Posts Tagged ‘Ubuntu’

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1024×768 Desktop

Lots of people customize their desktops. Many don’t, but I do.. a little. Here’s mine:

1024x768desktopusage_annotations

I actually had to remove the Time Tracker (Hamster) applet to scale my 1280×1024 desktop down to 1024, but I think that was all. And I only just decided to try moving the Tomboy and Deskbar applets over to the top-left corner… looks a little odd, but it’s much more accessible. It’s good to try out new things, right? πŸ™‚ (When the keyboard will do, Alt+F12 and Alt+F3 for Tomboy and Deskbar, and Super(windows-key)+Space for Gnome-Do are good shortcuts to keep in mind.)

How about you? (If you run Ubuntu, read this – which is why I tried scaling my 1280 desktop to a 1024, in the first place).

Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) and Tablets

I just had to mention this: The latest version of Ubuntu finally supports input hotplugging. What this means is that you can plug in your tablet at any point and start taking advantage of its pressure sensitivity, etc. Previously, it would only work correctly if Ubuntu (the X server part of it) started with the tablet plugged in. Let me just say: OMG, I’ve been waiting for this for years! Seriously. I hadn’t been keeping up with every detail on the release (and I’m surprised I hadn’t seen mention of this yet), but I always plug in my USB tablet and run a quick test with new releases. This time, it actually worked! My test turned into a quick (and random) doodle:

How to Test

Plug in your tablet.

Run GIMP (included with Ubuntu by default).
Applications > Graphics > GIMP Image Editor

Enable Extended Input devices in GIMP.
Edit > Preferences > Input Devices > Configure Extended Input Devices

Find your tablet under the Device dropdown (mine is a Wacom Graphire) and select Screen or Window for the Mode. (It defaults to disabled.)

Create a new image, select the paintbrush tool and start drawing. To play with the features of your tablet, expand the Brush Dynamics section in the paintbrush options window (should be below the toolbox, where you selected the paintbrush). Here you can adjust things that pressure of your pen will control, like size and opacity. Fun stuff!

It’s not perfect (only works with the stylus – eraser doesn’t work without configuring), but it’s a HUGE step!! πŸ˜€ And the fact that this also includes the latest version of GIMP (2.6) makes this upgrade an absolute no-brainer for linux graphic-philes. πŸ™‚

I found the new UI in GIMP a little strange at first, because I became so accustomed to the old one, but it is much better.

Upgrade Problems

Related to the upgrade, I lost wireless connectivity with my laptop upon doing it because the hostap_cs driver is used. I forgot about this issue that I had with previous releases and my super-cheap 1000yen wireless card. Blacklisting the hostap_cs driver and forcing the orinoco_cs driver fixed my problem again. The lesson: the upgrade wasn’t perfect and it should never be assumed that they will be – please backup your stuff! But do do the upgrade! πŸ˜‰

Netbooks

“Netbooks” are a fairly recent thing; smaller and more affordable than a regular notebook PC… What’s not to like about that?! πŸ™‚ Asus first tapped into this market with their Eee PC and it has since gone through its second (I think) generation. Eee PC’s generally get great reviews with the one complaint being their keyboards are a little small for adult hands. Acer recently introduced their AspireOne. I picked up one of these for my mom, who was considering a cheap notebook. For what she does (email, browse the Internet, write OpenOffice.org documents, and print things), this is perfect. For myself, I installed a few extra applications on it (emacs, ssh-clients), keep some information on a USB key and I borrow it sometimes because it’s just so portable. I chose this over the Eee PC because it seemed to be a better value and has a bit larger of a keyboard (though the bilingual keyboard is kind of annoying).

The trend with netbooks seems to be that the lower end, cheaper models run some form of Linux and if you want Windows XP, then you’ll have to purchase a higher end model. What I don’t like is that sometimes it appears you can’t get the higher end models with Linux. I doubt you could get a Windows rebate for these PCs….

