Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Download and Save Youtube Videos in Ubuntu

Here is an easy way to download and save Youtube videos using Chrome and Ubuntu. I suspect that this will work with Firefox as well.

Here are the steps:

1. Visit the Youtube and select the video that you want. Start watching the video and wait for it to complete loading. Keep the web page up. Once you navigate away, the file found in step 2 will be removed.

2. Open up Nautilus and navigate to the /tmp directory.

3. In that directory is a file called "FlashBkJpeo" or something like that. Simply drag it onto your desktop and rename it!

4. Once it is on your desktop, you can play it by double clicking on the video.

Voila! You have downloaded a Youtube video.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Empathy Gets No Sympathy

Pidgin used to be a default install in Ubuntu, but was recently dropped in the most recent release of Ubuntu Karmic Koala. I occasionally used Pidgin on private chat server that was used a part of my regular employment. It is something that was not used all that often, maybe a couple of times of year.

This past week I needed to connect up to the chat server and gave Empathy a try. After a few minutes of fiddling around with the settings, I could not get it to work. Part of the problem was that I was not familiar with the set-up in Empathy, and the set up screens did not match-up at all with the generic set of instructions that are provided by my employer.

I am not sure why there was a change in applications in this latest release of Ubuntu. Pidgin seemed to work just fine. I found it in the Software Center and installed Pidgin. The nice thing I found was that you are able to remove Empathy as well. In the past, some applications in Ubuntu were tied to the ubuntu-gnome-desktop package, and individual packages were not able to be removed.

I am back to using Pidgin. In this case, I am just to lazy to track down how to set up Empathy and Pidgin properly. But Empathy, you'll still get no sympathy from me!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ubuntu One

Anybody try Ubuntu One? With the latest version of Ubuntu, 9.10 there is a software package that allows you to sync files on your desktop to another PC, via a file drop box service. It is part of the default install for Karmic Koala. I thought it was a nice feature. You get about 2 GB of storage area.

The client runs on your desktop and checks a folder in your home directory every so often for updated files. When it sees that a file has been updated, it will automatically sync it up to a server. I wonder what would happen if you logged off in the middle of a sync? I have not tested that out. So far I have been only using it to save documents and a few work files. I was able to sync them up from my Ubuntu machine at home, and upload the files. The next day at work, it was an easy retrieval, even from a Windows machine.

There seems to be no equivalent to a client that would run on a Windows machine for automatic file syncing. That probably would be the next step.

If I stick to straight documents, I seem to get the same functionality out of Google Docs. But Google Docs is a manual process. My guess is that some sort of file syncing process will arise out of the new Chrome OS. The possibilities are there.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mark Shuttleworth: Becoming the "Steve Jobs" of Linux?

I work up this morning and checked my usual Linux news sites and was pretty surprised to read that Mark Shuttleworth, the man behind the Ubuntu revolution is stepping down from Cannonical. He will get away from the day to day running of the company that supports Ubuntu and become more involved in improving the desktop experience.

His vision is to make the Ubuntu desktop more a more visually appealing and user friendly experience. "Better than a Mac" has been his motto. There is no doubt that the Ubuntu distribution has come a long way in recent years, but I think the development has been very slow.

From reading his recent comments about Linux developers, I get the sense that the friction between the camps has come to a head. GNOME is basically the same as it was 5 years ago, and Ubuntu is really still just like any other Linux distribution. Will Shuttleworth abandon Gnome and look for a better Linux desktop?

Linux desktops, no matter what distribution you run, is still just a collection of software that has been slapped together from a bunch of developers from all around the world. There is little continuity between user interfaces of applications. The one thing that they got right is stability, and the fact that the can be run on a wide variety of platforms. If you compare for example how Mac's OSX Mail or Time Machine software is integrated amongst is applications to how certain Gnome programs, the difference is striking. With KDE, it is even worse!

"Glued" together operating systems (ie, Linux desktops) are going to fall behind quickly as operating systems with very small footprints that can operate mobile devices take over the desktop market. Look at the success of running OSX on an IPhone. Now there is Google OS getting into the mix.

My belief is that desktops are gradually going to disappear from the home, People will do more of their computing using a handheld device, or slightly larger than handheld device, that can be carried around with them.

If they need a larger keyboard, or monitor, then they would simply plug the device into a docking station at home or work. For these devices a light OS is all that will be needed. The either connect up to the cloud to access their files, or run their applications natively. It will be able to use 3G or wireless, etc.

I think Shuttleworth is on the right track. But will anyone listen?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How to Upgrade to Ubuntu 10.04

Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx is out in Alpha, and if if you are brave enough, you can take it out for a spin. Remember that this is an Alpha release, so it will be full of bugs. Or you may get lucky and everything will work great!

