Monthly Archives: April 2014

Video Players

Today, we tell you about our favorite video player, VLC from the VideoLAN Organization.

VLC Player Window

VLC Player Window

What we like about VLC, is that it will play anything, in any video or audio format you can throw at it.

To install VLC, just go to Menu–> Software Manager and search for VLC. Then select VLC and click Install

After installation, it’s a good idea to launch it from your Sound & Video menu and set your preferences. There are lots of them, so just click through the preferences menu to select how you want the software to behave.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at how to really take advantage of VLC with some Python tools.





FTP Clients

If you run a web site, one piece of software you probably can’t live without is a good FTP client. What we use and recommend is Filezilla.

Filezilla FTP Client

Filezilla FTP Client

Filezilla is an open source FTP client that is available for both Linux and Windows. The software runs exactly the same, and you can import and export configurations between the two operating systems.

Setting up bookmarks is fast and easy, which makes fast work of getting right to your images directory etc. when you log in.

A really nice feature of Filezilla is the network configuration tool. Using this wizard, Filezilla will configure itself to run through your local routers and firewalls that might be in place.


Just follow the instructions on the screen as you click through the wizard!

Breaking Things: ownCloud

A few weeks ago, after Ubuntu One was closed down, I installed an ownCloud server.

Over the weekend, I broke it!

ownCloud web interface

ownCloud web interface

With the server running smoothly, I decided to try a couple of the applications available. The App I chose was Notes.

Not really paying attention, I clicked on the Enable button for the notes, and was greeted about 20 second later with a warning that I had not activated the Application Framework first. Fine, I think, I’ll do that. Too late however, as my ownCloud installation was now broken!

Files were still syncing just fine, but access to the ownCloud web page was no longer working.

Anxious to fix it, rather than dump it all and start over, I started digging around in the /www/owncloud directory for a way to fix it.

Finding that the only file folder that had a creation date different from my original install, was /var/www/owncloud/apps/notes. That makes sense, since that’s what i tried to install after all.

Holding my breath, I sent the notes folder to the trash, the refreshed my browser window. Viola, it works again!

I then went back and clicked the +Apps button in the web interface, and did the install of the Application Framework. Next, Going back to the sever, I then restored the notes folder from the trash. Refreshing my browser again, I now have the notes application up and running!

Playing with additional  applications, I broke the web interface at least 3 more times, but if you do, just delete the offending folder from the apps directory and all will be right with your ownCloud world again.




Additional Drivers

Linux, is what we call an open source operating system. What that means, is that the millions of lines of code that make it work, are all available for inspection by anyone who wants to look at them. Indeed, anyone with the skill and desire, can even contribute to the code. This is an important feature because it means that Linux software can be examined for flaws, or back doors installed by oppressive governments to violate your privacy.

Sometimes though, where  software is needed to do something that Linux might not do yet, we  rely on close source software. This type is usually made by a commercial enterprise for profit. They almost never, ever, allow the public to view the source code. Just try asking Microsoft for the source code to Windows 8!

Such is the case with some video drivers. For the machine that I’m  on right now, Linux wouldn’t give me the full resolution that my video card and monitor are capable of.

If that’s the case for you, try this:

Click on: Menu –>  Preferences–> Additional Drivers

This will bring up the additional drivers dialog. After you open the program, it can take several minutes, as it looks at all of your hardware to see if any of it has closed source drivers for it, as shown below.

Additional Driver Dialog

Additional Driver Dialog

As you can see here, the program found that I had a compatible NVIDIA video card, and it offered me 4 different choices of drivers to use for it.

You will also notice that the driver recommended is the one I used. This will usually be the case!

The program will work not only with video drivers, but also WiFi, tablet, and many other peripherals.


Why Firefox

There are a number of browsers out there, but we push Firefox. Why you may ask, I’ll tell you in one word: Privacy

Firefox can be buggy sometimes, and I get at least one crash a day, but  it’s not something that would keep me away, and it shouldn’t you either.ff1

In the image to the right, you will see the Firefox privacy tab in the preferences. You will notice that  cookies, are turned off.

Cookies, are little packets of gold that can tell a company or web site where you were, where you go, and lots of other stuff. Want some privacy? Turn cookies off in Firefox. Now obviously, there will be a site or two that won’t load without cookies. These can be sites like Amazon, or your bank etc. To keep a list of what I’ll allow and what I won’t as far as cookies go, I use a nice Firefox extension called: Cookie Monster

Cookie Monster will give you a button in your browser to selectively allow cookies from sites that must use them for logins etc. As a privacy fanatic, if I follow a link to a news site, and it won’t load without setting a cookie, then I go find the story someplace else.

Another tool you should have installed on your browser is Disconnect which is a plug in that prevents all those stupid analytics companies from tracking you as you go from site to site. There is big money in advertisers knowing what you click on. I do not wish to be a part of that!

Somewhat privacy related is Adblock Plus, which will rid your browser window of all those stupid advertisements. It’s been found that some advertising on web sites may contain viruses and other harmful nasties.

Finally, the most important Firefox plug in you can install, is NoScript

NoScript Preferences

NoScript Preferences

NoScript will prevent web sites from running Java and Javascript software in your browser window. Why is this important? Because that is where most virus attacks directly from the web, come from! (And don’t think that just because you are running Linux, you are immune. You are not!)

Best practice, is to deny Javascript in all web sites, and then only allow it in sites you really trust!

(In all 7 of my sites, I do use Javascript, it’s hard not to, however all of my sites will display just fine without Javascript or cookies, as it should be!)

Many Javascript intensive web site will completely break if you don’t allow Javascript. For sites I trust, like Amazon, I’ll let them use it, for those unknown places on the web, that you might find clicking a link in a friends email message. Nope, you don’t want Javascript running for those!

Really care about safety and privacy? Then if a site won’t work at all without  Javascript or a cookie, Then think very hard about going to it. This is especially true of sites who’s business model seems to be tracking where you go and for how long, like google and facebook (2 sites that are blocked in our router!)