Archive for category Linux Stuff

How to remove launchers from Gnome 3 Panel

I’ll cut to the chase on this post because this is a silly change to make between Gnome 2 and Gnome 3. If you add a shortcut launcher to the panel in Gnome 3 (classic mode), you will find that a simple right click doesn’t show “remove”.

If you want to remove a launcher from the panel in Gnome 3, you need to press the alt key and right click the launcher. You should then have the ability to move or remove the icon.



Netbean’s Menus Don’t work in Linux Mint 12

Gnome3 has some issues. I really like the look and feel of Linux Mint’s Gnome3 + Mate interface. However, looks aren’t everything. Functionality is important as well. Almost everything works with it but Netbeans is an exception. The menus are completely unusable with it.

The quick solution is to select “Gnome Classic” when you login. I like the look of it as well, and at least everything works in it.

While I’m on the subject, why did Gnome decide to take the path it did with version 3. It’s too much like Unity, and I hate Unity. Why are they moving to this type of desktop? Gnome 2 may not be the prettiest thing available, but it has been the most usable desktop environment for years. They should have just concentrated on improving the look of it, added a few new features, and worked on any bugs they had laying around. Most people don’t like Unity or Gnome 3. This doesn’t leave much of a choice other than KDE and XFCE4. Of those, I’d pick XFCE4, but if you have a large userbase like Gnome has, why screw that up by making your new version look like and act like the DE most people are wanting to avoid? I just don’t get it.

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Codeigniter Controllers Give Server 404

I often take shortcuts when setting up my development servers. I recently installed Linux Mint 12 x64 on my main box and wanted to setup a web developing environment on it. To cut corners during package installation, I’ll typically install phpmyadmin which grabs most of the dependencies I need to have a full LAMP dev stack, such as Apache2 and Mysql-server.

That’s how I initially set up my stack in Linux Mint. I also enabled user directories in Apache so I could develop within the public_html directory inside my home directory. All was working well until I copied a CodeIgniter project over and tried it out. I couldn’t access my controller functions from index.php. It worked well for the default controller because it was accessing it from index.php, but when I changed the URL to point to a controller like index.php/admin, it didn’t know what to do with it and I would receiver a server 404 error.

After digging around for a solution, I realized that when I installed my LAMP stack, apt had installed libapache2-mod-php5filter instead of libapache2-mod-php5. I’m not very familiar with this module or what benefits come from using it, but the quick fix was to:

sudo apt-get install libapache2-mod-php5

This removed the php5filter module and installed the plain php5 module. After that, I no longer have an issue with the controllers giving 404 errors.

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Couldn’t Load XPCOM

If you are like me, you like to use the latest plugins for Firefox (when you use Firefox). Things like Firebug have become a staple for my web browser usage. I also love using Debian as my OS, and the stable version comes with a much older version of Firefox (sans logos and with the name iceweasel). Unless you download older version of plugins, most of the time you’ll have trouble installing the plugins you want.

The simple solution is to download and install the latest version of Firefox directly from Mozilla. There’s not much of an install process. Just download and uncompress the file. You’ll get a firefox directory, which I moved over to my home directory and proceeded to create shortcuts for on my desktop and menus.

If you are using the 64 bit version of the OS, you will quickly run into the “Couldn’t Load XPCOM” error. It’s obvious that it is a library issue but the error doesn’t give you a big clue as to how to fix it.

Good news, the fix is extremely easy. You are lacking some 32 bit libs that are required to run the program.
Fix is by running the following as root or with sudo:

apt-get install ia32-libs-gtk

After that, you should be able to run Firefox. Enjoy!

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Reddit’s Interview with Richard Stallman

Recently, Reddit users were given the opportunity to ask RMS (Richard M. Stallman) questions. The top 25 were answered by RMS here.

