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Showing posts from December, 2006

Suse 10.2, part 8: Multimedia support updated

A comment from The Diabetic Geek about part 7 pointed me towards "Hacking openSUSE 10.2" and a laundry list of things to do to 10.2 in order to enhance its basic capabilities. I read Hacking several times, paying particular attention to the sections dealing with multimedia playback support. I'd already installed libdvdcss, so I followed two other steps: I added packman.unixheads.com/suse/10.2 to my repository sources and then I installed the win32 codecs from packman. But the act of adding the packman repository triggered the software updater, and informed me I needed to update what appears to be the core of the multimedia system on openSuse. What follows are two side-by-side screen shots of all the packages that I eventually upgraded.



While in the process of performing its dependency checks, the following little dialog popped up on the screen.



Note the removal of xine-lib. After all was said and done by the updater, I was able to play movies with Kaffeine as you can see b…

Suse 10.2, part 7: Multimedia support, mixed at best

There are two key features that today's personal computers running Windows and Mac OS X are expected to have as soon as they're turned on; playback of audio and video. And it's been this way for quite some time. Audio playback can range from music CDs to MP3s ripped from those CDs, to DRMed content purchased from any number of on-line stores. Video playback ranges from proprietary formats such as Quicktime and Windows Media, and DVDs. When I installed Suse 10.2, I knew I wasn't going to get rich multimedia support out-of-the-box (or off-the-DVD). With my lowered expectations all I'm looking for are music CD playback, MP3 playback, and DVD playback. And Suse 10.2 didn't even meet those lowered expectations.

The Good News: Music CDs

Music CD playback is just about perfect. When you insert a music CD you get a dialog allowing you to select among a number of options, including several applications for playback. I chose Amarok 1.4.4, and it appears I chose wisely. As …

Suse 10.2, part 6: What is going on with beagled-helper?

Beagle is Gnome's answer to built-in desktop indexing and search. The heart of Beagle appears to be beagled, the Beagle daemon. I went out earlier today to run a number of errands leaving europa on and running with openSuse. When I returned home several hours later, I came back to an unresponsive machine. The display was corrupt, with random pixels all over the screen. No jiggling of the shift keys on the keyboard or the mouse would bring up the desktop.

I quickly noticed that the hard drive activity light was on constantly. I switched from hitting the Big Red Switch to attempting to gain access to a basic text-only window (Ctrl Alt F1) and logging into root. I wanted to find out what was happening on the system. I hit CAF1 and waited about 30 seconds before the screen cleared and I got a login prompt. Good! I had to wait another 15-20 seconds to log in as root and get a shell prompt. I fired up top and saw that beagled-helper had 99% of the CPU. I killed it not once, but twice; it…

Suse 10.2, part 5: Fixing an annoying boot splash screen

When you first start Suse Linux, you're presented with a Grub splash screen menu that allows you to select between one or more boot options. If you're like me, you've got at least three; Windows XP, openSuse 10.2, floppy, and openSuse 10.2 failsafe. I like my menus clean and easy to read. The basic Suse boot screen is great for that. The problem with the openSuse 10.2 boot screen is somebody decided it would be cool to have the bland-but-clear blue Suse boot screen 'randomly' trade places with a considerably busier penguin-themed boot screen background, complete with running and tumbling penguins. Gee, thanks.

Below is the boring old Suse background, the one I actually want, especially for work.



Followed by the sooper-kool penguin-themed background, which I detest.



Because of my advanced age I no longer appreciate the finer points of geek humor, especially when I can't easily control when it pops up on my machine. It was with that motivation that I sought to elimi…

Substance over style

The genesis of this post goes back over a month, to November 26th, when Slashdot reported about an article "The NeoSmart Files" published titled "Firefox 2.0 Recap". The author complained about the new theme (too ugly for his tastes), the first-run website (too ugly again) and RSS support (too poor for his tastes). All those flaws just seemed to ruin his day. So I bookmarked that article for future comment (in Firefox 2, of course) and then installed Opera 9. I'd already upgraded to IE7 and Firefox 2. Then I spent the past month extensively using Firefox and Opera, with some limited use of IE7.

Windows Usage

The screenshot below shows all three browsers running on Windows XP SP2, with a shot of Windows Task Manager showing the memory footprint of all three browsers. I'd opened up all the browsers and loaded them up with multiple pages in multiple tabs, and then I'd let them sit and 'cook' for a while, moving around from site to site to let them so…

Suse 10.2, part 4: KDE's Konqueror

I've grown to really like KDE. Working with KDE is, in a word, fun. Yes, fun. Enjoyable. A pleasure to work with. Easy to approach. Provides pleasant surprises and wonderful answers to problems I never new I really had. That's why I keep posting about Suse and KDE, especially this release.

