Friday, December 14, 2007

The Way It's Meant to be Played

Among computer gamers and 3d-application aficionados, the question of which video card to buy is not as much a question as which manufacturer to go with. The primary two video graphics producers are ATI and Nvidia. Having owned both brands of video cards, it is hard for me to say which is better. Because their differences are so slight, the question you'd ask is, which logo do I like better? Although that is just in humor, both cards do have their differences. One company focuses on one aspect like the number of pipelines, whereas the other company focuses on the bits of the card - 256bit, 512bit, and so-on-and-so-forth.

I am not going to tell you which card is better, because new video cards are always being released - almost every week. But I will tell you my experience with one card I am quite happy with.

Earlier on another post, I talked about the Nvidia 7600 GT I bought. Well, I won't talk about how great of a deal it was, or all the features it has, because frankly, I already did. Instead, I will tell you about how great this card has performed while in Windows, as well as in Linux.

The card works in Windows. That is obvious. The drivers are great, Oblivion is pretty, Half-Life 2 is extremely fast. But in Linux is where I have grown a deeper respect for the card, as well as for Linux overall. Ubuntu has a new system of supporting non-free drivers if the user should so choose to. Well, I figured, shoot, I want 3d-graphics, I'll support Nvidia's non-open-source driver. It was two clicks and a reboot for me to have a 3d-desktop working perfectly in Ubuntu 7.10.

However, I did not know that I would get all the goodies that the Windows driver package has as well. For those of you who like the Nvidia settings, this will mean something to you. When you enable the Nvidia non-free drivers in Ubuntu, the 3d-settings are enabled, but also a tool from Nvidia is now able to be used. Before you use this tool, I would suggest you install something else, for your benefit. I suggest you install the Sysinfo tool. To install it, simply type this in the console:

sudo apt-get install sysinfo

Then open the tool by typing sysinfo, or selecting from the menu, Applications -> System Tools -> Sysinfo

This tool alone is the equivalent to many system info tools that would cost you $20 or more for the same functionality in Windows. You'll see an Nvidia button on the left-hand side of this application.

When you click the button, You'll see an Nvidia settings tool open. Within this tool you have many options, like anti-aliasing, Digital Vibrance to change the color-intensity, and so on.

If you did not want to install sysinfo, you can still access the Nvidia tool by typing in the terminal "nvidia-settings".

For any of the settings you specify within this tool, you will want those settings to automatically load at startup. To do this, go to System -> Preferences -> Sessions

Click on the "Startup Programs" tab, and then click on "Add". Type whatever you want for the name, but for the command type in "nvidia-settings -l" and it will load the settings without launching the nvidia-settings application.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The (Future) Best Media Player

I love searching the net for great information, and I just happened to stumble upon something like that. Mozilla, who is responsible for the creation of Firefox and Thunderbird, now is putting out a new project - Songbird.

Songbird bears an uncanny resemblance to Apple's iTunes, while proudly bearing the name of the Mozilla family tree. Songbird is currently in a development state, but it is currently available for download Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Why would this program become widely used? People, like me, have a computer with more than one operating system on it. I have Windows and Ubuntu Linux; other people have a Mac with Windows XP or Vista on it. The great thing about cross-platform software is familiarity and friendliness. Songbird, like Firefox and Thunderbird, is about being widely available to all computer users, regardless of operating system. My web browser of choice is Firefox, regardless of what computer or OS I am using. The same most likely could be with Songbird.

Straight out of the box (in Windows) Songbird supports playback 0f Windows Media files and Quicktime files. Upon install, it will automatically download and install the necessary packages based upon the options you choose.

If Mozilla creates this piece of software to be lightweight, fast, bug-free (for the most part), and very useful - which is why people use Firefox - this will be yet another friendly tool that can be used cross-platform.

