Archive for the ‘linux’ Category

Playing MP3 on Raspberry Pi with low latency

May 11th, 2013 1 comment

One commercial project I was working on for Raspberry Pi involved playing various MP3 samples when a button is pushed. The original implementation used mplayer to play back the samples, however the issue is that there was up to 1500ms latency between mplayer was executed and start of playback.

I didn’t do detailed profiling, but I think two factors causing high latency of mplayer were that (i) just loading all the .so libraries mplayer depends on can take many hundreds of milliseconds (ii) the file is being scanned for whatever stuff, streams detected etc. and that can also take some extra time; perhaps I could force mplayer to realize this is a simple MP3 file, but (i) is still the much bigger factor.

I wanted to avoid recoding all the samples to wav. That would allow me to use aplay directly and the playback starts immediately, but it would also feel really silly; decoding of MP3 is not the bottleneck, just the latency of mammoth software loading and initializing itself is. I also didn’t try mpd as that might have been a bit painful to set up.

Another point worth noting is that I didn’t use the crappy on-board PWM audio but a $3 chinese USB soundcard (which is still much better than PWM audio). And using reasonably up-to-date Raspbian Wheezy. So I tried…

  • mplayer -slave -idle, started in parallel with my program and receiving commands via FIFO. It hangs after the first file (even though it works fine when ran without -slave).
  • cmus running in parallel with my program, controlled by cmus-remote. Convincing it to use ALSA device of my choice was really hard, but eventually I managed, only to hear my files sped up about 20x.
  • madplay I couldn’t convince about using a non-default ALSA device at all.
  • mpg123 started immediately and could play back the MP3 files on a non-default ALSA device. Somehow, the quality was very low though (telephone grade) and there was an intense high-pitched clip at the end of the playback.
  • mpg321 I couldn’t convince to produce any sound and anyway it had about 800ms latency before playback started, probably due to its libao dependency.
  • sox, or rather AUDIODEV=hw:1 play worked! (After installing a package with MP3 support for sox.) No latency, normal quality, no clips, no hangs. Whew.

Verdict: There still is a software on Linux that can properly and quickly play MP3 files on Raspberry Pi, though it was a challenge to find it. I didn’t think of sox at first and I was almost giving up hope. BTW, normally you would use sox and play for applying a variety of audio transformations and effects in a batch/pipeline fashion and it can do a lot of awesome magic.

Categories: linux, software Tags: , , , , , ,

Short minutes from “Text Mail Clients” BOF @ LinuxDays Prague 2012

October 21st, 2012 No comments

I promised to post some minutes from the BOF in $SUBJ here for people who don’t remember all the tool names:

  • [l]imit in mutt is very powerful functionality; my other blogpost describes notmuch integration to that
  • new mutt-kz has good virtual folder support as notmuch integration; perhaps future of state-of-art text mail clients
  • sup is interesting gmail-like text client, but way too slow!
  • alot is worth a look as nice notmuch frontend; no screenshots on net though
  • notmuch can filter by folder label, so single db is fine for all your folders
  • dovecot sync (dsync)
  • lookg at images when reading mail remotely – screenenv (set $DISPLAY based on last active screen client), new tool needed for seamless transfer of files back to local machine is needed!
  • maildir sync using VCS (bazaar) instead of imap (read mails using “thick client”) (ccxcz)
  • prioritization of downloaded mails by using uucp for transfer (lmw)
  • sending mails by feeding them to procmail which decides how to send them (ccxcz)
  • automatic addressbook building: lbdb (little brother db)
  • Trojita is Qt MUA with very fast IMAP.
  • another mutt tip: set edit_headers will make mutt not ask about recipient, subject etc. before starting editor, but let you put the headers in instead
Categories: linux Tags: , , , ,

Conversion from mixed UTF8 / legacy encoding data to UTF8

September 23rd, 2012 No comments

For about 13 years now, I’m running the Muaddib IRC bot that serves a range of Czech channels. Its features varied historically, but the main one is providing conversational AI services (it learns from people talking to him and replies back based on the learnt stuff). It runs the Megahal Markov chain algorithm, using the Hailo implementation right now.

Sometimes, I need to reset its brain. Most commonly when the server happens to hit a disk full situation, something no Megahal implementation seems to be able to deal with gracefully. :-) (Hailo is SQLite-based.) Thankfully, it’s a simple sed job with all the IRC logs archived. However, Muaddib always had trouble with non-ASCII data, mixing a variety of encodings and liking to produce a gibberish result.

So, historically, people used to talk to Muaddib using ISO-8859-2 and UTF8 encodings and now I had mixed ISO-8859-2/UTF8 lines and I wanted to convert them all to UTF8. Curiously, I have not been able to quickly Google out a solution and had to hack together my own (and, well, dealing with Unicod ein Perl is never something that goes quickly). For the benefit of fellow Google wanderers, here is my take:

perl -MEncode -ple 'BEGIN { binmode STDOUT, ":utf8"; }
  $_ = decode("UTF-8", $_, sub { decode("iso-8859-2", chr(shift)) });'

It relies on the Encode::decode() ability to specify a custom conversion failure handler (and the fact that Latin2 character sequences that are also valid UTF-8 sequences are fairly rare). Note that Encode 2.35 (found in Debian squeeze) is broken and while it documents this feature, it doesn’t work. Encode 2.42_01 in Debian wheezy or latest CPAN version (use perl -MCPAN -e 'install Encode' to upgrade) works fine.

