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If you’ve upgraded your Ubuntu system to 13.10 and found that you no longer have any sound, you may have noticed in your sound preferences you now only have an audio device called “Dummy Output“. And you can’t change the device to your actual sound card, as it is no longer there (in KDE’s sound preferences, it will probably be listed as a device, yet will be greyed out, meaning you can’t select it). The problem isn’t your sound card, or needing new drivers for it, but a problem with ALSA – and hopefully will be easily fixed with the info in this article.

First, you need to check that your sound card is recognised by running this command in a terminal:

sudo aplay -l

It will then list the devices it finds (in the case of the following output, it finds the built-in audio [which is disabled in the BIOS] as well as the actual sound card I use):

**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: Intel [HDA Intel], device 0: ALC883 Analog [ALC883 Analog]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: Intel [HDA Intel], device 1: ALC883 Digital [ALC883 Digital]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: Audigy2 [SB Audigy 2 ZS [SB0360]], device 0: emu10k1 [ADC Capture/Standard PCM Playback]
card 1: Audigy2 [SB Audigy 2 ZS [SB0360]], device 2: emu10k1 efx [Multichannel Capture/PT Playback]
card 1: Audigy2 [SB Audigy 2 ZS [SB0360]], device 3: emu10k1 [Multichannel Playback]
card 1: Audigy2 [SB Audigy 2 ZS [SB0360]], device 4: p16v [p16v]

If you see something like that, then all should be well, but if you want to make sure, copy and paste this rather lengthy command into the terminal:

echo "Sound cards recognized by the system:"; lspci -nn | grep --color=none '\[04[80][13]\]'; echo "Sound cards recognized by ALSA:"; lspci -nn | grep '\[04[80][13]\]' | while read line; do lspci -nnk | grep -A 3 '\[04[80][13]\]' | grep -e 'Kernel modules: ..*' -e '\[04[80][13]\]' | grep --color=none -F "$line"; done; echo "Sound cards recognized by ALSA, and activated:"; lspci -nn | grep '\[04[80][13]\]' | while read line; do lspci -nnk | grep -A 3 '\[04[80][13]\]' | grep -e 'Kernel drivers in use: ..*' -e '\[04[80][13]\]' | grep --color=none -F "$line"; done

The output should be something like:

Sound cards recognized by the system:
00:1b.0 Audio device [0403]: Intel Corporation 82801I (ICH9 Family) HD Audio Controller [8086:293e] (rev 02)
05:01.0 Multimedia audio controller [0401]: Creative Labs SB Audigy [1102:0004] (rev 04)
Sound cards recognized by ALSA:
00:1b.0 Audio device [0403]: Intel Corporation 82801I (ICH9 Family) HD Audio Controller [8086:293e] (rev 02)
05:01.0 Multimedia audio controller [0401]: Creative Labs SB Audigy [1102:0004] (rev 04)
Sound cards recognized by ALSA, and activated:
00:1b.0 Audio device [0403]: Intel Corporation 82801I (ICH9 Family) HD Audio Controller [8086:293e] (rev 02)
05:01.0 Multimedia audio controller [0401]: Creative Labs SB Audigy [1102:0004] (rev 04)

Once again, everything seems fine, other than the fact you can’t enable your sound card as an audio device. Hopefully, the following command will rectify the situation:

sudo alsa force-reload

You will probably see no change until you reboot, so do so and when you login again, your sound should be back. If it isn’t, you may need to go back into the sound preferences and make the sound card the default audio device, after which all should be well.

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If the problem still persists, you can try the following command which has worked for some (replace “yourusername” with your actual username):

sudo usermod -aG audio,video,pulse,pulse-access yourusername

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A couple of years or so ago, Ubuntu‘s file manager, Nautilus, gave you the ability to “Safely Remove Drive” when right-clicking an attached USB hard drive (or flash drive), rather than just simply “Unmount” it. The difference between the two is that when you simply unmount a drive, it is still listed as attached (but not mounted) in Nautilus‘s left-pane. For many, seeing the drive completely removed was reassuring, since it could then be unplugged safe in the knowledge there would be no data loss, or physical damage to the device.

However, in the Ubuntu 12.10 upgrade, we lost this option, and now only have “Unmount” and “Eject” (which is exactly the same as “Unmount“, except in the case of CD/DVD drives where it will eject the disc tray).

