Thursday, 25 September 2008

Install Google Earth in Ubuntu

Google Earth is a brilliant application and its available for Linux. Installation isn't as straight forward as in Windows but it's not that difficult to get it on your Linux machine. There are two ways of installing it, the first method involves downloading the binary package and then executing it and the second method uses the Medibuntu repository.

First Method
  1. Download the Google Earth package for Linux from here.
  2. Open the terminal and change directory to where the file is stored. If you saved it to the desktop, use:

    cd ~/Desktop

  3. Change permission for installer so that you can run, use this command:

    chmod +x GoogleEarthLinux.bin

  4. Finally, start the graphical installer.

    sudo ./GoogleEarthLinux.bin
You will be presented with the following window. From here on it's pretty straight forward.

Second Method
  1. You need to add the Medibuntu repository, you can find out how to do that here. If your using Hardy Heron(8.04) then you can use this command to install the repository:

    sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list

  2. Add GPG key:

    sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get update

  3. Install:

    sudo apt-get install googleearth

Add Google Earth to Application Menu

Once you have installed it using either of the two methods, you can add it to the application menu for easy access.
  1. Goto System>Preferences>Main Menu.
  2. Choose the sub menu you want and press 'New Item', use the details shown below. The command is googleearth.

That's it. Enjoy.

EMdrive: Microwave Propulsion

There has been a lot of controversy around a claim by a British scientist who says he has found a way to create thrust from electrical energy via microwaves.

Roger Shawyer is not some crank you can dismiss out of hand, he is a real scientist who has worked for companies such as EADS Astrium as a program manager. However, a lot of researchers have criticized his work, saying that his idea violates some important principles in physics.

Here is the principle of operation in his own words:

"At first sight the idea of propulsion without propellant seems impossible. However the technology is firmly anchored in the basic laws of physics and following an extensive review process, no transgressions of these laws have been identified.

The principle of operation is based on the well-known phenomenon of radiation pressure. This relies on Newton’s Second Law where force is defined as the rate of change of momentum. Thus an electromagnetic (EM) wave, traveling at the speed of light has a certain momentum which it will transfer to a reflector, resulting in a tiny force.

If the same EM wave is traveling at a fraction of the speed of light, the rate of change of momentum, and hence force, is reduced by that fraction. The propagation velocity of an EM wave, and the resulting force it exerts, can be varied depending on the geometry of a waveguide within which it travels. This was demonstrated by work carried out in the 1950’s. (CULLEN, A.L. ‘Absolute Power Measurements at Microwave Frequencies’ IEE Proceedings Vol 99 Part 1V 1952 P.100)

Thus if the EM wave traveling in a tapered waveguide is bounced between two reflectors, with a large velocity difference at the reflector surfaces, the force difference will give a resultant thrust to the waveguide linking the two reflectors. If the reflectors are separated by a multiple of half the effective wavelength of the EM wave, this thrust will be multiplied by the Q of the resulting resonant cavity, as illustrated in fig 1.

The inevitable objection raised, is that the apparently closed system produced by this arrangement cannot result in an output force, but will merely produce strain within the waveguide walls. However, this ignores Einstein’s Special Law of Relativity in which separate frames of reference have to be applied at velocities approaching the speed of light. Thus the system of EM wave and waveguide can be regarded as an open system, with the EM wave and the waveguide having separate frames of reference.

A similar approach is necessary to explain the principle of the laser gyroscope, where open system attitude information is obtained from an apparently closed system device. "

You don't need a physics degree to know that this seems to be violating the principle of conservation of momentum, but Roger Shawyer is claiming that Special Relativity allows such an effect.

Some Chinese researchers say they have verified the theory behind the idea, they have done simulations which apparently shows a net force being produced, and they also claim to be currently manufacturing a thruster based on this principle.

I am doubtful that such a thing will work, however I do not know enough about Special Relativity to comment any further. But, if the theory behind it is sound and they manage to create such a device, it could revolutionize the space industry. Creating thrust without the need for propellant is the holy grail of propulsion physics.

