Audio CDs on Ubuntu on Lenovo X301

Quick geektastic post. Under Ubuntu 10.04 lucid lynx I can’t play audio CDs. When I put them into the drive, an error pops up every few seconds saying:

Unable to mount Audio Disc
DBus error org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.NoReply: Message did not receive a reply (timeout by message bus)

Eventually I stumbled upon this bug and found a solution. I open Nautilus, Edit > Preferences > Media > Never prompt or start programs on media insertion. Bingo, now I can insert a CD and it will play. I don’t think it’ll work in Rhythmbox because that’s so tightly integrated with Gnome, but I was able to play the CD in VLC and presumably I’d be able to rip it in something equally unconnected to Gnome.

Glorious, now I can rip some of my 6 year old CDs I just found. Happy days. 🙂

Here’s a random picture from flickr for the non techy readers to enjoy…

Early adventures with Ubuntu

I’ve been thinking about switching from Fedora to Ubuntu. I downloaded the latest Ubuntu version a few weeks ago. Today I took the plunge and booted it up.

First thing I noticed, no wireless networks. It detected my card and it seemed to work, but no networks were listed by NetworkManager. I unplugged the power and went through to the living room to plug in with a good old fashioned ethernet cable. Fairly quickly I found a solution. So back to my desk on wireless.

Appearance

At first glance, Ubuntu is just not as pretty as Fedora. The graphics seemed a bit too Windows 3.1 for me. I switched to one of the other included themes. It was a bit better. I think I’d have to hunt around for a nicer Ubuntu theme. Personally, I think this is a big failure for Ubuntu. In aiming to bring free software to everyone, appearance matters.

For a Windows user, comparing Windows Vista with Ubuntu 8.04, I think Vista wins on appearance. For many users, that’s an important factor. Personally, it’s not a deal breaker, but I will do something about it.

Installing software

The package manager in Ubuntu is streets ahead of Fedora. Straight away it just works. It feels nice and clean. It tells you the expected download time until all your packages have downloaded. It strikes a great balance between the fine grained control I get with yumex and the simple interface of the default Fedora package manager. Thumbs up for Ubuntu.

Proprietary formats

Playing MP3 files, avi files, or any other non-free format is a little tricky on Linux. You need to install software which can be “questionable” in terms of it’s copyright position. Fedora gets round this problem by not shipping any of that software. Instead you grab that stuff from livna. However, livna is not installed by default. You have to manually add it yourself.

In Ubuntu, I tried to play an MP3 file. It asked if I’d like to search for the codecs. Then it warned me that I was installing software from the Ubuntu community. A minute or so later, the song started playing. Whatever magic happens behind the scenes in Ubuntu happens automatically. A big plus for Ubuntu, particularly for new users.

Installation

By default, Ubuntu boots in Live CD mode. So no changes are made to your hard drive. It’s a great option for new users. You can test the operating system. Check all your hardware works. Then choose to install if you want to. It was at this point that Ubuntu crashed. I’m not sure what went wrong. I could move the mouse, and the clock was ticking, but nothing else. I tried a ctrl-alt-backspace to restart X, no luck.

Ironically, I was proceeding with the install when it crashed. Now I’ve booted back to Fedora. I’m still swaying on whether to try Fedora 9 or not. If I do go with Fedora 9, I almost certainly won’t switch to Ubuntu. In Ubuntu’s favour, I already have the CD. I’ll have to go to the local library to download Fedora 9. That might end up being the deciding factor! 🙂

Conclusion

I recommend Ubuntu to anyone interested in trying Linux. I think they work really hard to make it easy to use, and largely succeed. Personally, being fairly experienced with Linux, I don’t think there will be much difference. Package managing is better in Ubuntu. TrueCrypt ships .debs and not .rpms, so that’s a bonus. I’m just not sure if it will be worth the effort of switching.

For new users, Ubuntu is great. Personally, time will tell.

RIP Bennett Robinson

This morning I learned that Bennett Robinson passed away about a year ago.

I met Bennett on a flight from Singapore to Bangkok, he gave me the push to actually install Linux on my laptop. He was running it himself (a man in his sixties), and convinced me it was easy to make the switch. We kept in touch. There was talk of working together on a few projects, but nothing materialised on that front.

Bennett was a real open source evangelist. His business was built around open source software. He presented it as a genuine business alternative to commercially licensed software. It was inspiring to see a man of such experience so vibrantly engaging with the concept.

