Easy Peasy Dee Vee Dee

DeVeDe Main Window

DeVeDe Main Window

Wow. This is so cool, I just have to tell someone. In the past, in order to remember how to compile transcode video for different things, i have maintained some notes for me to refer to. One of the jobs I did a number of times was create DVD’s to play on a standard DVD player. Well it was always a bit of a pain to do. So much so, that for a long time I have just avoided doing it.

Now recently I have been asked to convert some NTSC DVD’s that we own to PAL format so that our old TV can display them correctly. Following a bit of discussion on the Hampshire Linux User Group mailing list, I decided to have a play again.

To cut a long story short, I ended up using dvd::rip to extract the data from the DVD that was required. This program makes it easy to see what is needed from the DVD. Only the required content can be selected. By choosing the option to rip to disk before encoding, then the tool can be used simply as a ripper.

Once the data is on the hard drive, I can then use DeVeDe to turn that into a PAL DVD image file. Once that is complete, all that needs to be done is to burn it to a disk.

To get the best results, I have to remember to select a de-interlacing filter otherwise any fast moving objects look horrible.

The best part is the easy interface. All the options required are easy to find, and a simple but effective menu structure can be build with just a few clicks. Normally, I would rather use command line applications, and if this was a process that was to be repeated lots, then it would probably be better to use the underlying programs directly. However, for me, this program provides a great interface and makes the process almost pain free. I will have to have purchase a new pack of blank disks now! 🙂


Its that time of year again!

Free Ubuntu Book

I am sure there are lots of great resources for getting to grips with Ubuntu and Linux in general. However, I remember my first tentative steps were helped along by being able to read a manual. So having a reference work freely available for Ubuntu is great.

To be honest, I cant claim to have read this book, but I like the idea of giving the PDF away for free. Certainly more than a few people who read the PDF will be motivated to buy the printed copy. Check it out for yourselves at http://www.ubuntupocketguide.com/

Google Chrome

This has been rumoured for a long time. Now it is here. Google have created their own web browser. Unfortunately it is only for Windows at the moment, but I understand that it will eventually be available for Linux.

In the mean time I plan on using it at work.

First impressions are that it is very fast. Certainly on Google pages such as Gmail and Google Maps. Even Openstreetmap seems very smooth.

As it is Open Source, I hope that it has the desired intention of moving the whole browser world forward. The next question is, how long before I start to see Google Chrome appear in the logs of my web server?

Free Software

This is an article from the BBC website by Richard Stallman. It is a fair reflection of why I use Linux. Sorry, GNU/Linux.

It’s not the Gates, it’s the bars
By Richard Stallman
Founder, Free Software Foundation

To pay so much attention to Bill Gates’ retirement is missing the point. What really matters is not Gates, nor Microsoft, but the unethical system of restrictions that Microsoft, like many other software companies, imposes on its customers.

That statement may surprise you, since most people interested in computers have strong feelings about Microsoft. Businessmen and their tame politicians admire its success in building an empire over so many computer users.

Many outside the computer field credit Microsoft for advances which it only took advantage of, such as making computers cheap and fast, and convenient graphical user interfaces.

Gates’ philanthropy for health care for poor countries has won some people’s good opinion. The LA Times reported that his foundation spends five to 10% of its money annually and invests the rest, sometimes in companies it suggests cause environmental degradation and illness in the same poor countries.

Many computerists specially hate Gates and Microsoft. They have plenty of reasons.

‘Solicit funds’

Microsoft persistently engages in anti-competitive behaviour, and has been convicted three times. George W Bush, who let Microsoft off the hook for the second US conviction, was invited to Microsoft headquarters to solicit funds for the 2000 election.

Many users hate the “Microsoft tax”, the retail contracts that make you pay for Windows on your computer even if you won’t use it.

In some countries you can get a refund, but the effort required is daunting.

There’s also the Digital Restrictions Management: software features designed to “stop” you from accessing your files freely. Increased restriction of users seems to be the main advance of Vista.

‘Gratuitous incompatibilities’

Then there are the gratuitous incompatibilities and obstacles to interoperation with other software. This is why the EU required Microsoft to publish interface specifications.

This year Microsoft packed standards committees with its supporters to procure ISO approval of its unwieldy, unimplementable and patented “open standard” for documents. The EU is now investigating this.

These actions are intolerable, of course, but they are not isolated events. They are systematic symptoms of a deeper wrong which most people don’t recognise: proprietary software.

Microsoft’s software is distributed under licenses that keep users divided and helpless. The users are divided because they are forbidden to share copies with anyone else. The users are helpless because they don’t have the source code that programmers can read and change.

If you’re a programmer and you want to change the software, for yourself or for someone else, you can’t.

If you’re a business and you want to pay a programmer to make the software suit your needs better, you can’t. If you copy it to share with your friend, which is simple good-neighbourliness, they call you a “pirate”.

‘Unjust system’

Microsoft would have us believe that helping your neighbour is the moral equivalent of attacking a ship.

The most important thing that Microsoft has done is to promote this unjust social system.

Gates is personally identified with it, due to his infamous open letter which rebuked microcomputer users for sharing copies of his software.

It said, in effect, “If you don’t let me keep you divided and helpless, I won’t write the software and you won’t have any. Surrender to me, or you’re lost!”

