Petter Reinholdtsen

A bit more on privacy respecting health monitor / fitness tracker
13th August 2018

A few days ago, I wondered if there are any privacy respecting health monitors and/or fitness trackers available for sale these days. I would like to buy one, but do not want to share my personal data with strangers, nor be forced to have a mobile phone to get data out of the unit. I've received some ideas, and would like to share them with you. One interesting data point was a pointer to a Free Software app for Android named Gadgetbridge. It provide cloudless collection and storing of data from a variety of trackers. Its list of supported devices is a good indicator for units where the protocol is fairly open, as it is obviously being handled by Free Software. Other units are reportedly encrypting the collected information with their own public key, making sure only the vendor cloud service is able to extract data from the unit. The people contacting me about Gadgetbirde said they were using Amazfit Bip and Xiaomi Band 3.

I also got a suggestion to look at some of the units from Garmin. I was told their GPS watches can be connected via USB and show up as a USB storage device with Garmin FIT files containing the collected measurements. While proprietary, FIT files apparently can be read at least by GPSBabel and the GpxPod Nextcloud app. It is unclear to me if they can read step count and heart rate data. The person I talked to was using a Garmin Forerunner 935, which is a fairly expensive unit. I doubt it is worth it for a unit where the vendor clearly is trying its best to move from open to closed systems. I still remember when Garmin dropped NMEA support in its GPSes.

A final idea was to build ones own unit, perhaps by basing it on a wearable hardware platforms like the Flora Geo Watch. Sound like fun, but I had more money than time to spend on the topic, so I suspect it will have to wait for another time.

While I was working on tracking down links, I came across an inspiring TED talk by Dave Debronkart about being a e-patient, and discovered the web site Participatory Medicine. If you too want to track your own health and fitness without having information about your private life floating around on computers owned by others, I recommend checking it out.

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: english.
Privacy respecting health monitor / fitness tracker?
7th August 2018

Dear lazyweb,

I wonder, is there a fitness tracker / health monitor available for sale today that respect the users privacy? With this I mean a watch/bracelet capable of measuring pulse rate and other fitness/health related values (and by all means, also the correct time and location if possible), which is only provided for me to extract/read from the unit with computer without a radio beacon and Internet connection. In other words, it do not depend on a cell phone app, and do make the measurements available via other peoples computer (aka "the cloud"). The collected data should be available using only free software. I'm not interested in depending on some non-free software that will leave me high and dry some time in the future. I've been unable to find any such unit. I would like to buy it. The ones I have seen for sale here in Norway are proud to report that they share my health data with strangers (aka "cloud enabled"). Is there an alternative? I'm not interested in giving money to people requiring me to accept "privacy terms" to allow myself to measure my own health.

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: english.
Sharing images with friends and family using RSS and EXIF/XMP metadata
31st July 2018

For a while now, I have looked for a sensible way to share images with my family using a self hosted solution, as it is unacceptable to place images from my personal life under the control of strangers working for data hoarders like Google or Dropbox. The last few days I have drafted an approach that might work out, and I would like to share it with you. I would like to publish images on a server under my control, and point some Internet connected display units using some free and open standard to the images I published. As my primary language is not limited to ASCII, I need to store metadata using UTF-8. Many years ago, I hoped to find a digital photo frame capable of reading a RSS feed with image references (aka using the <enclosure> RSS tag), but was unable to find a current supplier of such frames. In the end I gave up that approach.

Some months ago, I discovered that XScreensaver is able to read images from a RSS feed, and used it to set up a screen saver on my home info screen, showing images from the Daily images feed from NASA. This proved to work well. More recently I discovered that Kodi (both using OpenELEC and LibreELEC) provide the Feedreader screen saver capable of reading a RSS feed with images and news. For fun, I used it this summer to test Kodi on my parents TV by hooking up a Raspberry PI unit with LibreELEC, and wanted to provide them with a screen saver showing selected pictures from my selection.

