Fan chart

Pedigree graph showing ancestors

There are loads of ways of look at family tree information. The vast majority of them are quite simplistic – a single name connecting, horizontally or vertically, to two others, which each connect to two more, and so on until the text overlaps and blurs into a thatch of lines and illegibility.

Descendants chart
Interactive chart of Louis Laurent Duhaut dit Jasmin (1731)

Webtrees, the software we use for our family tree site, has a reasonably nice version of this which avoids some of the illegibility issue. Take Louis Laurent Duhaut dit Jasmin (1731); if you click on the Interactive Tree tab and you will suddenly see several generations of (large-familied) descendents. Or, that is, you will see some of several generations, because it is probably too wide a graph to show the entire thing so you get to see a ‘portal view’, and you can move this portal around using your mouse. This could be improved, perhaps with a minified navigation view as other genealogy softwares have done, but even as it is the tool helps you see a very large span of data quickly, and you can manually move through the the many layers. Maybe not elegantly, but you can do it.

Six generation fan chart
Fan chart for Elizabeth ‘Eliza’ Cartier (1847)

But if you want something which is a bit more dense, but will more-simply show an individual’s pedigree for quite a number of generations, it is hard to beat the Fan Chart. One of Louis Laurent Duhaut’s descendents is Elizabeth Cartier (1847) (Yes, this is the generation who were labeled ‘Kirkey’ once in the USA.) On her genealogy entry page you can hover the mouse cursor over the Charts button to see a list of charts, and select the Fan chart, and voilà! there is a nice, quick, neat display of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Increase the generations and click the view button and it will add more layers to the fan, but even at 5 generations you will see some of the names crowding out of their cells, and the font is a too small, too chunky to be readily legible.

A nicer 6 generation fan chart
A nicer output from a new fan chart module for Webtrees – Ancestral fan chart by magicsunday.

Well, yesterday I found a beta module to replace the Fan Chart module, called Ancestral fan chart. And yes, even though it is bleading edge I installed it, and you can check it out under the chart button. This does not do anything new, it just makes it prettier than it was. And it is, Magicsunday‘s module is pretty clearly a big improvement in appearance. Hopefully it is at least as secure and private as previous code so it may quickly be integrated into the Webtrees project and made available to many more genealogy sites.

Music library

Title page of sheet music "Oh Aint I Got The Blues" from 1871

So after a few days of trying to get Ampache to work, I am giving it up and attempting to import my library into Sonerezh.

It certainly is not the fault of Ampache. I simply do not have the time to put toward figuring out the rather cryptic and involved configuration issues. The website installed quickly and easily, but the ability to actually produce audio streams has been a complete failure.

Contrariwise, Sonerezh was able to get up and running within about 10 minutes of landing on their website for the first time. That is good, but an overly-simple script could do the same thing, so the test was actually getting music files imported, and being stream, and here we ran into some issues.

First, and worst, I was unable to get the cli tool working for imports. Since I have roughly 20,000 tracks total (a very large number of which are duplicates – my archives are in lossless .flac, but I transcode to lossy .ogg or .mp3 to save space and bandwidth) the time to import via a browser script is insanely high.

Photo of Ma Rainey in 1917
Blues singer Gertrude Pridgett “Ma” Rainey[en.WP], photo 1917, from Commons.Wikimedia.Org
But that is exactly what I had to do, or at least start, because of an unknown CakePHP permissions error. That is, on this occasion the cause is unknown, because the exceptionally common permissions problems getting the cake cli script to run are not extant on my box. I checked. In fact, I checked dozens sites, documentations, issue trackers, tutorials, etc. CakePHP is, apparently, riddled with permissions problems when run anywhere except by the web server.

After the first half-dozen restarts of the script I have increased memory and max-execution to frightening (to me, as the sysadmin) levels. And it is currently still running, although at an exceptionally sluggish pace last I checked. Oops, spoke too soon, it was dead. Restarted. And it has managed to chew its way up to 8469 tracks.  And there it is stuck. <sigh>

Peter Cat Recording Co. first album.

