Showing posts from 2008

XBMC - Xbox Media Center with Aeon Skin

Not the best video I could find, but it gives you an idea.


So I mentioned the second pc I bought. It currently runs a stripped down version of MythBuntu which is a version of Ubuntu tailored for Media Center use. It boots into a program called XBMC which is just the most awesome frontend to multimedia that I have ever seen and believe me, I've seen a few. It runs on XBOX (original), Mac, Linux and even Windows! The website is And there some awesome videos on youtube. Give it a look. Will see if I can post a video in the blog.

Distro hopping

So I've been made to feel guilty for running openSUSE 11. Its the distro of the devil. Patent deals with MS, and all kinds of hatred towards Mono thrown into the mix. What can I say? Its an extremely well thought out and reliable distro. I have had awesome use out of version 11 which is the first version I honestly will say I prefer to Ubuntu. I have used Ubuntu primarily now for 3 years and have found the need to change. I won't criticise too much, but I will say that my experiences with Mandriva 2008, OpenSUSE 11 and Mint 5 have all been *very* positive and certainly more productive than with Ubuntu. Recent conversations about release cycles leave me leaning away from distros with a 6 month release cycle. I think we've reached the point where the amount of functionality going in is so great that the testing cycle is getting short changed. That is definitely an opinion that I subscribe to and I have taken a bit of flak for that. Some people seem to like the quic

Making amends

Some notes. Confession time. Despite my deepest efforts to get over it. I still miss Total Commander. I think its just the most awesome file manager on the planet. I have spent a lot of time getting Krusader to suit my needs, but I just keep hankering after that windows app. What makes matters worse is that it works perfectly under wine. I'm thinking of buying the bloody thing. I just wish the author could port it to linux. I have tried numerous linux clones, but they are just not suitable for me. I consider myself a power user of Total Commander so I have some very specific requirements. I have described it before, but suffice to say, using anything else is just not the same.

Guilty as charged

In the past I have been guilty of not updating blogs of mine on a regular basis... seems, in the present, this remains the case. Sad to say I have not been disciplined enough to keep the blog updated. Its pathetic, I know, but I will make a conscientious effort to keep it updated from now on. Mark my words. Let them come back and haunt me later...
Life with openSUSE After about 6 weeks of using openSUSE 11, I must say I am pleasantly surprised. I would have thought by now that I would have given up and gone back to Ubuntu, but so far, my laptop and work machine remains firmly in the SUSE camp. I do think part of it is that Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron appears to be a bit of a dog. Many people have had minor issues with it on their machines after installing / upgrading from previous versions of Ubuntu. I thought it was just me. I guess that they should not have used technologies like PulseAudio in a LTS release, but who am I to judge. In some other news, I picked up another pc second hand which had XP media center edition installed. I installed mythbuntu on it as the machine had a Hauppage tv card installed, but apparently the card is not well supported under linux so it went back to being a Windows machine. It was weird installing Windows for the first time in a long while and the irritation of finding and installing patches

openSUSE update

After 2 years of running Ubuntu, I am actually enjoying using my new openSUSE desktop. YAST is still slow and yes, I do miss installing via apt-get, but the new command line version of zypper is much improved. The system is rock solid stable and I have had no issues with any of my hardware on 2 different machines. I am running XP in a VirtualBox session on my laptop and that's been absolutely a joy to use. I did have some challanges getiing the XP host to print to my network printer at work, but it seems to be fine now.

Freshly installed OpenSUSE 11

I must say I was impressed with the OpenSUSE install. Smooth, slick and hassle free. Only issue is my display drivers are not included with the distro due to license restrictions from the vendor, so I have to download the driver from their repository to enable the full performance of the card. Will document little things as they occur post install.

Confession Time

This blog is poorly named. I am about to install OpenSUSE 11 this evening. I expect I will have some teething issues having being an ubuntu user for a while, but I am starting to get a little frustrated by Ubuntu. Its hard to explain, but I think its time to give OpenSUSE another look. The main issues I didn't like about it have been addressed and I think that I am starting to get lazy and need to experiment and try something different. I have a fairly comfortable Ubuntu Hardy setup with streaming to ps3 and all kinds of goodness working, so it will be a good experiment to see how long it takes to get back to the same level of comfort with a smoking hot new distro. Remember kids: When you're changing / reinstalling distro's, remember to use a separate partition for your home folder!
Quick update More myth messing and experimenting. Learning more and more about getting this environment working. Quite refreshing working on myth this time around. Had lots of teething hassles in the past but things are much smoother these days.
MythTV Remote Frontend Cannot Connect! That was pretty much the biggest problem encountered this week. It reminded me of the old days when I got started with Suse Linux and couldn't find my way around forums and help pages to solve problems. My approach to these sorts of technical challenges has also gotten rusty over the years as things have worked very consistently for the most part. I had set myself the mission of getting mythtv working with a windows, mac, ps3, psp and linux frontend accessing the same content. The Mac and psp don't have native myth clients so they used a combination of upnp and samba for accessing. All of the connections work fine over wireless although I reckon I can't have too many of them streaming at the same time. At any rate, my biggest challenge was getting any kind of remote access working. Most of the help texts pointed out quite correctly that I had to enable access to the mythtv mysql user from all hosts on the local subnet, but few

