Sunday, December 28, 2008

Now This Is A Sound Card! Ancient History Revisited

Introducing the Reveal Sound FX Wave 32 Sound Card aka SC600 + Wave32!
This sound card is 12 1/4" long and was released around November 1995.
Another component from the ancient ISA slot era, this sound card had plenty of 'new' features.

Built around the Ensoniq chip it was based on AMD's InterWave wavetable audio processor. During this time period FM synthesis was considered inadequate for the demands of emerging multimedia and Windows 95-based applications.

Initial reports quoted the selling price at $149 USD. The actual price was $200 USD. Back in 1995 that was a big chunk of change! And even though it was billed as a Wave 32 it still used the 16 bit bus.

In the picture below you can see that the contacts were 5 1/4" long
with the remaining 7" hanging out the back. Notice that not many contacts are used.

Here's something you no longer see. 3 individual CD Interfaces that were 'keyed' to certain manufacturers. Each interface was routed to the proprietary interface driver. From top down they are as follows;

Yep! Back in the day you had many manufacturers making hardware that was not compatible with other interfaces and there were very few standards.
Therefore you had to make sure the new hardware you were buying had the features needed to run your other hardware.

Something else that you may not notice on the card are numerous jumpers.
You had jumpers to set the midi and wave addresses and what type of microphone you used. Set an address wrong and you will either crash or have no audio.

These were the days when info and help was sparse and required some knowledge of addressing and IRQ's.
Ah! The good old days! LOL!!!

For a look at the I/O spec sheet click the link below;
Spec Sheet

The card performed okay and had sound quality that ranged from high quality to mediocre depending on what type of file you were playing. FM synthesis may have been considered semi-obsolete but the users and game manufacturers were still using it. This card didn't handle FM very well and the midi instrument sounds weren't that great either.

By today's standards this card would be in the $10 econoline of sound cards.
But back in 1995 this card generated plenty of news and excitement. It never did surpass the granddaddy of them all, the Creative AWE32 which was a full 14" long and was a must have audio card that was released 20 months earlier.
And a year after the release of the Reveal card the AWE64 sound card was released which saw many other sound cards end up in the trash.

I hope you enjoyed this time travel trip back to an exciting era in computer history.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

You Think Your Video Card Is Big? Check This Out!

Recently I was cleaning out my stock of old computer parts and came across an old ISA slot video card. Remembering many forum posts of users complaining about how long some of the new pci-e slot video cards, I decided to post some pics and spec's of this card.
Many younger readers have never seen this technology and this is a good way of preserving some computer history.

This video card is either a Cardex, Cirrus Logic or Gainward. All older search facilities are no longer available that would allow me to positively identify it. It measures 9 1/2" long and sports a whopping 2 megs of Ram and uses the ancient ISA slot structure.
The 8 IC's across the top of the board are the Ram modules. Each one is 256k in size for a total of 2 megs.

Notice how this card used the split slot configuration?
Many motherboards had ISA slots that contained 4 connectors to handle numerous hardware configurations.
This card uses the 1st, 3rd and 4th connectors.
Yep! It was a very confusing time.

Here is a view of the Cardex Bios chip. Notice the large size of the slot contacts?

Here's a close up of the Cirrus Logic processor.
Not made in China but in Korea!

Here is another close up of the analog video connector that is for featured add-ons. However, those features never seemed to materialize.

Other items that may not be visible in the pictures are several jumpers.
Back in the day you had to set jumpers to resolve IRQ conflicts, timing issues and a whole host of parameters that are now handled by modern hardware and operating systems.

This video card was state of the art in it's day and had a maximum display resolution of 800 x 600. Before that we were confined to a resolution of 640 x 480. A far cry from today's resolutions and large screen monitors.

So to those user's of the newer pci-e video cards that say their card is huge?
Try cramming one of these into your tiny system. LOL!!
The old cases of the day are another subject all together.

Hope you enjoyed this piece of ancient history.


A Whois Tutorial Using Network Tools. Amazing!

The Whois tool is part of the Network tools found in Ubuntu and is readily available for all other operating systems.
It is also the feature tool of the following mini tutorial. I enjoy networking and network security. It's a hobby of mine. :-)

Many people don't realize how much info can be gleaned by using Whois. I hope to open the door and provide some education on the use of these tools.
The Network Tools feature is found in the System-Administration section of the Ubuntu menu.
Let's open it up and click on the Whois tab.

For this tutorial I will be using a page I found during a Google search of Windows anti-virus reviews.
I have numerous Windows customers and like to keep on top of the ever changing technology.

One of the first pages that came up in my search was a site titled 2009 Security Software Reviews.
The page had reviews for numerous anti-virus software. Many of the reviewed anti-virus software were easily recognizable but a few weren't.
And a few of the more notables were missing but I was after any info I could find and started reading the reviews.
Now the fun begins!

When using Whois you don't use the http or the www portion of the address. All you need is the website's name and the domain extension like .com, .net, .org, etc.
So let's put the following address in Whois and click the Whois button;

A few seconds later Whois provides the following info;

Star Advertising
P.O. Box 8044
Delray Beach, Florida 33484
United States

Registered through:, Inc.
Created on: 25-Feb-08
Expires on: 25-Feb-10
Last Updated on: 03-Mar-08

Administrative Contact:
Frischman, Arthur
Star Advertising, Inc.
150 West 25th Street
Suite 904
New York, New York 10001
United States
(561) 251-7198 Fax --

Technical Contact:
Frischman, Arthur
Star Advertising, Inc.
150 West 25th Street
Suite 904
New York, New York 10001
United States
(561) 251-7198 Fax --

Domain servers in listed order:

Hmmmm....... We see that the contact info is Arthur Frischman at
You want to make a note of that for later.
We also see that this review site is owned by Star Advertising.

Let's copy the above info and paste it into a text document for future reference.
Now let's take a look at the website of the #1 rated security software.
It can be found and purchased here;

Clear out the Domain Address search window of Whois and insert the following address in Whois and click the button;

A Whois search provides us with this info;

601 N Congress Avenue
Suite 303
Delray Beach, Florida 33445
United States

Registered through:, Inc.
Created on: 04-Dec-03
Expires on: 04-Dec-11
Last Updated on: 28-Aug-06

Administrative Contact:
Frischman, Arthur
601 N Congress Avenue
Suite 303
Delray Beach, Florida 33445
United States
5612433247 Fax -- 5612433249

Technical Contact:
Frischman, Arthur
601 N Congress Avenue
Suite 303
Delray Beach, Florida 33445
United States
5612433247 Fax -- 5612433249

Domain servers in listed order:

Again we see that the contact info is Arthur Frischman at
We also see that the street addresses are different but the city and state are the same.
They use different email address domains but both use arthur@.
They both use the same domain servers.
Isn't that interesting?!!!!

Now let's dig a bit deeper and use the resources found at;

Doing a search of gave me this page;

I'll let you the reader make a decision and draw your own conclusions from the above info.
As you can see, using the Whois tool can provide some good info which allows you to investigate
website and domain info.
Never take claims on the internet at face value. Do a little research before making a decision.
It only takes you a few minutes and can provide you with good hard facts.

The foregoing shows how and why the use of domain proxies has become more prevalent.
A proxy allows the registrant of a domain name to hide all contact and address info from a search.
The implications and consequences of such secrecy should be obvious to the reader.
However, in an upcoming article I will show you more ways of finding who owns a domain name.
I will also continue my mini-series tutorials of the Domain Tools included with Ubuntu.

Be safe!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Extend The Holidays By Helping Needy Children

I hope that after the holidays I will acquire plenty of used computers put out for trash that were replaced with new Christmas computers.

I will wipe the drives, install Linux and get them into the hands of the poor children in my community.

