A Weird Imagination

Emulating Xbox controllers on Linux

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The problem

The Xbox 360 controller has become the defacto standard controller in PC gaming in recent years, likely due to both the popularity of the Xbox and the fact that the controller can easily be used with a computer. One downside of this is that some games assume you have one. If the game supports it and is running through Steam, then Steam's controller settings will let you use any controller, but that doesn't work for all games, and you might not be using Steam. The game that prompted this blog post actually does have Steam controller support promised in the future, but it's in early access and they are busy developing other parts of the game.1

xboxdrv

The solution is xboxdrv, the userspace Xbox controller driver. In addition to supporting actual Xbox controllers, it can also simulate Xbox controllers based on inputs from other devices like a PlayStation controller or some less common controller.

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Identifying joystick devices

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Too many input devices

On a modern computer there are often many input devices,

$ ls /dev/input/event* | wc -l
28

They are just identified by numbers, so it can be difficult to choose the right one and trial-and-error can get tiresome with so many. There is some help from the by-id and by-path listings:

$ ls -go --time-style=+ /dev/input/by-id/
...
lrwxrwxrwx 1 10  usb-045e_0291-if06-event-joystick -> ../event26
lrwxrwxrwx 1  6  usb-045e_0291-if06-joystick -> ../js6
lrwxrwxrwx 1 10  usb-0b43_0003-event-if00 -> ../event20
lrwxrwxrwx 1 10  usb-0b43_0003-event-joystick -> ../event19
lrwxrwxrwx 1  6  usb-0b43_0003-joystick -> ../js1
lrwxrwxrwx 1  9  usb-BTC_USB_Multimedia_Keyboard-event-if01 -> ../event2
lrwxrwxrwx 1  9  usb-BTC_USB_Multimedia_Keyboard-event-kbd -> ../event1
...

$ ls -go --time-style=+ /dev/input/by-path/
...
lrwxrwxrwx 1  9  pci-0000:00:1a.2-usb-0:2:1.0-event-kbd -> ../event1
lrwxrwxrwx 1  9  pci-0000:00:1a.2-usb-0:2:1.1-event -> ../event2
...
lrwxrwxrwx 1 10  pci-0000:00:1d.0-usb-0:1:1.6-event-joystick -> ../event26
lrwxrwxrwx 1  6  pci-0000:00:1d.0-usb-0:1:1.6-joystick -> ../js6
lrwxrwxrwx 1 10  pci-0000:00:1d.0-usb-0:2:1.0-event -> ../event20
lrwxrwxrwx 1 10  pci-0000:00:1d.0-usb-0:2:1.0-event-joystick -> ../event19
...

But, for the most part, those names aren't very helpful, especially since many joystick devices support 2 or 4 joysticks connected to the same device.

identify_evdev.py

Enter identify_evdev.py:

$ identify_evdev.py
/dev/input/event22

Where /dev/input/event22 is the device of the joystick I touched after running identify_evdev.py.

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Pi in shell

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Calculating π the hard way

In honor of Pi Day, I was going to try to write a script that computed π in shell, but given the lack of floating point support, I decided it would be too messy. If you want to see hard to follow code to generate π, I highly recommend the IOCCC entry westley.c from 1998, the majority of which is an ASCII art circle which calculates its own area and radius in order to estimate π. The hint file suggests looking at the output of

$ cc -E westley.c

The 2012 entry, endoh2 is also a pretty amazing π calculator.

Getting π

Instead, I will just generate π the shell way: using another program.

$ python -c 'import math; print(math.pi)'
3.14159265359

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Speeding up Pelican's regenerate

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Pelican's default Makefile includes an option make regenerate which uses Pelican's -r/--autoreload option to regenerate the site whenever a file is modified. Combined with the Firefox extension Auto Reload, this makes it easy to keep an eye on how a blog post will be rendered as you author it and to quickly preview theme changes.

The problem

With just thirty articles, Pelican already takes several seconds to regenerate the site. For publishing a site, this is plenty fast, but for tweaking formatting in a blog post or theme, this is too slow.

The quick solution

Pelican has an option, --write-selected, which makes it only write out the files listed. Writing just one file takes about half a second on my computer, even though it still has to do some processing for all of the files in order to determine what to write. To use --write-selected, you have to determine the output filename of the article you are editing:

$ pelican -r content -o output -s pelicanconf.py \
    --relative-urls \
    --write-selected output/draft/in-progress-article.html

The right solution

Optimally, we wouldn't have to tell Pelican which file to output; instead, it would figure out which files could be affected by a change and regenerate only those files.

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Download all items in a podcast

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Podcasts are a simple extension to RSS: in addition to text and a link, posts can include a file to be downloaded. In the case of podcasts, this is an audio file. Due to this, while many specialized podcast applications exist, any news aggregator will work, although it might not have the best interface for that use case.

My normal workflow for podcasts is to keep track of them in a news aggregator and explicitly download the files to a local folder. While this isn't overly onerous for a weekly podcast, it is a repetitive task that could be automated. More importantly, downloading an entire backlog of dozens of episodes that way would take a while.

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Floats in shell

The problem

Given a file which contains a list of floating point numbers in IEEE 754 single-precision format stored in big endian byte order, how do you view and manipulate this data using command-line tools? This is an actual problem one of my officemates had.

The solution

$ od --endian=big -f file
0000000   1.7155696e-07   1.0432226e-08    4.563314e+30    6.162976e-33

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Title filtering for Liferea

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Liferea is a desktop news aggregator (sometimes called an RSS reader). Unlike the late Google Reader or most of its alternatives like the open-source Tiny Tiny RSS which are web-based and run on a server to be accessed via a web browser, Liferea is a separate desktop application and uses an embedded browser to view content.

The problem

Sometimes you don't actually care about all of the items in a feed and the site provides no filtering mechanism. If the uninteresting items are rare enough, you can just ignore them, but a news aggregator is most useful if it only notifies you of news items you actually might want to read.

The solution

Luckily, Liferea is very flexible. It supports running a command on a feed which it calls a conversion filter. I wrote some python scripts to filter feeds by title locally.

For instance, I wanted to follow only the changelog posts in the forum feed http://braceyourselfgames.com/forums/feed.php, but it includes changes to all forum topics, so I checked the Use conversion filter option and set the conversion filter to

/path/to/atom_filter_title.py --whitelist "Re: Change log"

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My first Pelican plugin

The problem

My previous blog post has a footnote in the first sentence. Due to the way footnotes are handled, the footnote reference is a link to #fn:prg, which works fine if the footnote is actually on the page, but on the blog main page (or any other listing of multiple articles) the footnote is not present because it's after the Read more… link. The result is that on those pages, all footnote references are broken links. These broken links should either be repaired such that they point to the article page or removed.

First attempt

Unable to find an existing solution, I decided to write my own plugin, summary_footnotes. I started by finding another plugin, clean_summary that modifies summary and based my code off of it. That plugin uses Beautiful Soup to parse the summary and rewrite it. A quick look at the docs and I was able to figure out how to select the footnote links and rewrite them, which got me this version of the plugin.

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