Speedup Application Startup Times with Preload

There are some applications that you use more often than others, the browser or media player for example. There is an application available that monitors what applications you use and after establishing the most recurring applications, it will load them faster in the future.

"preload is an adaptive readahead daemon. It monitors applications that users run, and by analyzing this data, predicts what applications users might run, and fetches those binaries and their dependencies into memory for faster startup times."

To install Preload in Ubuntu you can use the following command:

sudo aptitude install preload

I have been using it for a few months now and have seen a noticable decrease in the time it takes to load Firefox, Openoffice and Gimp. Not everyone will see a difference, if you have an older computer with 512mb or more this application may come in handy. As cool as this application is, it will not make your computer boot up any faster. Preload may take some time to establish a pattern so be a little patient.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Things to do After Installing Ubuntu

No operating system will come exactly the way you want it, there is always things to tweak or add so that it looks and behaves to your needs. Here, I want to go through some of the things I do immediately after installing/upgrading to a new version of Ubuntu. The following has been done in Ubuntu 8.04.

Change Panel Layout

I am one of those people who likes to have only one panel at the bottom. I remove the bottom panel and then drag the top one down. I then add a 'window list' item to the panel while replacing the 'menu bar' with the more compact 'main menu' applet.

Finally, I add a transparent background image to the panel. You can do this by right-clicking on the panel and selecting 'properties'. The panel background I use can be found here.

Add Deleted Items Icon to Desktop

By default, the deleted items icon is placed on the bottom panel. I like to have it on the desktop, you can see how to do this here.

Change Wallpaper and Theme

If your not fond of the brown theme or wallpaper, you can easily change it to the look you want. Simply right-click on the desktop and select 'Change Desktop Background'.

You can find hundreds of themes and wallpapers over at GNOME look. The theme I am using is called Glossy P.

Enable Desktop Effects and Install Compiz Settings Manager

Compiz has been built into Ubuntu since version 7.10. The effects you get by default are very watered down. If your graphics card can handle it, you can go ahead and enable more advanced effects such as wobbly windows or have applications burn away when you close them. To enable the effects goto System>Preferences>Appearance.

This window doesn't give you a lot of options, to customize things even further you will need the compiz settings manager. You can install this by entering the following into your terminal:
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
Once installed, you can access it from System>Preferences>Advanced Desktop Effects Settings.

Install WINE

Just because you're using Ubuntu doesn't mean you have to leave all your Windows applications behind. I use utorrent as my torrent downloader and since it is only available for Windows, you'll need to install WINE to use it. Ubuntu comes with its own torrent application but I just prefer utorrent.

To get WINE, you need to add its repository to the list of software sources. You can do this by going to System->Administration->Software Sources and under the 'Third Part Software' tab add the following source:

deb hardy main

Reload the repositories and then install WINE from the package manager.

Install Cairo Dock

Cairo is a cool little dock that can make using your computer a lot easier by giving you easy access to applications and files that you use the most.

You can get the Cairo installation files from here, download the latest version of cairo-dock and cairo-dock-plug-ins .deb files for Ubuntu. You can then access it from System Tools>Cairo Dock.

I have positioned it at the top and set it to auto hide when not in use.

The dock appears when the mouse moves across the top edge of the screen, you can reduce the size of the call back zone from the 'Background' tab. Cairo dock also comes with different themes which you can check out.

To get Cairo dock to start when you login to Ubuntu, go to System>Preferences>Sessions and add a new item with the details you see below:

Install Restricted Extras

Due to legal reasons Ubuntu can't include certain audio/video codecs by default, to install those and other things like Java and Flash, open the 'Add/Remove' application.

Next, select to 'Show: All available applications', then search for 'restricted extras'. From the results, tick the package for Ubuntu and hit 'Apply changes'.

Install Microsoft Fonts

I have already written about this here.

Delete Old Kernels and Clean-Up Grub Boot Menu

If you have chosen to upgrade instead of a fresh install, chances are that you will have a crowded Grub boot menu. You can clean up your boot menu by removing old kernels that you do not need, more information here.

Open rar Archives with unrar

I very rarely use rar archives, but if you do need to open a .rar file, you can use the unrar tool. Open up 'Synaptic' and then search and install unrar.