I’ll be back in Bangkok in a month, so I dropped Bennett an email. It bounced. I tracked him down online to the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand. They kindly informed me of his passing. He was skiing in Japan when he suffered a heart attack they said.

Bennett left a wife and young children, my condolences to them. Bennett my friend, rest in peace.

ZendStudio 5.5 on Fedora 8

I am delighted to report, that at long last, I’ve managed to successfully get Zend Studio 5.5 running on Fedora 8. It turns out that, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get Zend Studio 5.5 to run with Sun’s JRE / JDK 1.6. However, switching back to the 1.5 release worked like a charm.

I hadn’t realised just how easy it is to switch back to use JRE 1.5. It doesn’t need to be your system-wide java default. Simply download the release (.bin, not .rpm.bin) then switch to /opt and run the file as root. Accept the licence agreement, then it’ll unpack the JRE.

Then run this commands to correct for a change in F8:
cd lib/i386/xawt; cp libmawt.so libmawt.so.orig; sed -i "s/XINERAMA/FAKEEXTN/g" libmawt.so

This creates a backup of the libmawt.so file then runs a find / replace on it. Now to get Zend Studio 5.5 to use this JRE, simply edit the bin/runStudio_unix.sh file (in your Zend folder).

Then replace ../jre/bin/java with /opt/jre1.5.0_13/bin/java. Now run that file as your own user and Zend Studio will launch. No more blank windows.

Evolution Attachments

The latest version of Evolution (the email / calendar / contact application for Linux) has introduced an absolutely awesome feature. I just clicked “Send” on a message that I had forgotten to attach a file to. It popped up a little window saying I had used the word attachment in the message but there was no file attached. Genius. I’m always sending emails and forgetting to add the attachments.

Linux Evolution Attachment Reminder

Skype Wins Again

Unfortunately I can’t find a suitable alternative to Skype. I use Skype for PC to PC calls, some PC to Phone calls and I have a UK phone number which rings on Skype. I can’t find a suitable, open alternative anywhere.

I considered OpenWengo, but it doesn’t work very well on Linux (neither does Skype) and I can’t connect to my OpenWengo account from another SIP client. Also, Wengo doesn’t support incoming calls yet.

Alas, I shall renew my service with Skype for another year. Hopefully in a year’s time I’ll be able to switch to an open-source, standards compliant alternative. Bah.

Linux Audio Volume at Boot

Every time I restarted Fedora the volume would reset to 50% and the mic would be de-selected as the recording source, so VoIP wouldn’t work. I’d have to manually reset these every time I rebooted. Turns out, as with everything Linux, there’s a simple solution! 😉

You set your desired volume, login as root, then run `alsactl store`. Or line by line (set your desired volume first)…

$ su -
# alsactl store

I should also say, I haven’t actually rebooted yet, so I’m just hoping this will work, it’s as-yet-untested!

Fedora 7 and Skype 1.4

I upgraded my laptop to Fedora 7 yesterday. As usual, upgrading my OS involves a bunch of new programs, copying some data, restoring my settings, etc, etc. This has been the easiest update yet though, I’m getting the hang of it. Fedora release a new version every 6 months, so I get regular practice!

The most exciting development is Skype 1.4 Alpha. It’s still in Alpha, which means it’s very early stage code, but it’s a HUGE improvement over Skype 1.3 on Linux. I found these instructions whch made the install a cinch. Check out the new interface (I’ve cut out the contact list).

Skype 1.4.alpha

rTorrent and screen

I’ve recently discovered the joy of screen. For non-techies it’s a cool little program that means I can log on to my server, start something, log off, and then log back on and pick up exactly where I left off. I can even leave things running while I log off and they’re still running when I log back on (very cool!).

I set out on a mission to find a command line torrent client and my mission was answered in rTorrent. The combination of the two allows me to download torrents from my server with minimal hassle. I can log in occasionally and check on progress, meanwhile the machine works away continuously. Genius. 🙂

A Linux Smartphone

Tech E2881 Linux SmartphoneI had this great idea that I’d love a Linux based smart phone. I figured somebody had to have thought of this first, and so a little scroogling (new window) later I found the E2881 (new window). It looks almost like a Treo (minus the aerial) and yet it runs on Linux. How uber-cool is that?

Unfortunately my birthday is just passed, but if anyone’s feeling super guilty about having forgotten, I absolutely will forgive you if you buy me one of these!