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2021-12-31 📌 Project Zebra: Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

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This entry is part of my Project Zebra series covering migration to Linux for personal computing use.

Title reference: Attributed to Seneca the Younger (omni fine initium novum) but the lack of Google indexing of an original text suggests both the latin and attribution are apocryphal. Popularised or made up by Semisonic?

A little schadenfreude from November to begin with: "Microsoft's Windows 11 adventure is going swimmingly. IT asset management outfit Lansweeper has published the results of a 10 million PC survey that gives the new operating system a 0.21 per cent market share. That is a good deal less than the 3.62 per cent of Windows XP and a nose ahead of the reviled Windows Vista. It is also not great news as the OS enters its second month of general availability."

Segueing, with the release of the 5.15 kernel and better NTFS support (plus fast SMB file serving apparently) this El Reg article notes the new possibility that Linux can boot directly from NTFS or (given that Windows has no overlap in key folder structures) you could install both operating systems on the same partition.

As at early December, Ubuntu 22.04 snapshots were still using 5.13 but hopefully this will change over the next few months. The only thing that might hold it back is that 22.04 is a biennial LTS release and Canonical understandably has a preference for stability, but since 5.15 is itself an LTS release and the last one of those was 5.10 I'd say chances are good. However things turn out, more testing will be better.

A quick Thunderbird tweak to apply a zebra stripe to mail items in folders:
https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/1298376
toolkit.legacyUserProfileCustomizations.stylesheets in Config Editor
#threadTree treechildren::-moz-tree-row(even) { background-color: #eff0f1; }

BirdTray is now mature and the latest version from Oct 2020 is in the Ubuntu repos, so I've set it up to taste (Thunderbird permanently running and minimising to tray with a different icon and slow blinking for unread mail) and retired Mailbox Alert. I had to revert a folder path back to a more default structure and it's a slight shame it can't poll new rather than unread exactly like the latter, but marking items as read (or clicking the icon to hide TB) isn't a big issue. Unlike using YAD for notifications the tray icons don't become blurry, and it effectively manages Thunderbird by keeping track of whether it's running, intercepting minimise actions, etc. It works well with Plasma as a DE, but due to the fact it's managing Thunderbird's windows don't expect Wayland support for that specific feature.

Speaking of which, this article outlining the concept of "15 minute bugs" as easily encountered VHI (very high impact) bugs that are embarrassing for a problem was interesting and has an accompanying list of (currently) 48 issues. I don't think any are ones I've noticed.

I set up the old Shuttle XS35GTV2 for someone as a replacement for an older Vista-era machine, and the GPU seems to compensate for the fanless-case-suitable processor pretty well in modern browsers. 4GB and a 1TB drive makes for a reasonable light usage system. I went with a Mint Xfce 20.2 base, making sure it was using Nvidia drivers, and creating an X conf file so that light locker doesn't revert to VGA res. I removed Hexchat and installed K3b, freac, deadbeef + fb + setup, Cheese, audacity, VLC, xfburn, more Hypnotix channels, Krita, Chrome, TeamViewer, POL + Office, elementary xfce icons, Greybird accessibility theme, and generally tidied up a bit.

I subscribed again to Linux Format (and Retro Gamer) since there was Black Friday 50% off type thing. After issue 277's article on resurrecting an old website that felt uncomfortably like a situation saving a friend's site not so long ago, issue 284 turned up with the announcement they've permanently stopped adding cover DVDs… which, whilst I found them most useful as a stiff piece of cardboard for scraping up cat vomit, might be a negative for the casual new audience of retirees etc. that Linux would otherwise attract via visibility in WHSmiths and supermarkets. There are still people who like a printed magazine. But the page count of 98, external ads on the back and inside covers only, cover price of £6.49, incessant recycling of topics mixed with coverage of small distros and niche tutorial topics, etc, makes me think it'll be cancelled by Future in the not-too-distant. It feels like the last days of Your Sinclair.

