Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Configuring the ultimate classic Gnome desktop using Ubuntu 14.10

January 1, 2015 Leave a comment

Here I’ll outline how to install and configure the ultimate classic Gnome desktop using Ubuntu 1410. We’ll assume that you have Ubuntu 14.10 up and running and connected to the internet. Gnome Flashback – this provides the classic Gnome look: Install the Gnome Flashback environment from a Terminal window:

sudo apt-get install gnome-session-flashback

Log out and click on the settings (cog) icon by your username. Choose GNOME Flashback (Compiz) and log back in again. Your desktop environment settings will be remembered for future logins.

Useful apps from the Software Centre:

AcetoneISO – Cd/DVD image management

Arista Transcoder – a media conversion tool like Format Factory

DeVeDe – DVD/VCD Video Creator

DVD Styler – DVD Video Creator

FileZilla – FTP Client

GIMP – image editor

mhWaveEdit – Audio editor

OpenShot – Video Editor

SMPlayer – A Youtube browser/downloader

VLC – Media Player

WinFF – a media conversion tool like Format Factory

Install plugins and codecs: Archive Management:

sudo apt-get install unace unrar zip unzip p7zip-full p7zip-rar sharutils rar uudeview mpack arj cabextract file-roller


sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly gxine libdvdread4 totem-mozilla icedax tagtool easytag id3tool lame nautilus-script-audio-convert libmad0 mpg321 gstreamer1.0-libav


sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/./


sudo apt-get install flashplugin-installer

Oracle Java:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/java
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install oracle-java7-installer

Connecting to shares on a Windows PC: Modify the registry as follows on the Windows PC you are connecting to: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\LargeSystemCache – set it to 1 HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanServer\Parameters\Size – set it to 3 Restart the Server service on the Windows P

net stop server
net start server

In order to be able to connect to a Windows share which has no password access from Linux, you’ll need to do the following: Go to Start – Control Panel. Under the Network and Internet section, click on Choose homegroup and sharing options. Then click on Change advanced sharing settings Ensure the following:

  • Network Discovery – set to on
  • File and printer sharing – set to on
  • Public folder sharing – set to off
  • Enabling file sharing for devices that use 40 or 56-bit encryption – enabled
  • Use user accounts and passwords to connect to other computers – enabled

Set up any shared drives and folders. Give everyone full control on both the share and NTFS-level permissions. Reboot Windows.

On the Ubuntu PC, follow the tutorial here on how to mount a Windows share.

Connecting to shares on a Linux PC from Windows:

Check that Samba is set up for anonymous access to shares. Open a terminal and type:

sudo gedit /etc/samba/smb.conf

Under the [global] section, add the line:

usershare owner only = false"

To created the share, bring up the Gnome file browser and locate the folder you wish to share. Right-click on it and choose Local Network Share. Tick Share this folder. Give the share a name. Then tick the following:

  • Allow others to create and delete files in this folder
  • Guest Access

Map the share from your Windows PC as per normal. Setting up VNC remote desktop access to Ubuntu Click Applications – Internet – Desktop Sharing Tick the following:

  • Allow other users to view
  • Allow other uses to control
  • Automatically configure UPnP

Set the notification for only when someone is connected.

Open a terminal window and type:

gsettings set org.gnome.Vino require-encryption false

Accessing a Windows PC via Remote Desktop

Configure remote desktop on your Windows PC as per normal.

if your using a Windows account with no password and wish to continue this, then you’ll need to do the following:

Go to Start and type gpedit.msc and press enter.

Next, in the  Local Group Policy Editor, under Computer Configuration, navigator to Security Settings – Local Policies – Security Options, look for Acccounts: Limit local account use of blank passwords to console logon only. Double click this and set the option to Disabled.

Reboot Windows.

Next, on the Ubuntu PC, open a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install rdesktop

This installs the rdesktop package.

Launch rdesktop from a terminal:

rdesktop core2duo -u neil -r sound:local -g 1280x960

core2duo being the name of the Windows PC

-u username – the Windows username

-r sound:local  – redirects the audio to the soundcard on the Ubuntu PC

-g 1280×960 – sets a resolution of 1280×960.

You can create a shortcut on the desktop or Applications menu as per my example rdesktop command above.


Redirecting folders in OS X to a network drive

February 11, 2012 1 comment

I’ve recently managed to get OS X 10.7.1 running on my Core i7 box. My setup at home is such that I have a Dell Dimension E521 AMD x2 box stuffed with a couple of 1TB drives in a mirrored RAID-1 array acting as a file server amongst other things.

I wanted to be able to redirect folders such as Music and Documents in the /users/neil folder on my Mac to point to those on my server.

