the itjerk

my adventures with technology

backup

The data axiom: “Always have at least two copies of anything you want to keep”!

Now that I’ve ripped my entire (well, almost entire) CD collection, I have to back it up. The RAID 1 drive is good protection from drive failures, but it doesn’t protect at all for accidental erasure, file corruption, etc. In word, I need a backup! I’m going old school and bought a new 3TB disc, the same size as my RAID, and plugged it into a hard disc enclosure, the same model I have for my another backup drive; I only need to have the same wall-wart and USB cable handy. I formatted the disk with ext4, the same as the source drive, which also prevents file-naming errors during the copy. BTW, if you format your disk for use with Windows, you’ll need to install the exfat-utils and exfat-fuse in Ubuntu. (I also recommend doing the format on a Windows machine, and not in linux.)

I used Grsync, which is a graphical front-end for the rsync utility to make the backup. I marked the –update and –delete options, as I want to make an identical copy on the destination: copy what’s not there, replace (based on checksum) what’s changed, and delete what was removed from the source. Also, be sure to empty the trash and skip the lost+found folder before you sync (the latter may give errors). Viola, backing up FTW!

It’s important to remember what you’re backing up, and why you’re backing it up. These are music files, most of which I have a CD copy of, but would never want to put in the months of work in to rip again. The rest are downloads, paid or otherwise; some I may never find or have access to again. Having all that backed up to a separate drive is more than worth the $100 I spent, and just a smart move. Now, I could probably use something different method, something automated, something better, but the key here is backup frequency. “Once in a while” works for me because there’s nothing so critical there that it requires constant backup and for the most part, it doesn’t change that much. Once a month, once every couple of months – the risk is all on me. I now have an initial backup, and a backup method, and that’s a great place to start.

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roon 1.6

Yesterday a big update to Roon came out. It touted integration with Qobuz, an unpronounceable and paid streaming service similar to Tidal, and some enhancements to Roon Radio, for a “personalized radio experience… [that] helps you discover new music by curating great recommendations.”

The only problem is a) I already own a music collection which I paid for, and b) I could give a f*ck as to what some algorithm thinks I should listen to next. I want Roon to stream and organize the digital music I own. Is that too much to ask?

Again, Roon disappoints. Straight up: Music services (Spotify, iTunes, Tidal, etc.) are for people who don’t like music: this notion that they or Roon “can help me listen and find music” is diametrically opposed to my journey with music. It’s unsatisfying and it’s lazy, but most of all, it’s imprecise.

Sidebar: I am from the era of the Record Hunter, when one had to put in the work to get music, and put in even more work to discover new music. I’m not sure if the younger generation has any appreciation of how difficult it was to find things in the pre-internet era. I’m not only talking about crawling through bargain bins, driving miles to find new record stores or visit old favs, or scanning the back of Goldmine for vendor listings; it’s going to record shows on Sunday mornings; sending paper checks in envelopes to vendors that were only an address; waiting weeks for a special order to come in, or something to arrive in the mail; tearing out the Yellow Page listing in a new city and taking the rental car to every store you could hit; have a typed want list that was carried on travels; actually talking to people about music, writing letters to friends and acquaintances about favs, making friends just because of the music you shared in common; just hanging out and listening to music; carrying records to friends house, or school, or wherever because you found something you thought others may like. being heartbroken when a purchase didn’t pan out, because those hard-earned dollars were just that; listening to the radio, because that was what we had!

The sheer joy of finding a golden nugget from my want list, or an unknown gem I’d never heard of before: This was how I fell in love with music.

rippin’ good time!

A long holiday break and “dry January” has given me plenty of time to finish ripping my CD collection, and as of today, I’m finished. My RAID drive is now half-full of digital music – ripped, tagged, and entered into Discogs – all for Roon to play. Hurrah!

I’ve sorted through thousands of CDs; nearly all of them I want to keep, and those that I don’t I’ve piled into two: worth selling and worthless. It’s hard to define what to not keep, but you kinda know it when you see it: Todd Rundgren compilation 2CD on Rhino, French budget CD of The Moody Blues’ Go No… you get the drift.

