Augustina's Technological Blog

Technology, Perl, Linux, and a Woman's perspective on the FOSS community

Archive for the ‘Multimedia’ Category

Firefox and Proprietary Codecs

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Yes you *can* play embedded proprietary codecs in Linux, thanks to Mplayer!

First, get the plug-ins!

1) Install Mplayer.
In Ubuntu, make sure you have extra repositories enabled. Open synaptic and type “mplayer”. Install the media player and the Mozilla plug-in.

2) Disable Totem’s plugins
I found a great HOWTO: HOWTO: Replace Totem as Mozilla Plugin.

Go to the terminal and type “cd /usr/lib/mozilla-firefox/plugins”.

In the HOWTO they suggest deleting or renaming the old Codecs. I created a directory called “totem-old” and moved all the totem plugins to that directory, just in case something was in there that I needed later.

Type “sudo mkdir totem-old” then type “sudo mv libtotem*.* totem-old”. You’ll get an error message but it will move the files.

Now make sure you quit all instances of Firefox (or whatever Firefox derivative you might be using). Reopen Firefox and visit a page that streams Quicktime – like and see if you can play movies! It should load Mplayer rather than totem.

Written by missaugustina

March 30, 2007 at 6:05 pm

Amarok Out with your Socks Out!

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I mostly play music at work while I’m working. I just set up music playing on my home machine this weekend.

I took some CD’s to work to see how Ubuntu would handle ripping and to see how the sound apps would handle playback. I also had uploaded a few MP3’s for the purpose of downloading them when I got to work. when I inserted the first CD, Sound juicer popped up. Go to Edit->Preferences to set the format and the location where you want the files ripped to, as well as how they will be titled when they are saved. While I prefer FLAC and OGG, I was curious about MP3 support. I didn’t see those options listed and did a little research. When I downloaded my MP3’s and tried to play them in Rhythmbox, I got an error that said I needed GStream libraries in order to playback MP3’s.

I set my Synaptic package manager to include all available packages for the broadest search, and I explicitly searched for the GStream libraries and installed them. The options were available in Sound Juicer, but I still chose OGG as my extract format. Rhythmbox is *ok* but I noticed that sometimes it showed the wrong track when I had the player minimized. Also the random playback leaves a lot to be desired – it kept replaying the same songs and not playing others. However the interface is really simple which makes it super easy to figure out.

On the other end of the spectrum is Amarok After a few days of using Rhythmbox, I just really wanted something “cooler” (I’m a total Mac user at heart despite my defection several years ago). I installed Amarok using the Add/Remove programs. When I tried to play an MP3 in Amarok I got an error that it needed to install gstream libraries (I thought this was weird since I’d just installed them, but maybe it’s using some special KDE ones?). I clicked OK when it said it was done and continued to get the same error. In the background, the package manager had launched and was updating my system with the stuff I needed. I waited until it was done before re-launching Amarok.

Amarok’s interface is pretty intense with a lot of options. Winamp users will appreciate it. It manages your collection and album art, it also provides uplink to You can even skin it, just like Winamp. There are so many features buried in it that I’m still discovering (since I only *just* installed it).

Installing Amarok at home was even simpler. I’d used Automatix2 to install all my codecs, and I guess it got everything, because Amarok was able to play MP3’s right after I installed it.

I ripped several CD’s in OGG format and Amarok imported them with the correct album art. Additionally, Amarok had no problem playing some MP3’s I’d downloaded from (Epitonic is an awesome resource for more obscure music MP3’s, especially indie artists.. I’ve been downloading from them for years).

Despite Amarok’s awesomeness, there was one caveat Gnome users should be aware of. After installing Amarok at home, I couldn’t run Neverwinter Nights. I kept getting this weird MCOP error because it was trying to access KDE sound drivers (I use Gnome). Amarok runs the KDE libraries even if you’ve installed it in Gnome. I had the hardest time with this problem because it happens to a lot of applications and the way to fix varies by Linux distribution and by application it is affecting. First I tried specifying the SDL_AUTODRIVER=esd in my nwn startup script. That worked but led to sound degradation. Other drivers gave me no sound (like alsa). Finally on the ubuntu forums I found a tidbit about changing the libraries referenced to use Ubuntu’s SDL libraries instead of the ones in the Bioware Linux distro. That TOTALLY worked. see my post about installing Neverwinter Nights (I updated it with this info).

You can see what I’m listening to at and also if you’re on there, feel free to add me and join the Amarok group if you use Amarok!

