Sunday, April 27, 2008

Using Photoshop Plugins in Gimp

If you use the Gimp you may or may not know that there is a way to use Photoshop filters within the Gimp.
And all it takes is the addition of 2 files.

The Gimp has many nice filters and scripts to create great effects and logos like those found at Cool Text
But there has always been a small deficiency in the filter department. Now that has been filled with this add-on.

This is not only for Ubuntu users. It works for Windows and other Linux distros.

Here is the link to the page that has the files you need;


I have been using it in Ubuntu and I have found it works with Harry's filters
and many other free filter sets. I have tried the Alienskin Xenofex 2 filter package but it does not work. I think it works best with single filters rather then all-in-one packages like those from Alienskin.

The web site also mentions filters from Flaming Pear
I'm assuming that these will also work but can't verify it as I haven't tried any of them yet.

Enjoy your new filters in the Gimp!


How to view Powerpoint 2007 files in Ubuntu

Been extremely busy with R/W stuff and helping the many Ubuntu users I got to convert.

One problem that arose recently had to do with a Powerpoint 2007 file that couldn't be viewed.

Microsoft has been wearing the "Let's help out the open source community" mask lately during it's battle to use their version of open source document format. But we all know that they have no intentions of helping or releasing software to help this community.
Otherwise we would have a Powerpoint viewer released under the GPL.

Instead we can either use the viewer found in Open Office or try the pptviewer found in the repositories.
But neither one works for files made with the 2007 version if it is password protected against changes.

So how do I view it?
Well it requires the use of wine and the Powerpoint 2007 viewer that can be downloaded from Micro$oft.
You can get it here;

First you need to make sure you have wine installed.
Once you have downloaded the exe file right click on it and from the options choose 'Open With'.
Now select wine.
If wine is not in your choices go to where it says 'Custom Command' and type in wine.

Now the ppt2007 installer will start. Accept the licensing nonsense and the install will start.
When it is done, you will have a link to it from your Applications-Wine-Program drop down.

But that is a pain to have to open it up, browse to the file then view it. So let's set the file to use this viewer for all ppt files.

Right click on any ppt file and select Properties.
Go to the tab marked Open With.
Now choose Add.
It won't be on the list so we need to add it in. Select the Add button.
Now click on the 'Use a Custom Command'.
Click on Browse.
Go to your home folder. That is the folder that has your user name.
Open that folder. Now right click and choose 'Show Hidden Files'.
Scroll down until you see the .wine folder.
Open that folder then open the drive_c folder.
Open the Program Files folder the the Microsoft Office folder followed by the Office12 folder.

Select the PPTVIEW.EXE file and click on the Open button in the bottom right of the screen.
Now the PPTVIEW file will be in your Open With window.
Make sure the radio button i selected next to the entry and click on Close.
Now you powerpoint files will open with this viewer automatically.

Some hints and tips.
The viewer screen will completely take up your whole screen. There will be no controls.
To access options such as 'next slide' or 'quit' just right click anywhere in the screen.

One problem I did encounter has to do with the automatic opening of them.
Seems that the location of the first ppt file you open and configure determines whether other files open automatically.
If you configured ppt 2007 to automatically open these files with a file on the Desktop then any ppt file on the desktop will be opened with ppt2007.
But if you try opening a ppt file found elsewhere on your system then the 'Browse for file' window will open.

Must be a glitch between wine and the ppt 2007 viewer. Apparently it doesn't pass the file extension parameters across all the folders.

Some final thoughts.
I only offer this work around as a last resort. It's unfortunate that we have to deal with a slew of proprietary formats and are left with very few choices to use these formats.
The pptviewer found in the repositories is nothing more then Micro$oft's ppt viewer '97 configured under wine.

Open Office works well for many ppt files and I suggest you use that option as much as possible.
Hopefully they will come up with a new version to handle these files.

Support your open source community. It's the real future.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

New Ubuntu 8.04 RC Tested

I broke down today and downloaded the 8.04 Release Candidate versions of Ubuntu and Kubuntu.

Some info on the test systems.