Christmas may be a bit late for them but at least it did arrive.
And I am asking the Linux community to join in and help those
in need in your local community.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Linux Is Saving Me Money $$$

I decided to see how much money I have saved by switching to Linux.
I took several of the software titles I had previously used (Except for Photoshop) and used Google to search prices. I believe that most of the prices fall within the average price range for each product.

So let's start off with the Windows PC. I prefer XP but seeing how it's going to be phased out
I would need to upgrade to Vista. The other software other then PS is pretty much standard fare for my needs.

Vista Home Premium.........239.95
Antivirus ...........................39.95
Office 2007 Std. ...............119.99
Photoshop CS3..................649.00
CloneDVD and AnyDVD ...... 76.95
Nero 9 ...............................79.99
ConvertXtoDVD ................. 49.99
UltraISO ............................29.95
Total ............................. 1285.77

So we have a price tag of $1285.77 USD with the addition of Photoshop.
Without the Photoshop option the cost would still be $636.77 USD

Now to the Linux system using The Gimp, Xara and Blender as a replacement for Photoshop.
As you can see, it cost me absolutely nothing for the O.S. and the software.
I saved myself a minimum of $636.77 USD.
And I didn't even have to buy upgrades to run it unlike Vista.

Linux ........................... Free
Antivirus ....................... N/A
OpenOffice ....................Free
The Gimp,Xara,Blender ..Free
K9 Copy ........................Free
K3b ..............................Free
DeVeDe, WinFF .............Free
ISO Master ................... Free
Total ............................$0.00

Many of you will object to me adding the cost of Vista to the list as it is installed in store bought computers. Well I only use systems I build myself. Therefore I need to buy Vista and that is what I must pay.

And I added Photoshop more as a joke rather then a necessary application. I honestly used Paint Shop Pro 7 that I bought on a discount rack for $49 USD.

But anytime a Linux user mentions The Gimp many others scream that it doesn't have all the features as Photoshop.
Well most people will never use all the features of Photoshop and I'd like those nay sayers to cough up their license key and not the crack key that is so prevalent. No user that only does home photos and simple graphics will ever convince me they purchased a $649.00 piece of software to do so little graphics work.

Anyway............ Thank you Linux for saving me money and providing me with everything I require.
In these troubling economic times, every dime I can save is much appreciated.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Benchmark Your PC - How Do You Stack Up?

Benchmarking and testing a PC falls into 2 categories;
Within a running PC or via a bootable disk.
The Inquisitor Hardware Testing and Certification System falls in both categories.

You can download the scripts to your PC and run them within your booted system or you can download the Live Cd and run the tests from a stable environment. I say 'stable' because you won't have a lot of background processes running in the Live environment then you would in a fully booted PC.

Another problem with running these tests inside a booted up PC is that the OS won't allow certain tests or portions of the test to access all of the hardware.
That's where the Live Cd comes in handy.

The Live Cd contains 25 various hardware testing modules. Each test has user configured parameters to allow for custom hardware testing.
Be advised!!!
The tests consist of destructive and non-destructive tests. The destructive hard drive tests will wipe your hard drive of all data. The other destructive tests have the potential of destroying your hardware.

It is recommended that the casual user selects the non-destructive tests and sets the time and cycle parameters to a low amount the first time they use this software.
That should not put any user off as these tests can be a very good tool for checking out a new computer or finding a premature hardware failure in an older system.

The Live Cd also has the benefit of not being tied to a certain O.S. or version.
It will boot up on almost any system that has sufficient Ram.
The installable test scripts are only available for Linux systems which makes the Live Cd the preferred usage.

Inquisitor also has an Enterprise version that allows the tests to be deployed over a network to 100's or 1000's of PC's in need of testing. This is geared towards the PC or hardware manufacturer who needs a quick and standardized method of testing their equipment before shipping.

So go and grab the scripts or Live Cd and see where your PC stands.
Test your friend's computer and see if it's as good as yours! LOL!!
Get the details and the files from their website found here;

Inquisitor Hardware Testing Website

Good luck and may your numbers be in specs.


Recover Lost Windows Login Password With Live Cd's

So you have a Windows PC and you forgot the login password.
What do you do? How do you retrieve or reset it?
There are several solutions including making your own bootable Cd's with the needed tools but I'm going to focus on 2 solutions that only require downloading and burning to a Cd.

Those being PCLoginNow and Trinity Rescue Kit.

I find it quite humorous how Microsoft has made claims that their newest OS is so secure. There are no more backdoor Admin logins and the implementation of SYSKEY which is
an optional feature added in Windows NT 4.0 SP3.
It was meant to protect against offline password cracking attacks so that the SAM database would still be secure.

Unfortunately, Microsoft underestimated the power of Linux.
Both of the following software are based on Linux and can achieve the same results. That is getting your password back or reseting it to a new one.

PCLoginNow is a small (55 Meg) ISO file that you download and then burn to a Cd. Based on Linux it is very easy to use and works on 2000, 2003, 2008, XP and Vista. It also has good driver support for most IDE and Sata drivers so you have the best chance of getting access to your hard drive.

And it can access both the Admin and User passwords.
You can also change or lock accounts, change policies or totally remove them.
The best part of all this is that this software is free.
You can read more about it and download it from their website.
PCLoginNow Website

The other software is the Trinity Rescue Kit.
A 130 meg ISO image that you burn to a Cd, this software is more then a password reset software although that is just one of it's many tools.
Again, this is a Linux based Live Cd with a twist.
It uses command line entries similar to the old Dos command days.
This is due in part to a bootable Dos utility disk he had once built.
It also keeps the size of the Cd down to a minimum by not having an integrated desktop manager like Gnome or KDE.

This software reads like a who's who of software and utilities.
It can rescue and repair a crashed PC. Both Windows and Linux.
It can clone a system across a network and more.
Be sure to read the documentation before you use it or even print it out although the newest version of TRK has the documentation built in.

You can read about and get TRK from their website;
Trinity Rescue Kit Website

As I said earlier, there are several other password reset/recovery tools available but the above 2 are easily available and bootable without requiring the user to create their own bootable Cd.



Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kernel Update Breaks VirtualBox

This morning I get a call from a customer that runs Ubuntu and XP in VirtualBox.
They said that when the tried starting VirtualBox they received an error message about the wrong driver version. They also mentioned that they recently had a kernel update.

Drat! It's pouring rain and they are almost an hour away with traffic. I really don't want to make the trip. So I get all the info from them about the error message and tell them I'll call them back in 5 minutes.

I do a quick search and find the problem and the solution.
Luckily it is a simple terminal command and takes a few minutes to run it.
I call them back, walk them through the fix and in less then 5 minutes they are back up and very happy.

Seems there is a bug in VirtualBox that causes it to not recompile the driver for the new kernel. So when you get a new kernel update, VirtualBox breaks because the driver has been compiled for the older kernel version.
Sun really needs to fix this bug and it may have been fixed by now. I believe my customer has the VirtualBox updates turned off which means they are using an older version.

So if you are usinfg VirtualBox and get a driver error after you had a kernel update here is how you fix it.

Open the terminal.
Now copy and paste or type in the following code;

sudo /etc/init.d/vboxdrv setup

The setup will begin to recomplie the drivers to match the kernel version.
It takes a few minutes and when it's down you will see your command pompt reappear.

That's it. A simple fix that takes a few minutes.
Hope it saves someone a hassle like it saved me.


Check Your Hard Drive Smart Status Using A GUI

Checking your hard drives Smart status is preventive damage control.
It lets you see if your hard drive is slowly failing or is healthy.
But in Linux the standard smartmon tools can be a bit of a hassle to set up and interpret the results.