Perhaps iTunes and Windows Media Player 11 might want to jump on the bandwagon. DRM is already becoming a thing of yesterday, so why not just let all users purchase the music they love anyways? (It would either be that, or the old-fashioned way - Limewire, Frostwire, Bittorrent, or whatever else is out there that people already would use for music.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Free Bootable Partition Editor

If any of you are like me, you like to toy around with more than one operating system on any given PC. The best balance on a machine is Windows with Linux. It's like the Yin and Yang. (Sometimes Windows and Linux switch parts as to who is Yin and Yang, but they both balance each other.)

If you are also like me, than you may also be toying around with partitions too much. In my case, I decided to move completely from Ubuntu on my primary hard drive, and I am going to install a second drive completely for Ubuntu and it's goodness. While inside Ubuntu (or any flavor of Linux), a great free and open-source tool (as always) comes packaged with it called GParted. However, in Windows, there is no such a thing as a free partition editor that works well and won't destroy your harddrive. But wait. There must be, otherwise this article is about nothing.

I happened to stumble upon GParted's site at Sourceforge, and they already created a LiveCD made to boot fast, use few resources, and get your disk partitioned they way you want it in no time at all. The actual specs, according to GParted's site are as follows:

The CD aims to be fast, small in size (~50mb), and use minimal resources
to get that disk partitioned the way you want it. GParted LiveCD is based
on Gentoo-catalyst, and uses Xorg,the lightweight Fluxbox window manager,
and the latest 2.6 Linux Kernel.

The GParted LiveCD can currently support the following filesystems:
  • ext2
  • ext3
  • fat16
  • fat32
  • hfs
  • hfs+
  • jfs
  • linux-swap
  • NTFS
  • reiserfs
  • reiser4
  • ufs
  • xfs

From a Windows user's perspective, if I wanted to partition a hard drive in NTFS or move, resize, or merge an NTFS partition, this LiveCD can now support it. Since this CD is only around 50mb in size, it is even possible to load the image onto a USB flash drive and if your computer can boot from USB media, that will save you a blank CD, while extending the usefulness of a flash drive a bit further.

In my personal experience, I deleted a Linux ext3 partition, and resized (or extended) the NTFS partition on the drive to the entire disk. However, there is some difficulty in getting the video to work correctly while booted into this LiveCD. It appears there is support for Intel, HP machines, and VESA graphics, but not for Nvidia or ATI. But booting to the preset VESA setting still worked for me, just with a very dim display.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

If In Doubt, Just Install the Beta?

A few times I have run into roadblocks where a certain piece of hardware that is unpopular is unsupported by Ubuntu. As discouraging as that may sound, I am determined to get it working. After experiencing Ubuntu and what it can do, and what any person can make it do, I fell in love with it, and will not easy run away from Ubuntu. Well, I have an Edimax 7128G PCI wireless card for my desktop PC (because I'm too lazy to run a wire, and now I can do wired or wireless :) ). This wireless card is not as widely used as the Intel Pro Wireless card or some other bigger name brand. There turns out to be a built in driver for the card in Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty) called RT61, but my card still won't work. It won't use the WPA encryption (even though I use it in Windows) and it won't connect. I had resolved to leave that partition on my HDD for Ubuntu, and switch back to it when it was up and working. A couple days ago I decided to download the Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy) Beta and install it. I figured, "What do I have to lose?".

To make a long story short, I'll tell you this: I am writing this on the internet on that computer with Ubuntu 7.10 Beta. It works. So if you ever have hardware that just is not quite working right and have the time and hard drive space to dual boot, try the latest beta of Ubuntu and see how it works. You just might be surprised.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Running Oblivion With A Less-than-Par Video Card

I eventually ran into the guys at Oldblivion and found my solution.

A few days ago, I purchased Oblivion. (Props, Walmart) I eagerly installed the game, and then tried to run it. The game started to launch, a little black square appeared in the top left corner, and then I saw the classic Windows XP error reporting tool. Oh how I love seeing that tool...