Armed with motivation and a test photo frame, I set out to generate a RSS feed for the Kodi instance. I adjusted my Freedombox instance, created /var/www/html/privatepictures/, wrote a small Perl script to extract title and description metadata from the photo files and generate the RSS file. I ended up using Perl instead of python, as the libimage-exiftool-perl Debian package seemed to handle the EXIF/XMP tags I ended up using, while python3-exif did not. The relevant EXIF tags only support ASCII, so I had to find better alternatives. XMP seem to have the support I need.

I am a bit unsure which EXIF/XMP tags to use, as I would like to use tags that can be easily added/updated using normal free software photo managing software. I ended up using the tags set using this exiftool command, as these tags can also be set using digiKam:

exiftool -headline='The RSS image title' \
  -description='The RSS image description.' \
  -subject+=for-family photo.jpeg

I initially tried the "-title" and "keyword" tags, but they were invisible in digiKam, so I changed to "-headline" and "-subject". I use the keyword/subject 'for-family' to flag that the photo should be shared with my family. Images with this keyword set are located and copied into my Freedombox for the RSS generating script to find.

Are there better ways to do this? Get in touch if you have better suggestions.

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: debian, english.
Simple streaming the Linux desktop to Kodi using GStreamer and RTP
12th July 2018

Last night, I wrote a recipe to stream a Linux desktop using VLC to a instance of Kodi. During the day I received valuable feedback, and thanks to the suggestions I have been able to rewrite the recipe into a much simpler approach requiring no setup at all. It is a single script that take care of it all.

This new script uses GStreamer instead of VLC to capture the desktop and stream it to Kodi. This fixed the video quality issue I saw initially. It further removes the need to add a m3u file on the Kodi machine, as it instead connects to the JSON-RPC API in Kodi and simply ask Kodi to play from the stream created using GStreamer. Streaming the desktop to Kodi now become trivial. Copy the script below, run it with the DNS name or IP address of the kodi server to stream to as the only argument, and watch your screen show up on the Kodi screen. Note, it depend on multicast on the local network, so if you need to stream outside the local network, the script must be modified. Also note, I have no idea if audio work, as I only care about the picture part.

# Stream the Linux desktop view to Kodi.  See
# for backgorund information.

# Make sure the stream is stopped in Kodi and the gstreamer process is
# killed if something go wrong (for example if curl is unable to find the
# kodi server).  Do the same when interrupting this script.
kodicmd() {
    curl --silent --header 'Content-Type: application/json' \
	 --data-binary "{ \"id\": 1, \"jsonrpc\": \"2.0\", \"method\": \"$cmd\", \"params\": $params }" \
cleanup() {
    if [ -n "$kodihost" ] ; then
	# Stop the playing when we end
	playerid=$(kodicmd "$kodihost" Player.GetActivePlayers "{}" |
			    jq .result[].playerid)
	kodicmd "$kodihost" Player.Stop "{ \"playerid\" : $playerid }" > /dev/null
    if [ "$gstpid" ] && kill -0 "$gstpid" >/dev/null 2>&1; then
	kill "$gstpid"
trap cleanup EXIT INT

if [ -n "$1" ]; then


pasrc=$(pactl list | grep -A2 'Source #' | grep 'Name: .*\.monitor$' | \
  cut -d" " -f2|head -1)
gst-launch-1.0 ximagesrc use-damage=0 ! video/x-raw,framerate=30/1 ! \
  videoconvert ! queue2 ! \
  x264enc bitrate=8000 speed-preset=superfast tune=zerolatency qp-min=30 \
  key-int-max=15 bframes=2 ! video/x-h264,profile=high ! queue2 ! \
  mpegtsmux alignment=7 name=mux ! rndbuffersize max=1316 min=1316 ! \
  udpsink host=$mcast port=$mcastport ttl-mc=$mcastttl auto-multicast=1 sync=0 \
  pulsesrc device=$pasrc ! audioconvert ! queue2 ! avenc_aac ! queue2 ! mux. \
  > /dev/null 2>&1 &

# Give stream a second to get going
sleep 1

# Ask kodi to start streaming using its JSON-RPC API
kodicmd "$kodihost" Player.Open \
	"{\"item\": { \"file\": \"udp://@$mcast:$mcastport\" } }" > /dev/null

# wait for gst to end
wait "$gstpid"

I hope you find the approach useful. I know I do.