Out of town blues

I've been away from home for a week and had no access to my desktop pc, of course. I've been forced to use XP this week to integrate with work colleagues and this week's experienced has motivated me to get my work dualboot XP partition converted to a Virtual Machine asap. I guess this process will also give me some more content for the blog. In the meantime, I've found an application called Double Commander which is a cross platform Total Commander - inspired file manager. Its still in its infancy, but the coolest part is that its written in Lazarus, which I am at least partly familiar with. I am going to investigate if I can actually contribute code to the app. It would really be cool to have participated in an OSS project. I am investigating it as we speak :)

I did the unthinkable

Not only have I neglected this blog for a week, but I have done something terrible. Actually 2 things. Firstly, my internet access has been *very* patchy this past week to the point that I didn't get much done and so I have very little updates to the site. Its not a big trainsmash as my usability testing continues. My initial enthusiasm for Krusader has dipped as I am missing some key functionality that I need to duplicate via the customisation features within the app. I'll document these as I sort them out one by one. BIGGEST problem is the lack of queuing for multiple copy / move operations. If I don't get satisfaction, I see myself buying total commander and running it under wine. Second thing is I installed Virtualbox and installed Windows XP into it. I have been meaning to live without XP, but I need it for iTunes. Now, the 2 things above are not the bad things I refer to. Over the weekend, I bought an iPod Touch and a Macbook. The iPod does not work on Li

