Tag Archives: linux

All up-to-date now!

Up-to-date!

This weekend I finally updated my laptop to Fedora 21. Initially I was thinking about doing a complete clean install but ultimately the usual lethal combination of laziness and too much to do forced me into upgrading it directly using fedup. Well, it did what it had to do (upgrading about 3500 packages, took it about an hour or so including the downloads on the internet connection I have at home) and it all went smoothly without any dramas.

The only annoyance I found (but I had seen it before when I did the clean install of F21 on the Dell) was that Nautilus didn’t have a mimetype association with .lyx files (hence LyX would not even appear on the “Open With…” list, even though I could launch it from the application list). Editing ~/.config/mimeapps.list sorted the problem quickly, though. 🙂

Speed-wise it is more or less the same thing as before (I can’t expect any miracles out of a 2010 Core 2 Duo laptop running on an Intel graphics card, right? 🙂 ), but GNOME is definitely more stable. And some of the things that were giving me a lot of grief before, such as file sharing and navigating through Windows shares are working seamlessly (I even managed to stream content directly to my Raspberry Pi using rygel without having to configure it (other than activating the “Media Share” option in gnome-shell settings). Brilliant work!

Not to mention the updated apps – I am very happy with the latest version of Inkscape, which includes snapping corners and measuring tools! And the inclusion of California, the official GNOME Shell calendar, in the main repositories was also great (I’m getting a bit fed up of the sluggishness of Evolution when it comes to the rest of the PIM apps – e-mail is mostly fine, not to mention it being the only Linux client which can deal with my university’s Exchange server!…).

Well done guys, things are looking great for GNOME! (and Fedora, too…)

I “fixed” the computer!

IMG_20150204_095315

I got a new toy quite recently – a (new-ish, for my standards) Dell workstation which will allow me to leave the ThinkPad at home! (at 2-2.5 kg it is still a bit of a heavy beast, especially when I’m already carrying lunch+gym gear on a heavyish (~20 kg) commuter bike!)

IMG_20150205_173826IMG_20150205_175513

 

 

 

 

 

All was not well, though. Even though it came with no operating system it still featured the horrid “Designed for Windows Vista” sticker on its pretty front. No more, though – it has been replaced with a “Powered by Fedora Linux” one!

(I should definitely print it in colour, though)

Installed Fedora 21 with the latest GNOME and it is running very smoothly (even with only 2 GB of RAM – 4 more on the way!). One of the major grudges I was having was related to connecting to Windows shares on the network (both the central School’s server and other workstations on the network) – the latest version actually works properly! I can see all the file servers directly from Nautilus, and the whole experience seems a lot more enjoyable, now.

I now need to do the same on my laptop… if only I could get some time to do it, though! 🙁

Jazooli web cam

After getting my new “old” monitor I am now running my ThinkPad with the lid closed off its docking station, much to the dismay of my grandad who cannot “see” me now. I then went to get the cheapest webcam that I could find which would be Linux-compatible (and stress-free).

The Jazooli had reviews on Amazon with people successfully running it on Ubuntu with apparently no big dramas, plus it was only £1.99 (+£1.99 P&P 🙂 ), so I went for it. It features not just the camera itself, but a built-in microphone (great since the inbuilt mic of my laptop is on the screen bezel and, as mentioned, the lid is closed..) and 6 LEDs whose brightness you can control through a little knob – for those occasions where you are working in semi-darkness and can’t be bothered to turn a light on if someone calls you on Skype!

It arrived relatively quickly (although I feel that things off eBay with free delivery tend to arrive sooner than the ones from Amazon, even the ones specifically fulfilled by them!), and I immediately set it up on top of my monitor (it has a hook in its base which secures the camera in place, quite a clever design, and it can also be used with a laptop screen!). Plugged it and fired up Cheese to test it – perfect, although its claims of 16 MP are grossly exaggerated – this is a VGA (300k-pixels) sensor, and it can only do VGA at 15 fps anyway, which caused some issues with Cheese. Lowering it to 320×240 seemed to do the trick.

I started having trouble when I fired up Skype and started a video call to test it – Skype was pulling the default configuration and assuming the maximum resolution of the camera, which obviously wasn’t going to happen, and as expected the video feed froze and crashed.

After editing the Skype configuration for my Skype name (under ~/Skype/yourskypename/config.xml ) and adding the following tags to the file,

<Video>
 <CaptureHeight>240</CaptureHeight>
 <CaptureWidth>320</CaptureWidth>
 <Device>/dev/video1</Device>
 <Fps>25</Fps>
 </Video>

I fired up Skype again and hoped for the best. Nope, it was still happily pushing the video feed at full resolution and obviously crashing. Moreover, with Google Hangouts I had exactly the same issue, which led me to think that maybe this was something transversal to all of these programs (but Cheese). After doing a bit of research and installing some Video4Linux configuration/testing software, I did what normally solves 99% of the problems I have when running a 64-bit Linux system – symlink libraries, in this case v4l1compat.so, which existed under /usr/lib/libv4l but not under /usr/lib64/libv4l.

