Sunday, May 31, 2009

Five Best Netbooks

If you're in the market for a netbook, you might want to consult Lifehacker's Five Best Netbooks. In case you're interested, the five best netbooks are:
  1. Samsung NC10
  2. Dell Mini 10
  3. ASUS EEEPC 1000HE
  4. Acer Aspire One
  5. MSI Wind
See also my earlier blog post: Shining the Spotlight on Netbooks

Thursday, May 21, 2009

All Things Twitter

Today's roundup of all things Twitter for the newbie and power users:

Getting Started:
  1. Twitter Bible: Everything You Need to Know about Twitter

  2. The Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter

  3. The Ultimate Twitter Toolkit

  4. All You Need to Know to Twitter

  5. How to Build Your Personal Brand on Twitter (by Dan Schwabel)

  6. Five Tools to Manage Multiple Twitter Accounts

  7. Top 10 Twitter Clients For Mac OS X

  8. How to Make Your Blog or Site Twitter Friendly

  9. The Journalist's Guide to Twitter

Resources for Power Users:
  1. FlashTweet is a mass follow tool that simplifies the process of adding your twitter friends. You can see who you are following that is following you back, follow friends from other users and even unfollow multiple friends at once.

  2. GroupTweet allows you to create a private (closed) group where a team member can send messages via Twitter that are instantly broadcasted privately to only the team members.

  3. Twitlet is a javascript bookmarklet for fast updating your Twitter status.

  4. TBuzz makes it easy to tweet the webpages that you are visiting.

At the same, remember to practice safe tweeting: Spammers harvesting emails from Twitter - in real time.

Moreover, be aware of self-proclaimed experts promising the sun and the moon on social media tools such as Twitter: Beware the Social Media Charlatans

Nokia N97 Blogger Preview

As a long time Nokia fan/user, I am waiting in eager anticipation for the Nokia N97, which has been made available to bloggers for review. Here is the Singapore blogger, Lester Chan's take on the Nokia N97. As for U.S. Nokia N-series fans, Nokia has scheduled the U.S. release of the N97 on June 2nd, 2009.

It's time to replace my aging 3-year old 1st-generation Nokia N95, which has served me very well. Should I replace my N95 with a N97 or with a N85?

What do you think?

Shining the Spotlight on Netbooks

Netbook computer sales are skyrocketing, as more people turn to these inexpensive replacements for traditional laptops or notebook computers. If you are wondering what the fuss is all about, here are some links to get you started:

Background:

Buying Guides:

At the same time, be warned that malware has been found on brand new netbooks: New Windows netbooks may harbor malware.

If this is troubling to you, consider using Linux/Ubuntu on your netbook:


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Useful Resources for Ubuntu/Linux Users #01

Today's roundup of useful resources for Linux users:

Monday, May 18, 2009

More Twitter Resources

Further to my earlier two blog postings, 5 Must Read Resources About Twitter and Twitter Resources & Apps for Power Tweeting, you should also read PCMagazine's latest piece on Twitter: The Ultimate Twitter Toolkit. This article surveys the latest apps and resources, including desktop and mobile clients, analytics providers, as well as photo and music-sharing services that would enhance your tweeting experience.

At the same time, be aware of self-proclaimed experts promising the sun and the moon on social media tools such as Twitter: Beware the Social Media Charlatans

Read my other blog entries on Twitter

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Round Up: Ubuntu & Linux How To Resources

Today's round up of Ubuntu and Linux how to resources:

Linux Dictionary version 0.16 (Free PDF E-Book)

Link: Linux Dictionary version 0.16 Download Page

Abstract:
The Linux Dictionary is designed to be a resource for those Linux users wishing to seek clarification onLinux/UNIX/POSIX related terms and jargon. At approximately 24000 definitions and two thousand pages it is one of the largest Linux related dictionaries currently available. Due to the rapid rate at which new terms are being created it has been decided that this will be an active project. We welcome input into the content of this document. At this moment in time half yearly updates are being envisaged.

Round Up: Free Ubuntu & SUSE Linux Guides for Beginners

Today's round up of Ubuntu & SUSE Linux Guides for Beginners:

(a) Ubuntu
Read my other blog entries on Ubuntu.