Written by missaugustina

March 11, 2007 at 6:08 pm

Beryl is Beautiful

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Installing Beryl wasn’t too painful and it actually brought to light a minor ubuntu bug. Running Beryl has been awesome and anyone who is used to Mac OS X Aqua will really enjoy having some eye candy on their Ubuntu install.

For Beryl installation instructions, since I have an Nvidia card, I followed this set of instructions:

I will NOT be installing this on my work computer mainly because my graphics card won’t support it. (Edit: I installed it and it works fine, see below for details) running Beryl on my Nvidia 7300 has been great, and I’ve had no issues with lag or resource problems. I can’t say the same for the Intel card, and to be frank the only thing I’d need beryl for at work is to show off to my Mac loving coworkers tee hee. I can always get a laptop with a fancy Nvidia card in it, RIGHT?

Who should install Beryl?
– You should be comfortable configuring things on Ubuntu. It most likely will not work right away and will take a few extra steps to get going. If you’ve never edited a .conf file or effectively used the forums, try doing something simpler first like setting up Filesharing.
– You should have the hardware to support it — see the Beryl documentation for more info on that.

Important things to know for running Beryl:
– Backup any files you have to configure.
– Ctl-Alt-Backspace will restart Gnome. Use it if things get crazy (note that you will lose any unsaved changes to any open documents).
– Ctl-Alt-F2 will take you to a terminal screen (you’ll need to log in again).
Type ps -aux | more to see all running processes, hit the space bar to see the rest of the list.
(this can help you troubleshoot)
– To restart Gnome from “Ctl-Alt-F2” type sudo /etc/init.d/gdm restart.
If your system seems to be hanging DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING, just let it sit for awhile. You’ll be booted into the Gnome log in screen once it’s fully restarted.
– Ctl-Alt-F7 will get you back into the gnome screen
– Ctl-Alt and click on the body of a window to move it without clicking the title bar (in case Emerald failed to start and you don’t have a titlebar to click)

After running the install, you will need to edit your Xconfig file. Type “sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf” to edit the conf file for the x windows server. When it opens in Gedit, check at the very bottom to make sure it looks like this:

Section "Extensions"
Option "Composite" "Enable"

If it says “Disable” you’ll need to change it to “Enable”. If that’s the only change you are making, you really don’t need to backup the file. You can edit it in the Ctl-Alt-F2 screen by using the command pico or nano in place of gedit.

FINALLY, do NOT use Ubuntu’s Sessions user interface to add beryl-desktop as a startup session!!!

After I’d gone through the install following all the instructions, when I logged in, nothing happened! No Beryl 😦 I also started getting an error. $HOME/.dmrc could not be written, permissions should be 644 and owned by user. I thought this might also be affecting the beryl-manager startup. This started happening after I installed beryl and opened the Sessions configuration panel to add “beryl-manager” as a start up session. Apparently there is a bug in the configuration panel that fails to set “RelaxPermissions” so when the system re-loads it sets it to 0, which is the most restrictive. The way to fix it is to add the following line to /etc/gdm/gdm.conf in section security: “RelaxPermissions=1” .

Secondly, you’ll need to manually add the beryl-manager to autostart. Create a new file from your home directory by typing the following into a terminal line: sudo gedit .config/autostart/beryl-manager.desktop

A blank text document will pop open in gedit, paste this code into it (change version to whatever version your beryl desktop manager displays):

[Desktop Entry]
Version= 0.1.9999.2

For some reason with my install, Beryl won’t start automatically. I actually have to open a terminal and type “beryl”. I might have to create another autostart for that as well.

When beryl-desktop is running you’ll see a red gemstone in the upper right corner of your panel. Right click on it to access the menu. You’ll need to select a theme in Emerald. If your titlebars disappear, try re-selecting a theme in emerald. Also sometimes right after emerald starts, the windows need to refresh, you won’t see the buttons on the upper right corners of your windows. You can do this by switching virtual desktops or by switching to another view of your desktop cube (Ctl-Alt-Right Arrow).

Now Beryl should be working, configure to your heart’s content. The fact that so many extra steps have to be taken to get it up and running is an indicator that it’s still pretty beta… BUT it works great and I haven’t had any beryl-related system crashes. It really makes using my OS more fun!

Peep some Beryl videos to get some ideas on how to configure your stuff!


