Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Tue, 05 Jul 2005

Imported Video into Linux

One of my projects I have to do some time is to get all the video we have on tapes from the camera onto DVD. I aim to do some basic editing so make it watchable.

Kino is a simple DV capture and editing suite. All I had to do was make the Firewire devices accessable and it worked. Now I have to work out how to get it into a suitable form for writing to DVD. There seem to be tools around that let you do menus and other fancy things.

[21:44] | [] | Comments | G

Mon, 04 Jul 2005

More Ubuntu Progress

I had a play with my old TV card the other day. First I tried the old faithful xawtv, but it's looking a bit dated now. Ages ago I used something called KWinTV, but that has now become KDETV. This has a nice interface. It took me a while to get the sound working until I worked out that you could tell it to use ALSA. I had similar problems with playing audio CDs, but got it working. I still have a problem in that I can only seem to have one program using sound at any time. Some will refuse to start if another audio program is running. Others start up, but remain silent with no errors popping up.

I had a problem with an encrypted email crashing Thunderbid. I've not see that before. Out of interest I had a play with Kmail. This handled the encryption well and has some nice features like showing the spam score of each mail. It should also integrate better with other software than the Mozilla programs do. I want to see if I can synchronise my Palm address book with the one used by Kmail. It makes a lot of sense to only have to enter that data once.

I watched a bit of Live 8 at the weekend. I remember watching Live Aid and have seen quite a few similar gigs on TV since then. The only one I've been to was the Freddy Mercury tribute at Wembley. I think the novelty has worn off a bit, but there were a few good performances. I still fail to see the point of Dido. I thought the aging rockers at the end did a good job. Nice to see Pink Floyd together again.

[08:17] | [] | Comments | G

Wed, 29 Jun 2005

Ubuntu + KDE = Kubuntu

As not everyone likes Gnome, there is a part of the Ubuntu project that implements KDE. Installing it was a matter of running a command and accepting some options. It actually said there were some errors with some of the packages, but everything seems to be working nicely. It picked up my existing configuration that I had been using on Knoppix. For some reason I just prefer the feel of KDE, but that's probably because I have been tainted by years of Windows.

I sought medical advice on my shoulder and the opinion is that it's been strained. So I'm on painkillers, heat packs and rest. I've not suffered an injury this serious that I can remember, although I picked up a few aches at Aikido. I've managed to get through nearly four decades with no broken bones.

You may have noticed that the site is wearing a Make Poverty History band. I saw a few other sites doing this. It's a bit of Javascript that you can see in the page source and use on your own site if you like. I thought the Girl in the Cafe drama at the weekend put the point across well, even if it was an unlikely scenario.

[22:22] | [] | Comments | G

Ubuntu Progress

I spent a while trying to get various things working last night. I had some success with RealPlayer (that I use for BBC radio) and Skype (for free internet phone calls). Both of these had problems on Knoppix with their sound. It wasn't all plain sailing. RealPlayer needed me to edit /etc/esound/esd.conf to disable auto-spawn and Skype needed me to install kcontrol (KDE configuration). Google and the Ubuntu forums were a great help. I would have been stuck with out them.

Other things I need to look at are audio (Ubuntu comes without MP3 support due to licence issues), digital images (organising my camera pictures), scanning, video (possibly Xine), personal accounts (GnuCash does the job) and various other stuff to keep the family happy. At some point I want to get into digital viedo and audio, but that's for when I have more time.

Weather news: big thunder and lightning storm last night. Then it poured with rain.

[08:45] | [] | Comments | G

Tue, 28 Jun 2005

Trying a different Linux

I've had a good play with Knoppix and it came pretty close to being what I wanted. Installation of additional applications was simple and I could manage the system well. There were just niggle like the sound not working properly. I had read several opinions that Knoppix was really designed as a Live CD rather than to be installed. The real buzz seemed to be around Ubuntu. This is also based on Debian, but comes in Live CD and installable versions.

So I downloaded the ISO, burnt it to one of my old CD-RWs and fired it up. The installation program is purely text mode rather than the flashy graphics that others use, but it's all very logical. I was able to select what I wanted to do with my existing partitions. I elected to keep my /home partition. After copying all the packages across the system rebooted and spent some time preparing them all for use. This part could do with a progress bar so you have some idea how long it will take. Eventually I got a graphical log-in screen. The system starts up with some pretty grahics and various noises. Personally I prefer my PC to only make noises when it's really necessary. It uses Gnome as it's front end rather than KDE, which I'm more used to, but there is an option to install that.

