Monthly Archives: January 2013

Making gmediarender start on boot

Now gmediarender is compiled and gstreamer works on the Raspberry Pi we need to get it all to start on boot.

Fairly standard stuff here (copied from Malte’s post in Chris’ blog). Create a file /etc/init.d/gmediarenderer with the following contents:


# Provides: gmediarender
# Required-Start: $remote_fs $syslog
# Required-Stop: $remote_fs $syslog
# Default-Start: 2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop: 0 1 6
# Short-Description: Start GMediaRender at boot time
# Description: Start GMediaRender at boot time.

export USER HOME
case "$1" in
echo "Starting GMediaRender"
start-stop-daemon -x /usr/local/bin/gmediarender -c pi:audio -S -- -f 'Raspberry' -d
echo "Stopping GMediaRender"
start-stop-daemon -x /usr/local/bin/gmediarender -K
echo "Usage: /etc/init.d/gmediarender {start|stop}"
exit 1
exit 0

Then do:

$ sudo chmod 755 /etc/init.d/gmediarenderer
$ sudo update-rc.d gmediarenderer defaults

to make the script executable and add in all the symbolic links from the /etc/rc.x directories.

You can then do “sudo service gmediarenderer start” to run gmediarenderer as a daemon there and then or reboot and it will start automatically. Interestingly, I tried it without the “-c pi:audio” so that the daemon ran as root and the sound quality went bad again. Fine running as the “pi” user though.

In summary, we now have:

  1. minidlna running on the media server (a nettop linux box behind the sofa);
  2. gmedia-resurrected running on the Raspberry Pi to play the music through the mini Hi-Fi;
  3. bubbleupnp on multiple Android phones to control the music choice.

This is a pretty good solution but has some problems caused by the playlist being held on the controller (one of the phones). So if one of us sets an album playing and then goes out, the Pi doesn’t receive the instruction to play the next song. If you look at a second controller then you cannot see what is playing (it may think something else is), but on the plus side, the volume controls work on all controllers and the play/pause does as well.

These problems are known of course, and the BubbleUPnP author has another piece of software called BubbleUPnPServer which is an OpenHome renderer. As the site says:

An OpenHome Renderer has the following advantages over a regular UPnP AV renderer:

  • each OpenHome renderer has its own playlist
  • no need to leave the Control Point running for playlist track advance to happen
  • several OpenHome Control Points (BubbleUPnP, Linn Kinsky) can be connected to the same renderer simultaneously, showing the same playlist and playback state
  • create a playing playlist on a device and pick it up later on another device

It looks as though the BubbleUPnPServer basically adds another, persistent and stateful, layer to the system so that an OpenHome controller (such as BubbleUPnP) tells BubbleUPnPServer what to play and it then tells the existing (plain) UPnP renderer what to do. Hopefully I can get this working on the same linux box as minidlna is running on.

Getting gstreamer to work on a Raspberry Pi

Having now got gmrender to compile and run on the Raspberry Pi and use gstreamer as a backend I need to fix the audio quality issues. A bit more googling revealed a post from someone doing much the same as me. One of Chris Baume’s commenters also had problems with the audio qut.ality and suggested that directing the audio via PulseAudio fixed it.

It’s been a long time since I got into the detail of linux audio systems and it all seems to have changed. There’s a great article on how linux audio works which helps explain things a lot.

The following annotated shell transcript shows how I installed PulseAudio and configured gstreamer to use it. I may post a complete cleaned up installation guide later but personally I find seeing how other people have made mistakes and worked out how to do things instructive as well.

$ sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-pulseaudio

# Need to configure gstreamer to use pulseaudio
# Looking here:

$ gconftool-2 -t string --set /system/gstreamer/0.10/default/audiosink pulsesink
$ gconftool-2 -t string --set /system/gstreamer/0.10/default/audiosrc pulsesrc

# and another just in case:

$ gconftool-2 -t string --set /system/gstreamer/0.10/default/musicaudiosink pulsesink

# check the keys are there:

$ gconftool-2 -a /system/gstreamer/0.10/default
 musicaudiosink_description = Default
 audiosrc = pulsesrc
 audiosrc_description = Default
 chataudiosink_description = Default
 musicaudiosink = pulsesink
 audiosink_description = Default
 visualization = goom
 videosrc = v4l2src
 audiosink = pulsesink
 chataudiosink = autoaudiosink
 videosink = autovideosink

# Still not working
# Then I realise I don't have pulseaudio itself installed...

$ sudo apt-get install pulseaudio

After doing all of that the sound was just the same. I later realised that I probably didn’t actually have PulseAudio running and would need to start it with the command “pulseaudio –start” but next time I turned the Pi on to try it, PulseAudio was running and the sound from gmedia-resurrected, via gstreamer, to PulseAudio, ALSA and finally to the hardware sounded just great! How strange that adding another layer to the sound stack makes it better, not worse…

One problem I’ve just noticed is that when you skip forwards a track in an album for instance then there are a few pops and clicks.

