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Posts Tagged ‘open source’

Whenever you freshly install an OS – be it Ubuntu or Windows – your previous collection of fonts can’t be expected to just suddenly appear there. But it’s really quick and simple to get them back, and you won’t even need to reboot before you can start using them.

All you will be doing is copying files from a source folder to a destination folder, which is just a basic bit of file management. First, locate your original fonts folder on your Windows partition, which should be C:\Windows\Fonts\. Next, you will need to create a hidden folder in your home folder on your Ubuntu partition, which you can do by entering the following command into a terminal:

mkdir ~/.fonts

If you’re wondering why a folder had to be created, especially since the system has fonts installed (so they have to be residing somewhere already), the short answer is just to make things easier for you. Fonts that come with the system, and a few that get installed by programs, are found in /usr/share/fonts – which, being a protected system folder, means you’ll need to ask for permission before you can do anything with it (like copy files into it).

The new .fonts folder, while being hidden (denoted by it starting with a period), is owned by you, so you can drag files in and out without being told you don’t have the appropriate permissions for that task. And of course Ubuntu will immediately recognise that you have a fonts folder of your own, and incorporate those with the ones already installed.

Once you have a folder window open for both source and destination, simply select your fonts and drag them from your Windows partition to the new fonts folder, and copies will be placed there. At this point, you can either choose to be selective, dragging over only those you will actually use from the collection that has accumulated over the years, or just select them all with Ctrl+A.

If you’re not sure about certain fonts, as filenames are shown, not font names, you can double-click those for a preview, then click the Install Font button at the bottom right.

Once you’re finished, the fonts are ready to use. If you had a word processor or similar open while doing this, the fonts won’t be recognised yet, so simply close and reopen it, and you’ll see all your fonts there. Note that this will also work with Windows programs running under Wine, meaning next time you run Adobe Photoshop or what have you, all the fonts accessible in Ubuntu will be available to it.

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If you’d like to do all this the easiest way – via the terminal – a command like the following will do the trick:

mkdir ~/.fonts && cp -rT /media/Windows/Windows/Fonts/ ~/.fonts

You will probably need to change the path of the source, depending on where it is mounted (in this example, it assumes your Windows partition is mounted as /media/Windows). Also, if there are spaces in the path (like if the mount point is /media/Windows XP), you will need to enclose that path in single quotes, and make note of any case issues (if C:\Windows is actually C:\WINDOWS, you will need to put it as such). Here is a revised command taking all those into consideration:

mkdir ~/.fonts && cp -rT '/media/Windows XP/WINDOWS/Fonts/' ~/.fonts

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How to Show Hidden Files & Folders

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You know, it really sucks being gullible. I like to think of myself as over-optimistic, but when I really should know better, yet persist in dreaming loftily, only one word comes to mind: sucker.

For years the free open source software (FOSS) community has called upon the Evil Empire Microsoft to work with it in making the world of computing better for all of us. Developers of free programs (who obviously don’t do this for the money) have continually had to beg Microsoft for access to details of their file formats, and have even had to fight them in court as the monopolistic giant drove to crush any opposition. And all this when Microsoft laughed at the idea that FOSS and Linux could ever be serious threats.

Now, all of a sudden, Microsoft is extending hands in welcome to FOSS developers, claiming to want to work with them for the benefit of all, and most people people are greeting this with “Yes! About time!”, rather than “Hmmm… OK… what the hell is going on here? Back away… slowly.”

While it is no longer any secret that Ubuntu has finally forced them to turn their heads towards Linux, the majority of people still see OpenOffice.org (OOo) – the free office suite – as not much of a threat to MS Office. But Microsoft are taking note of the increasing number of Windows-based PCs running OOo and are obviously alarmed, because they’ve set up a strike force and are recruiting heavily.

Previously, Linux was a minor pain to Microsoft, less so than Mac, and businesses using it for their servers still usually had Windows machines connected to them. But now, not only are more “home” users switching to Linux distros like Ubuntu, and using the FOSS that comes on them, but more Windows users are opting to try out free alternatives rather than keep paying to upgrade their Microsoft programs.

Even more frightening for Microsoft is the decline in those lucrative contracts from businesses and government departments around the world. Not only are they seeing their expensive products like Office replaced by OOo (as well as free products like Internet Explorer and Outlook Express being replaced by Mozilla‘s Firefox and Thunderbird), but schools, corporations, institutions and government agencies are now turning their Windows-based workstations into Linux boxes.