Device Context-Menu

While “Safely Remove Drive” may yet make a return (it has caused a flood of complaints about this backward move), for now you can do it via the command-line if you really prefer this to simply unmounting.

First, if you’re unsure what the drive’s address is, run the following in the terminal:

mount|grep ^'/dev'

If you only have one internal hard drive, and no other storage devices attached, it should be something like /dev/sdb. To safely unmount and totally remove the drive, enter the following command, replacing /dev/sdb with your own drive’s designation if need be:

udisks --unmount /dev/sdb1 && udisks --detach /dev/sdb

You should now see your drive disappear from the file manager’s left-pane.

Note that in the unlikely event you have a partition other than the first partition on the drive mounting, you will need to change the “1” (ie: sdb1) in the command to reflect that.

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If you’ve attached an external hard drive for backing up your files, or created a new partition for storage, only to find you don’t have the permissions to use it, you’d be understandably frustrated. But it’s actually quite easy to remedy by simply running a command in the terminal in the form of:

sudo chown -R username:username /partition/mount-point

Note that the above isn’t the actual command you’ll be using, as you’ll need to replace each instance of username with your actual username, and also determine your mount-point, which is not the device name (eg: /dev/sdb1).

To find the mount-point, run mount in the terminal, and locate the line that corresponds to the drive or partition in question. If you have never named (or set the label for) it, it will probably look something like:

/dev/sdb1 on /media/bf9a2c45-491a-4778-9d76-47832fe38820

If you have set the label with something descriptive, it should like similar to:

/dev/sdb1 on /media/1Tb Pocket Drive

As you can see, your mount-point will look something like /media/bf9a2c45-491a-4778-9d76-47832fe38820 or /media/1Tb Pocket Drive, so all you need to do now is run a command like one of the following, replacing the relevant info with what is appropriate to you:

sudo chown -R billgates:billgates /media/bf9a2c45-491a-4778-9d76-47832fe38820

sudo chown -R billgates:billgates '/media/1Tb Pocket Drive'

Note that if your custom label contains spaces (e.g. 1Tb Pocket Drive) , you will need to enclose the entire mount-point path in single quotes, but won’t need them if it’s a single word or multiple words joined by hyphens or underscores.

That’s it – you should now be able to do whatever you want with the drive or partition in question, as you’re now the owner.

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If you’ve been getting blue faces when watching YouTube clips, or any other Adobe Flash videos, the cause can be hard to pinpoint. When faces and flames, and other red/orange elements, turn varying shades of blue, it can be due to a buggy Flash update (especially for 64-bit users), or it can be due to video card driver issues (currently it seems to be affects a few Nvidia users after upgrading to Ubuntu 12.04 – read more at the bottom). Whatever the cause, this issue usually drives people to uninstall Flash, then reinstall an earlier version.

But hopefully the following fix will correct the colours in the movies you watch in Firefox or Chrome (and any other web browsers) without having to resort to such drastic measures. All you need to do is create a text file and paste a line of text into it, but since saving it will fail unless you create the folder first, do so by running the following in the terminal:

sudo mkdir /etc/adobe/

Now to create the file and open it for editing:

gksu gedit /etc/adobe/mms.cfg

When it opens, paste in the following:

EnableLinuxHWVideoDecode=1

Close the file, and confirm you want to save the changes. Now, all you need to do is restart your browser and your clips should look fine. If not, you may need to reboot, and hopefully all is fine when you return.

The EASY WAY: Now that you understand what’s needed, you could cheat and just do the whole process with one command:

sudo mkdir /etc/adobe/ && echo -e "EnableLinuxHWVideoDecode=1" | sudo tee /etc/adobe/mms.cfg > /dev/null

If you also want to force the Flash player to bypass its GPU validity checks (GPU validation – see below), then the command would be:

sudo mkdir /etc/adobe/ && echo -e "OverrideGPUValidation=1\nEnableLinuxHWVideoDecode=1" | sudo tee /etc/adobe/mms.cfg > /dev/null

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That Didn’t Work, or Caused Problems? In some cases, you might find you need to disable GPU validation in addition to, or instead of, telling Flash to use vdpau hardware acceleration. If you’re experiencing trouble at some sites but not others (like YouTube videos are now fine, but at Vimeo the Flash plugin crashes), you may want to play around with the settings. For example, to enable the acceleration but bypass GPU validation, the text in mms.cfg would be:

OverrideGPUValidation=1
EnableLinuxHWVideoDecode=1

… or the following to just bypass GPU validation:

OverrideGPUValidation=1
EnableLinuxHWVideoDecode=0

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To Revert Back: If these tweaks have caused you more headache than it was worth, just delete the entire folder you created with:

sudo rm -r /etc/adobe

Or you can just edit the file with:

gksu gedit /etc/adobe/mms.cfg

… and set EnableLinuxHWVideoDecode= to 0 if you prefer to keep it.

