Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Temporary Band-Aid

As with many other users of the wonderful Remote Desktop feature, I was afflicted with the broken refresh while 3D effects are enabled on the host computer. This is a problem that began when Ubuntu 9.04 was released. Basically, when logging in to the host computer remotely, Vino decides that it does not want to refresh the screen because 3D effects are enabled. If 3D effects are disabled, the screen refresh will start working normally. I'm sure that there is a lot more involved with this that I don't completely understand, but I know that it's been quite annoying for me.

Honestly, it should have been fixed by now, but I digress...

For the entire time that I was using Jaunty and for a few weeks into the release of Karmic, I didn't know what to do. Then I finally did a Google search that produced an amazing result! Here is the temporary "band-aid" that I discovered..

On the host computer...

Applications > System Tools > Configuration Editor

If you don't have the Configuration Editor installed, do a simple

sudo apt-get install gconf-editor

Once the Configuration Editor is open you will need to navigate to

desktop > gnome > remote_access

From here, the check box called disable_xdamage needs to be checked. After that you will be able to remotely access the host computer with refresh.

Happy Remote Accessing!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Favorite User

One topic of discussion that seems to surface every once in a while is, How many people out there use linux? To be honest, answering that question is next to impossible. It cannot be tracked by how may times the operating system was downloaded because one person can download the same OS multiple times. Not to mention that person could have downloaded it one time and then installed it on several different people's computers. It also cannot be tracked by how many people contacted the maker of the OS and asked for a free Live CD. The end user can again install the OS onto multiple people's computers using the same Live CD. However I can tell you how many people use linux.....


It's easily over a million users world wide, and if it's not...it should be!

I have to tell you though, there really is one user that stands out above them all. My Wife. That's right, my wife is also a user, and even though she would never tell you....she enjoys linux. She is not my favorite user simply because she's an amazingly wonderful woman, but also because she's genuinely a fan of linux at this point. She uses it everyday at home and even on her laptop.

I remember that I mentioned to her that I wanted to get her a netbook with a built-in webcam so that she could use that to call me at home on my webcam. I was planning on getting a netbook for her with Windows XP installed on it (the program that we use with the webcam is for Windows or Mac only) and then I could answer the call in my Virtual Machine running Windows 7 beta. Here's a small part of the conversation we had:

Me: So we'll get you that netbook.
Me: Then we'll run the Z-PC100 in that.
Wife: Can you install Ubuntu on it?
Me: Really? You...want...Ubuntu on it?
Wife: Well, yea.
Wife: I've gotten so used to it that I don't want Windows on it.

How awesome is that! She actually asked for linux to be installed on her future netbook. I have to tell you, that makes me very happy. My wife is amazing.

Firefox Fields

If people are anything like myself, they like to change the default theme that Ubuntu uses. As much as I appreciate the hard work that the art team does, I'm not that big a fan of the default theme. Personally I prefer darker themes, most of my electronics are black and I feel comfortable around a darker theme.

However, there has always been a "flaw," at least in mine and my wife's eyes, with using a darker theme in Ubuntu. This flaw is with Firefox. You see, by nature Firefox for Ubuntu incorporates the theme of the environment into itself. Meaning, if you change the desktop theme, Firefox will follow suit. Sometimes when a darker theme is used, Firefox will have dark entry fields to type into. For the most part the text color will be something of the lighter nature and it's ok, but once in a while I will stumble upon a website that has a dark entry field and dark colors for the entry field text. Needless to say, in my case this causes a lot of typos.

I'm getting tired of highlighting what I typed...

Here is my solution for fixing this "flaw."

Navigate to /home/username/.mozilla/firefox/~/chrome

Replace username with your computer login username.
Replace ~ with the crazy folder name that's located in your firefox directory. For example, mine was 5ts89n7i.default

Now open userContent-example.css
Replace everything in the file with this: (Note: If you already have a custom userContent.css file, this will not work for you.)
/* Smooth Scrolling Workaround: Disable Fixed Background Images on Pages */

input {
border: 2px inset white;
background-color: white;
color: black;
-moz-appearance: none !important;

textarea {
border: 2px inset white;
background-color: white;
color: black;
-moz-appearance: none !important;

select {
border: 2px inset white;
background-color: white;
color: black;
-moz-appearance: none !important;

input[type="checkbox"] {
border: 2px inset white ! important;
background-color: white ! important;
color: ThreeDFace ! important;
-moz-appearance: none !important;

**::-moz-radio {
background-color: white;
-moz-appearance: none !important;

input[type="submit"] {
border: 2px outset white;
background-color: #eeeeee;
color: black;
-moz-appearance: none !important;

body {
background-color: white;
color: black;
display: block;
margin: 8px;
-moz-appearance: none !important;

@namespace url("http://www.mozilla.org/keymaster/gatekeeper/there.is.only.xul"); /* set default namespace to XUL */
Now save the file as userContent.css

Restart ALL sessions of Firefox that are running.

Your entry fields should now look like this...
I am still working to tweak a few more things, but this should definitely get the ball rolling for you as it has done for me.

What I'd like to tweak still:
  • Check box background color
  • Upload file entry field
  • Radio buttons
If anyone else has a fix for this already, I'm all eyes...