Add Medibuntu Repository

The Medibuntu repository has a lot of useful packages including media playback codecs, Google apps and more. You can find information on how to set it up here.

Install Frostwire

You can download the latest version of the application from its website.

So, that's my installation ritual, anybody have anything else to add?

Friday, 19 September 2008

Toshiba NB100: Ubuntu Netbook

First Dell, now Toshiba have come out with a netbook which will come preloaded with Ubuntu 8.04.

The NB100 packs a 8.9 inch screen and the usual Atom 1.6GHz processor, up to 1 GB RAM, 160 GB hard drive and WiFi b/g.

Not the most impressive netbook, looks or specs wise, but with Ubuntu as default and a price tag around £260 it's not too bad. The device is expected to hit the shelves around October.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Launchy: Application Launcher for Linux

Launchy is another application launcher similar to GNOME Do. Just like GNOME Do; Launchy allows you to quickly open applications, documents or even web pages.

I prefer Launchy over GNOME Do because of its support for themes and the fact that it has a smaller memory footprint.

To install Launchy in Ubuntu, use the following commands:


and then:

sudo dpkg -i launchy_2.1.2-1_i386.deb

You may encounter some problems during installation, if do have missing dependencies- simply use Synaptic to search and install them.

Once installed, the application is located under Accessories > Launchy. To display Launchy press Ctrl + Space.

To customize Launchy; right click on the Launchy window and select options. From here you can change the way Launchy behaves or choose a new skin.

There are 6 skins available by default, my favorite is 'Mercury'.

Delete Old Kernels and Clean-Up Grub Boot Menu

Every time Ubuntu upgrades its kernel the old ones are not removed. This means that over time your Grub boot menu list will grow in size with old kernels. The old kernels may be useful in the event your main one stops working.

Intrepid Ibex will come with a tool that will automatically do the clean-up, but until then you can use the following method.

The first thing you need to do is find out what your current kernel is. You can do this by entering the following command into your terminal:

uname -r

Your should see a result similar to this:


Remember this is your current kernel, the one you want to keep so make a note of it.

Now you need to find the old kernels. You can do this using the Synaptic package manager. Once in Synaptic, search for linux-image-2. You will be presented with a list of the installed kernels, the green boxes next to them indicates which ones are installed. Uncheck all the green boxes, except for the current kernel, selecting "Mark for removal" on each one. Once you are happy with your selection and you are sure you haven't chosen to remove the current kernel, go ahead and hit the apply button.

Some people prefer to leave one old kernel behind just in case the main one fails but that's entirely up to you. The next time you start your computer you should see a much smaller Grub menu.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Sitemeter Rollback

If you use SiteMeter you may be aware that they recently upgraded their website. The new look of the site was hideous and completely unusable. I am not the only one who hates it, soon after the new look came online, hate posts started appearing all over the net. They are now rolling back to the original.

I spent 5 minutes looking at it, trying to figure it out but using it gave me a headache. They must have spent a lot of money designing the new look, whoever they paid clearly has no idea about usability. I would have provided a screenshot but I couldn't log back in and now its gone offline. Just trust me when I say it was hideous.

"We have received and heard your feedback concerning the latest changes to the website. We will implementing a rollback to the website immediately. We will also be responding to each of your support requests as soon as possible. If you have any questions please let us know."

Its only been a few hours since they launched the new website, they must have received some hate mail( feedback as they call it) for such a quick rollback. If they had consulted some users instead of blindingly releasing, they would have saved themselves a lot of hassle.

If you have been affected by this and are looking for an alternative, check out Statcounter or Getclicky.

Update: The classic Sitemeter is back online. Kudos to them for admitting to the mistake and listening to the users.

Sitemeter Blog

Matt Damon on Sarah Palin

Matt Damon's thoughts on Sarah Palin. I must say I agree with his views. The other day I watched a BBC news clip where a Republican Senator compared Sarah Palin to Margaret Thatcher- I laughed.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Convert RPM Files to DEB in Ubuntu

You may come across software that is only available in .RPM format, which you cannot install in Ubuntu as it uses .deb format. There is however a tool called Alien, which can convert RPM files to DEB files.