(b) SUSE Linux

Round Up: Free Color Picking Resources

Round up of color picking resources:

See also my other blog postings on the following topics:
.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Free E-Book: Common Java Cookbook

Free E-Book: Timothy M. O'Brien's Common Java Cookbook

Abstract
This collection provides expert tips for using Java-based utilities from projects such as Apache Commons, Apache Lucene, and Apache Velocity. You don't have to be an expert, the book's solution-based format contains code examples for a wide variety of web, XML, network, testing, and application projects. If you want to learn how to combine common open-source Java utilities to create powerful Java applications and tools, the Common Java Cookbook is for you.

Free Access sponsored by Discursive.

Microsoft Press Visual Studio 2008 Free E-Book Offer

Microsoft Press is offering the following Visual Studio 2008 Free E-Book Offer:
  • Programming Microsoft LINQ
  • Introducing Microsoft Silverlight 2, 2nd Ed
  • Programming Microsoft ASP.NET 3.5

Friday, May 15, 2009

Twitter Resources & Apps for Power Tweeting

As a follow-up to my previous blog posting, Five Must Read Resources About Twitter, here is today's round up of Twitter resources and applications for power tweeting:
  1. Top 10 Twitter Clients For Mac OS X

  2. FlashTweet is a mass follow tool that simplifies the process of adding your twitter friends. You can see who you are following that is following you back, follow friends from other users and even unfollow multiple friends at once.

  3. GroupTweet allows you to create a private (closed) group where a team member can send messages via Twitter that are instantly broadcasted privately to only the team members.

  4. Twitlet is a javascript bookmarklet for fast updating your Twitter status.

  5. TBuzz makes it easy to tweet the webpages that you are visiting.
At the same, remember to practice safe tweeting: Spammers harvesting emails from Twitter - in real time.

Read my other blog entries on Twitter

How to Install Ubuntu On Any PC

From PC World Videos How To Series: How To Install Ubuntu On Any PC
"In this walkthrough, PC World's senior editor Robert Strohmeyer walks you through the steps needed to install Ubuntu--a popular distribution of the Linux OS--on a PC. This fast, simple operating system runs well on limited system resources, boots quickly, and is very easy to operate."
If you are looking to install Ubuntu but not sure how to do it, this is a highly recommended video of Robert Strohmeyer step-by-step demonstration of how you can do it yourself.

Link: How To Install Ubuntu On Any PC

Read my other blog entries on Ubuntu.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

From Cable to Boxee & Hulu

The BusinessWeek's technology reporter, Arik Hesseldahl's latest article, Boxee Battles Big Media got me thinking about my own media viewing habits. I am one of those folks who no longer have any cable subscription, relying instead on the web for movies and tv shows.

Intead of cable, I am hooked to Boxee to watch movies and TV shows. I run the Linux alpha version of Boxee on my ThinkPad R52 (Ubuntu 8.10) and the Windows alpha version of Boxee on my IdeaPad S10 netbook (Windows XP).

Currently, only the Linux and Mac alpha versions of Boxee are downloadable from Boxee's website. I am one of the invited beta testers in the currently closed testing of the Windows XP version of Boxee.

I must say that I am extremely impressed by the stability and functionality of both the Linux and the Windows versions of this software, which is technically in alpha stage. Moreover, the Windows alpha version of Boxee runs smoothly on my IdeaPad S10 netbook without any jerkiness in the video. Typically, I connect my ThinkPad or IdeaPad to the LCD HD TV's VGA port and the audio to my living room's sound system, thereby enabling me to watch a movie or TV episode on a large screen HD TV. Not surprisingly, I don't miss canceling my cable subscription.

Most of what I watch on Boxee comes from the following two sources:
  • Hulu.com (which has an extensive collection of movies and episodes of TV series)

  • Joost.com (an internet TV service with a smaller collection than Hulu.com)
It is true that you can also watch movies and TV shows via a browser at Hulu.com and Joost.com. However, as an aggregator, Boxee does a good job of consolidating everything on a convenient and simple-to-navigate user interface.

In addition to Boxee, I also watch movies and TV episodes from the following websites:
I don't have that much time to watch TV, but if you are heavy TV watcher and wonder whether there are free online alternatives to cable, see:

If you can't find what you're looking for in the "open" web and are interested to search in the underground web but don't know how, consult the following PCWorld's articles:

Happy viewing!

See also: Hulu: A Victim of Its Own Success?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Audio & Video Applications for Windows based Systems

From time to time, I get asked by family members, colleagues and friends what Windows-based audio and video apps that I would recommend to them. Here's that list of my favorite Windows audio and video apps:
  • Using KickYouTube to download YouTube videos An extremely simple and elegant way to download YouTube videos without the hassle of extra software.