I installed Beryl on my work computer, which is a P4 with an Intel integrated 945 GMA. 3D is not supported, those animations don’t render well. Everything else works great, although some of the more intense animations cause a little lag when opening an application window (like when I launch the terminal). If my processor was a bit faster, I would probably be ok. the reason why this is important is because a lot of inexpensive laptops are only available with the integrated graphics card.. and the price jumps up significantly if you want Nvidia. So for most effects, the integrated card is sufficient, especially if you are able to get a faster processor and beef up the ram.

Written by missaugustina

March 10, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Gaming on Ubuntu

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I subscribed to Cedega to see how well it handled my favorite PC games. Currently they offer a “subscription” service where you pay to download the software and receive updates. While some of their practices within the Open Source community are controversial, not everyone has a Mark Shuttleworth backing you up financially. This is one way to “coerce” community support. From my experience with trying to configure WINE myself versus using the Cedega environment, it’s the best choice for Linux gamers.

The Cedega HOWTO leaves a lot to be desired. Despite the lack of help documentation, the City of Heroes install went well. I was able to install it through Cedega and log in. Errors pop up but they can be ignored, mainly about the video card drivers. This computer is significantly better than my old Windows PC that I had used for gaming (an AMD Athalon 6!!), so compared to that, even emulated COH and COV run really well. The game is hosted, so if the server is busy, I do get lag.

Is Cedega worth paying for? If you want to run the games that are supported and you are intent on running them in Linux, then yes.

Written by missaugustina

March 6, 2007 at 6:31 pm

OpenOffice and Gstreamer

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At work, I’ve officially switched over to the Dell Optiplex as my main machine using OpenOffice for all my productivity needs. I wonder how long it will be before anyone notices I’m not using Windows on it? Ubuntu practically looks like XP from a distance. The Mac is now just used as a FileMaker client and for Remote Desktop.

I ran my monthly report and was able to open all the files, including my Excel templates in OpenOffice. Everything worked GREAT. The interface is a little different here and there but there are some UI things I actually like better in OpenOffice, like paste special and copying. OpenOffice has its own weird quirkiness but for anyone used to Excel on the Mac it won’t really matter.

I also got rhythmbox going. I had to download the Gstream libraries so I have the codecs I need. I used Automatix2 on my home computer but I thought I’d try just getting the packages myself – it was easy since they all showed up in add/remove programs. I downloaded Songbird but I couldn’t get it to play any of my music files. I also downloaded Song Converter to get them out of mp3 and into ogg but that didn’t work either. I don’t like mp3 because they make you pay for the right to encode it if you are writing an app with that feature. LAME! Pardon the bad Gnome pun….

Written by missaugustina

March 5, 2007 at 6:58 pm

Neverwinter Nights on Linux

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I was worried installing Neverwinter Nights would be a NIGHTMARE. Bioware has outdated instructions on their site, and the Linux forum has you taking all these steps to extract files here and there. I found a shell script someone had written on the Ubuntu forums along with super easy to follow instructions:


After running through that process, update your nwn sh file to use Ubuntu’s SDL libraries. This will prevent future incompatibilities with regards to the sound card. I found that particular information in this forum entry:

My startup script looks like this now:


# This script runs Neverwinter Nights from the current directory


# If you do not wish to use the SDL library included in the package, remove
# ./lib from LD_LIBRARY_PATH
# note that I have modified the next line to use the ubuntu sdl library!

./nwmain $@


I figured out how to have nwn run in its own window! Edit nwn.ini and set FullScreen=0, then add a new line for AllowWindowedMode=1. I’m not sure how to turn the screen, since it doesn’t seem to be registering when my mouse goes to either edge.

There’s another technique I’ve heard about, that might deal with some conflicts I think I’m having with the Gnome windowing. Stop X windows and then run nwn in xinit, supposedly it’s a lot faster since the graphics server isn’t having to paint a lot of windows in the background… but I haven’t tried it yet.

Written by missaugustina

March 4, 2007 at 7:03 pm

Screen Resolution

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one of the most common problems with installing ubuntu happens when your installation fails to configure x windows to allow a useful screen resolution. this is especially typical with older computers, or if your graphics card is very proprietary.

my work computer has an onboard intel graphics card, and getting the right configurations was pretty painless.

My work computer uses an Intel GMA Integrated GPU. Here is how I fixed the screen resolution after installing Ubuntu.

I opened up a terminal and entered the following command:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

An x server dialog starts up in the terminal and asks what resolutions you’d like to enable. Select all that apply (different monitors support different resolutions).

If there are any problems after doing that, follow the instructions in this howto, or try digging around on the ubuntu forums.

Written by missaugustina

March 3, 2007 at 7:06 pm

Posted in Multimedia, Ubuntu