For anyone who doesn’t know who RMS is, he is the founder of the GNU project. He wrote Emacs and the GCC compiler. Much of what makes up a “GNU/Linux” (don’t ever let him hear you call it “Linux”), is the GNU tools. Linux itself is just the operating system kernel. Although the OS kernel is a very important part of the OS, a base GNU/Linux system has a ton of software from the GNU project as well. The OS doesn’t work without the kernel, and it doesn’t do much without the GNU tools.

RMS answered most of the questions as I would expect. The one question that stood out to me, although I haven’t made it through the entire list yet, is number 7. The question relates to how the open source world can’t create tax software and games that can compete with proprietary software. It’s a very good question. RMS mentions that the Free Software Foundation in Latin America does have free tax software. He also says

I don’t know whether our community will make a “high end video game”
which is free software, but I am sure that if you try, you can stretch
your taste for games so that you will enjoy the free games that we
have developed, or you can try Roulette Games.

Now, this is the part that really made me think. I’ve always been an advocate of free software, but do I really want to rely on free software to produce video games that compete with some of the games I play on PS3? I truly wish that they could make them, because I’d love it, but I don’t see it happening. Another major point to that comment is that games have always been the driving force in computer hardware improvements. The computer systems we have right now are only this good because of games.

That may be hard to believe, but for anyone that’s been playing PC games for decades, it’s common sense. Video games are it. That’s what all of this technology was built on. You were either playing games or writing them. Sure, computers have many other useful features, but games are responsible for these beautiful user interfaces and awesome sound.

Games kept getting better. Hardware kept getting better. A huge majority of the research and design came from game sales. All of that wouldn’t have happened without proprietary games.

RMS knows that, but RMS isn’t worried about games at all. RMS is worried about software freedom and he has many good points. Those same points could be applied to many industries. To me is seems like the old communism vs. capitalism debate. Extremes on both sides suck. It’s the happy medium we should strive for.

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LXDE – The Light-weight Linux Desktop Environment

I was reading a post over at the Linux Mint Blog and found that I’m a bit behind on my Linux news. I’ve never heard of LXDE. Now my desktop environment of choice is Gnome, usually. I also like XFCE, but Gnome has all the features and rarely lets me down. I like the variety in Linux so I was glad to see yet another desktop environment.

LXDE seems to be geared toward netbooks and other cloud-client computers. Linux has many light-weight desktop environments, and even though I like variety, sometimes I wish that they would all come together and work together.

This leads me to a pitfall of open source. It’s also an advantage. Those are complete contradictions, but there’s really no other way to explain it. I lean more toward the advantage side of things but sometimes I wonder if the different projects could be merged as much as they are split.

It seems that it’s perfectly logical for developers to split from a project and create a fork, but rarely do two projects merge to form a super project. Perhaps open source in general needs more merging to balance out the massive amounts of forks….just a thought.

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What’s Killing Linux and Software Freedom?

I know many will say “we knew that already” when they read what I’m about to write, but I just came to this realization today. I was reading a blog title “I miss using Linux“. The author was describing some of the reasons he can’t avoid using Windows. That blog is a continuation and actually comprises of my interpretations and expostulation on the previous blog on data synthesis.

There are many good reasons like the ones he offers. Some people want to game, but game companies just don’t make games for Linux because it isn’t popular enough. Others need certain programs that are only available for Windows. Whatever the reasons, it’s not going to be the “year of the Linux Desktop” any time soon, but those people have another option and are Nevada Online Casinos games .

One part that really stood out to me about the post was the reiteration that Photoshop was a main reason for not using Windows. I would actually go so far as to say that the entire creative suite is a major reason more people don’t switch to Linux completely.

Sure, one could possibly run it in a VM but that’s not a good solution. If you need a VM of Windows, why not just run Windows, right? That’s the correct reasoning if you ask me, and I’m a Linux advocate. The problem could be that more people are procrastinating truthfully. They simply don’t want to switch completely or don’t feel comfortable enough in Linux to use it full time. I don’t think this is the prime reason, but for some it could be a factor.