Next task is to get the gmediarender process to start on boot.

European public holiday leaderboard

I work in a lot of European projects.  This means that we often have weekly teleconferences across several countries which are often scuppered by a partner or partners being on holiday because of a national holiday. In the UK, all our public holidays are put on Mondays (with some Fridays) so that you don’t get the country shutting down in the middle of the week. In other countries the public holidays (e.g. saints’ days) just land on the same date every year with two results:

  1. Sometimes they land on a weekend so most people don’t actually get a holiday.
  2. When they land on a Tuesday or a Thursday lots of people take off the Monday or Friday as well to make a really long weekend and you lose almost half a week.

There is often the feeling expressed that we in the UK don’t get as many holidays as the rest of Europe, but is it true? Euroalert have published an iCalendar format file of all the public holidays for the whole of the European Union. This is very handy as you can import it into Outlook (for instance) and see when a partner is going to be on holiday. As it is in iCalendar format you can also parse it yourself easily and do some investigation:

#!/usr/bin/env python2.7

# This code is written by Stephen C Phillips.
# It is in the public domain, so you can do what you like with it
# but a link to would be nice.

from datetime import date as ddate

class Holiday:
    def __init__(self, date, country):
        d = ddate(int(date[:4]),
                 ) = d = country

    def __str__(self):
        return + ': ' + str(

    def _get_day(self):
        # Monday is 0, Sunday is 6

    day = property(_get_day)

cal_file = file('c:/tmp/euroalert-Public-Holidays-EU-2012.ics')

holidays = []

ignore_weekends = 1

for line in cal_file:
    line = line[:-1]
    if line.startswith('DTSTART'):
        date = line[-8:]
    if line.startswith('SUMMARY'):
        country = line[8:]
        if '/' in country:
            country = country[:country.index('/')]
        hol = Holiday(date, country)
        if ignore_weekends and >= 5:

holidays_by_country = {}
for h in holidays:
    holidays_by_country.setdefault(, [])

countries = holidays_by_country.keys()

countries_by_holidays = {}
for c, h in holidays_by_country.items():
    num = len(h)
    countries_by_holidays.setdefault(num, [])

print "*** LEADERBOARD ***"
for n in sorted(countries_by_holidays.keys(), reverse=True):
    print n, ':', countries_by_holidays[n]
print "*******************"

def get_days(countries):
    "Return the number of times not all partners will be on a call for each day of the week."
    holidays_by_date = {}
    for c in countries:
        for h in holidays_by_country1:
            holidays_by_date.setdefault(, [])

    dates = holidays_by_date.keys()
    days = [0,0,0,0,0,0,0]
    for date in dates:
        day = date.weekday()
        #days[day] += len(holidays_by_date[date])  # this would tell you how many partners would be missing in total
        days[day] += 1  # this is how many times not all partners are present
    return days

project_countries = ['Austria', 'Belgium', 'France', 'Greece', 'Spain', 'Sweden', 'Wales and England']
days = get_days(project_countries)
print project_countries
print days

That script expects you’ve downloaded the iCalendar file yourself. It parses the file and outputs some info:

17 : ['Belgium']
14 : ['Hungary']
12 : ['Slovenia']
11 : ['Northern Ireland', 'Austria', 'Cyprus']
10 : ['Malta', 'Slovakia', 'Ireland', 'Scotland']
9 : ['Italy', 'Czech Republic', 'Lithuania', 'Wales and England', 'Poland', 'Greece']
8 : ['France', 'Germany', 'Denmark', 'Spain', 'Finland', 'Sweden', 'Latvia', 'Luxembourg', 'Bulgaria', 'Portugal']
7 : ['Romania', 'Estonia']
6 : ['Netherlands']

['Austria', 'Belgium', 'France', 'Greece', 'Spain', 'Sweden', 'Wales and England']
[11, 4, 3, 6, 9, 0, 0]

So this is telling us that in 2012, Belgium had 17 days off (and this is weekdays off as the script has been set to ignore the weekends) whereas Wales & England had 9 (Scotland 10) and the poor Dutch only got 6. It also tells us that for the particular set of partners listed, Monday is a terrible day to hold a weekly teleconference (inevitable given the UK being on the list) and Wednesday is good with only 3 days when all partners wouldn’t be there.

