Fight for the Internet 1!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Nvidia-settings parse fail with xorg.conf

There is a bug in Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic with the default /etc/X11/xorg.conf involving Nvidia. If you try running 'kdesu nvidia-settings' or 'gksu nvidia-settings', then try to save with "Save to x confguration file" button, but receive the error:
Failed to parse existing X config file '/etc/X11/xorg.conf'
I found the problem by running:
sudo nvidia-settings 2>/dev/null

VALIDATION ERROR: Data incomplete in file /etc/X11/xorg.conf.
Undefined Device "(null)" referenced by Screen "Default Screen".

Erreur de segmentation
My default /etc/X11/xorg.conf looks like this:
Section "Screen"
Identifier "Default Screen"
DefaultDepth 24

Section "Module"
Load "glx"

Section "Device"
Identifier "Default Device"
Driver "nvidia"
Option "NoLogo" "True"
To fix the problem, just remove the Section "Screen" part. IF YOU NEED HELP EDITING CONFIGURATION FILES UNDER LINUX, please see this link:

The final version (before you edit it with the nvidia-settings program) should look like this:
Section "Module"
Load "glx"

Section "Device"
Identifier "Default Device"
Driver "nvidia"
Option "NoLogo" "True"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tab Complete with Bash Functions

About two years ago I had trouble figuring out how to program bash shell script functions to use tab-completion options. Here is what I learned, hopefully it will help someone out there, someday.

How to programming TAB completion into bash functions, programs and other such things.

Minimum Requirements
Here are the minimum requirements for BASH tab completion.
# 'local' can only be used within a function, exclude it if not using a function
local cur="${COMP_WORDS[COMP_CWORD]}"
local opts="--whatever --tabbing --options --you --want"
COMPREPLY=($(compgen -W "${opts}" -- ${cur}))

Lastly, you need one more line after this somewhere in the file, usually after your function:

complete -F "function_name" -o "default" "function_name"
# Replace function_name with your function
A simple example with the current code:


function sd
# 'local' can only be used within a function, exclude it if not using a function
local cur="${COMP_WORDS[COMP_CWORD]}"
local opts="--whatever --tab --options --you --want to have!"
COMPREPLY=($(compgen -W "${opts}" -- ${cur}))
if [[ ! $* =~ \n ]]; then # Check command been submitted, no more tab-completing
  echo "Command submitted"
  ... # more bash code, dealing with submitted command arguments

complete -F "sd" -o "default" "sd"
# complete -F "sd" -o "nospace" "sd" ## Use this if you do not want a space after the completed word
Slighty Advanced
You can manipulation the string input however you want, just make sure you clear COMPREPLY, and grab the current command prompt info, and append them using compgen.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wacom Draw Tablet under X-Windows

Problems with Monitor and Draw Tablet Screen
I have been using my draw tablet for about a year in Linux. While Ubuntu now makes the installation as easy as a KDE/X-Windows session restart, I still have some problems. Over the years I have tried every option I can think of to get things "perfect" but nothing has quite worked. But I have managed a workable solution for when I draw, so I will share it.

If anyone knows a better solution that what I am have here, please feel free to comment.

My System
I use an Nvidia 9400 GT with my Dell 2407WFPHC and my Wacom Cintiq 12WX CRT. I also use the Nvidia provided graphical configuration program for my display. (The package is called nvidia-settings. The program shares the same name.)

Using the Nvidia program, I have the following options:
  • Disable
  • Separate X screen
  • TwinView
Let's talk about them.

Separate X Screen
This is pretty straightforward. X-Windows treats the displays like separate X-screens. But for me, this option has had major problem since KDE 3.5 until even now in KDE 4.3 (and every version of Xorg in between). X-Windows does indeed create an X-screen on each device. But when using this, KDE creates a session on Screen 0, but fails to create a session on Screen 1. I had hoped that KDE 4.3 would have added this feature, now that they have improved Multiple Monitor support, but no such luck yet.

On top of not KDE not opening/creating a session on screen 1, there is a pen-tool error between both displays. The pen-tool's movement is radically distorted with the cursor movement between the screens, making it completely unusable. No positions or orientations I have tried have fixed this even a little.

Xinerama (under Separate X Screen mode)
When using Separate mode, I can choose to enable Xinerama. Unfortunately that breaks Compositing, which means Alpha-transparency and other desktop effects are disabled.

But the real deal-breaker is the unusable cursor-movement with the pen-tool. There is a problem with the cursor jumping between the two displays after moving a percentage of the way across the screen. The distance roughly corresponds to the difference in resolution pixel size between my tablet and my monitor. So, depending on the positioning of each display in my Xorg.conf (left of, right of, below, above, etc), the areas of the screen where the cursor will jump to-and-from varies but the square area is generally the same.

This is, I believe, an unfortunately reality of Xinerama from what little research I have done on the subject. If my tablet were able to do a resolution like 1920x1200, like my desktop monitor, perhaps this would not be a problem. Sadly it is, and I have never found even the slightest hint of a solution or work around for this.

TwinView mode works great for multiple desktops in KDE. Using KDE 4.3, the system detects both displays and works very nicely. Compositing and all those lovely eye-candies are still present.

Unfortunately, the pen-tool error between both displays still occurs. The pen-tool's movement is radically distorted with the cursor movement between the screens, making it completely unusable. No positions or orientations I have tried have fixed this even a little.

Workaround Solution
The only workaround solution I know that does let me use my tablet with no distorted cursor/pen-tool movement is disable my monitor display and use the tablet as the primary display. This always makes me a little sad, but I live with it. I keep hoping one day this will be fixed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nifty Recovery Tool and KDE 4.3 Review Continued

So after using KDE 4.3 for a while, I am happy to report it is an excellent upgrade.

Possible Retraction
The problems I have been experiencing with KDE 4.3 on my system may be related to slowly failing hardware. I believe my motherboard may be going bad, which could be causing the shutdown problems.

KDE 4.3 Upgrade Problems - Not Hitting Everyone
KDE 4.3 may upgrade smoothly for some, especially if the user never changed many of the KDE configurations. For my brother, upgrading from KDE 4.2.4 to KDE 4.3 was smooth as silk. Flawless. He had left everything default in 4.2.4. I can only assume my prior problems were caused by a few problematic configuration files that were created while I used KDE 4.2.4 plus, and I do customize a ton in KDE.

There is another thing I forgot to mention, whichk I only found out about today. If your KDE 4.3 upgrade screws up and you don't get any desktop displayed, this fix may help:

Reboot and when GRUB is starting to load, switch into the Recovery mode and boot with that. Upon startup, you will be given a nice little Text GUI with several common options, such as root console, root console with networking, package manager, etc. I have never seen this option screen before but I was both surprised and delighted by it. This is no doubt an excellent helpful tool for new and even old-but-inexperienced users for recovery.

I have no idea how long this feature has been here, nor do I know if it is from the Kernel Devs, the GNU, Debian/Ubuntu or what.

I even got to test one of these options just today. When upgrading my VirtualBox Kubuntu KDE 4.2.4, it had the same configuration errors I had experienced when upgrading my main desktop. The X-Windows system started and KDE 4.3 went through its startup but in the end all I got was a mouse-cursor and a black-blank screen with nothing else.