Adobe is the problem, at least in my mind. Adobe is the last non-open company. Microsoft office uses an open document format finally. There is a lot of compatibility with Open Office. Most other programs have decent open source alternatives. Even Photoshop has a decent open source alternative in the Gimp, but some people don’t think it is enough. Adobe has a lock on a lot of the media on the web right now with Flash, even though there are better alternatives to using Flash, most sites use it.

Adobe is holding back Linux. Rather, our dependency on Adobe products is holding back Linux tremendously. There would be a lot more people to adopt Linux if the Creative Suite was available in it. There would be a lot of people adopt Linux is Flash was no longer the defacto standard for media on the web.

Apple has the right idea by not including Flash support on the iPhone. This will help push us away from the closed-standard. I’m for this change.

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Is Debian Still Relevant

I’ve been dual booting or running Linux full time now since around 1996. During the first few years, I used mostly Red Hat based distributions. I used Mandrake/Mandriva, SuSE, Red Hat, and Fedora to name a few. When I switched over to Debian, my eyes were truly open to what a distribution could be. I’m not even sure what made me switch to Debian. If I had to guess, it was during my distro whoring days when I just switched distros at random, trying each one out for at least a few days.

Needless to say, Debian-based distros have been my staple ever since. I’ve tried others. I’m a big fan of ArchLinux, for example, but I’ve always had a Debian-based distro running on a machine somewhere.

A few years ago I started using Ubuntu, which is probably the most widely used distribution of Linux there is. Ubuntu uses as its base Debian testing/unstable, and build upon it, creating a great user experience.

Ubuntu has become so popular that there are now many distributions of Linux based on Ubuntu. That makes Debian the grandfather distribution of all of these. Probably may favorite Ubuntu-based distro is Mint. It adds to the base Ubuntu system and promises a better out-of-the-box media experience, along with a better theme. Ubuntu needs better designers in my opinion.

With all of these Debian-based distros and distributions based on Debian-based distros, is there still a need for Debian itself?

Here recently, I decided to replace my Mint installation with the newest Ubuntu release (10.4). I should mention that I’m installing the 64-bit version of all OSs mentioned. This is so I can take advantage of the RAM I have installed on my main system. I should also mention that there is an issue with my nVidia card and the “nv” generic open source nVidia driver. This error causes many problems when I try to install most distros. The problem occurs when the distro recognizes my nVidia card and uses the nv driver. This usually causes the system to not boot. I was able to get around this by using the Ubuntu alternative install CD and using the curses-based installer. This installer is more like the default Debian installer and doesn’t require X. I’m probably one of the few people who like this type of installer over the Live-CD installers. There are two main reasons that I prefer them.

  1. Curses-based installers are much faster. Waiting on a Live-CD to load can take time. There are advantages to Live-CDs but when I’m wanting to install an OS that I’ve pretty familiar with, curses-based installers are more efficient.
  2. Errors like the one I mentioned can make the OS much more difficult to get up and running. The installer mistakenly uses the wrong display driver. This mistake doesn’t just cause an issue with X. It makes the entire system freeze for some reason.

So even though I used the alternative installer, I still ran into issues post-install. This required me to boot into recovery mode and install the proprietary nVidia drivers from the command line. Since one of Ubuntu’s goals is to make Linux easier for the masses, this is very counter-intuitive. If a first time Linux user ran into this same issue, they would be turned off of Linux instantly.

So, after having other issues with Ubuntu that shouldn’t be there, such as 64-bit Adobe Flash sucking completely on it (videos won’t pause or let you use the slider to seek through them), I decided to try something else. I thought to myself, “Why not try Debian 64 bit?” I was in for a surprise.