‘Change system’

But Gates didn’t invent proprietary software, and thousands of other companies do the same thing. It’s wrong, no matter who does it.

Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, and the rest, offer you software that gives them power over you. A change in executives or companies is not important. What we need to change is this system.

That’s what the free software movement is all about. “Free” refers to freedom: we write and publish software that users are free to share and modify.

We do this systematically, for freedom’s sake; some of us paid, many as volunteers. We already have complete free operating systems, including GNU/Linux.

Our aim is to deliver a complete range of useful free software, so that no computer user will be tempted to cede her freedom to get software.

In 1984, when I started the free software movement, I was hardly aware of Gates’ letter. But I’d heard similar demands from others, and I had a response: “If your software would keep us divided and helpless, please don’t write it. We are better off without it. We will find other ways to use our computers, and preserve our freedom.”

In 1992, when the GNU operating system was completed by the kernel, Linux, you had to be a wizard to run it. Today GNU/Linux is user-friendly: in parts of Spain and India, it’s standard in schools. Tens of millions use it, around the world. You can use it too.

Gates may be gone, but the walls and bars of proprietary software he helped create remain, for now.

Dismantling them is up to us.

Richard Stallman is the founder of the Free Software Foundation. You can copy and redistribute this article under the Creative Commons Noderivs license.

Inkscape Screencasts


I used to think that The Gimp was a tool for artists, and that Inkscape was a more technical tool. Less artistic.

In the past, both The Gimp and Inkscape have proved useful, but my understanding and use of Inkscape has been limited. Recently I discovered a fantastic website of screen casts illustrating the use of Inkscape. screencasters.heathenx.org

After a quick browse through the list of tasks that are covered, I have decided to go through them all, one by one.

The result so far has been I have a new appreciation for Inkscape and have learnt a lot more of what it can do. For some things that in the past may have guided me to The Gimp, now I will probably want to use Inkscape.

Thank you Richard and heathenx!

Hardy Heron, step 2

After getting comfortable with the Heron on my first machine, I decided to update my Laptop. Ignoring any issues I had had first time round, I simply ran the update manager, and pressed the button!

That, it turns out, was a mistake. nvidia-glx again failed to upgrade, and that caused most of xorg to fail to upgrade properly. This time, however, I did not try a reboot before having tried to fix the problem.

The solution in the end was to manually create an empty file that was missing and stopping the old nvidia-glx from un-installing. With that done, I was then able to upgrade that package, and all the remaining un-configured packages were sorted.

Having read somewhere that the new xorg is able to sort out its own configuration, I decided to give that a try and rm’d all my xorg.conf files. That’s right, no backing up. Back ups are for wimps!

X did start just fine, but using the vesa driver, at some horrible low resolution. At this point, I realised that maybe backups of my config files would have been a good idea. 🙂

I finally got the Nvidia driver installed, but it would refuse to use the correct resolution. At this point I remember having the same problem last time I set up the Nvidia driver. The problem is that the Nvidia driver will not use any resolution that it does not find in the EDID. Setting UseEDID to ‘no’ has no effect. The only solution, from what I can remember, is to use a utility in Windows to extract the EDID to a file, and then use the option for the Nvidia driver to look to that file for the EDID.

Luckily, as this was an upgrade, and not a re-install, I still had the EDID file from before, and once again, I had xorg running at the correct resolution.

That meant that the whole operation took a lot longer than I wanted. Next time, I will try and remember to downgrade as much as possible before update. If I had switched to the nv driver, and kept a backup of xorg.conf, I could have updated this system really easily. Well at least I now know for next time.

Do the Apple iPod Shuffle

iPd shuffleI know that I have written about Apple before, but now I am a customer! The shuffle shown is my new music player. As soon as I had opened it up, I plugged it into me Ubuntu system to charge it up and load some songs. All my songs are in mp3 format, so that was not a problem.

Rhythmbox recognised the shuffle straight away, and loaded the songs without issue. I then used the player on my way to work. Part way there it started playing up. When I got to work, when trying to sort it out, the device locked up completely. The instructions suggest at this point that a full reset is required, which needs iTunes. Fortunately, I still have a working Windows installation with iTunes, so I upgraded to the latest iTunes, reset the device, and got iTunes to load some songs.

The device has been working just as it should since. When it comes to changing the songs, I will try Ubuntu again, and see how it goes.

Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy) First Steps

I decided to upgrade one of my machines to Hardy. Well the upgrade borked. I think it had something to do with nvidia-glx, so I can’t really blame Ubuntu. I probably could have figured it out, but I decided as this is a LTS version, I would go for a fresh install.

As expected, the install went fine. The final result is a very nice system. Somehow it seems faster and a little smarter. I think I would have to say that I am quite happy with this release so far.

One problem that I did have was with rhythmbox. Before the upgrade I had a problem where it would not suffle play my music. I hoped that the upgrade would fix this, but the problem persisted. I was just about to delete any config file in my home directory that may have something to do with rhythmbox when I decided to have one last Google for a fix. It turns out that the shuffle play will only work with playlists. Anything in the play queue will be played it is in the queue. Makes sense I suppose, but when you are not aware of it, it may catch you out. Once I deleted the contents of the play queue, it started to function as expected.

I will hold back from installing it on my laptop until the final release at least. I also want to install the server version on my home server. That has been running Debian for years, so I need to plan my way carefully with that one to avoid too much downtime.