Instead of downloading the CD image for Lucid Lynx, you can upgrade via the update manager.

Here is how to upgrade to the new version of an Ubuntu operating system, even if it is an Alpha or Beta testing:

Disclaimer: Alpha and Beta releases may not work, so do this with caution!
  1. Hit Alt-F2 to bring up a command line.
  2. Check the 'Run in Terminal' Box.
  3. Type sudo update-manager -d in the box
  4. Follow the prompts to upgrade.
It is as easy as that. It take some time to download the packages, and complete the install, depending on how fast your computer is. If you encounter any problems, be sure to submit a bug report to help with the development process of Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chrome in Centos: Does not work

Well, I tried to install Google Chrome on a Centos 5.4 computer at work. It did not work because Centos 5.4 still has an older version of lsb. It seems that it is a pretty trivial thing to fix within Chrome that will allow it to use an older version of lsb for the install. But, the Chrome developers closed out the bug report, stating it will not get fixed.

It seems they are only willing to support the latest version of Fedora, but are going to leave Enterprise Redhat behind. Interesting...especially with all talk of cooperation between Ubuntu and Chrome developers. Anyway, there is more details about it here at the Centos Forum.

I guess I'll just wait for Centos6....

Chrome in Beta for Linux

You can now head over to the Google Chrome Website and grab yourself a copy of Google Chrome for Linux. It is the beta version. I have been running a developer build of google chrome, which is an unstable release version of Chrome for some time, and have had very good luck with it.

The only thing I have noticed is that when you load a Google theme, the colors along the border are not rendered quite correctly for some themes. I am not sure if it is something within GNOME, or whatever. I assume it will get fixed. Either way, it is not a show stopper for me, since most of the themes work just fine.

Since I am on the developer release, I am going to stick with it for now. There are versions for Redhat/Fedora as well. I use a CentOs box at work, and will try the Google Chrome Beta there to see how it works. I assume all should go well!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Firefox, Thunderbird 3 and Ubuntu

I had a chance to play around with Thunderbird 3 over the weekend on a Windows box. The developers at Mozilla have made quite a few changes over the previous version. Overall, I like the new interface.

One of the most noticeable advances was the inclusion of 'tabbed' browsing for your e-mail client. The popular tabbed style was grabbed straight out of the Firefox play book, and works quite well with Thunderbird. Tabbed browsing allows you to open multiple folders in your email client, and you can view your e-mails in an almost web browser like fashion.

To me it begs the question: Will Thunderbird and Firefox meld into one application? Why not integrate the two so that they are one in the same application? If Google can base and entire operating system on a web browser as they are with Chrome OS, then it will really be a small stretch for Mozilla to combine FireFox and Thunderbird.

My guess is that there is a good chance that Thunderbird 3 will make its debut in Ubuntu 10.04 (LTS) Lucid Lynx.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Xubuntu 9.10 on 256 MB Ram

I have a Dell Lattitude C810 that 512 in RAM and about a 1.2 GHz Pentium 4 CPU. I had it upgraded to Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala and it was doing a pretty fine job. Since the laptop was so heavy, I primarily had it laying on a desk and used it to check the web. Otherwise this laptop would be a brick.

One of the memory chips went bad some time ago, and I was forced to remove one of the 256 MB modules. Therefore, I was left with just 256 MB of RAM. Not surprisingly, the Dell C810 became quite slow running Ubuntu and the GNOME Desktop. I three choices on what to do with this computer:

1. Throw it away
2. Go out and spend $30 for a new memory modules

I did not want to toss the machine quite yet (although I probably should) and I was not interested in investing any money into this laptop, so I decided to try Xubuntu on it.

Xubuntu is advertised as having a small memory footprint and great for older systems. To install it, I simply opened up a terminal and typed:

sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop

And hit 'Y' to a couple or prompts. All of the needed themes, artwork, and start-up programs were downloaded and installed without a hitch in about 20 minutes.

For a web browser, I switched to Google Chrome for Linux. Now the laptop is usable once again. It is still a little slower than before. But at least for casual web browsing it is still working. So maybe I will get another year or two of service out of this Dell C810 Lattitude.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Windows 7 Black Screen of Death

I have not had a chance to give Windows 7 a try, other than playing around with it on a couple of demo PCs and laptops at my local retail outlet. It seems like an OK operating system, and seemed to use a lot less resources than Vista. I tried Windows 7 out on a couple of low end netbooks at the store, putting them through their paces. Windows 7 seemed to run its applications pretty fast. It is too bad that none of these systems were running any virus software. I bet they would have been dogs if I gave it try.