Since I could not easily get to a virtual-terminal in the VM window (by using CTRL+ALT+F1 for example), I decided to reboot and use the recovery mode. That is when I discovered this new Text GUI window with options. Looking through the options, I decided to try 'xfix', not thinking it would work. Imagine my shock when IT FIXED IT. I don't know exactly what it did (I wasn't watching at that moment) but it definitely sets many (if not all) configurations of the GUIs/X-Windows back to default. But hey, it fixed it.

I don't really give Konqueror credit for the subtle but truly excellent upgrades it has been receiving for a while. To name a few I have noticed:
  • Auto-column (re)sizing
  • Easier/smoother sorting order changes in Icon mode
  • Better toolbar icons + functionality available
  • Better shortcut support (but that's a whole KDE thing now)
  • Better Ark integration and configuration
  • Transfer Management: Transfer start-stop-pause control of multiple file transfers, not to mention a more unified and convenient window-management for the transfer-statusbar subwindows.
  • Latest version of Konqueror supports inline renaming, just like old times.
  • More options for general configuration
Another piece of news worth noting: Konqueror restores all of my tabs upon restart-from-konqueror-crash, and I do mean ALL my tabs. That means, for example, restoring multiple tabs split into 8 or more sub-panes windows, in different view modes and sorting modes. That is Im-Freaking-Pressive.

I have never been able to Columns view, and it always breaks when I do, even mangling the program restart with a few residual error messages on the restart. But oh well, I don't use that mode. (I just wish I could remove that button from my toolbar!)

KDE 4.3 is definitely more stable. Though I thought KDE 4.2.4 was pretty good, KDE 4.3 is better. The small errors have been smoothed over, though I still occasionally have crashes with Gwenview viewing from within Zips files. I'm inclined to wonder if it is a combination of Gwenview and the KDE KioSlaves not jiving well together.

Again, the changes are subtle, but influential. I have noticed that the passive notifications and progress/statusbars now fit even more nicely and less obtrusively into the KDE system-tray icon for them. I am not if some of the Konqueror features I mentioned should be attributed to KDE or not. Either way, I like where things are going.

Remaining Problems

  • Shortcut keys: The default shortcut keys in konsole interfere with real work. But you can change these through the Settings -> Configure Shortcuts menu. My case is CTRL+S, which locks my console. I have seen this behavior before but never from Konsole.
  • Transparency: First, Good transparency was removed from Konsole. It was replaced with Alpha Transparency.... which has never actually worked 100% properly in KDE 4 to date. In KDE 4.2 I was able to find workaround to make it function more or less correctly. Now that workaround no longer fixes the problem, so I'm stuck with a butt-fuck-ugly konsole with a washed-out white undertone on EVERYTHING. To whomever screwed this one up, I hate you.
It is hard to believe that the transparency feature in Konsole went from great, to bad, to really bad.

There are a few features still missing from Gwenview, which does vex me. I am hoping to see them by the next major update. It seems to me that the rest of the more complex features have been implemented by now.

Missing features:
  • Key shortcuts for Beginning/End of the current image list (in the current directory or archive).
  • Option to enable automatic disregarding of changes without prompting.
  • Duplicate Detection plugin
  • Image counter: (Without using the thumbnail bar) shows your progress in the current list of images. Something like 53/100. This was very useful for me.
I am actually kind of surprised that Gwenview is only missing a few features before it is back to what it was before.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

PulseAudio - A new system to solve many problems

What PulseAudio is, and why it is great for Linux.

Someone once asked me why PulseAudio is being pushed and I only had some vague ideas why. This article briefly mentions some new reasons I did know. I thought you might be interested:

I have been reading up on PulseAudio and like I said before, if it becomes the standard (and I think it will) it will be great and solve a lot of the problems in Linux. Sufficient to say, if PulseAudio can do all that I have ever seen listed on websites for features, it will be the end all of sound systems for Linux. :)

Just to name a few features PulseAudio has that I like:
  • Support for a far wider range of audio devices ( Bluetooth/Apple Airport)
  • Flat volume support (similar to Vista's audio controls)
  • On-the-fly reconfiguration of audio devices
  • Native support for 24-bit samples.
  • It will run on Windows, both natively if desired or through Cygwi.
  • Support for allow networked sound (between Windows and Linux)
These last two two features are things I have personally desired from a sound system. Previously I had never successfully enabled transporting of sound across a network from a Windows Machine to a Linux machine. (The occasion for wanting to do this was that I had a Windows machine in my room, running games which I was controlling from my Linux desktop via Synergy. I did not want to setup a second pair of speakers to hear the games. I wanted to have the audio from that computer piped into my main desktop speakers.)

About two years ago, PulseAudio was rather unsupported (maybe even broken), at least in Ubuntu. Maybe it was the programs... or maybe it was the kernel. I don't know. It could have been both. But now most of my programs run PulseAudio just fine. I remember the annoying problems I would have with OSS audio in the past. This transition to PulseAudio is much less of a problem for me.

I suppose a user must need to be somewhat advanced to experience the occasional difficulties with software audio protocol conflicts and difficulties. I can safely tell you that I definitely experienced more problems with audio 6 years ago when I began to seriously use Linux. I also experienced more when I was using a wider variety of software.

In the past 6 years I have been watching, there has been larger move towards supported ALSA in most applications, and now support for PulseAudio seems to be coming along nicely. The best part of PulseAudio is that, to my understanding, as long the application uses ALSA, ARTS or ESD, all of those are wrapped under the PulseAudio umbrella.

So if PulseAudio is actually working on your system, the system is backwards and forwards compatible, and all sound play nicely together. Well done, huh?

Of course, there is the issue that PulseAudio will have more overhead than systems like ALSA, which of course has more overhead than OSS. Personally though, I seriously doubt this is going to even be noticed on desktops with Dual-cores and even more so as Quad-cores become commonplace. Also, we are not talking about a lot of overhead here, especially when the system is not doing much.

KDE 4.3 and Konqueror's Neglect

KDE 4.3 Ain't So Stable (Yet)
KDE 4.3 was released yesterday. My advice to anyone considering trying it out right now: DON'T UPGRADE! If you are going to use it, do a fresh install, unless you know how to juggle config files. Edit: I did an upgrade of KDE 4.3 on my brother's laptop, and it went smooth as silk. KDE 4.3 works flawlessly for his computer, yet mine still had/has some issues. So your mileage may vary.

While any of you that know me are aware I am an avid Linux fan (though this is really about KDE, not Linux per se), the following post has some bad new to report.

KDE 4.3 is supposed to be a stabilizing release, focusing mostly on bug fixes (over 10,000 completed) and some feature updates. That may be, but I'm afraid my experience so far has been anything but stable.

1st: I installed KDE 4.3 from the apt-repositories. Then I restarted KDE/X-Windows. KDE proceeded to start, but never showed me my desktop, just a blank workspace. Obviously KDE 4.3 did not smoothly upgrade from KDE 4.2.4.