"Alien is a program that converts between the rpm, dpkg, stampede slp, and slackware tgz file formats. If you want to use a package from another distribution than the one you have installed on your system, you can use alien to convert it to your preferred package format and install it.

Despite the large version number, alien is still (and will probably always be) rather experimental software. It has been used by many people for many years, but there are still many bugs and limitations.

Alien should not be used to replace important system packages, like sysvinit, shared libraries, or other things that are essential for the functioning of your system. Many of these packages are set up differently by Debian and Red Hat, and packages from the different distributions cannot be used interchangeably. In general, if you can't uninstall the package without breaking your system, don't try to replace it with an alien version."

To install the Alien package, make sure the 'Universe' repository is enabled and then enter the following commands into your terminal:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install alien

Now, to install a .rpm file, you need to convert it to .deb. To keep things simple, place your RPM file in your 'Home' folder, otherwise you will have to CD into the directory of the .rpm file. Conversion is done using this command:

sudo alien -k name_of_rpm_file.rpm

Finally, you can install your newly created .deb file:

sudo dpkg -i name_of_deb_file.deb


Ubuntu 9.04 "Jaunty Jackalope"

With the release of 8.10 Intrepid Ibex getting very close, the Ubuntu team have decided to announce the codename of the next version of the operating system. Jaunty Jackalope will be a much bigger leap forward than Intrepid Ibex. My favorite part of the announcement:

"There are some specific goals that we need to meet in Jaunty. One of
them is boot time. We want Ubuntu to boot as fast as possible - both in
the standard case, and especially when it is being tailored to a
specific device. The Jackalope is known for being so fast that it's
extremely hard to catch, and breeds only when lightning flashes. Let's
see if we can make booting or resuming Ubuntu blindingly quick."

I can't wait. Read the full announcement here.

Install Microsoft Fonts in Ubuntu

If like me you use Linux+ OpenOffice at home but are forced to use Microsoft Office at work/ school, you may want to install Microsoft fonts on your Linux machine. This will ensure that a document created in MS Word will look like it's supposed to in OpenOffice. Web browsing will also be a lot smoother as most, if not all, websites are designed with MS fonts in mind.

To get MS fonts you will need to install a package called msttcorefonts. The package contains the following font types:
  • Andale Mono
  • Arial Black
  • Arial (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Comic Sans MS (Bold)
  • Courier New (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Georgia (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Impact
  • Times New Roman (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Trebuchet (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Verdana (Bold, Italic, Bold Italic)
  • Webdings
To install on Ubuntu, you need to first enable the 'Universe' repository. Once you have done that, go ahead and type the following into your terminal:

$sudo apt-get install msttcorefonts

To see the changes you will need to refresh the fonts cache, use the following command:

$sudo fc-cache -fv

If there are any other fonts you wish to install that aren't included in this package, all you have to do is copy the font files to the ~/.fonts/ directory. Enjoy.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

100th Post

I am sure my fan(s) will be delighted to hear that I have finally reached my 100th post on mopedia. I wrote my first post on the first of December 2007 and here we are now 10 months and 99 more posts later.

The site has gone through a lot of changes during that time, I started off with zero CSS and very little HTML knowledge. Along the way I have learned so much about blogging, programming and the topics I write about. The look of my blog has also come a long way from the default template to the customized one that you see now. And I am sure there will be a lot more tweaks and changes to come.

I now look forward to the next 100 posts.

Ubuntu on a Acer Aspire One

Here is a very nice demonstration of Ubuntu running on the Acer Aspire One. The 8.9" netbook has an Intel Atom processor, 1 gig ram, 8 gig storage and Intel GMA 950 graphics.

The default OS of this device is Linpus lite. I have never heard of this Linux distro before but I had a little play around with it in the shops and I think it looks really smart and sleek.

Notice how smoothly Compiz is running. The author also has Photoshop running through Wine.

EEE PC 1000H vs 1000 SSD

When I first decided to buy an eee pc, I had my eyes firmly on the 1000 Linux version. I thought SSD vs HD was a no contest; I just assumed the SSD would be faster, lighter, more durable and less power hungry.

