscheme customization

Any installed Vim colorscheme has the ability to be customized. They can be tested temporarily or saved to a configuration file that will leave the original colorscheme file intact.

Testing

To customize a colorscheme value, Vim has on-the-fly colorscheme alteration support to be able to test them. To get an overview of what all the values look like:

:highlight

To see a specific value (tip: have wildmenu enabled for tab-completion support):

:highlight CursorLine

02_vim-cs-cursorline

To customized a value:

:highlight CursorLine ctermbg=255

Tips:

  • hi = highlight
  • If working from the terminal, it is useful to know what colors are available. A number of scripts can be found; I created one called termcolors.
  • A test can highlight the current syntax groups: :so $VIMRUNTIME/syntax/hitest.vim

Save to file

Customized colorscheme values can be saved in the Vim configuration file or in the after directory with a plug-in.

It may be a good idea to begin customizing a colorscheme by reading the colorscheme author’s notes. Authors will sometimes explain their design philosophy in the colorscheme file. These files are located system-wide in /usr/share/vim/vimfiles/colors/ or locally in ~/.vim/colors.

Configuration file

A good number of users may prefer using the AfterColors plug-in as it simplifies the process and helps keep the configuration file neat. I prefer using the configuration file because of a glitch I encountered once.

Because it is possible that I may use multiple colorschemes, I’ve put detection of the colorscheme in my configuration so customizations apply per colorscheme. Values entered into the configuration match that done while testing:

if g:colors_name == "desert"
  highlight IncSearch  ctermfg=197 ctermbg=none
  highlight Search...
endif

AfterColors plug-in

Vim uses the system directory $VIMRUNTIME/after/ and the local directory $HOME/after/ to supplement or overrule to the default settings. For editing colorschemes there will need to be a sub-directory called colors. To install it locally:

mkdir -p $HOME/.vim/after/colors

For neither, however, does Vim yet support colorscheme customizations and a plug-in will need to be installed: AfterColors. I would recommend using a plug-in manager like Vundle or Pathogen to install it.

Customization values are put in a file that matches the colorscheme’s file name:

touch ~/.vim/after/colors/desert.vim

The values placed in the files are the same as done while testing:

" Vim colorscheme customizations: desert
highlight IncSearch  ctermfg=197 ctermbg=none
highlight Search     ctermfg=126 ctermbg=none  
highlight CursorLine ctermbg=255
highlight Visual     ctermbg=45

Save the file and reload the colorscheme to see the edits:

:colorscheme desert

… or type colo for the abbreviated version.

gurl—a general downloader

I like to keep things basic. Because a command-line, download program is already a part of the base package installation, it is all I need. Once I learned curl I liked it quite a bit. As always I need help remembering the options so I wrote a general wrapper script and it seems to be all I need. It features redirect following, progress bar, and resume support. It looks like this:

# gurl http://.../archlinux-2014.09.03-dual.iso
###############################                                           43.4%

gurl can be found in my general scripts repository.

LG IPS224V-PN monitor overview

LCD Monitor

I decided to get a new monitor the LG IPS224V-PN and I like it quite a bit.

First impressions

My first thought :) was that the stand could be a more rigid. It is OK, but on a desk that moves a bit, a wobble is noticeable. After I got it plugged in, the second thing I noticed, was that the color was real yellow, or rather the light was. Older LEDs can emit this din and I was a bit worried at first. Fortunately I was able to adjust it satisfactorily. A few of its specifications:

Details Value
Contrast ratio 5,000,000:1
Resolution 1920×1080
Response time 14ms
Input D-Sub, DVI, HDMI
Output Headphone

Setup

Setup was easy and monitor calibration was real straightforward and quick too. I adjusted the hardware settings as thus:

Setting Default New
Brightness 100
Contrast 50 76
Color Temp Custom Cool

I use the color temperature of cool to help balance the yellow din of the LED bulb. I did try it the normal temperature that did good with pictures if not too much white was in them:

Setting Default Alt.
Brightness 100
Contrast 50 67
Color Temp Custom
Red 50 46
Green 50 46
Blue 50 59

Ultimately I choose the cool temperature.

Other impressions

The power buttons is a large half-circle with a bright, refracting light. It is very noticeable and flashes when the monitor is in power-saving mode. It is real nice but if it is in the bedroom, like mine is, I ended up having to cover it up.

The monitor has IPS and it really does help improve the viewing angle and accurate color reproduction. I got this display for reading and it is good with that. It also is good with pictures at least as far as my mostly-professional eye is able to see. The 14ms response time, I think, is a bit on the high end for video watching. Videos will show a bit of “ghosting” but is good enough for me.

bckfile—backup a file with sequential numbering

I have discovered over the years that protecting a file, its content, and developing in a controlled, deliberate method is usually something good to keep in mind. I have learned that if I feel an document, project… is important, then to backup the data and then do the edit is the methodology I need to learn.

When I decide to backup a file, first thing I do is to see if there is a _vault directory. In any location where I had to backup previously, I created this directory. After the first time I did this I realized I was going to have to number these file backups. I reasoned out that filename_[0-9][0-9] would be a format that would be sufficient, if there was an extension it would be filename_[0-9][0-9].ext.

As I could see that file backups were something that I would regularly do, I decided to create a script that would automate this task. It tests the destination directory if the file exists. For the first backup, the script prepends 00 to the file, after that its prepend the sequential number.

The usage is basic: I define the source file and optionally the destination directory. The current directory is assumed if only the source file is specified.

An example:

$ bckfile file.txt _vault
‘file.txt’ -> ‘_vault/file_01.txt’

The script does have one limitation: the filename can only contain one period and it must be for the extension. This is necessary as determination for an otherwise intention would take a lot of work 😊.

bckfile can be found in my general scripts repository.