I have my smartmon tools set to do a Smart scan once a day and send the results to a log file.
That means remembering to open the log file and read it. Something I neglect to do on a regular basis. Also setting up the smartmon tools in the command line may be a bit over the top for the new user. Many new users are terrified of the terminal and don't want to be bothered wading through log files.
I needed something that allowed me to check the Smart status on demand and provide the results in 'Real' time with a Graphical User Interface (GUI).

GSmartControl (GSC) fills all those needs plus adds a few other features.
Each time you open GSC it does a check of the hard drives installed in your system.
You can view the capabilities of each hard drive, attributes, error log and self test log.
It also has 2 test modes that allow you to run a diagnostic test on the hard drive to make sure it is good.

GSC can be downloaded from it's home page found here;
GSmartControl Website

They have packages for all the popular Linux distros and an exe installer for Windows users although they will need to install GTK+ first.

As Linux matures we will find more software that provides the user with a GUI.
Some purists may not be happy with the proliferation of GUI's and tend to snub them as the GUI is not true Linux but the mainstream user wants or even demands a GUI.

Now go and grab this nice utility and know that you can now easily check your hard drive for possible problems.


The Website Is Down - A Humorous Look At......

OMG!! The Website Is Down!!!
Well, not really but the website at
provides a humorous look into the life of a lowly tech support guy and his innovative techniques used in damage control.

It's a fairly large video but worth every byte of bandwidth.
The voices remind me of the characters from South Park and add to the video.
Afterwards you can browse the extras like playing on the Sales Guy's computer.

So kick back, lighten up and enjoy the show!

Don't reboot the server!

Winfixer, XP Antivirus 2008 And Affiliates Are Busted!

After years of reigning terror on users and doing damage to their computers, the purveyors of scumware/scamware have been nailed and have had their assets frozen by a U.S. Federal Court.

The companies operated out of the Kiev, Ukraine and Cincinnati, Ohio.
These scammers bilked millions of dollars out of unsuspecting and/or unknowing users over the years.
They also damaged many users computers by illegally installing their scumware into users computers via 'infected' or altered website ads.

You can read more here and download the Justice Department complaint in PDF form;

Washington Post Story

Hopefully they will be shut down completely but it is highly doubtful.
For every scammer shut down, there are 5 more waiting to take it's place.

Stay Safe!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Linux, Windows or Mac Which Should I Use?

I see people's eyes rolling already. LOL!!
Nope! This isn't going to be a Linux, Windows, Mac is the best post.
Quite the opposite. I'm going to explore a bit of human nature.
Uh-Oh! LOL!!

People that personally know me will tell you I have turned into a very vocal proponent of Linux. This coming after many years of my using Windows.
I have also been exposed to Mac's many years ago because of their (At that time) awesome music editing capabilities. 32 track editing was unheard of on anything other then a Mac.

So as I go on my mini crusade I come in contact with many computer users and several OS's.
I always manage to get a comment in about Linux. Some people are interested and some aren't. Others become vocal that the OS they are using is the best. At an earlier time I would have launched a major attack defending Linux and why it is better. But age and maturity now come into play and I now look at all the parts of the equation.

The OS a person is using may be the best for them in terms of available software and comfort level. I'll be getting back to the comfort level but for now let's look at the software point of view.

If a person is a gamer then there is no denying that Windows is the OS of choice. It has the most titles available for it and has software specifically written for it. So talking about change for these users is pointless.
Also, many software titles are written for Windows only and the user may not have a choice.

Mac users are in a class of their own. Many Mac users that I have known have either used Mac's for audio editing, publishing or graphics. Many of your graphics designers and schools teaching graphic arts only use Mac's because they render color graphics with a quality unmatched by normal PC's.

And then we have the Linux users. Some people describe these users as geeky.
I prefer the term 'curious'. We tend to try stuff that most wouldn't. And we like the sense of security we have because of the way Linux is designed.
We enjoy the multiple flavors of Linux that are available to us. We like having choices.
But all isn't perfect. We have plenty but we still lack in some areas as do all the other major OS's. Nothing is 100%.

As I mentioned earlier there is also the 'comfort' level. Many people have been using Windows for as long as they have been using a computer. It is all they know. They use the same applications and software day in and day out. The click here, type there and that is how it works.
They feel comfortable and at ease with what they are using. Even the mention of using a new piece of software let alone a whole new OS will send waves of fear through them.

Many readers will know what I am saying. Just take a look at Office 2007 and how it's redesigned interface and options sent screams down the hallways that could be heard through the locked doors of the IT department.
"It's not like I had previously used!!"
"I can't use this! I want the old one back!"

We have infringed on the user's comfort zone. We have shook their world and now they are scared.
And this is the same reaction I see from many users when I mention Linux.
Some have never heard of it while others say they have heard it is very hard to use.

That last comment is probably a carry over from the early days of Unix. Many people use Unix and Linux like they are the same, but they aren't. The days when there were no GUI's, Desktops or routines that scanned your hardware and installed the proper drivers. Those were the 'Dark Ages' of Linux. Today it is a very polished alternative for many users but not all users!

For the graphic artists, gamers or users that have no alternatives to their proprietary software, Linux is not a viable alternative as a replacement OS.
But for the web browsing, power email forwarding user, Linux is an excellent and secure alternative.
For the person who is curious, not satisfied with few choices, doesn't want to spend a bundle on software or wasted time on scans and updating then Linux is something you may want to look into.

If your happy and in your comfort zone then stick with what you are using.
I'm not even going to suggest a Mac user to fully convert. They know where the stand and already have an adventurous spirit.

If you don't mind trying alternative software, feel adventurous and want to learn a little then give Linux a try. You may smile again.

But no matter what OS you are using it doesn't matter here. Everyone is welcome and if you feel like it, you can expand your comfort zone a bit.


Model Train Layout Cad Software

Linux and Open Source software is full of hidden surprises.
And I have just been surprised with this Cad software that allows you to design model railroad layouts. Like any Cad software that is worthwhile, xtrkcad supports layers and too many features to list here.

And you not only can edit your train layout but it also allows you to create an inventory of your engines and cars. Another feature is the layout estimator.
You can enter the prices of all the track and switches you plan on using and the software will generate a cost list for you.

I originally installed this package from the Repository and have ran into some error message issues. I plan on removing it and install it from the source code I downloaded from their website. As it is now, I can create and view my layouts or the included demo layouts but cannot run any trains on the tracks.

Did I mention that this software is also available for Windows and Mac's?
Well it is!
You can find all the info on thie xtrkcad Cad program below;
xtrkcad web page

They also mention that their layouts can now be imported into JMRI which is another railroad construction program based on Java.
If you are interested in JMRI you can follow the link below;
JMRI web page

xtrkcad is another jewel in the Open Source crown.
Every time I come across good quality Open Source software like this one, I feel like a little kid in a candy store.
My eyes get big and I shake with excitement.

Enjoy and a huge thanks to the Open Source community who's only payment from these projects is our gratitude.


Let It Snow And See Santa Fly On Your Desktop With Xsnow

Let it snow and have Santa fly the skies on your desktop.
This is a continuation of my "Games and Time Wasters" series.
Today I'm going to talk about a small application that will delight the children and the children at heart.
It's called xsnow and can be found in the Synaptic P
ackage Manager.

Open Synaptic and do a search for xsnow and mark it for installation.
Now open your terminal and type in xsnow.
You now have snow falling on your desktop and Santa flying across your screen.
To end it just close your term

Some n
otes and thoughts about this app. Feel free to add your thoughts in my comments section.
Xsnow is only viewable on the desktop. Any open window or web browser will cover it.
If you type xsnow --help in the terminal you will see additional parameters that you can append to the xsnow command.

The falling snow will obliterate your desktop icons like a Jedi Warriors light sabre. LOL!!
But don't worry. Shutting down the terminal will kill xsnow and restore your icons. If the icons disappear just select the clean up by name command from the right click or check and uncheck auto arrange.

