Sunday, 8 November 2009

OpenSuSE 11.2, KDE 4.3 on dell vostro 1520

I while ago, my mum's laptop died. It was a old Acer laptop (for quite a while I had one of these too). This laptop had been running OpenSuSE for quite a while and mum had been very happy with the KDE desktop. The main reason for installing Linux, was that Windows XP had become unusable. A clean install of XP is nice had fast and responsive, however if you then install all the service packs and updates, the system becomes unusable! Recently the hardware had started to fail, first the battery, then the wireless...... So it was time for a new laptop.

After much looking around we got a Dell Vostro 1520 laptop. Now people who have seen my previous posts will know I'm a big fan of the dell laptops. The are built very well and have good hardware at a decent price. The part of the dell website that lets you customize the computer you are buying is fantastic. It means when I spec out laptops for people, it could be tailored differently for the person that will use it. We did look at other makes, but they were either to expensive (Sony, apple...) , a brand I've not heard of, or don't meet the required specs.

I decided to install OpenSuSE 11.2 RC2 as the the time of installing it, their were about 5 days till it's released. I have to say, once again OpenSuSE has made some big step forwards in areas that I care about. With a install using just the packages off the DVD, it was great and pretty much ready to use. However I add a few of the repositories amongst them are Mozilla, Packman and the latest stable KDE repos.

So in the previous release the things I had issues with were broken kde4 wireless application and no way to rip music to mp3 from a CD (k3b was not setup to do this). Both of these seem to have been sorted. Setting up the wireless was a joy. It was very easy. Ripping music from CD to mp3 is still a bit clunky. I would like music to be ripped to the hard disc automatically when a CD is put into the drive. However I get prompted if I would like to extract the audio with K3b or listen to the music with other apps. This works well, k3b was able to extract the audio. Slightly confusing for mum as she did not understand the term Ripping. Maybe these buttons should be called "Extract Audio" in the same way the dialog that prompts be for what to do with the inserted disc.

Their is one other thing I really like in the latest OpenSuSE is the KDE intergration with firefox. This is really awesome. I would like to see this go a bit further. For example use kget as the download manager. At the moment I use flexget to send stuff to kget, but that's a bit clunky. I'd also like passwords to be stored in the KDE wallet. I'm now also wondering if the FireFox hacks could be applied to all GTK apps? I use Eclipse at work and it's very annoying to me that it does not fit with my desktop.

All the hardware in the laptop is working great. Probably the first time that I've installed on a dell laptop and had all hardware working without tweaking. That might be down to the bleeding edge version of OpenSuSE though :-) The only thing that need a bit of tweaking were the special media buttons (play, next, prev, etc....). The just needed to be assigned to the amaork. Would be nice if this was done by default in KDE (though it does depend which media app you use). The volume controls were already assigned to the mixer app, so that was nice.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Ubuntu Karmic Koala (9.10)

I mentioned in a previous post that a friend had installed ubunt 9.04 on his new dell studio 1555 laptop and that their were no real problems. Well it seems after a bit of time a few problems did show up. The 64-bit kernel (2.6.28) in ubuntu 9.04 had some problems with suspend.

So he installed Ubuntu 9.10 (kernel 2.6.31) and that fixed all the problems with suppend. He has to ad 'noapic' to the kernel line in grub/menu.lst because to get some the special laptop keys working. Their is a bug on it, so maybe it will be fixed in the next few months. Their is also no need to add entries into the modprobe.conf anymore to get the sound working.

So it looks like next release of Ubuntu (9.10) will be a good one for dell studio laptops.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Released PodCaster version 1.0

Just made a release (1.0) of PodCaster. This is the fist time I've removed the beta status from the project. The release is mostly a bug fix release as it's been though quite a bit of testing and bug fixing.

Due to this been a bug fix release, the features are pretty much unchanged:
  • Capture Internet radio to audio files.
  • Create MP3, WAV and MP4 files.
  • Encodes metadata and cover art into the media files.
  • Create pod cast from captured radio stations.
  • Supports real audio and Microsoft ASF format.
Please goto here to find out more details and download the release.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Ubuntu 9.04 on a Dell Studio 1555 laptop

A friend of mine has just bought a new Dell laptop to run Linux on. Since this is a new version on mine, though it might be useful to blog about it.

