ncurses library split

The new ncurses library that is currently sitting in the NEW queue will have a significant change that, if we’ve done it right, should be an invisible change.  If we’ve got it wrong, then the BTS (and us) may be a little busy.

What has happened is that the low-level terminfo library has been split out from the general ncurses library making a new package called libtinfo5.  This also means that there only needs to be one libtinfo5 package because at this low level it doesn’t care about wide characters, so there is no libtinfo5w (and that gets important later). libncurses is linked to libtinfo so from the point of view of using libncurses there should be no major change in how things are done.

So, why bother?

The way ncurses was built before causes a nice long “conga line of trouble”.  There really are (was) two main ncurses library packages, libncurses5 and libncursesw5. The w meant it was for wide characters. So anything that uses ncurses needs to decide which one to link to or perhaps both. A problem came up with the readline library that needs to link to ncurses because programs that link to IT (such as python) want a wide library but other programs do not. One solution is to have two readline libraries, but then any other library would need to be compiled and built twice as well and so on and so on.

readline didn’t really want the full ncurses library, it only wants the terminfo part but there was (until now) no way of picking up that bit only.  Once this new version of ncurses gets released then readline can link to libterminfo which is agnostic to wide and non-wide characters which means it is as well which them means everything else should, in theory work.  If you are using ncurses for some low-level terminfo work only, you may want to have a look to see if you can link to libtinfo5 only which will mean depending on libtinfo5 and not libncurses5 or libncursesw5.

I’m just writing this up mainly and uploading the packages, the bulk of the work was done by Sven and Matthias as well as some help from our ever-helpful upstream Thomas.


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Getting music into the iPod Shuffle

IPod shuffle
Image via Wikipedia

Sounds easy doesn’t it?  You got a nice Debian computer filled with mp3s and you got an iPod Shuffle. You want to get the mp3s onto the Shuffle, simple really!

Well, no.

I’ve got a 2nd Generation iPod Shuffle; its a little blue thing the size of a postage stamp with no screen. Specifically a model A1204.  It uses the headphone socket with a special connector to get it connected via USB.  It also steadfastly refused to play anything I transferred onto it.

gtkpod was first.  I knew I was in trouble when my model doesn’t appear in their list of supported devices. 2nd Generation Shuffles do, just not an A1204.  After a lot of fiddling around and playing with special files and firewire IDs I got a file onto it. Great, but then turning the iPod on I got the green and orange sequence of lights which means no file found.

Next, was Rhythmbox.  It is supposed to understand iPods too.  The funny thing was that it saw the music file I put on the iPod by gtkpod, but adding any file gave me the same colour sequence.  What was worse is if you tried to look at the information about the iPod, Rhythmbox crashed.

It seemed I was doomed to use iTunes on the windows computer in the living room.  A program that seems designed not to work the way I want. (It tries to load all the mp3 files from my son’s games into the iPod but ignores my music on the samba share, for starters).

I just wanted the files on the player and the player to recognise and play them.  It didn’t seem like a too hard a task, but I was stuck.  That was until I found a small (643 lines) python script called rebuild-db that builds the special iPod files with my music.  I found the file at the rebuild-db sourceforge page and it was very simple process.

Now I plug the iPod in, wait for the window to appear, push my songs onto the iPod and run the script.  It’s quick and simple and more importantly it works.  Not bad for a program that hasn’t been developed since April 2006.



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