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Ubuntu & Gnome Diary

This article may have become outdated. I have left it as it is, in case, it is useful for someone.

BTW, you might like my book Linux Command-Line Tips & Tricks.


The is probably the best place for Ubuntu beginners and tip seekers. My article on this page can be an additional guide for you.

Introduction To Hard Disk Partitions

Before a hard disk can be used normally, the data storage space on the hard disk needs to be divided in to what are known as partitions. Only after creating a partition will you be able to install a computer operating system (OS) such as Ubuntu Linux or Windows, or use the hard disk to store other types of files.

The basic type of partition that can be created on a hard disk is called a primary partition. A hard disk can have a maximum of only four primary partitions. (The four-partition limit is a legacy from older times in computer history when it was considered more than sufficient for all users.) To overcome this restriction, you need to create a special type of primary partition that is known as an extended partition. Inside an extended partition, you can create any number of smaller partitions called logical partitions. For almost all practical purposes, a logical partition offers the same facilities as a primary partition.

When you partition, I recommend that you:

  1. Create four primary partitions in all.
  2. Allocate minimum space for each of the first three partitions. For example, if you have a 160 GB hard disk, create three partitions of 20 GB each. Use these partitions only for those operating systems that insist on a primary partition.
  3. Designate the last and only the last primary partition as an extended partition.
  4. Allocate the entire remaining space for the extended partition. In our example, you can allocate 100 GB for the extended partition.
  5. Create smaller logical partitions inside the extended partition for installing operating systems such as Ubuntu or Windows. For Ubuntu 9.10 or Karmic Koala, I would create:
    1. a logical partition of size 10 GB size to mount / or root,
    2. a logical partition of size 300 MB to mount /boot or the boot partition, and
    3. a logical partition of size 1 GB or equal to the size of available RAM, whichever is higher, for use as the swap partition.

WARNING: It is best if you make the last primary partition as the extended partition. If you have your extended partition on one of the first three partitions and you have left any unallocated space, that is, you did not fill the extended partition with many logical partitions, then you run the risk of losing the unallocated space inside the extended partition. Windows disk partitioning utility and even those in Linux installers can inexplicably shrink the extended partition to the total size of allocated logical partitions and move all unallocated space to a single primary partition.

UPDATE: With the older MBR scheme, a hard disk can be partitioned into 4 primary partitions including one extended partition that can hold unlimited logical partitions. In the newer GPT scheme of disk partitioning, 128 partitions are supported in Windows 64-bit OS and 256 partitions are supported in Linux.

Resize An Extended Partition

You cannot resize an extended partition using GParted or Palimpest when Ubuntu is running off one of the logical partitions. So, restart your computer and boot your computer using a Ubuntu Live CD. Use GParted utility from the System » Administration menu. Select the extended partition and choose Resize/Move shortcut menu option. If the menu option is disabled, then it may be because the Live CD is using one of the logical partitions as a swap partition. (You can check this by right-clicking the extended partition and selecting the Information option. This will show that the extended partition is busy.) Right-click the swap partition and select Swapoff shortcut menu option. After this, the Resize/Move will be enabled. You can then specify a bigger maximum size for the extended partition. Of course, you need to have unallocated space in your disk for the resize operation to work.

Install Ubuntu

During the installation, ensure that you:

  1. create a swap partition whose size is equal to or greater than the size of your (current and future) installed RAM. This is important to ensure that standby, shut down and hibernate operations work properly.
  2. make a decision on how to load Ubuntu and other operating systems (OS), that is, when you have more than one OS. Read my article How To Dual-Boot or Multi-Boot Operating Systems for more information. You may also do well if you read some tutorials on Grub° (and GRUB2° if you are using Karmic).

Restore Grub 2 On MBR

Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) and Linux Mint 8 (Helena) use Grub 2. Earlier with Grub 1, editing boot options or reinstalling Grub was very easy. Not so now. If you install Windows, you might lose access to your Karmic or Mint. The solution is to use a Live CD, boot the PC with it, and reinstall Grub. To ensure you do it properly, follow these steps.

Update: After 12 years, I installed Mint 20 to a new partition. Although, it added the old Grub menu in a submenu, it froze when I chose the old OS. I had to follow these steps to restore the old Grub to MBR.

  1. Open Terminal and list the numbers of your hard disk partitions.
    sudo fdisk -l
  2. Note the partition number where you have installed Linux. If you have installed the /boot in another partition, note its number too.
  3. Create a directory where you can mount your old file system.
    sudo mkdir /mnt/test
  4. Mount the old file system
    sudo mount --bind /dev /mnt/test/dev
    sudo mount --bind /proc /mnt/test/proc
    sudo mount --bind /sys /mnt/test/sys
  5. If you have installed /boot to another partition, mount that partition.
    sudo mount /dev/sdxy /mnt/test/boot
    Replace y in sday with the number of your boot partition. Also replace x with the alphabetical order of the hard disk. If you have not created a separate boot partition, you do not have to perform this step.
  6. Login to your linux installation as root.
    sudo chroot /mnt/test
  7. Update Grub 2 boot menu. There is no need to use sudo because you are logged in as root.
  8. Restore Grub 2 on the master boot record (MBR).
    grub-install /dev/sdx
    Replace x in sdx with the alphabetical order of your hard disk. If you have only one hard disk, then it must be sda.
  9. Log out of your installation by pressing Ctrl+D.
  10. Unmount your file system in the reverse order.
    sudo umount /mnt/test/sys
    sudo umount /mnt/test/proc
    sudo umount /mnt/test/dev
    sudo umount /mnt/test
    The second command is required only if you have a separate boot partition. Type sudo reboot to restart the machine. Remove the Live CD or USB, and be greeted by the old Grub 2 menu. It would automatically have an option to boot Windows and your new OS.

Disable Unnecessary Startup Applications

Ubuntu loads a lot of unnecessary programs on startup. You can disable them if think they are not necessary. From the menu, select System » Preferences » Startup Applications and uncheck programs that are not necessary. I disabled the following: Visual Assistance (if you are not disabled), Ubuntu One, Remote Desktop, Evolution Alarm Notify, and Bluetooth Manager. To connect a bluetooth device, I type bluetooth-wizard in Terminal. At other times, I don't need the Bluetooth service running at all.

Set Grub 2 Wallpaper and Colors

You can set the background wallpaper and the foreground/background colors for the Grub text menu options. Choose a combination that lets the menu still visible. To edit the Grub 2 settings, enter the following command in Terminal:

sudo gedit /etc/grub.d/05_debian_theme

In my file, I made the following changes. Do something similar in yours.


# color = foreground/background
# background=black means transparent
# foreground=black means black
# Try with black, blue, brown, cyan, dark-gray, green, 
# light-cyan, light-blue, light-green, light-gray, 
# light-magenta, light-red, magenta, red, white, yellow

After editing the file, you need to update the Grub.

sudo update-grub

Screenshot of Grub 2 with custom colors and background image

Add Splashtop To Grub2 Menu

DeviceVM provides a free quick-booting Linux OS embedded in the motherboards of Asus PC motherboards. Users of other computers can install a slightly different Splashtop version to their hard disk. This OS is installed from Windows and a menu entry is available from the Windows boot menu. If you want a menu option in Grub2, edit the custom menu file using the following command.

gksu gedit /etc/grub.d/40_custom

Now add the following lines to the file without disturbing the existing contents.

menuentry "Splashtop (on /dev/sda1)" {
insmod part_msdos
insmod ntfs
set root='(hd0,msdos1)'
echo 'Splashtop...'

