Friday, 31 October 2014

A working touchpad!

Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn
Linux kernel 3.17.0
Toshiba Tecra W50-A

After months of waiting I now have fully functional touchpad on my laptop.  Work bought me a very new, relatively expensive notebook, which of course means it's taken the linux kernel some time to catch up with my hardware.  The touchpad was identified as a generic PS/2 device, and while I had basic functionality, niceties like scrolling -- nevermind palm detection -- were out of the question.

I had hoped that the 3.16 kernel shipping with Ubuntu 14.10 would do the job, so I upgraded even though I would have preferred to stick with the 14.04 LTS version on this machine.  No luck.  But the upgrade went rather painlessly, which emboldened me to try installing the latest stable version.  These instructions worked without a glitch, and as soon as it rebooted I knew it had worked!  (The mouse pointer responded subtly differently.)  Now I have a new device to configure.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Shrinking PDFs

Ubuntu 14.04 Trust Tahr

I quite often use pdftk for re-arranging pdf files, but the resulting pdfs can be quite large (not always pdftk's fault).  Fortunately, I found this trick using ghostscript can produce documents of a friendlier size.  I find that -dPDFSETTINGS=/screen can produce a document that is too low in quality, but -dPDFSETTINGS=/ebook works rather well.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Photo Information

Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander
Nikon D3200

Having recently acquired a DSLR to play with, I was frustrated by the lack of metadata displayed by the "properties function" of the file manager.  Specifically, in the "Image" tab I could see the exposure time and the ISO, but not the aperture size.  That information -- along with much, much more -- is there, as can be seen by uploading the photo to Flickr.  But courtesy of one of the posters at Superuser, I found this neat command line tool: exiv2.  An example of it's handiwork:
> exiv2 DSC_0001.JPG
File name       : DSC_0001.JPG
File size       : 6445139 Bytes
MIME type       : image/jpeg
Image size      : 6016 x 4000
Camera make     : NIKON CORPORATION
Camera model    : NIKON D3200
Image timestamp : 2014:06:07 17:48:57
Image number    :
Exposure time   : 1/100 s
Aperture        : F4.2
Exposure bias   : 0 EV
Flash           : No flash
Flash bias      :
Focal length    : 26.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 39.0 mm)
Subject distance:
ISO speed       : 3200
Exposure mode   : Aperture priority
Metering mode   : Multi-segment
Macro mode      :
Image quality   : NORMAL
Exif Resolution : 6016 x 4000
White balance   : AUTO      
Thumbnail       : image/jpeg, 8762 Bytes
Copyright       :
Exif comment    :                                     

exiv2 is in the Universe repository. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

New gaming rig

Modest, as far as such things go, but here it is:
Core i5 4440 3.1 GHz
ASRock H87M MB
2x Adata 4GB Premier Pro DDR3
Gigabyte GV-N650OC-2GI GTX 650 2GB
Adata Premier Pro SP900 128GB SATA3 SSD
Seagate 500GB Barracuda SATA3 HDD
LG 20EN33TS-B 20" LED Monitor
Aywun 550W MEGA POWER Elite Series Power Supply
SilverStone RL01B ATX Mid Tower Case

I bought the 128GB SSD with a view to dual booting, but so far it's just Linux (Ubuntu 13.10).  Stream games are working well (Crusader Kings II, Kerbal Space Program and Half-Life).  I will see how much I can get to work under PlayOnLinux.  With a bit of luck, this box might stay Windows free.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


Wine 1.4.1
Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quezal
Mozart 2005

While I have been aware of the existence of Wine for years, and used it in some very limited cases, I hadn't really considered it as option for dumping my Wintendo.  I was inspired, however, by a post on PC World, to give it a go.

One of the few pieces of software that motivates my maintenance of a Windows machine is Mozart, a piece of music writing software that both my wife and I use.  As it turned out, installing and running it under Wine was disturbingly easy!  I installed Wine from the repository, used Winetrix to install the recommended packages, installed TiMidity to process Mozart's midi output, then stuck the Mozart CD in the drive and double-clicked on the installer.  It installed just as it would under Windows XP, ran first time, and played sound without a problem.  Whole thing took about ten minutes (including reading the instructions).

If I can get Empire: Total War to run, then the Windows drive might well get formatted.

Thursday, 3 January 2013


My first Home Theatre PC was made from scrounged components, but satisfied of the concept I decided to upgrade.  The new machine consists of:
Gigabyte GZ-M1 Black, Mini Tower Case
Core i3 Ivy Bridge 3220 3.30GHz Processor
ASRock Z77M Intel LGA Motherboard
Seasonic 430W Power Supply
2xKingston HyperX Blu 2GB 1600MHz DDR3 Memory
Lite-On iHAS324 Super All Write 24x DVD Writer
Intel 60GB SATA3 SSD
Old 500 GB HDD 
Wireless (USB dongle) Logitech mini keyboard/mouse pad
Wireless internal ethernet card from Dick Smith
Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal

The Ivy Bridge setup is doing a great job of audio/visuals.  The signal goes to a Marantz receiver, and thence to tv and speakers.  So far, I'm happy running off regular desktop (Rhythmbox for music, Totem for video files, VLC for DVDs).  One disadvantage of the mini-tower case is that the case fan is far from silent.  It's possible I can do without it (the processor is hardly ticking over); I'll get around to doing some temperature tests at some point.  Alternatively, the motherboard has a connector for a four-pin, speed controlled fan, if I can find one.  And I'll need some extra storage soon.

We don't even have the television connected to an antenna anymore :)

Saturday, 20 October 2012


Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin

I wanted to make a short clip of a television show available to students, as I thought it would be instructive (a section of QI where the motion of a bullet is discussed).  I took a good quality file in flv format and clipped out the bit I wanted, roughly one and a half minute's worth, using Pitivi.  This was easy, and the resulting render, again into flv format, was of excellent quality.  The file, however, was huge: over 900 MB!

A brief excursion with ffmpeg and avconv was unsuccessful and frustrating, so I tried the media conversion program Transmageddon, which I had noticed in the repository.  Two minutes later I had the clip I wanted in a good quality flv file weighing a more useful 22 MB.