Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Expedient image processing

When I use Windows, I make it a point to have IrfanView handle most of my image-related processing, such as conversion and viewing.

Now that I've made the switch, I naturally looked for the same functionality with gThumb and GQView. Sadly, all they offered was image-viewing. GIMP, on the other hand, only allowed processing one image at a time. I needed a way to resize about 200+ pictures as a batch.

The UbuntuForums led me to ImageMagick.

ImagMagick is a suite of image-processing tools that make use of the command-line interface (CLI). Yes, it *is* possible to handle images with that blinking cursor on a black background. Apparently, Ubuntu already has the ImageMagick tools installed, so all I had to do was figure out how to make things work.

I then found two simple tutorials on the subject:
  1. Graphics from the command line
  2. More graphics from the command line
A few minutes of study, and I was already resizing JPGs in the background. What I did notice was that the CPU took a hit when ImageMagick was running. Fully 100% of the CPU was used (maybe also because I also had thunar to show thumbnails, firefox with 4 tabs, gaim, etc.)

ImageMagick allowed me to experience some of the intricacies of the Linux OS, specifically with scripting. Check out the simple script I copied then modified:
for $img in 'ls *.JPG'
convert -resize 1024x $img new-$img.JPG
Its limitations:
  1. The filename extension is case-sensitive and only jpeg files will be processed.
  2. Resizing is limited to images with a landscape orientation.
  3. It also assumes that the size of the output is 1024 pixels on the horizontal side.
This script will be undergoing more modifications as I learn more about ImageMagick. In the meantime, my needs have been fulfilled.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Mr. DJ, can I make a request?

To Apple:

I, just like a couple of hundred thousand individuals, am an avid fan of your ipod line of products. Bringing around my music has never been so easy: just pop in the CD to be ripped, and in a click or two, the AAC files are ready to be brought to work, the car, out of town, etc.

However, recently I decided to switch to an opensource lifestyle. I threw out Windows (the only version I have being the bug-infested Millenium Edition), and to my horror realized that iTunes was not available under Linux!

My first suggestion: please port iTunes to Linux. You don't have to open the source code to the public (because I understand some people just want it that way), but if you do, people will gladly help you out. After all, didn't the Mac OS start as a port of Unix?

Second: please give OGG support to the ipod firmware. I re-ripped my entire CD collection into OGG, since mp3 (or AAC) are proprietary formats (and they're rather large compared to OGG files of the same quality).

Did I throw out my ipod because there wasn't iTunes for Linux, or that it can't play a free file format? Heavens, no! But I did hack into it.

Enter Rockbox.

Rockbox is an opensource jukebox software that allows the playing of OGG and mp3. Being opensource, it needed its own firmware to run, hence the need to tinker around with normally-invisible files, such as the bootloader and the Apple firmware.

I am thankful that the ipod has an override Disk Mode that stops any erroneous programming in its tracks. Without it, my ipod would be junk metal and plastic by now.

What does Rockbox make the ipod do that the ipod normally can't? It can customize the "while playing" screen (WPS), use fonts for the WPS, play games (like ports of Nokia's Snake, Doom (yes, there is!), Tetris, Bejeweled, etc), display funk visuals like fire, a mandelbrot, etc.

The installation is no walk in the park, but the results are amazing. I'm keeping it.

This determined OSS monkey will not be stopped.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

iPod vs. OGG

In the continuing crusade to be an ethical computer user, I've decided to try, as much as I can, to only load music I own, rather than music I download. This led me to a splurge of music CDs two nights ago, eventually ripped via sound-juicer, in the OGG Vorbis format.

Problem is, my iPod mini doesn't handle OGG files at all. Scouring the internet yielded two promising results (read: hacks).
  1. ipodlinux

  2. rockbox

I had difficulty installing ipodlinux, primarily since it needs a library I can't, for the life of me, find at all, whether in the repos or not.

With rockbox as my only choice, I set out to hack the 'pod to boot into a Linux OS (yes, those things have OSes!). After about an hour of reading, tinkering and all, what do I have to show for it? An ipod that continually reboots. No OS at all.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hi, WiFi!

gtkwifi was a bad idea. It screwed up my wireless connection so bad that I couldn't connect again, even after removing it from my system.

wifi-radar, on the other hand, was a godsend. Using a GUI, it searches for wifi networks within reach, and even attempts to connect to them. Coupling this with xfce's Networking, this little utility allows a mobile user switch between "wired" and wifi networks with no hitch.

wifi-radar: (5/5 stars)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

WiFi-ed Xubuntu!