This assumes that your Windows installation is on the first partition of the first hard disk. Please make appropriate modifications for your installation. After that, update the Grub 2 settings.

sudo update-grub

Customize Gnome Terminal

Despite the improvements in usability, Linux users still need to use a lot of command-line commands - using Gnome Terminal.

Change Terminal Prompt And Color-Code It

Open the .bashrc file in your home directory in a text editor and append the following line at the end.

PS1="\a\n\n\e[31;1m\u@\h on \d at \@\n\e[33;1m\w\e[0m\n$ "

Terminal window with modified and color-coded prompt

This command ensures you get color-coded date, time, username, hostname, and the current directory. Most importantly, you get the entire line to type your command. If you want to tinker with it even more, visit the IBM Developer Works Linux library page for Prompt Magic

Disable Fortune Cookies In Linux Mint

Fortune cookies are a distraction in Linux Mint. Here is what you need to disable them. Open /etc/bash.bashrc and remove or comment (prefix with #) the line that says /usr/bin/mint-fortune.

Make Ubuntu Recognize 4GB RAM and Higher

32-bit operating systems typically recognize only around 3GB RAM. If you have installed more RAM than this, then chances are that Ubuntu will not recognize the entire installed RAM. (To check the amount of RAM that is recognized by Ubuntu, type the command free -m or gnome-system-monitor in Terminal.) To add support for the full amount of RAM, you need a Linux kernel that supports PAE (Physical Address Extension). To do this, enter the following commands in Teminal.

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install linux-headers-server linux-image-server linux-server

After Ubuntu has downloaded and installed the new kernel, you will need to restart to use the new kernel. In Karmic Koala, this new kernel will be identified with a "PAE" suffix in the boot menu entry.

Usually when you install a new kernel, several kernel modules have to be updated. To make Ubuntu do this automatically, install the dkms (Dynamic Kernel Module Support) package. This will ensure that any existing software that uses kernel modules will work with the new kernel.

However, some software such as proprietary graphics drivers may not get their kernel modules updated by DKMS. You may have to do this manually. For example, my computer uses a nVidia graphics card. Every time I update the kernel, I will manually reinstall the driver so that it installs appropriate kernel modules for the new kernel. Actually, on my system, Ubuntu fails to boot properly after a new kernel is installed. I simply select the "recovery mode" option of the new kernel in the (GRUB) boot menu and re-install the NVidia graphics driver.

Install Applications

The simplest way to install an application in Ubuntu is to run the .DEB installer file of the application. Ubuntu is based on Debian. So, its installer applications have the extension .deb. If you are using Red Hat-based Linux OS, such as Fedora or Mandriva, then you will have to use an RPM file. Using DEB installers is preferred if you do not have immediate Internet access. You can download the DEB file from somewhere else and copy it to your Ubuntu machine for installation.

You will have to go to the website where the deb file of the application is hosted and download the file. For example, I wanted to scan my USB flash drives for Windows viruses directly from Ubuntu. So, I went to the Clam Antivirus website.

After downloading the DEB file, you need to double-click the file to run the installer and then follow the instructions on the screen.

If you have an Internet connection, then there is an even more easy way to install applications in Ubuntu - launch Ubuntu Software Center in case of Karmic or Add/Remove Programs in case of Jaunty or Hardy. applet from the Applications menu. This applet has a huge list of applications for you to choose from. After you select an application for installation, the applet will download the DEB file from the Internet. The applet can also be configured for using a local repository of DEB files if required but that option is only for advanced users.

Some applications cannot be installed using the Add/Remove Programs applet. You will have to use the Synaptic Package Manager in System » Administration menu.

There is also a command-line alternative. Open Terminal from the Applications menu and type:

apt-get install package_name_of_that_application

Sometimes, the package name of the application will be different from its popular name. You will have to do a search in Google or Yahoo to confirm the correct package name before using it with the apt-get command.

Linux offers a lot of application alternatives. Here are some options you can add from Add/Remove Applications or Synaptic Package Manager. If you cannot find the applications in these applets, then you may have to go to the application's website and download the .deb file.

Software Linux Application Replaces
Antivirus ClamTK (Clam Antivirus searches mostly for Windows viruses, as there are very few Linux viruses. You may require ClamTK if you use your flash drives or portable mp3 players with Windows computers) AVG 8.5 for Linux is available but it is not a GUI application.  
Audio Player Audacious2, Exaile Winamp
Bluetooth File Exchange Bluetooth Applet (Launcher/Terminal command is bluetooth-browse)  
Dictionary Artha Wordweb
Ebook Manager Calibre Itunes
E-mail client Seamonkey (Launcher command is seamonkey -mail), Thunderbird Outlook Express, MS Outlook
Encryption TrueCrypt Bitlocker
Firewall Firestarter Windows Firewall, ZoneAlarm
FTP client FileZilla FileZilla
Games Extreme Tux Racer, Nexuiz  
Advanced Graphics Editor GIMP, Inkscape Photoshop, Illustrator
Basic Graphics Editor KolourPaint MS Paint
Image Browser Mirage Windows Picture and Fax Viewer
Instant Messenger Pidgin AOL IM, Yahoo IM, GTalk, MSN Messenger
Internet Web Browser Opera, Seamonkey (Gecko), Arora (Webkit), Chromium (Webkit), or Dillo (Strips CSS or Javascript and loads web pages faster) Internet Explorer
Internet Radio Stations Browser streamtuner (Integrate with Audadious2 or VLC player)  
iPod Manager Floola Apple iTunes
MP3 Tag Editor EasyTAG  
Audio/Video Media PLayer VLC Player Windows Media Player
PDF Viewer Evince Adobe Reader
Remote Desktop Viewer TSClient (RDP client for Windows desktops) and Vinagre Microsoft Remote Desktop
Presentation Slide OpenOffice Presentation Microsoft PowerPoint
Spreadsheet OpenOffice Calc Microsof Excel
Text editor Bluefish Notepad++
Virtualization VirtualBox Virtual PC, VMWare
VOIP Telephony Ekiga Skype
VCD Player MPlayer, Totem Movie Player, VLC Player Windows Media Player, Subhash VCDPlayer
Wallpaper Changer Wallpapoz  
Web Camera Cheese (for taking photographs/videos and applying some special effects)  
Word Processor OpenOffice Word Processor Microsoft Word

As you can see, there are free and open source alternatives for every Windows or proprietary software out there. The following video will demonstrate how GIMP graphics editor is as good as, if not better, than the paid alternative the Adobe Photoshop.

Use APTOnCD ISO Images To Install Downloaded DEB Files

When you install applications, the DEB files and their dependencies get stored in a temporary cache. Over time, this cached grows very big. You can use APTOnCD to save these files to an ISO image (CD/DVD archive). These ISO images can help you later when you upgrade to a new release of Ubuntu, Mint or other Debian based distro.

Instead of downloading your favorite applications all over again in your new installation, you can simply use the APTOnCD ISO image as a "software source repository." To create this repository:

  1. As root, start Nautilus.
  2. Go to the /opt directory.
  3. Extract the contents of your APTOnCD ISO image in the directory.
  4. Go to the directory where the contents of the ISO image have been extracted.
  5. Press Ctrl+L and copy the path of the folder.
  6. As root, open the file /etc/apt/sources.list in a text editor.
  7. Add a line similar to deb file:///opt/aptoncd-20100105-CD1/ /, where you will replace the aptoncd-20100105-CD1/ with the path you had copied earlier.
  8. Save the file and exit the text editor.
  9. Open Terminal and enter the command sudo apt-get update.

