Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Resize video for Android

A 32GB MicroSD card is now around £20, room enough for a large music collection and a few TV shows and movies. But although 32GB is a lot of space, why store a 300MB file that has a bigger size in pixels than the mobile device, and is not compatible with the stock Android video player, when you can store a 50MB file exactly customised for the screen size of your mobile device and plays on the stock player?
I was looking around for an application that would do this in Linux, but in the end found a command line application that does the job. I've lost the original link, so I'll just post the command, using an example file name, and screen dimensions for an Android phone. The frame rate is a bit low, but perfectly watchable. First install ffmpeg. Then in a Terminal, in the directory where the original file is, issue this command:

ffmpeg -i "TOS - S02E19 - The Immunity Syndrome.avi" -s 480x320 -vcodec mpeg4 -acodec aac -strict experimental -ac 1 -ar 16000 -r 15 -ab 32000 -aspect 3:2 "TOS - S02E19 - The Immunity Syndrome.mp4"

The Linux Dilemma

Gnome 3.4 is in Beta. It looks good. But when can I uses it? As I'm running Debian Squeeze, not in the near future. Fortunately, Fedora 17 is in Alpha, and will have Gnome 3.4. This means I will be able to try out Gnome 3.4 in a couple of months on a  Live USB, or even install it if I want to sacrifice the stability of Debian for the minor bugs and frequent updates of Fedora.
The is the Linux dilemma: a stable system or the latest desktop (and software).
I just hope that by the time Debian Wheezy comes out, Gnome 3 has matured. I'd hate to install Wheezy only for Gnome to issue a new release full of new features and bug fixes, meaning I wouldn't get it for two years till the next Debian release.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

YouTube HTML5 Video Player

A post on the CrunchBang forum points out that it's possible to opt-in for an HTML5 trial on YouTube. I'd heard about HTML5 on YouTube, but didn't know how to try it. Seems to work OK. (Background: Adobe is abandoning Flash on Linux.)

Windows 8 logo looks like Windows 1 logo

Forbes has the details. The 80s seem to be back in fashion anyway: the 70s bar in town has been replaced by an 80s bar. The font from Windows 1 is more interesting, and the Window has more character: is that a Golden Section?

Adobe abandons Flash on Linux

Adobe is going to give up supporting Flash on Linux. Google is going to implement a version for Chrome. The freeze in Flash development, plus some extra documentation released by Adobe, may allow open-source alternatives to replace the Flash player.
Phoronix has the details.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Firefox to get a theme update

Firefox has plenty of updates over the last year or so, but the theme has remained the same. Web UPD8 has the story on a new theme update planned for this year. I'm looking forward to a Firefox update where I actually notice anything different... Here's a screen shot I pinched.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bluetooth dongle for a quid

My laptop doesn't have Bluetooth but my new Android phone does. I remember seeing Bluetooth dongles in Poundworld a few years ago, and they seemed like a bargain because they are much more expensive elsewhere. When I bought the phone, I looked again, but there were none in stock. A couple of days ago they were back in stock, and I snapped one up. It works with Debian. Here's a photo I just sent to the laptop.

The dongle looks almost exactly like this offering from Argos at £10, except for the CE logo and the order of the grip ridges (getting bigger towards the outer edge in the Poundworld dongle, the reverse in the Argos one).

Another blog on the bargain dongle: Can you find a decent gadget in a pound shop?

Here's a shot of the packaging while I'm playing with the dongle.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Conky in CruchBang

I've been playing around with CrunchBang recently. It's elegantly functional, in a minimalist way. It comes with Conky enabled by default. The default desktop seems to be designed for people who enjoy sitting in the dark wondering exactly what their computer is doing.

I messed about with my set up to see if I could reduce Conky to something more minimal, and also added one of my favourite wallpapers, something a little more light and airy and interesting to look at when I see the desktop.

Here's a close up of Conky:

The Gmail indicator uses this script, and the weather indicator this script (see this post for how to set up the location if you're not in the US).

If you try something similar, and wonder how to get Conky to display #!,put a "\" before the "#", which otherwise will turn the line into a comment.
${alignc}${font Liberation Sans:size=26}\#!${font}

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gallery full of album art in Android?

The solution is simple: change all the cover.jpg or album jpg files to albumart.jpg and they won't appear in Android Gallery.
Of course, if you've bought a 32Gb SD card and filled it with hundreds of albums, this is going to be a bit of a chore. (That's not a lead up to a solution, just a bit of British sarcasm.)
While I'm on the subject of album art, if Android music player is showing the wrong thumbnail image for an album, because you have images for the back and inside of the CD in the music folder (and because the music player is not able to recognise that the image file labelled cover or album is the one it should use) delete image in the Android albumthumbs cache as described here.

CrunchBang! The minimalist marvel

I've been trying out CrunchBang on a Live USB. It's based on Debian Stable but uses the minimalist Openbox window manager. It's the sort of set up that works well on older computers with limited resources, but it's also the sort of set up that geeks tend to like, and usually not on a computer with limited resources, rather on a high performance system. The idea of running a really basic interface on a high performance machine seems to appeal. This example from the Debian forum caught my eye. It is very elegant in a minimalist way (and as it's being run on a Triple-Core i5 Processor with 6Gb RAM, it's probably not for want of resources).

