Category: Linux

More Webcams, Fewer Problems

I want to have two applications using the same webcam under Linux, in my case an app using Kivy to render the webcam view and let people interact with it, and ROS.

My first hope had been to have a Kivy app that subscribed to a ROS image topic and displayed the resulting image, but I’ve spent two days beating on it and only found a variety of ways to make a python program give me a segfault.

The new plan is to use v4l2loopback to create two virtual cameras, and have them both fed from /dev/video0 (the actual camera).

sudo modprobe v4l2loopback devices=2

That gets me the two devices. The thing is, these devices don’t actually output any video. They’re just fake video devices that a program can write to. There are a lot of instructions on feeding them with ffmpeg. For some reason, my computer says it has ffmpeg installed, but locate can’t locate it. Instead, I’ve used gstreamer to set up /dev/video1 as a video device that ROS’s usb_cam node can handle, and configured the launch file for usb_cam to read /dev/video1

gst-launch v4l2src device=/dev/video0 ! video/x-raw-yuv,width=640,height=480,framerate=15/1 ! v4l2sink device=/dev/video1

That solves half of my problem. The other half is having the second video device get fed, and getting Kivy to read /dev/video2.

gst-launch v4l2src device=/dev/video0 ! video/x-raw-yuv,width=640,height=480,framerate=15/1 ! tee name=t ! v4l2sink device=/dev/video1 t. ! queue ! v4l2sink device=/dev/video2

Adding the tee and queue gives me two video devices playing the same video, both fed by /dev/video0. The usb_cam ROS node can read either one of them. The basic Kivy camera app that I bashed together doesn’t work, though. It seems to default to trying to open /dev/video0, and then failing because the gst-launch invocation is using it.

AnchorLayout:
anchor_x:"center"
anchor_y:"center"
   Camera:
      id: camera
      resolution:(640,480)
      play: True
      index:2
   KeyboardListener:
      id:kbd_lstn

Adding index:2 to my Kivy app’s .kv file gets me a kivy app with my video in it. As long as my ROS nodes are looking at /dev/video1 and my Kivy app is looking at /dev/video2, no one steps on anyone’s toes, and they both can operate at the same time.

Lightlocker does not play well with NVida (or something)

If you have an Ubuntu system with an NVida video card, and after suspending and resuming you get a login screen, but after you log in you get a black screen, and using ctrl + alt + F1 gets you a text console, your problem is probably lightlocker. I’ve seen some sites claim that the problem is fixable with sudo apt-get remove --purge nvidia-* which would be great if you didn’t want video drivers or CUDA. I’d rather hang onto my video drivers, so sudo apt-get remove light-locker makes everything better.

ROS and OpenCV will fite u, m8

I recently wanted to do some computer vision stuff using OpenFace, which is a collection of face-processing computer vision algorithms and tools to use them. It uses OpenCV 3.0.something, which uses, among other things, vtk6, and friends libvtk6-dev and python-vtk6.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but I use ROS Indigo, as does the lab I work in. ROS Indigo uses some previous version of vtk, and so attempting to install OpenCV 3.0 blows away my ROS install, and makes apt freak out when I try to install it again. The actual error was something like “you have broken held packages”, only I didn’t actually have held packages OR broken packages.

Apt just gives up at this point. Aptitude, on the other hand, proposes removing the offending VTK packages and proceeding with the ROS install. Only time will tell if I’ve trashed my OpenCV install, but if I have, I can just go back to an older OpenCV version.

Download ALL The Music

Given a file containing a list of songs, one per line, in the format “Artist – Song Title”, download the audio of the first youtube video link on a Google search for that song. This is quite useful if you want to the MP3 for every song you ever gave a thumbs up on Pandora. On my computer, this averages about 4 songs a minute.

The Requests API and BeautifulSoup make writing screenscrapers and automating the web really clean and easy.

#!/usr/bin/python

# Takes a list of titles of songs, in the format "artist - song" and searches for each
# song on google. The first youtube link is passed off to youtube-dl to download it and 
# get the MP3 out. This doesn't have any throttling because (in theory) the conversion step
# takes enough time to provide throttling. 

import requests
import re
from BeautifulSoup import BeautifulSoup
from subprocess import call

def queryConverter(videoURL):
	call(["youtube-dl", "--extract-audio",  "--audio-format", "mp3", videoURL])

def queryGoogle(songTitle):
	reqPreamble = "https://www.google.nl/search"
	reqData = {'q':songTitle}
	r = requests.get(reqPreamble, params=reqData)
	if r.status_code != 200:
		print "Failed to issue request to {0}".format(r.url)
	else:
		bs = BeautifulSoup(r.text)
		tubelinks = bs.findAll("a", attrs={'href':re.compile("watch")})
		if len(tubelinks) > 0:
			vidUrl = re.search("https[^&]*", tubelinks[0]['href'])
			vidUrl = requests.utils.unquote(vidUrl.group(0))
			return vidUrl
		else:
			print "No video for {0}".format(songTitle)

if __name__=="__main__":
	with open("./all_pandora_likes", 'r') as inFile:
		for line in inFile:
			videoURL = queryGoogle(line)
			if videoURL is not None:
				queryConverter(videoURL)