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Nvidia users: Apparently the issue (which Adobe reportedly won’t be fixing) is caused by having hardware acceleration enabled, so right-clicking a Flash video, choosing Settings… and disabling “Enable hardware acceleration” can often fix this. However, the above fix is perhaps more elegant since you’re allowing Flash to use vdpau hardware acceleration, rather than just disabling it altogether.

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If you’ve attached an external hard drive to your system, then decided to use your partitioner to format it to EXT4 for greater efficiency (or just to match your Ubuntu system), you may have been shocked to find that your empty drive seemed to be missing a few gigabytes when mounted afterwards. And this has nothing to do with the good old binary (base-8) vs decimal (base-10) situation which would see your “750Gb” drive be more like 700Gb (in Windows and earlier versions of Ubuntu – now Mac OS X and Ubuntu have followed hardware manufacturers and use decimal, so that’s more like 738Gb).

This is because Ubuntu (and other Linux distributions) reserve typically around 5% of the space for the root user and system services, so should you run out of hard drive space, the administrator can still log in, and system services continue to run.

However, this is only really needed for your Ubuntu partition, so if you have an external EXT4 drive, or have an EXT4 partition on your internal drive (other than the one your system is on), you are needlessly wasting space (40Gb of the drive in the example). But you can free up that disk space quite easily, without having to re-partition the drive or anything. All it takes is a couple of commands pasted into the terminal.

In the following example, an external hard-drive will have the reserve set to 0 (zero), since this is what most people will need this for. First, we have to determine the device name, as using its mounted name – /media/700Gb Ext4 – won’t suffice. To do so, enter the following into the terminal:

mount|grep ^'/dev'

Look for the line containing your device:

/dev/sdc1 on /media/700Gb Ext4 type ext4 (rw,nosuid,nodev,uhelper=udisks)

… and you can see what it is named (/dev/sdc1 in this case). To free up reserved space, enter the following (replacing /dev/sdc1 with whatever the appropriate device name is, if need be – just make sure you don’t do it to your main drive!):

sudo tune2fs -m 0 /dev/sdc1

You should then be presented with the following message:

Setting reserved blocks percentage to 0% (0 blocks)

To confirm all has gone well, you can right-click an empty area of the folder window for the device and choose Properties, then compare the free space from before and after, or run the following command (once again replacing the device name with the correct one in your case):

sudo tune2fs -l /dev/sdc1 | grep 'Reserved block count'

You should be greeted with the following:

Reserved block count: 0

That’s it – you now have all of your drive to use.

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Note: if you receive the following error message:

tune2fs: Bad magic number in super-block while trying to open /dev/sdb1
Couldn’t find valid filesystem superblock.

… then the filesystem likely isn’t EXT4 – chances are the drive is actually formatted as NTFS or FAT for use on Windows systems (which would be the case if you’ve bought an external drive, and never did anything other than copy files to it). You would have needed to partition/format the drive to EXT4, so if you didn’t, then you actually don’t need this guide.

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If you’ve upgraded your Ubuntu system to 11.10, or have a fresh install, you might find that when you right-click a USB drive and choose “Safely Remove Drive” in the left pane in Nautilus, the system hangs. This appears to affect some users of the Linux kernel 3.0.0-12, which at this early stage would be what most users have, so if this applies to you, it should be easy enough to fix.

Go to http://people.canonical.com/~ogasawara/lp844957/ and into the folder for your architecture (i386 or amd64). Install the 3 .debs located therein (I did so with GDebi, but should be the same in Ubuntu Software Centre, just slower), and reboot. You should now be able to successfully remove the drive without issue the next time you connect it.

NOTE: What you’re actually doing here is replacing the 3 main kernel packages, but for me and a bunch of others affected, there were no issues, with kernel 3.0.0-13 replacing the old one in GRUB, booting into Ubuntu just fine, and resolving the freezing issue when trying to remove USB drives.

