Archive for the 'FLOSS' Category

Cross-platform Video Editing with Avidemux

One of the reasons I gravitate toward searching out free cross-platform applications is that it matters less and less which operating system I happen to use. I can become familiar with an application that performs a certain essential function for me with the confidence that both my expertise and my data is platform neutral and portable.

So today I’ve set out to look at a solution for doing simple video editing of home videos I’ve taken with our little digital camera (Canon Powershot). My intent will be to successfully perform all the essential functions necessary in Linux Kubuntu where the same codecs and software interface are also freely available for MacOSX and Win32 as well.

  • The software I researched for this task is called “Avidemux”, and it can be located at Sourceforge.
  • Here is the brief description from the project homepage on Sourceforge:

    “Avidemux is a free video editor designed for simple cutting, filtering and encoding tasks. It supports many file types, including AVI, DVD compatible MPEG files, MP4 and ASF, using a variety of codecs. Tasks can be automated using projects, job queue and powerful scripting capabilities.

    Avidemux is available for Linux, BSD, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows under the GNU GPL license. The program was written from scratch by Mean, but code from other people and projects has been used as well. Patches, translations and even bug reports are always welcome” (source).

    What’s nice about running Kubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) is that I was able to install this software with one easy command:

    sudo aptitude install avidemux

  • Basically all I really want to do is the equivalent of cropping my pictures, except with video. In other words I just want to trim off those parts that don’t contribute to the story very well such as some of the very beginning or at the very end. Well for this kind of simple work Avidemux is just what I need.

Creating an email sized PDF newsletter with Scribus on Kubuntu (Ubuntu) 7.04 (Feisty Fawn)

Here are some notes I took while learning how to use Scribus to create our first family email newsletter.

Here’s a little bit about Scribus from the home page:

Scribus :: Open Source Desktop Publishing for Linux, Mac OS® X and Windows®

“Scribus is an open-source program that brings award-winning professional page layout to Linux/Unix, MacOS X, OS/2 and Windows desktops with a combination of “press-ready” output and new approaches to page layout.

Underneath the modern and user friendly interface, Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation.” (

Basically what follows is an emphasis on optimizing the output for an email sized attachment after I enjoyed using Scribus to do the layout of the newsletter.

  1. Layout newsletter
  2. Install latest version of Ghostscript
    sudo aptitude install gs-gpl
  3. Export as PDF (1.3 or 1.4)
    1. General Tab:
      1. Resolution for EPS Graphics: 300
      2. Compress Text and Vector Graphics: [X]
      3. Compression Method: Automatic
      4. Compression Quaity: Maximum
      5. Resample Images to: 115 dpi
    2. Fonts Tab:
      1. Embed all fonts
    3. Save file to news.pdf [~ 315KB]
      1. If size and quality are good enough then you are done, else
      2. Re-process the pdf file through ghostscript [~70kB]
        gs-gpl -r115 -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOutputFile=newsletter.pdf news.pdf

        (-r115 sets the resolution or DPI to 115 pixels per square inch)

  4. If you feel like it, you can also use pdfopt to linearize the PDF, so Acroread can start showing the first pages while the rest is still being downloaded.

Dell posts survey: Which Linux on what computers?

So here’s a chance to provide some interesting input. Dell computers wants to know what flavor of GNU/Linux would be most desirable for them to support. They’ve even posted a survey for all to participate:

As posted at

“Dell posted the survey on a company blog, asking PC users to choose between Linux flavors such as Fedora and Ubuntu, and to pick more general choices such as notebooks versus desktops, high-end models versus value models and telephone-based support versus community-based support.” (Ben Ames, IDG News Service, Boston Bureau).

The survey is only available until March 23, so please take a moment to provide your input if you are interested.

All the best,


Firefox addon: Session Manager

I think I’ve found a better way to both keep track of my favorite Firefox addons while also keeping some content flowing through my blog… I’ll dedicate one post to each addon and tag the post in such a way that my list of favorite Firefox addons will never be further away than a simple click on the tag they all share in common.

So with that here is another Firefox addon I’ve known about but not always had installed. However, for the simple ease of the undo feature when I accidentally close a tab, or for those online classes and web sites that I want to have my session persist, I definitely view this Firefox addon as another one I want keep around.

Session Manager

by Morac, zeniko

More previews…

Session Manager saves and restores the state of all windows – either
when you want it or automatically at startup and after crashes.
Additionally it offers you to reopen (accidentally) closed windows and
tabs. If you’re afraid of losing data while browsing – this extension
allows you to relax…

This extension replaces SessionSaver and Tab Mix Plus’ session manager.
It stores more data than both of them and should be more reliable in
saving and restoring. Although it is not recommended to have more than
one session related extension installed, Session Manager is compatible
at least with Tab Mix Plus.