It turns out https://www.linux-magazine.com/ is still going after Tesco dropping it ages ago and it vanishing off my radar. This time last year they had a similar page count and did another archive DVD for their 20th anniversary (two years after the previous one) with issue 240 and it still hasn't sold out, which suggests they're not doing amazingly either.

Just a few more words on old sites... within the last few years, PHP has adopted a more aggressive release cadence and deprecated more old features. Syntax changes in the mysqli module, short tag removal, etc, have effectively broken legacy parts of the web and content management systems in ways static sites of the 90s weren't at risk from. The biggest milestone was PHP 5.6 reaching EOL at the end of 2018 (after 14 years) but it's now an annual thing that a 7.x version will reach EOL at around the end of November. https://kinsta.com/blog/php-versions/ estimates 2/3rds of Wordpress-based sites (and remember WP is a fairly general CMS as well as a blog platform and 1 in 3 websites use it) are using unsupported PHP versions. By breaking backwards compatibility by design, with no options to carry forward legacy code, PHP maintainers have essentially shrugged and swung a hammer at the hosting and availability of historical content.

The power adapter for this machine had worked itself loose, so I've excavated behind the monitor and removed some unused devices and cables, and ordered an HDMI switch. Currently the layout includes:

USB2: keyboard
USB3a: extension cable for attaching an optical/other drive
USB3b: mini hub = power for speakers, wi-fi adapter
USB3c: hub = mouse, printer, UPS, headphone adapter, wireless receiver
USB3d: NAS unit

A quick bash one-liner to rename downloaded video clips in a sequential order based on file date:
n=0; ls -tr *.mp4 | while read i; do n=$((n+1)); mv -- "$i" "$(printf '%03d.mp4' "$n")"; done

Simple GUI app to scan for cameras and other devices on a local network:
https://angryip.org/download/#linux

Show the stream from a Tapo camera:
mpv --audio=no --geometry=800x450 rtsp://username:password@192.168.x.xxx:554/stream1

This had me thinking about options for making camera output available remotely without subscription services. I've already got web hosting and any number of hardware adapters so a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W seems like just the ticket for a headless device that can sit on the network to grab and publish frames. Or to run a basic web server with actual video.

ZoneMinder would be a more obvious option with a fully-specified Pi, but a Zero 2 ought to be capable enough to do things a more old school way. Raspberry Pi OS Lite seems to be the official distro for headless type tasks, and as a device should be able to boot and run RISC OS which might be fun for an hour or two. This isn't a novel usage for a single board computer and it seems common to roll-your-own solutions for publishing video streams, preferably wrapping the video stream to HLS without re-encoding, such as

https://dev.to/tejasvi2/rtsp-stream-to-web-browser-using-ffmpeg-1cb
https://dominoc925.blogspot.com/2021/09/how-to-quickly-publish-rtsp-stream.html
https://girishjoshi.io/post/ffmpeg-rtsp-to-hls/

which should be fun to try. And whilst you can create clips from recordings the Tapo cameras don't offer an option for copying full recordings without removing their cards so it might be useful if the Pi could also cache a day or two of footage for convenience, eg starting a new file each hour. Again, this would depend on not re-encoding the streams, the Pi just needing to handle I/O, and since the devices are limited to two concurrent users (including viewing on a tablet using the app or PC using a stream) it would make sense to tee the ffmpeg output directly.

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/56423581/save-rtsp-stream-continuously-into-multi-mp4-files-with-specific-length-10-minu/57092423
https://stackoverflow.com/questions/16259588/how-to-dump-raw-rtsp-stream-to-file
https://support.safr.com/support/solutions/articles/69000145615-record-rtsp-streams

I've got an OTG cable, USB hubs and a mini-HDMI adapter, but intend to SSH into it: https://dirtyoptics.com/get-access-to-your-pi-zero-w-without-a-keyboard-mouse-or-monitor/

More on this if I get things to work.