fun with the ipod: postcasting…

my colleague christian had sent me a link to ipodder: basically a really simple syndication (RSS) client that knows about “MP3 audio enclosures” — think of audio blogging instead of text blogging. the process of offering MP3 audio “blogs” is known as podcasting…and wikipedia describes it quite nicely:

a podcast can be thought of an audio magazine subscription […] it can also be thought of as the internet equivalent of timeshift-capable digital video recorders (DVRs) such as TiVo, which let users automatically record and store television programs for later viewing.

despite podcasting being a fairly recently developed idea and technolgy, there are already a number of feeds available all over the internet with new ones popping up daily.

unfortunately, ipodder for linux doesn’t seem to be ready for time prime yet — when i try it, it doesn’t really work as expected. so i look for a better linux client…and find which is a couple of lines of bash shell script using wget. leon pennington has created a very nice GUI configuration tool for KDE to make the setup process more GUIish.

setting it all up takes a couple of minutes and i’m in business: the first podcast feed i subscribe to is the observer podcast…and then WGBH’s morning stories…and then BBC radio 4’s in our time…and then…

i-pod, u-pod, we all iPod :-)

over a month ago dorothee’s archos jukebox went dead: the harddisk had decided to call it a day (and seemed also determined not to answer any further calls to duty from then on)…sugar…:-(…after looking around for a bit (the archos MP3 player are a bit on the largish and heavyish side) we decided to get an iPod mini for her and an iPod photo for me. we ordered via the apple web site and were told that delivery time would be 7–9 days…

…well, after about half a week, apple cut prices, effectively making the iPod photo cheaper by about CHF 200 and the iPod mini larger by 2GB — to our suprise, apple passed that on to us straight away…quite decent of them, that…oh, and delivery time would be about 7–9 days…on the day the new iPods were supposed to have shipped we got an email from the friendly people at apple telling us that demand was such that they could not make the delivery date, it would take them a further 7 days…we got about two more of these notices (at least apple bothered to keep us up to date, other shops we’ve ordered from via the internet don’t do that and just keep you guessing what’s happened to your order) and then, finally!, our new toys arrived just in time for easter 🙂

converting “MAC ipods” to “PC ipods”

since we are a linux couple we had sussed out that gtkpod would be our friend and help us get our extensive MP3 collection (we’ve converted all our CDs to MP3s) onto our new iPods…the first attempt at mounting the iPod looked fairly promising, linux recognized the MAC filesystems and gtkpod managed to copy a couple of albums onto the iPods…however…while importing more albums i get a USB level disconnect (the dreaded I/O error while writing blocks)…after disconnecting and reconnecting i try to do an HFS+ filesystem check and find out that the current filesystem tools do not include an hfscheck utility: hmph!

ok, it seems like we better switch to VFAT…while checking out linux iPod support, i had come across several howtos, the best one being the cave canen::using an ipod mini with linux:…basically you

  • extract the existing ipod firmware using the linux tool dd from /dev/sda2
  • zero out the existing ipod partition table (admittedly, not for the faint of heart, this step 🙂
  • create a new partition table with
    • a /dev/sda1 partition of size 34MB and type
    • a /dev/sda2 partition taking up the remainder of the disk and of type b (vfat)
  • restore the backup-ed firmware again using dd (this way in the opposite direction, of course)
  • create a VFAT filesystem on /dev/sda2, and…
  • …reset your ipod

“if all went well” ™ you now have a “PC formatted ipod”…this time we managed to pump over all desired albums using gtkpod (a great tool, you can even delete tracks, and copy track back from the ipod to your disk).

what’s this “do not disconnect” thingy?

what was a bit weird was the even after unmounting the ipods, we still had the “do not disconnect” warning showing on the ipod displays, google returned that an eject /dev/iPod should do the trick…so, after adding the iPod device to /etc/fstab and specifying that it was mountable–unmoutable by the currently console-logged in user (pamconsole option), i added the umount command followed by the eject (using sudo to run it as superuser) to .gtkpod/gtkpod.out…on exiting gtkpod now unmounts and ejects the ipods on exit: and the “do not disconnect” warning is gone.

