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Microsoft: I am so done with you…

Except for the two applications that only run in Windows…

I lost use of my Windows 7 partition on my laptop last week after a Windows update.  They have been pushing Windows 10 for a while now, but I have ignored it because Windows 7 is just fine for me. I tried to ignore the latest nagging update and: Oh, joy! Computer stuck in an endless reboot loop. Fortunately, I had a dual boot system and the Linux OS booted right up. Go figure! I was able to mount the the Windows partition from Linux and recover all of my files.  This is a good reason to have a dual boot system, or keep a bootable thumb drive handy.  At first, I thought I might be loosing sectors on my hard drive, but no.  It turns out, one of the files changed during the update was corrupted.  No big deal, I can reload windows and be back in business.

It will only take an hour or so.  An hour that could be better used for something else, something akin to billable hours, which is how the mortgage gets paid. My computer is not a hobby, it is a tool. I don’t have time to play around with things for fun.

Then I thought, why bother?  I am using Linux with no serious disruptions.  In fact, it boots faster, runs faster, is more secure, and generally has fewer hangups. LibreOffice has all of the applications I need for general correspondence and business administration.  I can run Win 7 as a virtual machine in VirtualBox as long as I can get the USB device I need to be recognized by Linux then passed through to the virtual Win 7 OS.

So, to hell with Windows and all its nonsense. Goodbye you inferior, expensive and buggy piece of garbage. I will not miss you.

Burk Autopilot, DOS version

We have been doing work at a particular radio station for a few years now. Every time I go there, I look at this… thing:

Burk DOS Autopilot/CDL running on Windows 98

Burk DOS Autopilot/CDL running on Windows 98

It is a very old PC running Windows 98 and Burk Autopilot/CDL 4.6 for DOS.  The auto pilot program is running from a windows DOS prompt and seems to be working okay; my concern is about the age of the hardware and the potential for failure.  The Autopilot is what controls the AM station’s power levels, which vary from 1,000 watts daytime, to 4 watts night time.  We have all read about AM stations fined by the FCC for running daytime power levels at night.  Failure of the ancient autopilot computer could lead to exactly this scenario.

I attempted to purchase the newer, Windows XP version of Autopilot, only to be told “that item is not in this year’s budget.”  Apparently, it was not in the budget for following year, or the one after that.  Thus, when the hard drive on the old Windoze 98 machine began making a terrible grinding noise, I knew the end was near.  I made an attempt to run the Autopilot from a Windows XP DOS prompt, at which time I was informed: “The program cannot start or run due to incompatibility with 64 bit versions of windows…” GAK!  I kind of knew this already.

I began day dreaming about running a DOS virtual machine inside of a Ubuntu or Lubuntu operating system.  Then I found a DOS emulator program for Linux called “DOSemu” which looked like exactly what the doctor ordered.  Using the carcases of several old HP desktop computers, I came up with one working PC that had two organic serial ports.  This is actually not a bad unit, as it has a 1.6 GHz dual core processor and 2 GB RAM.  On this machine, I loaded the 32 bit version of Ubuntu 12.04 desktop.  Naturally, the original Autopilot/CDL 4.6 disks were nowhere to be found so I had to copy the directory off of the old computer.  It was also understood that this project was simply going to suck.  Therefore, the superannuated Windoze 98 machine had no network interface nor any USB ports.  My only option was to copy the files unto a 3 1/2 inch floppy disk.  Fortunately, I have a USB 3 1/2 floppy drive, which I was able to use to copy the files onto the new computer into the /home/ARC16 directory.

Downloading and setting up Dosemu was fairly straight forward.  There were a few configuration steps that needed to be completed before the Autopilot software would work and communicate with the ARC-16 remote control:

  • In the DOSemu configuration file, the hardware serial port needs to be configure to work with the DOS emulator.  This is located at /etc/dosemu/doseum.conf.  The default conf file has all of the serial ports commented out.  Remove the comment and change the serial port source:  $_com1 = “/dev/ttyS0” or $_com2 = “/dev/ttyS1”  The serial ports available can be determined by the following terminal command: dmesg | grep tty  The output should look something like this:

    paul@engineeringIII:~$ dmesg | grep tty
    [ 0.000000] console [tty0] enabled
    [ 37.531286] serial8250: ttyS0 at I/O 0x3f8 (irq = 4) is a 16550A
    [ 37.532138] 0000:04:00.3: ttyS1 at I/O 0x1020 (irq = 3) is a 16550A
    [16206.667112] usb 2-1.3: pl2303 converter now attached to ttyUSB0
    paul@engineeringIII:~$

    For USB to serial port converters, the serial port source may look something like this: $_com1 = “/dev/ttyUSB0”

  • The DOS emulator time can be synced to Linux time by: $_timemode = “linux” This is great because Linux can be synced to a NTP source, meaning Autopilot time will always be correct.
  • The logged on user that will be running the DOS emulator needs to be added to the “dialout” group.  This can be done by sudo adduser [user name] dialout.  This will allow the Autopilot software access to the comm port.
  • The DOS autoexec.bat file should be edited so that Burk autopilot loads automatically when DOSemu is started.  DOSemu automatically assigns the D drive to the Linux home directory.  Thus, simply adding:

    D:
    CD ARC16
    ARC16

    to the end of the autoexec.bat file will start the ARC16 program automatically when the DOSemu program is started.

  • DOSemu can then be added to the Ubuntu desktop startup.

The results:

DOS autopilot running on Linux machine

DOS autopilot running on Linux machine

Burk Autopilot/CDL (DOS version) running on a Linux (Ubuntu 12.04.4) machine.  The stupid thing will probably run forever now.

This computer is also used to program the satellite receivers, which are located at the transmitter site.  Thus, there are several manuals and program clocks stored in the documents folder.  I also installed the x11VNC server program, so that the computer desktop can be logged into remotely from the studio over the LAN link.

I noticed that the DOSemu program hits the processor fairly hard, with one core running about 45% most of the time.  That should be fine, as this machine is used very infrequently for other tasks.

Audacity digital editing software

Audacity logoAudacity is the name of a free digital audio editing software package made distributed by Sourceforge. It is distributed under Version 2 of GPL without exceptions.   It does require an .mp3 plug in to generate mp3 files.  According to the Sourceforge website:

Audacity was started by Dominic Mazzoni and Roger Dannenberg in the fall of 1999 at Carnegie Mellon University. It was released as open-source software at SourceForge.net in May of 2000…

Audacity is a free, easy-to-use and multilingual audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. You can use Audacity to:

  • Record live audio.
  • Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
  • Edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV or AIFF sound files.
  • Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.
  • Change the speed or pitch of a recording.

The full list of features is available here.

So, I have download a copy and installed it on my test machine in the basement (hardware requirements here).  My test machine is a stripped out P4 2.4 GHz Windows XP box that I can isolate from the network and experiment with.  On that machine with a digigram VX-880 soundcard, Audacity did very well.  I did not record multi track, but with 24 bit sound sampled at 48 KHz, the computer kept up nicely.  The basic editing features are intuitive and easy to manipulate with mouse and keypad.

For a quick to install downloadable program, it does very well.  Does it do everything like Adobe Audition or other professional editing software suite does? No.  But for the price, it can’t be beat.

Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

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