Just today, Dell has released their Inspiron Mini 9 and it seems to compete quite directly in terms of value with the AspireOne. It’s interesting if you compare Dell’s US offering with their Canadian offering of essentially the same thing (I hope those links work). First of all, Canadians don’t yet have the option of selecting Ubuntu Linux as the operating system, nor a model with 512MB or RAM, so I’m comparing the $400 models. (Right off the bat, Americans have the option of going with Ubuntu and 512MB for $350.) Canadians get 1GB RAM in this model whereas that will cost Americans another $25. But if we Canadians want a 0.3MP or 1.3MP web camera, we will have to pay $20 or $40 extra. The American model comes with a 0.3MP and can be upgraded to a 1.3MP for a mere $10. Also, upgrading from 8GB to 16GB will cost Canadians an extra $10 ($50 compared to $40 for US). But the funniest difference: Americans will have to pay $25 more if they want white, but we here in the Great White North don’t incur that penalty. Huh. I wonder what logic compelled these differences.

I might consider the Inspiron Mini 9 over the AspireOne for myself if I had the option of Ubuntu. Wonder when it will be available to us northern folk.

Playing Video from your Linux PC on your Wii

Maybe you’ve watched youtube videos on your Wii using the Internet Channel or the promo videos on the Nintendo Channel and you thought it would be cool to watch other videos from your (Linux) PC. I know I did. But I wasn’t sure if it would be possible in a reasonable quality. Since then, I’ve decided the quality was unacceptable for me… But I’ll try to quickly document what I did for others.

You basically have two options: Put a decompressed copy of your video on your SD card and watch it in the Photo Channel OR watch it streaming from your PC over your network via the Internet Channel (like youtube).

1. Playing it directly off your SD card

Instructions for how to convert the video to play in the Photo Channel can be found here:
http://icculus.org/~dolson/wii-video-conversion.html
HOWEVER, 3/4 of an hour of decent quality video will cost 1+ gigabytes, due to the format. The quality will be maintained, but unless you have a 2GB card and/or small videos, this may not be feasible. I couldn’t get my 45min (350MB originally, I think) file to fit on my 1GB SD card in the appropriate format, so I gave up on this method. I was more interested in browsing multiple files on my PC, anyways.

On to the other option….

2. Stream it from your computer

For this method, you need a few more things:

  • A home PC accessible from the network via your Wii
  • Videos you want to play need to be converted to Flash video (FLV). To do this, you will need ffmpeg.
  • sudo aptitude install ffmpeg
  • Web server running on your home PC. I’m using Apache on an Ubuntu PC.
  • sudo aptitude install apache2 apache2-utils

Most of what follows can be configured, but I’m going to try and follow what’s default in Ubuntu (if I can remember correctly).

To keep things clean, I enabled user directories. To do this, you must enable the userdir mod in apache:

sudo a2enmod userdir

What are user directories?

This is a directory (usually called “public_html”) that every user can use to publish things (like webpages) on the webserver from their home directory. For me, my home directory is /home/steve/ so my user directory is /home/steve/public_html/ . It is optional, so I have to create it if it doesn’t already exist.

mkdir ~/public_html/

When accessing these user directories via a web browser (Internet Channel), you must enter your Home PC’s IP address, followed by a tilde (~) and your username.

"http://your.pc's.ip.address/~username/"

So accessing my public_html directory is done as follows: http://192.168.0.99/~steve/ . (Note that 192.168.0.99 is a private IP address and unless your computer is set up on your local network with the same IP AND your username is “steve”, this won’t work for you. πŸ˜‰ )

Test it, and make sure you’ve installed Apache and set up user directories correctly.

Flash Video Player

Now you need a compatible flash player to embed into your webpage. Wii’s Internet Channel is based on Opera, and includes Flash version…. 7?! Doh! Newer FLV players won’t work! Also, Full-screen mode isn’t possible so you want the video to be as large as possible, or to be easily zoomed in and centred – yup, it’s a pain. The best player I found for this was FLV Player, but feel free to look around for more. πŸ˜‰ Now put your player of choice (I chose player_flv_maxi.swf) in public_html somewhere so that it can be included in your webpage.

Example Preparing Video

An example command for converting your video to FLV using ffmpeg:

ffmpeg -i input_video.avi -ar 22050 -b 1280 -s 320x240 output.flv

Example Webpage

An example of an html page containing a video:

< !DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<head>
 
	<title>Wii Video Test</title>
 
	<style type="text/css">
		body { background-color: #000; padding: 0 20px; color:#000; font: 13px/18px Arial, sans-serif; }
		a { color: #360; }
		h3 { padding-top: 20px; }
	</style>
 
</head>
<body>
 
    <object type="application/x-shockwave-flash" data="player_flv_maxi.swf" width="624" height="352">
        <param name="movie" value="player_flv.swf_maxi" />
        <param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" />
        <param name="FlashVars" value="flv=my_converted_video.flv&amp;autoload=1" />
    </object>
 
</body>
</html>

Note: both player_flv_maxi.swf and my_converted_video.flv must be in the same directory as this html page. For testing purposes, call this index.html and put it in your public_html directory.

