Movie creator

I added a new item to my list today, a movie creation tool. My son likes to grab photos, videos from our camera, and various sound files and compile them into his own home movies. He enjoyed using Windows Movie Maker for this. A cursory search in the Linux universe didn’t turn up anything. I fully assume this is out there, I just need to spend a little more time on it.To be fair to Linux… Vista comes with Movie Maker. But I cannot run it on my laptop because the video card is too old. Now how about that! No backwards compat mode, no mode to say “we will turn off the advanced features”. Just a simple no, you upgraded to Vista and now you lose a feature you had in XP. I’m sure if I asked there would be all sorts of reasons for this decision and reasonable people would agree with any of those reasons. But at the end of the day (i.e shipping the product) the fact remains that people lose a feature they not only paid for but paid for twice!


All quiet on the Linux front

I am slowly rebuilding my music collection with Amarok. Nice player, I love the artist info it shows from Wikipedia. At first I was confused that clicking on a song or playlist would queue the music as opposed to playing the music. Then I found right click + load and understood. Most players, okay Windows Media and iTunes, default to play with queue being the option. Not sure which I like better yet.I am installing Vista in a VMWare virtual machine now. Adding to my list today at #6 is Visual Studio. I’m not ready to re-write my web site yet, so VS with the ability to work against ASP.NET is important. Hence the Vista virtual machine. I’d use XP since it is lighter but I happened to have a Vista disk around. I had some funny moments with VMWare in which my mouse and keyboard were “trapped” in the VM. I couldn’t find the key combination to escape that. Turns out it’s ctrl+alt+shift+esc. Much nicer than forced reboot.


Score one for Ubuntu!

I have a first generation iPod Nano. Approximately 2 weeks after the warranty expired and literally hours before I boarded a plane to Europe the device stopped working. I looked all over the net for an explanation but at the end I was left with no choice but to send it in for repairs.My son asked if he could plug it in on his Ubuntu machine the other day. “Sure,” I replied. He couldn’t damage a broken player, right? Well it turns out Ubuntu recognized the device, cleaned up the iPod DB, and now I have a working player again!Frankly I’m amazed, I thought the flash drive had gone south or something. But nope, apparently it was something in the software between Windows and the iPod (I also tried on a Mac, no luck there either). This is a real success story. With a free OS I got a $249 player.


#5: sound

SOLVED!Okay, the adventure continues… no sound. After searching the Ubuntu Forums I have found plenty of people with sound issues.My sound card reports itself as SoundMAX Integrated Digital Audio when running under XP. My system detects the sound card but simply makes no sound whatsoever.There are a variety of threads on this but so far none of the solutions has worked. Continue reading


The things I am missing: SMB Solved!

Issue 4 of the things I was missing was connecting to my network share to access my music.With some help from Mark via the comments, it is now working! The solution was a little trickier than I’d hope for. The basic idea is to mount the SMB share into the file system so apps can “see” it. I was trying this by using the shell’s Places–>Connect to Server menu but this results in something like smb://server/share and apps don’t seem to like this.So the solution:

  1. from a terminal, type mount.smbfs // /home/paul/shareName
  2. Get an error that mount.smbfs isn’t installed. Copy the apt-get command and install it.
  3. Figure out that you really need mount.smbfs // /home/paul/shareName -o username:paul password:yourPassword

That’s it! At this point I have Banshee playing my music. Next up will be testing a few music players to see if they can reliably synch with my iPod. That will remove Issue 0. Thanks for the help Mark!This does bring up an idea for the Ubuntu guys: could you modify the Places–>Connect to Server process so this could all be done via the UI? In other words when you offer to connect to a Windows Share which is one of the choices, offer to mount the share somewhere in the filesystem so applications will just work.Update: just noticed this resolves Issue 2 as well — thumbnails work just fine once you mount the SMB share into the file system. Very cool, almost there! As noted in the comments I need to figure out why my sound card isn’t working and then also write a script to mount the SMB share at login time.