To install applications, just open the repository folder as root. Double-click on the DEB files to install the applications. Instead of downloading the DEB dependency files from the Internet, APT will pick the local copy.

Please note that it is not wise to install very old DEB files.

Play Copy-Protected VCDs (Indian VCDs with INDYVCD.AX)

Some VCDs in the Indian market use copy-protection from IndyGenius Technologies. These VCDs cannot be played on Linux. On Windows, however, they can be played using Windows Media Player or Winamp or even my Subhash VCDPlayer.

These VCDs do not have any AVSEQxx.DAT files in the MPEGAV directory. Instead, there are AVSESxx.MPG files that look like they have only 1KB of data. The original AVSEQxx.DAT are stored in a hidden folder. Copying these files using a ISO extractor program is useless, as the files have plenty of errors delibrately put in by their copy-protection encoding software. Hardware VCD players are able to correct these errors and play the tracks.

The autorun application in these VCDs installs some software (INSTALL.BAT, INDYVCD.AX, REAL.AX,…) that allow playback of the AVSESxx.MPG files by Windows Media-capable media players. This means that the company that provided copy-protection also provided the means to bypass the copy-protection, albeit it is available only to Windows users. So, what do Linux users do?

If you have Windows installed, then use Windows Media Encoder or a program like TMPGEnc to convert the fake AVSESxx.MPG to a real media files. You can then play the converted files in Linux.

On a personal note, this copy-protection mechanism caused a huge loss for me. Unfortunately, I had bought two of these VCDs. I was forced to buy a hardware VCD player for playing them on the TV. Rather than buy a dumb VCD/DVD player, I bought a PlayStation2, assuming that the game console would play VCDs. (PS2 plays only DVDs and Audio CDs. PS2 graphics performance and quality is also extremely poor, when compared to that of PCs.) I have a matchbox-sized Amkette Flash TV that allows me to play VCD DAT files and DVD VOB files from a USB flash drive - directly on a TV without having to use a clunky hardware VCD/DVD player. These copy-protected VCDs came close to making that equipment useless too.

Create A New File Type And Associate A Default Application

I have a big collection of web pages saved as MHT Web Archive files. These files were created using Internet Explorer or Opera in Windows. In Ubuntu, these files were shown as plain text files and opened in gedit by default. So, I installed assogiate. In the package manager, you will find it as File Types Editor. In this application, I created a new file type with

This would make MHT files be identified as "Archived Web Page." To associate MHT files with Opera (or some other browser or application in your case), I right-clicked on a sample MHT file and selected Open with Other Application » Use a custom command and entered opera -notrayicon. Alternatively, you could select any other browser application of your choice from the list that gets displayed after selecting the context menu option.

Enable Desktop Trash Icon

If you need a desktop icon for the Trash (Linux counterpart of the Windows Recycle Bin), then type gconf-editor in Terminal. In the Gnome Configuration Editor, navigate to the /apps/nautilus/desktop/trash_icon_visible node and select the check box.

Some SVG Icons For Gnome Desktop

Gnome can use SVG images for icons. (SVG images are vector graphics and can be resized to any size without losing detail.) Here are some images that I have created using Inkscape. You can use them as icons for mounted volumes of USB pen drives and MP3 players.

Change Gnome Login Screen Wallpaper & Theme

For Ubuntu 10.04 a.k.a Karmic Koala and probably older: Open Terminal and enter these commands.

export DISPLAY=:0.0
gksudo -u gdm dbus-launch gnome-appearance-properties

This will open a Appearance Preferences window where you can set the login screen wallpaper and theme. Set the theme first and then the wallpaper.

For Ubuntu 10.10 a.k.a Maverick Meerkat: On the Gnome Desktop menu, go to System » Preferences and right-click on Appearence and send it to the desktop. Now, open the Terminal, enter this command:

mv ~/Desktop/gnome-appearance-properties.desktop  /usr/share/gdm/autostart/LoginWindow/

After that, logout and change theme and the wallpaper. When you are done, log in enter this command in Terminal:

rm /usr/share/gdm/autostart/LoginWindow/gnome-appearance-properties.desktop

If you are the Unity desktop in Oneric or later, then changing the login screen wallpaper is simple. Just edit the /etc/lightdm/unity-greeter.conf file.

Add Battery Charge Status Icon To Login Screen

If you are using a laptop, then you probably would like to know the battery status at the login screen itself. Won't you? Is the login screen too bright? Try this command:

gksudo -u gdm dbus-launch gnome-power-preferences

Manually Install nVidia Graphics Driver

If you have an nVidia graphics card, it is best if you manually install nVidia's proprietary driver rather than let Ubuntu install it for you. This is because Ubuntu rarely installs the the driver properly and the graphics chip in your desktop/laptop can get very hot. It also consumes more power.

Download nVidia's Linux graphics graphics driver from and follow these steps.

  1. Copy the downloaded driver installer program to your home directory (~).
  2. Press the key combination Ctrl+Alt+F1 key combination to go to the first TTY command line.
  3. When you are at the prompt, login with your username and password.
  4. Enter the following commands one after another in the Linux prompt to begin the installation of the nVidia driver installation.
    sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop
    sudo init 3
    sudo sh ./
    The first command shuts down the graphical user interface. If you are using Karmic Koala (9.10) or later, you have to replace the first two commands with
    sudo service gdm stop
    If you are using Ubuntu Unity desktop as in Oneiric Oncelot or later, replace the name of the desktop manager gdm with lightdm. And, replace the file name with the name of the driver installer file you had downloaded.
  5. After the installer begins, it will ask whether it can download a "pre-compiled kernel module" from the nVidia website. Select the No option for this prompt.
  6. When the installer asks whether to compile a kernel module locally, let it do so.
  7. When the installer exits, restart the graphical user interface using either the command startx or
    sudo /etc/init.d/gdm start
    If you are using Karmic or later, try
    sudo service gdm start
    . In Oneric or later, try
    sudo service lightdm start

In Lucid Lynx (10.04), Ubuntu uses nouveau, an open source driver, for Nvidia graphics. Even when you stop the GDM in the command line, the nouveau driver will be still in use and that will prevent the proprietary Nvidia driver from getting installed. Here is the solution: Back in the Gnome desktop, select System » Administrations » Hardware Drivers from the Gnome menu. "Activate" the older proprietary nVidia driver that is tested and approved by Ubuntu. Restart the computer and install the latest nVidia driver from the command line as mentioned above. nouveau will not be locking the graphics card and the new Nvidia driver will be able to install itself in its place after uninstalling the older driver.

Blank TTYs After Installing NVidia Proprietary Driver

It is possible that your TTYs (the console screen you get after pressing Ctrl+Alt+ F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, or F6 key combination) do not work after installing the NVidia driver. Among other difficulties, this will also prevent you from re-installing the NVidia driver after a new kernel update.

The solution is to boot Ubuntu with VESA driver. To do this, when the Grub menu loads, press the "E" key to edit the boot parameters. In the linux line, remove vga=somenumber and put xforcevesa. Then, press Ctrl+X to boot with new parameters. This works in Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx). In 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat), you replace the vga parameter with nomodeset instead of the xforcevesa. You may also want to make this change permanent in /boot/grub/grub.cfg, the Grub2 configuration file. (This GRUB2 tutorial can help you editing the file.)

