Setting up ITFDB with a voice

In a previous post I wrote about my Raspberry Pi experiment to have the SenseHat display a scrolling message 10 minutes before game time.

One of the things I have wanted to do since then is have Vin Scully’s voice come from a speaker and say those five magical words, It's time for Dodger Baseball!

I found a clip of Vin on Youtube saying that (and a little more). I wasn’t sure how to get the audio from that YouTube clip though.

After a bit of googling1 I found a command line tool called youtube-dl. The tool allowed me to download the video as an mp4 with one simple command:


Once the mp4 was downloaded I needed to extract the audio from the mp4 file. Fortunately, ffmpeg is a tool for just this type of exercise!

I modified this answer from StackOverflow to meet my needs

ffmpeg -i dodger_baseball.mp4 -ss 00:00:10 -t 00:00:9.0 -q:a 0 -vn -acodec copy dodger_baseball.aac

This got me an aac file, but I was going to need an mp3 to use in my Python script.

Next, I used a modified version of this suggestion to create write my own command

ffmpeg -i dodger_baseball.aac -c:a libmp3lame -ac 2 -b:a 190k dodger_baseball.mp3

I could have probably combined these two steps, but … meh.

OK. Now I have the famous Vin Scully saying the best five words on the planet.

All that’s left to do is update the python script to play it. Using guidance from here I updated my file from this:

if month_diff == 0 and day_diff == 0 and hour_diff == 0 and 0 >= minute_diff >= -10:
   message = '#ITFDB!!! The Dodgers will be playing {} at {}'.format(game.game_opponent, game.game_time)
   sense.show_message(message, scroll_speed=0.05)

To this:

if month_diff == 0 and day_diff == 0 and hour_diff == 0 and 0 >= minute_diff >= -10:
   message = '#ITFDB!!! The Dodgers will be playing {} at {}'.format(game.game_opponent, game.game_time)
   sense.show_message(message, scroll_speed=0.05)
   os.system("omxplayer -b /home/pi/Documents/python_projects/itfdb/dodger_baseball.mp3")

However, what that does is play Vin’s silky smooth voice every minute for 10 minutes before game time. Music to my ears but my daughter was not a fan, and even my wife who LOVES Vin asked me to change it.

One final tweak, and now it only plays at 5 minutes before game time and 1 minute before game time:

if month_diff == 0 and day_diff == 0 and hour_diff == 0 and 0 >= minute_diff >= -10:
   message = '#ITFDB!!! The Dodgers will be playing {} at {}'.format(game.game_opponent, game.game_time)
   sense.show_message(message, scroll_speed=0.05)

if month_diff == 0 and day_diff == 0 and hour_diff == 0 and (minute_diff == -1 or minute_diff == -5):
   os.system("omxplayer -b /home/pi/Documents/python_projects/itfdb/dodger_baseball.mp3")

Now, for the rest of the season, even though Vin isn’t calling the games, I’ll get to hear his voice letting me know, “It’s Time for Dodger Baseball!!!”

  1. Actually, it was an embarrassing amount

Fixing the Python 3 Problem on my Raspberry Pi

In my last post I indicated that I may need to

reinstalling everything on the Pi and starting from scratch

While speaking about my issues with pip3 and python3. Turns out that the fix was easier than I though. I checked to see what where pip3 and python3 where being executed from by running the which command.

The which pip3 returned /usr/local/bin/pip3 while which python3 returned /usr/local/bin/python3. This is exactly what was causing my problem.

To verify what version of python was running, I checked python3 --version and it returned 3.6.0.

To fix it I just ran these commands to unlink the new, broken versions:

sudo unlink /usr/local/bin/pip3


sudo unlink /usr/local/bin/python3

I found this answer on StackOverflow and tweaked it slightly for my needs.

Now, when I run python --version I get 3.4.2 instead of 3.6.0

Unfortunately I didn’t think to run the --version flag on pip before and after the change, and I’m hesitant to do it now as it’s back to working.


