Wednesday, November 25, 2009 -- a community site for a community OS.

If you're reading this blog, you've probably heard of Linux before. What you may not be aware of is how the Linux Foundation and figure into the equation.

The Linux Foundation is a non-profit consortium decicated to fostering the growth of Linux. It was founded in 2007 in a merger of the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group (FSG). More about the Linux Foundation can be found in the organization's about page. An item of note about the Linux Foundation is that they employ Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux.

In May of 2009, the Linux Foundation also relaunched as a community site for Linux users, having acquired it from Sourceforge Inc./Geeknet in early 2009. Their newly launched site is a site that I have enjoyed quite a bit since its launch. It contains a wide variety of Linux related news, as well as also containing a rather large community portion. allows you to create your own groups, either pre-existing (such as NEWLUG) or brand new, (such as Pandora Console Fans). This offers Linux geeks an opportunity to gather and communicate in a central location.

For new users of Linux, there are quite a few positive aspects to The site features a variety of newbie friendly resources, most of which are located in the Free Linux Support section of the website, such as tutorials, new user guides, answers, and documentation. It is nice to have all of this information in an easily accessible place.

I'm a member. Here is my user tag:

If you like as well, feel free to friend me, participate in groups, and comment on my community blog posts!

Monday, November 23, 2009

MiniTube, a way to get YouTube out of your browser

If you're a Linux user, you may be frustrated with the current Linux implementation of Flash, especially when it comes to viewing videos on YouTube. As I mentioned earlier, YouTube isn't just for reruns of He-Man, videos of Super Mario World speedruns, Harry Potter Puppet Pals, and the evolution of dance anymore. Unfortunately, YouTube videos (which use Flash) have some issues in Linux, especially if you are among the people who run dual screens under the same X server (I run Twinview with the proprietary Nvidia drivers).

Allow me to explain some of the current issues. In the interests of bandwidth, smaller thumbnails are shown, but larger res versions are available if you click on them.
Let's assume that you have found awesome blog or website on the Internet about Linux stuff with embedded YouTube videos, such as the Pandora Video Vault or, ahem, my blog.

Example number one:

You start the video, then attempt to maximize the video to see more. Sadly, instead of filling your whole screen, huge white bars above and below your video appear, and the video plays at the same resolution as before you maximized. Sometimes, the video gets smaller!

Example number two:
Your dual screen computer has Firefox open in its secondary display, and you try to maximize your window. Instead of maximizing in the current screen, it takes over the primary display. To add insult to injury, it still has the large white bands above and below the video.

Clicking on your Internet browser in the secondary display immediately causes the video to return to the embedded link in the page. The same thing happens if you click the primary window. You're pretty much stuck viewing the videos in the resolution in which they are initially presented.

Enter MiniTube, stage left.

MiniTube (currently at version 0.8.1)allows you to overcome some of these restrictions and annoyances.
MiniTube opens up as an application and allows you to easily make the videos full screen.
It's available for Linux and Mac OSX.
Since it doesn't use Flash, you may also see performance increases on hardware that doesn't play well with Flash.

Since MiniTube is a YouTube video viewer, I should probably include a youtube link to it. Unfortunately, the only link to a current video that I can find is in Italian from Paglia's Blog with a strange Matrix-esque soundtrack. It shows off Minitube well enough, though.

There are still some issues with MiniTube, though.
When watching full-screen videos on MiniTube, if you interact with a web browser window in the screen opposite the full-screen video, the menu panels will appear. Most of the time, this is fine, as the video is still large, and I am able to interact with the browser without having any of the aforementioned craziness occur.

Navigation in MiniTube is an issue. The only method that MiniTube appears to use for navigation is a small search window in the upper right hand corner. After entering a search term, you can search for the most relevant, most recent, or most viewed entries.
Finding a particular video that's already been embedded in a web page is not as straightforward as simply clicking it. You typically have to search MiniTube for the explanatory text shown in the embedded window, such as "Pandora mupen64plus" or "Stanford Programming Methodology". The search function does work quite well, but it's a little annoying to type something like "Stanford Programming Methodology" over and over again. On the main screen of MiniTube there is a search history, so you don't necessarily have to retype everything, but move navigating options would be nice.

MiniTube doesn't feature any graphical feedback on how the video is loading. One of the videos I watched started stuttering about halfway through. After pausing the video for about a minute and starting it again, it played just fine, but it would have been nice to know how much buffer remains before I get to the stuttering.

This next thing might be either positive or negative depending on what you prefer. MiniTube is designed to be a refactoring of YouTube into a more television-like experience. When you mouseover the full screen, nothing happens. This can be liberating if you are used to YouTube contstantly reminding you about the Escape key allowing you to leave full-screen mode, as well as displaying some rather annoying pop-ups. However, the only navigation you can do from full-screen is "Stop", "Play", "Skip", and "Exit Full Screen". Once you are back in the windowed MiniTube player, you can skip around in the video using the slider.

