So I recently (last week) upgraded my lappy to Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope, and, so far, I’m a fan. I’ve been using Ubuntu for nearly two years now (since Feisty Fawn) and have only briefly looked back at Windows or over at Macintosh just for a sense of ubiquity and compatability. With Jaunty, I’m content with the slick new interface combined with the traditional ease of use that Ubuntu has come to offer.

I am by no-means an expert with Ubuntu–or Linux, for that matter–but I am a long-standing fan of Open Culture and Open Source. I’ve been working with Windows for years trying to come up with ways to tweak it and customize it to fit my own personal tastes and expectations, so, naturally, Linux was a Godsend with its seemingly endless customization options.

I started this blog with the idea that I would keep it as a repository for all the knowledge I’ve collected from the seemingly endless changes and tweaks I put my systems under. Mainly as a way to organize them and recall them in case of other blogs and forums going by the wayside. Second, I thought that others might have the same questions that I did and would like an easier method of finding answers than scouring hundreds of pages of forum posts.

Last thing of note for this introduction, the name is not a typo. Well, it is (and probably a common one), but intentional as I like the play on words implied (Ubuntu Nut, Ubunut). The only other semi-clever idea I could come up with was “Sit, Ubu, Sit.”


Being a denizen of the Web for over *shudder* 15 years, I’ve come to notice that I have a lot of junk profiles just laying around. My brilliant idea last night was to consolidate them into a neat package (along with my laptop and Blackberry) so as to provide myself the neatest, tightest Web footprint possible. I’m also in the midst of changing my online identity–having used the same one since 1998. Nevermind the motives, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Facebook remains the hub of all my social networking.
Sites like and YouTube get revised and updated with a new login.
Extraneous Google accounts get 86’d.
Extraneous GMail accounts get forwarded to my new primary address.
Sites I rarely never use anymore like Yahoo! and MySpace get the 86.

The other brilliant idea I had was a sort of universal login where I could bypass login screens for the various sites I use. Firefox has the universal password feature, but I want something that will authenticate on all the servers with one login (because, frankly, I’m too lazy to click something again). I did a little surfing and came across OpenID, and it looks like a promising solution. More to come with further research.

Picasa 3 for Linux

It’s still got a few bugs to work out (like automatically recognizing media in Gnome), but I’m quite happy with Picasa for Linux. Even better news is that v3 runs natively in Ubuntu even under a 64-bit architecture–no emulation or Wine required!


There’s been a lot of buzz about this extension for that will allow you to sync your documents with Google Docs. I ran across it looking for a solution to my (apparently not unique) problem of automating a system of backing-up documents to Google Docs. Ubuntu users will have to uninstall their out-of-the-box version of OOo and reinstall via terminal before this will work. The setup is actually pretty simple:

1. From the Ubuntu main menu, select Add/Remove Programs.

2. Search for “openoffice”, and uncheck all the installed components. Drawing may give you a required package error, but this is no problem. Uninstall the other components, then go back to uninstall Drawing.

3. From the terminal: sudo apt-get install

4. Download the extension here.

5. From the OOo main menu, select -> (Alt-T-E for those who like keyboard shortcuts.)

6. Click “Add…”, select the downloaded file (“gdocs[version number].odx” or something to that effect), and “Open”. The extension will then install. Click “Close” when complete and restart OOo.

You should notice a new floating toolbar with 5 icons. The first two (from the left) are specific to Google Docs (upload and download respectively). The latter are for Zoho and WebDAV, which I don’t use (at least at this point). Click either of the GDox buttons and you will be prompted for your username and password. The rest is fairly self-explanitory.

The only gripe I have with this extension is the lack of true document synchronization. When uploaded, multiple copies of the same document will exist on the Google server until you manually delete them. This is currently under revision and should be fixed when the update is released.

The Best Gnome Music Player

All right, after days of searching and playing and installing and uninstalling and other keystroke-intensive activities, I have finally found what I feel to be the best music player for the Gnome desktop under Jaunty: Listen.

I’ve used Rhythmbox ever since I started with Ubuntu, so I was more then familiar with its offering. It’s stable and has a good user interface, but it really lacked the power that I was looking for in an audio player. Essentially, I want something that has excellent organization capabilities, seamless support, and an attractive visual element. It has to feel like what I want in a player. Banshee 1.0 was another major contender, and I was impressed by the addition of a video player, but apalled at the lack of organization for video files. Amarok was out of the question as I have never been a fan of it or having to load KDE dependencies in the background. I heard good reviews for Exaile being lightweight, and the working AWN plugin was a boon, but I could not stand the interface–too similar to Amarok. I want to see album art, not file folders.

Finally, I found Listen, and I was impressed. Version 0.5 is in the default Ubuntu repositories, and it has a lot of promising features: dynamic playlist creation, and Wikipedia support, lyrics, and your basic streaming radio support all in a very slick interface. All these features easily make it the best Gnome music player, in my opinion. My main problem with Listen was that it tended to be very unstable and would crash if you just looked at it the wrong way. Enter Listen 0.6.2–it fixes the bugs that made 0.5 unstable and even adds a few new goodies: AWN support (shows the album art and time remaining in the dock), an equalizer, DAAP support, and the Jamiendo music store. Unfortunately, v0.6.2 is not in the default repositories, so you’ll have to add them manually. Detailed instructions on how to do this can be found on the PPA page here.

Happy listening!

Finally Upgraded to Ubuntu Karmic Koala: First Thoughts

Well, it’s been a rather busy semester–three term projects, murder boards, and an FAA checkride (I’m now an instrument-rated helicopter pilot)–and I’ve finally found time during the break here to check out Ubuntu 9.10, lovingly referred to as Karmic Koala.  So far, I’m rather impressed; it’s a major step up from Jaunty Jackalope, and a veritable quantum leap from when I began using Feisty Fawn.  So, all alliteration and Scott Bakula references aside (I have yet to check out Men of a Certain Age on TNT, but I’ve been enjoying Enterprise and QL reruns in my little spare time), here are some of my first thoughts on the new OS.

