Posts Tagged ‘Linux’

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Running Second Life?

November 23, 2009

Basically, I am in search of a good, reliable distro that will work.  Of course, every time I review a distro, the definition of “work” changes a bit.  For instance, working within Google Docs is a must-have, as is finding my flash drives and other partitions.  And at the moment, running Second Life is a major quest.

Second Life is a virtual reality program/game in which you interact with the environment and people using an avatar.  It is fun and somewhat addictive, but it also exacts a heavy toll on system resources.  Finding an OS that supports it reliably has been a challenge.

One thing that this hair pulling has resulted in, is me learning more about the command line interface.  CLI is sacred ground unique to Linux.  I know of no Windows users who currently profess the virtues of DOS although there are some geeks who will use the cli in Windows on a rare occasion.  And I don’t know if such a thing even exists in the Mac world.  But to die-hard Linux geeks, CLI remains the ultimate passport to Linux nirvana.

So I’ve worked through a portion of the tutorial at linuxcommand.org.  While I do have an appreciation for the power of the command line and its elegance and power it does rely on memorizing exact syntax in order to be of greatest use.  You can look and poke around with a few basic commands, and there are aspects of it that make it infinitely easier than the old DOS commands of 1989.  Once I get comfortable with it, I might even use it to install packages more often, as it is pretty slick.

But my most fundamental question remains unanswered: how do I get that SL executible shell script to actually run? I can search it, list it, copy it, move it and do all sorts of nifty things.  But somewhere the most fundamental of all commands seems to elude me.  Where is RUN? Or EXECUTE?  LAUNCH?  How do you get a program to actually DO anything other than be redone, renamed, looked at and admired?

In Mandriva 2008, it did run almost without fail, although it did crash.  A lot.  I’m just now learning that this is a constant in SL.  In Windows, it lags hopelessly much of the time.  In Linux, it runs much faster if you can get it going at all.

When I updated to Mandriva 2010, it quit running and constantly opened the file in kwrite or another text program.  Getting the SL viewer to run was impossible.  I then began experimenting with some other distros and options.  I liked Mandriva, and would stay with it if not for that one fatal flaw.  I arrived at a few other possibilities:

1.) A 4 G flash of 0.7 ArtistX I had lying about.  This is built off of Ubuntu 8.10 and holds most media programs in the Ubuntu repositories, and specializes in 2D and 3D graphics.  It actually was the most seamless solution in that it most easily detects and connects to my wireless network.  However, the sound is very flaky (will often cut out and stop) and it is slower.  I would have installed this, except none of the Ubuntu distros to date detect the partitions on my Dell Vostro 1500.  Ubuntu won on my wife’s computer, as it detected all of her partitions but it is a FAIL here for an install.  The settings on the persistent USB do not persist, so I have to re-set each time.  Painfull, but doable.  I would stick with this if the sound stayed on and if it was a smidgin quicker.  The sound it the biggest dealbreaker here.

2.) Puppy Linux 4.1.3 – gave it a shot but never did get it to run.  If thArtistX had the persistence of Puppy and its speed, it would be a natural.  I only mention it because I did try it.  I didn’t think it would work, but definitely worth  a shot.

3.) PCLinuxOS 2009.1 – I have rediscovered PCLOS and really like it.  And I was able to successfully get Second Life to run…at least until I updated from the repositories.  Then I was back in Kwrite land instead of Second Life. But the video was very shaky and erratic, while the sound and speed were superb until then.  I had random visual distortions in the game, but easily this was the best solution of the lot, so far until it crapped out totally.  The other thing was that it had a hard time getting up on my wireless network.  I put my ndiswrapper .inf files on a flash to speed up the configuration process that gave me an idea…

4.) PCLinuxOS Live CD – Obviously, the update after the install spelled doom for my Second Life experience, so I decided to see if I could get it to run in Live CD.  And in fact it did work very well, once I got on my wireless network.  Again, I flashed the Linux version of the software to speed up configuration.  I was able to play for several hours without a single crash or hang, even with conditions that would otherwise have been very laggy.  But the next time I tried, it failed to grab my wireless network.  It detected it, but getting on failed repeatedly.  This would repeat on the installed and updated version in #3 above.

