Doesn't Not Compute

My log of experiences with GNU/Linux and computers in general.

Yeeloong 8089B: Some Performance Tweaks

Some time ago, I purchased a Lemote Yeeloong 8089B from Tekmote Electronics. It’s not exactly a powerful device, even for a netbook — extremely weak graphics chipset, a single-core Loongson 2F CPU clocked at a maximum of 797MHz (despite the description’s claim of 900MHz), and a battery rated to last barely 2 hours. But, it has the advantage of not requiring any nonfree software. As most people who would buy one and search for “performance tweaks” for it would already know. :D

I bought it hoping to run gNewSense‘s mipsel port on it, but found it to be lacking many packages I wanted to run on it. Most of these were frivolous anyway, so don’t let that stop you from trying it. ;) I currently run Debian Wheezy’s mipsel port quite happily on it . . . but it took a little work to get the “happily” part. Read more of this post

Xbox Tweaking: Jedi Academy

Today’s post will be pretty useless for anybody that doesn’t have a modified Xbox that is NOT a 360, a copy of Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy for the Xbox, and said game backed-up to the hard drive of that Xbox. I won’t be describing how to modify the Xbox, as Xbox-scene can describe it quite thoroughly. ;)

Some games that were released for the Xbox have configuration files, even though the final product was intended to be placed on non-changeable discs. :mrgreen: Since these games were also released for a certain computer operating system, and have known tweaks that can be done there, it seems logical that at least some of those tweaks can be used in the Xbox version.

And today I decided to try digging around in the configuration of Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy.  This game uses the Quake III: Team Arena engine, so theoretically it can use any of the tweaks the engine recognizes, right?

Well, not on the Xbox.  It seems that some things work, such as enabling the Frames Per Second display; others do not, such as trying to force the rendering mode to a less intensive method. I suppose those are hard-coded in the executable (default.xbe), and override the configuration file (base/default.cfg). :(

The rest of this post contains¬† what tweaks I’ve attempted alongside whether they worked or not. Expect this post to be updated from time to time, and don’t expect me to try anything that has to do with multiplayer ping and such. :D

Read more of this post

Trying To Deal With Compressed SWF

We all know Flash is a major pain — from Adobe’s own Flash player’s lack of performance to the security problems and nonfree status of said plugin. Not to mention the often-poor compatiblity of the free players, such as Gnash and Swfdec. So I won’t be discussing that right now. Nor will I be discussing the somewhat well-known process of using MPlayer to play Flash video files (.flv).

Today’s note is on dealing with those pesky .SWF Flash animations. While Swfdec-gnome is relatively decent at decoding the few I deal with, I’d like to convert these animations to a video format, such as OGG Vorbis or WebM. Why? Because unlike with Flash videos (.flv files) such as found on YouTube, .SWF files are almost always compressed — and FFMPEG can’t deal with compressed .SWF files. The result being, MPlayer can’t play them.

I really don’t expect it to, anyway — MPlayer is an audio and video player, NOT an animation decoder and player. But I’m very tired of needing a Flash decoder just to watch the animations of MSPA‘s Homestuck adventure comic, when it would be better for people with slower computers and a dislike of nonfree software to serve videos.

So, during a couple breaks from my efforts on Project Permafrost, I’ve been trying to find a way to convert these SWF animations. I’ve had very little luck so far — while there is some software for the job, it’s virtually all for a certain operating system from a company in Redmond, WA, USA. Most of this software works by taking the displayed output from a Flash plugin and converting it to a video — a very CPU-intensive and hacky solution. Video files were created, but they were composed only of empty, black frames with no audio.

Since the only converter I could find for my operating system was useless, I next turned to the tools for creating and modifying the SWF animation itself, and thus to the swftools and flasm packages.

Swftools is a collection of tools for working with Adobe Flash files, as you may have guessed. Flasm is for disassembling and modifying the Flash Actionscript bytecode, and supports SWFs produced by Flash 8 and earlier. Sounds complicated? Yeah, seems that way to me too, and sadly I don’t have time to investigate them deeply right now.

What I did find, by reading the help text for both the swfextract tool (found in the swftools package) and Flasm, was two options that inspired some hope. From swfextract:


Sound extraction:
-m , –mp3 Extract main mp3 stream

And Flasm:


-x Decompress SWF

These suggest three courses of action. In each case, “file.swf” should be replaced with the name of the SWF file you’re working with, of course. ;)

The first is simply copying out the audio directly from the SWF animation.

swfextract -m file.swf

This produces a file named “output.mp3″ in the same directory you run the command from.

The second course of action is to decompress the SWF file, so MPlayer can work with it.

flasm -x file.swf

This will, obviously, decompress the SWF file. The original is saved with a “$wf” extension. MPlayer can play the resulting uncompressed SWF file, but (in my case, at least) can only play the audio.

The third option, of course, is to ask the author(s) to release a video format conversion themselves. :mrgreen: They may be hesistant to do so, of course — they may wish for people to HAVE to come to their site to view the animation, instead of someone uploading the video to YouTube or someplace similar. This could be slowed by requiring people to pay for the video, I suppose, but also partially defeats the purpose of the entire endeavor — the goal of which was to be able to easily watch the animation on a computer without needing Flash or putting the CPU under maximum load for the several minutes of the animation.