That’s it, I think. Again, I wasn’t really satisfied with the compression of FLVs and the frame rate of bigger videos, so I ended up not using either of these two methods. I suppose a media PC, Apple TV, or PS3 or something would be better suited – none of which I have. πŸ™‚

Related

Upgrading

Ubuntu Hardy Heron is out! [ Features | Download ]

If I disappear for a while, something probably didn’t go smoothly. I almost expect a problem with my wireless drivers… :/

*click*

Update: As I anticipated, my desktop had (and is still having) some troubles with the wireless. I’m currently able to connect to the Internet… but barely. I have an RaLink 2500 PCI card. For the previous version of Ubuntu (Gutsy) I was using the CVS version of this driver, because the one included in Gutsy was broken. This driver is being combined with a few other drivers and being rewritten as a unified driver, the rt2x00 driver. The good news is that this unified driver have been included in the kernel and they’re actively developed. The bad news is that (for me) they barely function. I tried using the windows driver through ndiswrapper, but that didn’t seem to work. I tried compiling the old CVS drivers again, and they don’t seem to work any more. So I’m back to the included driver in Hardy that limps along….

On the laptop side of things, everything went peachy… until I decided to try the binary NVIDIA drivers again (to play with 3D things). That was utter fail, and I remembered why I disabled them. But then.. my sound stopped working….? huh?

Temptation to do a fresh install rising.

Update 2: I’m not going to hold my breath on my desktop’s connection, but it seems to be doing better. Also, I solved the sound problem on my laptop. And I set up my tablet. Whoo!

Free Software to Look Forward to

  • WordPress 2.5 is out! This one makes me overly excited because it comes with a built-in gallery!!! FINALLY! And with multi-file upload!! I was just playing with it and It looks like it will suit my purposes just fine. I guess I will continue avoiding the Flickrs and other such community-based photo sites, for now. I’ll probably have to update my theme a little, however… and see if there’s a way to set a maximum photo size.
  • OpenOffice.org 2.4 is out and comes with quite a lot of improvements, including OpenGL transitions (perdy) and performance gains. OpenOffice.org 3.0 looks like it will be quite a massive release, aiming to sing and dance. Also see here (Thanks, Andrew).
  • Ubuntu 8.04, Hardy Heron, is nearly out. Less than a month away! It comes with the recently released GNOME 2.22, Firefox 3.0b4, PulseAudio, and a bunch of other goodies, like using the excellent Transmission as the default Bitorrent client. I’m also really looking forward to the World Clock Applet – then I won’t have to think about Japan’s and Brazil’s timezones ever again. πŸ™‚ Beta’s available now.

Stuff that looks good, but I have no experience with…

  • Pencil – Open source, cross-platform 2D drawing/animation application.
  • Hotwire – Smart shell.
  • GNOME Do – Like quicksilver from OSX.
  • ReInteract – Super python console.
  • Faces Project Management – PM is something that’s lacking on Linux.
  • Tracks GTD – If you’re willing to install it on a RoR supported server to help get things done.

Finally

I’ve been meaning to mention this incredibly well designed (because it’s simple) program to edit subtitles (for those totally legal foreign videos you’re downloading/transcribing): gaupol. Very slick.

New Computer Woes

The family computer recently bit the dust, so I’ve transitioned to a new computer, and given them my old one. My new computer has a 64 bit AMD dual core CPU. I could run a 32bit OS on it, and have no problems, but then I wouldn’t be taking advantage of the 64bit processor. So I’m running 64bit Ubuntu. This causes a few issues.

Java plugin on amd64

Instructions and links from here.

Download these three packages and install them:


dpkg -i package1.deb package2.deb package3.deb

Restart your browser. Unfortunately, IcedTea is not quite feature complete, and this will not work on Facebook’s java applet photo uploader. Yup. That’s why I haven’t uploaded those photos I said I would…. That’s why.

Flash on amd64

There is no 64bit binary provided by Adobe. And that’s that. Yay, closed source! If one of the open-source implementations of flash is good enough for you, then you might want to use them. Otherwise, we can use the 32bit binary plugin by doing the following:


sudo apt-get install nspluginwrapper
sudo nspluginwrapper -i /full/path/to/libflashplugin.so

This has the added benefit of working on Epiphany, also!