XP system is using XP Pro that has been modded by me to be lightweight At idle it uses about 230 megs of Ram. It has an NForce 2 Asus mobo, AMD Barton 2500 CPU, 1 gig of Dual Channel PC3200 Ram, FX 5200 AGP 8X video card, integrated Sound Storm 6 channel audio, integrated nic card and a 500 Gig Sata hard drive.
No Antivirus or Spyware software to slow me down as it is not connected to the internet. Only connection is through samba to my Linux system.

My Linux system runs Ubuntu as the default OS.
It's a Biostar Nvidia based mobo
with an AMD 3000 Sempron Mobile CPU, 512 megs of PC3200 Ram, integrated GeForce 6100 video, integrated nic and 7.1 audio, 120 gig ATA 100 hard drive.

First I tried them in my XP system using Qemu. Not a good outcome. Ubuntu would crash with a network card not found error.
Kubuntu did run but not in a full screen mode. However, I decided to try it in a 800 x 600 mode.

The Kubuntu I used was the KDE 4 version. I wanted this version because I was intrigued by the Plasma desktop that I had read about.
To be fair, I didn't test it very long because of the lag times I was experiencing.
I have run both versions of 7.10 this way and have not experienced this much lag time. I have a feeling it is due to Plasma because as I was making changes to the desktop wallpaper and other settings I would see Plasma deleting files that were used by the previous settings.
Also, I would experience changes to my menu and system tray based on what I was doing.
From what I have read about Plasma, I can understand why all this was happening. Plasma is a dynamic and very fluid desktop that changes in real time to what you are doing presently. As I said, I was intrigued by it.
But with the lag times being so bad, I found it was a bit intrusive and making decisions for me. That is not a feature I favor.
A quick look at the default software installs gave me the standard fare.
I didn't get a chance to check out the administrative tools because by the time I clicked on the button I was almost locked up.
Odd that it would eat up almost 700 megs in virtual mode.
To me this seems that KDE 4 may be a memory hog. But that will be better determined when it is fully released and installed into a dedicated system.

Ubuntu on the other hand would not boot up in Qemu. Even when I tried the newer 0.9.1 version. Kept crashing with a hardware not found error.
So I decided to try it on my Linux system using VirtualBox.
I use VirtualBox to run XP inside Linux for some testing and demonstration purposes. Using it to test a new Linux release candidate is not the best of choices due to the 512 megs of Ram in this system. But I gave it a try anyway.

After the install I was faced with a screen resolution of 800 x 600 and no audio. Decided to download and install the Nvidia video driver but when I ran the installer package it said that there was no Nvidia video card installed. This may be due to VirtualBox. I'm not sure. So I plugged along at 800 X 600.

First thing I had to do was to download and install 47 updates! LOL!!
My Release Candidate got updates already. Can't wait to see how many there are on opening day. Grin!

The layout is the standard Ubuntu style. You won't get lost or confused due to someone deciding to change the menu and desktop layout like some other company we all have heard of.

The only new changes I saw was in the software department.
Brasero which is a Gnome based Cd/DVD burning program and a new torrent client named Transmission.

I have also read about the addition of the Wubi installer. It allows users of XP and Vista to install Ubuntu from within XP or Vista and set up a dual boot. And if you so desire, you can uninstall Ubuntu from the Add/Remove menu.
Unfortunately, there is no option at this time to uninstall Windows from within Linux once the user finds out he really doesn't need or want Windows anymore.

On other thing I noticed. Ubuntu running inside VirtualBox on my 512 meg Ram Linux system was faster and much more responsive then was Kubuntu running in Qemu on my 1 Gig Ram XP system.
Should be interesting to see how they fair in a full install environment.

I'm excited for the new LTS Ubuntu release. But not that excited that I'm going to grab it one the first day. Oh no! I learned that lesson a long time ago.
It's best to wait on the upgrade. How long? Oh, I'd say about a month or so.
There will be less traffic at the servers, any update bugs will be found and hopefully there will be workarounds to those bugs and if you wait until the updated .1 version is released (Approx. 1st week of June) you will be updating with a bug-fix version that should make upgrading a breeze.

I am aware that I could have burned these iso's to Cd's and tested them in a 'Live' environment but I'm trying to keep my disk count down. It's getting very tough to keep track of everything I have. Besides, these are release candidates. Probably very close to what will be the final version but not worth it to burn to a Cd.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Running on a 400mhz

I had this old Compaq laying around for several months.
It was a give away from a customer.
High end for it's 1999 debut. An AMD K6-2 400 mhz CPU with a whopping 64 megs of Ram, 10 gig hard drive, integrated ATI Rage Pro video chip, integrated LAN and Creative SB16 audio chip.