  • Recording/Capturing Real Video and Real Audio streams Very useful to download Real audio or Real video streams. You need to have the Real Player installed (see below).

  • Ad-Free version of Real Player Available only on the BBC website. Very useful if you're tired of the ad-laden version on Real's website. This is ad-free version was specially customized for the BBC.

  • Zamzar.com: Free online file conversion across different platforms without the hassle of extra software.

  • Super Simply the best converter for Windows platform out there. Can convert just about any format that I throw to it. Most highly recommended.

  • DVD43 Decrypts DVDs on the fly to allow for the re-encoding into alternative formats for iPod, etc using Handbrake (see below).

  • Handbrake: An open-source GPL licensed multiplatform multithreaded DVD to mp4 converter. This is simply the best application out there to convert dvd movies to iPod videos. Most highly recommended.

  • Doom9.net: Comprehensive and definitive DVD-backup and video-editing resources site for Windows-based systems. Here you'll find audio and video editing apps, ripping tools, codecs, encoders, filters, media players, subtitle editors, VOB tools, etc. Most highly recommended.

  • Audacity: The best multiplatform (Windows, Linux, etc) open-source software to create podcasts, etc. for your lectures, presentations, etc. Most highly recommended.

  • Making Computer Videos (excellent tutorials and guides).
These are the Windows audio and video apps that I personally use.

Do you have any recommendations that I could add to this list?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How to Use Wine & Winetricks to run Windows Applications in Ubuntu

In a previous blog posting, I explained how I run Windows XP in a virtual environment on my ThinkPad R52 running Ubuntu 8.10 using Sun Microsystem's VirtualBox. In today's posting, I'll discuss how I use Wine and Winetricks to run selected Windows applications in Ubuntu.

If you don't know much about Wine, you can start by reading About Wine (from Wine's official project site), as well as its WikiPedia entry.

The easiest way to install Wine is via Synaptic Package Manager. If you install via this route, you will install the current stable version: version 1.0.1. This version is good enough for typical users. I have been able to run Microsoft Office 2003 without any problems using Wine 1.0.1.

Once you have finished installing Wine via Synaptic Package Manager, a new submenu "Wine" is added to your "Applications" pulldown menu. If you click on "Wine," you will get Programs (where your Windows programs will reside), "Browse C Drive," "Configure Wine" and "Uninstall Wine Software."

The official Wine project site has lots of documentation and help for first time users wanting to know how to install and run various Windows applications:
  • Wine Documentation (include online manuals, user guides, etc.)

  • Wine How To (step-by-step instructions for various situations)

  • Wine Wiki (very detailed information covering a wide range of questions and issues)

  • Wine Application Database (the place to check whether a particular Windows application will work fully without any special configuration ["Platinum"], work fully with some configuration ["Gold"], work with some minor issues ["Silver"] or not all).

  • Ubuntu Community Documentation on Wine (not as updated but you might find something useful here)
As a power user, I am not running the stable version that is provided in Ubuntu's software repositories, but the beta version (currently version 1.1.21) that I obtain directly from WineHQ's repository. To do so, please go to WineHQ's Wine for Ubuntu and Ubuntu Derivatives page, where you will find easy to follow instructions and the necessary information to add the necessary repository information, as well as key file for authentication. Be warned though that the beta versions suffer from software regressions (i.e., an update may break an existing functionality that you need). You have been forewarned.

If you want an easy one-click way of installing WineHQ repository and key file, you can use Ubuntu Tweak, which allows you to do so under Applications > Third Party Sources.

In addition to Wine, I also use Winetricks to extend the functionality of Wine. For a detailed explanation and instructions on how to download and run Winetricks, go to the Winetricks page in Wine Wiki. Specifically, you need to:
  • download winetricks from http://winezeug.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/winetricks (right click on the link and use "Save As" to save a copy on your Desktop.

  • Once you have downloaded it, fire up your Terminal program (Applications > Accessories > Terminal).

  • Navigate to your Desktop by typing the following command : cd ~/Desktop

  • Run Winetricks by typing: sh winetricks

  • This will open up a GUI with a list of possible packages that you can install.
For example, I use Winetricks to install a Windows version of Firefox, which I use at websites which insist on a Windows browser, or when I need the Shockwave plug-in for particular websites. The Firefox installed under Winetricks is much more stable than installing directly under Wine, since Winetricks patches Wine to increase stability.Read my other blog entries on "Ubuntu."

Read my other blog entries on Ubuntu.