Underclock nVidia Chipset

If you underclock your nVidia graphics chipset, you will be able to reduce the load on your battery and the heat generated by the graphic chip. First, read up on adding custom settings to your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. Next, create a backup of this file. Next, add the following line to the file and restart your computer:

Option "RegistryDwords" "PowerMizerEnable=0x1; PerfLevelSrc=0x3333; PowerMizerDefault=0x3; PowerMizerDefaultAC=0x3"

Upon restart, you can check whether the new settings have taken effect by typing the command nvidia-settings.

Underclocked nVidia chipset settings

Install Proprietary AMD or ATI Graphics Driver

If your computer has an AMD or ATI Radeon driver, you may want to use the proprietary driver from AMD and put it in your "home" directory.

After you download the driver, type these commands in Terminal to get rid of any older drivers.

sudo sh /usr/share/ati/
sudo apt-get remove --purge xserver-xorg-video-ati xserver-xorg-video-radeon
sudo apt-get remove --purge fglrx fglrx_* fglrx-amdcccle* fglrx-dev* xorg-driver-fglrx

Restart your computer. At the Grub menu screen, select the second (failsafe) grub menu option and press the key E. Edit the "kernel" line so that you start Ubuntu in VESA mode. For example, if the line looks like:

linux   /boot/vmlinuz-x.x.xx-xx-generic root=UUID=something-something ro single vga=791

change it to:

linux   /boot/vmlinuz-x.x.xx-xx-generic root=UUID=something-something rw xforcevesa

Then, press Ctrl+X key combination to boot in the new VESA mode. When you come to the login screen, press Ctrl+F1 or any Ctrl+Function key combination to reach a TTY screen. Here, login with your username and password. Then type the following command to stop the GUI.

sudo service gdm stop
# Or this
sudo service lightdm stop

Then type the following commands to start the installer.

sudo init 3
sudo sh

After the installer has finished, type the following command.

sudo /usr/bin/aticonfig --initial

Type the following command to restart.

sudo reboot

You will now be able to login to the GUI using the graphical driver. You can check if the driver has been properly installed by typing:

Fix For "AMD Unsupported Hardware" Watermark

Sometimes, the latest driver does not install properly and you are forced to use an older version. This can be very frustrating as the older driver gets installed all right but it ends with a “No adapters were installed because compatible driver was not found” message. To compound the problem, the screen gets a “AMD Unsupported Hardware” watermark on the bottom-right corner. Most solutions on the Web involved an old solution from website. This does not work with AMD A-series APUs such as A4, A6, A8, and A10. The proper solution is now available on the unoffiical wiki page for AMD GPU Linux drivers. When using an old driver, there are no signatures for the newer GPU present on the computer. The solution, as given in the wiki, is to simply copy the control file of the latest driver and put them in your computer’s ATI driver directory.

Here is what you do: Download the latest driver, extract it, copy the etc/ati/control file, and overwrite the /etc/ati/control file. The steps to follow are as follows:

$ cd ~ 
$ mkdir amd-gpu-driver 
$ cd amd-gpu-driver/ 
$ wget 
$ tar -xvf 
$ sh --extract driver 
$ sudo mv /etc/ati/control ./control.bak 
$ sudo cp driver/common/etc/ati/control /etc/ati 

Please replace the URLs and filenames appropriately.


Use Camera Monitor To Monitor Use Of Webcam

One of the dangers of computer use is the possibility of someone or some rogue application activating the Webcam surreptitiously and using it to spy on you. I usually put a piece of paper and scotch tape over the Web camera. However, if you are regular user of the Webcam, then this option may not be feasible for you. It would be better for you to use the application Camera Monitor (cameramonitor) to do this for you. You can load this program at startup (System » Preferences » Startup Applications » Add). This program sometimes fails to load and exits with the error message "Another instance of Camera Monitor is already running!". If you get this message, delete the file in your home directory and restart the program.

Use Linux Fonts For Viewing Websites

Many websites use fonts that are bundled with Windows, such as Tahoma or Verdana. These Windows fonts are not available in Linux. So, browser applications in Linux will use some default Linux fonts in place of the Windows fonts. This can make some websites unusable. The solution, contrary to what many people have suggested, is not to install Windows fonts (Microsoft Core Fonts).

Instead, you should force your browser use high-quality free fonts that have the same metrics as popular Windows fonts. Red Hat, Inc., which created the Liberation font family as substitute for Windows fonts, says:

Liberation Fonts

On May 9, 2007, Red Hat announced the public release of these fonts under the trademark LIBERATION at the Red Hat Summit. There are three sets: Sans (a substitute for Arial, Albany, Helvetica, Nimbus Sans L, and Bitstream Vera Sans), Serif (a substitute for Times New Roman, Thorndale, Nimbus Roman, and Bitstream Vera Serif) and Mono (a substitute for Courier New, Cumberland, Courier, Nimbus Mono L, and Bitstream Vera Sans Mono). The fonts are now available for you to install…

You are free to use these fonts on any system you would like. You are free to redistribute them under the GPL+exception license found in the download. Using these fonts does not subject your documents to the GPL - it liberates them from any proprietary claim. Once you have installed these fonts, we encourage you to make them your default in Thunderbird, Firefox, and Open Office. Heck, for that matter make them your default in Microsoft Office, in Microsoft Windows, in Apple OSX... in anything you would like. In many applications you can set Times New Roman, Arial, and Courier New to convert to these fonts…

As of Karmic, Ubuntu does not come with Liberation fonts but most other Linux distributions do have Liberation fonts. All that you need to do is use them in your browsers and document editors. I personally prefer CMU fonts, which look like the fonts used by Mir Publishers of the erstwhile Soviet Union. I also recommend Gentium font.

This website uses a universal CSS font stack, which you can used as your browser's default stylesheet. In Firefox browsers, download this stylesheet and save it as a file named userContent.css in the chrome directory of your ~/.mozilla directory. If you are using Opera, then save the stylesheet to some location. Next, go to Tool » Preferences » Advanced » Content » My stylesheet and select the file.

Useful Nautilus Actions Configurations

Compared to Windows Explorer, Nautilus is leagues ahead in the smarts department. But, it sorely lacks some useful toolbar buttons that are provided as standard in Windows Explorer. This need not be a problem if you install Nautilus Actions Configuration. You can then your own toolbar icons and context menu options that will do exactly what you want to do. You just need to put your requirements in a shell script. Here are some that I use.

In Mate desktop (the forked Gnome 2 version), Nautilus has been replaced with Caja. So, instead of Nautilus Actions Configuration, you need to install Caja Actions.

sudo apt-get install yelp-tools glib-gettext libglib2.0-dev devscripts build-essential libgtk2.0-dev libunique-dev libgtop2-dev libgtop2-7 libxml2-dev uuid-dev libcaja-extension libcaja-extension-dev docbook-utils 
mkdir build-caja-actions
cd build-caja-actions
git clone git://
cd caja-actions/

./configure --disable-schemas-install --with-gtk=2 --enable-mateconf=yes --disable-scrollkeeper --enable-html-manuals --with-default-io-provider=na-desktop
sudo make install

Configure NetworkManager For Using BSNL Huawei Modem

If Network Manager does not automatically detect the mobile broadband connection, then you can configure a connection manually using WvDial. You may have to first kill Network manager because it might hog the modem.

killall nm-applet
sudo service NetworkManager restart
nm-applet --sm-disable &

Alternative #1: Configuring WvDial Internet Dialer For BSNL

Wireless connections tend to disconnect erratically and it may be a hassle to make NetworkManager to work properly. If you experience a lot of disconnects with NetworkManager, then you should disable NetworkManager and instead use console command WvDial (wvdial) or its interactive front-end application Gnome PPP (gnome-ppp) for connecting to the Internet. Unlike NetworkManager, WvDial and Gnome PPP are extremely robust and will automatically redial if a connection gets broken. On some Linux distributions such as Linpus Linux, Gnome PPP or K-PPP may not be available but WvDial would still be available.