They were going to trash it but I decided to 'rescue' it for some unknown future use. That future is now.
I yanked out the 64 meg stick of Ram and installed 2 sticks of 128 meg Ram.

Used the Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 aternate install Cd. This uses the text based installer rather then the Live Cd mode of installing the system.

The install was very slow due to the antique Cd unit. In retrospect I should have swapped in my Cd/DVD unit to do the install. Anyway, 3 hours later and I had a desktop.

It is functional to a point. Have some minor fixes to do.
The audio doesn't work. Seems the emulated SB-16 chip is a problem. All I need to do is find the correct audio driver, install it and make sure it is in the start up config file.

Next is the video. I had a small bar code looking image in the top left corner of the screen. Open the terminal and type any letter will make it disappear.
I will look into this problem. I have read that changing the refresh rate will keep it from appearing. I also saw a post talking about making sure metacity is enabled.

Finally is the power management. When you shut down the computer, it goes through all the motions and then displays a message that the system has been shut down but the monitor and computer are still on.
The Bios is a 1999 vintage and Ubuntu will not implement the ACPI so I will need to force it into the system.

All of these problems are very minor and are fixable.
Once I get them fixed I will post them here.
As I see it, I have another computer that is fully functional and didn't cost me a dime!

No wonder Microshaft hates Linux.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Compile and Install from Source Code

So you found some neat software that isn't in the repositories or doesn't have a .deb package. (See my post on Security about .deb packages.)

The only option is to download the tar file and compile it and install it.
Although this sounds scary it's really not that hard to do.

Here is a step by step how to.

The simplest place to download the tar.gz file is on your desktop.
Let's say the file name is xyz.tar.gz

Note: The extension for the tar file can be one of the following;
.gz .tgz .bz .b2z

Now create a directory in your home folder where you will uncompress the files. (Mine is named “source”)

Open up your terminal and type this in;

cd Desktop

This will navigate you to your desktop where the tar file is located.

Uncompress your tarballs into the folder using the -c option as follows (and replacing “source” with the name of your directory):

If the file was compressed with gzip it will have the tar.gz or the .tgz extension and you need to use the following code.

If the file has the .tgz extension use this;

tar zxvf xyz.tgz -C ~/source

If the file has the .gz extension use this;

tar zxvf xyz.tar.gz -C ~/source

If the file was compressed with bzip it will have the .bz or the .b2z extension and you should use these commands;

For the .bz extension use this;

tar jxvf -C ~/source

For the .b2z extension use this;

tar jxvf xyz.tar.b2z -C ~/source

If you don’t know the compression method that has been used you can use the file command:

file nameoffile

Now type this into the terminal to change back to your home folder;


Now change directories to your uncompressed files by typing this into the terminal;

cd source/xyz

It is also recommended you go to the directory in Nautilus and look for a “README” or “INSTALL” file, because the software might require you to do things in a specific manner. Normally you would compile the source code like this:


This will run a script to see whether or not all the dependencies are correct and your build environment are right. If you are missing dependencies the script should tell you the ones you are missing and what it needs.

When the configure script is finished (has completed correctly), run this:


Make will do the initial compiling of your software. To finish it of and install your software run:

sudo make install

If the compilation doesn’t succeed check the errors and run:

make clean

before you restart. To remove the software if you don’t need/ want/ like it simply run:

sudo make uninstall

You have now learned how to unpack, compile and install / uninstall a program from source code.
See! It was easy!


Almost Paintshop Pro

I'm talking about Krita.

Web page can be found here;
Krita Web Page

I've used Gimp even during my Windows days in tandem with Paintshop Pro but one thing that always annoyed me with the Gimp was the multiple windows I had to contend with.
And the interface was a bit clunky but I put up with it.

But tonight I read about Krita and decided to download it and try it.
Wow! Deja-Vu! It looked and acted almost like Paintshop Pro.
There are some differences but it felt more comfortable.

Krita is a painting and image editing application for KOffice but doesn't require you to install the complete office suite.
Heck! It doesn't even require you to have KDE installed.