If you’re also using Pulseaudio, then go here:
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=4214152

It’s all good

These issues aside, however, my new computer simply flies, and that makes me happy. Especially considering it was quite a budget purchase (about $650 after tax). I loaded it with 4GB or RAM, simply because the difference between 4GB and 2GB was only $26. Above all else, I think the best characteristic is the near-silence of operation. I spent a few extra dollars to get the Antec Sonata III case/power-supply, and it’s quite a beautiful thing. I can barely hear it when lying on my bed. Once you’ve had quiet, you simply can’t go back. It’s black, too……

GNOME Panel / Ubuntu UI Musings

Reading Ubuntu 7.10 Pragmatic Visual Presentation Critique got me thinking about a better way to position applets and launchers on the panels in GNOME.

Imagine if you have locked all your applets and you’re trying to move a new applet to a specific location, you have to first unlock every applet which involves a right click, left click check-box, and repeating this for all locked applets. Once the applets have been unlocked and you have placed your new applet at the desired location, guess what? Time to lock them all again! Right click, left click check-box, right click, left click check-box, you get the idea. A method of locking/unlocking all the applets at the same time seems like a much welcomed option at this time.

I totally agree here. The panel should have a mode, (“layout mode”?) that darkens the rest of the screen so it’s obvious that you’re operating on the panels. Clicking off the Panel will exit this mode. I’m not sure what the best method would be for entering this mode. (An option on the context menu of every item on the panel?) Once in this mode, applets and launchers can be dragged around with the left mouse button. Moving the mouse cursor over an applet or launcher will highlight it with a red outline or something, so it’s obvious what will be moved. There should be a small lock icon below each. Clicking this will toggle the position lock. Speaking from experience, you usually want to do multiple unlock/move/lock actions at once, and with the current interface, it’s rather painful, as the author points out.

A quick mockup (I found an anchor before I found a lock, but an anchor makes sense):

Layout mode mockup

The author also touches on many other things that I don’t really see as big issues. Blurry icons? And he complains about icons not scaling properly with a resized panel. (See here.) For individual launchers, and the volume applet, the icons will scale fine. I’m not convinced scaling the Notification Area icons up would be desirable, as they would take up a lot of extra space and they can appear and disappear frequently, but that might be the user’s desired effect. Maybe an option for the user to say if they want them to scale, wrap, or neither… but all the icons in the notification area should definitely be consistent in behaviour, just as the launcher icons are on the panel.

notification area

Desktop Effects. He says they feel like a hack. I would agree that the defaults are truly terrible (wobbly windows? seriously?) and they certainly aren’t without their problems. As one would expect, they even introduce new defects. But after installing CCSM, and playing around with what’s available, I must confess I like them and I think they add a valuable layer of communication to the user: windows that aren’t responding fading to dark (see pic), new windows sizing and fading into existence, minimized windows flying to their position on the Window List applet (taskbar), desktop panning, zooming anywhere, live thumbnails for every application, etc. I do wish I could enable the one feature of wobbly windows to act as the system bell, and have the window wobble as a visible bell. I really liked that. But I can’t enable that single wobbly windows option without disabling something else I’m currently using. Also, the workspace switcher seems to be broken. I can’t drag windows from workspace to workspace within it.

not responding

Certainly, I agree the preferences menu could be more sensibly organized, but I think the Appearance capplet is great. A reference to the Appearance capplet within the mouse capplet is all that’s needed to improve the discoverability of the mouse cursor icons.

Two About menu items under the main System menu (one for GNOME and one for Ubuntu): they don’t bother me. There’s only four other items on that menu, and these are both important when users are reporting bugs for checking which versions of software they are running. The “Help” launchers are something I never use, and the first things I remove. But for novice users, maybe they’re helpful. I really wonder how often people read the included documentation, though….

Certain types of behavior should be unacceptable where user experience is concerned. It is unacceptable in my opinion for a Linux Distribution to knowingly ship broken Artwork with the distribution.