  1. Check whether your Ubuntu installation has wvdial:
    • Click Applications menu » Click on Terminal option.
    • Type wvdial and press Enter key.
    If the first line in the output is "WvDial: Internet dialer version 1.60" or something similar, it means that you indeed have wvdial and you can go to the next step. If not install, wvdial.
  2. After ensuring you have WvDial, create a new NetConnect connection in WvDial configuration file.
    • Type sudo gedit /etc/wvdial.conf to open the file in the Gnome text file editor. This file may have some default connection settings as shown below.
      [Dialer Defaults]
      Phone =
      Username =
      Password =
      ;New PPPD = yes
      Modem Type = Analog Modem
      Modem = /dev/ttyUSB3
      ISDN = 0
      Baud = 115200
      SetVolume = 0
      Init1 = ATZ
      [Dialer bsnl]
      Username = "lmn"
      Password = "lmn"
      Phone = *99#
      Stupid Mode = 1
      Inherits = Modem0
      Init2 = at+cgdcont=1,"ip","bsnlnet"
      Save and close the file.
  3. To make WvDial connect to the Internet using the new "netconnect" connection, type sudo wvdial bsnl.
  4. To check if the Internet connection is working, open Firefox or some other browser and type the address of a website. (If you are not connected to the Internet, it may because Firefox is in offline mode. To go online, click on File menu, select option Work offline and click on the Reload toolbar button.

From then on, you can type sudo wvdial netconnect in Terminal whenever you need to connect to the Internet.

Alternative #2: Configuring Gnome PPP For Reliance NetConnect

Install Gnome PPP from Add/Remove Applications or type sudo apt-get install gnome-ppp in Terminal.

Use WvDial or Gnome PPP Without Sudo & Password

On a new installation of Ubuntu, you may have to use sudo with wvdial every time you need to connect to the Internet. This is because your user account does not have privileges to dial modems. sudo uses the "root" or "supervisor" account and this account has privileges for everything including those for dialing modems. However, using sudo requires you to type your password everytime you need to connect to the Internet. To avoid this hassle, you can give privileges to dial modems to your user account. For this:

  1. Click on System menu » Administration menu and select Users and Groups option to display a Users Settings dialog box.
  2. Click on your user account and then click on Unlock button to display an Authenticate dialog box.
  3. Enter your password in the dialog box and click on the Authenticate button to close the dialog box and return to the Users Settings dialog box where the Properties button will then be enabled.
  4. Click on Properties button to display the Account Properties dialog box for your user account.
  5. Click on the User Privileges tab.
  6. Select the options Connect to Internet using a modem and Connect to wireless and ethernet networks.
  7. Click on OK button to return to the Users Settings dialog box.
  8. Click on Close button to exit the Users Settings dialog box.

After you perform the above steps, you will be able to connect to the Internet using WvDial simply by typing wvdial netconnect in Terminal.

Automatically Disconnect At 6 O' Clock

If you are under the free night browsing plan, then you may need to disconnect at sometime before 6 am. If you wish to download something overnight but disconnect automatically in the morning, put the command killall gnome-ppp in a file, say, kill_ppp.txt in your home directory. Before you leave your computer, enter the following command in Terminal.

at -f ~/kill_ppp.txt 5:55

Configure Firestarter

Please read the Firestarter documentation first and choose settings that suit you. Now, here are my settings. In the Policy tab » Editing » Outbound traffic policy, I use the Restrictive by default, whitelist traffic to ensure that all Internet connection requests are blocked by default and only those that I have explicitly whitelisted are permitted. For specifying whitelisted connections, I added some policy rules. As certain types of Internet access is performed using standard ports, I added rules for ports first in the Allow Service - Port - For.

For example, I added the ports 80 (regular http browser access), 443 (secure https browser access), 8000 (listenting to Internet radio sites), and NNTP-119-firewall (reading Usenet newsgroups). In Allow connections to host, I added site hosts that I trust such as and so that my e-mail programs could use Gmail. I also added so that I could download Ubuntu ISOs from Ubuntu's bittorrent network. Of course, the bittorrent network requires your computer to allow incoming connection on a particular port. For this reason, I added a high port such as 35983 in Editing » Inbound traffic policy and also specified 35983 in my Bittorrent client as the "listening port" for allowing "incoming peers."

When you create rules, do not give FTP port 21 or SMTP port 25 access in the Allow Service - Port - For section. This works but is against common sense. If there is a virus in your system or if someone has planted a trojan in your computer, then it will be easy for these programs to use these ports to upload your files or information about your activities to the outside world. Coming from the Windows world, I am paranoid to a fault. (If you still use Windows, say in your workplace where you do not have a choice, use R-Firewall. Unlike Windows Firewall, R-Firewall offers you full control. With R-Firewall, be sure to delete all default rules and create your own custom allow/block/ask rules on a case by case basis. Don't bother with ZoneAlarm firewall - ZoneAlarm was caught phoning home to Israel.)

If your Android phone uses your Ubuntu system as a gateway, then you might find that your downloads and Android Market stuck at "Starting download." This is because Android/Java requires uses port number 5228. Configure FireStarter to allow outbound access on this port and you will be able to install Android applications without any problem."

Add Firestarter To Starup

After you have configured Firestarter properly, add it to your startup programs. From the menu, select System » Preferences » Startup Applications and add an entry for the following command:

su-to-root -X -c "/usr/sbin/firestarter --start-hidden"

To prevent Firestarter from promting for the password, each time you log into your account, add Firestarter to the /etc/sudoers file by type the following command in Terminal:

sudo visudo

Add the following lines at the bottom of the file.

# To start Firestarter without password prompt
%put_your_username_dood ALL=NOPASSWD: /usr/sbin/firestarter

Press F3 to save the file and F2 to quit editor. You could use any good text editor for this purpose, but visudo ensures that you do not accidentally make mistakes and render your OS unusable.

Remove Apache From Startup

If you are a web developer, you may have installed Apache. It need not be running all the time. You can remove it from startup using the command.

sudo update-rc.d -f apache2 remove

You can start Apache whenever you want it by typing the command:

sudo service apache2 start
sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 start

Import Outlook Express Mail from Windows to Evolution, Seamonkey or Thunderbird in Ubuntu

In Ubuntu, the default e-mail client is Evolution. You can also use Thunderbird or Seamonkey. I prefer the latter, as it is more usable than Evolution (huge Preferences dialog to begin with …), is part of a larger Internet suite of applications, and has an attractive and/b usable Netscape theme.

None of these Ubuntu e-mail /codeclients will import Outlook Express (OE) messages directly from the f older where OE messages are stored but all of them can import mail messages from what is known as an "mbox" file. So, the solution is to convert OE mail store files (DBX files) to MBOX files.

To do this conversion, use a freeware program called DBXConv. (If your mail is in MS Outlook rather than Outlook Express, first import you Outlook mail to Outlook Express. No need to mess with PST files.)

