Vista vs. Kubuntu Linux (the saga continues)

  1. Vista failed to recognize my USB memory stick (rebooting to Kubuntu Linux I was able use it again).
  2. Browsing to a PDF file, Vista had no idea what to do with it–even when I saved it to the desktop and clicked on it (out of the box Kubuntu Linux opened it in the most useful PDF viewer (Kpdf) I have ever seen–referring to the awsomely efficient select tool).
  3. Installing previous applications, they now fail to start–some complaining of missing MSVCR71.dll, while others complain that .NET 1.1 or greater is required (!?!).
    1. Using Google I found the following help: “I ran into a missing msvcr71.dll while trying to use Password Safe. Since I was dual booting with XP on another partition, I copied over the file from \Windows\System32 on the XP partition. Next it was msvcp70.dll and then finally msvcp71.dll. After that the application came up fine. Soooo…if you’re missing any of these three, grab a copy of them from an XP installation and just simply drop them into \Windows\system32 in the Vista partition…” (source).
    2. Using WinXP to patch up Vista solved the missing dll dilema (twenty minutes later). Now I just need to figure out how Vista either managed to come out without .NET installed (can you imagine?), or how it somehow managed to hide what version it had from applications that ran comfortably on WinXP… Wow…
  4. The poorly rendered fonts are really beginning to bother me (Kubuntu Linux offers no such visual grief). Did I mention the blurry fonts are getting really tiresome yet?
  5. I installed Office 2007–Outlook is unable to connect to our Exchange server with the exact same settings I have in Outlook 2003 on my other system. Out of the box experience? Broken.
  6. Finally I had to give up testing for the day as my eyes couldn’t take it anymore.
  7. Giving my eyes a break, I rebooted to Kubuntu Linux… Whew time to be productive again…

Cross-platform Video Editing with the XviD codec

Another situation I regularly see many users struggling with is trying to embed movies in PowerPoint presentations at home, taking their presentation to school, and finding out their videos won’t display properly.

Put simply, the problem most often comes up because they created their videos for PowerPoint on an Apple computer at home, and then brought their presentation to school to present on a Win32 computer. Sometimes though, even the Win32 machine they started on just simply used different codecs than the one they wound up using for their presentation. What’s going on here?

Commercial vendors have a vested interest in locking you into a dependency of licensing “their software” for creating and viewing “your” content. The problem is practically no vendor will provide the means to do all of this in a platform neutral manner–that would mean they would have to potentially “share” their customers.

What we need then is a recipe, a path to follow if you will, that will help us navigate the process of creating content that is platform neutral, and the Xvid data format provides us with just that. Why? Because XviD is opensource, a product of community effort, and a gift without any strings attached.

Here is how to get started with Win32 so that videos created in this manner will be both viewable and editable within Linux or OSX. Later I hope to provide the same type of recipe for Linux and OSX, but for now this will meet my immediate need to help some users that are currently having difficulties in the Win32 environment.

  1. Install XviD: “XviD is a video codec for PC, whereas codec is an abbreviation for [co]der/[dec]oder, hence describes a program to encode and decode digital video. The purpose of encoding video data is to reduce redundancies – that means to make it smaller for faster transmission over computer networks or for more efficient storage on computer disks. Xvid is open-source software published under the GNU GPL license” (
  2. Install 7-zip (optional)
  3. GSpot is a program that will allow you to determine exactly what codec is required to play a particular video file.
    1. Download GSpot and unzip files to a folder to run from (ie. c:\apps\GSpot).
    2. Do the same thing for C:\apps\GSpot\GSpot.exe and drag that shortcut to your desktop.
    3. Double-click on your new shortcut for GSpot and run it.
    4. Click on Options, then uncheck and re-check the third box from the bottom (Add [or remove] GSpot “Open With”. This will add GSpot to the list of applications to choose from when you right-click on a video file.
    5. Right-click on a video file and choose “Open With: Choose Program”
    6. Choose GSpot from the list.
    7. Now anytime you find yourself wondering what type of file format a video is in, just right-click on a video file and choose “Open With”, GSpot will be listed along with the short-cuts.
  4. “VirtualDubMod is a unification of several popular modifications of the famous video editing software VirtualDub by Avery Lee. It started out as a unification of three projects, VirtualDubMPeg2, VirtualDubOGM and VirtualDubAVS. But since then a lot of new features have been introduced” (FAQ).
    1. Download VirtualDubMod and unzip files to a folder to run from (ie. c:\apps\VirtualDubMod).
    2. Right-click on C:\apps\VirtualDubMod\VirtualDubMod.exe and choose “create shortcut” and drag it to your desktop.
    3. Run VirtualDubMod and open a Quicktime or other proprietary video file from the menu.
    4. Now click on the File menu and select “Save as”.
      1. type in the desired filename
      2. Click on button to “Change” the “Compression” to XviD MPEG-4 Codec (XVID).
      3. Select XviD MPEG-4 Codec
        1. Click on Configure and note that you can also adjust the quality (ie. filesize) of the output.
      4. Output your shiny new cross-platform video!
    5. Done.

Next time I will show you how to do the same thing using Linux. :-)

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

Technorati: “Release the Spiders!”

As I was just looking into signing up with Technorati I discovered the following epitaph welcoming me to their service: “Release the Spiders!”.

Well alright then. I guess there are worse ways of greeting a new comer. ;-)

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.

Thanks for stopping by…

I’ve decided to put up a quick Word Press blog while I continue to wait on Joomla! to release version 1.5. If you haven’t heard about Joomla!, it is a very promising full-featured website Content Management System. However, Word Press is also a very capable platform for managing a blog and since Word Press has achieved such wide support I have decided to stop waiting (I’m also on break from school too) and put something together that I can run with for a while.

I plan to use this blog for as a place to both record my own documentation, and references to documentation and news of others that will serve to either instruct how to use Open Source Software, and Why.

That’s all for now. Just a first post. Lots to do, but time for bed.


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