I'm using Gutsy Gibbon with the Gnome desktop manager and all I had to do was open Synaptic, put krita in the search box and check the boxes to install it.
I also check the box to add the optional filters.

The list of filters contain the standard fare but with the add-ons you also get dodge and burn.
There is also a filter preview window that shows you what each filter will do to your image before you apply it. Makes it easy to find the right filter for the effect you want.

Just wish the Alien Skin filters were available for Linux.

So if you are looking for a graphics program that feels better then the Gimp try Krita.
You may be pleasantly surprised.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Idiots In Charge

There are some stories that I read and say to myself WTF!!!!
Yesterday I read one of those stories.

The character's in this story are the Federal Gov't. , Michael Chertoff Homeland Security Chief and Rod Beckstrom founder of

You can see where this is going already!

Seems the Fed's got a dim light bulb to illuminate the empty crevices in their head where the brain is usually found and came up with another one of their "Put massive amounts of money in your buddy's pockets!" idea.

It has finally dawned on
Michael Chertoff that a hacker attack or God forbid, a 'terrorist hijacking' (His words) of the financial systems in this country could have some dire consequences.
No Shit Sherlock! You just figure that out on your own or did you need the D.C. think tank to clue you in?

He mentions that the government can't do it on their own and is asking companies in Silicon Valley to send their brightest people to D.C. to work on the project.

Meanwhile the Fed's have set up a national cybersecurity center led by Rod Beckstrom.
Now let's get this straight.
Your setting up a national cyber security center to protect our financial institutions against an attack and your putting some guy
in charge who founded a company that provides collaboration software for businesses.

But wait! It gets better. I swear these people in charge have no clue of how the internet works or even how to use it.

Mr. Chertoff and the federal government wants to build a system to detect Internet attacks before they occur.

Hmmm........ And just how do you prevent something that hasn't happened?
Maybe you would be interested in going on a snipe hunting expedition while your at it? I can provide you with a very reasonable group rate.

Mr. Chertoff described the plan to protect the federal domain from attack as "almost like the Manhattan Project" that developed the atomic bomb.

"I do believe we have capability to detect an attack before
it's launched," Chertoff said.

Ah,Um,Er.... Mr.Chertoff, the Manhattan project dealt with designing the atomic bomb, not prevent it from being launched in an attack.

Even though much of its work is classified, one goal Mr. Chertoff could talk about is reducing the number of access points to federal systems from the "thousands" to a more manageable 50 or so.

Ever hear of a data bus bottle neck?
Can only jam so many pieces of data through a port.
Cut the access points by a percentage like your talking about and you won't have to worry about outside attacks. You will do a fine job all by yourself when no one can transmit financial data in real time.

Idiots! Plain and simple. All they worry about is how to get their buddies on the federal freeloader payroll.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Virus Scanners and Security

One of the first questions thrown at me from a new user that has migrated from a Windows system is what virus scanner should I use.

My usual canned response is that you don't need any. Linux doesn't have any viruses.
I say this but it's not entirely true.

There are some minor viruses like diesel and there are rootkits and exploits which can infect your Linux system.

But with a bit of common sense and a few tools you can remain 99.9% clean and free.

First let me give you some common sense advice.

1) Don't log in as root and use your computer as you would in the user mode.
2) Don't use sudo or root access to change permissions on folders or files except to make some configuration changes or repairs. Once done, make sure to change the permissions back to what they originally were.
3) Only download and install software from the Ubuntu repositories or fully trusted repositories.
4) If you are not sure of a site that has some software you want, don't download and run the .deb package. Download and compile the source code instead.
5) Make sure your network connection is behind a NAT/firewall.
6) Never download and install a package from a forum or web site that you do not know and trust!
7) Always download and install all updates. Even the updates for software you have installed. Software updates may contain fixes for security holes and patches.

With that out of the way let's explore some tools you can use.

The default firewall for Ubuntu uses iptables. While it is fairly secure at the default settings you can customize it to your needs.
The easiest way is to install firestarter, firehol, guard dog or one of the many firewall scripts found in Synaptic. (Linux offers choices. :-) )

Rumor mill has it that the firewall configuration will be much easier in the Hardy Heron release.