Monday, May 11, 2009

My Favorite Add-Ons For Firefox

One thing I love about Firefox is the thousands and thousands of add-ons that you can install to customize your Firefox. If you haven't yet tried an add-on, now is the time to experiment. Add-ons allow you to customize or personalize your Firefox. Head over to https://addons.mozilla.org/ and you'll find a bewildering range of add-ons ranging from utilitarian or functional addons to wild, crazy addons.

As for me, I'm constantly tinkering around with different add-ons to see how they work. While I have add-ons that come and go, here are my favorite add-ons that have a permanent place in all my Firefox installations (Ubuntu & Windows XP):
  1. NoScript is the very first add-on I always install on every new installation of Firefox. I have an opt-in browsing policy, i.e., Javascript, Flash, Silverlight, etc. are turned off by default. If the script is benign, then I'll turn it on (either temporarily or permanently).

  2. Colorful Tabs is what I use to assign different colors to the tabs. This makes it easy for me to see the different tabs in different colors rather than all the tabs in the same color. Colors can be randomly generated or predefined.

  3. FireFTP is a cross-platform full-featured FTP plugin for Firefox that I use all the time. I can do my FTP within Firefox and thus haven't had the need to fire up Filezilla for a long, long time.

  4. Forecastfox is yet another must have plug-in for me. I install it to display 5 days of weather at a glance in the main menubar of Firefox, allowing me to see what the week's weather would be like.

  5. Foxclocks is what you find running in the status bar of all my Firefox installations. I keep track of times in Europe, Asia & the US at a glance.

  6. Personas offers Firefox users a way to "skin" their Firefox with all kinds of skins and if you don't find something you like, you can make your own. I must confess this is addictive - I have tried all kinds of skins depending on my mood. It was one of the few "fun" add-on that has earned a permanent place in my Firefox installations.

  7. DownloadHelper is the cross-platform Firefox add-on that I use to download, save and convert YouTube clips on the fly.

  8. ScreenGrab is what I use when I want to saveswebpages as images. This add-on will capture what you can see in the window, the entire page, just a selection, or a particular frame. It saves webpages as images - either to a file, or to the clipboard.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

5 Must Read Resources About Twitter

Today's round up of five must read resources discussing everything you ever wanted to know about Twitter:
  1. The Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter

  2. All You Need to Know to Twitter

  3. Five Tools to Manage Multiple Twitter Accounts

  4. How to Make Your Blog or Site Twitter Friendly

  5. BusinessWeek's Executive Guide to Social Media (discusses Twitter, LinkedIn & FaceBook)
Read my other blog entries on Twitter

Do you have any suggestions to add to this list?

10 Must Read Resources for Advanced Web Design & Programming

Today's roundup of my 10 must read resources for advanced web design and programming:
  1. 15 Essential Checks Before Launching Your Website

  2. 10 Web Typography Rules That Every Web Designer Should Know

  3. 10 Simple & Impressive Design Techniques

  4. 10 Rare HTML Tags You Should Really Know

  5. 7 Interface Design Techniques to Simplify and De-clutter Your Interfaces

  6. 14 Rules for Faster Loading Websites

  7. 20 More Excellent AJAX Effects You Should Know

  8. The Mystery of CSS Sprites: Techniques, Tools and Tutorials

  9. Flash vs. Silverlight: What Suits Your Needs Best?

  10. How to Make Your Blog or Site Twitter Friendly

See also my other blog postings on the following topics:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Step-By-Step Instructions on Using Sun's VirtualBox to run Windows XP in Ubuntu

Background: I have 3 computers:
  1. my employer-issued a Dell desktop set up as a dual-boot Windows XP/Ubuntu 9.04 64-bit system that sits in my office,

  2. my personal ThinkPad R52 laptop set up as an Ubuntu 8.10 system with Windows XP running inside VirtualBox that I use at home, and

  3. my personal Lenovo IdeaPad S10 netbook running Windows XP that I use for traveling/presentations.
In this post, I'll share my experiences about setting up and running Windows XP in a virtual environment using Sun Microsystem's VirtualBox in Ubuntu 8.10 on my 4-year old ThinkPad R52, which comes with a Pentium M processor, 512 MB RAM and 80 GB harddrive. I still need Windows XP from time to time because of software without Linux equivalents (e.g., Finale for music composition, Garmin mapping software for my iQue 3600 PDA, Nokia mapping and PC Suite for my Nokia N95, etc.)

