Can Linux cope with 24 Hours of Happy?

I enjoyed Pharrell Williams’ feel-good songs in ‘Despicable Me‘ and its sequel, ‘Despicable Me 2‘. ‘Happy‘, a very catchy ditty he wrote for the sequel, also features in the World’s first 24-hour-long music video, ‘24 Hours of Happy‘, shot in and around Los Angeles and released on 21 November last year. The song is played a total of 360 times over the duration of the video, each 4-minute take featuring a different person or persons dancing (improvised) along streets, in petrol stations, through Union Station, in a church, around a school, in a moving school bus, around a supermarket, in a bowling alley, and so on. Each 4-minute performance was filmed in one take using Steadicam, and the location at the end of each take segues into the next take. You see the sun rise; you see the bright sunlight of the morning and the warm sunlight of the afternoon; you see the sun set; you see the twinkling city lights at night. The concept is simple yet brilliant.

Clips from some of the takes were used to create the 4-minute official music video for ‘Happy’, so you can watch that on YouTube to get a flavour of the takes, although it does not do justice to the full video.

Williams appears in a different take every hour on the hour, and a few other takes have celebrity cameos, but the vast majority of the participants are unknown extras of all ages, races, shapes, sizes and looks. To quote Williams talking to the Los Angeles Times: “We wanted all humanity in there, not just the model-types you might expect.” Some are good dancers, others not so good. But they all have one thing in common: they’re having fun, so they look good. The joy is infectious, and I found myself watching far longer than I would have expected, having to return to the site again and again. Half the fun is watching the bystanders.

When you open the ’24 Hours of Happy’ site, the take that was in progress at the current time of day starts playing from the beginning. However, you can drag the pointer around the clock dial and watch any take from the 24-hour period. There are also buttons you can click on to jump between takes or to jump to each take featuring Williams. The yellow on-screen controls can be made to disappear by not moving the mouse pointer for 5 seconds.

Still from 24 Hours of Happy, showing on-screen controls

Still from 24 Hours of Happy, showing on-screen controls

The Web site is well-designed and fun to use, so I was not surprised it was voted ‘Site of the Month‘ and ‘Site of the Year Users’ Choice‘ by AWWWARDS, and voted ‘Site of the Month‘ and ‘Site of the Year‘ by TheFWA.

It’s impossible to list them all, but a few of my favourite takes are:

01:36  Very perky woman with ponytail.
05:28  Jogger who has to keep pulling his shorts up!
08:24  Woman on roller skates.
09:52  Very cute little girl.
09:56  Woman with some groovy moves.
10:40  Woman in Union Station. Some of the bystanders are particularly amusing.
11:16  Man with cast on foot.
11:20  Boy with an Afro.
11:36  Three groovy old ladies.
11:44  Chubby guy with style.
12:36  Woman with some groovy moves.
13:32  Dancing couple in pink.
14:20  Two cool guys in dinner jackets inside and outside Union Station.
15:00  Pharrell Williams in a church with a gospel choir.
19:04  Woman with a lizard puppet. The lizard does the lip-synching!
19:36  Guy on stilts.
23:40  Woman with LED hula hoop (love it!).

If you want to start viewing a take made at a specific time of day, you can append the time to the URL, like so:

http://24hoursofhappy.com/09h53am

Obviously I think ’24 Hours of Happy’ is fabulous, but why am I discussing it in a blog predominantly about Linux? Because Firefox 27.0.1 (32-bit) running in Windows 8.1 (64-bit) on my new Acer Aspire XC-600 micro-tower PC (dual-core Intel Pentium G2030 @ 3 GHz & 3 MB cache, 4 GB DDR3 RAM) handles ’24 Hours of Happy’ at 720p with ease, but the story is very different on my main laptop running 64-bit Gentoo Linux with KDE (quad-core Intel Core i7 720QM @ 933 MHz & 6 MB cache, 4 GB DDR3 RAM). Both machines are on my home network, connected to the Internet via high-bandwidth broadband (FTTC).

