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Introduction to the FLAC Format

The FLAC audio format is so awesome, I still can’t get my head around it! It is lossless, like WAV files, yet often less than half the size. For example, if you had an album at full-quality (320 kbps) in MP3 format (which is lossy, meaning some quality had to be sacrificed), it could well be around 140Mb. Raw, lossless audio in the form of .wav files would on the other hand take up around 1Gb, if not closer to 1.5Gb. The reason .flac files have become so popular is that while being lossless in quality like .wav files, that album would probably only take up about 450Mb – half the size or less, but the same lossless quality.

If you’re quite happy with MP3s and their much-smaller filesize, if you ever end up with an album in FLAC format, you can always convert the tracks down to MP3 with a program like Sound Converter. But what if you get the album as one, long, continuous .flac file? Well, as long as that file also came with a .cue file (which specifies the breaks between tracks), it’s really easy to split it via the command-line, as you’ll see.

How to Split a FLAC Album with CUE File

First off, you need to make sure you have the necessary packages installed, which you can do with the following command:

sudo apt-get install cuetools shntool flac

Once done, you can start splitting the album with a command like the following:

cuebreakpoints album.cue | shnsplit -o flac album.flac

… replacing the word “album” in each case with the correct name. If the 2 files have multiple words with spaces, you’ll have to enclose them in double-quotes, like in the following example:

cuebreakpoints “The Number Of The Beast.cue” | shnsplit -o flac “The Number Of The Beast.flac”

Once that’s done, all you’ll have to do is rename the tracks (unless it doesn’t worry you), and edit the tags (the info you see in your audio player) via Rhythmbox, or a dedicated tag editor.

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While there are ways to change the default web browser via a GUI, this command-line method is even quicker. Also, while your email program and other apps might know which browser to open URLs with, you might find that ApportUbuntu‘s bug reporting system – looks to another browser you have installed. This is especially true if the other browser was at one point the default, and most notably this happens with Opera, though could also happen with Chromium/Google Chrome, Firefox, or any other browser you’ve installed before.

While Apport generally carries on with the bug reporting silently once you’ve clicked to continue, occasionally it require you to log into Launchpad, and will fire up the wrong browser, quite often it being Opera.

But it’s easy to remedy this by entering the following into the terminal:

sudo update-alternatives --config gnome-www-browser

Change Default Browser in Ubuntu

As you’ll see, all you have to do is enter the number corresponding to the browser you want to be the default (in this case 2 for Firefox). To complete the process, enter this command:

sudo update-alternatives --config x-www-browser

Change Default Browser in Ubuntu 2

… and do the same there. That’s it – you’ll no longer have Apport or any other app open the wrong browser again.

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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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If you’ve upgraded your Ubuntu system only to find you don’t have permission to do pretty much anything, as I did after upgrading to 13.10, it can be pretty annoying even for an advanced user, and downright scary for a novice. The symptoms are pretty obvious, as when you go to install updates, all you get is an error message saying “This operation cannot continue since proper authorization was not provided“. And using the Shutdown button seems to do nothing, and even using a terminal command to power off might see the shutdown process halt half-way through, forcing you to use the PC’s power button.

On top of that, even mounting removable drives (or other partitions on your internal drive) ends in being told you can’t, and even trying to play a DVD ends with “Unable to access “DVDVIDEO”. Not authorized to perform operation.

While there are ways around all of these situations for more advanced users, those less experienced with Ubuntu/Linux would find it all quite daunting, and pretty much look at their system as unusable. And one shouldn’t have to go through the bother of manually mounting drives through the terminal, or invoking the Software Updater as superuser, or any other thing we usually take for granted.

Luckily, the fix – which involves PAM (Pluggable Authentication Modules) – is actually quite simple, and should have everything back to normal in no time.

In a terminal, enter the following command to edit the PAM authentication file for the LightDM display manager:

gksu gedit /etc/pam.d/lightdm

Under the first line “#%PAM-1.0” paste the following 2 lines:

session required pam_loginuid.so
session required pam_systemd.so

Save and exit the file, then log out and back in again, and all should now be fine (you shouldn’t need to reboot).