I’ve deleted about 50% of the mp3 I’ve ever downloaded because they’ve been replaced with a shiny disc. That’s good! I regret selling some that I used to own, and I wish I would have made a FLAC copy of the ones I only made a MP3 of; yeah, I know, that’s not “in the spirit” of copyright law, but you know what? Artists make the same on used CD purchases. But I don’t want to go there…

CDs are amazingly cheap, so cheap that I find myself scouring bargain bins and buying anything under $3-4 bucks, especially of ones I already have the vinyl of. I might not keep all of them, but that digital archive is gonna be OCD complete!

happy new year

Happy new year, dear reader(s). As I look over the past years’s posts, I am wrapping up my “adventure” ripping my CD collection to disk, the Chumby has been retired (in favor of another Google Home Mini), and I have just about unloaded all the “extra” electronic components in my household. My wife is now the proud owner of a Pixel 3 phone, and all four in the household are with Google Fi, the old Project Fi.

What’s in store for the new year? Computer-wise, I’m fine, but my oldest will be off to high school, so that looks like a laptop purchase. Now that I’ve had Roon for a while, I’ll write a “real” review. Finally, I’ve warned my wife that I want to upgrade my stereo, though the Neat Acoustics dealer in my area went out of business. More from Axpona 2019?

Anyway, thanks for sticking around, there are bound to be some surprises along the way. Here’s to techno-adventures in 2019!

another bricked nexus 5x

My wife head out of town for work and unfortunately her Nexus 5X promptly bricked. Props to her hotel for giving her a ride to the office. When she returned, I got on the phone with Google Fi who in turn got me on the phone with LG. Sent the phone in with prepaid labels, they replaced “the board” and a week later she was back in action. So that’s 2 of 3 Nexus 5X’s I own that have used had the “extended warranty” from LG.

Props also to LG for taking care of business?

rip logitechmediaserver, squeezebox

sqebay

It is with a touch of sorrow that I have retired both Logitech Media Server and my Squeezebox v3 Network Music Player, and all ancillary programs. Not only was it my gateway into all things Linux, but it was also my introduction to streaming music. The interface remains stuck in the 00s, and my other hardware have eclipsed it; perhaps this is a problem with opensource. The interface does need a major, major refresh. Ultimately, I have just moved on with Roon server. So for all your names, Slimdevices, Slimserver, Squeezeboxserver, Squeezelite, Logitechmediaserver, I loved you all.

Originally purchased in April 2007, I have my Squeezebox up for sale on eBay:

On the web:
eBay

cd audio

Now that I’m in the midst of library building from my CD collection, it’s a good time to reflect on the merits of CD audio. Decades later, it is a funny thing, this compact disc. Just like various pressings of a vinyl record, some sound great, some sound less than great; but all of them avoid the surface noise that will always plague vinyl. Let’s remember, CDs were innovative and neoteric, and incredibly convenient: no flipping sides, no fast-forward or reverse. Just a small, shiny disc that contained an entire album’s worth of music (but not liner notes) that one could manipulate with a remote control from the comfort of, well, on one’s backside.

My time with CDs goes back to the mid 80s, when a VEAP check afforded me my first CD player – it was a Yamaha, and while I don’t remember the model, it had a feature called FTS: favorite track selection. Some of the earliest discs I still have are Roxy Music’s Avalon, Peter Gabriel’s Security and The Sugarcubes debut album. BTW, I’d also like to debunk the myth of “they don’t last forever.” All of my discs have ripped. The only two that I haven’t been able to read are because they were physically damaged. I will admit that some read slower than others, but I have yet to find this so-called “disc rot”. Touch wood?

As a collector, I find myself gravitating back toward the earliest CD pressings, the so-called “target” era, when discs were made in West Germany and Japan, and were essentially “flat-transfers” of the original recordings. A lot went into making a CD sound good. Initially, it was finding a suitable source – an original 1/4″ stereo master, as opposed to some later generation – and let’s not pretend that those pioneer engineers weren’t good at what they did; but I also imagine the lack of computer tools to manipulate those source files owes to the “purity” of the early discs. That said, some don’t sound so good: Who’s Next on MCA comes to mind right away. I’ve scanned the bargain bins for the 80s and very early 90s pressings of Van Der Graaf Generator discs (on the Caroline Blue Plate label) which avoid the harsh sound of later remasters, and cherish the fact that I did keep the original Line pressings of Gentle Giant’s first four albums.