To identify where OE message store is located, select from the Tools menu Options » Maintenance » Store Folder. Copy the folder path and paste it in the address bar of Windows Explorer. You will then be able to access DBX files of each message folder you had created in OE.

After you convert the files to MBOX format using DBXConv, copy the mbox files to the directory where your Ubuntu e-mail client stores emails (you profile folder). Warning: Ensure that you do not overwrite any existing files. When your restart your Ubuntu e-mail client, you will be able to access your old Outlook Express messages.

By the way, if you think Seamonkey is better than Evolution, then again there is no direct way to do this. You can however select all messages from an Evolution email folder and select "Save as" right-click menu option to export all messages to mbox format. After that, you should know what to do.

Run Windows Applications in Ubuntu

Although Linux has a huge ecosystem of applications, many former Windows users might suffer from pangs of Windows applications withdrawal syndrome. I missed applications such as IrfanView.

Linux/Unix comes with an application called Wine (Windows Emulator or Wine is not an emulator). You can use Wine to run Windows applications in Ubuntu Linux. Wine supports a lot of Windows applications ranging from uTorrent to Photoshop 7 to Unreal Tournament.

Wine creates a Windows environment that includes a file system complete with a C: drive and default Windows system folders. After installing Wine, you need to use Wine to install Windows applications.

These "Wine applications" can then be launched from a "Wine" menu on the Gnome desktop menu. When you install a Wine application, its "Start" menu shortcuts and folders will be created under the Wine menu.

Use Wine

To install Wine:

Install Windows/Wine Application

Before you install a Windows application using Wine, please check whether that software has a Linux version. Only when there is no Linux installer, try the Wine route. Initially, I thought that Opera was available only for Windows and used the Windows version using Wine. Thankfully, I discovered that Opera has native versions for all popular Linux distros. So, do not use Microsoft Office using Wine. That would be the heights of insanity. Use OpenOffice instead.

To install a Wine application, open the folder where the application's installer application (setup) resides. Right-click the file and select Wine Windows Program Loader option from the file's shortcut menu. Examples of Windows applications that can be installed this way are WordWeb and uTorrent.

Sometimes, the setup will not work with Wine but the application will. In that case, install the setup in Windows and then copy the applications' installation folder (found in Program Files) to your Linux partition. After that, you can create a wine shortcut (explained below) for the application's .exe file in the folder.

Examples of Windows applications that work this way include IrfanView.

When Wine application does not work, then try the command from Terminal This will display some diagnostic error messages. If the messages say that some DLL files are missing, then copy those DLLs from your Windows partition and paste them in the appropriate folder in the Wine C: drive.

Use Original Icons For Wine Applications

The icons for Wine application shortcuts are stored in the directories ~/.local/share/icons and ~/.wine/dosdevices/c:/windows/temp. You can use these icons for your custom launchers (similar to shortcuts in Windows).

Use Portable Windows Applications With Wine

If the Windows application does not have an installer application (setup), that is, it runs directly, then create a launcher (shortcut) for that application:

You may encounter some problems with extremely portable Windows applications. uTorrent is a good example. uTorrent's executable uTorrent.exe is its installer, uninstaller, and the run-time image. If Wine does not install the Windows application properly, then the Windows executable will run the setup every time you click the Wine launcher (shortcut). In such cases, you need to check if the application supports a command-line parameter that launches the application in regular mode, rather than the installer mode. In case of uTorrent, you need to use the following command when you create the launcher:

wine "C:\Program Files\uTorrent\uTorrent.exe" /noinstall

For easy access, drag and drop your launchers to the Gnome desktop panel (Gnome's taskbar). If you have a PNG or SVG version of the application's icon, then right-click on launcher, select Properties option and then select the PNG/SVG icon.

Use VirtualBox

Sometimes Wine is just not enough or does not work. You need Windows for running just a few applications. In such cases, you can install Sun's VirtualBox software, which will allow you to run Windows and other Operating Systems (OSs) as "virtualized guests" inside Ubuntu. After you install VirtualBox and create a Windows guest, you can switch between Ubuntu and Windows with the ease of pressing Alt+Tab.

Sun's VirtualBox runs other operating systems very well in Ubuntu. This article is being written in a Windows guest OS in Ubuntu 8.10, thanks to VirtualBox.

Set A Non-Standard Custom Screen Resolution for Windows Guest

Initially, the Windows OS would not allow me to change the screen resolution to anything other than the standard ones - 800x600, 1024x768, … My laptop's native screen resolution is a non-standard 1280x800. My search for a solution on the Internet were futile as the information I found were obsolete. VirtualBox comes with excellent documentation and I quickly found what I wanted. I needed to simply type the following command in Terminal.

VBoxManage setextradata "My_XP_VM" "CustomVideoMode1" "1280x800x16"

The last number in the last parameter of the command is the color depth. You could replace it with 24 or 32. The first two numbers are the width and height in pixels. My_XP_VM is the name of my virtual machine. Replace it with yours.

Provide Internet Access To Windows Guests

VirtualBox offers several ways of providing virtual network interfaces to its virtual machines (Virtual Guests or OSs). The easiest virtual networking provided by VirtualBox is the Network Address Translation (NAT) option. Read the VirtualBox help file on how to configure this.

After you configure NAT, Ubuntu's internet connection will be available to the Windows guest also. For the Windows guest, the Ubuntu host will be available as a machine on a LAN (Local Area Network).

Access IIS Running on Windows Guest From Ubuntu Host

When a computer is behind NAT, it can access computers, networks and Internet that exist outside the NAT. However, the computer is not accessible from outside the NAT.

For example, my Windows guest can access the Internet and shared folders provided by my Ubuntu host. However, a browser in my Ubuntu host cannot access my IIS-ASP website running in the Windows guest. This was important for me because I need to see how my website looks in Linux.

For such scenarios, VirtualBox provides port forwarding as a solution. In my example, my XP VM provides access to the IIS website on port 80 (default port for http access). So, I need to forward some arbitarily chosen port in Ubuntu. Requests to this port will be intercepted by VirtualBox and sent to port 80 in the Windows guest VM. For this purpose, I chose port 8393. Here are three commands I had to enter in Terminal in old versions of VirtualBox.

VBoxManage setextradata "My_XP_VM" \
"VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/PF_80_to_8393/Protocol" TCP

VBoxManage setextradata "My_XP_VM" \
"VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/PF_80_to_8393/GuestPort" 80

VBoxManage setextradata "My_XP_VM" \
"VBoxInternal/Devices/pcnet/0/LUN#0/Config/PF_80_to_8393/HostPort" 8393

In newer versions of VirtualBox, there is just a single command.

VBoxManage modifyvm "My_XP_VM" --natpf1 "PF_80_to_8393,tcp,,8393,,80"

Refer the VirtualBox help file topic on port forwarding with NAT for detailed explanation of these commands. After I did this, I was able to access the IIS website in Ubuntu using the address http://localhost:8393, which was rerouted by VirtualBox to http://localhost:80/ in the Windows guest. (Default http access is on port 80. Because of this browsers, do not explicitly display this port in the address bar.)

Screenshot showing Opera browser accessing a website running on XP guest using port forwarding in VirtualBox NAT

An IIS Website being accessed from a Windows guest and its Ubuntu host*

(Try the elegant OpenSolaris wallpapers with the Nimbus desktop theme.)