Which, however, actually do stream! I forgot to mention that bit. Between import script restarts I did a test run of the listening side of things. It works! of course, it also revealed a few other problems. Like I have probably 4235 imported tracks in need of metadata or edits. <bigger sigh> Having thousands of tracks and albums which are not easily searchable makes it slightly pointless. At least, of the tracks imported, one can actually find most of them. The problem lies in being able to, for example, search by genre (only 48% have this set) or find all the music/bands an individual recorded on (e.g. Robert Fripp[en.WP], who was band member, soloist, collaborator, and/or session musician under about 60 different band names.)

So adding yet-another-personal-website to the stable means I have divided my available time being eaten by projects by one more. I think I should give up sleeping for Lent.

But today is the first day of Spring! and other things to make me feel good.


The first of the month

from flickr

Genealogically speaking, the first of the month is super depressing.

Each month on the first the family tree displays a block of “Events on this day”… just like it does every other day of the year. On all those other days one may be enticed to learn a bit more about a marriage from the family history, or see a familiar name and wander off into memories, or be inspired to write down some half-forgotten story.

But twelve times a year you get reminded of all those events for which we only know the month it (probably?) happened, but not the precise day. For February there are 18, and each should be researched and settled.

January first is much worse.

Domain beauty contest

Internet marketing icons

Okay, this may be silly… but what would be the best name for a site which streams (primarily) audio?

  • [name] (replacing [name] with the script name, for example ampache or madsonic)
  • something else?

Nouveaux jouets

Clearly, looking about the site, you can see I am beginning to play with some new scripts and projects.

Pingo listening to a record on headphones
I am so sorry for the animated gif, but it was too cute.

Which is loads of fun and excitement for me, even though the changes which are visible seem to be moving very slowly toward/away. I have wanted to set up a decent audio media website for far too long, and now I am finally dipping my toes into Ampache.

Which is somewhat user hostile. Apparently the configuration file has a huge range of absolutely essential lines, but there is zero documentation of what must be included for the system to work. And there are no ‘sane defaults’ – in fact, most of the essential variables are commented out. While understandable, because many of the tools for this cross-platform script are highly individualised, failing to document a minimum necessary configuration or to provide an annotated working example means your project is broken. No, really, it is broken, a failure, it is unusable, unfit for purpose.

Anyway, enough <rant />. Streaming media is one, but not the only, nifty tool I have been playing with. Nextcloud is another. Last summer Nextcloud forked from ownCloud, which I had been using for some years. Since ownCloud had been feeling a bit chaotic for a stretch, but I am somewhat cautious about jumping on the bleading edge when it comes to services (and, more importantly, I was in the process of planning, purchasing, and building new server hardware – that is, distracted) I adopted a wait-and-see approach. Well, it turns out most of the core developers decamped to Nextcloud and, over the months since, have dramatically outperformed the ‘parent’ project in terms of commits and codebase roll-out. More importantly, they have abandoned the tiered ‘community’ and ‘enterprise’ model for a pure opensource single codebase.

What this means for me is some of the ‘premium’ features and functionality – after being completely rewritten to use solely opensource libraries and code – are now readily available. One of these is video chat. There are two modules available to provide this functionality, and I am testing out Video Calls which uses WebRTC[en.WP]. It appears both implementations (the other is called Spreed.ME) are based on the Spreed.ME project, which was/is an education-oriented video chat integrated in a learning environment. The huge benefit, of course, is that education has to be focused on privacy and security for students, while at the same time providing a homogenous learning experience across a diverse range of hardware and software platforms.

So currently the video call system integrated into Nextcloud allows inviting people to a call via their cloud account or by sending them a link. Calls can be 1on1, or group events with the whole family. Because only a browser is required, your callees do not need to install a separate program, but of course they can use specialized apps if they would like – anything which can use WebRTC (which is a surprising number of apps on Android, and probably at least as many on other platforms like Windows, iOS, MacOS…) And, of course, it all takes place on my machine so it is not being recorded and stored for later possible retrieval (e.g. Skype, Hangouts.)