While Ubuntu’s success has certainly had something to do with this (since many people hadn’t even heard to word “Linux” until they came across Ubuntu), it’s also due to the fact that great programs from the FOSS world, like OOo, are gaining popularity in the Windows world. When people see that these programs are as good as (if not better than) Microsoft’s, then get exposed to user-friendly distros like Ubuntu (which usually come with heaps of programs installed, including the full OOo suite), the step away from dependence on Microsoft suddenly seems not so scary.

And now that this is happening at a rate that is causing palpitations at Redmond, all of a sudden Microsoft is ready for dialogue and a working partnership with the FOSS world. And while most should be worried about this, it seems the prospect of this unprecedented opportunity is dazzling the caution out of many. It really isn’t that strange though, just human nature: even an avid anti-monarchist would feel at least a small thrill meeting the Queen (though probably wouldn’t admit it). But the trouble with this is that Microsoft isn’t human; while it has the legal rights of one, its obligation is to increasing profits for its shareholders, not worry about moral or legal issues, so is in fact a monster (or perhaps psychopath is more apt – watch the documentary “The Corporation” and be enlightened!).

So, while smiling and shaking hands with FOSS developers, Microsoft’s henchmen aren’t there to help usher in a glorious new era, they’re there to infiltrate. The plan to get as much inside knowledge as possible, with only one purpose in mind: to use it against the FOSS world. Microsoft have finally realised two things – that the FOSS/Linux threat is real, and that they need a new approach to dealing with it – so have sued for peace while quietly readying for war.

Rather than just undermine open source (quite loudly) at conferences, or send out misinformation to the media, Microsoft HQ has gotten clever and sent out its wolves in sheep’s clothing. Under the guise of mutually-beneficial co-operation, Microsoft’s henchmen will be gathering as much inside info as possible, in order to help defeat the enemies they pretend to embrace.

If you’re thinking this is just a paranoid conspiracy theory, then you’ve obviously forgotten all the previous ones that ended up being true, landing Microsoft in court on numerous occasions. But go to Google and choose a few choice words to search for (like “Linux and Open Office Compete”), and you’ll see more and more on this. Or why not just check out Microsoft’s recruitment department, perhaps searching for “Linux Compete”? It won’t take long before you see Microsoft is very serious about this silent but deadly war of theirs; they’re so serious, they don’t even seem to care about hiding the fact!

Here is a copy of Microsoft’s recruitment ad for a “Linux and Open Office Compete Lead, US Subsidiary” position (note the position is no longer available, but the link for it is currently right at the top of a Google search for “Linux and Open Office Compete”).

Job Category: Marketing
Location: United States, WA, Bellevue
Job ID: 700901 9914
Division: Marketing
Linux and Open Office Compete Lead, US Subsidiary (CSI Lead)

If you’re looking for a new role where you’ll focus on one of the biggest issues that is top of mind for KT and Steve B in “Compete”, build a complete left to right understanding of the subsidiary, have a large amount of executive exposure, build and manage the activities of a v-team of 13 district Linux & Open Office Compete Leads, and develop a broad set of marketing skills and report to a management team committed to development and recognized for high WHI this is the position for you!
The Commercial Software Initiative (CSI) Lead plays a pivotal role for the Subsidiary GM, the BG leads and the BMO by building a discipline within the US that is focused on competing against. The core mission of CSI is to win share against Linux and OpenOffice.org by designing and driving marketing programs, changing perceptions, engaging with Open Source communities and organizations, and drive internal readiness on how to compete with Commercial Linux and participate with Open Source Communities.

While any emphasis above was my doing, to highlight certain points, the words are all theirs, including mention of how worried CEO Steve Ballmer is about open source software and operating systems!

If you want to read more about this, you can also check out this summary of the impending war with OOo, as well this search page for “Linux” at Microsoft’s recruitment page.

And if you’re still a loyal Microsoft customer but feel like having some fun throwing rocks at a giant, download OpenOffice.org now and give it a go! And when you finally get sick of Windows, then it’s time to give a Linux distro like Ubuntu a try!

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By far the best method of getting your package manager Synaptic to be able to find lots more useful software is to add the Medibuntu (Multimedia, Entertainment & Distractions In Ubuntu) repository. By adding it, you in fact get access to a whole lot more repos, and you could end up finding packages in a Synaptic search that you couldn’t even find via Google when hoping to download them from the developers’ sites.

Besides finally being able to install those programs you’ve seen recommended but could never locate, Medibuntu makes it painless to get a whole bunch of “non-free” packages (proprietary, copyrighted, or other legal issues). This can range from popular software you usually need to download (and often register for first), like Skype and Google Earth, to even more multimedia codecs that you didn’t get with ubuntu-restricted-extras.