Debian had none of the issues I ran into with Ubuntu. I even installed the desktop right away, and it came up without any errors. I still had to install my proprietary nVidia drivers, but for some reason Debian used X settings that didn’t freeze the system. This is probably due to the fact that it doesn’t use Compiz right out of the box. I believe that the issues I had in Ubuntu were due to Compiz being enabled by default. I like my eye candy just as much as the next guy, but a desktop that works out of the box is a great thing.

I’ve always like Debian as a server OS and I’ve used it many times as a desktop OS. I have to say, after evaluating the latest Ubuntu and Mint, Debian is still very relevant and could even give them a run for their money as a desktop OS. Sure they have some added features that make them a bit easier for a new user, if the user doesn’t run into the issues I had, but for many of us, Debian is actually easier to use. I’ve been using Ubuntu so long, letting it take care of things like my networking and automatically starting Empathy when I login, I have forgotten just how simplistic Debian can be. It does what I want, when I want it, with little fuss.

I’ll be using Debian this year. I may try out the next Ubuntu release in October. I’ll probably try a few other distros as well, but Debian doesn’t seem to be going away from my computer any time soon. The politics inside the Debian camp may be rough, but the results are spectacular.

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Eclipse issues in Linux Mint

I’ve been wrestling with IDEs and OSs for the past few days, trying to decide which would be best for Javascript and PHP development. I had been using Netbeans. I absolutely love Netbeans, but I found that editing Javascript in it was somewhat lacking. I was having trouble keeping up with my nested anonymous functions and thought it’d be a good time to try out other alternatives.

I bounced around between Linux Mint, Mac OS X, and Windows 7. I find that I would really like to program on my Macbook Pro, but it just doesn’t feel comfortable. There’s something about the keyboard setup or something that just annoys me. It’s more of a problem with my familiarity with the keyboard, I think. At any rate, after messing with Eclipse, Netbeans, and Textmate on my Mac, I decided it was going to be a no-go.

Windows 7 presented a problem in the fact that XAMPP seems to have issues with sessions. They work but almost at random, creating a new session will lock up the entire web server. When you are developing a website which uses Sessions for user logins, that creates a problem. So, I decided it would be in my best interest to use Linux, which seems to be made for programmers, because most programming related things work great in it and the fact that you almost have to be a programmer to get some things to work correctly in it. Though, that is an outdated misconception, but everyone still seems to believe it.

I had been using Linux for most of the development of my new project anyway. So, there was no transition there. I’m using SVN on a server machine so it really didn’t matter which OS or IDE I decided upon for that. They are all pretty universal in their ability to handle SVN. The major exception was Mac OS X which didn’t include the ssh-askpass command needed to tunnel SVN through ssh correctly. I was able to find a shell script that handled the ssh-askpass function, however. Textmate didn’t really work well, either, because it didn’t really have robust SVN integration. It was pretty much just like manual SVN. I also needed separate programs for Diff and Merge. That was lacking and clunky. I was spoiled by Netbeans’ built-in Merge, Diff, SVN, and so forth.

I thought I’d give Aptana a try. It is a PHP developer plugin for Eclipse. It is also available in a standalone package. I had various problems with the standalone version of Aptana so I decided to install Eclipse from the LinuxMint/Ubuntu repositories. Eclipse worked great, and Aptana installed perfectly. However, I needed the SVN tools that are Aptana add-ons. They wouldn’t install. There was a version conflict with the version of Eclipse in the LinuxMint/Ubuntu repositories.

So I decided to install the latest version of Eclipse. I downloaded and ran the latest version and found that there were UI issues. This brings me to the subject of this post. The UI issues were a major roadblock, so I searched for a solution. The problem, I believe, stems from compositing inside Gnome. Unlike Ubuntu, I couldn’t find an easy way to turn off compositing inside LinuxMint. OH, I’m sure I could disable the compositing extension inside the xorg.conf file, but I really wanted a light switch option. The normal way I would handle this is the Fusion Icon. It didn’t seem to work. I also tried disabling effects from the Gnome Appearances menu option. Compositing just wouldn’t turn off that easily.