I chose Sun VirtualBox for its small footprint, ease of installation, seamless integration between the host and guest, and general user friendliness. Moreover, VirtualBox allows me to run a virtual environment on a laptop with limited resources (512 MB RAM and a non-virtualized Pentium M processor). The trade-off is that when Windows XP is running inside VirtualBox, I cannot do other tasks in Ubuntu. But at least, Windows XP runs at a decent pace, even with 512 MB RAM and a non-virtualized Pentium M processor. By comparison, Microsoft Windows 7's virtual Windows XP mode requires a processor that support virtualization and therefore the "ancient" Pentium M processor on my ThinkPad R52 is out.

There are actually two versions of VirtualBox:
  1. A full-featured closed-end (proprietary) version of VirtualBox distributed under a Personal Use and Evaluation License (PUEL), which allows for free non-commercial (i.e., personal or educational) use. The proprietary version also comes with a GUI front-end that makes installation and configuring a breeze.

  2. an open-source version called the VirtualBox Open Source Edition (VirtualBox OSE) distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL).
If you need USB or serial port support, seamless integration between host and guest, etc., you are better off install the full-featured close-end/proprietary version, which comes with all the features you need, rather than trying to build those features through command line hacks for the Open Source Edition (OSE). In particular, the proprietary version comes with a built-in USB controller emulator, such that any USB devices attached to the host can be seen and accessed by the guest. For a further discussion, please consult the WikiPedia article on VirtualBox.

Here's how I installed and configure VirtualBox on my ThinkPad:

Step 1: Download and install the proprietary (non-free) package

Head over to Sun Microsystem's VirtualBox Linux download site to download the appropriate non-free package for your Linux distribution (in my case, I selected Ubuntu 8.10 ("Intrepid Ibex") i386 for my 32-bit installation of Ubuntu 8.10 on my ThinkPad. The package architecture has to match the Linux kernel architecture. If you are running a 64-bit kernel, install the appropriate AMD64 package (it does not matter if you have an Intel or an AMD CPU). Mixed installations (e.g. Debian/Lenny ships an AMD64 kernel with 32-bit packages) are not supported.

The VirtualBox Linux download site also has repository information and public key for updating your VirtualBox installation. I took the opportunity to add the relevant line (in my case: deb http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian intrepid non-free) and the matching public key to my software sources (System > Administration > Software Sources, Third Party Software, Authentication).


Step 2: Configure VirtualBox

Make Tech Easier has a set of easy-to-follow configuration instructions for the proprietary version of VirtualBox. These instructions worked for me and I got VirtualBox running in no time. These instructions guide you on how to:
  1. add vboxusers to your group,
  2. configure VirtualBox's memory and virtual hard disk,
  3. configure virtual disk image type, and
  4. install Windows XP (you need the installation CD + full license key)

Step 3: Install VirtualBox Guest additions

The VirtualBox Guest additions provides: (a) seamless mouse integration between the host and guest, (b) cut and paste support between host and guest, and (c) automatic resizing (resizing the VirtualBox virtual machine window will automatically resize the guest OS desktop).

The easy way to install the VirtualBox Guest additions is to use the "Devices" menu on the VirtualBox virtual machine window to mount the VirtualBox Guest Additions programs iso file as a virtual CD-ROM image. Alternatively, you can also: (a) go to Settings, CD/DVD-ROM, (b) check Mount CD/DVD Drive, (c) check the radio button for ISO Image File, and (d) select the VBoxGuessAdditions.iso file.

Once mounted, you can double-click the CD-ROM icon/drive under Windows My Computer to run the VirtualBox Guest additions installer. If you are stuck, you can watch this video tutorial for help.


Step 4: Advanced Setup

Sharing Folders Between Host & Guest

One neat thing about VirtualBox is the ability to share folders between the host and guest. This is down through the network files. Here's how you do it (works for VirtualBox 2.2.2, which is what I installed on my ThinkPad):
  1. go to Settings, Shared Folders
  2. Select the first of 3 icons on the right (add shared folders) to add the folders you want to share between host and guest
  3. The Windows XP guest will access these shared folders as network folders (under Windows XP networking).
  4. Click OK

USB Support


For USB support, you have to set up the USB device filters:
  1. go to Settings, USB
  2. check both enable USB Controller and enable USB 2.0 (EHCI) Controller
  3. the row of icons on your right allow you to add, modify or delete universal or specific filters (pointing the mouse over each icon will display its function in the status bar)
  4. Click OK

Serial Port Support

For Serial Port support, you have to set up the Serial Port mode and path:
  1. go to Settings, Serial Ports
  2. Under the Port 1 tab, check enable Serial Port
  3. For Port Number, you can use COM1
  4. For Port Mode, select Host Device from the pull-down submenu
  5. The "Create Pipe" will be grayed out
  6. For port path, type: /dev/ttyS0
  7. Click OK

For Additional/Advanced Documentation:

Managing Multiple Twitter Accounts

In case you missed it earlier, Twitterati came out with their Five Tools to Manage Multiple Twitter Accounts in December 2008. Of the five tools listed, Splitweet is the best at handling multiple accounts.