NOTE: When you move ASP files between your Windows virtual machine and Linux partitions, the file format may change. Classic ASP does not understand UTF-8 format (Linux editors may save your ASP files in this format.) ASP may not throw any errors but ASP scripts may behave in an unpredictable manner. So, try to keep all your ASP files with in the virtual machine. If you do move it around, ensure that the ASP files are in plain text.

Some applications such as OpenOffice and Firefox support saving directly to PDF. For other applications, choose the "Print to file" option. When you print this way the output will be a PostScript file. Be sure to give this file a .ps extension so that you can identify it easily. Although Evince and other applications will display a .PS file like they would a PDF file, it is better convertS the PS file to a PDF file using the console command ps2pdf. On my computer, I have created a Nautilus Actions Configuration (NAC) for easy conversion of Postscript files to PDF. I have put the following commands in a text file and set it to be launched with sh in Nautilus by NAC.

echo "`date`: Converting $1 to ${1%.*}.pdf" >> ${0%/*}/ps_to_pdf.log
ps2pdf $1 "${1%.*}".pdf >> ${0%/*}/ps_to_pdf.log
echo "`date`: Moving $1 to Trash" >> ${0%/*}/ps_to_pdf.log
mv $1 $HOME/.local/share/Trash/files >> ${0%/*}/ps_to_pdf.log
echo >> ${0%/*}/ps_to_pdf.log

This bash script will convert the PS file to PDF and move the PS file to Trash. The script will also maintain a log file for future reference.

Set Current Image As Wallpaper Without Invoking Appearance Preferences

The default "Image Viewer", the Eye of Gnome (eog), is not very customizable. It is also not very intuitive either. If you try to set the current image as the desktop background, it will also open the Appearance Preferences dialog. If you try this operation with several images, it will open several instances of the same dialog. So, I replaced Eye of Gnome with Mirage. Mirage has an feature to add custom commands. Using this feature, you can add the following command to set the current image as the desktop wallpaper.

gconftool-2 -t str --set /desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename %F

Play Music Using Audacious - A Top-Class Winamp Alternative


Audacious is an old audio player in Linux. It is now in Version 2. It can take Winamp skins and Winamp graphic equalizers presets.

Simply copy Winamp skins to the Skins folder of Auadacious (usually /usr/share/audacious/Skins). To use equalizer presets from Winamp, try the following commands.

gunzip -c winamp_presets.gz > ~/.config/audacious/eq.preset

If you are looking for a Gnome alternative for the KDE Amarok, then you can try Exaile. I use it to listen to the Swiss-based IP Music Slow stream I have set my firewall policy in Firestart to be restrictive by default. So, I had to enable outbound access on port 8000. Alternatively, I could have added the IP address to the permitted hosts list.

How To Use Apple iPod In Ubuntu

Apple iPod range of portable media players require the use of an external media manager program. Apple provides iTunes for Windows and Mac operating systems only. However, Linux users can use Floola, which does everything that iTunes does and also supports all models and versions of iPod. Before you start using Floola, you need to enable disk use of the iPod device. To do this, you may have to use iTunes a Windows or Mac computer. After you enable disk use, you don't need iTunes any more. You can totally rely on Floola to manage your iPod player.

When you start Floola for the first time, it may ask for the fwid of the iPod. Try the following command and copy the 16-digit ID.

sudo lsusb -v | grep -i Serial

How To Reset The iPod Screen Lock Password Combination

Apple advises that you can reset screen lock combination by simply connecting the iPod to your computer where you used iTunes to manage the player. Now that you are using Floola, this may not possible. At least it did not work with my fourth-generation iPod Nano. The solution is to delete the file _locked in the iPod_Control/Device directory of the iPod disk. Next, you need to restart your iPod. (Hold down the Menu and the center button and wait for six seconds.) When the iPod restarts, select Extras » Screen Lock » Reset Combination from the menu. The iPod will then allow you to enter a new password. Some sites suggest that the _locked file be renamed or its content be erased. This step is not required. Apple also suggests that you "restore" (format) the player as an alternative. That is also not required.

Install Wacam Bamboo Graphic Tablet

Wacom Bamboo tablets can be used with graphic applications such as GIMP and Inkscape. You need not have to have Windows to use Wacom Bamboo graphic tablets. Just try the following commands in Terminal.

sudo apt-get install wacom-tools
sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-input-wacom wacom-tools
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ripps818/wacom
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install wacom-dkms

Install Pinnacle PCTV TV Tuner

To use TV tuner cards in Ubuntu, you need Vidoe4Linux (V4L) drivers. You can install the Mythbuntu desktop environment that adds these drivers automatically. Mythbuntu also converts your desktop into a HTPC. If you don't want to install Mythbuntu, you can drivers alone using the following commands in Terminal.

mkdir tvdriver
cd tvdriver
git clone git://
cd media_build/
sudo sh
make install

The above commands would have installed the V4L TV drivers. After that, restart your computer and install TV Time from Ubuntu Software Center. Configure TV Time to view video from your TV tuner card.

For more information on V4L drivers, go to the website.

Unmute Soundcard Line-Input Audio With Pinnacle PCTV TV Tuner

If you are connected, say, a DTH set-top box or a VCR to your TV tuner composite video port and the audio cables to the line-input of your sound card, then you will face some problems. The audio from the line-input will not be muted. To turn it on, you can execute the command alsamixer and unmute the Line device (press M key). You may also try the following commands.

amixer sset Line unmute cap
mplayer tv:// -tv input=1:width=720:height=576:alsa:amode=0

This can introduce the annoying problem of line input audio played over the speakers even when you are not watching or recording to TV. To avoid, that try this command in Terminal change the setting.

amixer sset Line toggle

Use VLC Player To View and Record From Pinnacle PCTV TV Tuner

Yes, you can use VLC not just to play video files but also to capture video from your TV tuner card. First, mute the line-input but make audio capture available for recording.

amixer sset Line mute cap

On my computer, this command allows me to view video from composite video input in the TV tuner and audio from the line input of the sound card.

vlc  v4l2:///dev/video0:normal=pal:width=720:height=576:input=1 :input-slave="alsa://hw:0,0"

You can modify the number after input= to change the video source. See the output in Terminal to find the numbers of available video sources.

To record the video, you need to enable the record toolbar. Videos will be store in your ~/Videos directory. I still haven't figured out to realtime-encode the videos in a popular video/audio codec.

Convert Audio and Video Files Using FFMPEG and WinFF

FFMPEG is a command-line tool to convert audio and video files. You can use the WinFF program if you prefer a GUI ("windowed") application.

By default ffmpeg does not install with certain proprietary codecs, such as those for H264 or MP3. The FFMPEg project has a good Ubuntu Compilation page that shows how you can re-compile and install FMPEG with support for those codecs.

While following the steps in that page, you may encounter an "libmp3lame >= 3.98.3 not found" error. This may be because of an old ffmpeg file residing in the folder /usr/local/bin. Delete this file and resume your steps.

Acer Aspire One Tips

If you bought an Aspire One netbook that came with Windows, then will face a lot of difficulties before you can use Linux on it. The absence of a CD or DVD drive and the fact that the Windows partition occupies the whole of the hard disc can make things forbidding.

Boot Ubuntu Live CD Using A USB Flash Drive

While in Windows, download the program Unetbootin from the Internet. Using that program, write the Ubuntu Live CD to a USB pen drive. After restarting the netbook, press F2 to get inside the BIOS and activate the F12 boot menu option. Exit the BIOS after saving the changes. When the netbook restarts, stick the bootable Ubuntu USB flash drive in a USB port on the One and press F12. In the BIOS boot menu, select flash drive option. Ubuntu Live CD will boot in a while and you can install Linux on your Acer Aspire One netbook.