Running the script and not ignoring the weekends gives this leaderboard:

24 : ['Belgium']
17 : ['Hungary']
15 : ['Lithuania', 'Latvia', 'Cyprus']
14 : ['Malta', 'Slovakia', 'Bulgaria']
13 : ['Poland', 'Sweden', 'Portugal', 'Austria']
12 : ['Czech Republic', 'Slovenia', 'Finland', 'Estonia', 'Greece']
11 : ['France', 'Denmark', 'Northern Ireland', 'Romania']
10 : ['Italy', 'Ireland', 'Scotland', 'Luxembourg']
9 : ['Wales and England', 'Germany', 'Spain', 'Netherlands']

So here, Wales & England trail in last place with 9 days off and Belgium is still unassailable at the top with 24 public holidays. However, as we’ve seen, in other countries many of these “holidays” fall at the weekends so it’s not (quite) as bad as all that. The UK also has a high minimum statutory holiday allowance of 28 days paid annual leave per year. Your employer can choose whether to count the public holidays as part of this allowance though.

If someone can point me at the data for 2013 then that would be great!

A UPnP renderer for the Raspberry Pi

I want to use a Raspberry Pi to play music through the micro Hi-Fi system in my kitchen/dining room. Up to now I have had a San Francisco Android phone velcroed to the kitchen wall running the Subsonic client and accessing the FLAC files on my media server via the excellent Subsonic server software (which transcodes them on the fly to MP3). This has been a good solution for a couple of years now but one problem is that the headphone output of the San Francisco is not very powerful so we have to turn the (small) amp up to max to get a decent volume and sometimes you want it higher.

I just tested a Raspberry Pi’s audio output and it is more powerful than the phone’s so it would make a good replacement. A couple of years ago when I set up the phone as a media player,  DLNA for sharing/streaming media was not very widespread, but now it’s become quite popular so I’d like to try using that protocol with the Pi. DLNA defines various types of devices, such as “server”, “renderer” and “controller” and they then communicate via Universal Plug and Play (UPnP). I want my media server to be a DLNA server and the Pi to be a “renderer” and all our mobile phones to be the “controllers”.

On the media server I’ve installed minidlna via apt-get and pointed it at my music folder. The server runs as a “minidlna” user and for some reason I had to “chown minidlna.minidlna” the /var/cache/minidlna folder to get it to work but it seems fine now.

To control the system I’ve installed bubbleupnp on my phone and this means I can stream music from the media server to my phone. What I want to do though is use the phone as a UPnP controller and have it instruct the Pi to play (or “render”) the music through the Hi-Fi’s speakers.

Enter gmrender…

There seems to be a shortage of headless UPnP renderers for linux: I just want a server process that sits there and accepts instructions to play music and plays it – nothing more, nothing graphical. XBMC can be a UPnP renderer I believe but that’s way too heavyweight for what I want to do (even though the Raspbmc project makes it easyish). Google found me gmrender but it’s long abandoned. However, a post on Google+ from Henner Zeller sent me on to the gmrender-resurrect project on GitHub where Henner has taken the old code and added some more features.

However, getting it to install on the Raspberry Pi (with standard Debian wheezy OS) was not completely straightforward…

$ git clone
$ cd gmrender-resurrect

# looking at what you get, there is an autogen script so I
# need some more tools...

$ sudo apt-get install automake

# this installs autoconf autotools-dev m4
(load of output snipped...)

$ ./
$ ./configure
$ make
make all-recursive
make[1]: Entering directory `/home/pi/gmrender-resurrect'
Making all in src
make[2]: Entering directory `/home/pi/gmrender-resurrect/src'
gcc -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -I. -I.. -DPKG_DATADIR=\"/usr/local/share/gmediarender\" -Wall -Wpointer-arith -Wcast-align -Wmissing-prototypes -Wmissing-declarations -Wwrite-strings -MT main.o -MD -MP -MF .deps/main.Tpo -c -o main.o main.c
main.c:34:18: fatal error: glib.h: No such file or directory
compilation terminated.
make[2]: *** [main.o] Error 1
make[2]: Leaving directory `/home/pi/gmrender-resurrect/src'
make[1]: *** [all-recursive] Error 1
make[1]: Leaving directory `/home/pi/gmrender-resurrect'
make: *** [all] Error 2