2nd: After 30 minutes of doing a fairly straightforward but advanced detection and fix, I was able to isolate a group of the problem files and repopulate my KDE configuration files. Things progressed smoothly until I encountered the next major bug: Exiting KDE.

KDE 4.3 will NOT, under any circumstances, Shut down the computer, Restart the computer, or Log out. It simply will not do it, no matter how many times you try. Luckily I know the manual shutdown command, but that's a pretty heinous error.

3rd: Konsole. The transparency in KDE Konsole is... wait for it.... even more broken than before. I have trouble believing my eyes on this one. I'm pretty shocked it did not get fixed. Even the WORKAROUND for the bug, that has been there for over a year, no longer works now. I guess this just gives me more impetus to get back to writing my own alternative virtual terminal, because God-Damn-it, we need one fucking badly.

4th: EDIT. I fixed the problem. It was a setting configuration, though it was really damned hard to find.

5th: Be forewarned this has some rather ranting moments, so I apologize.

Konqueror is without a doubt the best file manager I know of currently. But it has been pretty broken since KDE 4.0.

Even by KDE 4.3, it still have issues, plus some new bugs. For me, the most apparent bug in KDE4 Konqueror is the utterly awful way Images are handled within it (opening, previewing, mouse previewing). Since one of my primary hobbies is collecting images, this has been a constant colossal pain in my side. I keep waiting for that be fixed but it has been 18 months now. That's pretty f**king unacceptable. (Can you tell I'm mad?)

On a less rage filled thought, Konqueror is in serious need of being updated from QT3 to QT4. Namely it needs the standard QT4 navigation bar, and god-damn-it would be nice to have meta/information panels like Dolphin does. Actually, even though I don't use Dolphin because of its imposed limitations, I like several things in it.

But there is good news. At least, partially. The KDE team has been planning to add these exact updates for a while now. It would just be nice if they actually did it.

Cursory Review of KDE 4.3
  • Konqueror Gestures are back. I did miss these, but ironically now I don't so much need them if I have my new mouse with 5+ buttons.
  • Better Ark integration (with more menu support too).
  • Support for more formats and a few small bug fixes.
Gwenview (changed from version 2.2.4 to 2.3.0):
  • Bug Fixes: God Almighty I hope the bugs are really fixed. They were simply AWFUL at points (way too frequently) and they should been fixed a long time ago. Really, they should have been. No excuse. Should have been done months ago.
  • Plugins: In case you did not know (like most KDE 4 users), you have to install the kiki-plugins package to enable the plugins for Gwenview. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed since the prior version.
    It is still missing the most important plugin for me: Find Duplicates Images.
  • Sidebar: Better hiding and restoration interface.
  • Thumbnail Bar: Now it can be vertical, which I prefer. Nice.
  • On a personal note, though Gwenview is still missing a few features I consider crucial, I really do like all the new features that have been added.

I sometimes ask myself, "Should you try using KDE 3.5 again?" The answer is mostly no. The biggest problems (that I know of) for KDE 4 has been Gwenview and Konqueror, which are two programs I use constantly, and they are usable, just not fully-functioning. If I look beyond that, KDE 4 is a great system. I can live with the small little lack of eyecandy in Konsole. Even in KDE 4.2.4, when Plasma would crash, it would do so very gracefully and almost immediately restore itself with no noticeable ill-effects.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Firefox 3.5 is finally out!

So Firefox 3.5 was finally released officially yesterday. Any of you Slashdot readers probably knew about it just slightly before I did!

If you are running Ubuntu, as every good person should, Firefox-3.5 is not in the official repositories yet. But do not despair! You can add the PPA Ubuntu Mozilla Security repository to your system and download FF35 immediately.

For full details, see here:

For the quick 6-step process, do the following:
(All from command line.)
  1. sudo echo "deb jaunty main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list
  2. gpg --keyserver --recv-keys B9F1C432AE74AE63
  3. gpg --armor --export B9F1C432AE74AE63 | sudo apt-key add -
  4. sudo apt-get update
  5. sudo apt-get install firefox-3.5
  6. firefox-3.5 & # Or just start firefox-3.5 from the Run Dialog
You will still have firefox-3.0 on the system and in fact, it will still be the default application if you ever simply ran the command 'firefox.'

I probably will be running some speed tests here soon, and if I do, I will post the resulting comparison between the two browser versions.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ubuntu makes Draw Tablet installation easy as could be

So I own a Wacom Cintiq 12WX draw tablet. Yes, it is a very expensive toy and I use it in Linux.

Prior to switching to Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty, the process involved with getting my tablet to work was somewhat involved.

  1. Plug in the device
  2. Throw some generic config lines into /etc/X11/xorg.conf to enable the input devices
  3. Compile the latest Linux Wacom Project drivers myself and load them into my kernel
  4. Change my nvidia settings to accommodate my new display
  5. Restart KDE
  6. Enable the input device in The Gimp

Oh yeah: I also needed to make sure I had the darn thing plugged (usb and vga/dvi) in properly. (I have missed it a few times among all my other cables).

Not a lot of work and the compilation is pretty simple.

But now with Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty, my job is much simpler:
  1. Plug in the device
  2. Change my nvidia settings to accommodate my new display
  3. Restart KDE
  4. Enable the input device in The Gimp
Let me tell you, it does not get much easier than this. I mean, plug it in and go!

I am having a minor configuration issue with simultaneously using my tablet input and my mouse to work on the same drawing area. It seems that somewhere along the way, the tablet input takes precedence and disables using the mouse to affect the Gimp Drawing area. I'm looking for a solution and I will post it when I know it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Logitech diNovo Edge bluetooth connectivity issues

Sort of like USB support years ago, BlueTooth still has some bugs under Linux. Currently I'm referencing just connectivity issues. From what I can tell, this particular issue has been around in Linux since July 2007 at least according to some bug reports.

I use the Logitech diNovo Edge. This keyboard is awesome and I love it. When the dongle is not initialized as a bluetooth device - ie in bios, boot, install etc it simply emulates a usb keyboard / mouse and works (without any fancy features) perfectly. Hence, it works in text mode great. This happens during during System Startup, BIOS access or during the actually Linux console startup sequence.

However, as soon as it is initialized as a bluetooth device it forces you to use bluetooth pairing to work (this applies to Windows too). So, as you can imagine, by the time I reach KDE the keyboard doesn't work.

A solutions I have found to this problem (Source

Edit with sudo (text-editor) /etc/default/bluetooth

Then look for the line that says:

and change it to this:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Linux Promotional Rant - Windows Recovery versus Windows

I saw this quote in an Ubuntu Forum thread and I felt like making my own reply.

Quote source from

A post by jgalley:
"You are doing an automatic upgrade of your OS and in the middle of the application of the patches the power fails and your system crashes hard. What OS do you want to be running? From my experience if it is Linux then you are about to see firsthand why Ubuntu is free and Vista costs 400 bucks.

If I have to rebuild my worstation and development environment even once then the actual cost of Ubuntu is more that the cost of Vista. In fact, for every extra time my Ubuntu system crashes hard and fails to boot I could have purchased a new Vista system from Dell, thrown my old system in the trash and still come out ahead.