I added a menu item for xsnow. I choose which category to have it in, selected New Item and choose Application in Terminal then added xsnow to the command field.
That way xsnow will be launched from the terminal window and is easy to quit just by shutting the terminal window.

Here's my xsnow desktop!

I think this holiday season I will be using this as my 'screensaver'!



Enable VirtualBox USB Support In Ubuntu 8.10 Ibex

I just got around to installing VirtualBox in my newly installed Ibex system.
Finished the install and noticed a warning message that there were no USB ports present or supported.

I know from past experience that to have USB access in VirtualBox that you need the PUEL version from their website and not the OSE version from the repositories.

So I do some searching and found some info that fixed the USB problem and is a very easy fix. It should work for all Ibex users and hopefully this problem will be fixed in future versions.

First make sure you have added your user to the list of VirtualBox users group. To do this just copy and paste the following into your terminal;

$ sudo gpasswd -a YOURUSERNAME vboxusers

Where YOURUSERNAME is your user name.

Now let's add some USB support to VirtualBox. Open the fstab file so you can edit it. Since it needs root permissions we can do it through the terminal with this command;

sudo gedit /etc/fstab

Now that the fstab file is open add the following command to the bottom of the fstab file;

none /proc/bus/usb usbfs devgid=46,devmode=664 0 0

Close the file making sure to save it.
Now reboot your computer and when you open VirtualBox you will have USB support.

Simple enough?



Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Video Converting And Audio Ripping Tool With GUI

A new tool called WinFF does a great job of converting videos and ripping audio from videos. It is available in .deb packages, exe for Windows, RPM's for Red Hat and source code for other OS's.

Since I updated to Ibex and have the newest VLC, I have encountered a serious problem when converting videos. That problem being that I have no audio.
My previous tutorial on how to convert videos is now confined to VLC version 0.8.6

I'm not really sure whether the audio problem is with VLC or with the ffmpeg codec. There are many posts saying that due to patent conflicts, ffmeg no longer supports ac3 or mp3 audio streams. I can't verify that info at this time.
My feeling is that the problem is a bug in VLC.
WinFF however solves this problem, makes it much easier to convert a video, offers many more formats and rips audio with a few clicks.

The GUI is intuitive. It's only a matter of choosing what video you want to convert, what format you want it in and where to save it.
And the list of presets is extensive. It offers the user a choice that will suit almost every need.

The presets are as follows;
Audio formats include Mp3, m4a, Ac3, Wav and WMA
AVI including MS compatible, Xvid 4:3 and 16:9
Creative Zen in Xvid 4:3 and 16:9
DV in Raw DV 4:3 and 16:9
DVD that includes almost every format in Pal and NTSC
iPod formats in Xvid and H.264
Mobile Phones in the 3g2 and Blackberry formats
Mp4 uses the H.264 format
Other presets include formats in the Palm, PSP, Quicktime, Rockbox, VCD, FLV and WMV

As you can see, this provides you with plenty of options.
And it also rips and converts audio!!
Of course you will need all the extra codecs to access all the features.
Ubuntu users can get those codecs from Medibuntu.
Windows users can check out the packages at Free-Codecs.

Where do I get it from?
I'll give you some links that you can check out and download it from.

The creator's blog can be found here;
Stop by and post a thanks for this handy tool.

Deb packages can be downloaded from this page;
WinFF .deb Downloads

Click on the arrow next to winff-0.43 to expand it then select the .deb package for either the !386 or the AMD64 depending what platform you are using.

The download page for OS's other then Ubuntu or .deb packages can be found here;
Winff Non-Deb

This is where you will find the exe, rpm and source packages.

I am very impressed with this tool and want to thank BiggMatt for all his hard work in providing the community with a very handy tool.



Friday, November 28, 2008

My Ubuntu File System Became Corrupted

The other day I was doing a few things on my Ubuntu system and decided to do a reboot.
On restart my system would hang on boot up.
So I rebooted and hit the ESC key to get access to the grub menu. I figured I'd try to try the recovery mode.

Well it wouldn't boot and reported a file system error. I told it to fix it. It tried but came back with a corrupt file system error.
Remebering back to my Windows days this can be a 2 day job until I get all the updates and software installed.
Fortunately, this isn't the case with Linux.

I was running Gutsy and had planned to upgrade to Ibex as I have been reading and receiving positive reports about it.
But I wasn't really ready to do it yet. I hadn't set up a seperate Home partiton when I installed Gutsy so my first task was to retrieve and back that folder up.

I grabbed my trusty Knoppix DVD and booted it up to a Live session.
I like Knoppix because it is easy to change Read/Write permissions on a hard drive or partition and provides you with a ton of applications should you need them.

Once I was up and running in Knoppix I began the task of moving about 40 gigs of data from my Home folder to a different partition on my hard drive.
The whole process took about 2 hours. Not really that long and it may have been less as I didn't time it but I do know it was not more then 2 hours.

Now that my data was safe I grabbed my Cd of Ibex which I had burned a few weeks ago in anticipation of upgrading.
The new partitioner is nicer looking and provides more info and options about the hard drives and partitions.
It was set to Automatic and wanted to resize the original partiton that contained Gutsy. Since that file system was corrupt and I didn't want Gutsy I clicked on the Manual Partitioning setting.

I told the partitioner not to touch my other hard drive or partitions.
Then I set up a partition for Home, Root and Swap.
Got through the rest of the screens and clicked Install.

The Cd spun up and it was about 15 minutes later I get a message that the install is finished!
I pop out the Cd and reboot. It boots back up and I'm looking at the new desktop.

First things first. I go and grab the updates. All 170 megs of them. Also grab the Nvidia restricted driver.
Then I install Thunderbird and configure it. I move my email inbox and addy book from my backed up Thunderbird.
Kill my network connection and open Thunderbird to make sure everything is there. It is!
So I reconnect my network and get my email.

Next I install a few Firefox addons and import my passwords and bookmarks.
Then I install Flash and a few other plugins.
Go to Medibuntu and add in their repository to my list.
Now I open Synaptic and procede to grab all the software and goodies I usually use.
Finally I move my Nautilus scripts from the backed up folder to the new script folder.

Total time for install of Ubuntu until I finished moving the scripts was 2 1/2 hours!!
A whole lot better the the day or two I would have spent restoring a Windows machine.
There are several reasons as to why it takes much less time with Linux.
2 of the major reasons are as follows;

1) When you download and install the updates you only have to reboot once after they are all installed. This is due to the kernel update and the installation of the Nvidia driver.

2) All the software I needed was available from a single source list. I didn't need to look all over the internet for the software packages. Also, I didn't need to reboot after every software install.

There are a few things I have previously done that helped my restore my system.
One is that I use the Password Import/Export addon for Firefox and export my password file everytime I acquire a new password.
Secondly is that I export my bookmarks on a regular basis although this is not really needed as Firefox regularly backs up your bookmarks to a sub-folder within the Firefox folder.

And as to the $1,000,000 question as to what caused my file system to become corrupt?
I searched the log files I had from the Gutsy system.
I'm using a Desktop system but my cpu is a mobile processor.
I had been playing with the hibernate and suspend features.

According to the log files, hibernate had failed 2 times in the past few times I had used it.
When hibernate is implemented, all the open data is stored to Ram.
Because hibernate failed to properly implement, I believe the data in the Ram became corrupted and was written back to the hard drive in it's corrupted form.
This caused damage to the file system which recovery could not repair.

So now I am up to date with Ibex. Have everything back up to where I previously had been and didn't loose one bit of my personal data.
And it was all finished within 1/2 a day!
And now that I have my Home on a seperate partition, I won't have to worry about crashes like this one again.

The key is not to panic and have a clear cut plan of action as to backing up your data and reinstall procedures.