KiCad is Still a Shitshow

Six months ago, I designed a schematic and circuit board in KiCad. Yesterday, I tried to open it and got a list of errors so long that it didn’t fit on my screen from top to bottom. The reason is that KiCad loads the footprints of the parts you use from Github, so when (not if) the KiCad devs change how they store footprints, your install of KiCad breaks. In other words, installing KiCad gives the KiCad devs permission to break your workflow for no reason.

I fixed my KiCad package list by writing a little python script that goes through the KiCad github repo and generates a new footprint list based on however they happen to be organized and whatever they happen to be called today. Copy that over my previously working footprint list, and the error message went away.

However, since the last time I used it, my install of KiCad has stopped rendering in CVPCB. No error message or anything, just doesn’t render the copper layers, parts, etc. I got part of the ratsnest, and that’s it.

Clearly, the thing to do is to install the newest version of KiCad from the developer’s PPA.

Nope, that returns a 404.

Clearly, the thing to do is to install using the script the devs wrote to install and build KiCad.

Nope, the script fails because they use a version of WXWidgets that like no one else on earth uses.

So let’s recap: No method of installing KiCad works, and just LEAVING YOUR WORKING INSTALL ALONE is not sufficient to ensure that it continues to work.

Since I’m designing a small PCB, CadSoft’s Eagle is looking more and more tempting. Limited PCB sizes aren’t a problem if you’re making something small.

Un-Ubuntuing Ubuntu Redux

Ubuntu ships with the “main” and “universe” repos enabled, and the “multiverse” repo disabled. This is because there are legal or ideological reasons to not use the software in multiverse.

However, there are practical reasons to use the rar/unrar packages from multiverse over the unrar-free package in universe: unrar-free frequently doesn’t work, but unrar-nonfree does.

If you want your compression and decompression software to operate, rather than be ideologically compliant:

sudo apt-add-repository multiverse
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install unrar rar

Playatech started charging for their plans

Unfortunately for burners, you can no longer download Playatech’s plans for their furniture without paying them first. They used to offer the plans as free downloads, and then asked that you donate some small amount if you used them.

Unfortunately for Playatech, they left all the PDFs in a world-readable directory. The command line below gets the index of that directory, finds all the lines with “pdf” in them, gets the file names out using cut, and then downloads each file.

for file in `wget -qO- http://playatech.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/ | grep pdf | cut -d ‘>’ -f 2 | cut -d ‘”‘ -f 2`; do wget http://playatech.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/$file; done

Flickr Downloadr that really works

Not my work. Get it here.

It does exactly what it says on the tin. This is letting me close a years-old open loop I had, which is that Flickr had a lot of my photos, but sucked so bad that I didn’t want to reward them with money in order to get my photos back.

As soon as the download is done, that Flickr account is toast.

Un-Ubuntuing Ubuntu, Again

Ubuntu makes no secret of the fact that they will choose something that looks good but doesn’t work over something that works. That’s pretty much the entire point of this blog post. Because xscreensaver uses an older X widget kit than light-locker, and so looks “antiquated”, they switched to light-locker for 14.04. Light-locker doesn’t atually work well, and causes many, many, many laptops to not return from suspend mode without a hard reset.

If you’d rather use software that works, you have to change some settings and remove a bunch of stuff. I removed light-locker, light-locker-settings, and gnome-screensaver. I also installed xscreensaver.

In order to lock on lid close, I started xfce4-settings-editor, selected xfce4-power-manager, and set/checked both lock-screen-suspend-hibernate and logind-handle-lid-swtich.

I currently get two login prompts when I unsuspend, one from xscreensaver and one from something else. I suspect the second one is logind, so I can get rid of the xscreensaver one by making xscreensaver not do screen locking.

Well THAT'S messy

for file in ../connections_2014-10-7-1*; do conn="-c ../connections_"`echo $file | cut -d "_" -f 2`; types="-t ../neuron_types_"`echo $file | cut -d "_" -f 2`; locs="-l ../locations_"`echo $file | cut -d "_" -f 2`; ./pickle_to_json.py $conn $types $locs; done

For all the connection files that were generated today, create three variables called “conn”, “types”, and “locs” that have a command line switch path in them generated from a fixed prefix and a cut from the connection file name. Then invoke the script “pickle_to_json.py” with those variables as arguments.

Effectively, the connection, neuron type, and location files are all related by their date, so this makes a single JSON file out of the multiple files. I just didn’t want to run pickle_to_json.py a bunch of times by hand, as that seemed error-prone.