Desktop by vrkalak. (Full size image available at link.)

I have my eye on CrunchBang as a replacement for Debian Lenny on my old laptop. It's a single core 1.8GHz machine, but even it can cope with Gnome 2 at the moment. CrunchBang certainly flies on my more modern dual core machine, even from a USB, so it will be interesting to try it on my older laptop later.

Being based on Debian Stable, it is as stable as a rock. It comes with multimedia enabled (MP3, Flash and DVD playback), and there are applications to take care of work and play (Libre Office [Correction: it comes with Abi Word and an install option for Libre Office, at least in the backports-enabled version], GIMP and VLC- which takes care of music and video playback.)

My three year old daughter moaned that she didn't get a thumbnail preview of her videos, but I found the solution to that the next day. (Install ffmpegthumbnailer.)

CrunchBang is highly configurable, but unlike my recent experience with KDE, configuration is done by editing the configuration file, which seems a lot better to me than the endless configuration options everywhere in KDE. Edit the configuration files in CrunchBang, and you can set it up just as you want. Then save the file and you're back to your minimalist desktop. Here's what I did in a hour.

CrunchBang comes with Conky on the desktop, something else that will appeal to geeks. I'm not that interested in seeing system information, but I was able to edit the configuration file to show some useful information in the bottom left of my wallpaper image. The resulting desktop is elegant and functional.

In summary, CruchBang is elegantly functional, in a minimalist way. It's probably going to appeal to the computer geek as much as owners of older computers or netbooks with limited resources. In either case, it certainly isn't going to take up resources for itself, but just let you get on with running the applications you want to without the operating system getting in the way.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Compiz is dead

RIP Compiz. I liked it a lot. I wasn't a fan of the desktop cube or wobbly windows, but I liked the subtle effects. But I couldn't use it, because if I did, other things didn't work. Like cut 'n paste, buttons and menus. Things that really shouldn't stop working for mysterious reasons.
Gnome 3 has subtle effects and doesn't seem to have any bugs as calamitous as Compiz. Role on Wheezy!

Spell check in Libre Office

This may just be a Debian Squeeze backports thing, but the spell checker in Libre Office doesn't work out of the box, even thought the spell checker dialogue appears and says it's checked the spelling.
The answer is to install the appropriate dictionary extension and restart. (Solution found on the Debian Forum.)

Update: This advice still applies in Debian Wheezy: I used it just now. The link is actually to the Open Office extension site, but the download is recognised by Libre Office as a Libre Office extension.

Update: see this more recent post for a better solution.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Wordpress = slow

Having found the cause of web pages loading slowly on my computer, I was frustrated to see some web pages still taking minutes to load. Why? Oh, yes, they are all Wordpress blogs. Wordpress blogs are slow. They take minutes to load if they ever do. It's a well known problem, but even the Wordpress pages about the problem (Why is my Wordpress so slow? Are your sites running slow?) take minutes to load, and they don't even have the answer.

The answer is to block Gravitar images with an AdBlock filter:
I'd found a couple of pages correctly identifying the problem, and applied the AdBlock solution previously, but after trying out Fedora and coming back to Debian, I hadn't re-applied the filter.

Connection problems

I'd been having connection problems for days. Internet pages were slow to load, partially loaded, or would simply not load, downloads were slow, and frequently stalled.
I wondered if I'd changed a setting somewhere or installed something that had broken the internet. I was trying to think what I'd done on the computer a few days previously when the problem started. It seemed to be the computer because my Android phone managed an update of Opera of about 11MB in a few seconds while the computer was off- something that was taking an hour or so on the computer with frequent lost connections.
I was thinking about calling up my ISP to see if there was a problem when I thought I'd better check the physical connections first. What I found was the ADSL filter sitting on top of my laptop power supply. I'd punted it there while doing the hoovering a few days previously, and the EMR from the power supply was obviously interfering with the signal passing through the ADSL filter- explaining why my phone got a good connection when the laptop wasn't working, and why the problem had started a few days earlier.
It only goes to show that it pays to check the wiring before blaming the ISP.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Did Debian 6.0.4 break HP printers?

My HP printer is not printing since I upgraded to Debian 6.0.4. It gives me the message:
Filter "usr/lib/cups/filter/foomatic-rip-hplip" for printer "*" not available.
 Where "*" is the name of my printer obviously. There's a page on the HP Linux Printing page that looked promising as a solution, but only resulted in the printer printing gibberish with the message
% This file was generated by pdftopdf.
Very frustrating.
After re-installing HPLIP and trying Google again for answers, I came across this on Very similar: Debian, same error message, same problem just after an upgrade.
It looks as thought the same thing has happened and printing will be broken in Debian until 6.0.4 is supported by the next version of HPLIP.
If I'm wrong, please let me know.

Update: The manual build and install for Debian in the Launchpad link above worked for me.