Although MiniTube is not perfect, I will keep using it in order to avoid the full-screen shenanigans that happen with Flash. If Adobe gets their act together and release versions of Flash for Linux that don't suck, I may change that opinion.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Google Chrome OS released as open source

Some geeks were expecting big news about the release of Google's Chrome OS today, and it turns out that they're partially correct. Google did have a big announcement, but it wasn't the actual release of Chrome OS. The announcement is that the Google Chrome OS have been released as an open source project: the Google Chromium OS. Oh, and it's based on Linux. Google is preparing Chrome OS for its eventual public release in late 2010.
For those that aren't familiar with the Chrome OS project, here's a video explanation:

How, I hear you asking, "Chrome? Chromium? What's the difference?"
Basically, Chrome is made by Google. Google then takes the source code that was used to make Chrome, and releases it under the name Chromium, with slightly different artwork, but the same underlying technology. This allows everyone who wishes to look at the underlying technology to look at it, and develop new uses for it, such as a Linux or OSX version of the Chromium browser, or wider hardware support for the Chromium OS. Chrome and Chromium are the web browsers, with Chrome OS and Chromium OS being the OS projects that utilize the web browser as the basis for the operating system.

How will Chrome/Chromium look? Well, here's a video showing the current concept for the UI:

THAT is a sweet UI. I can't wait to see it in person.

Here's a video that explains the open source development process and how it relates to the Chromium OS project.

Want to see more videos? Go to the YouTube Google Chrome Channel!
If you're interested in helping develop this project, check out the Chromium Blog and sign up to receive updates from Google.
If you're interested in how this news was announced, OMG! UBUNTU! has a minute-by-minute account of the Nov. 19th Google press conference, as well as a paraphrasing of the Q&A session that was held afterwards.

Google Wave- first impressions...

I've been a Google Wave user for about a week or so (thanks for the invite, AJ!), and I'd like to share my first impressions of the innovative new tool.

As far as collaborative communication is concerned, Google Wave really is impressive. We recently started a LUG (Linux Users Group) wave, and I think we've done more constructive communication on that wave in a couple days than we have done in the last six months on the mailing list.
Widgets are fun. I wish there were more of them.
Real time communication is a good feature.
Waves can be read across platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac, Handhelds. etc.)

Lag can be an issue, especially during real-time communication. Sometimes, clicking to reply (or clicking several times while waiting for the window to open) will cause multiple reply threads to open, which can be annoying to delete.
More widgets would be nice. I assume that that will increase over time.

I interacted with Wave on a Palm Pre emulator, and although I was able to load Wave and read waves, my ability to interact with those waves was less successful, since wave employs a fair bit of right clicking, holding and dragging in its interface, and I haven't quite figured out how to do those things in my Pre emulator.

Wave is a tool that I plan to continue using. It could be a tool that changes the way that people communicate, both in work and outside of it. The edges are still pretty rough, but I expect that Google will continue to polish it into a fine program.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Phoronix releases version 2.2 of Phoronix Test Suite!

Phoronix recently announced on their website that version 2.2 "Bardu" of the Phoronix Test Suite has been released. The official release contains quite a few fixes and new features, as the changelog shows. The PTS Live DVD release based on Phoronix Test Suite version 2.2 is expected in December of this year.
The benchmarking suite is currently available for the Linux, OpenSolaris, BSD, and Mac OS X platforms.
The downloads page is located here.
Happy Benchmarking, everyone!

EDIT:: I've been having issues running the GUI for the Phoronix Test Suite. The error message that I get in the command line after running "phoronix-test-suite gui" is :
Class 'GtkWindow' not found in /usr/share/phoronix-test-suite/pts-core/objects/gtk/pts_gtk_window.php on line 23
Apparently it's an issue with the lack of a compiled PHP GTK package ( or at least the forum posts say so.)
Command line running of PTS 2.2 should still work just fine.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Quantz- an innovative new puzzle game.

As some of you may know, I'm a big fan of puzzle games, and recently I became aware of a new title that's currently in beta testing on the Linux platform. It's a puzzle game called Quantz, and it's made by a Quebec, Canada-based company called Gamerizon. It's a multiplatform game, available for Mac, Windows, as well as a Linux beta. The game is also available on Steam. The Linux version was announced on Reddit recently, and they have provided .deb, .rpm, and tar.gz files for Linux gamers to install and test.
A video of the gameplay is shown below:

I downloaded and installed the .deb file, as I am currently running Ubuntu 9.10. The file installed without any issues using the GDebi Package Manager.

My current setup includes a dual-core machine with a GeForce 7600GT video card, running two 19 inch LCDs in TwinView mode at a resolution of 2560 x 1024. This setup is a good test for any game, as games don't always play nice with this resolution, or other running programs. Upon my first run of the program, I had the Hulu Desktop client running in fullscreen mode on my second monitor, and Firefox was fullscreen on the main monitor . I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game started up by maximizing in the main screen, but leaving the Hulu Desktop application running. I've included some screenshots of Quantz and Hulu running fullscreen at the same time below. Quantz is on the left, and Hulu Desktop Client (running the "One Piece" anime) is on the right. Click for larger versions of the images.