Which is a lot more fun to play with than the occasionally frustrating problems due to software migration, or trying to configure a software with very cryptic (or entirely missing) documentation.

Every so often…

Image from 1906 of statue, fallen from building, with head embedded in terrace.

…life needs a bit of a shake up.

So, with a bit of effort we have recovered almost everything from the server – everything except the little blog which was serving as the occasional brain dump of ideas and thoughts, rants, and vaguely philosophical musings.

Which is still stored on the disc, it is just I feel little motivation for the effort of digging through and restoring the wordpress backup. One, maybe two of the articles were interesting enough to save. It is easier, from this remove, to think of them as ephemera, however eidetic the internetverse may be feeling as regards my humble droppings.

Anyway, we have a new OS, one or two of the sites are nearly new, one or two additional scripts have been wedged onto a server which is already somewhat over-blessed with content and service apps. There are new device apps available to maximize some of these – for nextCloud, Piwigo (clients for Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, iOS…), WordPress…

We have several projects in beta testing, including media streaming, an unlimited/private webmail service, and distributed social networking. And we would like to hear from you regarding these and a possible forum-style site – if you are interested – and any other service you think our family/friends might need or use.

2013-10-14: Ever have one of those months?

(Originally published 14 October 2013)

Every now and then we want to take a step back, reset, start something over again, as though you were beginning anew. A clean slate. Computer people, who tweak their systems and setups, have these golden opportunities oftener than less-inquisitive folks. Usually introduced by the sound of “Oh, fff…” coming from the vicinity of the keyboard.

So, this is my third go-’round with WordPress, and each #fail was due to me trying to do something cool/unique/probably stupid. I’m just a better idiot, apparently.

Anyway, here we go again. I’ll be trying to recover previous articles from the database backups (yay! geekiness saves the day!) over the next few days.

But I’ll probably end up trying to tweak it again eventually.

Une promenade dans le jardin botanique

[This entry was originally published 16 Septembre 2013]

Flowers, shrubbery, and trees under a low cloudy sky, with the misty mountains as a backdrop. Copyright © 2013 Wayne and Elizabeth Saewyc

The day began with light rain, built up to steady, then took a break around morning tea when we thought, briefly, we’d take a quick walk somewhere nearby, then fell back into showers off and on until noon. Suddenly the clouds looked to be breaking up, a nice breeze sprang up, and the sidewalks looked merely damp with puddles, so we grabbed the camera and a parapluie and went off to someplace near, Les conservatoire et jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève.

Near the top of the rockeries, in the Swiss Alps section, I found a cluster of these little beauties. Now I want a better camera lens for this kind of work. Copyright © 2013 Wayne and Elizabeth Saewyc

The Garden is, in fact, only a couple blocks from our apartment, but someone is constructing an entire college campus between the two so the actual approach involved a kilometre or more hike to get to an entrance. Then we spent a couple of hours strolling the paths and the rockeries. There is a tropical hothouse, a winter garden hot house (gorgeous structure with a very imperial style,) and hands-on laboratories – most of which we didn’t visit.

But the pictures we took tell the tale: though surrounded by interesting, mostly tagged, collection of trees, shrubs, and flowers almost half our photos are of birds and animals we discovered or were part of the small menagerie maintained by the conservatory. Plus another exceptionally interesting carousel with a distinctly steam-punk sensibility (unfortunately, the brightest period of our tour took place there, casting much of the inanimate device into shadow.)

Then, with more showers threatening, we hurried out the gate – and discovered a pedestrian path through the construction zone to our place, where I made a Sunday afternoon fry-up of fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, sausage, and onions. Then napped. Ah, le weekend ! C’est bon !

A pied de la vieille ville

[This entry was originally published 15 Septembre 2013]

View from the top. Old town is uphill, not prohibitively steep but a breather is helpful at the top. Copyright © 2013 Wayne and Elizabeth Saewyc

Today’s destination was Cour de Saint Pierre, the courtyard outside Cathédrale St-Pierre[fr][wp], in the vieille ville. All total, according to Google Maps, we walked at least 5.5 km, not including various side trips. Continue reading “A pied de la vieille ville”