# so I am missing glib.h, where do I get that?

$ sudo apt-get install apt-file
$ sudo apt-file update
$ apt-file search /glib.h
libghc-glib-doc: /usr/lib/ghc-doc/haddock/glib-0.12.2/glib.haddock
libgirepository1.0-doc: /usr/share/gtk-doc/html/gi/glib.html
libglib2.0-dev: /usr/include/glib-2.0/glib.h
libglib2.0-doc: /usr/share/doc/libglib2.0-doc/glib/glib.html

# that gives me the answer

$ sudo apt-get install libglib2.0-dev
$ rm config.status config.log
$ ./configure
$ make

(output snipped)
# fails with:

gcc -Wall -Wpointer-arith -Wcast-align -Wmissing-prototypes -Wmissing-declarations -Wwrite-strings -o gmediarender main.o upnp.o upnp_control.o upnp_connmgr.o upnp_transport.o upnp_device.o upnp_renderer.o webserver.o output.o output_dummy.o xmldoc.o xmlescape.o -pthread -lgthread-2.0 -lrt -lglib-2.0
upnp_control.o: In function `set_volume_db':
upnp_control.c:(.text+0xc4c): undefined reference to `exp'
upnp_control.o: In function `set_volume':
upnp_control.c:(.text+0xd6c): undefined reference to `exp'
upnp_control.o: In function `upnp_control_init':
upnp_control.c:(.text+0x100c): undefined reference to `log'
collect2: ld returned 1 exit status
make[2]: *** [gmediarender] Error 1

# when it links the code together it can't find the basic maths
# functions, so need to tell it to use the maths lib (why?!)...

$ ./configure LIBS=-lm
$ make
$ sudo make install
$ gmediarenderer --list-outputs
Supported output modules:
  dummy Dummy output module (default)

# so I have installed it but it's no use because
# there is no gstreamer output to play the music

$ sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-alsa
$ sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-tools
$ sudo apt-get install libgstreamer0.10-dev

# more examination of the config.log reveals that it also
# didn't find the upnp and libxml2 libraries
# why does it just blindly continue?!

$ sudo apt-get install libupnp-dev
$ sudo apt-get install libxml2-dev

$ rm confifg.status config.log
$ ./configure LIBS=-lm
checking for GLIB... yes
checking for GST... yes
checking for LIBUPNP... yes
checking for LIBXML... yes
$ make clean
$ make
$ sudo make install
$ gmediarender --list-outputs
Supported output modules:
  gst   GStreamer multimedia framework (default)
  dummy Dummy output module
$ gmediarender -f Raspberry
Using output module: gst (GStreamer multimedia framework)
Registering support for 'audio/x-raw-int'
Registering support for 'audio/x-iec958'
gmediarender: output_gstreamer.c:482: output_gstreamer_init: Assertion `player_ != ((void *)0)' failed.

# what's going on?  More bits of gstreamer needed?

$ sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg
$ gmediarender -f Raspberry
Using output module: gst (GStreamer multimedia framework)
...followed by 100 or so media types it can now render...
gmediarender: output_gstreamer.c:482: output_gstreamer_init: Assertion `player_ != ((void *)0)' failed.

# more needed?

$ sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-plugins-base
$ sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-plugins-good
$ gmediarender -f Raspberry

#...and it runs!

At this point, the Pi appears in Bubbleupnp’s “devices” list as a “renderer”. If I select it and then choose a song from the media server and press play all sorts of log messages appear on the Pi’s console. Unfortunately I tried playing a FLAC file and the sound quality is terrible! Playing an MP3 file doesn’t work – it says I have a missing plugin so I had a look (type “sudo apt-get install gstreamer” and press tab) and saw another one that looked to do with MP3s:

$ sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-fluendo-mp3

Now I can play an MP3 file and it also sounds terrible…

I copied an MP3 across onto the Pi from the media server (using scp) and tried playing it with mpg123 and it sounds fine. So what is the problem with the gstreamer rendering?

$ gst-launch-0.10 playbin uri=file:///tmp/song.mp3

This command produces the same rubbish output as via gmrender (as expected), so the problem is in gstreamer. I’ll post this and do some more investigation…