5.) Windows XP – I do have to mention it because it is always a fall back of choice.  The program always executes, every time.  And there are no wireless isues….ever.  However, it is incredibly slow and laggy.  I can not interact or talk to more than one person at a time and it still bogs down to a crawl.  My experience with SL with Windows is not very positive at all.  The Linux experience is much better if not for the flakiness of those other issues.  And Windows will crash and hang…often.

Anyone else playing Second Life?  Which Linux distro works best for you?  I suspect Ubuntu might be a clear winner here, if it wasn’t for the issues I have with installation and sound.  I can more easily compromise video quality than sound.  Second Life as a deaf person is possible but not very much fun.  And I have no idea why Ubuntu’s partition manager fails to detect my windows partition.  Doing fsdisk or whatever the cli is renders up the correct partitions and I am even able to mount them all, but the installation partition manager still fails.  I am ready for Ubuntu but it doesn’t seem ready for me!

Second Life isn’t THE deal maker or breaker in what I need from a distro, which is why running it from removable or temporary media is fine with me.   But it is just one other program and experience that helps to differentiate the strengths and weaknesses of the different flavors of Linux.  And even similar distros across different machines, renders differing experiences as illustrated between installing Ubuntu on my wife’s HP Pavilion and my Dell.  We both have XP NTFS partitions, but hers was detected and mine wasn’t.

Right now, PCLinuxOS occupies the linux partitions and I love the simlicity and little features that make this a great distro.  But if it fails to hang on to my home wireless connection between boots, it will get the boot.  That IS a deal breaker for me on this laptop.

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Video Editing in Linux: Kino v Open Movie v KdenLive

August 10, 2008

I have yet to see a decent article on using video with Linux, so I thought I would write one. I’ve been working with video and posting my clips on YouTube using Windows Movie Maker 2. It is an adequate program, but I’d like to find something that could be as good or better in Linux. Could I pull it off? Follow along and see…

I used a Canon Powershot A630 and captured the video on an SD card. The video was only about a minute long, just to keep it as simple as possible.

Would PCLinuxOS be able to read the output? Would I be able to edit it with a title and maybe add some music? Would I be able to post my video on YouTube? Let’s see.

I was looking for some likely video editors and these were on my list:

Kino

Cinalerra

Open Movie

KDEnlive

I’ve been using Movie Maker for all of my videos thus far, so anything I used in Linux would at least have to measure up to that. I had not used any of these but did some research on each of these and downloaded everything except Cinalerra. I’m not opposed to Cinalerra but didn’t want to spend scads of time learning features I would never use. I wouldn’t mind trying it eventually, but this is a basic project. Capture, edit, render and post. Once a body does that, we can experiment and tweak.

PCLOS was able to read my SD card, no problems. That’s more than I can say for my niece’s laptop which is running Vista. Oh well.

Meanwhile, I’m also playing with Ksnapshot for screen capturing. I’m definitely expanding my skill level with this exercise!

Kino

Kino looked pretty simple until I tried to import my .avi file. Then it acted confused as it wasn’t a DV file. I said import anyway, and away it went. It said it might take awhile. Okay. So I waited for a couple of minutes. And then some more. This movie was about 90 seconds long, so I was not going to wait forever. I purposefully made the clip short in order to limit processing and rendering issues.

Finally, it imported, taking a full 3 minutes. Next, I went to the timeline.

The Kino Timeline

The Kino Timeline

This did not look like a timeline view to me. I had a series of clips, each about 6 seconds long. I clicked the Trim button and saw that I could do a little basic editing, but it was not a timeline format I was familiar with using other editors I had fiddle with. Even the editor that comes with Nero seemed more full featured than this!