Having added a connection to my server via the Finder by using Go – Connect to Server… and adding it – in my case, it’s a Windows 2008 R2 box, so uses SMB for file sharing. Having put in smb://dellserv/storage (storage being the name of the share) and authenticating with my username and password, I was good to go.

For good measure, I also went to System Preferences – Users, then selected my username and added the share under Login Items to ensure that it is mounted when my Core i7 box boots up.

The next step was to actually create the symbolic links – these allow us to set up the redirect and are a very useful feature in any Unix/Linux/BSD-based system (OS X is based on BSD). I’ve worked with them previously when using Macs in the past plus when dabbling with Linux.

The aim is to redirect Documents, Music, Pictures, Movies and Downloads to their relevant locations on the Dell box.

First, we need to bring up a Terminal window (from Applications – Utilities).

Using Music as our first example, we need to first delete the existing Music directory on the Mac. As the folder is treated as a system folder, we need elevated permissions, hence the use of the sudo command:

corei7:volumes neil$ sudo rm -rf /users/neil/Music
Password: (enter your password here)

Next, we need to set up the symbolic link, which creates the redirect to the Dell box. Remember that the SMB (Windows) share is mounted on the Mac in /volumes/sharename. The command is as follows:

corei7:volumes neil$ ln -s /Volumes/storage/Neil/Music/ /users/neil/Music

ln -s creates the symbolic link (i.e. the redirect), /Volumes/storage indicates the Windows share plus the path to the music folder on the Dell server and /users/Neil/Music is the path to the Music folder on the Mac.

Repeat for your other folders – I’ve pasted the output for the others that I used below:

corei7:volumes neil$ sudo rm -rf /users/neil/Downloads/
corei7:volumes neil$ ln -s /Volumes/storage/Neil/Downloads/ /users/neil/Downloads
corei7:volumes neil$ sudo rm -rf /users/neil/Pictures/
corei7:volumes neil$ ln -s /Volumes/storage/Neil/Photos/ /users/neil/Pictures
corei7:volumes neil$ sudo rm -rf /users/neil/Movies
corei7:volumes neil$ ln -s /Volumes/storage/Neil/Videos/ /users/neil/Movies
corei7:volumes neil$ sudo rm -rf /users/neil/Documents
corei7:volumes neil$ ln -s /Volumes/storage/Neil/Documents/ /users/neil/Documents

Don’t forget to change the first part in the ln -s commands to point to the correct location on your network drive! The above is an example using the network paths on my network.

Job done – hopefully if you go into your home folder in Finder and click on Music or Documents etc. then you’ll be redirected to the relevant location on your network.

Hope you’ll find this of use! Comments/feedback appreciated!

Categories: Computing, Lion, Mac, OS X, Software

Ubuntu 11,10 – first impressions

October 14, 2011 Leave a comment

This week saw the release of Ubuntu 11.10, which could also be considered a tribute to the late Dr. Dennis Ritchie, who was heavily involved in the development of Unix and the C programming language. Both of these technologies are essential building blocks in the Linux arena, owing to the fact Linux was developed as a Unix clone and coded in C.

Last night, I pulled down the ISO image for the 64-bit desktop release of 11.10 and installed it into a VMWare virtual machine. Installation was easy – no change from the previous 11.04 version and it’s a very straightforward routine. The usual choosing of disk partition, language and time zone etc.

You can also boot Ubuntu from other media – a bootable CD (by burning the ISO image to one) or create a bootable USB key. It can be an extremely useful tool for salvaging data off non-booting Windows systems or those that are infected with a virus or malware, as the infected will not be active when Ubuntu is booted, making it a safe platform to back data up from the infected PC.

After the VM booted for the first time, I was presented with a login screen not dissimilar to the Windows XP one. After clicking on my username and entering my password, I was presented with the Unity desktop. The Unity desktop was first introduced in the 10.10 Netbook release and became a core part of the Desktop release in version 11.04, but there was also an option within Ubuntu to switch back to the standard Gnome ‘Classic’ desktop. If you want Gnome ‘Classic’, you’ll now need to install the Gnome Desktop package.

Gone are familiar menus at the top of the screen, although the icons that make up the equivalent of the Windows System Tray are still present in the top right-hand side. Occupying the full length of the left-hand side is an applications  launch bar or dock. There are some pre-defined shortcuts to apps – such as Firefox already present as part of the default install. Right-clicking on a shortcut allows you to remove it. Other applications can be launched/installed by clicking the ‘Ubuntu’ icon at the top of the launch bar. You can also drag applications to the launch bar for quick access.

Back in version 11.04, LibreOffice replaced OpenOffice. LibreOffice is a fork of Oracle’s OpenOffice and is produced by The Document Foundation. It began as a result of concerns that Oracle would either discontinue or place restrictions on OpenOffice. I’ve not personally used LibreOffice yet, but a quick look shows that it is extremely similar to OpenOffice, which makes sense, given that it originates from the same code base.