On my laptop, the latest available versions of Firefox (27.0) and Opera (12.16_p1860-r1) for Gentoo, both 64-bit, do not even complete loading the ’24 Hours of Happy’ site: the black progress bar at the bottom of the home page stops about 7/8th of the way across the page and the KDE Network Monitor widget shows there is no network activity. Clearing Firefox’s Web content cache or increasing the cache’s size to 1 GB make no difference. Konqueror 4.12.2 (configured to use the WebKit browser engine rather than the KHTML engine) loads the site and plays it quite well at 720p to start with, but eventually video becomes choppy and I notice a lot of spawned kio_http processes. The KDE Network Monitor widget shows a continuous 3600 Kib/s data stream, which does not stop when I exit Konqueror. Numerous kio_http processes are spawned and remain after I exit Konqueror, and the 3600 KiB/s activity on the network only ceases when I kill all the kio_http processes. The number of spawned kio_http processes increases if I drag the pointer around the clock to select different takes, and the page just displays ‘LOADING’ ad infinitum if I do this several times. To be fair, if I do this a lot in Firefox running in Windows 8.1, I can get Firefox to stall too. I thought I’d try a lightweight browser and installed NetSurf (3.0-r1), but that couldn’t even render the title on the home page, let alone begin to load the video.

So, does ’24 Hours of Happy’ play nicely in your Linux installation? If it does, what hardware, distribution, desktop environment, browser and quality (360p, 480p, 720p or 1080p) are you using?

KDE Connect – Link your Android device to your KDE desktop

KDE Connect app icon on my Samsung Galaxy Note II

KDE Connect app icon on my Samsung Galaxy Note II

KDE Connect is a nice tool that links your Android phone or tablet seamlessly via WiFi to KDE on your PC (the latter can be connected via WiFi or cable to the network). It allows your KDE desktop to receive notifications, files and media player commands from your Android device. The available KDE Connect plug-ins are:

Battery report
Periodically report battery status

Clipboard sync
Share the clipboard content

Multimedia remote controls
Control audio/video from your phone
(pause; first track; previous track; next track; last track; change volume)

Notification sync
Access your notification from other devices

Ping
Send and receive pings

Telephony notifier
Send notifications from SMS and calls

You will need to install the Android KDE Connect application on your Android device, and the Linux KDE Connect application on your PC.

Install the KDE Connect app on your Android device from the Google Play Store. You will then see the KDE Connect icon on the apps screen of your Android device.

For Gentoo users an ebuild for KDE Connect is available in the Gentoo KDE team’s testing overlay, so here are the instructions on how to install KDE Connect on your PC from there.

Firstly, mask the KDE overlay so that none of the packages in it interferes with the KDE software you installed from the main Portage tree:

# echo "*/*::kde" >> /etc/portage/package.mask

Then unmask the KDE Connect package in the KDE overlay:

# echo "kde-misc/kdeconnect" >> /etc/portage/package.unmask

N.B. If /etc/portage/package.mask is a directory rather than a file (either is possible) in your installation, and if /etc/portage/package.unmask is a directory rather than a file (either is possible) in your installation, use the following commands instead of the above two commands:

# echo "*/*::kde" > /etc/portage/package.mask/kde_overlay
# echo "kde-misc/kdeconnect" > /etc/portage/package.unmask/kdeconnect

Now add the KDE overlay and merge the package:

# layman -a kde
# emerge kdeconnect

If a firewall is running on your PC, you will need to configure it to allow tcp and udp traffic via a specific range of ports (1714 to 1764). I have UFW running on my main laptop, so in my case I used the following commands:

# ufw allow proto tcp to any port 1714:1764
# ufw allow proto udp to any port 1714:1764

The rules should look like this:

# ufw status verbose | grep 1714
1714:1764/tcp ALLOW IN Anywhere
1714:1764/udp ALLOW IN Anywhere
1714:1764/tcp ALLOW IN Anywhere (v6)
1714:1764/udp ALLOW IN Anywhere (v6)

If you have the KConfig Module kcm_ufw installed on your PC then you can instead use System Settings > Firewall to add the UFW rules via the KDE GUI.

By the way, to check which KConfig modules are installed on your PC you can use the following command under your user account:

$ kcmshell4 --list

Using KDE Connect is not difficult, so I will leave you to play with it. Obviously make sure WiFi is enabled on your Android device, and that it and your PC are connected to the same network. Tap on the KDE Connect icon on your Android device to launch the app, and you should see your PC’s name listed under CONNECTED DEVICES. Tap on the PC name and you should see the following screen:

KDE Connect screen

KDE Connect screen

If you tap on ‘Send ping’, the KDE Notification widget on the KDE System Tray should pop up a notification.

You can see what KDE Connect plug-ins are available, and select/deselect them:

KDE Connect plugins

KDE Connect plugins

KDE Connect also enables you to use your Android device as a remote control for media players running on your PC. When you launch a media player in KDE its name will appear in a list of selectable players in KDE Connect, and the name of the track currently playing will also be displayed:

KDE Connect - Remote control

KDE Connect - Remote control

When you select a file on your Android device and tap the Share icon, KDE Connect will be one of the options displayed on the ‘Share via’ menu. This is a handy way to send files from your Android device to your PC. The KDE Notification widget on your PC will notify you when the file has been transferred to ~/Desktop/ on your PC:

KDE on your PC notifies you when a file has been sent via KDE Connect

KDE on your PC notifies you a file has been sent via KDE Connect

You should also get notifications on your KDE desktop when someone phones or sends you an SMS.