The things I am missing, redux

Recently I posted about some things I am still missing in my switch to Linux. I have received some tips via email and some comments along the way. I will start numbering these issues (issue tracking if you will) so we can keep track of them.0. iTunes1. “./” — Anand in a comment pointed out that you can fix this. Fair enough. But I was still left wondering <u>why</u>? My brother suggested that different shells, e.g. bourne might handle this differently. I haven’t tried any of these yet and am relying on the default Ubuntu shell.2. Thumbnails — my friend Tom pointed out that you can change between View as List and View as Icon. This is in the menu and on the upper right corner. Problem: it won’t work against an SMB drive (I appear to consistently hit SMB issues, it’s my recurring pain-point). XP tackled this by putting a thumbs.db file on the remote location which is nice if you have read/write access. Not quite sure how it handled a read-only location. This leaves me still looking for a UI which supports thumbnails natively, especially across remote volumes. I use SMB a lot as noted and also FTP sites.3. Shortcut keys — Mark commented that fluxbox allows for shortcut keys that he has configured to mimic Windows. Nice tip. At some point I will take the road less traveled and try a new UI for Linux. Not yet though. Right now I want to catalog all the stuff that is going to trip up an XP user (yes, I am very aware Vista shipped, but for now I will concentrate on XP). If you want to make the transition easier (I doubt Dell is listening here, but just in case) why not pre-set the shortcut keys to mimic Windows?Two comments to the original post so far which is more than anything ever on my site (other than spam of course). Keep it coming. So far I have received nothing but encouragement in this effort. You can read that one of two ways:

  1. In the old days if a Microsoftie said anything about Linux there would be a backlash. I’m getting nothing but encouragement so that could indicate a maturation in the Linux community.
  2. Linux is fearing Windows less and less so the Linux community is treating me as the slightly dim long-lost brother who has finally called and is stopping by for dinner.

Hm… maybe this one isn’t an OR.


The things I am still missing

As I’ve mentioned before I am in the process of switching the PCs in my house over to Linux, specifically Ubuntu. Why? Well recently Brandon sent me a post of a fellow Microsoftie who was tired of it all. Of course he was only a six year veteran; let’s see how he feels when he’s been there thirteen years!But I do at times feel like a dinosaur and that I have had MS-blinders on most of my adult life (I started as an intern at Microsoft at 19, full time at 24). I started the year by installing MediaWiki and banging around in that for a while. That was fun. Then I [obviously] installed WordPress and started writing posts, most of which are boring and lame but at least I learned something new about what is out in the wide world.And then Ubuntu… I colleague mentioned the Live CD which you can use to run Ubuntu without messing up your laptop. I tried that and thought it had a lot of merit. There are some things about Windows XP I miss but most of these come from a relearning process. “Ah, Alt+F1 opens the Applications menu” for instance rather than hitting the Windows key. Okay, it’s an SMB drive and not a UNC mounted drive with a handy letter like M:. I can get used to that. But there are some things I am really struggling with:

  • iTunes. I miss iTunes. Mostly I miss iTunes for the iPod synching feature but after spending some time with the players available via Ubuntu’s Add/Remove Programs (and oh man, if that isn’t one feature worth the migration pain I don’t know what is) they just aren’t as clean or useful.
  • Why won’t most applications let me use an SMB drive? I store all of my music on another PC so my wife, son, and I can access it. On Windows I just point iTunes or Windows Media Player or whatever at that drive and it works. Given iTunes doesn’t have folder notifications which is a really crummy oversight on Apple’s part but still… it works. But of the players I have tried so far (Banshee for instance) they either don’t support SMB or don’t support iPod synch.
  • The Windows key. If you would have asked me what I thought I’d miss on Windows XP, this wasn’t it. This could be from five years of learning — hit the Windows key and stuff is there. On Ubuntu I need to learn that Alt+F1 opens the Application menu but that isn’t quite the same thing. Close and maybe the menus just need a little revision to make it work better.
  • Installers. Many of the things I want on Linux download as non-executable. This means I cannot just double-click and have them work. At this point I know I need to open a terminal, chmod a+x, then run ./ (which always confuses me that I cannot simply type and have it do the same thing. I am sure there is a perfectly good reason for this but it escapes me)
  • The shell doesn’t show thumbnails of images. For years it has bugged me how slowly XP will paint thumbnails. And it always leaves a little thumbs.db file behind. But compared to not showing them at all, it’s annoying. I don’t have Beryl running as it makes my PC freak out so maybe with an advanced package or setting I can get this to work
  • Last but actually most importantly, an internet filtering tool. I have been messing around with Dansguardian and a very nice guy named Jereme has written an install script and GUI for this but so far I cannot get it to work. This is an annoyance but also shows how nice the Linux community is; if it is out there odds are good someone has a script for it and will chat with you until it works.
    • Sidenote: the install script is part of the “Ubuntu Christian Edition”. I am not a Christian and don’t really want a full-blown Christian Edition. However isn’t it one of the more Christian acts to provide something like this to help parents safeguard their children and not push the whole distribution at the same time? Nice tip of the hat for this.

I am not sure how long this experiment will last. Google Docs is fine for short little blurbs and spreadsheets but the one time L tried writing a report the formatting was seriously messed up. Thankfully he had OpenOffice on his Ubuntu PC and that worked just fine. I haven’t found a great photo editor and image management tool yet although I note that Picasa is available for Ubuntu. It’s a little shaky right now (two crashes on launch so far) but still does what Picasa does (although it doesn’t support SMB either!).