I'm digging a little deeper into Konqueror. Konq has a tremendous flexibility missing in Nautilus. It can list files in any number of organized ways, allow for viewing images (JPG, GIF, PNG, etc) as a slide show, even open up RPM files for viewing of their contents and then allow them to be installed via YaST. It's a powerful, rich, polished Swiss-army-knife of an application.



When Konq is first opened by clicking the "My Computer" icon on the desktop, it displays a cleanly organized synopsis of your system's resources, with links to some elements that can be further examined. It would be nice if every item presented had links to every application that could manipulate it…

Nokia 770: Nine months later

Well, it's December, and I've been using my 770 for nine months. I've grown quite familiar with it's capabilities and its quirks. I've lamented it's many shortcomings (just click on the Nokia770 label to read them all). I'm not here to heap more criticism, I'm actually here to praise one of its finer points: its display.

The display on the 770 is one of the best, if not the best, I've ever seen. It's resolution of 800 by 480, its 65K color depth, and the small size of the screen help to create a visually stunning experience. The 770 developers even seem to have cleaned up one of Linux's more noticeable annoyances; font rendering. The two screen shots that follow give you some idea as to how fonts look on the 770.





The Opera browser does a magnificent job of rendering text as well. I don't know if it's using the same fonts and font engine as the rest of the 770's OS and applications (I assume that it is). It's a decent little ne…

Suse 10.2, part 3: Looking at KDE

This post comes at the convergence of a number of events. First, there was the story on OSNews titled "Has the Desktop Linux Bubble Burst?" That generated a number of responses, one of them from Aaron J. Seigo. With all the drama buzzing in the background, I went back to my Suse 10.2 installation and started to look at the KDE desktop.

When I installed 10.2 I installed both Gnome and KDE with an eye towards really testing and comparing both. I've slowly grown dissatisfied with Gnome over the past year, and I'm ready for a real change. I've played with KDE in the past, and I've started to use the underlying GUI toolkit, Qt from Trolltech. I've wondered if I should switch and use KDE as my default desktop. With Suse 10.2 it looks like the answer is yes.



With both environments installed it was a simple matter to log in using KDE. The first thing I did to my KDE desktop was to change the blue background into something, anything, a little livelier. I like a mix …

FC6 Zod LiveCD: You win some, you loose some

Just in time for Christmas... The Fedora Project released a LiveCD of Fedora Core 6. I was able to download the 680MB CD ISO in about 20 minutes (broadband is a wonderful thing), then burn a CD and try it out on a few machines around the house.

A live CD is an opportunity to test-drive a distribution without having to perform any permanent installation to get it to work. Live CDs have been around for quite some time; I was introduced to Yggdrasil Linux via a live filesystem on a CDROM back in 1994. It was fortunate that long-time friend Jim Smith had a machine on which it would work at the time. It was a truly magical moment to see it boot and run from the CDROM. Now I take such functionality for granted, so much so that I expect it to come up and Just Work with the hardware as well as network resources such as a LAN and the web.

First the bad news: it failed to completely boot on my Gateway notebook. The part of the distribution that failed (as usual) was the graphical desktop. I was a…

Suse 10.2, part 2

I installed Suse 10.2 December 10th on my home system, europa. I've been working on it as time and schedule permit, documenting my experiences.

New Software

Java 6 was released one day after finished installing Suse, December 11th. I was able to download versions for both 32-bit Linux as well as Windows, and to put them on my Western Digital Passport (80GB) via my notebook. I plugged in the Passport into my home system, and as usual, Suse mounted the hardware without any problems. I was then able to install Java 6 for Linux off the Passport.

Why install Java 6? After all Java 5 (1.5.0) update 8 already installs with Suse 10.2. Why not use the installed Java 5? The short answer is that as good as Java 5 may be, Java 6 is demonstrably better than Java 5. I've been working with every release of Java 6 since June 2005, and it has gone from good to better to best to outstanding. It's a simple matter to run Java 6 side-by-side with Java5, and there are a number of applications (su…

Suse 10.2 first impressions

Suse is my distribution of choice. Up until Suse 10.2 I've never had any installation problems. But this time I did. It took me two days to figure out what the problem was that kept me from installing it. That's not to say I spent that entire time trying to install it; it is December, after all, and there's a lot going on this time of year.

System Setup

My primary home system is built around a Chaintech motherboard using the nVidia NForce 2 chipset, an AMD XP 3200+ (Barton core) processor and 1GB of DDR400 memory. The video card is an ATI 9700 Pro. All drives (hard and CD/DVD) use parallel ATA. All components were ordered from New Egg three years ago, with the upgrade to the 3200+ processor a year later. It dual boots between Windows XP and Linux. I didn't overclock anything, preferring rock-solid stability over trying to squeeze out that last percent of raw synthetic performance. It has been a rugged and reliable performer from the first time it was powered on.

Installat…