Linux is the best, if what you like to do is rebuild and reinstall operating systems or endlessly search the internet for cryptic instuctions on how to edit /etc files to make some piece of hardware or software sort of work."
Yeah, I know anything from the Microsoft forums is pretty much flamebait, but let's go with this.

This entire speech totally belies the fact that in my experience a Windows Machine tends to bug-out after a sudden power loss, while nothing so palty even shakes a Linux system.

Right off, this guy is not being specific with his arguments. Let's get specific.

Harddrive Hardware Failure
When dealing with hardware failure due to spontaneous power loss, then RAID systems and backups are all you have to deal with. Shockingly those have very little, if anything, to do with the Operating System. The same goes for any other hardware you have die from the experience.

Harddrive Filesystem Failure
When dealing with software file-system problems due to spontaneous power loss, then there is no contest. Linux journaling File-Systems just win.

I occasionally see print claiming that NTFS is a journaling file-system like EXT3/4. To be bluntly honest, I don't know if I would believe ithad journaling even if I saw the source-code myself, because NTFS sure as fuck doesn't act like it has journaling.

At least not journaling like I have enjoyed with Linux file-systems. Of course, that assumes one is using NTFS, which is a fair assumption now days, but again this poster did not mention that. For all we know, there are Fat32 systems involved and let me tell you from experience, doing scandisks on huge Fat32 formated Harddisks takes hours.

Maybe it has been a few years, or maybe Vista has something magically under the hood, but no NTFS file-system I have even heard of makes serious recoveries as quickly and thoroughly as a Linux journaling file-system.

Fixing A Broken OS
What about when the OS is broken and won't boot properly. Of course, exactly *how* broken has an significant impact. Misconfigured files? Broken drivers? Broken kernal? The poster does not mention the specific methods of restoration.

He might mean throwing in some vendor provided disc and hoping its magic works. I would not know, Linux does not need these things. But since he's not specific, let's assume he means doing some manual work on a recovery console. In fact, this is very likely exactly what he means.

I need to stop here for a second and point out something: Is this n00b actually claiming it is easier to do something in the console/command-line in *Windows* than in Linux? ...? The next question of course is WTF? Yeah, let's move on. Alright, so it is safe to say it is going to be easier to do work on the console/command-line in Linux than Windows any day of the decade.

But what kind of work you ask? Well, whatever work you need to do to restore your system. Let's hope you know enough about the clearly documented and well designed Windows system architecture. Let's also hope that you can do all your recover from a console text environment and nothing requires a graphical session. At this point alone, Linux recovery is more certain than Windows, because in Linux literally anything that can be done from a graphical session can be done from a console, while the same is certainly not always true for Windows.

As for what exact work is to be done, I don't know since each situation varies but I'd like to see him edit his registry through a console Microsoft Console and call that "easy." Meanwhile I will just be using my Vim editor to modify human-readable-flat-text-configuration-files and browsing the Internet from command-line via eLinks for further help.

In Linux, one can completely recompile/reinstall anything needed without a graphical session. Debian Software Packages and shell-scripts for the win. That does not happen with all the numerous variety of Windows installer programs.

Using a boot disk, with some careful work, one can even do recompilation/reinstall for a non-booted system. I would like to see any Windows machine compile from command line as easily as Linux. Hell, I would like to see Windows compile ANYTHING as readily as Linux tends to.

The poster mentions "Cryptic instructions." Well, I won't say Linux is easy to use as a Fisher Price toy, but few powerful tools are. Since turnabout is fair play, if he wants to talk cryptic, then let's go all the way and discuss poor instructions. This, of course, leads to Microsoft Help Files/Manuals.

I certainly will not claim every Linux/BSD Man-page ever written in the world is great and has all the information needed. But in my experience, easily 90% of the time, man-pages will give provide most if not all ones needs. I have yet to even hear of a single good Microsoft Help file. (And I have talked with career technical writers on the subject).

Of course, this side-steps the point about the architectures and system designs themselves.

Full OS Reinstall
Now, if the poster is talking about a full OS reinstall, I can fucking-money-back-guarantee-you Ubuntu Linux will be fully installed and have completed any updates with all my software installed well before Windows has the 2nd Service pack installed (if even the 1st), let alone all other personal programs and virus/firewall software.

And that does not even address the issue of live-booting. :P

Development Environment
The guy mentions rebuilding his development environment. ... I am going to assume that means installing Visual Studio, or something of the like, and a train load of additional software libraries.

I got news for the poster, in Linux that is as easy as a few mouse clicks with my package manager, or a single Shell-script execution to send commands to apt-get. In a word: Owned.

Further Laughs
This guy identifies himself as a ripened idiot by going on further to state: "In fact, for every extra time my Ubuntu system crashes hard and fails to boot I could have purchased a new Vista system from Dell, thrown my old system in the trash and still come out ahead."

Even from my longest recovery time, my time has never been equal to the couple thousand dollars to build my new powerful desktop, and certainly was not worth the recovery of my irreplaceable data files. Maybe this guy takes his computer to the Geek Squad and has to wait two weeks for recovery? (Yeah, I know they don't do Linux, but you get my point).

Lastly, what sort of piece of shit computer is he running that is worth less than $400 + New Deskstop that he casually throws away?

Shear Idiocy -- Economics of Morons
"If I have to rebuild my worstation and development environment even once then the actual cost of Ubuntu is more that the cost of Vista."

I really have to address this one. So, "free" is somehow going to become more than $400 through just one occasion? Are you fucking kidding me?

Beyond the fact that the poster is utterly failing to take into account the 10 to 1 ratio of Windows system breakdowns versus Linux, he arbitrarily states that any recovery with Linux will be more than $400. The logical converse of this argument is that any recovery with Vista will be automatically less. (And that does not even address repeated recovery costs, which Linux most definitely trumps Windows on because of better system longevity).

Is he claiming that any recovery done with Vista will be less costly (time and money and effort invested) over Linux? Really? Seriously? ...I actually think this person is claiming exactly that. Well, he's completely wrong.

Situations vary and thus recoveries do. In the 1 out of 10 situations where Linux has a problem like Windows, the situations is going to be specific and relate to the knowledge of the person doing the recovery. I am not going to claim Linux recoveries always cost less than Windows recovery because making such a blanket statement about all situation is foolishness, and the same goes for Windows over Linux.

I will just say this: Linux recoveries happen less frequently... and chances are, you can find the "cryptic" instructions online, and you will be able to access your configuration files through console easily and recompile/reinstall any software necessary. Windows can't claim that people. It just can't.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Move from VMWare to VirtualBox

If you use Virtual Machine software, in particular VMWare, this will be of interest to you. If you use Ubuntu, I suggestion you consider using VirtualBox for your VM needs and here is why. Please note, this is only talking about non-VMWare Fusion products.

I have been using VMWare for about 2 and 1/2 years now, but just recently I have decided to move to using VirtualBox.