MVIX 760HD Linux

Good news. Read/Write Access over FTP works! Very pleased to report that the firmware did the trick. What I have lost though is the ability to mount the drive as a folder and work with it as if its a local drive. Perhaps I can use some kind of FUSE solution to do this. In the past, what I would do is move files into a folder on the remote drive and then sort them into the correct folders later. Using ftp, there is no obvious way of moving files around on a target system other than to upload them to the correct folders from the start. I don't mind doing this, but some kind of mount option is preferable. I can of course, install the proprietary NAS driver and use that to mount the drive locally, but that's not ideal. Overall though, I consider this one pretty much done and dusted. I will follow up with move info if I decide to pursue the locally mounted option. I found the firmware on the website and the "Olav's" firmware is availab
HD Media Player and Linux My next challenge was to get direct read/write connectivity to my MVIX 760 multimedia box over ethernet. The windows solution requires setting up a proprietary secure connection between windows and the device. Its a clunky setup which involves the setup of unsecured shares on the windows machine to make this work. I never liked the solution as it included a client side install on the pc to make it work. Each pc that needed access needed this software. Instead of duplicating this solution, I have chosen to improve on it. What I did was install a custom firmware on the device which allows ftp/ http and telnet access. This firmware also allows for the read/write of drives connected to the device via the 2 builtin usb ports which were previously inaccessible over a remote connection The only other concern is that the firmware does not allow write access to NTFS drives so I had to reformat the drive as ext3. Considering that the 300 gb drive was full, Satur
Krusader Update I am really enjoying working with Krusader. Its a feature filled app and I have been able to do most of my filemanagement tasks with it. I think this one's definately the closest to what I need. I do have one huge pain. I am finding that I miss the functionality of the queue-copy function in Total Commander. I have only used it for the short while before I formatted XP and it revolutionised the way I batch copied files between machines at home. I'm going to have to find an alternative somehow, but so far no solution to this problem comes to mind.
Oops UP - Remix Some musings... Although I am comparing certain Linux apps to more famous proprietary alternatives, I am not making a very important point. While I am focussing on very niche functions which few other people consider important, I have to do this as its to replace a workflow / operation that I am used to performing in windows. Old habits die hard so I want very focussed things to still work. I bitch and moan when it doesn't and tend to harp on that a lot. What I have failed to do so far is highlight the following. In most cases, the Linux App FAR exceeds the alternative in terms of other functionality. Example. Most linux file managers support browsing of shares via SMB or using FTP, like the alternative but also include fish, scp, ssh, etc. Considering that these technologies are more unix/linux specific doesn't matter as we live in a multiplatform world. Don't get me started on Amarok or Banshee vs iTunes. The best music management app I've s
Oops upside my head I totally ignored Midnight Commander in my previous post. MC will always be on any machine I have. It may not be perfect, but I have come to depend on it and have one copy permanently open. In recent times, with the advent of compiz, I have been annoyed that compiz is stealing some of the MC hotkeys (F9, F10, etc). I could fix it, but I haven't yet. In a way, Krusader & Gnome-Commander are also competing to replace MC as my default file-manager. Speaking of MC, I was surprised to see that it was started by Miguel de Icaza. Miguel is often credited for his work starting more important projects like Gnome (!) or Mono, but in terms of what I use the most, MC ranks up there as just as important :)
Today's challenge. Total Commander linux replacement First things first. I think that this is just an awesome program. I first used it many years ago when it was still called Windows Commander. I remember buying 5 licenses at the company I worked for and after leaving them I have been lost without it. I have tried all the various free alternatives and nothing else comes close. It hasn't been an major issue as I have been primarily a linux user for the last 3 years, but I still miss it. I recently took a look at the latest version and its even better than I remembered. For those of you who have never seen Norton Commander style fiilemanagers, they work on a 2 pane system where one pane is the source and one is the target. You perform operations on files using this manner instead of the Explorer / Nautilus convention of a tree view + icon / list view. Some of the features that blew me away include: the addition of tabs to the panes background copy multi rename tool
Podcast / mediaplayer update As predicted, Banshee has already got the ipod support in the new codebase and apparently podcast support is imminent.
To do list As a kind of reminder list for myself and possibly to see if others are interested, I thought I'd compile a list of topics that I have been playing with covering. 1) Bluetooth Support 2) Connection to my MVIX 760 Media Player - from windows uses encrypted NDAS connection. Want to have seamless read/write support from Linux over ethernet. 3) Replacement for Total Commander - the ULTIMATE filemanager. 4) Replacement for AltBinz - nntp reader for nzb files More to follow as I think of them. I can say with a fair degree of certainty that I don't believe there is anything that comes close to Total Commander under windows. The only one that I am expecting to come close of the various Norton Commander clones is Krusader. I am hoping that the functionality I Krave is Kustomisable pr Konfigurable in Krusader.
CD Label printing addendum I never credited the post that ultimately got me going. I did some printer model specific searches which is not really of general use to everyone, but the above post was most useful. I am currently using OpenOffice Draw to do the labels, although Kover, KoverArtist and Glabels are also available.
Printing DVD Labels Linux Success I'm claiming success on this one even though its not as seamless as on windows. The main problem I am having is that I just can't get the full disk to print perfectly without any white borders. I can spend a while adjusting image offsets in pixel increments until I get it perfect, but I don't have the blank disks to waste on this exercise. In windows, to save ink, I tended to use a white background with black / coloured text boxes describing the disk contents. This also meant that you never had the problem with dark backgrounds not printing to the edge of a cd and leaving the white unprinted edges on the disk visible. I have made a template in OpenOffice Draw which gives me the same functionality and I have just started using it to print on dvd's and its working beautifully. I have a Canon pixma ip5200 and the Linux printer driver support in Ubuntu has worked quite well since Gutsy. It printed okay in OpenSUSE 10.3, but the direc
Linux printing directly on printable cd / dvd Okay, for my next challenge, I am trying to replace the windows software I used to make cd labels with a linux equivalent. I've tried before with mixed levels of success and failure and always went back to using Windows to do this. Since my windows partition is history and doing this in a virtual machine will be admitting failure, I am going to give this a serious try. My initial stabs are showing me a number of potential problems. 1) Selecting the correct settings for the cd tray. 2) Creating a template that can be reused for different types of cover. 3) Finding the appropriate application to do the printing. It feels like I've got a frustrating session ahead of me.