I looked at the export feature just to see what it looked like and it appeared to support several formats including some DVD options. But I decided to look else where to do this project. I didn’t see anywhere to put titles especially in light of not having a proper time line. Perhaps I missed something? I may need to do more research in order to warm up to Kino. NEXT!

Open Movie

For some reason, my package manager did not install Open Movie in the menu, so I ended up searching for it. Then I put an icon on the desktop.

Now here was an editor that I could understand a bit better. There was a more “normal” timeline with multiple tracks with the capacity to add even more audio and video tracks. But I ran into trouble when trying to add any effects other than a title. Plus, the program would simply disappear whenever I tried to preview my movie.

More research needed. I did look at the export options, and those options looked a bit complicated for someone used to using Movie Maker. Lots of promise here, but I need to be able to preview without the thing crashing.

NEXT!

KDEnlive

I’m running out of options, here. Kdenlive came on to the scene relatively recently, and I was keen to give it a try. I had seen some YouTube videos made with this program, so I knew some people were using it. Could I use it?

The default video format stymied me for a bit. ATSC is something I hadn’t heard of before. Reading a bit, it sounded like a fancy name for mpeg-2. Okay, moving on…

Next I could decide how many audio and video tracks in my project. Movie Maker only allows one video and 2 audio so the flexibility to add more is nice. I decided to stay with the default of 2 and 2.

Next I was greeted by a screen that looked intuitive as it really seemed to fit with the KDE theme. Perhaps this would be the one.

So I went to Project>add clip and was able to browse for my movie clip. I was able to drag it to the timeline. So far so good! Next, clicked the “play” button in the preview window….

Not good. Not good at all.

So I tried it again, and the second time it worked. I have no idea what I did different if anything. So while I knew I might crash at any time, I also knew this program showed promise. So it was time to save before it crashed again.

Time to add a title, which looked like it needed to be a text clip. So I created and added it…or at least I think so.

It didn’t show up in my preview.

Okay, so far so good. Let’s render this thing out, shall we?

Under file, I tried “export timeline.” Good choice.

I had a lot of choices for high and medium quality. Medium is good enough for the moment so I picked mpeg 640×480 high. So far so good. Lots of audio choices, too. Now I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed as there really are a lot of choices here!

I finally clicked the export button and let fly. It said it should be finished in about 5 minutes and had a progress moniter to show me how things were going. This is the furthest I had gone with any of the programs and was looking good.

After rendering, the title still did not make an appearance. I went back and tried to fiddle some more but never was able to make the title appear in the preview window on top of the clip.

There were still choices available in Movie Maker that were lacking here, such as toggling between timeline and storyboard view and number of transiton and effects. But overall, this program is a pretty good fit. Or it would be without the niggling defect of not seeing the Title/text screen I created. I did not play with that many features as I wanted a quick and dirty demonstration just to see if using Linux with TouTube was even possible for a noob like me.

Out of the 3 programs previewed, I liked Kdenlive the best, but not having the Title show up was a real bummer. Kdenlive could eventually become my editor of choice by the time it gets to 1.0 status. The trick is going to be to keep the development moving and thus keep my interest alive. This type of progression is what has helped Linux reach critical mass as desktop choice. It is good enough now to hold the interest of the average user, even if it not totally perfect. Handling video tasks such as screencasting, editing for online viewing and working with webcams are going to be crucial in order to make this OS viable for the future. Video rendering remains one of the most intensive tasks most home computers do and it is becoming more and more necessary for business. The future of computing is in video, and Linux is woefully behind in that area. This is why Macs have seen such a rise in sales is because iLife makes video creation so easy and painless. Most prominent YouTubers are using Macs. It would be nice if Linux could at least make an appearance but right now Linux is in sad, sad shape in the area of allowing average users to generate content.