I heartily recommend trying the game. It's a three dimensional puzzle game with intuitive controls and enjoyable play.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Hard Drive utility in Ubuntu 9.10 - Palimpsest

One of my machines surprised me when I tossed in my Ubuntu 9.10 Live CD recently. After I chose to run the live environment before installing, Ubuntu decided to give me a notification that I hadn't seen before:

It appears that Ubuntu 9.10 has integrated SMART hard drive monitoring into its notifications. I decided to click the icon for more information, since that's what the window told me to do.
At first, the mouseover told me a little info:

Then, clicking the icon gave me more detail:

BAD SECTORS? Oh no! I clicked the message to find out more. It apparently brings up a utility called "Palimpest Disk Utility":

In addition to showing the drives in my system, it also allows me to test the drives via GUI tools:

I don't remember the last time I was happy to see a failing hard drive! Maybe this tool will make it cool to find a hard drive with bad sectors.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Installing WebOS SDK in Ubuntu 9.10

Installing WebOS SDK in Ubuntu 9.10:

EDIT (03/22/10): Make sure that you go to the updated WebOS installation page and get updated versions of the WebOS SDK and novacom packages before using the statically linked packages listed in this article. They are no longer up to date.

It appears that the Palm Pre WebOS SDK/Emulator no longer installs properly in Ubuntu 9.10, though it worked fine in Ubuntu 9.04.
I attempted to follow my own WebOS HOWTO from Linux Journal, but I ran into some issues.
After installing the two current SDK packages and typing palm-emulator, I was met with the following error message:

For those that can't read the image, it says:
"Novacom Not Running
In order to install or debug applications in the Palm Emulator, the novacom service must be running on your desktop. Please verify that you have the latest Palm SDK installed correctly."

As I had just finished installing both the novacom (palm-novacom_0.3-svn196852-hud21_i386.deb) and the WebOS SDK (palm-sdk_1.2.0-svn202408-sdk77-pho33_i386.deb) packages, I was a little discouraged by this message. I know that I need the novacomd daemon running, but apparently I wasn't successful in getting it going. I checked the Palm SDK install page, but was unable to get novacomd up and running given their suggestions. When I tried sudo stop palm-novacom and sudo start palm-novacom
I got the error message:
start: Unknown job: palm-novacom
I figured that novacom must not have been installed in my $PATH.

I logged out and logged back in, just in case the novacomd daemon was already configured to start at boot and was simply waiting for me to reboot. No luck. It was here that I stumbled upon the problem. The release notes for Ubuntu 9.10 indicate:

/etc/event.d no longer used

The version of upstart included in Ubuntu 9.10 no longer uses the configuration files in the /etc/event.d directory, looking to /etc/init instead. No automatic migration of changes to /etc/event.d is possible. If you have modified any settings in this directory, you will need to reapply them to /etc/init in the new configuration format by hand. (402759)
I then looked in /etc/event.d on my system, and what did I find? Well, I found the palm-novacomd upstart file! That explains why novacomd isn't starting at boot like it did for Ubuntu 9.04!
If you want to start it up without having to reboot, you can manually start novacomd by typing:
sudo /opt/Palm/novacom/novacomd
and then starting palm-emulator in a different terminal. A screenshot of the Palm WebOS emulator is below (the output of novacomd is listed in the terminal behind the emulator):


I figured out a way to get novacomd going at startup with minimal fuss.
  • Go to System --> Preferences --> Startup Applications
  • Choose to add a new application.

  • Enter /opt/Palm/novacom/novacomd-upstart as the command.
  • Fill in an appropriate name and comment.
  • Save the startup program.
  • Log out, and log back in.
novacomd should now be running, and you can start the palm-emulator command without any of the extra fuss that I mentioned above.

Dual Screens on Ubuntu 9.10 with nvidia-settings

As you may already know, Ubuntu 9.10 was released on Thursday, October 29th. it has been a very exciting experience! The release notes have been very helpful in helping me get things working again, but I have run into a couple issues. As I find fixes, I will post them here.

Dual Monitor Configuration using nvidia-settings :

After installing the nvidia binary drivers for my XFX Fatal1ty 7600GT Video card, I was easily able to configure Twinview and extend my desktop across two LCD monitors at a resolution of 2560 x 1024. However, when I attempted to save the settings to the X configuration file using the "Save to X Configuration File" button, the program crashed. Although the settings for my dual screen monitors continued to work, the settings were reset back to a single monitor upon my next login.
I first tried running sudo nvidia-settings from the command line to see if it was a permissions issue. it wasn't. Fortunately, Google was my friend, and pointed me to an old Ubuntu bug report that suggested the solution that worked for me.
I simply had to run sudo nvidia-xconfig first, then run sudo nvidia-settings from the command line. Typing the commands in this order allowed me to save the configuration file without crashing, and now I am able to enjoy my dual screens. It appears that this issue was caused by problems with the permissions and locations of X configuration files in the default install.