Works with:

Firefox 2.0 – 3.0a3 ALL

Install now (71 KB)

released on Feb 13, 2007.

Upgrading to Kubuntu (Ubuntu) Feisty Fawn

Well today I am very pleased to announce that my previous partition strategy has resulted in one of the most pleasant experience upgrading Linux I have ever had on a Windows dual-boot box I’ve ever had. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Dowload the Kubuntu CD 7.10 (Feisty Fawn Herd 4 in my case).
  2. I booted to the CD and clicked icon to Install
  3. Important: I chose “manual partitioning” when prompted.
  4. I selected the root partition (hda2) and marked it to be re-formatted.
  5. I then chose the same partition scheme that I did before:
    1. /dev/hda1 (/media/vista)
    2. /dev/hda2 (/)
    3. /dev/hda3 (swap)
    4. /dev/hda4 (/home) Note: I specifically chose NOT to format this one.
  6. Then I chose the same username.
  7. After everything was done I just restarted and ALL of my settings, desktop preferences, Firefox addons, files and documents, everything was just the way I left it and ready to go.
  8. Time: < 20 minutes (less than half my lunch hour). ;-)

I’m very happy now to be looking and kicking the tires of what’s coming in the next release of Kubuntu.

Comparing Pseudo OpenXML to the Open Document Format

Hi everyone: I just came across the following paragraph in a review of word processors I felt was pretty compelling:

  • “Let us be clear: the choice is not between being able to interoperate with Microsoft— thanks to Novell and Corel doing interoperability work for them — or being stuck in some ODF ghetto, unable to read Microsoft documents. Everyone wants to interoperate. The question is how. The problem is Microsoft. The solution lies with Microsoft. It’s 2007, and it’s time that Microsoft followed the same standards everyone else, instead of insisting the world bend to their ways. Microsoft’s OXML doesn’t disrupt this propensity. It’s not only unacceptable, but quite strange that even now we can’t all freely share documents with one another, no matter what operating system we like to use. We can send each other email, read each others’ blogs and websites, even if you are on Windows, I’m on Linux, and Uncle Fester is using OS X. Why isn’t that the norm for everything? It ought to be. The bottleneck is Microsoft. FOSS software is happy to interoperate with any other software. Why won’t Microsoft? That is the $64,000 question in 2007. All this only matters if you intend to use Microsoft Word. The good news is that there are many good alternatives” (, 2007.02.16).

What do you think?

My essential Firefox addons (extensions) post

Okay I know everyone has their own list of favorite Firefox addons (extensions), and that this topic has been posted on so many times that is now the subject of jokes and jabs, and I also know many of us have already discovered “the best ones” such that we already have many of the same ones installed anyway…

Yet right now I am faced with having just installed Firefox on my new Kubuntu (Ubuntu) box, and thought I would finally document which addons I like most because everyonce in awhile I go through the process of reinstalling an operating system or Firefox and it would help if I had this information somewhere with the links to the appropriate addons for convenience.

So without further delay here are the essential Firefox addons that I really like and either use every hour throughout the day or that I like to have installed for the sake of curiosity. I’ll list them in the order I use them most frequently.

  1. Adblock Plus and Noscript: These two addons are just so essential, so fundamental to improving security and my browsing experience that I just do not even like to go out browsing the Internet without them. Both projects are actively maintained and have demonstrated they are worthy ofScreenshot of the lower right corner of Firefox Browser window being trusted on my computer. I then disable messages about javascript being blocked because this is obvious enough from looking at the state of the icon.
    1. Preferences: I like to configure both Adblock and Noscript so that they appear in the bottom right corner of my browser window.
  2. Copy Plain Text: Next on the list is the most simple and useful addon I use numerous times during any given hour. Basically this one is essential for any student required to copy and paste quotes (properly cited of course) in any writing assignment. If you are stuck using Microsoft Word you will be especially grateful for this extension in how it effectively strips all formatting from the source with frequently causes Microsoft Word to stall while attempting to do some kind of reverse internet address lookup or something. But even if you have liberated yourself from dependence on Microsoft Word, this addon provides the benefit of importing text from the clip board while retaining the formating or style you have currently selected in your document. Indispensible.
  3. Copy URL +: This is another addon extension that I use fairly constantly throughout the day. It basically allows me to capture a selection of text to the clipboard including the title and url of the source. There is one problem however, and that is that the original author has not updated the addon to work with Firefox 2.0. This is simple enough to fix however, and thus I have rolled my own version which can be downloaded here. As for how the extention works, here is an example of copy and pasted text:
    1. FAA May Ditch Microsoft’s Windows Vista And Office 2007 For Google Apps on Linux
      “March is coming in like a lion for Microsoft’s public sector business. Days after InformationWeek reported that the Department of Transportation has placed a moratorium on upgrades to Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Internet Explorer 7, the top technology official at the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that he is considering a permanent ban on the Microsoft software in favor of a combination of Google’s new online business applications running on Linux-based hardware.”