Streaming Ubuntu to PSP

Okay, it's actually working via the PS3 as an intermediary, but it works seamlessly without any changes to the config below. All I did was sync my PSP to my PS3 using wireless remoteplay and was then able to play the content on my psp without touching the pc config. Works like a charm. So currently I can wireless access my media (video/audio) stored on my network via Ubuntu & my PS3. It's pretty sweet. What's next? Sleep!!!
Streaming to PS3 Okay, I confess. Was going to do this tomorrow, but was so energised I decided to give it a go. Got it up and running using Mediatomb. Able to stream videos from folder on Linux machine to ps3 via upnp. Works like a charm. Had a challenge getting the correct configs for ps3 as opposed to the default, but its well documented on the web. Main issue was setting mimetypes in the default mediatomb config.xml file to handle avi's, etc. I got the solution from this thread on ubuntuforums The post from the user IMOC did the trick for me. Only thing missing is .mkv support, but I'll save that for tomorrow. Probably not too difficult, just need to add the filetype for mkv. Of course, mediatomb can stream to a host of other devices as well, so give the project a look. They're doing an excellent job. What's next on the todo list? Probably streaming the same content from pc- > ps3 -> psp
Amarok and Video playback Due to the extensive library of scripts available for Amarok, I was able to get video playback of the podcasts inside the amarok window. The script is called Autoplay Videos and can be installed through Amarok's built in scripting gallery and browser tool. No need for fancy command line tom-foolery. Still haven't figured out a way to play my .sid files, but I reckon I can modify the video playback one to make it work if I really want to! Its not necessary though as a player like xsidplay does a better job of managing .sid files which are not like normal music files anyway. I pretty much consider this whole experiment a success and will be moving onto my next challenge which is streaming / transcoding video to my ps3 from a media daemon under linux. I am expecting to try my luck with mediatomb, fuppes & mythtv, in that order.
Amarok Video Podcasts Amarok keeps impressing the hell out of me. I had a few video podcasts already sync'ed from iTunes to the iPod. I right-clicked one of them and Amarok subscribed to the same feed. I was able to download video podcasts into amarok and sync them in the same way as audio. I could not play the video directly although the audio of the video podcast played perfectly. By right-clicking on the video podcast, I could redirect playback into smplayer which worked a treat. I could not make this behaviour be the default for some reason. Will work on that. I am really nitpicking now as Amarok has exceeded my expectations and then some. Amarok has always been an awesome mp3 manager for large collections and for at least a year now, maybe longer, the stability has been phenomenal. Based on an interview I heard with the developers on the Linux Link Tech Show, the don't plan on making video a priority, but I hope this changes. I know the app can do it easily enou
Catching up with the post installation status It would be remiss of me not to mention some of the apps I have installed after the base installation happened apt-get install - liferea - rss reader (feed reader) banshee - media player (mainly for audio) smplayer - media player (mainly for video) for the purposes of my itunes experimentation also downloaded gtkpod - ipod manager amarok - audio player exaile - audio player miro - video player songbird - audio player mediatomb - upnp server / streamer / transcoder (for my ps3 / psp / xbox) lazarus - free pascal IDE and gui development tool mc - console file manager gnome-commander - gui file manager Also downloaded compiz-fusion-icon for controlling compiz. I apologise for the rudimentary descriptions for the above programs. I am just listing them for the sake of documenting the process I've followed post install to record the sequence of events. The apps all do far more than the simple description says and I don
iTunes podcast alternative for linux ? So far, my first impressions are what I expected with a silver lining at the end. Without exception, all of the applications reviewed are extremely capable and will serve you well for media playing needs. The evolution of these apps from just a year ago to their current status is nothing short of amazing. New features seem to be sprouting out of the woodwork at a phenomenal rate and I have no doubt that very soon, we will be spoilt for choice for this type of functionality. Considering the relative youth of the project, I am astounded by the progress made by Banshee in particular. The leap from the 0.1x codebase to the current 0.9x codebase has been remarkable and welcome. I still miss the podcast/ ipod functionality which is critical for me at this point, but I can see that they have literally resculpted it to the new codebase and I reckon its a matter of days before the missing functionality is seemless grafted back in. I reckon that its
Mission #1 - Replace iTunes I have previously used iTunes to manage my podcasts. Don't do much downloading of songs as the iTunes store does not work in South Africa. iTunes main use for me is as a podcast/video podcast download mechanism and sync tool for my iPod. As such it does that one job fairly well. My requirements for a linux tool are as follows. 1) Ability to maintain a list of podcast subscriptions and update them 2) Ability to painlessly sync the above to my iPod 3) If it can play music and tag it, as well, that's a bonus. 4) Import / Export .opml files for managing the podcasts feeds The apps I intend checking out are in no particular order. Amarok, Banshee (old & new), Rhythmbox, Miro, Songbird, Exaile and gtkPod. All of them are competent with their own individual strengths so I don't mean to praise one of them over another specifically. My choice will purely be as a reflection of my need to manage my podcasts, not my music. I should consider