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: debian, english, video.
Streaming the Linux desktop to Kodi using VLC and RTSP
12th July 2018

PS: See the followup post for a even better approach.

A while back, I was asked by a friend how to stream the desktop to my projector connected to Kodi. I sadly had to admit that I had no idea, as it was a task I never had tried. Since then, I have been looking for a way to do so, preferable without much extra software to install on either side. Today I found a way that seem to kind of work. Not great, but it is a start.

I had a look at several approaches, for example using uPnP DLNA as described in 2011, but it required a uPnP server, fuse and local storage enough to store the stream locally. This is not going to work well for me, lacking enough free space, and it would impossible for my friend to get working.

Next, it occurred to me that perhaps I could use VLC to create a video stream that Kodi could play. Preferably using broadcast/multicast, to avoid having to change any setup on the Kodi side when starting such stream. Unfortunately, the only recipe I could find using multicast used the rtp protocol, and this protocol seem to not be supported by Kodi.

On the other hand, the rtsp protocol is working! Unfortunately I have to specify the IP address of the streaming machine in both the sending command and the file on the Kodi server. But it is showing my desktop, and thus allow us to have a shared look on the big screen at the programs I work on.

I did not spend much time investigating codeces. I combined the rtp and rtsp recipes from the VLC Streaming HowTo/Command Line Examples, and was able to get this working on the desktop/streaming end.

vlc screen:// --sout \

I ssh-ed into my Kodi box and created a file like this with the same IP address:

echo rtsp:// \
  > /storage/videos/screenstream.m3u

Note the IP address is my desktops IP address. As far as I can tell the IP must be hardcoded for this to work. In other words, if someone elses machine is going to do the steaming, you have to update screenstream.m3u on the Kodi machine and adjust the vlc recipe. To get started, locate the file in Kodi and select the m3u file while the VLC stream is running. The desktop then show up in my big screen. :)

When using the same technique to stream a video file with audio, the audio quality is really bad. No idea if the problem is package loss or bad parameters for the transcode. I do not know VLC nor Kodi enough to tell.

Update 2018-07-12: Johannes Schauer send me a few succestions and reminded me about an important step. The "screen:" input source is only available once the vlc-plugin-access-extra package is installed on Debian. Without it, you will see this error message: "VLC is unable to open the MRL 'screen://'. Check the log for details." He further found that it is possible to drop some parts of the VLC command line to reduce the amount of hardcoded information. It is also useful to consider using cvlc to avoid having the VLC window in the desktop view. In sum, this give us this command line on the source end

cvlc screen:// --sout \

and this on the Kodi end

echo rtsp:// \
  > /storage/videos/screenstream.m3u

Still bad image quality, though. But I did discover that streaming a DVD using dvdsimple:///dev/dvd as the source had excellent video and audio quality, so I guess the issue is in the input or transcoding parts, not the rtsp part. I've tried to change the vb and ab parameters to use more bandwidth, but it did not make a difference.