Yes, dear reader. I am now wifi-capable. It took a while, but again, the Ubuntu Forums really delivered this time. I suggest the tutorial of nzruss on installing, at least, the popular Linksys Wireless-G card (shown on left).

On a side note, I've ditched Opera in favor of Firefox. Opera felt less intuitive than Firefox. It's possible that I've grown so used to the Firefox interface that I just couldn't be without it, especially with TabMix Plus, Google Calendar Notifier, Google Calendar Quick Add and the iFox Smooth theme.

But Opera still sits in a tiny portion of my hard drive.

I've gone back to XFCE. With all the bells and whistles I wanted to put on the OpenBox desktop (not to mention all the necessary utilities) via gdesklets, I was inevitably going toward what I hated in the first place: a cluttered and wasteful desktop. This simple XFCE desktop promises to be first and foremost functional, and intuitive, at least for me.

Next task(s):
  • Wifi Radar

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Being Bourne Again

Switching on my xubuntubox (or should it be Oubuntu?) for the first time since last night gave me a nasty surprise. All the customizations are gone!

Right away I checked for my .xsession file. It was there, with all the adjustments I made: feh (for background), gdesklets (for desktop toys) and xfce-xcm-manager (for xfce goodness). Why didn't it run?!

Checking the CustomXsession Wiki, I found the culprit: my #!/usr/bin/env bash line was missing.

*sigh* The joy of tech.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

OpenBox + gDesklets = fun!

I've left XFCE4 for the meantime and decided to go with OpenBox. It's a pretty nifty windowmanager that has a small footprint, and is highly customizable, at least in terms of GUI. Key elements still have to be drawn from other sources to make a desktop running it more productive, hence you will still need to get your desktop toys elsewhere.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usRight now, the desktop is about 90% complete. It runs (aside from openbox) gdesklets and the xfce-xcm-manager for the GUI. I like it.

Things to do:
  1. Include mount for USB drive.
  2. Get a window pager.
Gotta love it!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

DSL and router problems

Yesterday tested my fortitude in staying with Xubuntu. The router simply didn't work, and any attempts to fix the problem led nowhere. The Linksys website had no idea what my problem was, and I figured that 2 1/2 years is long enough for a router to have served faithfully. (Our tech supplier agreed: it was time for the router to retire.)

So there I was, without a router, hence no automatic way to connect to the internet. The XP box could connect easily, with the Internet Connection Wizard. But how about my XubuntuBox?

A search in the forums yielded an answer: pppoe & pppoeconf. Now, a minute later, I'm connected!

pon dsl-provider to connect,
poff dsl-provider to disconnect,
plog for status.

No sweat. :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Installation log

I just officially screwed up my Linux box. I tried installing the samba package, but ended up with xffm, Xfce's file manager of old (and boy, did it really look old!).

So here I am, with a fresh Xubuntu install, with only gdm installed on top of the xubuntu-desktop package.

I shall journal my steps for posterity's sake (and for those who want to tread this dangerous path called Linux. :D )
  1. Visit AY Siu's site for installation instructions. Print. (I used the "Install XFCE" tutorial.)
  2. Pledge to use aptitude forevermore, unless applications aren't in the repositories.
  3. Install gdm for a graphical log-in.
  4. Get Swiftfox, the lean mean and beta version of Firefox 2. (tutorial)
  5. Get new kernel. (sudo aptitude install linux-686 from poofyhairyguy)
  6. Tweak ext3 partition. (tutorial)
  7. Try out fluxbox and icewm. (If you like your GUI, don't. If you don't mind seeing all text in your menus, then by all means, go ahead.)
  8. Install recommended Ubuntu Essentials. (Collect and select packages.) I used:
    1. gaim-guifications gaim-extendedprefs
    2. easyubuntu (I had to reinstall the Xubuntu since this screwed up the cleanliness of my disk.)
    3. vlc and mplayer
  9. Look for more optimization techniques.
(to be continued...)

Oh joy

Like a giddy little boy
who found a new toy
I sat with my lappy
to install something flashy.

First a new music player
then a new browser
Is the desktop's slower?
Oh installation fever.