Some other tools you can install that scan for file changes or rootkits are chkrootkit or rkhunter.

Use logcheck to spot problems and security violations in your logfiles.

Other tools to check your security are widely available. A few that have my attention are bastille and check security.

You will find that many of these programs don't require you to stop what you are doing to run a scan. They run in the background and only squawk when they find a problem.

Now back to the subject of viruses.
If you use common sense and keep updated your chances of getting a virus is very, very minimal. Nothing is 100% secure but by using the above rules you can get very close to it.

I have both clam antivirus and the free Linux version of Avast.
They are both an on-demand scanner. You need to physically start the scanner and select what you scan.
But I don't use it for files used on my Linux system.

I use it to scan files being transferred to my XP system or files that I may send to other Windows users. I have to remain responsible and make sure not to infect them with virii.

Oh! Adware is not an issue. They can't install their crap without me giving permission to install it and almost all of it is made for Windows systems.

Linux security allows me to be more productive. No wasted time spent on scans on top of scans.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Automatix No More? Oh No! No Worries.

If you have read the news at the Automatix site or elsewhere you know they won't be around for the next Ubuntu release.

If your new to Ubuntu and don't know what Automatix is then here is a quick description;
A site which had a software download that made it easy to install all those restricted,non-free or depending in what country you lived, illegal add-ons and functionality.

So what do we do and how?
Well there is a site called Medibuntu that shows you how to add their repository to your list and how to download and install all those goodies including the ability to watch DVD's on your Linux system.

Here is the web addy;

The easiest way to add the repositories is by copying the command found under your version listing then open the terminal and paste it into the terminal.

Then follow the directions on that page to add in some of the add-ons.

Finally, open your Synaptic Package Manager window and in the search window type ubuntu restricted extra
From the results window choose the restricted extra that matches your version.
Mark the box to install the package.

During the install a license agreement will appear at least twice for 2 of the software installs. Read the agreement and click Yes or Accept to install it.

This will improve the functionality of Linux.
And I am fully aware that using these add-ons is not a purist Linux user's idea of being proper.
But until they start making Mp3 players that play the ogg format I need the Mp3 codec and that type of functionality in my Linux system.


Ubuntu and the 450 mhz CPU

Who says you need to buy a new computer every 2 to 3 years?
Microsoft? Dell? Hp? Toshiba?
If you answered all of the above you are correct. Even though Microsoft doesn't seem to fit in the list they are number 1 in generating computer sales. Microsoft codes
their new O.S.'s and software to sell new computers and hardware.

But being open source, Ubuntu or almost any other version of Linux doesn't have a stake in selling new computers. They design their O.S.'s and software to run on as many systems as possible.

So what is the minimum requirements to run Ubuntu?
After what I helped a co-worker do I'm not sure what the bottom of the barrel minimum is but it's way down there.

He had a 450 mhz CPU and a spare 8 gig hard drive.
Added in some Ram for a whopping total of 384 megs.
Decided to try the version of Ubuntu that used the most resources. That being Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 with the Gnome desktop manager.

Install was done with the non-live alternate Cd.

After it installed everything worked except the audio. Seems he had a Creative Awe32 ISA slot sound card installed.
Rather then spend the time needed to implement the ISA bus so his audio would work, I was able to obtain a very inexpensive (Almost Free) pci slot audio card.

He installed the card and it was immediately recognized and audio was now functional.

Before the Ubuntu install he was using Win98. The most he would have been able to upgrade to would have been Windows Me. That would not have been an upgrade by any stretch of the imagination.

But by installing Ubuntu he has the latest and greatest version running on that old 450.
He now is much more secure and has access to many programs.

And as an added bonus, his wired cable internet access has more then doubled in speed from what Win98 was allowing.

Newest version, better security, more software and faster internet access.
What more could you ask for?

So dig out that old computer you have stored in the closet or basement and give it a new life.


Newly Opened

I decided to try out another blog spot.
The previous blogging site was not very user friendly and very short on link searches.

What I am hoping to do is post most of the stuff I usually email out.
That should cut down on mail list management and keep my email recipient's boxes a bit lighter.

Besides the usual helpful tips and tricks in Ubuntu I will also be posting my thoughts and opinions on various subjects.

Hope you find this site helpful and entertaining.