The finished product isn’t anything too special but here it is:

The good news is that I was able to completely capture and render the video and post to YouTube within Linux without having to go into Windows.  And really, that was the ultimate objective.  I’ll still use Windows for the majority of my video work, just because it is faster at the present time and plays nicely with my webcam on the laptop.

I’m also in search of screencorder software, similar to Camstudio.  Or it would be cool if Camstudio were ported to Linux. I feel this type of software is crucial to further development of Linux.  That is because no one is going to sit down with a book or manual to learn about Linux or software.  But they will watch a series of short, concise video tutorials on the subject.  I can learn more from 4 minutes of video than an hour of reading a technical manual.  I can’t do code, but I could make technical support videos for Linux if there existed the right tools.  The Xvidcapture that I found isn’t quite cutting it, even though it’s a good start.

D.

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Mandriva 2008

June 5, 2008

I’m trying out a new distro on my new laptop and so far, pretty good. This is a Dell Vostro 1500 (1 G RAM Intel 2 core duo) which came preloaded with Windows XP. Yes, I opted away from Vista as I knew that the machine wouldn’t be all that happy with 1G RAM with that OS. I’ve had a chance to play a bit with Vista, and 1 G is a minimum requirement. It runs like an XP system upgraded to 512 Mb RAM.

I’ve had my eye on Mandriva for awhile. I’m not sure why it didn’t work on my work machine (with and Intel Dual core 2.4 Ghz) the last time I blogged it, but it did work on my home machine (an old 1.8 Ghz eMachine) on the live CD. In fact the Compiz feature worked right out of the box and right up front on that machine.

Mandriva and PCLinusOS are forks of Mandrake, so they are either siblings or really close cousins. They both look very similar and work similar enough that moving from one to the other is not a big deal. One thing I like about Mandriva is the option of upgrading to the Power Pack version if I choose.

I began the work of installing by downloading and burning a live CD version of QTParted. Since installing PCLOS on another machine, I’ve gotten better and more comfortable with resizing partitions. QTP made it easy. Installing Mandriva was as easy and painless as any other modern Linux distro. I can’t imagine doing new Windows install nowadays, as the last time I had that done it took PC repair people over 2 days to get it all installed and I still had to call the Mother Ship to reinstall Office XP.

This Dell already had 3 partitions set up. One was the main Windows partition, with two other very small partitions for media and recovery files (I’m guessing). So I was limited to creating one more partition as I was limited to 4 total partitions with this program. With a 250 GB HD, I had plenty of real estate to spread out. I ended up giving the new partition 50 GB of that. If I ever master video creation in Linux, I may need more. But I’m still using Windows to make and edit video.

One issue that crops up with people going to Linux is wireless support. For a desktop hooked with an ethernet cable, internet access is no big deal. For laptops, it is a different story as wireless access is much more critical. One reason why I waited a couple of months to put Linux on this machine was not knowing how to make wireless work. But I persisted with the live CD until I figured it out. Using Ndiswrapper (included in the installation process) was a new experience and there was some trial and error involved. I was able to find my Windows “drivers” folder and found the wireless folder easily enough. But there were two folders and each had a different .inf file for wireless. I tried each, and of course the first one wasn’t the right one, but the second one was. Getting wireless to work was the critical factor for me doing an install, making this a dual-boot machine. Being successful with this and the partitioning were the major concerns of this install. It wasn’t anything about Mandriva or Linux that made these issues, it was my inexperience and nervousness.

Mandriva did give me one major issue right out of the box.  I noticed up front there was some loud speaker hiss that persisted no matter the volume/mute status on volume control.  That was a huge annoyance since I use headphones most of the time.  In fact it was huge enough that even though Mandriva worked better and faster than Windows in most respects, I still booted in Windows much of the time.  I finally found another blogger who had a similar issue.  The fix was not exactly the same but similar: I went to the volume control, clicked mixer, and then went to the input tab.  In this case, turning off the left capture mixer did the trick.  This will be fine as long as I never have to actually input or capture anyting.  But I might want to, someday.