Since that list, you can now add Seesmic Desktop a multiplatform Twitter desktop application running on Adobe AIR that can also handle multiple accounts.

I agree with Mark Evans of Twitterati that TweetDeck is still the most user friendly of the pack. Meanwhile, the TweetDeck team is supposedly working on a multiple account version of the highly popular TweetDeck (you can follow the team's progress on their blog).

See also my earlier blog posting about installing TweetDeck in Ubuntu 32-bit and 64-bit systems.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Installing Fonts in Ubuntu

Unlike Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows, Ubuntu does not come with a GUI font manager that enables users to install and delete fonts easily. Indeed, as someone who have used Ubuntu almost exclusively for over a year, I would have to admit that this is one thing I miss. I hope at some point Canonical will come up with a GUI font manager comparable to Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows, especially if Ubuntu is to attract a wider audience beyond the techno-literate folks.

For the non-techie, there are basically two ways of installing additional fonts in Ubuntu:

  1. Installing additional fonts using the Synaptic Package Manager.

    Use this if you want to install open-source fonts (Red Hat fonts) or restricted fonts (e.g., Microsoft fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, etc.) that are found in the Ubuntu and other third-party repositories.

    For step-by-step instructions: Installing Fonts via Synaptic Package Manager (from Ubuntu Wiki)


  2. Installing Third Party/Commercial Fonts

    If you want to install third party or commercial fonts in Ubuntu, there are two basic ways to do it:
  • The Simple Way (if you are the sole user):

    (a) navigate to your Home Folder (Places > Home)

    (b) Under the "View" pulldown menu, ensure that the "Show Hidden Files" option is enabled.

    (c) Create a new folder with the name ".fonts" (with a "." in front of "fonts")

    (d) Copy your third party or commercial fonts into this new .fonts folder

    (e) restart your system

    (f) alternatively, if you don't want to restart your system, you should go to Terminal (Applications > Accesories > Terminal) and type in the following command:
    sudo fc-cache -f -v

  • The Advanced Way (If you want the fonts available for all users):

    For detailed instructions, see Installing New Fonts in Ubuntu Manually (Ubuntu Wiki).

For Further Reference:
Ubuntu Fonts

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Installing Adobe AIR & Tweetdeck in Ubuntu (32-bit & 64-bit)

I love Tweetdeck! I use Tweetdeck to manage my Twitter account in both my Windows and Ubuntu systems. Tweetdeck and its competitor, Seesmic Desktop are Adobe AIR applications. This means that once you install Adobe AIR on your Ubuntu desktop, you can install any Adobe AIR application. In this posting, I'll explain how I installed Adobe AIR and TweetDeck on my 32-bit installation of Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid) on my ThinkPad R52 system (see Part 1 below) and my 64-bit installation of Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty) on my Dell desktop (see Part 2 below).


Part 1: Installing Adobe AIR and TweetDeck in Ubuntu (32-bit):

Installing Adobe AIR and TweetDeck in a 32-bit environment is pretty straightforward, since Adobe AIR for Linux is a 32-bit app. Here are the steps I took to install Adobe AIR and TweetDeck on my 32-bit installation of Ubuntu 8.10 on my ThinkPad R52 laptop:

Step 1: Download Adobe AIR from Adobe's website and save it to your Ubuntu Desktop

Head over to http://get.adobe.com/air/ to download AdobeAIRInstaller.bin file. If you encounter problems downloading, you can use this direct link:
http://airdownload.adobe.com/air/lin/download/latest/AdobeAIRInstaller.bin

Step 2: Run your terminal software (e..g, Applications>Accesories>Terminal)

Step 3: Change Directory to Desktop (or the directory/folder where you save the Adobe AIR installer file) by typing:

cd ~/Desktop

Step 4: Give the Adobe AIR installer file execution rights by typing:

chmod +x AdobeAIRInstaller.bin

Step 5: Run the Adobe AIR installer by typing:

sudo ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin

Step 6: When the Adobe AIR installer runs:

click "I Agree" and then click "Finish" when the installation is completed.

