Archive for the ‘Home Media’ Category

So I’ve changed the process I’m using, just to make my life simpler and because the previous process was far too complicated!

  • I now rip a bunch of CDs to a holding directory (\\Tower\rips\flac)
  • Run Musicbrainz Picard to check/amend the metadata, saving the files renames them and moves them to the final directory (\\Tower\music\flac)
  • Run bliss against the directory to catch any missing artwork

The main advantage of this is that I’m letting the tools handle the heavy lifting – I’m not manually moving directories of files around the server.

The other advantage of this is that I can use either the Vortexbox upstairs to do the ripping or use an old laptop running Daphile downstairs – useful when I don’t feel like running upstairs every 10 minutes to change CD! As both devices are configured to rip to the same location and at the same quality, the only difference between them is the file naming convention they output the rip in…. and that doesn’t matter as MusicBrainz renames the files to my preferred format on save.



Posted: July 2, 2018 in Audio, Hacking and playing, Storing
Tags: ,

Bliss describes itself as a tool to fix the metadata in you library:

“bliss performs all the hard work in organizing your music collection; making it consistent, correct and complete with little effort.”

You define a set of rules about how certain key elements of your library should be. At it’s most basic this can be checking that the album artwork is present, of a minimum or maximum size, specific format and name. Additional rules define that the folder structure is correct, that certain tags are present and even if there are duplicates.

It basically scans your music library and then tells you which albums have failed to meet the requirements set out in the rules. It then offers to apply a ‘fix’ for each non-compliance.


Compliance Report (Images courtesy of bliss)

You can point it at your whole library and just let it get on with the scan and then come back a few hours later to see the results.


Initially installing and testing the app gives you 100 free fixes, with 250 additional fixes costing £12, 2500 fixes for £29 or Unlimited fixes for £59. You can buy as many or as few fixes as you need, although best value is definitely the Unlimited fixes for £59.


Some fixes are automatic – updating artwork is one of those… so while I pointed the app at the new rips directory that was being populated by VortexBox, it suddenly started using fixes to download the artwork. My own fault, I should probably RTFM, but I did wonder why fixes were being used without my ‘authorisation’.

Of more concern was the use of multiple fixes to fix the same missing artwork – I’ve contacted the creator to see if this is a known issue and I’ll report back.


So far I like what it is doing, but I’m reserving judgement to see a) how it handles bulk FLACs b) if the issue I experienced is solvable or just me being stupid 🙂



Images courtesy of Bliss

Prices correct as of June 2018 – Pricing page is here

** UPDATE **

2 July 2018 – I’ve been speaking to bliss support (& Dan the creator) about the issue. Nice fast response to my query and it appears to be bliss being a little too enthusiastic about doing stuff. My issue of using multiple fixes for the same album looks like it was caused by bliss finding the first file, fixing it, finding more files in the same folder, fixing them and then finding the remaining files.

I need to figure out how I can prevent bliss from scanning the folder structure until I’m ready – i.e. all my FLACs have been copied to the destination folder.


Music re-rip is a go

Posted: June 26, 2018 in Audio, Hardware, Storing
Tags: , ,

All this playing with rippers, RPi music players and the realisation that the quality of some of our rips is less than poor means that I’m going to re-rip all of it.

Given the mix and match of tools, and the issues with having to apply the correct metadata twice, I’m thinking that I will concentrate on getting the FLACS all done and right before I then batch convert them to decent quality mp3.

To be honest, I also need to figure out what tool I can use to batch convert several hundred FLAC albums…. But lets get the process started….


  1. Rip CD using VortexBox and/or Daphile to FLAC. Store files to \\Tower\rips\flac
  2. Amend file names (add disk ID if required) and add artwork if already found from previous digital version
  3. Move album directory to \\Tower\rips\data for bliss fixing
  4. Use MusicBrainz to check metadata. On saving files are moved to \\Tower\rips\final\flac
  5. MP3 creator creates VBR version in \\Tower\rips\final\mp3


I think that will allow me to get it all done in batches, and allows me to fix any naming issues relating to CD1 & CD2 folder names that appear during the ripping. Also allows me to copy across any decent existing artwork (folder/cover) that already exists, reducing the work for bliss & MusicBrainz.

I’ll add reviews/comments for the next set of tools – bliss & MusicBrainz, once the process is further along.

New Ripper – Vortexbox

Posted: June 20, 2018 in Audio, Hardware, Storing
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The ripper that was used for many years was Vortexbox (VB)running on an Atom 330 dual core Mini-ITX. This did stirling service, but finally gave up and was replaced with a Micro-ATX core2 box.

Installing VB was easy – both via ISO and (just for laughs – sad I know!) USB. Apart from having to manually expand the file storage system and do the first update & upgrade via ssh command line the installation is easy. One thing that was strange was that despite using a 2.4 version image for both the ISO and USB sources I still ended up with version 2.3. A basic issue with VB is that you don’t get to upgrade to new versions – you can update the basic OS, but version changes require a clean install.

