Category Archives: Tricks

VirtualBox: Running A Favorite Old Game

Subtitled: How to increase the color depth in a Windows 2000 virtual machine, beyond the default 16 colors.

I was poking around Amazon.com over the weekend, and stumbled upon a great old Windows game that my wife used to enjoy playing all the time. Sadly our disk got damaged, so we hadn’t played it in years.

The game, Monty Python and the Search For The Holy Grail

For all of $5.00, including shipping I figured I couldn’t go wrong!

Once the disk came in, the first thing I did was stick it in my wife’s CD-ROM drive and run the Setup.exe file with WINE. The setup failed.

Undaunted, I fired up a Windows 2000 install in VirtualBox, and tried the install again. This time it installed OK, but the software wouldn’t run because the VM was stuck in 16 color mode.

This is very easy to fix!

With your VM running, select the Devices tab in the top menu, and then click on the Insert Guest Additions CD Image

Win2k running in a VM

Win2k running in a VM

This will bring up the following dialogue:

Win2k running in a VM

Win2k running in a VM

It’s now just a matter of clicking through the prompts like you would any other software install. You will be greeted with a Digital Signature error a few times, but simply click on Yes for each.

Win2k running in a VM

Win2k running in a VM

Finally, once everything is installed, you will be asked to reboot the virtual machine for the changes to take effect.

Win2k running in a VM

Win2k running in a VM

Once rebooted, you’ll want to Right-click on the desktop, and select the display properties. For many old Windows games, you will need to select 256 colors for the game to display correctly. You’ll be tempted to use the highest setting, say 32 bit color, but in the case of today’s game, the on-screen text will not display if you do!

Windows 2000 display settings

Windows 2000 display settings

That’s all there is to it, and the result is a happy spouse, enjoying a favorite old game once again!

Monty Python game, running in Win2k Virtual Machine

Monty Python game, running in Win2k Virtual Machine

 

Audacity: Problem Solved

Probably the best audio editing suite on the planet is Audacity. Indeed, there was a time when I was spending thousands of dollars on audio editing software for radio and  television stations,  that can’t hold a candle to Audacity!

That said,  I and many other people have found a problem with the import function, whereby the imported audio will play very fast, choppy and then freeze up the program. I wrote about it in an earlier blog post.  Being so busy here on the farm, it was only recently that I was able to actually research what was causing it.

After trying several fixes, one presented itself that I will now pass on to anyone else having the same problem. Nice thing is, it’s simple!

The problem Audacity was having was with the Linux Pulse Audio driver. The workaround, is to add a string to your launcher for Audacity.  To do this, Right Click on your menu item or panel button and select Properties:

Launcher Properties

Launcher Properties

In the Command box, you want to replace what is there, with the following:

env PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=30 audacity %F

Adding the latency of 30 milliseconds helps correct the error. To be clear, the problem is not with Audacity, but with the often  hated, universally maligned Pulse Audio.

 

 

 

Software: Making LIfe Easier

I have a mostly blind mother, who loves to watch our  ustream channel on her gigantic projection TV. She enjoys being able to see me, as well as my interaction with the goats.

A  problem she was having though, is that if ustream goes down from a brief network outage, the browser dropped out of full screen, or locked up entirely; the video of the goats would be gone.

She can’t see the mouse cursor to get everything working again.

So today, using Teamviewer to access her computer ( I’m in a different part of the country)  I used a couple of tools I’ve mentioned to you before, to fix her problem. Those tools are the VLC media player, and the Python program called Livestreamer

The computer she’s using,  is devoted to the single task of showing the goats, so today, I  set it up so that’s all it will do!

First things first, was to open the VLC media player, select preferences, and tell VLC to always play in the full screen mode.

VLC Media player setup

VLC Media player setup

Next was to install the other software she needed. First was Python,  after which you use the Python package installer PIP, to install the Livestreamer software using the command:

# pip install -U livestreamer

The next thing to do is have the computer launch the Livestreamer command at startup. This is done in your Preferences menu, under Startup Applications

Startup Applications

Startup Applications

Startup Application listing

Startup Application listing

That done, I just issued a reboot command to the machine, and after it booted back up, Bob’s your uncle, she was watching the video stream, full screen!

Now if she loses her stream, all she has to do is reboot her computer, using a hardware button she can feel on her computer.

 

Breaking Things: When Updates Fail

Over the weekend, I allowed Linux to do an update. All was going well  until the Update Manager politely posted an error message:

Update Manager Error

Update Manager Error

You’ll notice the last line in the error message, unexpected end of file or stream, with the file name and location of the bad file.

All this means, is that during the download, the file was corrupted somehow. I blame my poor WiFi connection to this particular machine.

How to fix it? Easy, just clear your cache!

Open a Terminal Window and type this:  sudo apt-get clean

After you are asked for your password, the installation cache will be emptied, and you can then restart the Update Manager.

LInux will always tell you what is wrong, so read dialog windows carefully!

 

Fixing Things: VLC Media Player

Every now and then, a program doesn’t seem to work ‘out of the box’ the way you think it should.

Such was the case with the VLC media player. Though I never had a problem with it under Mint 13, Mint 17 was playing video with the colors inverted. In all fairness, I’m running Mint on a 10 year old AMD machine with the default, on board graphics card that is pretty much crap.

If this happens to you, the fix is simple.

VLC Settings

VLC Settings

Just maneuver to the VLC preferences, select the Video tab as shown above, and select the X11 Video Output.

That’s it. Now the video will play in the correct colors!