The Grub bootloader works fine, but it did take some fiddling and experimenting to figure out which partition was going to load Windows when I wanted it as the menu choice “Windows” wasn’t the proper one.

But right now, everything else works well so I’m going to stick with it.  However, I need to test it out more before deciding on whether or not I want to pay for an upgrade.  I realize that getting a distro to work properly out of the box on a laptop is trickier that a desktop for some reason, mostly having to do with the wireless issues.

D.

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Why I don’t have an Apple

April 15, 2008

I like to do things with audio, video and photos, so it would seem like I’d be a natural Apple Fan. In fact, I used to be, back in the day. My first computer was a Laser 128, which was a clone of the Apple II series. I had that machine for about 3 years and it served me extremely well. When that machine finally died, I really, really wanted a Mac, and so I bought a used Mac 512 with an extra external drive. This served me well for a couple of years and then I bought a Mac Color classic. I loved this machine a lot with 4 MB of RAM and 8 MB hard drive. It lasted several years, and I learned that a little bit of power and capability on a Mac seemed to go a lot further than it did on a PC.

But there were problems in the early 1990’s with being a mac user and trying to get online. Basically, AOL was the only real game in town, and it was expensive. I could have joined a Macintosh users group (MUG) and gotten an email address an access to their online forums but most of the people I really wanted to interact with were PC users. What really got me was when I needed to buy another keyboard do to a liquid spill and saw the difference in price. Everything having to do with a Mac was more expensive. Printers, modems, keyboards and every other peripheral were costing 2-3x more for the Mac. Plus they had very limited expandability, and any expansions also cost a premium. When I went into my local CompUSA store, I saw acres and acres of shelf space devoted to PC games and peripherals and maybe one shelf devoted to Apple stuff. I had to travel further to visit an Apple store for the privilege of paying more money to get whatever stuff I wanted. And I always wanted more than I could afford. I got sick of it.

So when my wife got a special Wal-Mart discount on a 486, we went for it. The Color Classic went to a relative who didn’t have a computer, but all the preteen daughter wanted to do was go online which was exceedingly difficult with the Mac. Within a year. They bought a PC.

By now, you know the story. We can buy a PC anywhere at anytime for a much lower price than a Mac. Macs do work and they work very well for what they do. They had better do well for what Apple is charging for them. The markup on an Apple machine is by a factor of several hundreds. Mac fans can not afford to be anything less than totally devoted to their machines because they have paid so dearly and must constantly fend off the temptation to buy 2 or 3 PCs for the cost of one of theirs. Being a bit closed-minded is part of the Mac culture because that is what is built into the Mac’s themselves. The economics of productivity and computing power can not be factors as much as a certain religious fanaticism toward the Mac platform.

I like Macs and always have considered getting one when it was time to buy a new PC. However, I shrink away from paying thousands for a machine when I can trade off my PC knowledge for performance and come out ahead.

This is not Mac bashing, but I have always had issues with Apple’s closed-off, elitist proprietary business practices that almost make Microsoft’s business model look very soft and snuggly by comparison! This little trip down memory lane was brought on by the issue of Apple trying to squash an effort by a Mac Clone company that will offer an OS X Leopard machine for about $500, which is way, way less than anything Apple is selling close performance and hardware wise.

The Apple company and fan base has always been hostile towards free-market competition. Whether this whole thing blows over or not, it does highlight the problem Apple has always had and will probably always have with Steve Jobs at the helm. Thank goodness they were not as able to put a headlock around the mp3 player business! They make good products and they should be allowed to do price their stuff for whatever the market is willing to pay. People can and will vote with their feet and their wallets, which is what I did 15 years ago. Now, with Linux, we have an even better playing field and even more choices and options. With that in mind, that makes the PC and even better buy than an Apple. I’ve always wondered why someone would clear off OS X for Ubuntu, but to each their own.

D.