Vista and Kubuntu on Same Computer

Today I went to install Windows Vista on a test computer with an 80GB hard drive that is split up into four partitions:

hda1: 20GB NTFS
hda2: 18GB ext3 (root)
hda3: 1GB swap
hda4: 39GB ext3 (home)

Imagine my surprise that Vista complains it cannot figure out how to install in hda1? It complains the situation is “unsuitable”(!?!).

So I proceed to delete all the other partitions and notice while doing so that no prompt is offered to verify you “really want” to proceed deleting partitions–not even so much as an undo feature before committing–nice. So for all of those folks that are used to these niceties in Linux, be extra careful when working with Microsoft’s new partition “utility”.

I already know once I get done restarting the computer enough times to make this Vista install happy that I won’t have any such similar problems installing Kubuntu so that is something to look forward to… I’m really looking forward to testing the new release candidate of Feisty Fawn.

Well getting back to the install, after copying the required files, Microsoft presents you with some options for how you would like to proceed. They aren’t the most intuitive so again being used to working with Linux and the options to go backward in the install process if I decide my choice wasn’t what I wanted, I go ahead and pick “Use Recommended Options” to see what happens. Well I couldn’t tell, but one thing is for sure, it wouldn’t let me go back and decide that I would like to choose over again. So much for that… It looks like so far my expectations are a little too high for Microsoft’s latest flagship product…

OpenOffice 2.1 on Ubuntu (Kubuntu)

Here’s a quick reference I adapted from another blog that had covered the need at an earlier time, but had become somewhat in need of updating. So here is the basic steps to installing OpenOffice 2.1 on Kubuntu (both Edgy 6.10 and Feisty Fawn 7.04):

  1. Download and install The Java SE Development Kit (JDK)
    1. I chose the link for Java(TM) SE Development Kit 6
    2. I then chose the link for the Linux self-extracting file (jdk-6-linux-i586.bin)
    3. run “sh jdk-6-linux-i586.bin” as normal user.
    4. I moved the resulting jdk1.6.0 directory to /home/username/bin/jdk1.6.0
    5. cd ~/bin && ln -s jdk1.6.0/jre jre
  2. Download OpenOffice 2.1 for Linux
  3. Remove previous version of OpenOffice 2.0
    1. sudo apt-get remove --purge*
  4. Convert OpenOffice 2.1 RPM packages to Debian packages:
    1. sudo apt-get install fakeroot alien
    2. tar zxvf OOo_2.1.0_LinuxIntel_install_en-US.tar.gz
    3. cd OOE680_m6_native_packed-1_en-US.9095/RPMS
    4. Convert the .rpm packages to .deb (debian packages)
    5. fakeroot alien -d *.rpm
  5. Now install the new Debian packages
    1. sudo dpkg -i *.deb
    2. cd desktop-integration/
    3. sudo dpkg -i
  6. Profit. ;-)

Adapted from: Techno Wizah: Debian HOW-TO: OpenOffice 2.0

Hacking Flock to use Google on ‘right click’

As many interested in kicking the tires on the new Flock browser have also noticed, all default searches point to Yahoo. Flock appears to Yahoo what Firefox is to Google. I’ve never tried to switch search engines in Firefox, so I don’t know if Flock is any more or less hostile about this, but I’d be curious to know.
Which brings me to my new problem: I’ve never been a big fan of Yahoo’s services or willingness to sell out my privacy, and Yahoo search is the one that is integrated into the right-click feature of Flock despite choosing Google as your default search engine.
Hence if you really want to use Google when you right-click on a word and select “search for “, then you also need to “hack” Flock’s about:config settings. Here’s how:

  1. type ‘about:config’ into the address bar
  2. type ‘search’ in the filter
  3. double click ‘
  4. replace string with ‘’
  5. done

Now back to the program of exploring the other features.