Basic configuration via the very dated UI is quick and easy allowing updates and basic network/IP settings to be done.

The UI also allows for installation of additional services – Plex, Subsonic, Bliss as well as the native Logitech Media Server (LMS) for serving up the ripped goodness,

Configuration is mostly via manual editing of the config file located in the /etc/ripit/ directory. This allows you to specify the output filetype of the rip – FLAC. mp3, ogg etc etc as well as the quality level. If you just want to rip to FLAC and then output a copy to mp3 as well, then the best option is to setup the FLAC encoder via the config file and then just use the FLAC mirror option in the GUI to create the mp3 version. If you want multiple versions every time or ‘non-standard’ formats, then you can tell the config to perform simultaneous rips to different formats.

File naming convention is also configured via the config file as is the details of which ripping engine to use and where the files get saved.

If you want to save your rips to another machine you will have to wander into the belly of the Linux beast and install the appropriate driver to talk to the remote machine (cifs ntfs etc etc), mount the device to an appropriate place and then tweak the config to use that location. Further discussions are in this forum thread.

Metadata seemed to be accurate and reliable, although the ‘get the CD cover’ button failed to do anything that I could see. It definitely didn’t get any covers – I ended up trying Bliss to deal with that issue – more on Bliss in another post.

While I like the ability to create a FLAC and then automatically make the mp3 at the same time, the UI is dated and not as pleasant as Daphile. Granted, once configured, the box is probably running without the GUI open as it is designed to just accept the disk and go, but personally I keep the webpage open so I can monitor what it is doing.

I’m currently running VortexBox as the main ripper and I think I’ll keep it for now as re-ripping the entire library to FLAC with an appropriate mp3 is quicker than manually creating the mp3 every time.


VortexBox –

Installation CLI commands are here

Network drive mounting discussion here


New Audio Ripping Box

Posted: June 16, 2018 in Audio, Hardware, Storing
Tags: , ,

So the old Vortexbox is no more, the Atom 330 is so 32 bit that very little decent software now works on it. More by luck than judgement I managed to find an old micro-ATX board that has now been roped into service.

Given the variable quality of the music library, I’m seriously considering re-ripping everything to FLAC to ensure the best quality on the various playback devices we have.

So the question is – do I install Vortexbox (and perhaps get around to trying Bliss as well) or do I look at alternatives?

Itinerant fiddler…. so alternatives it is!

So far I’m looking at 3 options: Daphile, Vortexbox and dbPowerAmp.

First up Daphile

Daphile is a Gentoo based distro that does basically the same as Vortexbox. It is much more locked down as there is no access to the underlying system, and there are no additional services that can be added to enhance the functionality. It rips CDs as FLACs and adds them to the onboard LMS server. It does support LMS plugins btw.

The UI is much more polished than VB, with very little effort I can configure it to rip to my unRAID server where our music is actually hosted. I can specify the quality of the FLAC, schedule backups of the local music folders and even access Jivelite to control local playback.

Metadata is added but only via a single source (I can’t remember I’ll add it later!) and has mis-identified a couple of CDs.

What it doesn’t do…. No DVD ripping, no Plex, Subsonic or Bliss servers. It doesn’t allow you to rip to FLAC and then automatically create mp3s as well.

Generally I like it, I’m in two minds about keeping it but I have a couple of issues.

  • The inability to also create mp3 files from the same source at the same time
  • Metadata quality
  • Inability to configure naming convention for the output

If I’m just re-ripping for FLAC, then it will do the job very well, but I’ll still need to do manual work to rename and check the metadata. As there are several hundred CDs, that’s not great.

Next up Vortexbox.


Plex switch

Posted: January 20, 2018 in Home Media, Plex, Watching
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The current Kodi – Emby setup has been working well until recently. For some reason, the Kids profile is now refusing to play back certain files that work fine in the main profile. Other files play without issue in both profiles. I’ve also had the Emby client not working properly on the Roku boxes. Stuff has played on one Intel box that then refuses to play on the other one… even though it’s more powerful. With kids wanting to watch their stuff, having to troubleshoot which of their shows does and doesn’t work became increasingly frustrating.

Emby had been our default choice for one simple reason – it allow me to build profiles that meant the kids could have their stuff and just watch it. The non-kid friendly content was under a different profile. While this functionality was available in Plex, it cost money.

With a mix of self-built Intel platforms & Roku boxes, the need for a central server to handle synchronisation duties between all devices is critical; trying to juggle which particular episode of Pokemon the kids have watched is a full time job! Using Plex on the Roku and Emby on the Intel has been the work around, but this means trying to manually update both Emby and Plex watched statuses.

As part of the Black Friday deals I finally succumbed to buying a Plex pass… and a lifetime one at that. I mostly bought it to get access to the live TV and PVR capabilities allowing me to retire the TVHeadend Server that I never could get to work in the way I wanted.