The Reasons I Left VMWare
  1. Apt-get Availability: VMWare is not available in the Ubuntu apt repositories and I have never found any other Ubuntu/Debian repos to use. It was once available via 3rd party repos from Ubuntu, but not for well over a year and a 1/2.
  2. Compiling: Because there are no easily available apt-repositories packages, I have been compiling VMWare myself for a while. I don't mind compiling (in fact, I think it is a great and powerful feature of Linux) but because VMWare has close ties with the kernel, occasionally I would have to recompile VMWare after a kernel or kernel module update from Ubuntu. In general, the compiling was not a major annoyance but it was not convenient.
  3. Compiling Problems: In Ubuntu Jaunty 9.04, I have not been able to compile VMWare 1.x no matter what I try. I attempted to use verrsion 2.x, but that didn't work out well.
  4. Future VMWare Versions: I successfully compiled and ran VMWare 2.x but it radically fails to meet my needs for a Virtual Machine program. Furthermore, it fails (perhaps even spectacularly) to meet some of my most basic preferences for a program in general. I personally found its interface ridiculously slow, featureless, and extremely unusable.
Reasons I Moved to VirtualBox
  1. Competitors: VirtualBox is the major competitor to VMWare.
  2. Features: VirtualBox actually has a few features that VMWare does not have, such as dynamic virtual harddrive expansion and shrinking and not require full diskspace pre-allocation. VirtualBox also supports limited 3D Acceleration (both OpenGL and Direct3D), with more in development. (This feature VMWare completely lacks). I have yet to find any features missing in VirtualBox from VMWare.
  3. Integration: Though my recent usage experience has not been excessive, the integration of VirtualBox into my host Linux system has been better and smoother than VMWare. In particular:
    • Using VMWare I had network issues when running KDE4 in a VM. VirtualBox has no such issues.
    • After installing the Guest Additions, my mouse can travel smoothly between my VirtualBox guest VM display and my desktop without being stuck/limited to the display area. (Vbox specifically informs you of this capability actually post-installation).
    • Guided steps with the GUI for sharing files between the host machine and guest VM. VMWare required mounting via commandline which worked but was somewhat buggy.
  4. Availability: VirtualBox is available right through the Ubuntu apt-repositories. If I want a more up-to-date version, I can easily find apt-repo at PPA launchpad. (This sort of community is yet another reason why Ubuntu is so great).
  5. Portability: Just like VMWare, Virtualbox runs on every major OS out there.
  6. Cost: VirtualBox is free as you get. While VMWare never cost me anything to run, there may have come a day when I was faced with paying for their products. I won't have to worry about that with VirtualBox.
  7. Performance: Though I have not thoroughly tested the performance, from my own experience and the reviews I have read online, VBox does not perform (process tasks as quickly) as VMWare but it certainly is not casually noticable. I know VBox is continuing to push for improvements in this area.
I have been using VirtualBox for about 2 weeks now and it is exceeding my needs. VBox meets my needs in a more convenient way than VMWare did before, especially after installing the Guest Additions. Though VBox has a different interface from VMWare, I think I actually prefer the organization concept and designs of the VirtualBox system over VMWare's organization, particularly with shared resources. Overall, I think it is a better piece of software.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yet more support for Linux from NVidia and ATI

This was news to me. It makes me very happy to see this. Long story short, Nvidia and ATI/AMD are providing programming API's to allow software in the *nix world (Linux, BSD, Solaris, etc) to utilize GPUs on their hardware. Specifically,VDPAU from Nvidia and XvBA from ATI/AMD are the systems for the X Windows System. They are equivalent of the Microsoft's DirectX Video Acceleration (DxVA) API for Windows.

Those links will give you more information if you are interested. There are several other programs I personally know of, most notable Avidemux's latest development branches, which are working to make use of this new programming API and technology. It makes me pleased to see these systems coming into place in the *nix world, breaking down yet another barrier between competing Operating Systems.

Even though the protocols from Nvidia and ATI are still limited in what they can do, I have little doubt the capabilities will be extended and based on stirrings in the Windows world, I am sure of it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

KDE4 very good but still has some glitches

I really like KDE4 and I look forward to when it is "complete." By that I mean, when all of the features I previously enjoyed in KDE3 are available. I am seriously considering seeing if I can help with a few features I want right now, such as all my Desktop Wallpaper options... and a few extra features I have thought up along the way.

In an attempt to eschew being a Linux Fanboy and merely be a bigtime fan, I will list the glitches I have encountered so far. To be fair, not all of these may be relating to KDE but instead with the current Linux kernel version I am using.

I will list my problems and any solutions or workarounds that I have seen.

Konsole transparency
  • Description: There is an odd white glow to any konsole color profile transparency settings initially when the konsole is loaded. This glow remains regardless of what appears to be half of all possible colors and is present at zero percent opacity. Even when using my work around, the problem returns if the konsole is resized at all.
  • Number of times encountered so far: This is a reproducible bug.
  • Successful Solution: The glow disappears and proper opacity returns when you cause a full desktop redraw. (I believe actually a full Plasma Desktop redraw, but I'm not sure.) This can be done by going to System Settings -> Desktop -> Desktop Effects -> All Effects and changing or literally toggling an option. As long as you can and do hit the "Apply" button to force a redraw, the konsole will display the proper opacity.
  • Note: There may be other color errors, and I suspect there are, but I have not had time to properly check for them.
Keyboard failure
  • Description: My keyboard stopped working completely, and this was not related to my wireless bluetooth keyboard. I always have an axillary PS2 keyboard plugged in and this too would not function.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 2
  • Attempted (but failed) solutions: X-Windows restart.
  • Successful Solution: Rebooted.
Mouse failure
  • Description: My mouse stopped working completely. I did not attempt to use a USB mouse to check if that still worked.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 1
  • Successful Solution: Rebooted.
Application Menu Shortcut Keys
  • Description: Tried to set Meta+O to start OpenOffice writer, but this did not seem to work. No error message or related conflicts were encountered and everything looked like it should work, except that it never did.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 1
  • Attempted (but failed) solutions: X-Windows restart.
  • Successful Solution: Rebooted.
  • Description: Randomly seems to crash and no noticeable pattern of problems. Unfortunately Kubuntu is not compiled with backtrace abilities or I would provide bug reports.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 3 (which is pretty good since I have used this program probably over 200 times)
  • Description: When selecting "Compress to..." and choosing a specific archive type, Ark seems to crash when you use more than a single '.' (period) character in the file name, especially with .tar.gz.
  • Number of times encountered so far: This is a reproducible bug.
  • Successful Solution: Don't use an extra dot.
Konqueror crashes
  • Description: Konqueror has crashed several times on me randomly and I am not sure what to say about that, since sometimes it just crashes when I'm not even actively using it.
  • Note: Konqueror is usably stable and I expect it to only improve. At the moment, Konqueror is seriously a work in progress, based on the updating of features, protocols, refactoring of features and its unholy union with the file manager Dolphin.
  • Number of times encountered so far: Around 6 times so far.
Monitor Timed Power-off
  • Description: My monitor will not shut itself off after extended use, despite configuring it to do so. Not sure if it is a configuration bug on my part or not.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 1.
Lock Screen fails to engage
  • Description: Could not engage a session lock.
  • Number of times encountered so far: 1.
  • Successful Solution: X-Windows restart.
GTK / QT4 Button Mis-arrangement
  • Description: The Yes/No, Replace/Cancel, Overwrite/Replace, etc. buttons in some applications are in the incorrect order, as dictated by the HID standard (which I believe GTK at least adheres to, and probably QT as well). I have confirmed this in Kate and Firefox at least.
More updates to come as I see them.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Make Kubuntu 9.04 use a single Kate session

I don't know if this was a KDE4 team or Ubuntu change, but somewhere along the way Kate stopped using a single session and started to open an instances of itself for each file. I suspect this is an Ubuntu change.