I just can not bring myself to put down the $100 or so to upgrade to this operating system, when everything I need a PC for is already available in Ubuntu Linux. Maybe someday...

There have been reports that the latest security updates for Windows 7 is causing some system hangs. After the update you are left with a black screen, with now task bar, no icons, no system tray, or sidebar.

So, they went from the "Blue screen of Death" (BSOD) to the "Black Screen of Death."

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Minimal Ubuntu Install

Hand-held device, netbooks, and mini-computers are the rage these days. There is great interest in running toned down operating systems on platforms that have limited processing power and memory. These platforms work well running any variation of Linux, as users can customize the OS for there needs.

If you want to run a toned down version of Ubuntu on one of these appliances, or if you are interested in bringing an old PC back to life, then there several methods to use to create a slimmed down operating system

One method mentioned on the Ubuntu Forums by TheShiv starts with a minimal install of Ubuntu or a server install. He then runs a script to install only the essential application he needs. Here is an example script extracted from his thread on the Ubuntu Tips and Tricks forum:

# Ubuntu-Desktop-Minimal: Post-install script to install only the bare
# essentials of an Ubuntu Desktop.
echo "[*] Installing Gnome Essentials"
sudo apt-get -y install gnome-core gdm network-manager-gnome fast-user-switch-applet \
human-theme x11-xserver-utils tangerine-icon-theme gnome-themes-ubuntu ubuntu-artwork \
jockey-gtk gnome-screensaver gnome-utils
echo "[*] Installing Application Essentials"
sudo apt-get install -y gcalctool tsclient

Note there there a basically two commands tucked in the script. You can whatever packages you wish, such as:

Epiphany-browser : Lighter equivalent to firefox.
vlc;vlc-plugin-* : For media etc.
openoffice.org-writer : Office Writer
openoffice.org-calc : Office Spreadsheet
openoffice.org-impress : Office Presentation

Now, you can start with a full install of Ubuntu, and back track you way to minimally built system. To me it would seem easier to start with the basics and build from the ground up.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Google Chrome OS and Ubuntu

Google made and announcement that Google Chrome OS will be entirely open source. In addition, they announced that the Chrome browser will be available shortly.

The fact that Chrome OS will be entirely open source is great news because this should allow Ubuntu to take advantage of Google powerful software development team. Many Ubuntu developers, Cannonical in particular, are already helping to integrate Chrome browser into the Ubuntu desktop.

Could this mean the end of GNOME for Ubuntu? I am not sure on that one, but this may be something to watch. I am not entirely sure that introducing another windows management system is an entirely good thing for Linux either. There is already a lot of confusing out there among users between KDE, GNOME, Xfce, etc. But maybe the umbrella of development and backing backing of Linux by Google will help bring Chrome OS to the forefront. But, one of the great things that has always been true with Linux is that you have a choice, right?

Here is a link to the Google Chrome OS Announcement

Default Ubuntu 10.04 Dropping GIMP

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, Lucid Lynx will drop GIMP from the default install to make more room on the ISO. GIMP is one of my favorite applications, and I use it quite often. But for me, Its not a big deal that it is not going to be included in the default install. It will still be available from the software repository, which is an easy mouse click to install. This is one of the things that I like about how Linux distributions are structured. If there is an application you need, you just use whatever software manger that come with the OS, and grab the application that you want.

Most people that I have come across that have used Microsoft's Photoshop think that GIMP is hard to use. For them, the interface is especially confusing. I think there is no question that GIMP is inferior to Photoshop, and this could be one part of the reason as to why it is being dropped. The Windows fan base are usually always quick to point out GIMP as being an example how much of the open software that makes Linux distributions are poorly designed in terms of capabilities and the user interface. So getting rid of GIMP will take it out of the limelight. Hopefully, and better alternative image editor will come along.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Google Chrome for Linux

I have been using Google Chrome for a couple of weeks on a Windows XP machine and have found it to be one of the better browsers that I have come across. I like it because it is simple, yet very functional. Chrome also seems to run faster than either Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer.

You can run Chrome on Ubuntu Linux, but it is still in development. The development version that I installed tonight on my Ubuntu laptop seems to be quite functional, and also very FAST. It loads Java applications and seems to render images very efficiently. I am starting to look forward to Google's new operating system to give it a try. But I doubt if I will ever leave Ubuntu!