So here is the solution for Eclipse and Aptana inside Linux Mint.

GDK_NATIVE_WINDOWS=true /opt/eclipse/eclipse

That will work if eclipse is installed in /opt/eclipse, but I just had mine downloaded to my home folder. It doesn’t really matter. You would just change the /opt/eclipse/eclipse to your actual executable path. The key here is to add the GDK_NATIVE_WINDOWS=true before the eclipse command.

I’m about to create a shortcut to do this for me. Now all my buttons will work when I click on them. That’s convenient huh.

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Adventures in analog video recording on Linux

Linux does many things well, but the multimedia experience can be lacking without the correct bit of hackery. I mean, some cool things can be done with Linux on the multimedia side, but typically it’ll take a lot of work to learn how it’s done. Mac and Windows make complex things simple, while Linux makes simple things complex.

Back when I purchased my TV tuner card for my PC, I was using Linux as my main OS. I still use it daily but not on my main PC. Only occasionally do I boot to Linux on it. I typically run Windows Server 2008 as I’ve talked about on previous posts. When I bought the tuner I wanted to make sure that it worked under Linux. So, I purchased one that was made specifically for Linux, a PCHDTV 5500.

It has served its purpose as a TV tuner, since I watched a year or so of cable TV in analog on it prior to the digital switch. I have never been able to get the HD side of things to work on it. Either it’s beyond me or my cable company just had all of the channels encrypted. I didn’t spend enough time on it to find out.

Recording analog video in Linux can be FUN. By “fun” I mean the type of fun one has pulling their own toe hairs. Be forewarned, getting a good recording is best done from the command line. I tried many ways. I ended up going with mencoder.

That being said, there’s not much you can’t do with mencoder and ffmpeg from the command line.

I have some VHS recordings I’m converting to AVI and then later on to DVD. I first had to purchase a VCR because, wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have one that worked.

After that I had to come up with a good way to connect it to my capture card. The card has coax and component inputs. The new VCR didn’t come with any coaxial connections. The capture card had a yellow RCA connection for video. I could use that but then there was the problem with audio. The capture card had a 1/8″ jack for audio. Luckily I had an RCA-to-1/8″ adapter for one of my gadgets (not sure which). I ended up using two sets of RCA’s.

I was amazed I actually got audio and video from it. Here’s where more fun came in. I was running virtualbox in the background. Everything I tried to use to record the video told me that /dev/dsp could not be opened. I went through many hoops trying to troubleshoot that issue. I should have realized it sooner but it was all virtualbox’s fault. Next time I’ll make sure it’s not running when I’m dealing with audio.

After all of those problems were worked out, I was able to use:

mencoder tv:///1 -tv driver=v4l2:width=640:height=480:forceaudio:adevice=/dev/dsp -ovc xvid -xvidencopts bitrate=-750:threads=2 -oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr:br=64:mode=3 -o /home/five/homevid.avi

I’ll try to explain some of what is going on in that command. Mencoder is the program itself. There’s little to be said there. The next part is interesting: tv:///1  That tells mencoder we are using the tv card and that we want to use the composite1 input. Typically it defaults to input=0 or tv:///0, which is the coax TV input. There are three inputs on the card: tv, composite, and s-video. The next part (driver=v4l2) tells mencoder that we want to use Video4Linux2. Then we specify the width and height of the capture. The forceaudio bit was placed there during my troubleshooting. It just forces the use of audio device /dev/dsp. I had tried a couple other devices during my troubleshooting, thus the addition of that option. Then we have the option for output video codec (xvid). I set the bitrate and the number of threads. I actually upped that bitrate considerably later to around 2048. I believe I’ll end up upping it even more for the next vid. I did the same with the audio output bitrate. I set it up to 256.

That should help anyone experiencing some of the pain I went through.

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