Good to be back!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Online Shopping Deals Or Scams? Buyer Beware!

Buying online from a vendor can either be a good experience or a horror story.
Is that great deal really a deal or just some bait and switch tactic?
Will you get what you ordered or get a broken refurb? Or worse, nothing at all?
How about customer service and refunds?

Before you buy from that online merchant you may want to check them out at
Reseller Ratings

This site gives the customer a voice in expressing their opinions and experiences about many listed vendors.
Find out what experiences previous customers have had with an online store.
It may be a great deal by saving you money and grief.

Be safe!


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Create A Slide Show Video From Your Pictures

Manslide has a new name. It is now called Smile.

The Smile .deb package can be downloaded from here;
Smile .deb Package Download

There is also a good Smile How-to in the forums found here;
Smile How-To

While essentially the same as Manslide, it adds a few new features and a new GUI but also removed one or two transition effects from the menu.
I also had it lock up on me once. I imagine that since they redesigned it, they still have a few bugs to iron out.
The older Manslide package does not work properly in Ibex due to window display conflicts. The rest of the older article below is still useful for the newer Smile software.
Smile will add a menu entry in the Graphics section.

Manslide is a program that will take your pictures, create a slide show from them and export it to a mpg video file using the mpgv codec.
It has a very easy to use graphical interface.

You select the pictures you want to include in the slideshow.
Then you set the amount of time you want the picture to be displayed.
It even has an effects package that gives you several transitional effects for the picture's entry onto the screen.
Finally it also includes the ability to add an audio track.

This software will be very useful for the photographer who wants to make a video disk to show others their pictures.
Use it to make a presentation video or a recreation of your vacation.
Take the mpeg video it creates and convert it to a DVD format then burn it. Now you have a universal media for play on any DVD player.

There doesn't seem to be an official home page for this project right now but I did find this page that seems to have the most updated info;

Manslide at GetDeb

Ubuntu users can get this software through the Synaptic Package Manager.
Do a search for manslide and select the manslide package and the manslide-effects for the transition effects used in Manslide.

I know a former Windows user that tried making a video slide show in Windows that didn't turn out very well. I'm sure this package will work much better for him. :-)



Update Multiple Computers With a Cd Or DVD

Apt On Cd is handy utility that I had used during the Dapper and Feisty days.
As you update your computer, the packages you download are stored in the /var/cache/apt/archives
folder. They stay there as a sort of backup and if you reinstall a package.
This helps keep the strain off the repository server.

Apt On Cd takes advantage of the stored packages and creates an Iso file with configuration files that you can burn to a Cd or DVD then place it in another Ubuntu computer that needs updating.
Think of it as a portable repository.

This utility is perfect for multi computer users that have a slow internet connection or no connection at all on the other computers. It also makes updating the other computers faster as you no longer have to re-download the updates then install them.

Apt On Cd is available through the repositories. Open Synaptic Package Manager and do a search for aptoncd
Or you can get it from their website found here;

Windows Users Read This;

If you have a Windows system, I won't let you out of the loop.
There's a software app that grabs all the updates from the Microsoft server and creates an exe file that allows you to run it on other Windows computers of the same distro. It also lets you choose during the update process which updates you want to install.
And it has add-on products like Flash and Shockwave plus many tweaks.
You can get more info about it here;




Spice Up Your Desktop With This CPU Monitor

Hot Babe will spice up your desktop while also showing your CPU usage.
Although CPU usage may not be on your mind at the time! LOL!!

Download packages are available for numerous distros or as source code.
There is even a package ported for Windows users.

As your CPU usage goes up, the clothing comes off. Makes you want to peg out your CPU. LOL!!

You can get it in Ubuntu from the Synaptic Package Manager by doing a search for hot-babe.
During the install you will get a disclaimer requiring you to consent to the install due to the mature theme.

Other distros can download the packages from their website found here;
Hot Babe

Thanks to Rok for his suggestion to blog this.

And stay tuned for more desktop fun like penguins on your desktop or putting holes in your windows and task bar just for fun!



Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Sincere Thank You!!!

I want to thank all the visitors to my blog for reaching over 1600 visitors in a month.
To many of you this may not mean much. But to me it is a small victory.
When I started this blog, I didn't think anyone was visiting or even reading my entries.
So I installed a visitor meter to see how many people were coming here.
In the first week I was seeing somewhere around 30 visitors a day.
Today I had over 100 visitors!

This blog was started as a way for me to give back to the community regardless of what OS you use even though it is mostly geared towards Ubuntu.
To help those users solve problems or inform them of quality software, tricks and websites.
I've always been a teacher and mentor in the computer community.
And I hope that I can continue to bring you, my visitors, quality articles and help.

Again, it is to all of you that I say Thank You!
Now grab a brew and let's celebrate!!!!!

With much gratitude,


Show Me How - Show Me Do Tutorials

Show Me Do is a website I stumbled across that stopped me dead. And that's hard to do!
A website loaded with video tutorials on just about everything Linux.
A hidden jewel that everyone needs to check out.

Want to learn programming like Python, Ruby, Perl or C?
How about graphics software such a Blender, Gimp or Inkscape?
And plenty of tutorials on Linux and Ubuntu.

Words can convey an idea. Videos can show you first hand how to do it.
For me, I can learn more from a 5 minute movie then if I read 30 minutes of tutorials.

So do yourself a favor and get over to Show Me Do and maybe you can now learn that new developer language or software you've been meaning to try.
That's Show Me Do at;

Enjoy the show and good luck on your new venture!


Friday, November 21, 2008

Lock The Software or Kernel Versions

There are times you want to lock in your software or kernel version so that it won't upgrade to the next available version.
This article will show you how to do it and provide examples why you might want to do this.

You just got your Ubuntu system all tweaked out and running sweet. The Nvidia driver problems are all fixed and you are happy. BLINK! The updater has informed you about new updates.
So you click on the updater and start the download and install process. One of the updates is a new kernel. Cool! Might have some new features in it.
You finish the updates and restart your computer to enable the new kernel.

The video is screwed again. The new kernel hosed your old settings. After a few minutes of making changes you toss up your hands and scream at the top of your lungs.
Lucky for you, you can reboot and select the old kernel for your boot up.
Then you can use one of the tips from my previous blog entry to remove that new kernel.
However, every time you start your computer, the updater informs you that you have a new update. That update is the kernel you just got rid of. How can we tell the updater to ignore it?
Here's how;

Open up the Synaptic Package Manager and do a search for linux-headers.
Find the version you are now using and highlight it.
Now go to the Package button and click on the Lock Version button.
Go back to the search field and do a search for linux-image.
Find the version you are now using and lock that version also.

Now the update manager won't bug you about an update for the new kernel.
You can also use this for software you have installed.
Use this technique to prevent update problems when your system takes a dive with a new kernel or software version.



Thursday, November 20, 2008

Is Your ISP Reading Your Email?

Recently I had an incident with email that got me pretty fired up.
Seems AO-Hell scans and possibly reads you emails!
I sent an email to a friend who has an email account with AO#. You know who I'm talking about.
In my email to him, I included a link to my web page. Or should I say a redirected link.
For convenience and ease I use the redirect service. Works for me and is easy to remember.

So I have this link in an email to him and send it off. Minutes later it bounces back from AO#.
In the bounce back it contains an AO# web page link as to why it was rejected.
Seems the redirection service is on their black list of banned sites due to abuse from this domain.
What! Who are they to decide what is acceptable and what isn't. I'm also a bit irritated because I now see they are scanning emails for certain words and links.

Okay! I'll fix their a$$e$. I put the original email content in a text file, wrote a new email explaining the attached text file and sent it on it's merry way. A minute later it comes bouncing back for the same reason!
Now that means they are not only scanning emails but are scanning text and document files!
This is starting to scream "Invasion of Privacy!"