It is easy to install Chrome for Linux if you are running Ubuntu. There are quite a few warnings and scary messages from Google about running their development version, and if you can get past those, go ahead and give it a try. Keep in mind that some features may or may not work.
In addition, there may be some security issues. Simply go to these web pages to install Google for your CPU type:

Dev channel (for 32-bit systems): google-chrome-unstable_current_i386.deb
Dev channel (for 64-bit systems): google-chrome-unstable_current_amd64.deb

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ubuntu Backup

There are a number of tools in Ubuntu that you can use to backup your Linux system. In Ubuntu 9.10, when you open the Software Center and type "backup" in the search bar, you are presented with a load of choices. To be honest, I do not know which one is the best one. And yes, you can use the command line to run tar, rsync, scp, or whatever your favorite backup program is to use in these situations.

But, I think that the Ubuntu developers should consider selecting the one that they think is the best, and include it as part of the their operating system as an easy to use graphical interface. Possibly they can build upon a open source application or create something that is akin to Apple's Time Machine. The Time Machine program is very powerful in that it allows you to save multiple versions of files, and easily restore them using an intuitive graphical interface.

It seems that everyone is hanging terabyte hard drives on there PCs via USB and backing up files to it these days. These drive are often less then $100 and offer a great way to protect the files on your systems. It is prevalent in the business world as well.

One the strengths of Linux and Apple's OSX is the ease in which you can save off file systems without the snags of having to deal with registry settings in Windows, etc. It could further set Ubuntu apart in the operating system world by introducing an easy to use backup and recovery option by default.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Playing Evony with Ubuntu

Evony is an online strategy game that loosely based on the Middle Ages. You play the role of a Lord overseeing your lands, defending your cities from attack. You also get the chance to attack others to gain resources and wealth, or you can settle in and try to build up your cities. It is kind of a combination of Sim City and World of Warcraft.

Recently, Evony adds have been popping up all over the internet, especially with Google's Adsense program. They also seem to be running a campaign on DoubleClick. Anyway, since I saw the ads, I decided to give the game a whirl. I tried it using both Windows XP, and my Linux PC with generally the same results.

The game starts fine, but then after a while performance begins to suffer. There appears to be a slow memory leak in the Flash media program that Evony uses. Simply refreshing your browser corrects the problem. I have found that you can play a little longer between refreshes using Google's Chrome browser on Windows XP. For Ubuntu, your best bet is to use Epiphany. It is probably because these browsers have a lower memory foot print over the browser bigboys.

The game uses Flash media as part of its engine, so you will need to be certain of have Flash installed on your Linux PC.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Swapping drives in Ubuntu Not A Problem

I recently got my hands on a decent computer to upgrade an "old beast" that I had Ubuntu installed on. The hardware between the "old beast" and my "decent computer" were a little different. Both were Dells, but they had different video cards. The processors, were of the same type, both Intel. However, the hard drive on the "old beast" was much larger than the one that came with the decent machine.

I was in a lazy mood, and did not want to back up all of the data I had on the "old beast." I decided to try the quick and dirty route of taking the hard drive out of the "old beast" and installing it on the newer "decent" machine.

Totally different video cards, and when the newer machine booted, it came up using the vesa driver. I then added the new driver using the Add/Remove tool, and viola! My new machine is up and running with the "old beast's" hard drive.

Ubuntu never ceases to amaze me in its portability!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pirated Software with Trojan Hits Mac OSX

People looking to get a copy of iWorks '09 for free got a little more than they bargained when they recently downloaded pirated versions of the latest iWorks application for Mac. The pirated program also contained a trojan which gains administrator access when the software is installed on the system.

The trojan portion of the program installs as a start up service and is called" iWorks Services."
The program then allows the trojan's author to control the machine remotely, having full access to the system. The author is then free to steal what ever information he wants off of your machine, or use it to launch attacks on other computers on the Internet.

So far, on 20,000 Mac users have downloaded the infected software from sites that offer the pirated software. This is a small number but should server as a wake up call to people who want to skirt the system and use pirated software. Really, if you do not want to pay the money, then just go open source and use Linux!

Here is a prime example of why licensed, commercially available software has its place in the market. If you want to get a copy of a particular program, you should stay away from the stuff that shows up on pirate sites. If you use the copyrighted and licensed iWorks program from Apple, then you'll be safe. Just have to pay the cash like everyone.

In theory, the same sort of shenanigans can occur with open source code as well. A malicious developer could attempt to stick something in their program that acts as a trojan. If they do then it would probably be pretty short lived, since it would stick out like a sore thumb to anyone looking at the code. It would be a pretty pointless exercise on their part with nothing to gain, which another reason why the open source model works well in term of system security.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Say Goodbye to McAfee, FOREVER!

