30 days with Ubuntu 7.04 - Part II

By Niall C. Brady, May/June 2007.
If you wish to re-publish this article (or parts of), then you are free to do so as long as it links back to here.

<< Part I (Days 1-5)

Part II (Days 6-10)

* printing
* networking
* firefox crashed
* getting mplayer to work
* reading mail with evolution
* bittorrent
* can I watch TV ?
* docking the laptop

>> Part III (Days 11-15)

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I've setup printing using the System/administration/printing tool. It wasn't difficult, however no linux driver was listed for my printer (Dell Color Laser 3100cn) so I chose Generic postscript, and that worked fine, but to get it to print over the network I had to configure it as Unix Printer (LPD).

The printing itself, works fine and is fast so no complaints even with the generic driver.

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Networking with Windows

I clicked on Places/Network and I could see a Windows network icon, clicking on that showed me two workgroups, and clicking on one of them showed what computers were in that workgroup. I then logged on to one of them using my Windows XP username/password and that was it, I was able to browse the files easily, so much so that I decided to watch a music video (to test the network speed over wireless connection 11mb/s). Unfortunately Totem came back to haunt me except this time with the following error:-i

"Totem could not play 'smb://home-0ca963252f/C$/music/lalala.avi'. There is no input plugin to handle the location of the movie.

So, google seems to be aware of that error and while I look around, I decided to copy the file locally from the networked windows box, to my desktop. That worked nice and fast. Once the file was on my desktop, I noticed that gnome showed a representation of what the video was (thumbnail) so I double clicked on it and guess what ? Totem played the file with no problem. I dunno sometimes. To double check, I tried another file (this time mpg) and it too failed with the odd error, so this was obviously a networking error rather than a Totem one.

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Firefox crashed

I had two Firefoxs' open, one with 6 tabs, the other with 3. In addition I had nautilus open still browsing the network shares from yesterday (it did copy the files over nicely) and had started to play one of the music videos in Totem when I remembered that I wasn't pleased with the video quality of Totem's rendering of the videos. Basically there was little black spots everywhere on the video (worked fine in fedora with mplayer) so I 'll try to see if I can get mplayer working later. Anyway, while I started a new video and multitasked back to Firefox I noticed the desktop going black (except for my terminal). I also noticed the system was going slow (lots of hdd activity) so I guessed I was low on ram and that it was reading from the swap file. While attempting to type free in the terminal firefox disappeared. I've seen this behaviour before with Firefox in linux on this laptop so it was no surprise, usually happens after a few days of use but all the same it's annoying. I blame the Firefox crash on Shockwave flash player, typing about:plugins in Firefox shows me this:-

Shockwave Flash
File name: libflashplayer.so
Shockwave Flash 9.0 r31
MIME Type Description Suffixes Enabled
application/x-shockwave-flash Shockwave Flash swf Yes
application/futuresplash FutureSplash Player spl Yes

To get Firefox to act weird, all I have to do is view a video on youtube then right-click within the video window, scroll up and down through the available Shockwave options and then move my mouse outside the video window (but still within the Firefox window) and click. Once I do that, the hdd's goes into meltdown and I lose control of my box (not totally, but it becomes as slow as a snail and even local ssh connections time-out). NOTE: I had this exact same issue in Fedora on this machine.

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getting mplayer to work

I had mplayer installed previously but when I clicked on a video with it, I got an error:-

'Fatal Error! Error opening/initializing the selected video_out (-vo) device).'

Google gives me results that apply to Suse, Linspire, Xandros, but not Ubuntu (doesn't anyone using Ubuntu also use mplayer ?). While reading google's results I start mplayer in cli mode and point it to the file in question, this time it starts up and plays the video !. Strange. Even more strange is I can see the same black dots every 20 millimetres or so in horizontal/vertical alignment, so it's not just a Totem issue, something is borked with the video codecs or I have some other issue here.

I'd show you a screenshot of the dots in question but when I take a screenshot of any video all I get is a green background within the video player, probably something to do with rendering of the video itself. After trying out lots of options within mplayer (preferences), nothing I tried made any difference to the dots. Finally I thought that maybe Beryl was causing the issue, so I turned it off by re-enabling Gnome (metacity) and low and behold, the video that was still playing with dots, now had no dots ! (to re-enable Gnome metacity, right click on beryl manager, choose 'select window manager' and then choose 'Gnome (metacity)'.