(fantastic) jazz in the evening

just back from a fantastic night out: it was the 40th birthday of one of our friends — to celebrate the occasion they had organized a jazz concert with the cécile verny quartet in the theater ticino in wädenswil…to quote from the cécile verny quartet web-site:

the quartet’s own compositions are rooted in various cultures and combine jazz and european tradition with african sounds and latin american rhythms. moreover, the four musical personalities put the lyrics of african and english poets to music in addition to their own lyrics in english and french. […]

all kinds of musical elements blend to promise a special evening somewhere between the tradition and future of jazz–worldbeat–pop.

and it was a fantastic evening: the quartet really enjoyed their music and it showed in the way they performed: playful but precise, energetic but relaxed. a fantastic jazz night out!

wheeler’s pub in erlangen

dorothee had noticed in the local paper that a new irish pub had opened in “downtown” erlangen, wheelers pub. from the description it sounded rather better than the other irish pubs we had sampled (murphy’s and the fat lady sings), less like a student operated in-door-beer-garden and more like a good pub. so, you guessed it, we decided to give it a try today and went on a late afternoon walk into “downtown” erlangen. wheelers at around 17:00 on a sunny sunday afternoon was not as full as we had feared (rumors have it that on the weekends it was chock full in the evenings).

you enter the pub through an elongated ground floor covered courtyard kind of hallway with a door on the right leading into the bar area (the toilets being on the left side of the courtyard area) and another door leading to the lounge area further down the courtyard. we pick the bar area which takes up pretty much all of the front part of the house. it’s quite nicely decorated, no fake darkened beams (not the sort that is supposed to look like the wooden beams date back to at least the dark ages but in fact and reality look like the landlord had a couple of gallons of car underseal left from that last job as a car mechanic) but a kind of understated art deco design. tables are no-nonsense-but-nice wooden ones; in the corner of the bar area, closest to the windows, is a small raised platform with wooden railings and rather comfortable leather couch and armchairs — which we immediately take possession of 🙂

the menu is quite extensive and features “typical” irish & english pub food as well as having a “german” section…beers are both on tap and bottled and they have a rather extensive list of drinks — stuff i didn’t know existed (a velvet pussy turns out to be a guinness & a port), summarized by my lovely wife as “all the stuff that gives you a good headache”…we decide to go for my favourite beer (yep, a pint of guinness 🙂 and to have a ploughman’s lunch…the guinness is well kept (not stale as we had it in the fat lady sings) and the ploughman’s is one of the best we’ve ever had: very good salad served with it, excellent (and plenty of) cheese, the honey roasted ham (optional extra) turns out to be really good — in short, very recommendable!

how to get there:

Halbmondstrasse 4
91054 Erlangen

(see also their location page)

a bad train day

it being a “german weekend”, i’m working on the train today — currently the ICE 184 from zürich to stuttgart. wheather outside is fantastic, a beautiful, sunny spring day. inside (in the train, that is) the mood does not quite reflect the weather…we are still in singen, although we should have left singen at 10:10 — we are now at +18 as the experienced train traveller would say. the problem seems to be that the front board computer likes it so much here in sunny singen, that it absolutely refuses to let go of the station…we are now in our second or third power-cycle-reset of the whole train (everytime they power cycle the train, my thinkpad is a bit annoyed about loosing power and burps, eh, beeps).