Friday, October 23, 2009


After making my switch from Windows, One of the things that I really missed having was a quality music player. In Windows I had always used iTunes to organize and listen to my music. Then I made the switch and quickly realized that iTunes pretty much did not exist for me any longer. I began searching around to find the new music player that was going to be my replacement for iTunes.

I started out using Rythmbox and for a default music player, it's quite a nice program. It has some pretty nice features, like the ability to listen to internet radio. Also it was able to scrobble with my last.fm account and even play songs from there. However, I began to feel that it was not the right program for me. I don't feel that the method used to organize my music was up to par and to me that's pretty important. I them began searching again...

After searching around for another program to try and use, I stumbled on Amarok. In the beginning I thought it was great. It was able to scrobble my last.fm and it managed my music collection to my satisfaction. The next thing I say may make people think that I am vain, but to each his own... The biggest reason why I stopped using Amarok was because I use Gnome, and as most people know Amarok is designed for KDE. This fact does not allow the program to really mesh with my desktop enviornment. That's also something that is very important to me. I like uniformity, and Amarok was breaking things for me. My search continues...

One thing I have not talked about yet it my loyalty to Mozilla. I think that Mozilla is a fantastic company and the software that they create is phonomenal. So when I discovered that Mozilla was creating a music player, I naturaly wanted to give it a try. Songbird was brought to me...

In the beginning it was pretty rough, it had it's share of bugs. However, it's a Mozilla product, Mozilla has quite a good track record of fixing their bugs... I persisted. Over time the bugs went away and the program really started to take shape and mature. One of the best things about Mozilla is the fact that it is open source software. This gives people the ability to create extentions for it, the same way that Firefox, Sunbird, & Thunderbird have extentions. I was able to modify the program to completely fulfill all of my needs and desires in a music player. Except one...

One of the biggest drawbacks about Songbird is that it does not have GTK+ integration yet. This was almost ok since there are plenty of feathers (themes) to choose from. However, my desktop got to a point when the color scheme just did not match any of the available feathers out there. Needless to say, I was quite bummed out.... until I discovered a special extention that saved me...

Enter System...

I don't know if people call System a feather or something else, but it definately made me quite happy. You see, System, allows Songbird to integrate with the computers current color scheme. Notice that I used the word "computer" and not Ubuntu. The reason for this is because System was originally designed in Windows and is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows. I must say, it works quite well too. It matches my desktop enviornment almost flawlessly. There are a few oddities in the extention, but the creator seems to work quite dillegently on getting those things squared away.

If you're in the hunt for a quality music player, I strongly suggest using Songbird, It's well worth it.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


During my time in the Windows operating system, there were many times in which I needed an art program to do one of many different things. One of the biggest things that I do is create Power Point presentations at work. In these presentations I use a lot of visual examples of what I'm trying to tell my audience (You would be surprised how many people don't read the words of an instruction manual and instead just follow the pictures).

Back then I was trying to use Windows Paint. If you don't remember Windows Paint, It was that little program that could barely handle the simple task of Cropping a photo. Needless to say, it was not worth using any longer. Then I made the switch to Ubuntu and discovered GIMP.

Here's a little description of the program shown on GIMP's website...

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.

GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

I have to say, GIMP is quite the amazing program. It has saved me so much time, but more importantly headache, when I create my instruction manuals. But other than that, GIMP has allowed me the ability to touch up pictures so that they look flawless, I've also used it to create favicons for websites.

The only thing about the programs that really bothered me was that I was not able to use it while I was at work using Windows XP. I was still stuck making everything on my personal computer at home or using RealVNC to access my computer at home and then email the finished product back to my work station. This is when I discovered something wonderful.....

GIMP is written and developed under X11 on UNIX platforms. But basically the same code also runs on MS Windows and Mac OS X.
That's right folks. GIMP is not only available for Linux, but also for Mac OS X and Windows. My life has become so much better/easier after discovering GIMP. Give it a shot....trust me.


Please note that this is NOT me creating this video. Created by GIMP Know How.

OpenShot Video Editor

When I made my transition to Ubuntu there were quite a few hurdles that I needed to jump. One of these hurdles was finding a good video editor. There were some other programs that I tried first, but they just didn't cut it for me. They either didn't have the features that I was looking for, or they were just too clunky and not very user friendly. Then I stumbled on to a thread in the Ubuntu Forums that talked about good video editors that are available. One of the posters mentioned OpenShot. Since this was the only one that I had not heard of yet, I decided to give it a whirl.

People always say that your first impression of something is always the most important one. Well my first impression of this program was purely based on it's visual layout. Needless to say, the program looked really nice. It has a great layout and looking at it's features you can see that it's quite robust.

Here is a little snippet from Linux and Free software
OpenShot is a video editor for Linux. The project was started by Jonathan Thomas in 2008. The goal of OpenShot is to be a free, stable and user friendly video editor. It is licensed under GNU general public license. OpenShot supports many video and audio file formats. You can resize, trim and cut clips. There are also video transitions with real time previews and many other features.

Over time the program has grown by leaps and bounds. The creator has added the ability to combine your video with special effects and they have also recently added their own PPA giving users the chance to install and have the program updated more easily.

One of the things that I find to be very important to me is having the choice of stripping the audio out of an imported video and then add my own audio track in the background. With OpenShot, I have the ability to do this plus much more. Long story short, I suggest giving this program a try. You wont be let down.