He’s clearly never used windows. πŸ™‚ In all seriousness, if usable features had to wait on perfect aesthetics before mass deployment, Apple might be the only company releasing anything. In the Open Source world, users are depended upon for everything, including the aesthetics. If the software never gets out, it doesn’t get the attention it needs, bug reports aren’t filed as soon, and relatively stable (and usable) software is dis-serviced by not being allowed to gather the feedback it should. The article itself is a case in point. It’s also worth mentioning that Ubuntu Gutsy is not an LTS release. The Hardy Heron release will be, and that makes it especially important for Gutsy to get as many new features into users’ hands as possible. Linux distributions depend on the community and can’t evolve as effectively behind closed doors.

Hmmm… I suppose this post turned into more of a response to the post on Architect Fantasy (not my original intention), which I found interesting but didn’t agree with everything (which is totally fine).

Unexpected Revival

Due to various other things, (some within my control, others not), I haven’t worked much on PhotoFile since I last posted. Some of these things continue to require some of my attention. I had planned to have a minimally usable version out by the end of September, but now I’m not sure that will happen.

One of these things has been my laptop. What’s that, you say? I thought you said your laptop was dead….? I did. Or, at least, I thought I knew what the problem was but I wasn’t able to open the laptop to take a peek. A couple days ago, my dad showed up and convinced me to call around about getting someone to fix it. After hearing that there was an $85 assessment fee, as well as $85/hr rate, I decided it was time to attempt to open it up again. We got to the same stage, which was removing all visible screws and it was still refusing to reveal it’s secrets. Lots of poking around resulting in lots of failure continued. Note: It’s fun prying off laptop keyboard keys! πŸ˜€ The first one was a little unnerving, because I wasn’t sure if it would break. And they’re like little puzzles to put back together!

Feeling discouraged, I decided to take a break. Now here’s where something truly magical happened. Seriously, I hope you’re sitting down for this: I focused my mind and used the vast powers of the Internet. I think it was maybe the first Google result for “taking apart Toshiba laptops” that led to me finding a picture and a short description for disassembling a different Toshiba laptop. Luckily, this was pretty much the same as mine. Soon, I was excitedly prying off a plastic strip above the keyboard, which revealed more screws! Jackpot!

triumphant!

So I’m happy to say, the problem was something that was loose and connected to the hard drive. After snapping it back in proper-like, everything seems to be working! The combo drive was also loose (caused by my last attempt). I’ve since done a fresh install/upgrade to Ubuntu Gutsy. Unfortunately, I’m missing my customized Xorg configuration file, so I can’t use the nVidia binary drivers quite yet. I forget what options I had to enable…. But the fact that I have a laptop again is pretty sweet! I was kind of lazy about re-assembling it, though. I wonder where these 7 screws are supposed to be….

nvidia and Compiz on Gutsy

With this recent revival of one in the family, I had to try out the latest 3D whiz-bang (compiz-fusion) on my laptop. I have an nVidia 16MB GeForce4 420 Go on my laptop. After lots of troubleshooting, it looks like the new drivers resolve all the issues I was having (no window borders, black windows, etc). Only one problem, those new universal drivers do not support my chipset. I’m guessing that means I will no longer get any proprietary driver updates… great. I might have to look at the nouveau project for any kind of 3d performance/stability in the future. Would be nice if nVidia decided to follow in AMD’s footsteps and open up their specs.

More Ubuntu Feisty

Rhythmbox is becoming more awesome

The new version of Rhythmbox included in Feisty, version 0.10.0, is very nice! I’m totally impressed with the enhancements since the last version I was using.

Jamendo integration: it will download the catalogue of artists and songs on Jamendo, and you can browse or play it just as if it was all on your computer, with the regular interface. If you like something, there’s a handy “Download Album” button. Music by donation. Awesome. Kinda like open-source for music. πŸ™‚

Last.fm integration: I can now play my neighbour radio within Rhythmbox! Oh joy of joys! Seriously, that’s awesome. The last-exit client is still cool, but I think I’ll be using this most of the time now.

Magnatune integration: Just like Jamendo, except downloading an album requires purchase.

Here’s some screenshots of Rhythmbox:

Feisty and Wacom

Still not there. I’ve been waiting and waiting for the day I can plug in my tablet when I need it and start using it, without having to restart the X server. Apparently, however, that day is not far off.

From https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Wacom:

With the version of the Linux Wacom driver (0.7.2) in Ubuntu 6.06, 6.10 and 7.04, if you unplug you tablet, it won’t function when you plug it back in and you will have to restart X. For this reason, it is best to leave the tablet plugged in. This limitation will be removed when the 0.7.4 version of the driver is included in Ubuntu.

I can’t wait for that.