Codec packs and multimedia extras to install once Medibuntu has been added are libdvdcss2 (for playing encrypted retail DVDs), non-free-codecs, and “Win32” codec binaries (required for the decompression of video formats that have no open-source alternative) w32codecs (for 32-bit “i386” systems; for 64-bit systems, install w64codecs, and PowerPC Mac users install ppc-codecs).

For those who just want libdvdcss2, you can download the 32-bit, 64-bit and PowerPC versions (37Kb .DEB installers).

Go to the Medibuntu documentation page for more info, or just enter the following command in a terminal, and it’s all done for you! You can then open Synaptic and see all the extra software available to you, and install those invaluable codecs. Note that all of the below is one command, so copy and paste the lot:

sudo wget http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/$(lsb_release -cs).list \
--output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list &&
sudo apt-get -q update &&
sudo apt-get --yes -q --allow-unauthenticated install medibuntu-keyring &&
sudo apt-get -q update

If this doesn’t work, you could be reading this when it’s outdated, so go to the site and check the command is still the same.

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When looking around for more programs to install, you may hear of great KDE (K Desktop Environment) apps, and be wondering if you need to be running Kubuntu to use them. The answer is that while these apps do indeed need parts of KDE to function, those dependencies can be automatically fulfilled via your package manager, Synaptic.

So you need not have installed KDE as a backup desktop environment, as those programs will just install needed KDE libraries and programs/commands they depend on. Or more accurately, Synaptic will take care of that. And don’t worry about KDE system files interfering with Gnome, as they are quite separate, and they will only ever be called upon by those KDE programs when needed.

As you’ll note in Synaptic, those programs will be listed as KDE apps, but nonetheless can be installed into Gnome. And they’re easy to find, as the majority actually start with K. So don’t be shy to try a few out, as some will be so good they’ll replace apps you currently use, and others will end your search for an app for a particular task. Just note that occasionally there might be a few minor issues, like parts of programs not displaying properly, but these can be easily resolved.

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If KAlarm has begun crashing on loading, try entering kalarm & in the terminal and hopefully it will open fine. If it does, exit the program properly (ie: don’t just close the terminal), which you can do by right-clicking its icon in the system tray. Then restart KAlarm via its launcher and, with luck, it should now load without issue.

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While most Ubuntu users experience greater overall stability than in OSes like Windows, occasionally programs may fail to work as they once had. Sometimes this is due to updates, with either an updated version of an app causing problems, or perhaps an updated library or other system file interfering with the existing program. The beauty with Ubuntu is that quite often a subsequent update will fix the problem before you can even start complaining about it, but this isn’t always the case.

While bugs/problems can vary, the annoyance that causes the most grief of course is programs crashing upon execution. So here are a few tips you can try if a program you’ve already had working no longer loads, or even if you installed a program and it never actually loaded successfully. Try the first 2 tips before moving onto more drastic measures if needed.

Exit the Program if it Loads Briefly

This will be of no use to those who see the program appear then vanish, or die with an error message (or not appear at all), but could be a fix for those who have the app crash after a certain task. For example, it could be opening or saving a file, or performing a certain editing feature like paste, so see if you can exit the program the proper way before it dies. You might find that it was in a loop of crashing due to not being properly exited previously, or whatever reason, and now works fine.

I had this happen recently with KAlarm, though it crashed immediately upon opening. Read the next tip on how I got it to appear, enabling me to then exit it cleanly, thus fixing the problem.

Try Again in the Terminal

If you try and run the program via the terminal, you might see some text come up that might explain what is going wrong (which is invaluable when trying to get some help in the forums or report a bug), but it generally still won’t load the app, since clicking a launcher to a command or entering it into a terminal are the same thing. I’ve seen a few exceptions, so definitely give it a try, but don’t expect too much. But if you follow the command with an ampersand (&), which is what you would do if wanting it to run in the background, you might get a pleasant surprise.

For example, after some KDE system updates, KAlarm began crashing on opening, but after entering kalarm & in the command-line it opened fine, and after making sure I exited the program properly (ie: not just closed the terminal), it now loads without issue!

Try Reinstalling the Program

Synaptic Package Manager makes installing and uninstalling software a simple task – just find the package, right-click it, and choose to either reinstall it, remove it, or remove it completely. So if you are having problems getting a program to load, the next step might be to reinstall it. You shouldn’t need to worry about settings being lost, even if you choose to remove it. In fact, I’ve seen programs leave settings folders behind on complete removals, so even if you have to resort to that, you might still get your old settings back.