Alright AO-Hell! I'm gonna beat you at this game. Insert text file in a zip file. Attach to new email message and fire it off. Guess what? Yep! You guessed it! It bounced back. Same reason! Blacklisted domain link.
But now that tells me they are unzipping archive files and scanning them.
Those Privacy screams are getting louder.

I finally re-zipped that text file but added a password to the zip file. Attached it to a new email which included the password. Guess he got it. It didn't bounce back but I also haven't gotten a reply. Maybe they forwarded it into cyberspace where it will never be seen again?

There is much of the above scenario that bothers me. First is the fact that this email service and I'm sure many others are scanning your emails for certain words or links.
I use the word 'scanning' very loosely because we don't really know if it's just a scan or if the email contains certain words or links that it isn't forwarded to a real person who then reads it.

It seems that our privacy means little in the name of safety and security.
I don't know about you, but I don't need some ISP or email service making decisions for me as to whether a link is safe or not. I don't need them censoring my personal emails or scanning for words that they deem unacceptable!

So from now on if I have any sensitive or confidential info to email or just forwarding a stinking link it will be in a password protected archive file.
Just remember that TaZMAn sent it to you and that is all you will need to know.

Take care, be aware, stay safe.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Naultilus Scripts The Power Of The Right Click

Nautilus scripts are a collection of bash scripts that add a load of useful commands to your right click menu.
It's meant to be used in the Gnome Desktop manager. Sorry KDE users.

So how do you get these scripts? Simple. Go to this page and grab the package that interests you.
From a single script to the whole collection. That decision is up to you.
Get Nautilus Scripts

Now open up your Home folder and click on the View button in the tool bar. Select show hidden files. Now browse your Home folder and look for the .gnome2 folder. Now look for the folder named nautilus-scripts and open it.
Extract the Nautilus archive you downloaded into this folder. NOTE!: The archive extracts the scripts into a folder named nautilus-scripts. This will create a double layered entry so copy the scripts from within the extracted folder and paste them into the original nautilus-scripts folder then delete the nautilus-scripts folder that was created when you extracted the files.
Example of what you will have;
.gnome2/nautilus-scripts/nautilus-scripts/'FOLDERS WITH SCRIPTS'
What you want is this;
.gnome2/nautilus-scripts/'FOLDERS WITH SCRIPTS'
Now select a file and right click on it and check the properties. Make sure the file is executable.
Close the folder and reboot Nautilus or the computer.

Now when you are back up and running you can right click on a file, folder or even the Desktop and from the menu you will see an entry called Scripts.
Move your cursor to it and from the flyout menu you will see several folder entries that are named for what they can do.
Open a folder and you will see the collection of scripts. Click on one to make it work.
If it doesn't work, check the file properties and make sure it's executable.

The list of scripts in the complete package is extensive but some of the useful ones include Root-Nautilus Here, Scale Images, Convert PNG to JPG, Convert JPG to PNG, CHMOD, RPM Tools, Set As Wallpaper and about 140 more!

Also, if you grab the Split Rar script from one of my earlier blog entries and put it in the nautilus-scripts folder it will be available from the right click menu.



Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ubuntu to debut on smartphones

Mobile phone chip designer Arm has announced an alliance with the makers of the Ubuntu open source software.

You can read the rest of the story at the BBC found here;
BBC Story


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Girl Who Silenced The World For 5 Minutes

A very powerful message to the U.N. from a 12 year old Vancouver girl.
Nothing I could say would come close to what she said.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Create Desktop URL Shortcuts With Deskcut

So I have a former Windows user who wants to clutter up their desktop with URL shortcuts. Go figure? LOL!!
They changed over to Ubuntu and have no complaints other then the inability to easily create url shortcuts on their desktop with Firefox.

Well I came across a Firefox plugin that fixed them right up. It's called Deskcut and can be had from here;

It adds a entry in the right click menu shell that easily allows you to make url shortcuts on the desktop. It even allows you to change how it names the shortcut.
So if you are a url shortcut junkie then this plugin is for you.



Another New Ubuntu User

I'm still on my 100 person crusade. My goal is to convert at least 100 people over to Ubuntu. Today I didn't add another person to that list. I added a business!!!
A local home center that is owned by my relatives were having major problems with viruses and spyware in XP. More about that later.

My nephew finally had enough. He had heard me talk about Ubuntu numerous times and asked if I could convert them over. Yep! No problem. I'll be down to do it.
And today it happened.

I got there and using my flash drive, I saved their documents. Then I popped in the new Ubuntu Ibex Cd and restarted the computer. Started Ubuntu as a Live Cd and checked out the hardware. Everything was detected and worked. Also to my relief, the printer they use is an HP. Opened up Firefox and went to HP's site to make sure it was supported. Found that it had full support. Good! Now to click the install link and start the process.

The system this was being installed in to is an older Pentium (1 Gig) CPU with 512 megs of Ram and using 32 megs of shared video. Not something that would be conducive to a Vista upgrade. Besides, the idea is to have a system that is immune from spyware and viruses.

The install was painless and took about 30 minutes. Once it was fully installed and I did the customary reboot and remove the Cd I was back up to their newly installed Ubuntu desktop. And I was also starring at the Updater blaring the Updates Available message. 68 of them including a kernel update.
Clicked on it and about 25 minutes later I was restarting the computer due to the kernel update.

Now I have the full system updated and ready to go. I still have some stuff to do. Get their bookmarks into Firefox and test out the printer. Everything works and looks good. Next I install VirtualBox. Huh!??? Why???
Well one of the sites they use to submit orders requires Internet Explorer because it uses ActiveX plugins to handle the login and displaying the catalog.
Talk about a security risk! Why anyone would require ActiveX to handle passwords is beyond me.
I also believe this was one of the backdoors that caused them problems with viruses and spyware.

So I install Virtual Box and XP from the Cd that came with their system.
The PC was a local computer shop build that came with a real XP Cd. But being a custom system presented it's own problems later on. I got XP installed in Virtual Box and got online with it.

Went to HP's web site and grabbed the XP drivers for the printer. Installed them, rebooted the XP and went to test the printer.
What The!.........
No printer is found! Checking around I find that there are no system drivers installed to support the USB for the motherboard.

Motherboard. What make is it? Don't know??? Nothing that identifies it. But from Ubuntu I see the audio drivers are Alsa drivers for an SIS motherboard.
Okay. Time to run some Google searches while I'm kicking myself in the arse for not bringing along my multi-driver Cd's.

Found a likely driver candidate for the USB and popped it in. New Hardware detected.
That's a good sign. Get it installed and now have a USB bus.
It's at this point I need to mention that XP had me very annoyed. Not only did it not have drivers for the USB unlike Ubuntu but everything I installed including the printer driver required a restart!

Got the USB drivers in then had to uninstall and reinstall the printer driver which required 2 more restarts! Grumble.......
Finally I got it up and running. Set up the security in Internet Explorer and shut down XP. Then I took a snapshot of the Virtual Box XP as a way to get back to a clean slate should anything happen.

I then advised them to only use XP and IE for only that site.
That using Firefox in Ubuntu will keep them clean and secure.
The job was finished.
Ubuntu install was nothing compared to the hassles I encountered with Virtual Box.

And before anyone screams foul, I will mention right now that I am not an XP newbie. I was an XP junkie and power user. I used to hack the shell and even rebuilt the dll controlling the animation for files being transferred to the trash. My version had a stick figure guy wiping his butt with the paper then put it into the trash bin.
I know my way around XP and had been using it for years.

Today was a triumphant day due to me converting a business over to Ubuntu but was also an eye opening day. I saw Windows in all it's ugliness and all I can say is I'm glad I made the switch from it.