10:55…after some further power-cycle-resets the train manager declares the train “dead”, we get vouchers and also get to change into the slow train to stuttgart leaving at 11:19 on the same platform…

13:45…a packed RB train (regionalbahn) arrives at stuttgart. i’ve about 20min until the next IC train to nürnberg is due to depart — which i spent getting some semolina pudding with cherries and a latte macciato…as i’m about to pay, a loud explosion sounds through the station hall and i catch a glimpse of a very bright spark coming from the direction of the engine that just pulled us into the station! for a brief moment people freeze in their tracks…police officers are running toward the “scene”…luckily, it turns to be “just” a tremendous short-circuit! wow!

i pay for my pudding and coffee and make my way to platform 16 where the IC from karlsruhe is due any moment now…and wait…and wait…as the departure time is almost upon us (but no train to depart with), there’s an announcement that the train will be 9min late (+9 as the seasoned train traveller says) due to problems with one of the carriages…as i’m enjoying the sun (but, alas, not the equally enthuasistic pollen who seem to have a field day out today), waiting for the train to arrive, another announcement provides the interesting titbit that the zollern-alb-bahn to sigmaringen will only go as far as bisingen as an earth slide has interrupted the rail tracks after bisingen…hmm…somehow a bad train day, i think.

oh, and in the end (some more delays on the nürnberg–erlangen leg, nothing to really write home about) i reach erlangen with +130…

goodbye, winter!

well, temperatures did reach 19°C today (see snapshot of the thunderbird world weather plugin! on the left) so, it really is “goodbye, winter!”

(…and “hello, allergies”, but that is a different story).

monet’s gardens

yesterday’s tagesanzeiger (last issue, subscription just expired) had a notice about the monet’s gardens exhibition currently at the zürich kunsthaus and we decided to give it a go today afternoon. so, we have an early lunch (well, early for us, anyhow) and then go by bus and tram to the kunsthaus. when we arrive, we are quite surprised that there’s a really looong queue! seems like half of the greater zürich metropolitan area has decided to give good old monet a go (well, not that many, but it is really crowded). after about 15min we have our entry ticket in the form of little tin markers (ours for some inexplicable reason have an “A” printed on them — i wonder whether they have some with an “L” on them, i’d wear one), lock away our coats and bagpack and start our tour through the exhibition: i particularly like the early years up until 1910 or so, the later paintings somehow seem to focus too much on sea lilies for my taste 🙂 my favourite is the park in monceau! i find that most of monet’s paintings require quite a bit distance — that is, physical distance — to really enjoy and appreciate them, which is a bit difficult to accomplish at times due to the crowds! never seen a museum that full!

in the evening we watch the thomas crown affair in which monet’s san giorgio maggiore by twilight features prominently 🙂

a new MP3 online shop

stumbled, by coincidence, over a new online music store: MP3Tunes. they don’t have the main stream junk (who wants that anyhow?) but do have interesting independents — even old acquaintances such as david nevue are listed! it’s another of michael robertson’s ventures (he started the original that vivendi universal acquired in 2001, and which they subsequently closed down — the current has since been acquired by CNET). buying music at MP3Tunes is quite simple and they don’t seem to make a distinction between US and non-US customers. once you buy a song (at USD 0.88 a track) or a complete CD (at USD 8.80) they are instantaneously available in the “MP3Tunes locker” — this is where it becomes a bit awkward: you have to download each track individually! one by one…hmph…a pity really, as their MP3 quality is quite nice and the offering is quite interesting…hmmmm…wonder whether we can do something about this…

first a look into the terms and conditions (, for example, had a clause that expressively forbids you from using any download tools not approved by nothing in there that prevents us from rolling our own tool…so, let’s see…the login for the mp3tunes locker takes places via a web form, not too keen on going that route…i try accessing the locker URL using wget, providing it with access to my firefox cookies file: that works fine, i get the locker overview…a close look at the HTML source of the page reveals that it contains URLs pointing to the individual albums, it seems. i try one of them, and, bingo, we get the list of tracks! all of this does require that you’ve logged in to the mp3tunes locker with firefox first (and obviously mp3tunes passes out a cookie to you to signal that fact)…using the knowledge gained i write a little perl script that will take a look at my mp3tunes locker, figure out which files are new and download those…works nice 🙂