Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The IEC Power Cord Mystery

The ubiquitous IEC power cord has been a part of everyone's life for almost 30 years.  Nearly every device capable of running on different mains voltages and frequencies has one so the manufacturer can ship to different countries by simply changing the power cord to match the plug type used in that country.  Great idea.

Every device that needs an IEC cord comes with one from the manufacturer.  When a device is no longer wanted and we dispose of it, we always keep the cord "because it might come in handy".  Thus, there should be an ever-increasing number of IEC power cords in the world.  There should be billions of them in existence.  After 30 years of this, even the most non-technical person should have at least 20 cords stashed in their closet.  Yet this is not the case.  When you need one, there's none to be found.  Search the entire premises and there's not one unused IEC cord.

How can this be?  I've never thrown one away in my life.  Do unused cords simply vanish?  Do they automatically return to the manufacturer to be shipped to someone else?  Do little gnomes steal them at night?  Where are all my cords?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Simplest Way to Play Raw PCM Audio on Ubuntu: libao

There are a zillion ways for a Linux programmer to play audio through the sound card.  This is the problem.  There are many layers to the audio system, many ways to go, and most of them are very complex because multimedia is very complex.

But what if you have the simplest of all cases where you have a buffer in memory containing raw PCM samples, ready to play, and you just want to pump the data out to the sound card and play it at a certain sample rate?  In many cases you're looking at hundreds of lines of code, writing your own plugin, etc.

After two days of asking questions, Googling, and reading, I finally found what I was looking for.  Libao is part of the standard Ubuntu distribution and it does the job without writing tons of code.

I found a couple of examples but both had problems compiling cleanly.  After using Synaptic to install the libao development files the following will compile cleanly on Ubuntu 10.04 using the gcc command shown in the comments below:


 /*  
  *  
  * ao_example.c  
  *  
  *   Written by Stan Seibert - July 2001  
  *   Modified slightly by Phil Landmeier - February 2011  
  *  
  * Legal Terms:  
  *  
  *   This source file is released into the public domain. It is  
  *   distributed without any warranty; without even the implied  
  *   warranty * of merchantability or fitness for a particular  
  *   purpose.  
  *  
  * Function:  
  *  
  *   This program opens the default driver and plays a 440 Hz tone for  
  *   one second.  
  *  
  * Compilation command line (for Linux systems):  
  *  
  *   gcc -lao -ldl -lm -o ao_example ao_example.c  
  *  
  */  
 #include <stdio.h>  
 #include <string.h>  
 #include <ao/ao.h>  
 #include <math.h>  
 #define BUF_SIZE 4096  
 int main(int argc, char **argv)  
 {  
     ao_device *device;  
     ao_sample_format format;  
     int default_driver;  
     char *buffer;  
     int buf_size;  
     int sample;  
     float freq = 440.0;  
     int i;  
     /* -- Initialize -- */  
     fprintf(stderr, "libao example program\n");  
     ao_initialize();  
     /* -- Setup for default driver -- */  
     default_driver = ao_default_driver_id();  
     memset(&format, 0, sizeof(format));  
     format.bits = 16;  
     format.channels = 2;  
     format.rate = 44100;  
     format.byte_format = AO_FMT_LITTLE;  
     /* -- Open driver -- */  
     device = ao_open_live(default_driver, &format, NULL /* no options */);  
     if (device == NULL) {  
         fprintf(stderr, "Error opening device.\n");  
         return 1;  
     }  
     /* -- Play some stuff -- */  
     buf_size = format.bits/8 * format.channels * format.rate;  
     buffer = calloc(buf_size,  
             sizeof(char));  
     for (i = 0; i < format.rate; i++) {  
         sample = (int)(0.75 * 32768.0 *  
             sin(2 * M_PI * freq * ((float) i/format.rate)));  
         /* Put the same stuff in left and right channel */  
         buffer[4*i] = buffer[4*i+2] = sample & 0xff;  
         buffer[4*i+1] = buffer[4*i+3] = (sample >> 8) & 0xff;  
     }  
     ao_play(device, buffer, buf_size);  
     /* -- Close and shutdown -- */  
     ao_close(device);  
     ao_shutdown();  
  return (0);  
 }  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Major Flickr Accident

Photo sharing service Flickr accidentally deleted a user's photos.  Five years and 4,000 photos are gone and there's no recovery, no backups.  Read about it here:

http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/02/flickr-accidentally-wipes-out-account-five-years-and-4000-photos-down-the-drain/

If just the thought of this gives you a wave of nausea, there are solutions to the problem such as this one:

http://www.backupify.com

How about your Gmail account?  Google Docs?  I have 1,500 spreadsheets and 300 important documents plus miscellaneous stuff stored on Google Docs and can't afford to lose them.  What about all your posts on Facebook?  A service like Backupify can give you a level of safety and control you don't have now.

Google catches Microsoft with pants down, copying search results

Funniest thing I've read in a while:

http://www.gizmag.com/bing-copying-google-search-results/17759/