Step 7: Download Tweetdeck and save it to your Ubuntu Desktop:

Navigate to http://www.tweetdeck.com/ and click on the "Download Now" button. In case your Flash plugin is acting up, you can also manually download the installer file using the following direct link: http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta/TweetDeck_0_25.air (NB: you can replace the version number 0_25 with the current version).

Step 8: Install Tweetdeck

Right click the Tweetdeck (.air) file and select the Adobe AIR Application installer to run it.

Step 9: Enjoy Tweetdeck!


Part 2: Installing Adobe AIR & TweetDeck in Ubuntu (64-bit)

Installing Adobe AIR & TweetDeck on my 64-bit installation of Ubuntu 9.04 on my Dell desktop was an incredibly complicated affair, since I have to install the the getlibs package to resolve the 32 bit library dependency problems (see detailed discussions in the Ubuntu forums). After much googling, I got Adobe AIR and TweetDeck installed and running successfully by following Tony Maro's detailed instructions to install the getlibs package and Adobe AIR. Once Adobe AIR is successfully installed on my 64-bit Ubuntu 9.04 system, then it becomes a relatively simple affair to download and install TweetDeck following steps 7 & 8 in Part 1 (32-bit installation) above.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Creating PDFs in Ubuntu

In my previous posting, I outlined a method for creating PDFs in Windows using PDF Creator, which works as a PDF printer.

This idea of creating PDF by printing to PDF is also the basic way for creating PDFs in Ubuntu. Earlier versions of Ubuntu use the cups-pdf option to print PDF (cups = Common Unix Printing System).

In Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid) and 9.04 (Jaunty), the "official" or "preferred" option is to select print, and then the "Print to File" option, which in turns opens up a dialog box. In the dialog box, under the "Output Format" click the radio button for PDF. You can also select the name of your file and the folder where you want the PDF file to be "printed" or "saved" to.

If you are a diehard fan of cups-pdf, you can still manually install cups-pdf as follows:
  1. Install cups-pdf (use the Synaptic Package Manager if you aren't comfortable using the sudo command line in terminal mode).

  2. Under System>Administration>Printing, select "New" and "Printer" and add the cups-pdf printer (for driver, select the "Generic Postscript Printer driver.")

  3. Finally, you have to create a PDF folder (all caps) in your Places>Home (the PDF folder is the fixed output folder for the cups-pdf printer). Ubuntu 8.10 and newer no longer automatically provide the PDF folder, as was the case in Ubuntu 8.04 and older. I would also recommend that you consider creating a shortcut/alias/link of this folder to your desktop for easy access.
Unlike the "Print to File" option, the cups-pdf printer option does not give you the ability to name your own file name for the pdf output file. Unless you are a diehard cups-pdf fan, I think the "Print to File" option is the preferred way to go for Ubuntu 8.10 and newer.

Creating PDFs in Windows

One thing that users of Mac OS X systems have that Microsoft Windows users did not is the ability to create/save PDF files on the fly. Historically, Microsoft never provided PDF creation functionality in Windows. If you want to create a PDF document, you either have to shell out big bucks for Adobe Acrobat software, use Corel WordPerfect (which does have a save as PDF function), or install one of the many shareware/freeware apps. The latest SP 2 update to Microsoft Office 2007 finally includes PDF functionality (you can also download and install an add-in for Microsoft Office 2007 directly from Microsoft's download site).

But what if you don't have Office 2007 or want more options for creating/saving PDFs in Windows? My preferred solution is to install the open source freeware PDF Creator. PDF Creator is a GPL-licensed open-source free software for converting documents into PDF format on all Microsoft Windows operating systems (Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, XP, Vista and Windows 7 beta). Once installed, it allows a user to select PDFCreator as their printer, permitting almost any Windows application to print to PDF.

Links:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Resources for Gmail Users

Are you a Gmail user? Have you ever wondered what lies behind the simplicity of the Gmail user interface? Are you curious about the advanced features that Gmail offers to power users to know where to look? Whether you are a Gmail power user or casual user, here are three useful resources for you for you to learn more about Gmail and its advanced features:
To keep track of new Gmail features that the techies at Gmail Lab are coming up with, head over to the Official Gmail Blog, where announcements of new features are posted. Have fun tinkering around with your Gmail interface!