The initial menus are fairly sparse with a single option for each type of application, unlike Knoppix which overwhelmed you with choices. I only had time for a brief play so I ran Firefox. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had retained all my bookmarks, cookies and even the extensions I had previously installed. Now I just need to install the various other applications I need.

So far, so good.

In other news, we decided to try a little bit of tennis with the kids in Bedford Park on Saturday. This was going well until I overstretched myself trying to return a shot and went crashing to the tarmac. I grazed several placed on my right arm and my hip. The shoulder is very sore, making just about any use of it painful. That will teach me not to show off

[08:44] | [] | Comments | G

Thu, 16 Jun 2005

Herts LUG June Meeting

I have been a bit lax in blogging the latest Herts LUG meeting. It was another interesting meeting. I took along my PC for the first time. I gave a little talk about encryption, the why and the how, that went down well. Malc had his old Research Machines PC there and used it to test some SCSI drives that Nicolas had acquired.

I was after some help on getting my sound working properly. I had some success by running the alsaconf script. This got it working for Skype and RealPlayer that has previously been silent. I later found out that this configuration does not survive a reboot. I'm currently investigating what files and settings are required to make it permanent. From my search results it is obvious that I am not the only one to have this problem.

I've acquired a large selection of Linux Magazine back issues from folk in the LUG. They have some very good articles on setting up various software. I've got enough to keep me going for a while. There's still a lot about the concepts used in Linux that I want to learn.

On the upside I learnt two things today, one was about the Oracle COALESCE function that could be useful in my work, and the other was how to make playlists work better on my Palm using AeroPlayer.

[13:25] | [] | Comments | G

Tue, 14 Jun 2005

Distributed Consoles?

I think this article is just someone tossing an idea in the air about getting the next generation of consoles to contribute to distributed processing projects like Folding@home, but it has great potential. If millions of idle consoles were working on the project they could achieve a lot. The new consoles are more powerful than most PCs and come with internet connectivity, so are ripe for this. The issue may be persuading owners to install the software.
[20:53] | [] | Comments | G

Fri, 27 May 2005

Challenging Level 12

After a short break I'm back on the Python Challenge. Some levels involve a bit more than just writing a program. There's an element of the cryptic crossword about them. They have added a wiki with suggested solutions that you can access once you know the answers for those levels. My solutions are not so neat, but then I have not been exploiting the full power of Python. I need to get into the wonders of regular expressions and some of the cleverer list processing.

I actually solved one level accidentally when viewing the image involved with Paint Shop Pro, but I did it by writing a program as well afterwards to prove I could do it.

[19:04] | [] | Comments | G

Sat, 21 May 2005

Rehoused my PC

I bought my first PC about 7 years ago. I had been using an Amiga, but it was becoming less supported and the interesting stuff was happening elsewhere. So I handed over a large wad of dosh to a company called dotlink who were based a short distance from where I work now in Wembley. This was a Pentium II 350MHz machine with 128MB of memory, a Matrox G200 8MB graphics card, a CD-ROM and an 8GB hard drive. It didn't work when it arrived so I went to their base to get a new motherboard. Back then you got Windows 98 and I used that for some time.

Things moved on and this was upgraded to an AMD Duron 650 and later to a Duron 1200. I gradually replaced everything in that case, including the power supply. I think only the floppy drive is original now. Recently it started playing up and I suspected the power supply was faulty. It was also very noisy. I had long lusted after things like the Shuttle barebones PCs that offered a powerful PC in a quiet, compact form. I couldn't quite stretch to one of those at the moment, so I went for the Antec Aria. This comes without a motherboard, but my Asus fits it nicely. It has space for three hard drives and an optical drive. The front panel has USB, audio and firewire ports and a card reader. I also upgraded to a new NEC dual-layer DVD writer.

This case is nicely designed. The side panels just need a press of a clip and the top panel a single screw. Inside is a drive tray that can be easily removed. Fitting my board involved removing the power supply and attaching lots of wires for the switches, lights and front ports. In all I spent a couple of hours to get it all right.

I am still using my old CPU cooler which is not the quietest, but overall the PC is now a lot quieter than it was. I hardly notice it under the desk apart from the blue lights in the front panel. Most things are working apart from the front Firewire port that needs an adaptor to connect to my card and the card reader seems to need a Linux kernel patch that I may try later.

Pictures can be seen at my Multiply site.

[15:01] | [] | Comments | G

Thu, 19 May 2005

Still Challenging

I'm onto level 8 of the Python Challenge. Still enjoying it. The last level required installing an extra library that I read somewhere was required. One of the problems is not knowing what facilities are available.

I'm coming to the conclusion that Python has the power of Java with the simplicity of Basic. Mind you, complicated list manipulation is still a little complicated.

[13:35] | [] | Comments | G

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