Tag Archives: Observation

Breaking Things: FFMPG

There have been a bunch of updates to Mint 17 lately, and I always dutifully apply them as they become available.

In one of the last updates however, a couple of things changed that I didn’t really  realize until I went to use the software that was  deleted during the updates.

My ClamTK and ClamAV antivirus package and GUI went away. Turns out I was using a legacy version. Simple enough to fix, just went to the ClamTK site and got the updated version.

The other interesting package that went away was ffmpeg. I’ve been using that wonderful tool for years and years. It was for a long time, the only way to convert about any media type, to about any other kind of media.

Thing is, it’s deprecated. and I just wasn’t paying attention when it happened. Of course there is a replacement, and it’s already part of Mint 17. It’s called avconv and it lives in the /usr/bin/ directory.

WinFF Setup

WinFF Setup

All that I needed to do for the software that I had using ffmpeg, was to change the conversion engine to avconv instead.

The lesson learned: As you do updates, it’s a good idea to actually read the information pop-ups that are telling you what is going to be updated, deleted etc. I usually do, but these changes got right past me.


Security: Don’t Click On That!

I’ve been saying it for years to all who will listen. If something on the web seems too good to be true, it probably is!

In the latest hacking scandal, private photos of several celebrities were taken from their cloud accounts and shared on line.   People hear about it on the news and then go searching for them to see for themselves.

In New Zealand, people searching out the leaked photos, found them alright, along with malware and virus infections to their machines. Those in turn created a bot-net that was carrying out  denial of service attacks. This in turn overloaded the DNS of and took down one of New Zealand’s largest Internet service providers! You can read the story HERE.

Folks, it’s pretty easy to stay safe on the web. Don’t click on links sent via email, and never, ever, go searching for things that you would not search for if your grandmother was standing over  you, watching what you are doing!

More securing and safety tips in the top menu!


Linux Is Not Just For Geeks!

There have been a number of commentaries the past week about how Linux will never be a desktop operating system that anyone would truly want to run. A well written article on the TechRepublic web site sums it up well. While I agree with the reality of what the author is saying, I for one still believe that Linux can become a force in desktop computing.

Just this year, after I’ve pointed out to 3 different friends that they were already running a version of Linux in their Android phones, I have switched them to Linux on their desktops from Windows XP.

I mean really, my 75 year old and almost completely blind mother runs Linux on her desktop. My autistic adult son runs Linux. My completely tech illiterate wife runs Linux. Now my friends with old computers are running it too.

A good distribution that is well maintained, in this case Linux Mint, does not require a geek to run it!

Offering of course, to provide tech support for all of these installations, I have only had but a single question from any of them! That question ended up being about networking, and took 30 seconds to fix. (They wanted to use OpenDNS to replace their ISP DNS for some kid-friendly site blocking.)

None of these people now running Linux are geeks. They are just regular computer users who do average stuff on their computer, you know, surfing the web, keeping a checkbook, writing a report, etc. All of them are keeping their systems up to date with updates as they become available. It really isn’t that hard!

So let’s stop selling Linux as a geek tool (of course it is, for those of us willing to use it that way) and let’s sell it as a vital key to the average users computer happiness!


Non Computer Related Fun This Week

I’ve spent the last 2 days doing component-level service on my 6-year-old powered wheelchair. When you live your life in a wheelchair, you fast have to remember all the stuff you can not do when your chair is broken! My goats were very upset when it wasn’t me feeding them dinner last night.

My odyssey started with a quick run for some water softener salt. 2 miles from home I got caught in a huge downpour. The rain was not on radar as I left, it just popped up as I got on the road. Not that unusual for Florida. Deciding it would be best to do that errand another day, I went home. Turning on my chair to exit my van, I had power, but the chair was blinking out random error codes.  I love computers, but why must they be in wheelchairs!

Calling my bride in the house to bring my manual chair, I got into it, then we managed to drag my non functional chair into the house.

I’d been out working on the farm  before my ill-fated trip. I’d been rained on several times, using a chair that is supposed to be water tight, I never worried about it.

Turns out the rubber membrane that the control buttons are molded into, had cracked in the depression of the button. This allowed water over time to leach onto the motherboard of the controller. The highly mineralized water started leaving deposits on the motherboard, under and around the processor, surface mounted to the motherboard.

Oh, why could you not be in a socket!

I did get a laugh though. When I got the controller open, a nice sticker greeted me that said, “Made in England.”   This of course brought back fond memories of an IT Crowd episode where everything that was breaking, was made in England.

Back to my controller, with my surface mount rework station, a large magnifying glass and several hours worth of work, I was able to clean up the mother board and bring it back into working order.

I’m fortunate that I can do all my own repairs, both mechanical as well as electronic. Checking on the web found that there were several places that would be happy to sell me a new controller, for $1200.  The local wheelchair place assured me that the controller was DOA and that replacing it was my only option. I couldn’t get them to agree to a friendly wager that I thought otherwise.

So while I only had a 24 hour period of upset, who I really feel bad for are the thousands of people dependant on mobility devices, who get ripped off for every stupid part they need. I mean, simple caster wheels for my chair are $90 from the company. I found better wheels on Amazon for $20. Had I let a local mobility store do my repairs this week, I’d have been out $1500.

My point, if you have skills in electronics or mechanics, think about who you might be able to help if they have issues with their mobility devices.

There is no way I could have afforded to pay for these repairs, and insurance companies have made it so hard to get a new powered wheelchair now, it’s just not even worth trying to fight with them anymore. (Mostly thanks to a couple of huge companies hawking them on TV for years, flooding the market with chairs for people who likely didn’t even need them!)

I’ll be scouring garage sales for a backup chair in the coming weeks!



Join Your Distro Community!

One of the reasons that Linux in all of its forms works so well, is the community of users who give the developers feedback. As a user of multiple Linux Mint computers, we find the Mint community a great place to air problems, ask questions, and review software.

If you have a program that’s not behaving itself, let the developer know about it. The easiest way is to write a review of the software. Once you are registered in the community for your distribution, then put that user name and password in the Software Manager so you can leave comments.

Join a Linux Community

Join a Linux Community

Why do I bring this up today? Well, I really wanted some software , but after I installed it, I found that it wouldn’t run more than 20 seconds or so after it was launched. I’d installed it from the Terminal, as I do most packages, so when I opened the Software Manager and read similar  complaints, I was grateful that other community members had noted the problem. I added my 2 cents as well.