Anyway, if you want to have only a single instance of Kate running, here is how to fix this. You can edit the Kate menu entry by right-clicking on the K-menu and editing it. Edit the "Command: " line and insert '--use' between 'kate' and the '%U'. It should end up looking like this:
Command: kate --use %U
The other option is to manually open the file in a text editor: /home/user_name/.local/share/applications/kde4-kate.desktop (Where 'user_name' is the target user name).

You want to change the "Exec: " line. Insert '--use' between 'kate' and the '%U'. It should end up looking like this:
Exec: kate --use %U
Test the new configuration in Konqueror. If Konqueror gives you problems about not being able to open /usr/bin/kate, this is to a known bug in the KDE-Libs with DBUS. There is a workaround for this.

Open the file in a text editor (again): /home/user_name/.local/share/applications/kde4-kate.desktop (Where 'user_name' is the target user name).

Find the line "X-DBUS-StartupType=Multi" and change the "Multi" to "None".

That should fix your problem.

Ext4 and Btrfs Benchmark tests

While researching EXT4 performance, I came across this website:

They were quite informative. If you are interested in learning how EXT4 compares to EXT3 and other major filesystem competitors of the day (XFS and ReiserFS), have a read. One caution, read their bar graph summaries/legends carefully because the graphs can be misread if you don't pay careful attention.

EXT4 does not win at everything but it seems to hold the best place in more tests than its competitors. Well, at least in these tests.

For those of you interested in next generation filesystem coming our way, Btrfs, they also have benchmarks for the current development snapshot.

Ubuntu brings advanced Screen features to everyday users

If you use terminal to get much done in Linux, you will probably encounter the GNU program called "screen." If you haven't yet, take the time to learn. It is great and extremely useful if you do serious work on the console.

The learning curve is a steep but short. Once you learn about 4 basic commands, you can start working and learn more as needed.

However, the old news is that Ubuntu has once again tried to make another powerful tool of the Linux world more accessible and user-friendly for the masses. Ubuntu by default installs the package 'screen-profiles' which adds a couple of nice text interfaces and predefined settings to help new users learn the tool.

That is all well and good and I applaud this move. However, if you are an old or advanced Linux user, Ubuntu's move might interfere with some of your daily work. The screen-profile's try not to interfere with a ~/.screenrc file, but they still can slightly.

Uninstalling the package will solve most issues, but there is one very VERY important feature that has been changed as a problem prevention step for newbie users. In some shells and within Screen itself the command CTRL-s if used inappropriately with other key combinations can cause your visible text area to halt until CTRL-Q is pressed.

Now, I use CTRL-s for searching my Bash command history and for saving within my Vim session. So I safely use CTRL-s and I want it around and not interfered with their problem prevention. To get around Ubuntu's new default configurations, simply add this line to your ~/.bashrc file, or type it on the command line whenever you open a new screen window.
stty -ixon

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A weird tale of SELinux, Firefox and Jaunty Remix woes

Here is an unusual story I experienced many months ago. First let me tell the reader what you are about to read is not normal. I have never heard of SELinux behaving like it did with me here, and I have used it for several years before and since this incident with no problems. (Though I have switched to using AppArmor based on recommendations from Ubuntu). I have also never had this problem since it happened.

The Story
Back on April 7th 2009, I installed Kubuntu Jaunty 9.04 KDE3 remix.

I did all the update and upgrades and grabbed all the new kernal goodness. Then I installed SELinux and rebooted. Upon reboot, I found something (SELinux I can only guess) had DESTROYED all the Japanese text in my filenames. It turned them into complete garbage and I don't know why, because this has never happened before. (I assume it did this during its scan of my hard-disks.)

In general I favor running SELinux and I don't believe this behavior is normal (especially since I have run it before and since with no more problems). I am thinking it was perhaps a problem with the package of SELinux itself from Ubuntu.

This type of file corruption would be a major catastrophe except that I am such a good person for backing files up, so I was able to recover from most of it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Firefox 3.5's new JavaScript engine to use revolutionary new JIT method

Here is small post for you programmer guys that you may find interesting.

Sure, you know what JIT is and why it makes so many modern interpreted languages actually usable in terms of speed/performance. But you probably have not heard of the exact methods through which JIT is achieved, and much less of a new method called "trace trees."

Apparently Mozilla's JavaScript engine has a new feature called TraceMonkey which is based on this new JIT compilation method and "The net result is a massive speed increase both in the browser chrome and Web‐page content."[1]

Programmers may find reading about Trace Trees to be interesting. I did.

For more detailed information about how this works with Firefox 3.5, take a look here.

More Evidence of Linux All Around You

Here is another story for you readers to remember the next time you see some Linux hater or hear people saying Linux is not popular, or common, or is losing popularity.

I have heard more than once that Hollywood uses Linux a lot, which is to say in a more correct sense, the Entertainment Industry uses Linux. Well, here is a little story about one such company: Walt Disney Feature Animation.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ubuntu Jaunty - No Ctrl+Alt+BackSpace for You!

So Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty has by default disabled the Ctrl+Alt+Backspace keysequence for restarting the X Server. For some advanced Linux users, this might be completely offensive. But let's remember that Ubuntu us targeting both existing Linux users in addition to newbies.

To Reverse / Fix

KDE 3.5
If you are using KDE 3.5 in Jaunty, you reverse this change to normal behavior by adding this code to your xorg.conf:
Section "ServerFlags"
Option "DontZap" "off"
1) Install the “dontzap” package (hopefully this step can be skipped in the future):
sudo apt-get install dontzap

2) Launch “systemsettings” and select the “Display” module

3) Click on the checkbox labeled “Ctrl+Alt+Backspace restarts the xserver” and press the apply button.
After that, type in your password. You know the drill.

Sometimes I wonder about things like this begin cropping up in future releases. But honestly, as far as I am concerned, so long as I have the power to re-enable whatever feature was taken away, I don't see a problem here. Others may disagree, but overall I feel confident that this will be a non-issue.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kubuntu 9.04 with KDE3.5 released!

Kubuntu 9.04 with KDE3.5 has been released! Get your ISO images here.

For some reason, the torrent never worked for me, despite fiddling with my settings quite a bit. I had to download the ISO file in the end, but that was very fast.

For more details on the release, go here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kubuntu 9.04 with KDE 3.5 slightly delayed

So according to the Kubuntu download pages, the release of Kubuntu 9.04 with KDE 3.5 packaged by default is slightly delayed. I will personally be watching for this attentively myself, but for those who want to watch themselves, check, and for updates.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Text to Speech in Linux

After using my friend's Amazon Kindle 2 and its Text-to-Speech (TTS) feature to read something I had written, I became interested in getting a TTS program for my own use. The best solution I have found was a combination of KDE's Text-to-Speech manager and an external TTS program.