The laptop is a Dell Studio 1555 and has the following hardware installed:

Intel(R) Wireless WiFi Link AGN driver for Linux, 1.3.27ks
2.0 mega pixel UVC webcam
Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU P7450 @ 2.13GHz
4Gig DDR2 Memory
ATI Technologies Inc M92 [Mobility Radeon HD 4500 Series]

Ubuntu 9.04 (kernel 2.6.28-15) was installed on the laptop. Apart from the sound, everything worked out of the box. The sound was just a matter of adding the following line on the modprobe.conf, which is going to be included in the new Ubuntu:

options snd-hda-intel model=dell-m6

Seems that dell are now using the Intel Wireless N cards instead of the one that was fitted in my laptop from broadcom. Seems like a smart move as it worked out of the box.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

PS3, PSP and remote play

I got a present of a PSP from my wife when ew got married and so far I've been very impressed with this little gaming device. The best game I have for it Burnout dominator, this is well worth a play and quite addictive.

The PSP is great when traveling, I was quite surprised how long the battery life lasted, and the games I have for it are very impressive. One of the first consoles I had was a Sega Game Gear (still got it somewhere). The PSP remainds me a lot of this console, but really shows how far things have come since then.

I'm finding that the PSP is great for those times when I want to game, but the TV is in use so the PS3 can't be used. This let me to wonder about the remote play abilities of the PSP. I'd not heard many people mention it so figured I'd give it ago. Basicly the remote play allows the PSP to connect to a PS3. The PS3 screen appears on the PSP and allows it to be controlled from the PSP. This is pretty neat, but so far I've not actually been able to find a use for it. This is because very few titles work with remote play on the PSP. None of the games I own work with remote play. I might buy one at somepoint to give it a test drive. Also non of the DVD's work over remote play. This is a real shame.

So far I've been using remote play to install PS3 updates, thats about the only use for it that works. I'd love to hear from others that have used remote play. It seems such a neat feature thats almost impossible to make any use of. Same more games don't support it. Might also have been interesting if Sony had given the PSP the ability to work as a wirless controller for the PS3.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

MediaInfoFetcher Release 1.2.2

Just made release 1.2.2 of MediaInfoFetcher. This is a small bug fix release mostly. The release can be downloaded from here.

Changes are as follows:

Bug Fixes:
  • Updated some of the soruces with changes from in the source html they parse.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

First release of podcaster (0.1 beta)

Just made the first release (0.1 beta) of PodCaster. This is a beta release as its the first initial release. Hopefully this will allow me to find any bugs in it and make a solid second release.

Thinking about the next release, I'd like to add some configuration options to allow the tools that PodCaster relies on to be configured.

Here is some of the features that can be found in this release:
  • Capture Internet radio to audio files.
  • Create MP3, WAV and MP4 files.
  • Encodes metadata and cover art into the media files.
  • Create pod cast from captured radio stations.
  • Supports real audio and Microsoft ASF format.
Please goto here to find out more details and download the release.

New project PodCaster

A while back, I created to perl scripts that were used to record internet radio streams to files and place them in a podcast. This was maily because I like to listen to the nighttime shows in the day while I'm at work. Were not allowed to stream stuff over the work network because it places to much of a load on the network. So I came up with a better solution of recording them and putting them on my iPod.

This worked great for quite a while, but their were always some short comings in my scripts. I'm also mainly a Java/C++ coder, so the perl scritps are quite hacky. Then a while back, the scripts stopped working, I think this my badly written perl.

So I decided to recreate them in Java and started a new project called PodCaster, which can be found here. The idea is that it will replace the perl stuff I did before, but be cleaner and maintainable. Its progressed very well and quite a few new features have been added which the perl scripts could never do. Like for example encoding meta data into the recored audio files, adding cover art to the feed and been able to record the shows in different formats.

The Java PodCaster project still relies on some tools like mplayer and ffmpeg, but I might look to replacing them at some point with pure java code. The good news is that this is now nearing the first release (0.1). I expect I'll make the release official in the next couple of days.

Monday, 22 June 2009


So I've now joined the masses and go one of the new iPhone 3Gs's. I had a sony ericsson before that was looking kinda battered, so I was indeed of a new phone and be a gadget lover I though I'd go the the new iPhone. I want a phone that allows be to surf the web (the real web, not wap!) and check my mail, plus be good for games.

I the iPhone has lived upto my expectations, it's a great phone. I don't think i could go back to not having one now. I don't ever plan to stuf the wap web again, thats for sure. The app store is fantastic. Their is a decent about of free apps to and the ones that need to be paid for, are a lot cheaper than the games I used to buy on my old phone.

The web works really well, it's pretty much like I'm using a small computer to surf the web, the email works really well to, though it might be a curse been able to check work email anywhere. Having said that, email account can be turned on and off.

I've only had it a couple of days so far, but it's be pretty much all good so far. I think if I had to pick one negative thing about the phone, it would be imap email folders. Most of my mail is filtered by server side email filters, which mean they don't end up in my inbox, but go strait to the folders. The iPhone seems unable to check for new mail in any folder other than the inbox, which is quite annoying. You have to check each folder one by one. Love to know if their is a work around for this?

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Released MediaInfoFetcher 1.2.1

Just made release 1.2.1 of MediaInfoFetcher. This is a small bug fix release mostly. The release can be downloaded from here.

The project got it's first issue raised which as been fixed in this release. If you find any defects in the release or want to request new features, you can raise them here.

Changes are as follows:


  • Now able to rename subtitle files

Bug Fixes:

  • Fixed some null pointer issues
  • Updated to work with changes in source websites

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


I found this great little utility the other day that I though I'd blog about. It's called IMAPFilter and can be found here. Here is the blurb from the site:
IMAPFilter is a mail filtering utility. It connects to remote mail servers using the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), sends searching queries to the server and processes mailboxes based on the results. It can be used to delete, copy, move, flag, etc. messages residing in mailboxes at the same or different mail servers. The 4rev1 and 4 versions of the IMAP protocol are supported.
I'm now using this to get me email back under control. I've created a configuration file for IMAPFilter that will remove all mail from my mailing list mail folders which is older than 30 days. It also marks all mail in the Junk folder as seen. I suppect I'm going to be able to add other stuff too.

The utility is great because it can perform operations on the whole mail box. Mail filters only really work on the incomming message.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

MediaInfoFetcher Release 1.2

I've just released version 1.2 of MediaInfoFetcher. This is a application that can be used to find Film and TV Show meta data, and store it in various formats. It also can be used to rename media files using this data. The latest version can be found here.

Changes are as follows:

  • FEATURE: Recursive renaming of media files
  • FEATURE: Added a MythTV Store for writing film information to the MythTV database.
  • FEATURE: Added logging to the application (Using log4j).
  • FEATURE: Added new Film Hybrid source that takes the best of all the film sources.
  • FEATURE: Films can now have a genre flagged as primary
  • FEATURE: Added new source for films.
  • FEATURE: Films can now also have chapter name information and long descriptions.
  • FEATURE: Films and TV Shows can now have non numeric ID's.
  • BUGFIX: Updated all the web parsers for latest changes to the websites.
  • BUGFIX: Fixed text output. Now shows text for "Fetching film from source" instead of "Fetching show from source".
  • PERFORMANCE: Speed ups for MP4 store using atomic parsley. It now longer writes metadata unless it needs too and artwork is removed at the same time as writing the metadata.
Let me know if you find any bugs with the relase! Enjoy!

Friday, 1 May 2009


I saw this today, which is very interesting. It's basically a short demo of XMBC running on the ARM platform. This is is the start of a really great media centre. I've so far been using Mac Mini's as media centres for their size, however the setup is a little complex and I've no need for local storage really. All the media I watch is on my server.

So the video shows XMBC running on a ARM Cortex-A8 beagle board. The actual hardware is tiny. The operationg system looks to be be booting of a SD Flash Card. I guess it would need some kind of IR control for me to use it and maybe a DVD driver, but these should be doable, both could be attached by USB. I think once OpenGL ES support is working I might see about getting once of these boards. They should be noiseless to.

Most my TV's are old, so I wonder if I can connect it to scart (I'll probally replace the TV at somepoint, but would nice not to be force into it).

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Neversummer 5 Stores

One of the big projects I've been working on for the last few months is a custom store system for the Neversummer project. The store system that comes with Neverwinter nights 2 is not really up to the task of dynamically pulling it's contents from the database and been able to set the buy/sell/identify price according to fields in the database.

Since we have all that data in the database already, I set about writing a custom GUI for Neversummer 5 that would allow us much more control of the stores. This is mostly complete now. The custom GUI stuff in Neverwinter Nights 2 is pretty impressive once you get the hang of it. It's mostly written in XML with some NWScripts. To start with I want the GUI of the store to be the same as the neverwinter nights 2 version, but pull content and prices from the DB.

Their are a few problems I've not found fixes for. First one been I would like to be able to drag and drop items between the store and the inv to sell them. I've not found a way to get the item that is dropped on the store.

The second problem is todo with context menus. I can't remember all the details now as it's been a while since I looked into it, but I think I was unable to stop the "Identify" menu item showing when the store was not open.

I'm currently working on the web frontend we have created to control the content of the game. This is going to be the place were the store contents are control. It's about 80% done now. When it's complete, people with access to the tool will be able to create new store and change the content of them easily.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Util now I've not mentioned the other project I'm involved in, but as were looking to get blog's to apear on the projects website I though it was about time a blogged about it :-)

Neversummer is a world created on top of the nwn games. They are a completly set of content, that uses the neverwinter nights game engine. I started to work on Neversummer 4 after been a player for quite a while. Now were working on Neversummer 5 which runs on Neverwinter Nights 2.

My main contributions have been in web based tools for adding and controlling the game content and NWN Scripts which I used by the game engine. If your intrested in find out more, then visit the website.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Media Centre's - Plex

I've been looking into different media centres for use in my home. I made a previous post about XBMC. This showed a lot of promise, but had a few issues (since that post I've tried the SVN version and a lot of the problems have been resolved). Since the main use I have a media center is on a mac mini below the DVD, I though I'd give Plex ago.

Plex is a media center that was forked for XMBC and only works on Intel MacOSX. The aims of the project are to produce more integrated version of XMBC for OSX.

As I stated in my previous post, I've been running MediaCentral from Equinux. However this had a few problems:
  • Unable to eject the DVD!
  • Not able to play .mkv's (they don't show up in the media lists)
  • No plugin support
  • No meta data display
Also whilst looking at XMBC I found that playback of media was choppy (This might not be the case with the SVN version, I've yet to try this).

Anyway I'll start of by saying, I've been very impressed with Plex. First of it plays all my media files with no problems, both low def and high def content.

Once of the features that I really like is the the remote control support. Both Plex and XMBC (I'd not tried this till now) allow you to use a harmony remote. So I no longer need to use the apple remote with it's limited buttons. This has been really great. It makes the media center much more usable as I refuse to attack a keyboard and mouse to something below the TV.

It's also possible to add special buttons for things like "Eject". So finally I'm able to eject DVD's from the mac mini with the use of a remote control. This is quite a big deal as I've always had to do it via SSH session from a laptop before.

The plugin support has been hugely improved from what I'd seen with XBMC. I've been using the iPlayer plugin and this is very responsive and no longer needs to spend ages reading content from the BBC.

The interface for downloading new plugins is very slick, I was quite impressed. You just go to the application section and select the pluing you wish to install. This was a big advantage over XMBC. Another nice feature is the automatic update. I was prompted to ask if I wanted to install the latest version. I select yes (with the remote control) and it installed the latest version!

Plex inherits all the good features of XMBC, so it has some really good themes (once i got used to default on called "MediaStream" I've really got to like it.) It's meta data support is also great.

The only negative I've found so far is that it does not allow the playing of DVD's. From what I've been able to find out, they claim that this is buggy and have disabled it. This is a real pain, at the moment I've using the PS3 to play DVD's. I'm hoping that this gets turned back on at some point. It's worth noting that XBMC has no problems with DVD's.

So in conclusion a very good media center for the OSX machines that does everything I'd want with the exception of DVD playback.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Media Centre's - XBMC

I've been looking around for a media centre to use. I have a mac mini below the TV that is used to play content stored on my server. I'm currently running MediaCentral from Equinux. However this has a few problems:
  • Unable to eject the DVD!
  • Not able to play .mkv's (they don't show up in the media lists)
  • No plugin support
  • No meta data display
So because of these problems I've been looking around for other media centre's. The first I've looked at is XBMC. I'm looking for a nice looking media centre that hopefully works on windows, Linux and OSX. Though OSX is the only one currently that I must have it working on. I'm also looking for it to fix the above problems, as well as been fast. One other feature I'd really like to see, is the ability to get the metadata from the MediaInfoFetcher application I wrote.

So first off XBMC seems to work on linux, windows and OSX. However after playing around with it a bit this is not quite the case. I could not get it to start on my OpenSuSE Linux box at all, it just complains about a problem with Open GL. I suspect that this is a problem with the ATI Linux graphics drivers and 64 bit, though no other app has a problem. I tried it on a different Linux box, and it started fine their.

The windows setup was a little odd, first it seemed to be working fine, then I tried to setup the media, which is on remote samba shares as far as windows is concerned. This did not work as a XBMC witch is odd given that you would expect windows shares to work very well on windows. So I tried mapping them to drive letters, and got one of the sources add to XBMC. However I was not able to add the others. Every time I tried, I though the drive letter as relative to the users home directory. So not very usable on windows!

Next I tried it on OSX on my mac mini, this is the device that really matter as it's below the TV. I'll be expecting HD 1080p output for this and surround sound via the digital out of the mac mini. I also need the remote control to work as this device does not have a keyboard or mouse. All this stuff pretty much worked. The remote control functions took a bit of getting used to, but was actually quite good. All the previous mention problems were fixed, I could even eject DVD's and play lots of different media types.

Next up I wanted to try some plugins. One of the ones I was most eager to try was the iPlayer plugin. This worked very well. on mac os, but not on windows. It was actually very impressive watching iPlayer content on the large TV screen, makes you wonder if you still need a TV tuner.

I then tried to watch some media files, and this is were the mac OSX problems started. It would start of playing quite nicely, then become choppy. This is low def content, so it's quite unexpected. This content plays fine in Frontrow and MediaCentral. Also fast forwarding on the remote seemed a bit clunky and made things go choppy to.

The meta data display was great for films, however did not work very well for TV shows. Mainly because I wanted to be able to store them in a directory and take the show name from the directory. This was only supported for films, but I only wanted to do it for TV shows. It has the ability to add scrapers for different sites via XML files, which is quite nice, but I could not find anyway of parsing data fetch my own application.

In summary, it's a really nice media center with a lot of potential. At the moment, it does not quite meet all my needs due to the different problems on different platforms. I think the the choppy playback could be solved I'd probably use it.

Monday, 12 January 2009

OpenSUSE Build Service

Whenever I install a new Linux system, I always find that their are packages I'm unable to get. So I usually end up building these from source. This is then something that needs to be done every time I reinstall :-(

It occurred to me that I'd be better of learning how to create RPM's and install things that way. This did make things a lot better, however getting them onto multiple systems and having to rebuild them when I upgrade the distribution was still a bit of a pain.

So I though I'd give the OpenSUSE build service ago. First thing I did not reliase was that when you create a account, you get your own Repository. Any packages you build go into here and then they can be moved to other projects if you want to.

So I've done this with my packages and now I just register my repository on my system and use the package manager to update the packages and install updates. This works great!. You can also say what distrobutions your packages should be built for and the build service builds them. This will make upgrading a lot easier.

So all in all, I think once the initial learning of RPM spec files and the build service was out the way, thing have got a lot easier and this will probably save me a lot of time.

I've now started adding some of my own projects, and things I usally build from source. Hopefully they will be usefull for other people too.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Upgrading to OpenSuSE 11.1 Some issues.

So as I previously mentioned, I've been upgrading my machines to OpenSuSE 11.1. First of I have to save it's very impressive. As previously mentioned, it's great that ALSA works now on my laptop.

I've also upgraded my work computer, and this has been having issues resolving host names. I think I've not tracked this not to a IP v6 problem. I found out how to disable it here. Now things are much better on this machine.

On my laptop I've seeing problem with the networking. Basicly I use knetworkmanager to control the networking via the NetworkManager does not work unless you run it as root. It will launch as not root, but is unable to find either the wired or wireless networks. I suspect this is to do with dbus permissions but I don't yet know much about these :-( More investigation is needed.

UPDATE: I've tracked things down a bit more. I've been having problems with KDM, probally due to something I've done and my use of a usable version. So I've been starting X from the command line. I just tried GDM instead, it seems it must set something up when it's started, cause now I can see networks in the new KDE network applet and knetworkmanager from kde3! Hopefully when I fix up KDM, that will also work.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Dell Studio 1535 OpenSuse 11.0 and latest ALSA

Over the Christmas I set about updating from OpenSuSE 11.0 to OpenSuSE 11.1. I always like to have the latest and greatest distro :-)

So I changed all my sources in Yast/Zypper over to the 11.1 distro and a manual update of most the packages, then the rest with a zypper dup. It all went pretty smoothly, the only exceptions were the kernel modules I'd compiled my self. These were the ATI graphics drivers (fglrx), the wireless drivers.

The first was a simple fix, I just reinstalled the ATI drivers. The second has been a bit more compilated as the broadcom source does not build agist the lastest kernel. Howerver I think I have a fix for this, so will blog about that another time when I've had a chance to test it.

The best thing I've notice so that about OpenSUSE 11.1 is that the sound hardware in the latop now works correctly!!! without any hacking. The sound is much louder, and both ear phone sockets work. Also the laptops internal speakers cut out with you plug speakers/head phones into either headphone socket. I put this done to the latest version of ALSA been in the OpenSuSE 11.1 release. Fantastic!