I'm sure they will have a few questions as they get used to Ubuntu but at least they won't be calling about virus problems. And if they do, it will be in the Virtual Box XP and that will be fixed with one or two clicks.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Multiboot Linux Cd And Automake Script Download

I have been asked numerous times about providing download links to some of my multiboot disks I have made. Unfortunately, they are all over 4 gigs as they contain 8 or more distros on them and my upload speeds make that type of upload almost impossible.

So I put together a small multiboot Cd that will provide you with Damn Small Linux, Puppy Linux and Memtest.
The total size is 136 megs and is split into 2 rar files (Using the script in my previous post) and is available via the 2 Rapidshare links.

MultiCd Part 1 75 Megs

MultiCd Part 2 61 Megs

Not only do you have a small Iso file but it contains 2 fully functional Linux systems and a utility to test your Ram! Also, both are very small and fast and will work on older, slower systems with minimal Ram and hardware.

It will also help you to see how a multiboot Cd is made although I have a confession to make.
Every other multiboot disk I have ever made was created by me from scratch. I did all the tedious editting and creating both the loader and menu.

But then I found a forum post that has a script to make multiboot disks.
It supports many distros and even a WinPE compilation.
There is a slight bug however that doesn't seem to affect the final Iso.
It has to do with the genisoimage version 1.1.6
I get an error that it expected a certain value but gets a different value.
No matter. I leave it run and it usually finishes with a working Iso.

But I have had the occasional tests where the script failed after getting that error.
It is a known bug when dealing with genisoimage version 1.1.6
If you use an older version you have no problems.
I must express the fact that the genisoimage bug is not due to itself but rather the way scripts are trying to use genisoimage.

Another con of this script is that it allows a limited choice of Linux distros.
The creator of the script has done a remarkable job of adding many distros but there are some good ones missing.
Also, because many distros use the same kernel you have to be careful of which versions you add into your compilation.

Examples would be Damn Small Linux and Knoppix. They both use the Knoppix kernel. Because the kernel of each Distro needs to be in the root path of the Cd and they are named the same you can't use both on a Cd unless you do custom editting of the files needed to boot up a renamed kernel.

But other then that it does a good job of creating multiboot Iso's.

The forum post can be found here;

And the script file can be found on this page;

I strongly suggest you read all the pages in the forum post and the page at tuxfamily to understand how this script is used.



P.S. I hope a few thank you's are in order.

Create Split Archives and Files Using A GUI

I came to Linux after using Windows for years and during that time I became spoiled using a Graphical User Interface (GUI) for almost all the software.
Winrar was one of those programs that I used to create split archives.

But when I started using Linux I found that archiving files into split rar files required me to open the terminal and type in the commands to arrive at the final solution.
But no more! That has changed with the help of a small script that creates a GUI and makes archiving and splitting files an easy process.

I know. I can hear the comments. Use File Roller or use the free 7zip.
Using either of these requires the use of the command line to create split archives.
I can also use the Windows version of 7zip in Wine which will create split files but using Wine is not the objective here. I'm trying to use software that is native to Linux and this script fits the bill.

The actual script download is found in an Ubuntu forum link that can be found here;
Ubuntu Forum

This will require you to sign up for free as a member.

But if you don't want to sign up I'm providing the actual tar.gz file links to Rapidshare.
There are 2 versions and both come with updaters.
One is the standard interface and the other contains a modified interface.
Both tar.gz files are about 3k each.

Download links;
Standard GUI

Modified GUI

All I did was extract the tar.gz files to a folder. Then I opened the folder and clicked on the file. It asked me what to do and I chose the Run option.
The GUI opened up and I was easily able to create several split files.

What you can do is integrate this into your menu as a software option or even include it into your right click shell just like you do with the Nautilus Scripts.

Also, you will see a file named
Running this file will check for any updates to this script.

There doesn't seem to be any bugs with this script but I haven't tried out all the options so if you do find any bugs you can contact the maker.



Monday, November 3, 2008

Poll: Hardy Heron and Nvidia Drivers

Still using Gutsy because of previous problems with Hardy and the Nvidia driver.
Since then, Hardy has updated many of their files and kernels. I also have upgraded to a pci-e x16 video card.

So I have to ask this question of the visitors to my blog;

Do you use Hardy with a Nvidia card and have you been able to get the proper resolutions with it?

Feel free to leave your comments below and to help others, maybe a short description of how you solved any problems.



Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Convert Video With VLC

There is a new easy to use tool that converts Videos and rips Audio.
It can be found in my blog here;
WinFF Blog Post

In one of my previous blog entries from May, I showed you how to extract audio from a video using VLC.
Now I will show you how to convert videos from one format to another.
Convert avi, DVD vob's, flv, ogg, wmv, divx, mpeg or mp4 for your iPod to any format just mentioned.
And it an easy process that only takes a few minutes to master and doesn't require the installing of several programs. The only thing you need is
vlc and the needed codecs installed.
Ready? Let's go!

For you to be able to convert between all the different video formats requires you to have the following codecs installed.
First go to Medibuntu and follow the directions to install the non-free codecs. Here is the link to Medibuntu;

Now from the Synaptic package manager make sure you have the following installed;


All the libavcodec files, w32codecs and all the libdivx files for decoding and encoding.

Once your satisfied that all the needed codecs are installed open up vlc and follow the instructions.

With vlc open go to File and click on Open File. Make sure you don't clcik on the Quick Open button by mistake.
You should see a screen like this;

You will see a screen like below from where you choose the file you want to convert.

Once you select the video file you need to go down the screen and check the box that says
Stream/Save then click on the Settings button.

Now you get the screen that is your business screen.
First you need to check the box marked File.
Then click on Browse. You will browse to the folder where you want to save your converted video.
You will also be giving your converted video it's name with the extension.
IMPORTANT! You must add the extension to the name.
Example: I am converting the video Fun.flv to a mp2 mpeg so my new file name will be fun.mpeg
If you don't add the file extension to the end of your new file name it will convert the video into a random file and may not work.

Here you can see my new video file with the .mpeg extension in the file name window.

Now go down to the Encapsulation Method. I find that Video TS works the best.
Next click on the Video Codec box and from the drop box choose the video codec that matches the format you want to convert to.
The drop box looks like this;

Also make sure the bitrate is set to 1024. Larger bitrates create larger video files.
Scale should be set to one.

Now click on the Audio Codec box and choose mp3 for stereo and set the Channels box to 2 and the bitrate for 192 to get a quality sound output.
You can also use the a52 codec for surround sound if your video is encoded with it. Make sure to set your Channels box to the appropriate number of audio tracks.
The screen will look like this;

Now click on OK to continue.
You will now see this screen;

Make sure the video location entries match in the top and bottom boxes.
If they do click on OK.
Now you will see the VLC player position bar slide across as it recodes your video.
When it reaches the end your video is done.

Some final thoughts.
Many of my recoded videos are at a frame rate of 25 fps when I convert.
Also the video remains at the same resolution as the original.
I haven't played with the Scale settings. This may be the way you can enlarge your videos but be advised that too much scaling will cause pixielation. But I let that up to you, the readers, to investigate this setting.

So there you go! An easy way to convert videos to other formats.



Thursday, October 23, 2008

Audacious Media Player Waste of Time

With XMMS going by the wayside as in no more development I decided to see what was available as a replacement in my Gutsy system.
A quick Google search presents me with a media player going by the name Audacious. That name couldn't be a better fit. And I need to point out that you should not confuse this program with Audacity which is a very good audio editor in it's own right.

I open up the Synaptic Package Manager and do a search for Audacious. Mark the main package and try to mark the plug-ins but it's not going to happen. When I marked the main package for installation it popped up an error that said it can't be installed because the plug-ins aren't going to be installed. HUH!!!