I further received a suggestion from Einar Haraldseid to try using gstreamer instead of VLC, and this proved to work great! He also provided me with the trick to get Kodi to use a multicast stream as its source. By using this monstrous oneliner, I can stream my desktop with good video quality in reasonable framerate to the multicast address on port 1234:

gst-launch-1.0 ximagesrc use-damage=0 ! video/x-raw,framerate=30/1 ! \
  videoconvert ! queue2 ! \
  x264enc bitrate=8000 speed-preset=superfast tune=zerolatency qp-min=30 \
  key-int-max=15 bframes=2 ! video/x-h264,profile=high ! queue2 ! \
  mpegtsmux alignment=7 name=mux ! rndbuffersize max=1316 min=1316 ! \
  udpsink host= port=1234 ttl-mc=1 auto-multicast=1 sync=0 \
  pulsesrc device=$(pactl list | grep -A2 'Source #' | \
    grep 'Name: .*\.monitor$' |  cut -d" " -f2|head -1) ! \
  audioconvert ! queue2 ! avenc_aac ! queue2 ! mux.

and this on the Kodi end

echo udp://@ \
  > /storage/videos/screenstream.m3u

Note the trick to pick a valid pulseaudio source. It might not pick the one you need. This approach will of course lead to trouble if more than one source uses the same multicast port and address. Note the ttl-mc=1 setting, which limit the multicast packages to the local network. If the value is increased, your screen will be broadcasted further, one network "hop" for each increase (read up on multicast to learn more. :)!

Having cracked how to get Kodi to receive multicast streams, I could use this VLC command to stream to the same multicast address. The image quality is way better than the rtsp approach, but gstreamer seem to be doing a better job.

cvlc screen:// --sout '#transcode{vcodec=mp4v,acodec=mpga,vb=800,ab=128}:rtp{mux=ts,dst=,port=1234,sdp=sap}'

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: debian, english, video.
What is the most supported MIME type in Debian in 2018?
9th July 2018

Five years ago, I measured what the most supported MIME type in Debian was, by analysing the desktop files in all packages in the archive. Since then, the DEP-11 AppStream system has been put into production, making the task a lot easier. This made me want to repeat the measurement, to see how much things changed. Here are the new numbers, for unstable only this time:

Debian Unstable:

  count MIME type
  ----- -----------------------
     56 image/jpeg
     55 image/png
     49 image/tiff
     48 image/gif
     39 image/bmp
     38 text/plain
     37 audio/mpeg
     34 application/ogg
     33 audio/x-flac
     32 audio/x-mp3
     30 audio/x-wav
     30 audio/x-vorbis+ogg
     29 image/x-portable-pixmap
     27 inode/directory
     27 image/x-portable-bitmap
     27 audio/x-mpeg
     26 application/x-ogg
     25 audio/x-mpegurl
     25 audio/ogg
     24 text/html

The list was created like this using a sid chroot: "cat /var/lib/apt/lists/*sid*_dep11_Components-amd64.yml.gz| zcat | awk '/^ - \S+\/\S+$/ {print $2 }' | sort | uniq -c | sort -nr | head -20"

It is interesting to see how image formats have passed text/plain as the most announced supported MIME type. These days, thanks to the AppStream system, if you run into a file format you do not know, and want to figure out which packages support the format, you can find the MIME type of the file using "file --mime <filename>", and then look up all packages announcing support for this format in their AppStream metadata (XML or .desktop file) using "appstreamcli what-provides mimetype <mime-type>. For example if you, like me, want to know which packages support inode/directory, you can get a list like this:

% appstreamcli what-provides mimetype inode/directory | grep Package: | sort
Package: anjuta
Package: audacious
Package: baobab
Package: cervisia
Package: chirp
Package: dolphin
Package: doublecmd-common
Package: easytag
Package: enlightenment
Package: ephoto
Package: filelight
Package: gwenview
Package: k4dirstat
Package: kaffeine
Package: kdesvn
Package: kid3
Package: kid3-qt
Package: nautilus
Package: nemo
Package: pcmanfm
Package: pcmanfm-qt
Package: qweborf
Package: ranger
Package: sirikali
Package: spacefm
Package: spacefm
Package: vifm

Using the same method, I can quickly discover that the Sketchup file format is not yet supported by any package in Debian:

% appstreamcli what-provides mimetype  application/vnd.sketchup.skp
Could not find component providing 'mimetype::application/vnd.sketchup.skp'.