So that was fun

So now I have to live with this decision. I am definately going to have to get over not having the safety net of my favourite programs to catch me. Its make or break time now. Show some commitment to the cause, etc. I am looking forward to each challenge as they occur and will post the results of my research as I tackle each one. Must just be sure to remember to credit all the forums and help posts I read.
Coupla hours later So I've started importing my mp3's and photos onto the ubuntu side from my windows backups. Some notes, I have a fairly large mp3 library and have never ever cleaned up the tags / names. Programs like Banshee like structure to the data inside them and therefore I can see myself battling to bring order to the chaos in my collection. On the photos front. Re-tagging photos in f-spot that were fairly well categorised in Picasa will be a pain. I'll see how long my impatience lasts as I do this boring chore. On the whole things work as expected. Being a ubuntu user of about 2 years does help significantly. Bottom line so far. Despite the many improvements that have been made, I can still see some first time users having a bad experience with this distro. I have had easier out of box experiences with both Mandriva and OpenSUSE and despite what Ubuntu die-hards tell you, there are small stumbling points. Some good news is that some issues are ridiculou
Post install notes After enabling the Nvidia driver and restarting, everything seemed hunky dory. There is some residual / old / obsolete gumf in my home directory which prevented 3d effects working, so I created a new user and tried again. It all worked smoothly after that. I guess it comes from switching distro's from suse to ubuntu and going through multiple beta's of hardy heron. Anyway, alls well now. I installed a gnome blogging panel applet which makes blogging this entry a cinch. It automatically picked up my blog details from blogspot and making this post easy as pie. I will have no excuses for not blogging frequently in the future.

Installation Complete

So the installation completed and I rebooted. Grub error 17. Not very friendly. No obvious way to fix this. I know why it happened. Ubuntu is installed on the second drive and the first drive is the NTFS windows drive. Still, I believe I should have either received a warning from the Ubuntu installer or have a safe option in the boot menu to repair things. Not a good start. I booted off a knoppix livecd and reinstalled the grub menu. This did nothing and I had the same problem again. I then swapped the cables on my 2 sata drives to changed the drive order around so that my drive 0 was the ubuntu one and drive 1 was NTFS. This fixed the problem and I was able to boot in without incident. As I had kept my old home directory from my dual boot setup, I was up and running without incident. All my firefox settings (bookmarks, etc) were in place and my documents and files were all happy and in their familiar places. All in all, this was the highlight of the installation process

Installation notes #2

Okay, we're doing a lot better now. I am creating this blog post while the installation is proceeding in the background. Its pretty sweet. It looks like my screen resolution has been correctly setup at 1920x1200 and the installation appears to be proceeding without a hitch. This time, I unplugged the ipod and booted into the livecd environment. I then fired up the installer and went through the same procedure and started the installation. After telling the partitioner what to do, everything started to proceed as per normal. The pause at 15% was quick and then it continued smoothly. Its at 76% as I type this and I will blog again once its over. Holding thumbs as we speak for a smooth bootup.

Installation notes #1

Okay. First stab at installing failed miserably. Backed up windows data, rebooted pc with Ubuntu 8.04 cd in drive and attempted installation. Did not use the livecd option, decided to do normal install. Did the preliminary setup, deleted my main windows partition and allocated it to ubuntu's "/" partition and created a swap partition. I kept my previous dualboot "/home" partition to be reused and I left my NTFS data partition active. I want to migrate data from the ntfs to the ubuntu system afterwards and then I will reformat it. So at this point I have an NTFS partition and 3 linux partitions. Pretty standard stuff. Only complication is that my ipod is still plugged in via USB. The installer detects it as FAT32, no problem, and I exclude it from the install in the partition tool. I proceed and the installer freezes *AFTER* deleting my windows partition but before recreating the new filesystems. The progress bar never gets past 15% (detecting filesy

The conversion begins

I've just about had enough of windows and the associated baggage. As an experienced user, I don't have the problems most beginners have with spyware, viruses, etc. I'm able to maintain a working windows setup for 2 years between reinstalls so I can pretty much live with it. What's been getting me down the last few weeks has been the issues that I am starting to like about Linux. 1) No need for keygens / cracks. All my linux software is pretty much free / open source. 2) No need for restrictions on use / license agreements which affect my privacy. 3) No need to remove / reinstall applications between upgrades 4) Uninstall leaves stuff behind 5) Having to pay for software I already own because of upgrades that I am forced to do. 6) CONSTANTLY installing free applications then finding the functionality I need is in the "PRO" version of the app. I will miss some of the gaming, but I guess I'll use a console for that. Today, May 4, I am deleting my XP p