Kudos and many thanks to the people responsible for KDE Connect. KDE is already a superb desktop environment, and with the addition of KDE Connect it is better still.

Gentoo Linux

I suspect Gentoo Linux is a complete mystery to most Linux users, let alone everyone else. It is a Linux distribution I would never recommend to a newcomer to Linux or to someone not used to the command line, as it requires a certain amount of experience and knowledge when something goes wrong. This is especially true for Gentoo’s Testing Branch. Take upgrading Gentoo Testing on my main laptop today as a good example of what I mean…

Unlike most Linux distributions, Gentoo is a ‘source distribution’, meaning that the software is compiled and installed on your machine from source code downloaded by Gentoo build scripts called ‘ebuilds’, not installed pre-compiled as in a ‘binary distribution’. Furthermore, Gentoo is a ‘rolling distribution’, meaning that you do not periodically install a new release of the operating system, you install it once via the Internet using a lengthy set of commands, and thereafter ‘roll’ it forward by upgrading the installed packages (one, or several at a time) ad infinitum as new versions are released. The upgrading of all installed packages on your machine to their latest versions is called a ‘world update’. For Gentoo Stable you would expect this to be straightforward and trouble-free, and usually it is. But problems are to be expected in the case of Gentoo Testing.

To illustrate the level of detail a user of Gentoo Testing may need to go into, I’ll talk you through what happened to me today when I upgraded the world on my main laptop. I will not explain precisely what each command does; I just want to illustrate the sort of troubleshooting a Gentoo user has to perform from time to time.

I kicked off the world upgrade:

# emerge --sync
# layman --sync-all
# emerge --update --verbose --deep --newuse --keep-going world

This upgraded several installed packages but the last package in the list to be upgraded, version 6.7.0 of a suite of tools named mkvtoolnix, failed to compile. The error message displayed in the terminal window left me none the wiser, so I surfed over to the Gentoo Bugzilla Web site and searched for bug reports on mkvtoolnix. I found Gentoo Bug No. 499332 (‘media-video/mkvtoolnix-6.7.0 should DEPEND on >=dev-lang/ruby-1.9′).

From the title of the bug report I knew I should have a look at the ebuild (an ‘ebuild’ is a script file that Gentoo uses to compile and install a package), so I searched for it on my laptop using the command:

# locate mkvtoolnix | grep 6.7.0.ebuild

which found the file /usr/portage/media-video/mkvtoolnix/mkvtoolnix-6.7.0.ebuild, so I used the text editor nano to look at the ebuild’s code and changed ‘dev-lang/ruby’ to ‘>=dev-lang/ruby-1.9′, then recreated the package manifest:

# cd /usr/portage/media-video/mkvtoolnix
# ebuild mkvtoolnix-6.7.0.ebuild manifest

Gentoo is 'slotted' (i.e. different versions of the same package can be installed), so I checked the currently selected version of Ruby:

# eselect ruby list
Available Ruby profiles:
[1] ruby18 (with Rubygems) *
[2] ruby19 (with Rubygems)
[3] ruby20 (with Rubygems)
[4] ruby21 (with Rubygems)

and changed it to be Ruby version 1.9 as follows:

# eselect ruby set 2
# eselect ruby list
Available Ruby profiles:
[1] ruby18 (with Rubygems)
[2] ruby19 (with Rubygems) *
[3] ruby20 (with Rubygems)
[4] ruby21 (with Rubygems)

Then I tried again to install the mkvtoolnix-6.7.0 package:

# emerge --oneshot --verbose mkvtoolnix

and this time it was built and installed without trouble.

Lastly, I used a Gentoo tool to check, and if necessary fix, dependencies:

# revdep-rebuild --ignore

The output from revdep-rebuild told me everything was fine, so revdep-rebuild did not need to rebuild any packages and I did not need to do anything further.

Actually, I probably could have skipped editing the mkvtoolnix ebuild and just selected Ruby 1.9 using the eselect tool before trying to re-install mkvtoolnix-6.7.0, but if mkvtoolnix depends on Ruby 1.9 or higher then the ebuild for Version 6.7.0 ought to be modified in any case.

If you have read down to here, perhaps now you can see why using Gentoo requires a fair amount of prior knowledge.

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