However, I still get the fatal error when opening a video with mplayer via it's internal browser or by right-clicking in nautilus and selecting open with 'Mplayer Movie Player', So I can only play video's with mplayer via cli. It seems that the mplayer issue above (error when trying to open a video via a right click and choose 'Open with Mplayer movie player' is weirder than I thought. If i double click on the same video it opens in Totem and plays fine. Changing the video prefs in Mplayer didn't help either, so I decided to try changing how it opens content. I right clicked a video, and chose 'open with other application', I then clicked on the 'use a custom command' triangle and typed 'mplayer' with no quotes. Guess what ?, now when I right click on a video, I get the option to open with the following choices (text in parenthesis added by me):-

Open with Movie Player (totem)
Open with mplayer (the one i just added)
Open with Mplayer Movie Player (the one that doesnt work)
Open with other application

If i select mplayer from the list above, the video opens with no problems. Strange... After some more troubleshooting, I've now figured out that the mplayer issue isn't with mplayer but gmplayer. If i start a video via mplayer in CLI it works fine, if I try to open the same video using gmplayer in CLI I get the error:-

with mplayer=plays the video
with gmplayer=error > Error opening/initializing the selected video_out (-vo) device.

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reading (g)mail with evolution

Ok, that's enough video stuff for now, time to access my gmail via Evolution. But first I sign in to the gmail account and click on 'settings' and then 'Forwarding and pop'. I set it to Enabled (Enable POP for all mail (even mail that's already been downloaded)). Once done, I fire up Evolution. And configure pop and smtp with the settings in the screenshots below (most choices are optional, so look at them carefully.) Cool stuff really !

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bittorrent and no firewall

For a change, I decided to take it easy and not configure/fix/install anything, so I tested bittorent in Ubuntu, and guess what, it worked, first time, with no questions. But, that did lead me to check the firewall status which apparently is non-existant (and yes I'm aware of the Firestarter application):-

root@anyweb-laptop:~# iptables -L
Chain INPUT (policy ACCEPT)
target prot opt source destination

Chain FORWARD (policy ACCEPT)
target prot opt source destination

Chain OUTPUT (policy ACCEPT)
target prot opt source destination

Why are there no iptables rules defined at all?, seems strange in a modern day linux distro (much like the lack of default screensaver password) described earlier. On another note, here's a screenshot of my current Ubuntu desktop:-

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Can I watch TV ?

I tested an Avermedia USB 2.0 TV box today with ubuntu. It wasn't recognised by the OS as far as I could tell via lsusb so I tried some guides on http://linuxtv.org but it seems that my particular model of USB tv tuner is not supported (not listed on their Hardware compatibility list). I may look into this later, but either way I'm not too fussed as I also had the same issue with it via FCR6, I plugged it into the Ubuntu laptop to see if anything had changed, and well, nope, nothing has changed. And yes I did try the System/Administration/Restricted Drivers Manager but it just told me nothing was found (more or less).

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Docking the laptop

I am lucky enough to have a docking station for my laptop, complete with external LCD, speakers and so on, so I wanted to test docking the laptop and I presume the correct way of doing that would be to boot the laptop while docked, but for the laugh I'm going to dock it while still powered on and with some uptime since my last reboot:-

anyweb@anyweb-laptop:~$ uptime
00:01:01 up 7 days, 9:20, 2 users, load average: 0.16, 0.29, 0.16

The docking didn't go too well, when I connected it (powered on) to the docking station there was no video on the external lcd so I cycled through the FN F8 keystrokes and still nada. Finally I restarted X with ctrl_alt_backspace and then, when I pressed FN F8 the laptops lcd went black and that was it, no video externally either. I tried those keystrokes some more times and nothing was happening. Finally I pressed the power button on the laptop with the hope that it would gracefully shutdown (seeing as I could not SEE anything). That didn't work however so I had to do a dirty shutdown by holding in the power button.

However, once I powered it back on, I had video on the external LCD while docked, so that was cool, however, no audio, so I check all settings in Volume Control 2.18.0 and nothing makes a difference until I connect my speaker cable direct to the laptop.

The Ubuntu update icon informed me that I have new updates available so I chose to install them. The updates look interesting and are related to HAL (hardware abstraction layer) so this could be exciting. While I'm waiting for the updates to install I move a window around (as xgl is now re-enabled after the reboot) and really enjoy the wobbly effects that it offers especially seeing it on a 19 inch LCD. The spinning cube desktop effect is also very nicely done even on this lowly laptop.

>> Part III (Days 11-15)

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anyweb First draft: June 04, 2007.