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Another method, which fixed the problem for some (but not in my case, and many others) is to run:

sudo pam-auth-update --force

This opens PAM‘s config within the terminal, at which you either check or uncheck items, or just hit Tab to go to OK, and hit Enter.

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If need be, like you have GDM installed and it is interfering with LightDM, run dpkg-reconfigure gdm and select lightdm (you may need to reboot).

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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 installed a program for working with specific file types, you might find that Ubuntu‘s file manager Nautilus has no idea about it when you right-click a file and go to Open With, where a list of alternative programs to the default are presented. While in most cases that new app will be found when you choose Other Application… from the context menu, sometimes this isn’t the case.

Back in Gnome 2.x, if the program wasn’t listed, you could choose to add a custom application, which let you specify the command manually. However, this is no longer the case, but there should be another way to rectify this (see also the command-line interface method at the bottom).

In this example, we’ll look at getting Nautilus to recognise PDF Editor (pdfedit) as a viable program when right-clicking PDF documents, since the file manager doesn’t know it exists, and one can no longer just specify pdfedit as a custom command (at least via the GUI).

While you could be forgiven for thinking you’d need to hack a list of applications (for example, ~/.local/share/applications/mimeapps.list), the answer in fact lies in editing the .desktop file of the newly-installed program, and simply inserting three characters into it. Basically, this will allow Nautilus to add it to its context menu (actually, it specifies that the application can be passed a filename, which is what is missing).

All you need is the actual command that runs the program (e.g. pdfedit for PDF Editor), and you should be able to guess the .desktop file’s name (e.g. pdfedit.desktop), and open it for editing with the following command (replacing pdfedit with the appropriate name in your case):

gksudo gedit /usr/share/applications/pdfedit.desktop

(Note that the .desktop files should be in /usr/share/applications, but if not will be in ~/.local/share/applications, so change the path accordingly if you need to. Also, if you cannot correctly guess the .desktop file’s name, you can get the correct name by going to the folder and browsing for it).

[Desktop Entry]
Name=PDF Editor
Comment=PDF Editor
Exec=pdfedit
Icon=/usr/share/pdfedit/icon/pdfedit_logo.png
Type=Application
StartupNotify=false
Terminal=false
Categories=TextTools;Viewer;Graphics;Qt;

Find the Exec= line and you will see the command listed after it. Simply go to the end of the line, hit the spacebar, and add %f, so the line looks like:

Exec=pdfedit %f

(Once again, substitute your command’s name for pdfedit).

Simply save the file when exiting, and you shouldn’t even need to restart Nautilus, let alone log out or totally reboot. You should immediately see the desired program in the list of apps presented in Other Application…, and once you open a file with it, the app should be easily accessible in the list of secondary programs found in Open With.

If you want to make that program the new default for opening the particular filetype, you can now right-click one, choose Properties, go to the Open With tab, click on the app under Recommended Applications, and click the Set as default button.

CLI Method to Change Application & Set Default:

You can easily open a file with another application using the mimeopen command in the terminal. However, if the program isn’t already in the list of recommended applications, you’ll need to make it the default for that filetype first. Simply open a terminal in the folder where the file is and run a command like the following (substituting Recipes.pdf with the appropriate filename and filetype):

mimeopen -d Recipes.pdf

Please choose a default application for files of type application/pdf

1) GIMP Image Editor (gimp)
2) Adobe Reader 9 (AdobeReader)
3) Document Viewer (evince)
4) Other…

use application #4
use command: pdfedit

Simply choose the number that corresponds to Other… (in this case it’s 4), then type the command of the program after use command: (you probably won’t need to specify the path, but if it doesn’t work without it, it should be something like /usr/bin/pdfedit).

After that, you can switch default applications quite easily with the above command, or use the --ask option to just open the file in the desired app without changing the default (note there is no option to choose Other…, which is why you have to use the -d switch first):

mimeopen --ask Recipes.pdf

Please choose an application

1) pdfedit (pdfedit-usercreated-2)
2) GIMP Image Editor (gimp)
3) Adobe Reader 9 (AdobeReader)
4) Document Viewer (evince)

use application #

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That’s it – hopefully with either of the methods you’re not cursing Nautilus any more, and have more control of your filetypes than your file manager currently provides.

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