Unfortunately, as it turns out the 1000 Linux version has two separate drives, a fast 8GB and a slow 32GB. As you can see from the tests conducted by jkkmobile, the 32GB SSD has a very poor write performance.

The 32GB is a much cheaper SDHC card. Another advantage the 1000H has over the 1000 is you can use standard 2.5 inch hard disks. Whereas you would need special ZIF to mini pci-e adapters for the 1000.

Here is a video showing the difference between the 1000 and 1000h.

So my advice to anyone looking to buy a 10 inch eee pc is to look at the 1000H. You can always change the OS and if you really want an SSD drive there are plenty of very fast 2.5 inch ones around.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex Features

The next version of Ubuntu has gone into feature freeze; this means that no new features will be added and the focus now is on fixing bugs and polishing things up. So, I thought this would be a good time to compile a list of some of the interesting features we can expect in Intrepid Ibex. However, unlike Hardy Heron, it was much more difficult to pick out the interesting features. There simply isn't a lot to get excited about( for the average user anyway). After spending ages going through the list, I did manage to pluck out a few which I find interesting.

3G Networking Support

A lot of people are predicting that netbooks/laptops with 3G cards are going to be very popular in the future. Having 3G support will allow Ubuntu to be a real alternative to Windows in that area. Version 0.7.x of the Network Manager will also bring better network management.


If like me you dual boot Ubuntu and Windows you may find it annoying that every time there is a kernel upgrade the old kernel is not deleted, this results in a massive boot menu full of old Ubuntu versions. This will thankfully change with Intrepid Ibex. A new tool called system-cleaner will clean up not just old kernels but a whole load of others settings and packages for a better Ubuntu experience.

Better Flash Experience

Although there have been many improvements in this area, Flash in Linux can still be a pain. With this feature, they are aiming to provide users with a more pleasant experience both with installation and usage. There will also be better support for free Flash alternatives; with the long term aim of shipping Ubuntu with a open source Flash alternative.

Guest Account

If you want to allow others to use your computer but have limited user rights; the addition of a guest account by default is a welcome feature. The guest account will have its own 'Home' folder but have restricted system access along with no permanent hard disk storage.

USB Installation Images

If you own a eee pc or any other netbook, installing the next version of Ubuntu should be much simpler than it is now. I am looking forward to buying an eee pc and I'm hoping this feature gets implemented.

Better Login Speed

The time that Ubuntu takes to go from the GDM login prompt to a usable desktop is too long; it should be made faster. A feature that's always welcome.

Kernel Crash Dump

It's very rare but if you do encounter a kernel crash, it will be much easier to provide a bug report with a crash dump file available.

Automatic Printer Driver Download

Instead of shipping with loads of printer drivers included, Intrepid Ibex will automatically download your printer driver package from the OpenPrinting database.

Ubiquity Visual Refresh

I didn't really know what Ubiquity was until I read this feature. Ubiquity, which is the tool you use to install Ubuntu, will get a makeover.

Encrypted Private Directory

Will provide a default location for users to securely store sensitive data using filesystem encryption.

Nautilus Tabs Support

GNOME 2.24.x will bring support for tabs in Nautilus along with the ability to restore files from Trash.

After reading through the list again I guess there is a few things to look forward to. I hope these features make it in the final release. If I have missed anything let me know.

Playdeb: Ubuntu Games Repository

A lot of people new to Linux are under the impression that once you start using a Linux distro you have to abandon any and all gaming. Sure, you won't be playing Crysis like games on Linux anytime soon, however there are plenty of quality games out there.

I don't play games as often as I used to, but it would still be nice to have good games available when I get bored or need to relax. It's not very easy finding games for Linux, they tend to be scattered around the web. Now, users of Ubuntu, and any Debian based distro's I presume, have a repository created specifically for games.

Playdeb is brought to you by the same people who created Installing games is as simple as clicking a link. To start using Playdeb you need to install two deb packages. The first package is an updated version of AptUrl, which enables software to be installed from links in websites. The second deb adds the Playdeb repository to your list of sources. Once you have done that, you can go to the list of games and start installing.