After another episode – the Emby app crashed on the Roku3 – I decided to see what the actual front end Plex client was like. Initially I built a ‘simple’ RaspberryPi based Plex Media Player (PMP) to see how it could work and to see what the experience was like. Installation was simple and I was surprised to see that it was based on the same LibreELEC platform that we use for our Kodi players. The plan was to use the RPi in the playroom and see if the kids were happy with using it before thinking about updating their Kodi player.

After a ‘play-date’ with a room full of kids wanting to watch TV and the same issue of films NOT wanting to play – that was a happy 10 minutes – I finally decided to scrap their Kodi installation and install the PMP client. It’s an old NVidia Ion Atom board, so nothing huge, but runs 1080p content without issue and is speedy enough with a 30Gb SSD. The PMP installer did it’s stuff and within 10 minutes we had a working player. The only issue was that it wouldn’t detect my local Plex server automatically – it kept trying to route out of the house to Plex and then back again. Manually adding the local server IP address soon fixed that issue.

The kids are happily using the PMP client without issue on their box.

I should add that the issue has never been with Kodi as far as I can tell – it has always been with the backend Emby infrastructure – either the Roku app wouldn’t start or if it did it wouldn’t play back content. On the other side the Kodi plugin fails to play content under one profile that plays perfectly under another on the same device. Using the direct path capability was how it was originally setup, but this kept failing, so the only way to play stuff was through the plugin.

I can’t say that the the issue doesn’t lie with me using Emby as a Docker container on the unRAID platform and these issues aren’t related to this additional complexity, but all I know is that I run Plex the same way and it hasn’t caused issues yet.

After a couple of weeks running PMP on the kids box, I’ve also now migrated the main lounge player across to PMP as well. My biggest niggle about using the box is that the Harmony remote can no longer shutdown the box. I have to manually shut down before using the power off command to turn the rest off.

I felt bad moving away from Kodi – I’ve been using it in some form or another since the original XBMP on the first gen XBox – complete with Mechwarrior 2 hack to install it! I do miss the skins – the Plex interface is functional, it’s not pretty. I just don’t have the opportunity to debug/fix stuff when the kids want TV.

So I’d bought a TECEVO T4 NFC Bluetooth Wireless Speaker on an Amazon lightning deal a while back, partly because of wanting to play with Moo Music and partly to plug into my desktop so I can have sound that’s not via headphones.

I found plenty of people talking about connecting BT speakers to their Debian based systems, but a distinct lack of info about doing it specifically for Volumio. Working with the various guides I totally failed. Either the changes would result in  Volumio becoming unstable/not booting or would result in no audio anywhere.

If you dig deep enough you will find several requests for native BT support in Volumio, but they have all been rejected. While this is annoying, I actually agree with the reasons. Volumio is designed/tweaked to work as a High End Audiophile device when added to a suitable DAC. In no way is a BT speaker (no matter the cost) a high end output device. Providing support for such a device goes against the basic ethos of the platform.

Knowing that trying to install BT on Rune Audio was doubly cursed – I’m ignorant of ArchLinux AND it probably doesn’t support BT for the same reason, I went back to PiMusicBox.

As PiMusicBox is more of a wrapper for the Python based Mopidy system that is an extension of MPD, it is a bit less Audiophile biased. It also means that I can add and remove stuff to the OS without worrying about breaking some obscure kernel header tweak.

After a few false starts I managed to get the speaker to automatically connect to the Pi when they are powered. Audio from PiMuiscBox is sent to the speaker and as it is basically streaming VBR MP3 files, the quality is pretty good.

In fact I was so happy with the final result that I decided not to bother playing with the USB Sound card when it did eventually turn up…. about 2 weeks later!

#Install libraries
sudo apt-get install bluetooth bluez bluez-utils bluez-alsa

#Turn on BT Interface/Card
sudo hciconfig hci0 up 

#Use the BT device to scan for the speaker
hcitool scan # scan for your bluetooth device

This will return a list of devices and their MAC addresses, find the speaker you want to connect to and copy the MAC string. The run the  following commands:

#tell the adapter to connect to the MAC address and use 0000 as the pin
bluetooth-agent  --adapter hci0 0000 XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX 

#Test that the Pi and speaker are connected - should get you some beeps
bluez-test-audio connect XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX 

#Tell the Pi to trust this bluetooth device
bluez-test-device trusted XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX yes 

#Check that the device is now trusted - a 1 means it is
bluez-test-device trusted 48:5A:B6:A8:1C:A2 

#Restart the BT service on the Pi
sudo /etc/init.d/bluetooth restart

Now we need to modify some files

In /boot/config/settings.ini:


output = alsasink


output = alsasink device=bluetooth

Rename the /etc/asound.conf

cp /etc/asound.conf /etc/asound.conf.bak

Replace the contents of asound.conf with:

pcm.bluetooth {

type bluetooth

device XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX ## your device id##

profile "auto"


Rename /opt/musicbox/

mv /opt/musicbox/ /opt/musicbox/

Backup the bluetooth audio config

cp /etc/bluetooth/audio.conf /etc/bluetooth/audio.conf.bak

And amend it, under [General] add the following



Further down under the commented out #Disable add the following line


Now reboot MusicBox….