KDE's readily available TTS system integration makes me proud of how the open-source and Linux communities attempt to help people for free.

Part 1 Choosing a TTS Program
Most TTS software in Linux does not seem to provide a graphical user interface for control, just a command line utility. This utility can be tied to a graphical controller, but first you must choose which TTS program option is right for you.

Option #1: For the Free of Charge or Open-Source only People
For the people not willing to pay for any TTS software (and yes, there is some good stuff available for Linux), or for those who will only use completely Open-Source material, Festival + some other voices is probably your best option.

Festival is a general multi-lingual speech synthesis system and it is probably the first thing one will encounter when researching TTS in Linux. It is well supported in Linux and I personally was able to get it to read a text file within minutes.

To get it to work with kttsmgr, there was no editing of configuration files necessary, but to use it directly from command line I had to add this /etc/festival.scm for ALSA sound support:
(Parameter.set 'Audio_Command "aplay -D plug:dmix -q -c 1 -t raw -f s16 -r $SR $FILE")
(Parameter.set 'Audio_Method 'Audio_Command)
(Parameter.set 'Audio_Required_Format 'snd)
In festival, the voice synthesis is pretty good, though I found it sometimes too fast, particularly over some punctuation, and the voice is obviously synthetic. If you are hoping for something a little different, read about solution #2.

This is a really great tutorial on how to get Festival working with a variety of other voices that are available.

If you are interested in using Festival, but want different voices, Option #2's voices can be made to work with Festival as well.

MBROLA will frequently pop up on Google during TTS searches, or at least it did for me. Wikipedia explains this project better than I, but simply put: It is a free system for enhancing the quality of TTS systems, but it is not itself a full TTS system. MBROLA can be used along with Festival, as the tutorial link above will show.
This webpage is a great resource for the many numerous TTS systems and projects in Linux and the open-source world. If you want additionally information about TTS and other related projects, I suggest you go there.

Option #2: Purchased voiced & Closed source
For those willing to pay a little to buy a TTS voice and are willing to use a closed source TTS project, I suggest Cepstral. Their product is very high quality and is available for Linux (32 and 64 bit), Windows and Mac OS. Take a look at their demos and you can tell fairly quickly if their product is right for you.

Their Windows version comes with a nice and simply GUI program to read text, and provides graphical configuration of the programs voice, which is fairly customizable. Their Linux version(s), as far as I can tell, comes with only a command line utility, but they product documention on their website FAQs about using their program with KDE's TTS manager.

Part 2 Configuring a Frontend Graphical Controller
While there may be other controllers, I used KDE's program: kttsmgr. This is their Text-To-Speech manager and it supports a great variety of TTS command line programs.

There are plenty of tutorials on getting Festival to work with kttsmgr.

Update: Besides making sure you install a festival voice, I am not even sure any additional configuration is necessary beyond going through the kttsmgr and adding a talker.

Option #2 Cepstral with kttsmgr
[Taken from Cepstral's own FAQ docs]
To integrate Cepstral voices into the KTTS text-to-speech system (present in KDE 3.4 or later), first select KTTS from the KDE menu or run kttsmgr from the command line to open the configuration manager.

In the Talkers tab, click the Add button to add a new voice. Now, select the "Show All" option for synthesizers, choose the Command synthesizer, and click OK. You'll now be asked to choose a language. Select anything here, as it will be ignored. Finally, it's time to specify the swift command to run. To speak using the default voice, use:

swift %t -o %w

If you want a specific voice, use the -n switch like this:

swift %t -o %w -n Isabelle

You'll also want to select Latin1 as the character set. Click OK, then Apply to set the current voice. Your voice should now work in any KDE app that uses KTTS.
I found that selecting UTF-8 instead of Latin1 caused no problems, but I am also not using any sort of foreign language texts.

Update: When using Cepstral's swift on the command line, you may encounter OSS sound compatibility errors. Install the package alsa-oss and use the program it provides 'aoss' to act as a sound wrapping layer for ALSA. For example:
aoss swift -f file.txt
Try Festival and if it meets your needs, great. Personally I needed something like Cepstral and I was happy to pay for the voice. It worked great with my software.

Amazon Kindle's Text to Speech legal thoughts

Just a quick post: I found an article with a lawyer discussing the implications of the Authors Guild's resistance to Amazon's Text to Speech feature in their Kindle. He makes some great points.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Swiftfox (AMD/Intel optimized Firefox)

"Swiftfox is an optimized build of Mozilla Firefox. Swiftfox has builds for both AMD and Intel processors and is based on the most cutting edge Firefox source code available."

I learned about Swiftfox while investigating some slow performance I have been experiencing in my normal Firefox. When trying Swiftfox, even after only a few minutes, I noticed some improved "snappiness" in my browsing. That is to say, I noticed switching between tabs was faster, graphics and pages both loaded and refreshed more quickly, and Gmail was significantly faster and more responsive.

Here is some information from the Wikipedia page on Swiftfox. It is interesting to note that the compiled binaries were made using GCC version 4.0.x, while I know for a fact that later version of the 4.x GCC compiler have improved optimizations. Under different circumstances, I might assume this would result in lesser performance, but since the Swiftfox creator has a knowledge of assembly instructions for several architectures, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for knowing what he is doing by using an older compiler.

The Swiftfox build is optimized using the following methods:

Binary code optimization

Increased Security

  • Better protection from Buffer overflow attacks[6] (Swiftfox 2.0 uses -D_FORTIFY_SOURCE=2; Firefox 2.0 uses gcc 3.x, which does not support this).[2]


Changed default preference values

It is a bit early for a conclusion yet. I'm going to keep trying to use it and see how it continues to performs. The next few days will give me a good idea of how fast it really works compared to regular Firefox.

For more information on Swiftfox, go to:

Currently there is no PGP apt-package signing available for the Swiftfox repositories. If anyone learns of some, please let me know.

Ironically, no sooner do I start investigating some benchmark tests for Swiftfox, than I discover an alternative to Swiftfox named SwiftWeasel. I am going to be investigating both of these browsers in time and I will bring you reports of what I discover.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

GCC does everything MSVC does, and more

I came across a very encouraging report on compiler optimizations. I am bringing you some of the selected comparision results between GCC and MSVC. Source for this information is Software optimization resources published by Agner Fog. In particular, I used this PDF, which was last updated January 23, 2009.

The table in the PDF source states these results were from GCC 4.1 and MSVC 2005 which are probably from his original publication in late 2008. However I do not know what updates occured since, so these could be taken from later versions of either compiler. I do not know about MSVC, but I know for sure that GCC 4.2 and 4.3 are just getting faster and faster, and that is not counting LLVM.

One thing this evidence shows is clear: Saying MSVC produces faster binaries than GCC is simply not true, especially if they don't specify compiler versions and platforms and computing task. The next time you hear someone rip on the GCC compiler for being slow without specifics, just laugh in their face.

