Archive for the 'Linux' 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,


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?

Steps to Dual-boot Kubuntu (or life) after Vista

As mentioned in my recent post about installing Vista, I have a spare computer I need to test with various software and operating systems. Now since I am pretty handy at setting up dual-boot systems, this made for a perfect opportunity for me to go about setting up Vista and Linux on an even playing field to see how each compares on identical hardware.

Strangely, setting up the partitions took quite a bit more effort for some reason. I did manage to wrestle Vista into a single 20GB primary partition but it meant having to delete all other partitions in the process. Whatever, linux fdisk worked flawlessly (as it always has in my experience).

Here’s the basic layout I created after Vista was finally happy:

  • hda2 (20GB) “/” aka “root” — where all the system files go (ie. c:\windows)
  • hda3 (1GB) for the swap partition or virtual memory (ie. windows pagefile)
  • hda4 (35GB) “/home” (ie. c:\My Documents and Settings\)

The reason I gravitate toward that partition scheme is because I enjoy trying out various flavors of Linux from time to time and that scheme allows me to only format the system files without touching my personal files or settings (Microsoft dabbled with partition mapping and their half-hearted attempt was evident because you could only “copy” files to the trash). Anyway, once I answered a few questions about my username, timezone, etc, I found myself once again greeted by the familiar Kubuntu login prompt.

  1. First thing I wanted to do would be the equivalent of setting up the proper drivers for my video card if I was in some flavor of Win32. Here’s how it worked in this environment:
    1. sudo aticonfig –initial =
    2. logout (end current session)
    3. control-alt-backspace (restart the xserver)
    4. The resolution on my machine just went from 1024×768 to 1600×1200 (hurray!)
  2. The next thing I had in mind was a really nice wallpaper I had come across so:
    1. right-click on desktop and choose configure desktop
    1. click on Get New Wallpapers (I picked NIGHT)
    2. I set the color to black
    3. I set blending to flat to darken the image a little more so that when I set konsole (the KDE command line window) to have transparent background the brighter parts of the image don’t obscure the text output from the commands I type.
  3. Next I left-clicked on the ‘K’ start button, choose the system menu and drop-n-drop the Konsole icon to left side of my panel (that long strip where the icons are along the bottom).
    1. Starting up Konsole, now I opened ‘Settings’ from the menu and selected ‘transparent Konsole’ (woohoo pretty!).
  4. Next I right-clicked on the panel and chose ‘Configure Panel’
    1. I then chose ‘Appearance’ on the left, and ‘enabled transparency’ (nice!)
  5. Next I added a few alias to my ‘~/.bashrc’. So from the command prompt I typed:
    1. echo alias ll=’ls -lh’ >> ~/.bashrc
  6. Next I always like to set my command line environment so that after I quit reading a longer text file or man page the last page viewed will remain visible:
    1. echo export LESS=X >> ~/.bashrc

Screenshot of my Kubuntu Linux DesktopI’m going to go ahead and post what I’ve got now since I think this is somewhat of a timely subject. But I will continue edit this post as time goes on since I also want the documentation for reference. Here’s the way things look so far though.

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