Here is a brief summary of my hardware:

Pentium D 805 2.67 GHz
1 GB DDR2 667 RAM
250 GB HDD
Asus P5L-MX Motherboard
Intel 950 Integrated Graphics

The biggest thwart in my computer's side is the Intel integrated graphics chip. The video card is great for normal Windows use; it is even Windows Vista ready. But for gaming, this card does the bare-minimums. It can run older games fine, but when it comes to the more modern games that require DirectX 9.0C to run, this card is horrible.

But back to Oblivion, I could not get the game to start due to my Intel graphics chipset. Oblivion did not even recognize the card to run. Apparently, Oblivion will only run if a video card can support hardware Transform and Lighting 2.0, which rules the Intel 950 out. I eventually ran into the guys at Oldblivion and found my solution.

I downloaded the Oldblivion tool and found their latest version only worked with Oblivion up to version 1.1.511, so I patched the game up to that version with the patch I found here.

Oldblivion installs with a configuration tool, and here is the screen you would see:

To even run the game, you must have the following checkboxes checked:

However, I strongly recommend you upgrade your video card to something that will play this better. Some video cards will cost you an arm and a leg, but if you play your cards right, you'll find a good deal on a decent video card.

Here is the card I'm going to be buying from Newegg:

If you do not know which card to get, I suggest you do your research. The articles at Guru3d have proven to be invaluable, as well as the advice from the users at the Guru3d forums. Make sure you know what your motherboard can support and how much many watts your power supply can provide - factors that involve whether or not you can even use a particular video card.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


If somebody asked my why I thought Mac's were good, I would sum it up in one word - engineered. Sure OSX is a sweet operating system on the Mac's. Sure everything runs smooth.

But why?

Apple doesn't just sell an operating system. They don't just sell sexy looking computers like the Macbook, they sell computers (including iPods, iPhones, and so on) that are designed for their operating system. (Hence why you can't buy it by itself or easily put it on another computer.)

In previous blog about Dell and Ubuntu, I mentioned that on Dell's site, you can now buy a machine that comes preloaded with my personal favorite operating system. The preloaded PC's ship with the latest version of Ubuntu on the machine, ready to fire away.

Dell PC's with Ubuntu is like an Apple. It's smart. It's engineered.

I have nothing against Windows - it's a great operating system and will continue to be for a long time. Windows is serving businesses worldwide and always will be, but it Windows is on a huge hardware market. New types of processors, new hardware, and even the no-name branded hardware is always being released everyday. Microsoft has a huge race that only Microsoft could run. It's doing well to accommodate for the hardware it can be put on.

Instead, Apple went a different route. They went for specific hardware that only Apple decides can be used, and now Dell makes PC's tailored to best run Ubuntu, with room to tweak some hardware peripherals.

Ubuntu has been evolving like a baby, and over the past couple years, I have witnessed it firsthand growing and becoming more user-friendly and more compatible with certain hardware (like the Dell Inspiron 6000 I'm using right now). Now, I can pop the Ubuntu install CD in my computer and in 15 or so minutes, everything is working as it should, with no drivers to install or anything. It just works.

Engineered for greatness, tailored for speed.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dell + Ubuntu = Smart

As I'm sure many of you already know, Dell is releasing PC's with Ubuntu pre-loaded on the PC. Purchasing a new notebook or desktop has always been an easy process while shopping with Dell, but they just made it a lot easier for the Linux enthusiast and the overall wiser crowd.

Ubuntu is free. It always has, it always will be - just read the logo that appears on the back of the CD case:

"Ubuntu is software libre. You are encouraged and legally entitled to copy, reinstall, modify, and redistribute this CD for yourself and your friends. Share the spirit of Ubuntu!"

Therefore, since Ubuntu is most definitely free, why wouldn't you purchase a PC from Dell with this operating system already installed. If the price doesn't move you enough, would knowing that Ubuntu is the best operating system (and Linux distribution) available? I'm sorry all other Linux OS'es, but Ubuntu has it all.