Yesterday I used it to figure out which packages support the STL 3D format:

% appstreamcli what-provides mimetype  application/sla|grep Package
Package: cura
Package: meshlab
Package: printrun

PS: A new version of Cura was uploaded to Debian yesterday.

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.
Debian APT upgrade without enough free space on the disk...
8th July 2018

Quite regularly, I let my Debian Sid/Unstable chroot stay untouch for a while, and when I need to update it there is not enough free space on the disk for apt to do a normal 'apt upgrade'. I normally would resolve the issue by doing 'apt install <somepackages>' to upgrade only some of the packages in one batch, until the amount of packages to download fall below the amount of free space available. Today, I had about 500 packages to upgrade, and after a while I got tired of trying to install chunks of packages manually. I concluded that I did not have the spare hours required to complete the task, and decided to see if I could automate it. I came up with this small script which I call 'apt-in-chunks':

# Upgrade packages when the disk is too full to upgrade every
# upgradable package in one lump.  Fetching packages to upgrade using
# apt, and then installing using dpkg, to avoid changing the package
# flag for manual/automatic.

set -e

ignore() {
    if [ "$1" ]; then
	grep -v "$1"

for p in $(apt list --upgradable | ignore "$@" |cut -d/ -f1 | grep -v '^Listing...'); do
    echo "Upgrading $p"
    apt clean
    apt install --download-only -y $p
    for f in /var/cache/apt/archives/*.deb; do
	if [ -e "$f" ]; then
	    dpkg -i /var/cache/apt/archives/*.deb

The script will extract the list of packages to upgrade, try to download the packages needed to upgrade one package, install the downloaded packages using dpkg. The idea is to upgrade packages without changing the APT mark for the package (ie the one recording of the package was manually requested or pulled in as a dependency). To use it, simply run it as root from the command line. If it fail, try 'apt install -f' to clean up the mess and run the script again. This might happen if the new packages conflict with one of the old packages. dpkg is unable to remove, while apt can do this.

It take one option, a package to ignore in the list of packages to upgrade. The option to ignore a package is there to be able to skip the packages that are simply too large to unpack. Today this was 'ghc', but I have run into other large packages causing similar problems earlier (like TeX).

Update 2018-07-08: Thanks to Paul Wise, I am aware of two alternative ways to handle this. The "unattended-upgrades --minimal-upgrade-steps" option will try to calculate upgrade sets for each package to upgrade, and then upgrade them in order, smallest set first. It might be a better option than my above mentioned script. Also, "aptutude upgrade" can upgrade single packages, thus avoiding the need for using "dpkg -i" in the script above.

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: debian, english.
The worlds only stone power plant?
30th June 2018

So far, at least hydro-electric power, coal power, wind power, solar power, and wood power are well known. Until a few days ago, I had never heard of stone power. Then I learn about a quarry in a mountain in Bremanger i Norway, where the Bremanger Quarry company is extracting stone and dumping the stone into a shaft leading to its shipping harbour. This downward movement in this shaft is used to produce electricity. In short, it is using falling rocks instead of falling water to produce electricity, and according to its own statements it is producing more power than it is using, and selling the surplus electricity to the Norwegian power grid. I find the concept truly amazing. Is this the worlds only stone power plant?

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: english.
Add-on to control the projector from within Kodi
26th June 2018

My movie playing setup involve Kodi, OpenELEC (probably soon to be replaced with LibreELEC) and an Infocus IN76 video projector. My projector can be controlled via both a infrared remote controller, and a RS-232 serial line. The vendor of my projector, InFocus, had been sensible enough to document the serial protocol in its user manual, so it is easily available, and I used it some years ago to write a small script to control the projector. For a while now, I longed for a setup where the projector was controlled by Kodi, for example in such a way that when the screen saver went on, the projector was turned off, and when the screen saver exited, the projector was turned on again.

A few days ago, with very good help from parts of my family, I managed to find a Kodi Add-on for controlling a Epson projector, and got in touch with its author to see if we could join forces and make a Add-on with support for several projectors. To my pleasure, he was positive to the idea, and we set out to add InFocus support to his add-on, and make the add-on suitable for the official Kodi add-on repository.