And that seemed to do the trick – both Skype and Hangouts now work perfectly with no frozen video. And to top it off, this camera behaves much better than the ThinkPad’s integrated one, both in terms of white balance (I no longer look like I have liver disease, the other camera made me look so yellow!) and low-light performance (the camera would just shut itself off if the light level was below a certain threshold!).

It gave me some trouble in the end, but nothing major (and probably related from running a 64-bit version of Fedora… 😛 ). For 2 quid it is a good buy indeed – obviously not HD, but my family is not complaining… 🙂

Dynamic wallpapers in a GNU/Linux desktop (or, for the record, anywhere!…)

Well, this is a bit of a script I wrote one year ago or so: I wanted to have the feature of rotating wallpapers back in GNOME 3.x (I’m pretty sure it existed back in GNOME 2.x! 🙂 ), hence I wrote a bit of Python that reads a list of images in a given folder, randomly picks one and sets it as the desktop wallpaper – pretty simple stuff!

[sourcecode language=”python” wraplines=”true”]#!/usr/bin/python

import os
import random
import mimetypes
import time

myBackgrounds = ‘~/wallpapers/’

def prepareList(pathname):
items = []
for item in os.listdir(myBackgrounds):
if "image" in mimetypes.guess_type(item)[0]:
items.append(item)
return items

def randomizeWallpaper(listOfFiles):
randomListIndex = random.randint(0,len(listOfFiles)-1)
#~ os.system(‘gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri "file:///’ + myBackgrounds + listOfFiles[randomListIndex] + ‘"’ ) # for GNOME session
os.system(‘xfconf-query -c xfce4-desktop -p /backdrop/screen0/monitor0/image-path -s %s’ % (myBackgrounds + listOfFiles[randomListIndex])) # for Xfce WM

if __name__ == "__main__":
listOfWallpapers = prepareList(myBackgrounds)
randomizeWallpaper(listOfWallpapers)
[/sourcecode]

In order to keep it running automatically every # of hours, I’ve just edited my crontab file (/etc/crontab) to run it periodically (in the case below it is configured to run every 6 hours…):

[sourcecode language=”text”]
SHELL=/bin/bash
PATH=/sbin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin
MAILTO=root

# For details see man 4 crontabs

# Example of job definition:
# .—————- minute (0 – 59)
# | .————- hour (0 – 23)
# | | .———- day of month (1 – 31)
# | | | .——- month (1 – 12) OR jan,feb,mar,apr …
# | | | | .—- day of week (0 – 6) (Sunday=0 or 7) OR sun,mon,tue,wed,thu,fri,sat
# | | | | |
# * * * * * user-name command to be executed

0 */6 * * * manuel DISPLAY=:0.0 /home/manuel/bin/rotate-wallpapers.py > /dev/null
[/sourcecode]

And since my dynamic wallpaper folder is synced with Dropbox, I can have the same wallpapers in every computer I have access to (even – gah – Windows machines!). Furthermore, I also have all my wallpapers on my Android phone, courtesy of DropSync (which pulls the images from Dropbox whenever there’s a change in there and downloads them to a folder on my memory card) and a dynamic wallpaper thingy called Wallpaper Slideshow. Both are free of charge at the Play Store, and the latter is extremely configurable!

A final note regarding my collection of wallpapers: all of them are photos I took, I want them to remind me of places I’ve been to… and places where I want to be! 🙂 It really brightens my day whenever I see a lovely photo of River Douro on my work desktop, for instance… 😉

Raspberry Pi as a low-cost IP camera

Well, it seems there is no end for the amount of things one can do with the Raspberry Pi… this time my intention was to turn it into an inexpensive IP camera with a cheap webcam I have lying around.

After fiddling around with the stream server components of ffmpeg (with whom I had no luck whatsoever), and giving ZoneMinder a try (a good software for a full CCTV set-up, but a bit overkill for what I intended – plus, I had no luck either with this one), I settled for a simpler configuration using motion and some ffmpeg components.

I updated the installation I had on the SD card with the latest Raspbian image (they recently announced in their blog overclock support for the Pi using this latest image, plus the video4linux compiled binaries are already present, saving me the hassle of compiling them for ARM). After that, it was pretty easy to set up everything, since motion is present in the standard Debian repository.

Right now, I have a cheap USB camera from Lidl connected to the Pi, and outputting 352×288 pixel video at 1-2 fps. The quality isn’t great (probably due to the camera itself), but it does work acceptably! And I was amazed on how easy it actually was to set everything up – the motion package is quite easy to configure, and it allows for very interesting functionality (e.g., motion detection on the image feed, which can trigger various actions).

GNOME 3.6 Released! | GNOME

GNOME 3.6 Released! | GNOME.

Can’t wait for Fedora 18, then. 🙂

Some of the features are really, really welcome. And it is interesting to see that they reconsidered some of the most radical minimalist decisions, such as the absence of a power off option on the user menu (of course, you can restore the functionality through an extension, but it was silly to have removed it in the first place!…).