Why is this? The so-called loudness wars. CD “remasters” are a tricky thing. Ostensibly reissued to provide better sound, they don’t always sound better than earlier pressings. Why is this? In an effort to make things sound better in earphones and compete with “modern” recordings, mastering engineers have made vintage recordings “louder” by compressing the music’s dynamic range, the difference between the loud and soft in a recording. Does this mean they all sound worse? Well, that’s matter of preference, but categorically I can say this: The beauty of the flat, non-compressed music is the ability to crank up the volume on a good system and enjoy the dynamics of the original recording. Take a look:

DRloudness

With the DR14.T Meter program (and help installing it from here), you can even check this with your own files:

dr14_tmeter
------------------------------------------------------------
> Scan Dir: /mnt/data/music/ripped_archive/Gentle_Giant/1972_Three_Friends_[Line]
01_Prologue.flac:        DR 13
02_Schooldays.flac:      DR 13
03_Working_All_Day.flac:         DR 12
04_Peel_the_Paint.flac:          DR 12
05_Mister_Class_and_Quality?.flac:       DR 13
06_Three_Friends.flac:   DR 11
DR = 12

- The full result has been written in the files:  dr14.txt
- located in the directory:
/mnt/data/music/ripped_archive/Gentle_Giant/1972_Three_Friends_[Line]
Success!
Elapsed time: 3.71 sec

As a format, CDs are just about done, now eclipsed by streaming. Long live CDs.

On the web:
Album list – Dynamic Range Database
DR14 T.Meter

hifiberry dac+ pro

Now that I’m committing to Roon as a music server, I’d thought it would be nice to take a look at my streaming hardware. I like the idea of using my preamp’s analog stage, because it has a great analog stage; I can also output directly from my computer (where my music resides) via optical or USB. So rather than spending money on a Bluesound or Auralic device, I think I’ll go DIY.

The old Squeezebox 3 is of course a cherished relic, and in the living room it will sit forever. I also have a Chromecast Audio there, both connected to a Schiit Modi 2 DAC. In the man cave, I have plenty of options. Roon is very good at dealing with heterogeneous outputs; it recognized most every device on my network. But I am looking for a dedicated device, because, well, just because. I had an old Hifiberry DAC running PiCorePlayer – a very worthy software package – from the days when Raspberry Pi’s didn’t have the “+”. Yep, that’s the one to upgrade.
RoonHifiDac
The good thing about Hifiberry is that they are Roon Ready partner, and have their own Roon Bridge image for their hardware devices. I decided on the DAC Pro +, which adds “integrated dual-domain low-jitter clocks and gold-plated RCA connectors.” Coupled with a new Raspberry Pi 3+ board, I was completely surprised at what a musical player it was: crisp, detailed and very easy on the ears, it’s an absolute delight to listen to.

Hacker note: It’s easy enough to ssh into the Hifiberry/Roon Ready image. Touch a file named “ssh” into the bootloader partition, then login with the user “pi” and password “hifiberry”. Oddly enough, if you do an apt-update/distupgrade, the thing shows up a little differently in Roon’s audio settings (see below image). Why do this? I can think of a couple reasons, including doing updates, turning off HDMI output (/opt/vc/bin/tvservice -o) and of course, changing the default password. Is the Hifiberry/Roon image any better than using a standard Raspbian image with Roon’s Bridge installer script? Maybe I’ll ask Hifiberry.
Hifiberry

I went cheap on the acrylic case, which unfortunately snapped when I went to put heatsinks on the rPi, so I’ll be upgrading to the metal case shortly. Also, I’m going to upgrade to a low noise switching power supply, because that’s really the last thing to do get the best sound from the Hifiberry/rPi combo. Or spend $$$ on a linear power supply!

All-in-all, a very impressive digital streaming device for under $100.

On the web:
HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro | HiFiBerry

rippin’ good time?

Now that I’ve started my 14 day trial to Roon, I have begun digitizing my record collection in earnest. What fun! Not really. Pretty boring to be honest. There’s no real fast way to do it; I guess I could use one of those services – pack up my CDs and mail them to someone who will rip them – seriously, no way. So it’s to the grind: take a bunch of CDs off the shelf, open the case, open the drawer, insert, press rip, get artwork, eject, repeat. About 4,000 times.

A couple of things: First, don’t use “CD Paranoia Mode” because it’s slow. Just let them rip and deal with potential errors later. Ripping is a marathon and it isn’t pretty. Second, check metadata as you rip: titles, dates, artwork, m3u file, etc. Remember, you’re building a Library, and it’s much easier to do now than later. Third, the CDs I am ripping were all entered into discogs.com. I can sort my collection by “date entered” which approximates the listing by what’s on the shelf: very convenient for collecting artwork, checking dates etc.

Finally, rip everything, even that crappy Badfinger live CD on Ryko. If you don’t want to rip it, ditch it (and delete the files, lest you be in violation of copyright laws!). Seriously, this is a good time to pass judgment as to what is “on the shelf.” It’s also a great time to look for holes in the collection, especially with that discogs page open.

This will take substantially longer than the 14 day trial to Roon!