It’s progress, I guess. If one can call only being able to listen to the animation “progress”. :( I’m getting back to work now. :)

Project Permafrost

Finally, after two months of work, the first part of my latest project is out in the wild for all to help with.

Project Permafrost is my attempt to create a central community for users of the Ice Window Manager to interact. I’ve set up a forum at http://icewm-themes.sourceforge.net/ where we can:

  • Post new themes for review and critiquing
  • Share configurations
  • Create up-to-date documentation that’s a bit less hapazard than the current official manual and how-tos
  • Socialize (in the “Oort Cloud” forum, requires being logged into a Sourceforge account to even see)
  • Make as many ice-related puns as possible. :twisted:

There are, of course, some rules for this new community. A few of the most important ones are listed below.

  1. No themes that don’t have a clear license. It can be GPLv2/3/later, LGPLv2/3/later, a BSD-like license, or any of the Creative Commons licenses, but IT MUST HAVE A CLEAR COPYRIGHT LICENSE SPECIFIED AND IN THE ARCHIVE.
  2. No themes that violate someone’s trademark. Sorry, but your super-slick theme that looks just like the latest Redmond OS interface? No Start Button logos.
  3. Don’t be a pain.
  4. No discussions of how to do illegal things. Debate of whether the thing should be legal or not? Maybe in the off-topic “Oort Cloud” forum, we’ll see how that goes.

The spreadsheet I linked before is hosted in the Project Permafrost files section, along with all of the currently redistributable themes from the motherlode mirror (under “TundraThaw”).

As mentioned before, the forums are here.

And there are plenty more ice puns available, don’t worry. ;)

IceWM 1.3.7 Released

Most IceWM development has been in a state of deep freeze for years now — mostly new language translations and bugfixes, from what I can see. The long-time stable version (1.2.37) has been in distribution repositories for a very long time now, as it was released in January 2009. Two years ago. 8O

Meanwhile, the last marked-stable version of the “experimental” branch (1.3.6) was released in Januray 2010. I haven’t used that version, but sometime since it was branched from the stable series a bug was introduced. This caused IceWM to crash, and if it had been started with icewm-session it would try to restart, but have taskbar issues. It seems to be this bug on the IceWM bugtracker, which has been closed.

Other than this odd bug, I found very little difference between IceWM 1.2.37 and 1.3.7p2 when I last tried them — the only one I noticed was the battery charge monitor. In 1.2.37 a number was displayed, while in 1.3.7p2 a vertical bar represented the remaining charge.

In anycase, download IceWM 1.3.7 and try it out. ^_^ Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to figure out where to host the ancient, circa 2001 themes I found and downloaded that now are no longer publically available at the ONE place on the entire search-engine-indexed Internet. :twisted:

Resurrection is Hard Work

Even when it’s just software, and not living beings! :lol:

For the past month, I’ve been working on a long list of Ice Window Manager themes. Organizing, labeling, judging free-or-not-free (as in freedom, not beer). Determining whether they should be reorganized, and which need files renamed to fit the original authors’ plans.

This doesn’t seem like a hard job, does it? It isn’t. Just very, very tedious. Especially considering I examined and organized those themes by “Look” — the theme file option that decides how some things are drawn — by hand. All 184 of them. And then went back and input information on each one into a spreadsheet. 8O

For each one, I viewed the default.theme file, as well as any documentation provided about the theme (few had any) for the author name, email address, description, and various flags on whether each theme had a paticular option. For example, the gtk-look theme “Helix” does not have its own image for the menu button on the taskbar, no specified license :mad:, no trademarked images to the best of my non-lawyer research, is properly organized other than lacking a README file, does not have custom “ledclock” images for a fancy-looking clock, has one “desktop background” image (in PNG format, so you’ll have to compile in imlib support to use it), and no custom or recommended font, icons, or mouse cursors.

Note the “no specified license” part. If a theme does not have a specified license, it basically has no license. I haven’t perused *all* of the ancient IceWM mailiing lists yet, but I’ve found no explanation of what license the themes must be under. Under my (again, non-lawyer) understanding of United States law, that means the copyright/license is limited to the original author. Including the legal right to redistribute. *sigh*

Considering that some of the provided email addresses are now defunct, and other themes don’t even have an email address provided, there is no way to contact these authors for permission to redistribute them. Since they were provided to the old IceWM project, which is under the LGPLv2 license, I *could* risk assuming that the themes were intended to be under the same license as well, but this seems possibly unethical. There are very few that I have risked marking as redistributable, and only because they are based on the example themes that are provided in the source code repository — meaning that, as derivative works, they too have to be under the same license. See the benefit of specifying your work’s copyright license? :D

I’m more-or-less sure about what themes are currently able to be redistributed at this point, and I plan to create a repository (not on Sourceforge) to share them as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can enjoy the spreadsheet — in both a single, multi-sheet ODS file or in a gzipped-compressed tar file of multiple, single-sheet CSV (comma-separated values) files, however you prefer.

Well, the files really are an ODS file and a .tar.gz file, but I had to rename them for WordPress to let me host them. I don’t like Javascript-heavy websites like Rapidshare, Megaupload, the perpetually broke Omploader, et cetera. Particularly because of the closed, nonfree nature of the system, but they’re just annoying regardless. :|

Rename these as instructed in the parentheticals.

“Why didn’t you just provide REAL PDFs?” Because the spreadsheet looks AWFUL as a printout and in PDF form. ;) Much too wide.

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