I'm trying to mark the plug-ins but the main package error prevents me from adding them on.
So I try marking the plug-ins first. Same problem. I get an error message that the main program isn't going to be installed so the plug-ins can't be installed.
This is NUTS!!!

Alright then. I'll go to their website and see what's going on. I click on the link for their site from a Google search and am presented with a page that says "It Works!"
That's nice. Maybe that page works but the software package sure doesn't. I'm getting this bad feeling. Packages are messed up and the website is down.

Okay! I'll go and grab the .deb packages. Download them and when I try to install them I get the same errors as I did in Synaptic.

Okay! Sigh! I'll grab the source code and compile it from there. So I grab the base and plug-in source code and get to work.
Dependency errors! Drat! Or should I say error because it said I was missing one file.
Go and grab the source for that file, compile and install it.
Back to the main package. Another dependency error. After about 5 of these I finally get the main package installed.

Next I install the 3 plug-in packages and thankfully they go much easier.
Now I open up Audacious and it looks suspiciously similar to XMMS even though the developers have said in many articles that they are trying to design a media player that is not a continuation of XMMS and will stand on it's own merit.

I open the file browser and tell Audacious to open an Mp3 file.
ERROR! Either the file permissions are not set properly or you don't have the proper codec installed.
I check to see what plug-ins I have installed. There is a whole list of them but no where do I see one for playing Mp3's. I check on a few forums and apparently that plug-in should be either in the base or dev plug-in package.

So I reinstall the plug-in packages. Still no luck. I go online to see if I can find any other info. Plenty of people posting about problems opening Mp3 files but no real solutions other then to make sure the plug-in packages were installed.

That's when I made my decision. Sudo apt-get remove audacious and all the plug-ins.
I knew this package was a bad omen when I had problems installing through Synaptic and found a dead website.

I'll stick with VLC. It has some quirks but the additional features like audio ripping and video conversion more then make up for those few minor annoyances.
And I have to really wonder what direction Audacious will really take.
Broken .deb packages and websites that are down do not paint a rosey picture for it's future.
I know it left a very bad taste in my mouth and it will take the Audacious developers a lot of work and plenty of add on features for me to even take a look at it again.

In retrospect I did get a good refresher course on compiling and installing from a source package and I honed my skills on finding missing dependency packages.
But the time wasted on a software product of shoddy construction was time I could have used on better things.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Blog Entry Poster

Just downloaded and trying out a piece of software available through the Synaptic Package Manager called Blog Entry Poster.

It allows me to add new posts to this blog right from my desktop. No need to open up Firefox and log in to my page.

Well I guess I will still have to open my browser and go to my blog to see how this turned out. I do know one con about this software and that is the inability to add tags to any posts made with this software. It will require me to still log into my blog and edit the post to add the tags.

But this is still a good utility. Especially if I'm doing something and I want to do a quick post on this blog.



Shoutcast Bug In Streamtuner

So last week I fired up Streamtuner. It's been awhile since I have used it to listen to online music now that I have been using Songbird, so I was a bit upset when I couldn't get any listings for the Shoutcast feed.
At first I thought there was a glitch with their server but after a few days of checking it, I found it was still not working.
So I went digging.

Turns out that Shoutcast changed their website. The old Streamtuner plug-in doesn't work with the new design. What needed to be done was to fire up a hex editor and update the plug-in. But not an update that would use their new site feed. Nope! That would require a full rewrite of the plug-in code.

What I did was to find the Shoutcast address in the plug-in and change it to the new address that points to the old site that Shoutcast is maintaining.

Here's what you need to do in order to fix the Shoutcast plug-in.
Fire up your favorite hex editor and use it to open up the plug-in found in usr/lib/streamtuner/plugins.
Now search for the two instances of and replace them with making sure you keep the spacing sane.
Now save it back into your folder.
Open up Streamtuner and go to the Shoutcast tab. You should now see your listings. If your don't just click on the Reload button.

For those of you who are saying that you don't know how to use a hex editor, no worries.
Here is a link to the patched shoutcast plug-in.
Download Plugin

Copy the plug-in, go to usr/lib/streamtuner/plugins folder. Open it as Root. Delete the existing file and paste this patched file in to the folder.
Now open up Streamtuner, go to the Shoutcast tab and your listings should show up.

This is only a quick fix as it doesn't allow Streamtuner to access the new Shoutcast site and categories. Streamtuner itself needs to be fixed. I believe the original designer quit the project several years ago as there haven't been any updated versions. But I do believe there are some people maintaining it and hopefully they will release a newer 'fixed' version.


Thanks to Ernie for this easy fix that offers more functionality.

An alternative solution can be to edit your hosts file (/etc/hosts) and add the following line:
That overrides the ip address provided by the DNS. It fixes the issue and you can access the webpage from the browser too.

Thanks again Ernie!



Sunday, October 12, 2008

Install Additional Compiz Plugins In Gutsy And Newer Versions

This post is only for Gutsy users. If you have Hardy and have the up to date Compiz installed you should already have these plugins.

Do you want all those cool plugins like you see in those youtube videos?
Stuff like 3D Windows, Atlantis, Snow Globe, Photo Wheel, Wallpaper and several others?

It's real easy. If your using Gutsy, get on over to this Compiz-Fusion page

For newer Linux releases you can view the list of all available plugins from this page;
All Plugins

To download and install them (You will need Git) follow the directions found here;

Enjoy your new plugins!

Here is a screen grab of my cube.

And here's a video I found at youtube for your entertainment.



Cd / DVD Label and Insert Maker

I made a Cd as a present for some friends of ours.
As I put the Cd in the case, I realized it looked too plain. It needed a case insert.
I played around with making my own case insert using the Open Office word processor but it was tedious and I couldn't get it it quite right.

So I decided to look on the internet for a linux based Cd/DVD case insert maker.
It only took a few seconds for me to find this online label maker;

Online Cd/DVD Maker Mirror

Note: The above link now points to the main web page from which you can access the online label maker. I used to provide a direct link to the online maker but the author keeps changing the address.

It was more then I had hoped for. It not only would make my case inserts for Cd's but also does DVD cases, Cd/DVD labels and envelopes.

All I had to do was enter the song list info, upload a picture and the website generated a file that I could print or save. Excellent!!

But it's an online service (Free) and I wanted a program that allowed me to do the same thing from my computer locally.
Not to worry. I started reading his page and saw a link for the source code which is found here;
Source Code

All I had to do was download the cdlabelgen-4.0.0 tar.gz file, extract it and do a make install from the terminal. It was done installing as fast I pressed the Enter button. Notice that I didn't say I used make because that command wasn't needed nor was configure.

Okay! I had the Cd label generator files installed but this only allows me to make labels and inserts from the terminal. Since I'm not one to enjoy typing tons of commands to do a task I needed a GUI for this software.

That's where gtkcdlabel comes in. It provides a graphical user interface that is easy to use and makes labels and inserts in seconds. It also has a preview button that allows you to see what the insert or label looks like before you print it.
And this GUI package comes in the form of a deb file in addition to rpm and source files.
I downloaded the deb file, clicked on it and installed it.

You can get the gtkcdlabel package from here; (Note! They also have the cdlabelgen-4.0.0 packages available for download)
Download Page

Once installed, you will find it under your Applications - Office category in your menu if you are using Ubuntu.

The only problem I came across so far had to do with the color option selector.
I would choose a color for the text but it would preview as a different color.
I had used the default black text color when I created the insert for my Cd case and had no issues but it may take some playing around to get the correct color. And I'm not sure if the preview is displaying the wrong color but will print the correct color or if it's a glitch with the software.

Other then that this software gets a 4 thumbs up for saving my present from blandness and turning it into a professional looking Cd case.

And with the option to use the online website to make your inserts and covers, that will allow users of those other OS's to create their own inserts and labels without having to spend $$$ on another piece of software.