The Add-on is now working (for me, at least), with a few minor adjustments. The most important change I do relative to the master branch in the github repository is embedding the pyserial module in the add-on. The long term solution is to make a "script" type pyserial module for Kodi, that can be pulled in as a dependency in Kodi. But until that in place, I embed it.

The add-on can be configured to turn on the projector when Kodi starts, off when Kodi stops as well as turn the projector off when the screensaver start and on when the screesaver stops. It can also be told to set the projector source when turning on the projector.

If this sound interesting to you, check out the project github repository. Perhaps you can send patches to support your projector too? As soon as we find time to wrap up the latest changes, it should be available for easy installation using any Kodi instance.

For future improvements, I would like to add projector model detection and the ability to adjust the brightness level of the projector from within Kodi. We also need to figure out how to handle the cooling period of the projector. My projector refuses to turn on for 60 seconds after it was turned off. This is not handled well by the add-on at the moment.

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: english, multimedia, video.
youtube-dl for nedlasting fra NRK med undertekster - nice free software
28th April 2018

I VHS-kassettenes tid var det rett frem å ta vare på et TV-program en ønsket å kunne se senere, uten å være avhengig av at programmet ble sendt på nytt. Kanskje ønsket en å se programmet på hytten der det ikke var TV-signal, eller av andre grunner ha det tilgjengelig for fremtidig fornøyelse. Dette er blitt vanskeligere med introduksjon av digital-TV og webstreaming, der opptak til harddisk er utenfor de flestes kontroll hvis de bruker ufri programvare og bokser kontrollert av andre. Men for NRK her i Norge, finnes det heldigvis flere fri programvare-alternativer, som jeg har skrevet om før. Så lenge kilden for nedlastingen er lovlig lagt ut på nett (hvilket jeg antar NRK gjør), så er slik lagring til privat bruk også lovlig i Norge.

Sist jeg så på saken, i 2016, nevnte jeg at youtube-dl ikke kunne bake undertekster fra NRK inn i videofilene, og at jeg derfor foretrakk andre alternativer. Nylig oppdaget jeg at dette har endret seg. Fordelen med youtube-dl er at den er tilgjengelig direkte fra Linux-distribusjoner som Debian og Ubuntu, slik at en slipper å finne ut selv hvordan en skal få dem til å virke.

For å laste ned et NRK-innslag med undertekster, og få den norske underteksten pakket inn i videofilen, så kan følgende kommando brukes:

youtube-dl --write-sub --sub-format ttml \
  --convert-subtitles srt --embed-subs \

URL-eksemplet er dagens toppsak på Resultatet er en MP4-fil med filmen og undertekster som kan spilles av med VLC. Merk at VLC ikke viser frem undertekster før du aktiverer dem. For å gjøre det, høyreklikk med musa i fremviservinduet, velg menyvalget for undertekst og så norsk språk. Jeg testet også '--write-auto-sub', men det kommandolinjeargumentet ser ikke ut til å fungere, så jeg endte opp med settet med argumentlisten over, som jeg fant i en feilrapport i youtube-dl-prosjektets samling over feilrapporter.

Denne støtten i youtube-dl gjør det svært enkelt å lagre NRK-innslag, det være seg nyheter, filmer, serier eller dokumentater, for å ha dem tilgjengelig for fremtidig referanse og bruk, uavhengig av hvor lenge innslagene ligger tilgjengelig hos NRK. Så får det ikke hjelpe at NRKs jurister mener at det er vesensforskjellig å legge tilgjengelig for nedlasting og for streaming, når det rent teknisk er samme sak.

Programmet youtube-dl støtter også en rekke andre nettsteder, se prosjektoversikten for en komplett liste.

Tags: multimedia, nice free software, norsk, video, web.

RSS feed

Created by Chronicle v4.6