In summary, Ubuntu 11.10 looks to be a useful update to the operating system. It’s easy to install, offers a range of applications that would give you a useful, working platform with a fully featured office suite. LibreOffice is compatible with Microsoft Office, although glitches can and do occur with document conversion from time to time.

Categories: Computing, Software

Importing .m3u playlists into iTunes 10.4.x on Windows

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

When Apple released the 10.4.x versions of iTunes. support for importing playlists in .m3u format seemed to have become broken. Having spent considerable time today creating some playlists on my main desktop PC, it was very frustrating to find out that they wouldn’t import properly into the iTunes library on my laptop.

The fix requires modifying your .m3u playlist file and can be easily carried out in any text editor such as Notepad. Please note that it is extremely important that you get the file paths correct or the playlists will not work!

In my case, I store music in D:\Neil\Music (I set up redirects to Music, Videos etc. to relevant folders within D:\Neil). The file structure is the same on both my laptop and desktop systems and I keep directory structures and contents synced using SyncBack, using my Buffalo LinkStation NAS box as a backup source and a sync source for the laptop.

First, you need to export the file from iTunes. To do this, right-click on the playlist of your choice and choose ‘Export’. Choose where to save the file and change the file type to .m3u.

Next, open exported .m3u file up in Notepad. You’ll find the relevant paths to the music will look similar to this:

#EXTINF:293,Can’t Fight This Feeling – REO Speedwagon
D:\Neil\Music\Compilations\Take It On The Run_ The Best Of REO Spee2 Can’t Fight This Feeling.mp3

The first step is to replace the first part of the path to the drive. We need to replace D:\ to file://localhost/D:/file://localhost/D:/, where D can be changed with the drive letter than is relevant in your case.

To do this, go to the Edit menu and select Replace. Enter the relevant item to find – e.g. D:\ and the item to replace it with – e.g. file://localhost/D:/file://localhost/D:/. Click Replace All and then Cancel.

The next step is to replace the rest of the ‘\‘ characters in the file to ‘/‘ characters. To do this,  go to the Edit menu and select Replace. Enter the relevant item to find – \ and the item to replace it with – /. Click Replace All and then Cancel.

Next, save the file. Repeat if necessary with any other playlists. You can also make other changes using the above method for different paths etc.

To import the file on the target computer, open iTunes and also ensure a Windows Explorer window is open with the .m3u files present. Drag the files onto the iTunes sidebar.

You should be all done!

Categories: Computing, Software

Windows 8 Developer Preview

September 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Back on Thursday, I posted a link on Facebook to the download site for the Windows 8 Developer Preview, which is available from: After pulling odwn the ISO on Thursday night, I decided to give it a try last night.

One thing I noticed when downloading the ISO was that there was a 32-bit option. I thought Microsoft were planning to drop 32-bit operating systems from Windows 8. It would make sense, as the number of 16-bit apps by then would likely be few and far between, plus many systems now have at least 4GB of RAM – of which a 32-bit OS cannot take full advantage of! Back on topic – I went for the 64-bit option.

The first job was to upgrade my HyperVisor (how I love that word) to VMware Workstatopn version 8. When I built corei7, my current workhorse back in April, the main emphasis was a fast box for running VMs. After a couple of reboots (removing the old/installing the new version), I created a new VM, allocating 2GB of RAM and 60GB of HD space. For good measure, I allocated two cores and told it to use bridged networking – i.e. so it would appear as one of my computers on my network. Install media was the downloaded ISO.

Installation was quick and easy whilst being very similar to Windows 7’s routine. A few questions about creating a user account etc. and I was good to go.

Whwn Windows 8 first boots, you get presented with a tablet’style dashboard, with links to Internet Explorer, Control Panel etc. There is also an option to show the desktop and Start Menu/ although the Start Menu does not enable you to select applications. I thought the removal of the Classsic Start Menu from Windows 7 was bad – this is even worse!

In order to find apps, you have to click on the Desktop link and then click the Start Menu, choose Search amd then select Apps. Links to WordPad etc. exist off that dashboard. Very cumbersome and for a desktop OS, I’m not convienced it is the slickest or most user-friendly way to go. With a few less steps, it may make sense on a tablet.

There are widgets for social networking etc. but once you open them, it is difficult to know how to close them or how to switch between apps. Thankfully, the old ALT-TAB shortcut works for task switching.

Performance-wise, Windows 8 appeared to boot at a decent turn of speed and didn’t feel sluggish when in use.

For those interested in seeing what Windows 8 Developer Preview looks like, Paul Thorrott’s excellent Super Site has some here: