Dual Booting the HP Pavilion Sleekbook 15 with Windows 8.1 and Ubuntu 13.10


The HP Sleekbook 15 was launched late in 2012 and if you get the Intel variant it comes with a 3rd generation Core ix processors (Ivy Bridge), offering good battery life for a 15.6″ laptop which is around five hours with average use or the AMD A series or processors. Graphics options are quite broad with either stock Intel HD Graphics 4000, AMD Radeon or nVidia GPUs. On some models there is even an option for a SSD drive although apparently you can’t install Ubuntu to thsi drive.

Much to my surprise you get s choice of pre-installed operating systems from HP:

  • Windows 8.x
  • Ubuntu 12.04LTS 64-bit – Certified by Cannonical, although this is only the Pentium Gen. 2 variant.

There are also touchscreen (Sleekbook Touchsmart) variants as well as 14″ screen versions making the model range quite extensive. Because all Sleekbooks are around 2cm thin, there is no room or a DVD drive and no external drive is supplied as standard. However, if you need one these are cheap to buy.

My own model is a Sleekbook 15-b052sa which was pre-installed with Windows 8 and uses a Intel Core i5 CPU (3rd gen) running at 1.7Ghz 8Gb RAM and now fitted with a 500Gb Seagate Momentus XT hybrid had disk drive replacing the stock 750Gb SATA drive.

As with all new computers they are supplied with the dreaded UEFI BIOS which adds aditional security to the computer whilst eliminating the traditional BIOS. For users of non-Microsoft operating systems and Microsoft ones before Windows 8 this has the potental of being an additional hurdle to jump. However, in reality this is not a deal breaker people make it out to be and is just different to the traditional way of installing an operating system with some additonal steps.

On my Sleekbook I set-up Kubuntu 13.10 64-bit to dual boot, with the only issue being the installer which did not give me an option to install Kubuntu alongside the existing operating system. This is a know bug in the 13.10 Ubuntu installer and the workaround is to manually create the partitions, not too difficult but a step which may be daunting to a new Linux user. There are a number of guides on the internet if you know where to find them although the Mint 16 Install Guide (Mint 16 is based on Ubuntu 13.10) makes a decent job of describing the process.

Note: If you do not want a separate data partition your Home folder will be located on the same partition as the operating system. In itself not a problem, but some people prefer t keep the two separate, and if you are using Mint this is recommended because unlike Ubuntu there is no official way of upgrading to a new version without a reinstall, so keeping data on a separate partition makes re-installation a lot easier.

The basic steps for setting up dual-boot using GRUB are as follows:

  1. Make your Windows 8 recovery USB Key/ DVD
  2. Backup Windows
  3. Resize your Windows Partition
  4. Create a boot-able Ubuntu USB drive using a downloaded ISO
  5. Deactivate in Windows 8.x Fast Startup and Secureboot in BIOS (press F10 on boot on HP laptops to access BIOS settings)
  6. Install your flavour of Ubuntu off the USB drive creates earlier (step 4) which will install GRUB
  7. Reboot off USB  drive and Run Boot-Repair. Why this is not pre-installed in Ubuntu is beyond me because when GRUB 2 breaks it’s a complete pain to fix. This utility is a Linux tool-kit must have!
  8. [HP Only] Once you have done the above you may still find that you do not get GRUB appearing. Apparently this is a feature of HP laptops, pressing F9 on boot will display a boot options menu and you can select Ubuntu from there and display the GRUB menu, otherwise the default boot option is Windows and this default can not be changed.

Despite step 8 above, I’m loving Ubuntu on the HP Sleekbook 15 as being Canonical certified, everything just works out of the box, has good battery life is vary fast especially with the hybrid drive I installed and because it’s a slim design the keyboard is easier to type on.

Categories: Uncategorized

Encouraging Linux not to use the SWAP partition


I recently doubled the memory in my eee PC 1005HA netbook running Mint 16 from 1Gb to 2Gb and to try to maintain the 7 hours battery life I get out of it decided to reduce the possibility of it using the swap drive unless necessary. My initial thought was to delete the swap partition but after some research decided that this was not a good idea, it would be better to discourage Linux from using the SWAP partition!

I came across an excellent post written in 2012 by mikecrosoft in the Linux Mint Forums which clearly explains the steps. As I can’t improve it have reproduced it below. Of course this would apply to all modern day Linux systems, so I’ve since applied it to all of my desktop PCs and to my HP Sleekbook laptop.

I think there is really no problem with letting your system use some swap space, but if you really need to decrease the priority of Virtual Memory vs RAM usage you can simply change the swappiness value; to do that it would be as follows (extracted from https://help.ubuntu.com/community/SwapFaq, and tested so many times in the past and once while writing the comment):

** This would be just in case you haven’t deleted your swap partition or permanently modified anything related, I’ve read you have already deleted your swap partition so I post this just in case somebody needs a less aggressive approach **

1. Open a terminal

2. Type:

cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness

3. That will display your swappiness actual value (60)

4. If you are going to be testing your system performance during some time to see if you really need to make this change permanent or if you’re going to try with different swappiness values until you find the optimum one, I suggest you to create a launcher in your desktop with the following command:

gksudo sysctl vm.swappiness=10

5. That will change your swappiness value to 10 when you double click the launcher, to try with different values just replace 10 by any integer number in the range 0-100

6. Once you have find the optimum value and decided to make changes permanent, open a terminal and type:

sudo gedit /etc/sysctl.conf

7. Search for vm.swappiness and change its value as desired. If vm.swappiness does not exist, add it to the end of the file like so:

vm.swappiness=10
Categories: Configuration Tags:

Useful Utilities for Managing MythTV and Mythbuntu

October 12, 2013 1 comment

MythTV is an excellent PVR, but on occasions thing can go wrong and it is useful to have a ready arsenal of utilities which you can run when things might go wrong!

Before your begin:

If you are not confident that a script won’t damage your database, it’s recommended you backup your database using the Backup and Restore feature in the Mythbuntu Control Centre

MythTV maintenance scripts are located in /usr/share/doc/mythtv-backend/contrib/maintenance

optimize_mythdb.pl

This a perl script to run MYSQL utilities Repair and Optimize on each table in your MythTV database. Whilst it is recommended to run this regularly from a Cron job (scheduled task), I prefer to run this manually so I can see what is happening.

From terminal, cd to the maintenance scripts directory and enter:

./optimize_mythdb.pl

The script will analyise and repair/ optimise any damaged database tables.

Find_orphans.py

This is a Python script which shows recordings with missing files or files with missing recordings. This is very useful if you are access your MythTV backend vis a DLNA enabled device like a TV as it will show all recordings listed in the database even if the files are no longer present on the MythTV backend. You can then use the script to clean things up.

By default it is not in the MythTV maintenance directory, but it can be easily added by creating a file of the same name in the maintenance directory and pasting in the code from the wiki.

To make the script executable enter:

chmod 755 Find_orphans.py

Now run the script by entering:

./Find_orphans.py

Below is an example of what you may see

At the bottom of the screen you will be given a menu of options:

Note: The menu will only display relevant options dependent on the problems it detects so may not look exactly like the screen shot.

In the above example I have orphaned recording entries, so I will select option 1 to delete the entries.

The script then lists the entries which will be deleted and then asks for confirmation (yes or no) before proceeding. Whilst the process appears to happen quickly, you will probably find that the orphaned entries are still being listed. This is because the listings are still being deleted in the background. Eventually they will disappear from the list.

Once finished press Ctrl-c to exit.

Once completed, I run the optimize_mythdv.pl script to make sure the database is optimised.

In my opinion this is a fantastic script and should be included by default in MythTV. In fact I would go further and say that it should be accessible from the Mythbuntu Control Centre menu, or MythTV Backend Setup.

MythTV Version Updates

Whilst not a command line utility, the Mythbuntu Control Centre is a very useful way for ensuring that your system us protected through backups, configured correctly and MythTV is up to date.

With Mythbuntu 12.04 being a LTS release there are by default no updates to MythTV 0.25 which ships with it. However, should you wish to receive the latest MythTV updates and fixes you can enable later MythTV repositories through the control centre.

Before you start the upgrade, make sure that /etc/mythtv/config.xml is not empty!

If it is your upgrade will fail and MythTV will be left in an unusable state. This is a know bug.

The contents of the file should look something like the example below:

<Configuration>

  <UPnP>

    <MythFrontend>

      <DefaultBackend>

        <!–

Set the <LocalHostName> hostname override below only if you want to use

something other than the machine’s real hostname for identifying settings

in the database.  This is useful if your hostname changes often, as

otherwise you’ll need to reconfigure mythtv every time.

NO TWO HOSTS MAY USE THE SAME VALUE

–>

        <DBHostName>localhost</DBHostName>

        <DBUserName>mythtv</DBUserName>

        <DBPassword>?????????</DBPassword>

        <DBName>mythconverg</DBName>

        <DBPort>3306</DBPort>

      </DefaultBackend>

    </MythFrontend>

  </UPnP>

</Configuration>

 

and should match the contents in /etc/mythtv/mysql.txt.

If empty this file will need to be corrected before proceeding with the upgrade.

Access the Mythbuntu Control Centre by selecting Applications> System > Mythbuntu Control Centre and select Repositories from the menu.

Check the box called Activate MythTV Updates repository

and select which version of MythTV you wish to upgrade to e.g. 0.27. If the version is not listed, press the Refresh button to the right of the version number.

Also check the box Activate Mythbuntu Update repositories.

Click Apply and then Quit the Mythbuntu Control Centre.

From Terminal (or from update manager) update Mythbuntu by entering:

sudo apt-get update

followed by

sudo apt-get upgrade

confirming that you wish to upgrade.

Once the upgrade has completed MythTV will be on the new version.

 

 

Categories: MythTV Tags:

Choqok – Support for Twitter has been restored!


 

When Twitter switched off API 1.0 back on the 11th June, the tweets went dark for Choquk users as the application had not been updated in time to support API 1.1. This was due to the original developer Mehrdad Momeny not having time to maintain Choqok himself and on an appeal to the Linux community. Daniel Kreuter has stepped in and had developed Choqok 1.3.1 which supports the API 1.1.

For Debian users of KDE 4.10, a patch has been compiled and is available in Launchpad. Just download and run.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Griffith and IMDB plug-ins


If you are using version 0.13 of the excellent Griffith Movie Database in Linux (also available for Windows and OSX) and you use IMDB as the source for movie info and posters, then you may have noticed that searching for a movie returns no results even though it is listed on the IMDB website!

The problem has been caused (once again) by IMDB and the way data on their their site is accessed. The latest python plug-ins for Griffith are located at http://svn.berlios.de/svnroot/repos/griffith/trunk/lib/plugins/movie/.

Right-click on the plug-in you require and save it to /usr/share/griffith/lib/plugins/movie/

Note: you will need to have SU permissions so I would suggest you first save the plug-ins to your Home directory and then as SU copy/ move them to the above directory.

Repeat for all IMDB plug-ins.

Then delete all IMDB plug-ins ending in .pyc, if you don’t your new plug-ins will not take effect.

Run Griffith and you will find the IMDB source now works.

Categories: Griffith Tags: , ,

Getting Flash to Work Reliably in Linux Web Browsers


Whether it’s Firefox, Chromium or whatever flavour of web browser you chose to use in Linux, the ability to play back the ever prevalent Flash video content in Linux is at best an unreliable experience.

Adobe stopped developing Flash Player for Linux (now stuck on 11.2) over a year ago and advised everyone to use Google Chrome in Linux or forget Flash.

Nice idea, but the latest 64-bit version of Google Chrome  fails to install in Ubuntu 13.04 (64-bit) with a dependency error [Note: 16/05/13 workaround can be found here at OMG Ubuntu]and it’s not open source.

To install Google Chrome for Linux go here.

The open source version of Chrome (Chromium) suffers from the same Flash Player crashes as Firefox. Furthermore, Chromium in order to play Adobe Flash utilises NPAPI plugins which is not considered to be very secure!

However, all is not lost and it is possible to open Flash content within a web browser using the “Swiss Army Knife” of all things video, VLC.

Installing VLC

If you do not have VLC installed on your PC, then this can be either installed from your software centre or from the command line. For Debian distributions like Ubuntu you would enter sudo apt-get install vlc from Terminal.

One small VLC tip – set it to Allow Only One Instance, this will prevent multiple copies of VLC trying to play at once. To set this, from VLC select Tools > Interface and check the box as per the screenshot.

If you also wish to queue up one video after another, also check the box Enqueue files in one instance mode.

Playing Flash Web Content in VLC

To be able to play Flash Player content displayed in your web browser through an external program like VLC, you will need to add-in an extension:

In Firefox

Go to Tools > Add-Ons and search for Open With (current version is 5.3.1), select it and click Install

Now click on Extensions and select Preferences for Open With, the options screen will be displayed.

Change all options as per the screen-shot below and then click on Add.

This will open a new window in USR\Share\Applications, scroll down until you find VLC, select it and then click Open. It will now be added to Open With.

Now, go to a website which hosts flash Video, YouTube is a good starting point right click on a video and select the new menu option Open Link with VLC media player.

VLC will launch and the video will play.

What about playing Flash in Chromium?

Unfortunately, if you use Chromium Open With does not exist in the Chrome Web Store which is a shame as it works pretty well in Firefox.

 There is an App called Open with Other Apps, unfortunately this only works with OSX, it appears to work in a similar way to Open With, but I’ve not been able to get it to work in Linux. The developer of Open With on his website FAQ says:

Will you make a version for Chrome/Safari/XYZ browser? No. I would like to but their extension system isn’t currently capable of the things Open With needs to work.

You can use the app VLC for YouTube, but as the name suggests this only works with YouTube. 

gPodder 3.x: Changing the Downloads Folder Location and Missing Subscriptions

January 13, 2013 5 comments

In Ubuntu 12.04LTS (and variants) gPodder v2.20 was shipped and as with all previous versions of this podcast catcher software, it was relatively free of any major bugs as all good software should be if properly tested.

So it was with a degree of horror on upgrading Lubuntu 12.04 to 12.10 that I discovered all of my podcasts (10Gb worth) had apparently disappeared off my hard disk along with the subscription lists.

Missing Subscriptions

It a pity that not enough consideration had been given to how to transparently migrate from the SQLLite2 database in gPodder 2.x to the SQLLite3 database in 3.x this could have been avioded. It’s hardly surprising that with these sorts of problems, the year of the Linux desktop remains a distant hope for the community. If stuff worked in the previous version, it should remain working in the new version and if it does not then the software should be held back until fixed as with open source there is no commercial pressure to get software out of the door at any cost other than that self imposed by the developers.

After a bit of searching on the internet I found an ubuntuforums.org post from gds which is reproduced below:

Re: gPodder subscription list gone after upgrade to 12.10

I had the same problem. Ubuntu 12.10 now ships gpodder 3 which uses a new and incompatible database format. They don’t appear to have supplied any conversion tool nor any warning that your old config wouldn’t be converted (thanks!). However – it seems gpodder3 keeps it’s configuration in a gPodder directory in your home dir, while gpodder 2 was keeping it’s configuration in .congfig/gpodder. So I was able to recovery my subscriptions.

Here’s what I did: from the gpodder download site I downloaded the last release of version 2 (I used this one). Unpack the files somewhere (we don’t need to actually install it, just run it once. I put them in /tmp). Make sure gpodder 3 isn’t running.

Then from a terminal I ran
Code:

cd /tmp/gpodder-2.9
bin/gpodder.py

Now you can export your subscriptions to an OPML file that gpodder 3 can import (it’s on the subscriptions menu). Once you’ve done it you can quit and run gpodder3. Skip past the initial dialog offering you default subscrptions and you can import the OPML file you created in the last step.

I had an extra problem, because even after this gpodder3 didn’t recognize any of my previously downloaded podcasts (it wanted to pull down 3Gb of new shows!). This might be unique to me because I was using a non-standard location for my downloads, but I solved this by the brute-force technique of doing one last sync to my player from gpodder 2 and then telling gpodder3 to consider all the subscriptions up to date. I’m sure we could do better but this was enough for me.

Changing the Downloads Folder Location

With my subscriptions back, the next step was to find out where my previously recorded podcasts had gone.

Now I suspect I’m not too unusual in downloading a lot of podcasts both video and audio. becaue of the formers size, I do not store them in the default download folder location dictated by gPodder but store it on a separate data drive so if my filesystem partitions runs out fo disk space (as that is where my Home directory is located) I will not crash the system! I’ve been there before so I’ve learnt the hard way.

Up until version 3, gPodder allowed you to change the downloads folder location and in the Wiki this is still possible if you run Windows, Linux/ Unix/ OS X and MeeGo. If you run a varient of Ubuntu Linux, then as far as version 3 of gPodder goes you are stuffed as this feature does not work due to a software bug.

Whilst the Wiki does suggest making “session-wide changes on Ubuntu Linux”, it does not really explain how to do it and how to test that the change has been applied and gives up in providing proper instructions by pointing distressed users to the Ubuntu community documentation on Persistent Environmental Variables, which isn’t great in itself.

Whilst a bug has been raised about this probelm and Thomas Perl has tried to provided some assistance to my question about how to see if the variables have been set, I’ve decided to take a different approach and redirect the gpodder downloads folder residing in my Home drive to another folder on a different drive. Whilst useful for resolving this particular gPodder problem, it also has other users like redirecting the contents of your Documents folder to another folder on the same or different drive.

To mount one folder on to another you need to use the following command syntax:
sudo mount -o bind <source folder path> <destination folder path>
This is what I did:
In my case my gPodder folder is located in /home/username/gpodder/ and I wanted it to be located on /media/data/gpodder/
1. I moved all files located in the source folder /home/username/gpodder/ to the destination folder /media/data/gpodder/
2. Opening Terminal I entered the command
sudo mount -o bind /home/username/gpodder/ /media/data/gpodder/
This mounted the destination folder on to the source folder, effectively redirecting it to the new location.
Whilst this command is useful, it’s of no use if you have to keep reentering it every time you wish to use gPodder.
To make this permanent you will need to edit /etc/fstab and add it in. Using the above example this is what I did:
1. In Terminal enter the following to edit fstab as sudo:
sudo nano /etc/fstab
2. At the bottom of the file add the following comment:
# Mount Folder /media/data/Documents/ on to /home/username/gpodder/
3. Then add the following line below:
/media/data/gpodder/ /home/username/gpodder/ auto bind,gid=46,defaults 0 0
4. Save the file
5. Exit nano and from Terminal enter the following to rerun fatab and mount devices listed in it:
sudo mount -a
If the syntax was correct, there should be no error messages and you should be returned to the command prompt.
Using you file manger check that the /home/username/gpodder/ folder contains the same content as /media/data/gpodder.
If uncertain, create a file or folder in one and see if it appears in another, you may have to refresh the display (F5) to display the change.
GPodder will continue to think it is saving podcasts to the default folder location, but using this trick it will actually be saving them to a location of your choice without the need to fiddle around with environmental variables.

 

Categories: Uncategorized
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