My wife and I love baseball season. Specifically we love the Dodgers and we can’t wait for Spring Training to begin. In fact, today pitchers and catchers report!

I’ve wanted to do something with the Raspberry Pi Sense Hat that I got (since I got it) but I’ve struggled to find anything useful. And then I remembered baseball season and I thought, ‘Hey, what if I wrote something to have the Sense Hat say “#ITFDB” starting 10 minutes before a Dodgers game started?’

And so I did!

The script itself is relatively straight forward. It reads a csv file and checks to see if the current time in California is within 10 minutes of start time of the game. If it is, then it will send a show_message command to the Sense Hat.

I also wrote a cron job to run the script every minute so that I get a beautiful scrolling bit of text every minute before the Dodgers start!

The code can be found on my GitHub page in the itfdb repository. There are 3 files:

  1. which does the actual running of the script
  2. which defines a class used in
  3. schedule.csv which is the schedule of the games for 2018 as a csv file.

I ran into a couple of issues along the way. First, my development environment on my Mac Book Pro was Python 3.6.4 while the Production Environment on the Raspberry Pi was 3.4. This made it so that the code about time ran locally but not on the server 🤦‍♂️.

It took some playing with the code, but I was finally able to go from this (which worked on 3.6 but not on 3.4):

now = utc_now.astimezone(pytz.timezone("America/Los_Angeles"))
game_date_time = game_date_time.astimezone(pytz.timezone("America/Los_Angeles"))

To this which worked on both:

local_tz = pytz.timezone('America/Los_Angeles')
now = utc_now.astimezone(local_tz)
game_date_time = local_tz.localize(game_date_time)

For both, the game_date_time variable setting was done in a for loop.

Another issue I ran into was being able to display the message for the sense hat on my Mac Book Pro. I wasn’t ever able to because of a package that is missing (RTIMU ) and is apparently only available on Raspbian (the OS on the Pi).

Finally, in my attempts to get the code I wrote locally to work on the Pi I decided to install Python 3.6.0 on the Pi (while 3.4 was installed) and seemed to do nothing but break pip. It looks like I’ll be learning how to uninstall Python 3.4 OR reinstalling everything on the Pi and starting from scratch. Oh well … at least it’s just a Pi and not a real server.

Although, I’m pretty sure I hosed my Linode server a while back and basically did the same thing so maybe it’s just what I do with servers when I’m learning.

One final thing. While sitting in the living room watching DC Legends of Tomorrow the Sense Hat started to display the message. Turns out, I was accounting for the minute, hour, and day but NOT the month. The Dodgers play the Cubs on September 12 at 9:35 (according to the schedule.csv file anyway) and so the conditions to display were met.

I added another condition to make sure it was the right month and now we’re good to go!

Super pumped for this season with the Dodgers!

Using MP4Box to concatenate many .h264 files into one MP4 file

The general form of the concatenate command for MP4Box is:

MP4Box -add <filename>.ext -cat <filename>.ext output.ext1

When you have more than a couple of output files, you’re going to want to automate that -cat part as much as possible because let’s face it, writing out that statement even more than a couple of times will get really old really fast.

The method below works but I’m sure that there is a better way to do it.

  1. echo out the command you want to run. In this case:

(echo -n "MP4Box "; for i in *.h264; do echo -n " -cat $i"; done; echo -n " hummingbird.mp4") >> com.txt

  1. Edit the file com.txt created in (1) so that you can change the first -cat to -add

vim com.txt

  1. While still in vim editing the com.txt file add the #!/bin/sh to the first line. When finished, exit vim2
  2. Change the mode of the file so it can run

chmod +x com.txt

  1. Run the file:


Why am I doing all of this? I have a Raspberry Pi with a Camera attachment and a motion sensor. I’d like to watch the hummingbirds that come to my hummingbird feeder with it for a day or two and get some sweet video. We’ll see how it goes.

  1. The -add will add the <filename> to the output file while the -cat will add any other files to the output file (all while not overwriting the output file so that the files all get streamed together).
  2. I’m sure there’s an xkcd comic about this, but I just can’t find it!