Reinstalling it might not do much, as it just reinstalls the same version, but a couple of times it was enough to do the trick for me. If that fails, the next step is to mark it for removal, and once it has been uninstalled, select it for installation again. If the problem still persists, then go back and mark it for complete removal, and then install it again. Sometimes it is a setting or corrupted config file or whatever, and only in a complete removal will it be replaced by a safe default or uncorrupted file.

Report a Bug or Search for Existing Solutions

If nothing you’ve tried works, then it might mean that at least for now, there’s nothing you can do. It could be some issue like a conflict with an updated version of a library file, and could be such a widespread bug that it soon gets fixed in an update. Or it might get fixed in the next version of Ubuntu. Or if it’s some little app that not everyone uses, then it may never get fixed, because no-one knows there is any issue with it.

If you really want that app to work and want it fast, then don’t just complain about it, make the effort to report a bug. Finding the program maker’s site is easy enough with Google, and if there is no site, then ask for help in the Ubuntu forums. I have had bugs fixed within a week, and even cool features I proposed added almost immediately, so it is definitely worth the time. Some programs have such a large user base they have forums and bug report centres, while smaller apps might have a homepage and email link direct to the author.

You might email a developer of a small but useful app and next thing he is emailing back saying he fixed the problem, so go download the new version. With some more well-known programs, you might be surprised to find no bug report area, or to get no replies to emails sent, and that’s if they even have a web page. In cases like that, it’s time to hit the Ubuntu forums, where you might actually find a fix some clever person has figured out.

Just remember that whether you’re reporting a bug or asking for help on a solution, always supply as much information as possible. “KAlarm doesn’t work” generally isn’t considered descriptive enough to be of use to those who wish to help. Post info like your version of Ubuntu, and definitely the version number of the app (which you should be able to get by searching for it in Synaptic and looking through the details supplied). And adding a whole bunch of text you copied when trying to run it in a terminal would certainly give those assisting something to work with. Also, be prepared to send in any log files they may need to see what is going on.

And in this day and age, I doubt I have to remind you of search engines like Google. Someone could have already found a fix, and stuck it up on his blog or website, so make sure you’ve ruled this out first. Once again, the more info you bother to give, the more results you are likely to get. “KAlarm doesn’t work” is certainly going to get you a lot less useful info than “KAlarm crashes on loading in Ubuntu“. One last tip is that while more relevant words in the search generally produce better results, sometimes they can interfere, so try cutting words out. Sometimes a simple “KAlarm crashes” can get you what you need with little searching through the results.

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In Ubuntu, you can get many multimedia players – programs that play both audio and video – and you may find one that fulfills all your requirements. Personally, I don’t mind having different apps for different tasks, since I was already used to that with Windows (I mean, who seriously uses Windows Media Player for everything?). Amarok is a great flashy audio player, but I generally just use the default Rhythmbox for music; for DVDs, I prefer Kaffeine, but for playing all my video clips (and DVDs that Kaffeine is spitting the dummy over), I use SMPlayer.

It’s just an alternative to MPlayer, but has a lot more features, and can can be customised a fair bit. For example, you can skip backwards and forwards using the scroll wheel on your mouse, and you can edit the amount skipped. In fact, you can assign another function to the scroll wheel, just as you can change functions for all mouse actions, as well as edit and add to existing keyboard shortcuts.

You can also edit certain control buttons, like Skip Forward and Skip Back, with times like 10 secs, 30 secs & 1 min (note that with earlier versions, you would have 3 extra buttons on each end of the progress bar, while now they are inside a menu accessed by clicking the little arrow next to the single button shown on each end).

You can change the interface to a mini GUI, or to the Media PC (MPC) one if you prefer something different to the default. You can also choose to show the playlist as a separate window which becomes a handy way to access and add to your playlist (which you can then save for future use).

As far as advanced features go, you can tweak performance in many ways, fiddle with audio/video synchronisation for problem clips, and even get it to autoload subtitles for clips that come with subtitles files. Also, because of issues due to Ubuntu’s move to Pulse Audio, all my DVDs and movies had no sound for a while in the other players, but in SMPlayer it wasn’t an issue; not sure why that was, since MPlayer was mute, but I was certainly glad I had installed SMPlayer!

So there are a few reasons worth try SMPlayer. It’s lean, yet feature-rich, with a good level of customisability, and it will play any media file you throw at it, including YouTube (.flv) clips. It’s easily installed via the repos, and it might just end up your default movie player.

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Did this information make your day? Did it rescue you from hours of headache? Then please consider making a donation via PayPal, to buy me a donut, beer, or some fish’n’chips for my time and effort! Many thanks!

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