Ubuntu Software Center:

This is the first big change touted by Canonical, and I’m terribly unimpressed so far.  USC, it seems, is the Ubuntu solution to the application stores pushed by Apple, et al. to provide a location for “one-stop shopping” for all the end users’ software needs.  While the interface is clean and streamlined, it’s terribly lacking in functionality.  Preinstalled software has no option to remove while, instead, only offering to upgrade or link to the publisher’s website.  This has just led me to more terminal use, having to repeatedly type “apt-get remove” or “apt-get purge” even more than previous versions.

While I’m not a fan of the lack of functionality provided by the USC, if the previous “Add/Remove” dialog were simply updated with the new look, I’d be a little more satisfied.  To reiterate, it’s pretty–slick, clean, and streamlined–but severely lacking in functionality I’m accustomed to.

Empathy IM Client:

Call me old-fashioned, but I really like Pidgin.  I like the interface.  I like the support available.  Mostly, I like knowing how to customize Pidgin how I like it without undue hassle.  Empathy is a clean interface, and, in terms of functionality, identical to Pidgin. 3.1:

I’ve not really been able to play with OOo much yet as I haven’t had a need for it, but it looks cleaner than 3.0.  The program opens and runs faster, but that’s about all I’ve been able to tell so far.

Ubuntu One:

Again, I haven’t had a need to check this out yet, but I’m excited about the prospect of automatic synchronization with the Cloud.  I’ll explore this a little bit and get back to you.  My biggest concern is not being able to access documents from my BlackBerry, but I’m going to make sure that it works before getting too involved.

Overall, I’m very impressed with 9.10.  Graphics issues from Jaunty have been resolved.  I was amazed at the boot times and responsiveness I was able to get in GNOME, even when I started running several graphics-intensive applications simultaneously.  With a little tweaking, Karmic is sure to become my favourite distro yet!

I built an HTPC from an old VCR

My latest grand project has come about from a desire to have an integrated home entertainment solution and an inability to find any off-the-shelf product that handles media the way I want it to.wpid-wp-1427424367999.jpg

My first impulse was to build an HTPC in a traditional desktop-style case, but I could not locate one that would fit in my IKEA Besta TV stand. As it happens, I had a cache of old VCRs taking up space in storage after my VHS digitising project, so I grabbed one that would suit well and got to tinkering.

A few hours of Dremel work and the original RCA and Coaxial ports are replaced with USB and HDMI.
The front RCA ports made a convenient location to add a couple front USB ports.

 The form factor of the VHS turned out to fit an mATX motherboard and power supply side-by-side almost exactly. Thankfully, there was still plenty of clearance for fans and other internal bits as well. Best of all, the case pays homage to a time in my childhood when the VCR (actually, this exact VCR) was the focal point of entertainment–perhaps even more than the NES that sat next to it. After all, you can’t play Super Mario Bros. and build Lego models at the same time!

Still a slightly jumbled mess inside, but it works.

With the internals completed, I set about assembling the software suite. XBMC provides the main interface while Firefox and RetroArch supplement functionality for most streaming services and video games. The biggest decision I’ve had to make was whether to build the system on Linux or Windows. I’ve completed comparable versions under both, but I eventually paid for a Windows 7 license to take advantage of the superior graphics processing compatibility provided by Microsoft DirectX as well as eliminate the headache of futzing around with Wine compatibility settings.

Original serial number and patent labels joined by the ubiquitous “Intel Inside” decal.

The end result is an all-in-one streaming media, local media, classic and modern gaming machine that evokes an aesthetic of an era that is quickly fading into the annals of history.

The original date of manufacture label: June 1993.
21 years of reliable service and counting!
The unit’s cassette door broke off sometime in the late 1990s, so I 3D printed a replacement to seal the innards from dust. I also replaced the original 7-segment display with a USB liquid crystal display.

How To Install Intel Graphics Drivers in Ubuntu Linux

The motherboard that I picked up for the VCR project provides out-of-the-box full-resolution HDMI video under Linux, but requires an additional proprietary Intel graphics driver to process audio through the HDMI port. Thankfully, this is not a terribly difficult process thanks to the fine folks at Intel providing an easy graphical installer package.

Head over to and download the .deb package for Ubuntu.

Use your preferred package manager to install the .deb package, then run the installed package.

Follow the on-screen instructions to install the drivers.

How To Verify HDMI Audio Out In Ubuntu Linux (And Its Derivatives)

Assuming you have installed your graphics card drivers correctly, you will still want to quickly verify your HDMI audio out is working before any further mucking about in the operating system environment. In Ubuntu 14.04, this is done quite simply from the menu bar.

Click the sound icon in the upper-right corner, then in the context menu that appears, click on “Sound Settings”

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 11.02.11 PM

In the Sound Settings dialog box, verify that your sound card is activated and click the “Test Sound” button.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 11.02.32 PM

Click the test button for each channel and verify the output.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 11.02.38 PM

Other derivatives of Ubuntu (particularly the lightweight Lubuntu) do not have the robust GUI that Ubuntu features. In these cases, a little terminal jiggery-pokery will be necessary.

Verify the HDMI audio output with this terminal command:

aplay -D plughw:0,3 /usr/share/sounds/alsa/Front_Center.wav

Use Nano (or another inline text editor) to add the following line to /etc/asound.conf AND/OR ~/.asoundrc (depending on what your distro uses)

pcm.!default = pcm.hdmi

Reboot, and you should be up and running with full HDMI stereo sound!