Tweaking Ubuntu

Windows XP users who want to tinker around with their Windows XP swear by Tweak UI, a simple, elegant but powerful Microsoft Power Toy that gives easy access to changing registry settings in Windows XP.

What about Ubuntu users? For a long time, many Ubuntu newbie users who want to customize their system settings have to brave the unfamiliar world of the command line prompt to do so. Today, users of Ubuntu Hardy (8.04), Intrepid (8.10) and Jaunty (9.04) have a new option: Ubuntu Tweak. Licensed under a GNU GPL, Ubuntu Tweak is a freeware app that allows users to tweak their settings. I have installed and tinkered around with version 0.4.7.1 on my Dell desktop (running Ubuntu 9.04 64-bit) and my ThinkPad R52 laptop (running Ubuntu 8.10 32-bit) and have nothing but praise for it.

To begin with, the user interface is simple and intuitive. Among other things, the "Applications" Tab provides a one-stop easy access to install the more popular or useful packages. Even more experienced users might find this feature useful compared to navigating through the maze of the Synaptic Package Manager. I especially like the "Third Party Sources" sub-tab within the "Applications" Tab that allows you to easily add third party repositories with the requisite authentication key files without you having to search online for those repositories and their authentication keys.

Ex-Windows users would appreciate the option to add "My Computer," "Home," "Trash" and "Network" icons on the desktop under the "Desktop Icons Settings" Tab. Users who want to tweak their Ubuntu eye candy can do so through the "Windows" and "Compiz Fusion" subtabs within the "Desktop" Tab. The settings under the "Compiz Fusion" sub-tab are very basic. Power users would want to install and use the Compiz Config Settings Manager instead.

In short, Ubuntu Tweak is a configuration tool that both power users and newbies would find useful to configure Ubuntu to their own needs.

Download Page

Tweaking Windows XP & Vista

Dissatisfied with Windows' standard options? Ever wanted to tweak Windows to your heart's content? Or wanting to hide that Control Panel icon to stop others from messing around with the settings on your computer?

Windows XP:
Windows XP users can turn to Tweak UI from Microsoft's Power Toys collection of apps. Tweak UI gives you access to system settings that are not exposed in the Windows XP default user interface, including mouse settings, Explorer settings, taskbar settings, and more. Download Tweak UI directly from Microsoft's website. Lifehacker has a 15 Useful Tweak UI Settings that you might want to consult.

Windows Vista:
Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn't come out with a Vista equivalent of Tweak UI for the legions of Vista users who want to tweak the innards of their Vista-based systems. For that, you have to use third party apps such as the freeware Ultimate Windows Tweaker from WinVista Club. Ultimate Windows Tweaker optimizes both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista. It detects whether you havce IE 7 or IE 8 installed and offers you the tweaks that are relevant to your installed IE version.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Microsoft Windows Blue Screen of Death Survival Guide

If you are a Microsoft Windows user, you would certainly know the infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). Ever wonder what the seemingly gibberish mix of letters and numbers mean? Find out the full details in Maximum PC's Blue Screen of Death Survival Guide: Every Error Explained.

Reviews: Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04

Here are two recent reviews of the Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04
I personally think that Ubuntu Netbook Remix is a good idea in theory. Nevertheless, no amount of tweaking the GUI would hide the fact that most folks who buy netbooks aren't linux power users to begin with. Moreover, a typical netbook user has no idea about the fine legal print between free and non-free software and codecs, etc. What Canonical could have done is to make it easier for newbies to download and install the codecs they need from an easy-to-navigate page instead of making these newbies dig through Synaptic, manually add medibuntu and other nonfree repositories, manually add authentication key files, etc. In other words, I think the ideal Ubuntu Netbook Remix would combine the power of Ubuntu Linux with the intuitive simplicity of Mac OS X.

Zero Day Exploit in Adobe Acrobat and PDF Reader

Earlier this week, Adobe confirmed the existence of a zero-day exploit in its popular Adobe Acrobat and PDF Reader software for Windows, Mac and Linux. Affected versions include versions 9.1, 8.1.4 and 7.1.1 and earlier. For more details, see this Computerworld article.

Adobe's security bulletin advise that all users of Acrobat and PDF Reader should disable javascript until further notice. I would go further to say that Mac OS X users could uninstall Adobe Acrobat Reader and use Mac OS X's built-in Preview feature instead. As an Ubuntu user myself, I use the open source Evince Document Viewer that is bundled with Ubuntu to view my PDFs. There is really no need to install the non-free Adobe Acrobat for Linux in Ubuntu.