Do not use this if your kernel is a later version (i.e. higher than 3.0.0-13). It probably wouldn’t kill your system, but reverting to an earlier kernel is extreme measures, so try find a more current and applicable solution (this fix appeared within days, so it does pay to spend a few minutes looking around the web, especially the Ubuntu Forums).

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“Failed to eject media; one or more volumes on the media are busy.”

That is an error message you may come across from time to time, and of course the obvious thing to do is make sure no programs are still trying to access a CD or DVD in your disc drive. And this includes programs that aren’t actively using the device, but are nonetheless keeping it “busy”, like if you have a media player open with files or titles from the disc still in its playlist. But once you have ruled all that out, you still might be left with the inability to eject the disc and get on with things, so hopefully some information here will be of use to you.

In most cases, the following command run in a terminal or via Alt+F2 will successfully unmount the disc, and then eject the tray:

sudo umount -l /media/cdrom0 && eject

Please note: since Ubuntu now automagically creates mount points for discs based on the label, /media/cdrom0 may not work for you, so you may need to ascertain the correct path for the current disc with this command:

mount|grep ^'/dev'

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If you’ve come across some commands that require the actual device name of your CD/DVD drive (eg: /dev/dvd), rather than the mount point (eg: /media/cdrom0), it pays to know what it is, as commands won’t work if they’re looking in the wrong place. There are a couple of ways of doing this, and you’ll probably find they give conflicting outputs, but where one is not useful to you, the other will be; for example, if your drive is both /dev/scd0 and /dev/sr0, you might find /dev/sr0 works for most commands, and where it fails /dev/scd0 won’t.

Method 1:

To find out the name of the block device file representing your optical disc drive, enter the following into a terminal, without a disc in the drive:

wodim --devices

The information will be displayed as follows:

wodim: Overview of accessible drives (1 found) :
————————————————————————-
0 dev=’/dev/scd0‘ rwrw-- : ‘ASUS’ ‘DRW-24B1ST’
————————————————————————-

If there is a disc in the tray, you will see the following error, so just eject the disc and run the command again:

wodim: No such file or directory.
Cannot open SCSI driver!
For possible targets try ‘wodim --devices’
or ‘wodim -scanbus’.
For possible transport specifiers try ‘wodim
dev=help’.
For IDE/ATAPI devices configuration,
see the file README.ATAPI.setup from
the wodim documentation.

Method 2:

To find out the name of the block device file representing your optical disc drive, as well as its mount point, enter the following into a terminal:

mount|grep ^'/dev'

The output will look as follows:

/dev/sda3 on / type ext4 (rw)
/dev/sda1 on /media/Windows XP type fuseblk (rw,nosuid,nodev,allow_other,blksize=4096)
/dev/sr0 on /media/cdrom0 type iso9660 (ro,noexec,nosuid,nodev,unhide,user=ozzman)


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Ubuntu is pretty awesome when it comes to automounting your drives and USB devices; in my experience, it is miles ahead of Windows, and it keeps getting better with each release. But for a greater level of control, you can’t beat the old-fashioned way: mounting your drives via fstab at boot.

While Ubuntu now mounts drives and partitions in folders with names based on the labels, which includes spaces in the names, fstab is a tad more touchy when it comes to this. If you try mounting a drive in fstab to a mount-point with a path name like /media/Windows XP, the mounting will fail because of the space. Usual methods to get around this, like close the path off with / (ie: /media/Windows XP/) or put it in quotes (ie: ‘/media/Windows XP’ or “/media/Windows XP”), will fail – but there is a solution other than replacing spaces with hypens or underscores.

Simply replace any spaces with \040, so your line in fstab should look something like:

UUID=1D666EVIL6661D /media/Windows\040XP

The drive will mount in the appropriate folder from then onwards (ie: /media/Windows XP), and there’s no need to reboot if you’re urgently trying to access a drive – simply open a terminal and run sudo mount -a to mount all devices in fstab.

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Just in case you are unfamiliar with fstab, the way you edit it is sudo gedit /etc/fstab. However, if you needed that bit of info, chances are you really shouldn’t be doing so, unless you’ve first read a little of the abundant info available out there on the subject of fstab and mounting drives in Ubuntu (and other Linux distros). The last thing you would want to do is render your system unbootable because you made an error in editing fstab. While this guide is just for how to deal with spaces in paths, still exercise caution if this is all new to you.

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