Repartition Acer Aspire One Hard Disk For Linux

The hard disk models of the Acer Aspire One come with a hidden partition. This contains Acer's "system restore disk". The second partition contains Windows XP and occupies the rest of the hard disk. There will be no free unallocated space for installing Linux. I suggest that you keep Windows but on a smaller partition. Assuming that you got a 160 GB hard disk with your AAO, you may choose to do the following:

  1. Back up any important data on the netbook.
  2. Boot the netbook from a bootable Ubuntu USB flash drive and choose the live CD option.
  3. Select System » Administration » GParted for repartitioning your drive.
  4. Select the Windows partition and delete it. The space occupied by it will then be shown as "unallocated space."
  5. In this space, create the following partitions.
    Partition TypeFormatSizePurpose
    PrimaryNTFS25 GB or 40 GBWindows XP or Windows 7
    LogicalExt425 GBLinux root (/)
    LogicalSwap3 GBLinux Swap
    LogicalExt440 GB(Optional) Your personal files
    LogicalNTFS40 GB(Optional) Your personal files
    Leave the rest of the unallocated space as it is and close GParted.
  6. Click the Install Ubuntu icon on the desktop and install Ubuntu to the Linux partitions you had created earlier in GParted.

When you restart the netbook, you will note that the Grub boot menu has an option to boot from the hidden recovery partition and start Acer Recovery Management. You do not have to go into the BIOS to start the D2D Recovery process! The recovery software has the ability to format your C: drive (the first partition) and install or restore Windows and other junk. The Acer restore process will affect only the first partition. Your Linux or other partitions will not be touched. So, go ahead install Windows. After that, you can multi-boot between Linux, Windows, and the OEM restore disk software.

Backup Hidden System Recovery Partition To File

The Acer Recovery Management will allow you to save the OEM restore software only to a DVD drive - Microsoft seems to be paranoid about giving OEM Windows disks to paying customers. You may not have a USB DVD drive but you have the power of GNU/Linux! Try the age-old dd command to backup the partition to an ordinary file.

dd if=/dev/sda1 of=/home/some_directory/aa0_oem.img bs=4096 conv=noerror

You can backup this file on another hard disk or DVD. If something unfortunate happens to the recovery partition, you can put it back using another dd command.

dd if=/home/some_directory/aa0_oem.img of=/dev/sda1 bs=4096 conv=noerror

Share Directories Between Two Computers Using A Crossover LAN Cable

If you have two computers that RJ-45 networking ports, you can create a simple LAN connection using a crossover LAN cable. You do not need any other networking gear. You can use this connection to transfer fles, share Internet connection and play LAN-based games. You can make the computer that has the Internet connection as the server or gateway computer. The other computer can connect to the first computer like a client. After connecting the RJ-45 ports with a cross-crimped LAN cable, create a "Wired" connection in NetworkManager applet. In the IPv4 Settings tab, set Method to Manual and use the following IP settings.

Network Settings For Crossover LAN Connection
ComputerIP AddressSubnet MaskGateway

To browse shared directories on the second computer from the first computer, type smb:// in the address box of Nautilus. Similarly, for accessing shares on the first computer, type smb://

Share Internet Connection Over Crossover LAN Cable Between Two Computers

If you wish to share the Internet connection of the first computer with the second computer, you need to first find the DNS server used by the first computer. For this type sudo cat /etc/resolv.conf in Terminal on the first computer. Use the nameserver IP addresses printed by the command on the wired connection settings of the second computer. Alternatively, you can use public nameservers such as those of Google - and

If you are using a firewall (you should if you use Internet or Wi-Fi), then you will have to configure additional permissions or rules. On the second computer, permit outgoing connections to the firewall on the following ports - 53 (DNS), 80 (HTTP), 443 (HTTPS), and 137-139 and 445 (Samba). If you plan on using e-mail on the second computer, you may want to add appropriate ports specified by your e-mail provider. Here are a few examples: 110 (POP), 995 (POPS), 25 (SMTP), 465 (SSMTP), …

On the firewall of the first computer permit the following outbound connections from the second computer:

Create An Ad-Hoc Wi-Fi Connection Between Two Laptops

Screenshot of an ad-hock Wi-Fi connection between two laptops

If you have two laptops or desktops with WiFi modules, then you can create an ad-hoc wireless connection between the two computers. You do not need a crossover LAN cable or Wifi router or access point. For this, you will have to create a "Wireless" connection in the Network Manager applet. The IP settings are same as those of the crossover LAN connection given above. (If you wish to use wireless and wired connection at the same time, choose different sets of IP addresses.). On the first computer, create a "Wireless" connection. In the SSID box, give a name for the WiFi network and set the Mode setting to Ad-Hoc. (I use Firestarter and I have to set WLAN (wifi or wireless) interface as the device connected to LAN. On the second computer, I need to set WLAN interface as the device connected to the Internet.) After you set up the connection on the first computer, it will be detected on the first computer. If you set a password in the Wireless Security tab of the Network Manager, enter that when prompted on the second computer.

Share Folders With Network Media Player

If you have a wireless or wired network media player (such as Asus O!Play, Buffalo Link Theatre, Iomega Screenplay Seagate Go Flex TV, and WD TV Live), you can play audio/video files from your desktop, laptop, or NAS device. If you have a firewall (you should have one), you need to open Samba ports (137-139 445) to and from both IP addresses (your Linux box and the media player). You also need to open RPC ports (32770-32900 or maybe a smaller range within this set) outgoing from your Linux box. If you are using Firestarter firewall, then you need to disable Block broadcasts from external network under Preferences » Firewall » Advanced Options » Broadcast traffic. Also, you will need to share the folders in your Linux box. If you do not provide guest access, then you will have to enter/save username/passwords in the player. If you are very paranoid about security, these settings may not look very safe. If that is the case, then check if your network media player is DNLA compliant. If the player supports DNLA, then you can share files without so many of the above settings. However, you will not be able to write files with the DNLA option.

Share Folders With DNLA Media Player

If your media player device has the ability to access a DNLA media server (such as Asus O!Play, Buffalo Link Theatre, Iomega Screenplay, WD TV Live, PS3, or XBox 360), then install ushare in your Linux box. Enable UPnP setting(s) in your router/modem/firewall (check the configuration pages of these devices). Create a firewall rule that opens port 1900 (SSDP) for incoming and outgoing access between your Linux box IP and the DNLA device IP. Next, open Terminal and run this command.

ushare -c ./path/to/your/shared/directory

After you enter this command, the command print out that the UPnP media server is listening on some port (most likely 49152). In your firewall, enable inbound access to this port from your DNLA device IP. Then type localhost:that_port_number/web/ushare.html in a browser. You can then add/remove additional shares if required from the browser.

Disable Wi-Fi or Wireless Connections

Executing the following command in Terminal will temporarily disable your Wi-Fi module.

dbus-send --system --type=method_call --dest=org.freedesktop.NetworkManager /org/freedesktop/NetworkManager org.freedesktop.DBus.Properties.Set string:org.freedesktop.NetworkManager string:WirelessEnabled variant:boolean:false

If you do not use Wi-Fi and would like to save power on your laptop, then add the command to the Gnome startup (System » Preferences » Start-Up Applications.command