Save Larger/Big Images from Flickr

Say you want to save a private picture at full resolution size from Flickr Photos, but the image has been blocked from saving/downloading. Here are some quick steps to bypass their restrictions to save the larger resolution image.

Saving the Protected Image
Normally, you can save pictures from Flickr (or any website) by right clicking the photograph and saying "Save Image As..." but in the case of protected Flickr images, all you will see on the desktop is a blank 1x1 pixel placeholder image called spaceball.gif

This happens when a Flickr member has set download permissions to disallow his/her photos from being downloaded. Flickr places a transparent image overlaid on the actual photo so the right-click method fails.

You may either use the good-old Print Screen or the method below works to defeat the Flickr image protection:

For Firefox
Goto the Menu: Tools -> Page Info. Select the "Media" tab.

Click on the image addresses listed in the top section. You will see the image appear in the Media Preview Window below. Click/scroll until you find the one you want.

If you don't care about getting the potentially larger image, just click the Save As button now.

Saving the Larger/Big Image
Restricted/Protected images on Flickr are also frequently only displayed in small resolutions.

Now comes the magic. Right-click on the address of the image you want and select "Copy." This will copy the address into your clipboard. Open a new tab/window in Firefox.

Paste the address but do not execute it yet. In the address text, at the end of the link, just before the .jpg, add _o which is an underscore and a lowercase o. Here's what the link will look like:
Press Enter to open it, and that will get you the original size of the picture. Now you can save it out to your computer. This won't work for some pictures. In that case, try _b instead. This will get you the large (a.k.a big) version of the picture. If neither of those work, then the medium size is the best you can do.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

KDE 4.2.2 Things are getting good

So I tried KDE 4.2.2 through VMWare today. I'm really pleased with the impressive improvements I see. I feel like I might be jumping the gun by saying this but KDE 4 may very well be ready for me to use. Here is a quick run down of what I checked/noticed since my last review.

System Settings
  • Overall / General: For one thing, the System-Settings area has been filled out a significant amount. Many things are there now that were missing only a few months ago, and what's there seems to work well.
  • Notifications: I need to confirm whether this is easy to disable all sound. By going to Player Settings and choosing No Audio Output, things might be what I want.

    You cannot turn off all the audio notifications in an easy way. I really hate the concept of going through every single program and turning them off. I like my computer to run silently so this is a personal annoyance, but to be honest the previous system under KDE3 was not great, just more usable.
  • Startup: Sweet new interface for adding startup programs/scripts. Very nice. Not tested yet myself but this is a cool feature.
Shortcut Keys Binding
Previously I mentioned that KDE4 seemed to only allow binding a single shortcut key sequence in programs, instead of their KDE3's well-established two sequence binding options. I notice that KDE4 may have added, or at least begun adding, options for binding two keys again. This is great.

Gwenview 2.xx is pretty much ready for use... for me anyway.

When I tested Gwenview, as of today, 90% of the "shitty" zooming issues (enlaring smaller images) previously noted have been resolved. I don't exactly know what source these fixes came from, but they are there. I am not even sure if there are any zoom related problems left.

I tested enlarging small GIF/PNG/JPG files and all of them look very good. It is difficult to say whether the zoom quality is "at the highest possible" while using VMWare but it sure looks quite acceptable for the time being.

The only unusual thing I noticed was on the enlarging of small PNG files. Gwenview may not have been performing perfect binary interpolation on all the sample test images I tested. Regardless, the enlarging zoom was still of a very acceptable level of quality.

Konqueror Preferences/Settings
Konqueror seems to have fixed some of its bugs since I last reviewed it, especially the great many of the issues I care about.
  • View Configuration: Many of the preferences are now saved, in particular Menu: Settings -> Configure Konqueror -> File Management -> Views.

    These were some of the most important for me. Though there seems to be a bug with not displaying the check in the checkbox for enabling "Show Delete in Right Click menu" but the feature is still enabled.
  • Tabbing: Tabbing still seems very solid, but I cannot remember if this successful preference saving was present in my last review. Regardless I take this a good sign of progress.
  • View Mode Icon Size: The bugs with inconsistent view modes icon size have been fixed. This time around, I only had one instance where the zooming was off slightly, but a quick setting of the zoom and the problem never repeat itself.
  • Toolbars: I already mentioned the Toolbars in Konqueror were improved and I am still impressed with them. Nice and usable and still quite configurable. That annoying bug with some element misplacement that occurred with KDE3.5 because of Gwenview integrated image viewing is gone.
Konsole/Console/Terminal profiles
The feature for smoother switching profiles within Konsole has been integrated. Very nice.

Power Management
Yet another sweet looking application I cannot wait to try. This is looking seriously awesome. I have not been able to try this on a mobile device but I will report on it as soon as I do.

Desktop Themes
This is pretty impressive. I guess is just goes to show that KDE can be even more customizable if you want. I don't even know where to begin with all the options. To be bluntly honest, even just testing this a tiny bit with impresses me. I see major potential for smooth and easy eye-candy customization.

There are several things which I don't use but their existence is worth noting.
  • Digital Camera integration: I don't use a digital camera so my word is that of a novice but it looks like KDE is providing (or will provide) a pretty good user interface for accessing it. This is a nice thing to have since it promotes inclusion of more users in the future.
  • PDA/PIM utilities: KDE 4 looks to have some nice (and assumably working) PDA/PIM integration and software. I don't use a PDA (yet) but doubtless I will when the 2nd generation of the Google Phones come out. I am glad that KDE has good these utilities.
When I installed KDE 4.2.x from within Gnome, I ended up with a lot of more color themes... and they were good! When I reinstalled KDE4.2.x from Kubuntu, I was sadly surprised to find it does not ship with some of these themes. I hope that gets fixed because those themes were nice.

Font size
There are still some real font issues, but these may be less of a deal breaker than I first experience. Today in KDE 4.2.2 I set the entire system font size to 7 and then Konqueror and System Settings looked okay. Actually, everything I tested seemed to look just fine after this change. The exception was the Classic-Applications Menu, whose font became quite small but still readable.

Network Manager
I experienced Network Manager problems when using it through VMWare, but I'm not sure how it will perform on an actual system installation. The Knetwork-manager seems to cause a lot of problems for some people, though I have luckily avoided most of these problems through serendipity.

If you are going to use KDE4.x, I would seriously recommend having a diffferent network manager installed and functional. I suggest Gnome's network manager.

Mouse Gestures in Konqueror
Currently I cannot find anyway to enable mouse gestures in Konquorer. I conclude that this feature is not available yet in KDE 4.2. This is unfortunate because I use this feature every day. This is not technically a bug, just a missing feature.

Media:/ protocol
The 'media:/' protocol is not present in KDE4 yet. This is known to the KDE team and it is on their list of things to do.

I am pretty set to use KDE 4.2.2 right now, but I will hold off. I don't have any pressing need to switch yet, and the few missing features are not deal killers but important for me.

Previously, the failure of Konqueror saving settings properly and icon size mismatching was the deal killer for me. But now there only are a few missing features left on my list. Good times.