Perl and UTF8

June 24th, 2012 1 comment

I love Perl and it’s my language of choice for much of the software I write (between shell at one extreme and C at the other). However, there is one thing Perl really sucks at – Unicode and UTF8 encoding support. It is not that the features aren’t there, but that getting it to work is so tricky. It is so much tricks to remember already that I started writing them down:

It’s a wiki, anyone is welcome to contribute. :-)

Categories: linux, software Tags: , , ,

Texas Instrument Launchpad MSP430 and Linux

June 11th, 2012 2 comments

I found out that the situation with MSP430 is not as bad as it seemed. This post is mostly obsolete, but I’m leaving the text up for the benefit of Google index and other desperate people struggling with their Launchpad. :-)

This blogpost serves as a big fat warning to the future ones that might be about to follow in my footsteps:

Currently sold TI Launchpad MSP430
is not properly supported by Linux
as of 2012-06-01

It’s a sad reality but that’s just how it is, to the best of my knowledge, and after a lot of research and doing unbelievable things to kernel drivers etc. To clarify a bit, basic programming using mspdebug works, but you cannot communicate between host and board using USB serial. This seems to have worked with much older USB chips but not with the ones used by TI in current versions of the board (I got Launchpad with MSP-EXP430G2 ordered in May 2012).

Some fun technical details to help google index and guide others diagnosing this:

[186808.775510] usb 1-1.2: new full-speed USB device number 7 using ehci_hcd
[186808.891778] usb 1-1.2: New USB device found, idVendor=0451, idProduct=f432
[186808.891788] usb 1-1.2: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
[186808.891794] usb 1-1.2: Product: Texas Instruments MSP-FET430UIF
[186808.891800] usb 1-1.2: Manufacturer: Texas Instruments
[186808.891804] usb 1-1.2: SerialNumber: CFFF4695F6C11445
[186808.924900] cdc_acm 1-1.2:1.0: This device cannot do calls on its own. It is not a modem.
[186808.924914] cdc_acm 1-1.2:1.0: No union descriptor, testing for castrated device
[186808.925029] cdc_acm 1-1.2:1.0: ttyACM0: USB ACM device
[186808.927595] usbcore: registered new interface driver cdc_acm
[186808.927603] cdc_acm: USB Abstract Control Model driver for USB modems and ISDN adapters
[186818.963279] generic-usb 0003:0451:F432.0001: usb_submit_urb(ctrl) failed
[186818.963332] generic-usb 0003:0451:F432.0001: timeout initializing reports
[186818.964177] generic-usb 0003:0451:F432.0001: hiddev0,hidraw0: USB HID v1.01 Device [Texas Instruments Texas Instruments MSP-FET430UIF] on usb-0000
[186818.964262] usbcore: registered new interface driver usbhid
[186818.964269] usbhid: USB HID core driver

This is what my dmesg says the first time the board is plugged in. mspdebug works fine but any attempt of serial communication over /dev/ttyACM0 (talking to TI-provided sample UART code). OBTW if you are actually wondering how to compile and upload stuff on this baby:

msp430-gcc -mmcu=msp430g2553 -Wall -O3 -o uart_01_9600 msp430g2xx3_uscia0_uart_01_9600.c
mspdebug rf2500 prog\ uart_01_9600

For USB interface, TI includes its own crazy USB-enabled microcontroller on board that provides a HID-ish interface (for mspdebug) and an ACM-ish interface (for UART emulation) on a single port (which is nicely confusing). The serial part is supposed to be handled by ti_usb_3410_5052 kernel driver, which grabs a firmware and attempts to reflash the USB microcontroller so that it presents a more sensible serial USB interface (pretty crazy, eh?). However, the rf2500 variant of this chip appears to be too new and simply not supported either by the firmware or the firmware uploader.

Tweaking USB ids in the driver (f430 -> f432) does not help. Getting ti_3410.fw that Debian helpfully does not ship does not help. Manually binding the driver to USB does not help. The furthest I get is that the driver indeed tries to flash the ti_3410.fw firmware to device, but just times out doing that (I think maybe I bricked the serial part of the USB microcontroller by now):

[193053.430662] ti_usb_3410_5052 1-1.2:1.0: TI USB 3410 1 port adapter converter detected
[193054.443490] usb 1-1.2: ti_download_firmware - error downloading firmware, -110
[193054.443528] ti_usb_3410_5052: probe of 1-1.2:1.0 failed with error -5

Oh, and mspdebug rf2400 exit before any serial communication (I have found a tip somewhere) does not help either. An obviously-working UART code for MSP430G2553 would be welcome too, to triple-rule-out a uC-side firmware problem. (The launchpad board is awesome but rx/tx leds are sorely missing. I know, I could grab an oscilloscope… but how many hours have I already wasted by this?)

So, what seemed to be a great Arduino replacement turns to dust for me since the whole point of 80% of my Arduino projects is to talk to a computer… That said, if (after) you make it work, you will get one, or maybe even two Launchpads for free from me.

Using CUPS to print text files in non-UTF8 charset encoding

May 17th, 2012 No comments