Extracting the audio track from videos, and downmixing

On Ubuntu/Debian, you can use ffmpeg (in the package of the same name) to extract the audio only from video files:

$ ffmpeg -i input.ogm -ab 128k -vn output.ogg

ffmpeg detects the input and output formats automatically, so you can also convert to an MP3 (for example) just by specifying an output filename of the appropriate extension.

When converting audio for listening while working out or while traveling, it's also useful to downmix stereo to mono so you can listen with just one earbud without missing anything:

$ ffmpeg -i input.ogm -ab 128k -ac 1 -vn output.ogg

(Thanks to Rene Moser for the pointer. Also check out sox if you are looking to apply more sophisticated audio transformations.)

Further reading: ffmpeg command-line tool documentation

The first step is admitting you have a problem

A few months ago I glanced at my Google Reader Trends page:

From your 188 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 10,075 items...

Seeing a five-digit number there frightened me a bit, especially because I am not Robert Scoble1 and staying on top of tech news is not my day job. Since then I've made three changes:

  • I'm checking Google Reader only once a week.
  • I've culled my list of subscriptions, reducing the number of items per day by about 70%.
  • For the high-volume feeds that remain, I read them in sort by magic order and don't read all of the items if I don't have time.

Just the first item, dealing with the news in batch mode, is sufficient to free up a big chunk of time (and mitigate the sensation of drowning). I still get news from other sources on a more-than-once-weekly basis— mostly, Google Buzz and email lists— and I'd like to improve the way I deal with those, too, but at this time they have far better S/N ratio and lower volume.

In my ideal world, for each feed I could turn a dial to say "show me the no-more-than-N most popular items per day for this feed". But sort by magic comes pretty close to what I want.

1 Scoble famously follows over 18,000(!) people on Twitter.

Zeya in Linux Journal

Amit Saha wrote a nice article about Zeya in Linux Journal. It's pretty much Zeya's missing tutorial and design doc (not to mention, a review and a rundown of the alternatives). Thanks, Amit!