Additionally, as I type this, I am using a Dell Inspiron 6000 with a Pentium M, Intel Graphics Board, and the Intel wireless card. I have found no hardware that is not working the way it should with Ubuntu installed. If I could some it up in one word, it would be seamless. It's smooth.

Ok, I'm off my soapbox, but for real, Dell's selling PC's with Ubuntu already loaded up, so if you are looking for a new PC and don't want to fight the battle of "I wonder if this wireless card will work in Linux", then stop by Dell's site and treat yourself. Get a new PC with Ubuntu.

Amarok Music Manager in Feisty

Now that Ubuntu Feisty (7.04) has been released to the public and Ubuntu's famed ShipIt program, several major improvements have occurred.

No longer does a man or woman's fingertips have to sweat from minutes of typing relentless commands to build, make, make install (or checkinstall) their favorite music manager. No longer does mankind have to wish they knew what "make install" or "checkinstall" meant and what language it comes from... least when it comes to installing Amarok with MTP and all the other cool bells and whistles, the installation is so easy, a caveman with a PC can do it.

Here goes.

1) Let's install.

sudo apt-get install libmtp5 libmtp-dev amarok

2) Connect. Play. Enjoy. (step 2 is all up to you)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Rhythmbox Music Manager

Well, Nic has brought it to my attention of the new capability to install Rhythmbox with PlaysforSure support. Anybody with Ubuntu (not Kubuntu) will already have Rhythmbox installed. It is the default music manager for Ubuntu, and is full of features. The latest version has even more features.

The rest of this post will explain how to install the latest and greatest RB with MTP (PlaysForSure) support and all the other goods.

Here's a quick run-down of the improvements on MTP in Rhythmbox:
  • It works. (awesome enough)
  • There is not much lag when it is scanning the device (maybe 15 seconds at the longest)
  • You can play straight from the device
  • You can send/recieve from device

This guide is for Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty).

1) Let's make sure we have the goods needed

sudo aptitude purge rhythmbox

sudo apt-get install build-essential gnome-common subversion libmtp5 libmtp-dev

sudo apt-get build-dep rhythmbox

2) Now we need to get the latest version of Rhythmbox

svn co rhythmbox
cd rhythmbox

3) And now the install

./ --with-mtp
sudo make
sudo make install

4) Plugin your player, run your new Rhythmbox for the first time, and make sure you go to Edit > Plugins and enable "Portable Players - MTP"

5) Enjoy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Amarok 2.0

On Amarok's web site they mention the next release of Amarok - 2.0. It is planned to be released for Linux, Mac and Windows - a smart way to share the love. They claim the release will be in April, so get ready guys, because when it releases, I'll place a how-to here for you.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Amarok Music Manager

History Lesson

I am currently running Ubuntu Edgy (6.10). As stated in the previous article, I have a Creative Zen Xtra PlaysForSure (MTP) device. PlaysForSure started out as a strictly Microsoft-only thing, but then an open-source library called libmtp came into the scene.

Amarok rocks your face off.

Another Fact:
Amarok supports almost every type of portable music player. Including PlaysForSure devices.

Why I'm writing this:
I have just recently installed the latest version of Amarok from source into my Ubuntu distribution (Edgy). The latest and greatest version supports all of these portable devices, whereas the one in the Ubuntu repositories does not. To see a full feature list, visit Amarok's main site.

The rest of this article will focus on how to set up and install the latest version of Amarok from source into Ubuntu Edgy (6.10).

The next release - Feisty (7.04) - will come with a version of Amarok that will support PlaysForSure (MTP) devices.

For each of the command's given, copy and paste each line into a terminal window.

i) You must have the repositories enabled to do anything else. Note that you will need the administrator password for all of this as well.
- Click on System --> Administration --> Software Sources
- Make sure all of the check in the first tab under "Internet" are checked.