Playdeb is currently in beta and so has a limited number of games available, but keep an eye on it because the list will be expanding soon.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Google Chrome: First Impressions

I've went ahead and downloaded Google's new browser, after spending a few minutes playing around with it my first impressions are: it's fast and very light.

Unfortunately there is no Linux version as of yet, only the windows version has been released. There was a noticeable speed increase when loading most of the sites I went on compared to Firefox and IE 7. Didn't notice any big differences between Chrome and Opera, they were both very fast. One area where there is much more noticeable difference between Chrome and Firefox is memory usage. From what I've seen, Chrome uses much less memory than Firefox. With one tab open Firefox was using 88143k, whereas Chrome had a combined memory usage of

Chrome is very similar to Safari, they are both based on WebKit, and they both load my blog incorrectly. As you can see from the screenshot below, Chrome can't seem to load my Navigation menu properly. I also get some alignment issues in both Safari and Chrome. I used to think coding for IE was a pain but getting things to work in Safari and now in Chrome is going to be trickier. If something looks mis-aligned in IE, all I have to do is add a # in front of some extra alignment code and it's fixed, however no such fixes seem to exist for Safari. Another big annoyance I have with Safari and Chrome is that holding down the middle-mouse button doesn't scroll.

The browser looks very nice, I like how the address bar also acts as a search bar without an extra box next to it like in Firefox. The tabs being at the top feels a little weird, being used to Firefox for so long, but it won't take long for someone to adapt to it. Just like the comic said the browser creates a new thread for every tab, I tried killing one of the processes and all that happened was one of the tabs closed.

Here is the browser in Incognito mode. A very useful feature but I prefer the noscript/cookie control plugin options for Firefox.

So to sum it up Chrome is a very light and fast browser, however I am not going to be replacing Firefox anytime soon. Not until they add proper scrolling and I can figure out how to make my site look like the way it looks in all other browsers. Anyway they still yet to release a Linux version. Anyone else tried it? Let me know what you think of it.

Update: Another reason why I won't be using Chrome is because of the following part of the license agreement:

"By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any content which you submit, post or display on or through, the services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the services and may be revoked for certain services as defined in the additional terms of those services."

Update 2:
Google have changed the Terms of Service for Chrome, the above no longer applies. You are free to surf the web using Chrome.

Google Chrome Browser

Google has released a comic to tell you about the browser its been working on, you can see the comic here. Chrome, as its been called, is based on the open source Webkit engine. Google claims to have created a browser for the 21st century with a fresh view on security, stability and speed.

Some of the features of the new browser include:

New JavaScript engine called V8

V8 is a JavaScript Virtual Machine built from scratch to improve browser speed and performance. As well as reducing bloat, chrome will allow you to view the performance of web pages and plug-ins, the process manager will let you see how much resource is being used by a particular component.

The browsers available now are all single threaded applications, chrome on the other hand will run every component and tab as a separate process. The modular nature will improve stability; if one of the tabs or components crashes it will not take the entire browser down.

The best thing about V8 is that it's open source and independent of the browser itself. This means that other browsers and developers can use it.

Tabs and 'Omnibox'

Tabs is not a new feature, however as mentioned above, each tab in chrome will be independent with its own address bar dubbed 'Omnibox' by Google. The address bar will feature smart auto-completion and search capabilities. Unlike Firefox, the tabs in chrome will be above the address bar and every time you open a new tab you will be presented with a page with 9 of your most visited websites along with other bookmarked sites.

The above feature is similar to Opera's 'speed dial'.

There is a privacy feature called 'incognito' which will allow you to surf without storing any information such as cookies.

Enhanced Security

Google has made security its top priority for chrome. As well as running each component separately, each tab will also be sandboxed to prevent malware from installing itself. Each process will run with least privileges to prevent them accessing sensitive areas.

A lot of people have been criticizing the look of the browser but I like it, it's very simple and elegant and I like the colour blue(as you can probably tell from my site).

Google plans to release a beta version of the browser tomorrow. Looking forward to trying it out. Check out the links below for more info.

Google Blog
Chrome comic