Since I work in the IT business, I get the following questions on an almost daily basis:

"What virus software would you recommend for my home computer?"

Now I know exactly how the weather guy feels when they get asked: "What's the weather going to be next Friday?" wherever they go. Or, "Is global warming for real?"

People naturally assume that since you work in a certain field, that you know everything there is to know about everything in that field. They do not think of specialization.

I am here to tell you that I am not an expert with Microsoft products. I do not know too much about Windows. I use their software just like any other user. Well, I use it a lot more than typical users, but I would not call myself an expert by any means.

I do notice that things like McAfee and other virus scanning software really dragging the Microsoft systems down. Then there are all of these malware and virus programs to deal with. I think it is a complete waste of time. Could there possibly be some conspiracy between Microsoft, virus companies, and those responsible for creating these little programs.

Who knows?

But when I get asked the IT "Question of the Day":

"What virus software would you recommend for my home computer?"

and when I think about all the time and energy that is spent on virus programs and their ilk, my answer to the question is:


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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Will the Linux Desktop Become Mainstream?

Steve Jobs announced today that he is removing himself from Apple due to health concerns. This looks like it is going to have more of an affect on the company's stock price than anything. Will Apple still continue to bring innovation to the desktop computer? From all news reports that I have read it appears that most of the creative juices that flow at Apple are from the talent that Steve has put together under him. But Jobs is the glue that holds it all together, so there my be some decline in Apple's product output.

There is no doubt that OSX is far superior than Windows as far as how the OS performs, and desktop usability. And, since OSX only really needs to confine itself to a certain set of hardware, in most respects it outperforms Ubuntu Linux, as well. I think that OSX is far enough ahead of the field that it will take Ubuntu quite some time. Plus, there is Apple's first class marketing attack to deal with. But, consider this, Ubuntu Desktops and their Linux ilk has gained a 30% increase in users over the past year, and that trend is expected to continue to accelerate.

A big help to the Linux community came last year when some pretty big computer companies started pushing Ubuntu as default operating systems in netbooks and cheap PCs. The poor showing by Microsoft Vista and all of the complaints that have plagued that operating system helped to further fuel the Ubuntu fires.

The combo of a poor Vista product, and possible decline of the Apple empire may be the crack in the door that Ubuntu needs to make itself an even more viable option for users. In either case, 2009 is shaping up to be an interesting year for Ubuntu.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ubuntu on a Laptop and Wireless Internet

One of the most frustrating things about running Ubuntu, or for that matter, any Linux based operating system on an older laptop is the fact that many wireless cards simply will not work.

This is because many of the companies that make these cards think that open sourcing the drivers needed to run their equipment will give away trade secrets. In addition, in some cases it would be possible for developers to change frequencies of cards, allowing them to operate out of band. Thus, most of the code for the drivers needed to run these cards has been kept closed. A few linux developers have been keen enough to crack drivers open and write there own code.

There are software packages available the act as a wrapper, and run the Windows version of the driver within Linux. The most popular package is called ndiswrapper. This nifty little tool can be downloaded from the Add/Remove Software tool from within Ubuntu. Then, it is a matter of popping in your wireless card driver disk, and making the following menu options: System -> Administration -> Windows Wireless Drivers. From there you would select the correct file from your card's CD.

You can find cards available that run in plug n play fashion. There are some Broadcom cards that are available withing the default Ubuntu 8.10 distribution. Another option is to use a wireless USB card like the Wireless G USB Adaptor from Belkin.

Or you can pick up a nice shiny new Dell Mini 9 inch netbook with Ubuntu pre-installed. Droooool.....

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ubuntu Linux Google Chrome

I still have a laptop that my wife uses that has Windows XP. She needs it for some online classes that she is using. I decided to give Google Chrome a try so I went ahead and installed it on her laptop. I liked what I saw. Chrome is a new browser that was developed by the folks a Google that is an open source project. It has been out for a couple of months already, but I never really sat down to play with it.

The tab setup is a little different and takes a little getting used to, but once you do, it is a breeze. There is also a panel layout were you can see all of your most popular sites on one page.

The one thing I really like about Chrome is its speed. It is way faster then Explorer, and even Firefox. I have found that Firefox is getting a little slower with each release. I am not sure why, I try to keep the extensions, and other junk disabled. Firefox 3.0.5 on my Ubuntu laptop has become a real dog of a program. It seems to start OK, but it seems to have a memory leak somewhere and starts to slow down after some use. Plus it crashes quite often.

Google has promised a Linux release for Chrome and you can even sign up to be notified when Google releases a Linux version of Chrome.