1) First we must make sure you do not already have Amarok installed.
sudo apt-get remove amarok amarok-xine

If you have previously installed amarok with checkinstall and a different package name, use Synaptic to find it and remove it.

2) Installing the necessary tools to build Amarok
*NOTE - this step will require approximately 160mb of hard disk space.
*Thanks Cigar_Jack on the correction.
sudo apt-get install build-essential checkinstall
sudo apt-get build-dep amarok

2a) Installing the latest version of libmtp from source.
- Travel to and download libmtp to your desktop.
- Right-click the archive and select "Extract here"
- Then do these commands:
sudo apt-get remove libmtp2 libmtp-dev #Thanks to oxyrosis at ubuntuforums!
cd /home/$USER/Desktop/libmtp*
sudo checkinstall #I named it libmtp-built, to avoid any problems

2b) Installing the latest version of libgpod from source.
- Travel to and download libgpod to your desktop.
- Right-click the archive and select "Extract here"
- Then do these commands:
cd /home/$USER/Desktop/libgpod*
sudo checkinstall #I named it libgpod-built for the same reason as above.

3) Download the file.
- Browse to
- Click on tarball
- Click on a local mirror.
- Create a folder on your desktop called Amarok
- Click on the file "amarok-1.x.x.tar.bz2" and save it into the folder
- Browse to the folder, right-click the file, and click on "Extract Here"

4) Install the program
- For the last command, make sure you rename the package before hitting enter the third time. Don't leave the package named as "amarok" - Ubuntu will "update" it to the older version. Instead, rename it to "amarok-built" or something different than "amarok". Just follow the on screen directions and you should be ok.

sudo chown -R $USER:$USER /home/$USER/Desktop/Amarok
cd /home/$USER/Desktop/Amarok
cd amarok*
./configure --with-libnjb --with-libmtp --with-libgpod --prefix=`kde-config --prefix`
sudo checkinstall

This how-to was written with the help of this how-to at ubuntuforums:

Linux and PlaysForSure Mp3 Players

Well, I have found myself busy to the core with class, work, church and various other commitments. Just the other day, however, I noticed how much Linux distributions - Ubuntu, my favorite - are welcoming more and more devices that used to require Windows XP.

Namely, PlaysForSure.

If you do not own an iPod, but rather have some other portable music player, odds are it is a PlaysForSure player (regardless of brand).

I happen to own one of those players. I own a Creative Zen Xtra mp3 player that was updated to the PlaysForSure protocol. When I first crossed to Ubuntu, I found myself stuck on the issue regarding music and my mp3 player. I had seen my switch to Ubuntu as a sacrifice that balanced out, even without mp3 player support. This was about a year ago.

One of the many great applications written for Linux - Gnomad - was written as a way to transfer music to and from a Creative Nomad series jukebox (before PlaysForSure). But, as times change, so did the protocol to access the devices. Once again, Linux is very good at welcoming new people with new devices. The application has since been updated to support PlaysForSure (MTP protocol) devices.

Amarok - what I regard to be the greatest music management program in existence - also has support for MTP devices (in addition to the already present iPod and iRiver devices). All you have to do now is plug in your mp3 player, and boom. It works. You don't need Windows XP SP2, Windows Media Player 11, or even iTunes to synchronize your devices. They all work in the same music player.

Although both of these programs support a PlaysForSure device, there is still room for growth. There is no "synchronize" button to send all of your music in your music library/folder to your device, but there is also a new program in development now, called MTPSync.

Written solely for PlaysForSure devices, MTPSync can take various folders that are specified in the program's settings, and analyze what is already on the portable music player, and only add the ones not present on the player.

This (much easier) support has grown only recently from the past year or so. Looking forward, this once shows how fast the open-source community is working to accommodate new users and technology, to catch up to the "standard" and then innovate new standards for all.