With XP I wanted to view
and share files archived.
SAMBA is the true
solution, people cried.

Installed it I did,
and cried I did,
For the flashy desktop before
Now was nothing more.

The author is in the middle of doing a fresh install of Xubuntu, with wisdom from all the mistakes he has done.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Ubuntu installed!

Yes, it is done.

After hours and hours of trying to get Ubuntu up and running, I am here.

The problem? The wrong ISO (strike 1!) burned too fast (strike 2!) on a damaged CD (steeeeerike 3!). Read more about it on the Ubuntu Forums.

So dear reader, if and when you decide to join the club, just remember to avoid all three errors above and you'll be fine.

Now to get Xubuntu up and running...

Friday, July 07, 2006

First signs of trouble

I downloaded the Ubuntu 6.0.6 LiveCD and the Xubuntu 6.0.6 LiveCD, and tried both out for my system. Not surprisingly, I had my share of problems. I browsed the Ubuntu site and Forum and found some possible solutions. Below are the problems and the possible solutions.

Ubuntu 6.0.6
  • Takes forever to boot, which ends up with a cursor on a maroon background, but nothing else. No menus, no taskbar, nothing.
  • Possible solutions:
    • LiveCD is burned wrongly. Try with a slower burn speed. (I doubt this will work, since it booted up, but no error messages came up.)
    • Too little memory. Get the alternate CD (for PCs with less than 192MB). No preview, but if you're willing to stick with it, go ahead. (Will probably work.)

Xubuntu 6.0.6
  • Booted fine, but very slow. Almost non-responsive. It's as if I have 7 different applications open (when all I clicked on was the Applications --> System --> Network).
  • Possible solution: Too little memory. See above.

Tonight might be the night of reckoning.

For old time's sake, I brought out my SLAX LiveCD. God I love it. The simple interface didn't clutter the desktop more than it should have. Everything was accessible with the mouse. Applications were able to take up more desktop real estate than in Windows.

I will make this work.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

History, or something like it

I started using a computer in school. Back then, the cutting edge PC was a Zenith. I can't even remember who made that line of PCs. We used to boot with a 5.25" disk loaded with DOS, and just used Basic and Logo (arguably the most fun in programming I ever had).

Later on, my family purchased our own unit: a 386-DX Intel machine with:
  • 5.25" disk drive,
  • 3.5" disk drive (which I thought held the "hard disk")
  • 16 Mb RAM
  • 320 Mb hard drive
  • S3 Labs VGA card

I was in heaven. Countless days were spent configuring Windows 3.1 to my (almost) perfect liking. Dune 2, Prince of Persia, Alone in the Dark and The 7th Guest were the games of my youth. (No, I never got to play any of the Leisure Suit Larry games :P )

Later on, upgrades came. First, a 2 Mb SVGA card for SimCity 200. Then the processor conks out. In comes a 486 chip. Wow!

Today, I am the proud user of a 5-year old laptop that has stood the test of time. The Toshiba Satellite has:

  • 800 Mhz processor
  • 128 Mb RAM
  • 20 Gb hard disk
  • USB 2.0 PCMCIA card

Back in 2001, it was cutting-edge. I could do all my tasks for school without any hitches. However, lately I've seemed to dedicate so much time trying to make the thing go faster. Where did the speed go? It went out along with the pre-installed WindowsME. With Windows2000 at the helm, so much processing power is dedicated to running the secure environment that I'm willing to do anything (except shell out money) for more productivity.

Recently, too, I've been in the company of professionals who advocate the use of FOSS (free and open source software) as the way to modernize the Philippines.

Why not bring the two together? In the desire to expand my repertoire of skills and live what I preach, I now submit myself to the powers-that-be. Penguin, my laptop is yours.

With the little reading I've done online, I'll be starting learning Linux with Xubuntu (which I'll probably end up installing due to the minimal requirements). I'll be taking a look at Bayanihan Linux as well.

Anyone willing to come along with me?


Suddenly, I am gripped with the idea of software freedom. No longer wishing to be branded a software pirate, nor even to endorse software piracy. No longer willing to upgrade my computer to use the latest offerings of the monopolistic mavens. No longer allowing myself to propagate unjust web and document standards, I have decided:

Goodbye, Windows. Goodbye, Microsoft Office.
Hello Linux and OpenOffice.

How long this will take, I do not know, but you, dear reader, will have front row seats to another switch story.