January 2012


At first I burned two DVDs using “Bombono DVD”.  It’s simple, intuitive, drag ‘n drop files, does transcoding.

But DVD Flick had a feature I’m not finding in any Linux alternative. Maybe I’m missing an option or something.  With DVD Flick (a Windows freeware program), I can highlight, say, 4-hours of video files and drag them over in one bulk drag into DVD Flick.  Somehow DVD Flick would adjust the quality so the 4-hours of video would fit on an ordinary 4.7-GB DVD-R.  The Linux authoring tools won’t let me burn more than about 2-hours of video.  I hope I’m clearly describing the problem.  Sort of like using a 2-hour VHS tape to record in the 6-hour (“EP”) mode.

Some notes:

Bombono DVD — This program stopped working for me so I uninstalled it.  I would drag video files into it, and then the program would simply vanish.  From doing some Google research, it seems I am missing some dependencies required for certain file types, like FLV.  I tried installing some codecs but it did not fix the problem.

DeVeDe — This works!  At least so far!  I have transcoded MOV, FLV, AVI, and MP4 formats into a DVD image (ISO).

Bit Rate — The key to being able to fit more time on a standard DVD is to adjust the bit rate.  DeVeDe makes this really easy.  On the project I burned recently I dragged 13 video files (25-minutes each) into DeVeDe.  It informed me that I was ~350-percent over the capacity of the blank DVD-R.  That’s OK.  All I need to do is adjust the bit rate, by clicking the “Adjust disc usage” button, and DeVeDe fits it all onto a standard DVD-R.  After pushing that button it reported my project would consume 99-percent of capacity of the DVD,  Perfect!

Brasero — This is a nice little program that burns an ISO image file onto a DVD-R.

I am *very* happy to have made this progress in Linux Mint.  DVD authoring was one of the major reasons I needed to keep Windows around.  Now it seems I have the tools I need in Linux.

Today I discovered Screenlets in Linux.  These are little applications that do handy things like give you the weather or your CPU load.  They are there on the desktop.  To install them, first you need to install Screenlets from Mint Software Manager.  After that, you can launch Screenlets from the Mint menu, and then install any that you like.

Additional Screenlets may be downloaded from this web site:

http://gnome-look.org/index.php?xcontentmode=6700

Some of the Screenlets are slicker and more polished than others.  It’s best to try them out and then decide for yourself.

The Screenlet applications live in subdirectories of a hidden directory called “.screenlets” which is in th Home directory (folder).  I am trying several Screenlets at the moment, so I would like to live with them for some time before making any personal recommendations.  This web site has lots of helpful information about Screenlets:

http://screenlets.org/index.php/FAQ

Also, note to self:  Learn what the difference is between a screenlet, a widget, and a desklet.

We all know the importance of backing up our files.  There are surely dozens of ways to go about this chore regardless of the OS in use.  Back in Windows XP I wrote my own Batch file that I ran every couple of days.  It was easy to remember because I placed a shortcut icon right on the desktop.  The Windows Batch file uses the XCOPY command.  Basically it will copy new or changed files to the backup disk.  Very reliable over the years.

So I was looking for something similar in Mint, but with a GUI.  I tried several solutions that gave me problems or were overly complicated.  There is a Linux program called Simple Backup.  The GUI was easy enough.  However Simple Backup wants to compress my source files and place them all in an Archive file.  Trouble was, I was backing up to a FAT32 drive which has a maximum file size of 4.3 GB.  So it failed.

I reformatted (using the built-in Windows CONVERT program) the FAT32 USB drive to NTFS.  Using CONVERT instead of FORMAT will preserve data already on the drive.

A friend told me about a Linux backup program he really likes.  And now I like it too!  It is called Lucky Backup.  (See link below.)  The GUI is very simple and intuitive, and it operates simply also.  Just specify source and target directories (folders) and it copies them over.  After the first time, it only copies over files that have changed.  Lucky Backup is based on the RSYNC command in Linux.  It also has a scheduler feature which is handy.  One less chore to remember.

http://luckybackup.sourceforge.net/features.html

One more thing I discovered with LuckyBackup:  When source folders and files are deleted from the source file system, LuckyBackup will also delete them on the back-up file system.  This is good or bad, depending on how you look at it.  Personally I really like this feature because I can be sure my back-up files are the same as my source files, without a lot of old unneeded files included in there.  Besides, if I accidentally delete a file, most times it is in Recycle Bin.  Even if the deleted file is not in Recycle Bin, it will be found in the back-up file system *until* LuckyBackup is executed again.

I discovered this excellent web page this morning.  It is loaded with many useful tips for users of Mint:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/tips-and-tricks-linux-mint-after-installation.htm

More notes to cover my adventure so far with Mint:

Wine — Was already pre-installed in Mint 12.  There is also something called “Winetricks” but I couldn’t immediately figure out what it does so I am ignoring it for now.

Password Corral — This is a very old Windows (DOS?) program that I’ve been using all these years to store (with encryption) my passwords.  I located the “.EXE” file that Windows uses, right-clicked it, and selected “Open with Wine.” Works perfectly, just like in Windows.

Evernote — This is a freeware program I discovered last year.  It is a freeware competitor to Microsoft OneNote.  I use Evernote to store text, lists, photos, web sites, etc. and share it across all my computers.  Evernote has versions for Windows and Mac, but not Linux.  However, the Windows version of Evernote seems to work flawlessly on Mint with Wine.

Firefox Add Ons — One that I really like is “Video Download Helper.”  When you encounter a video on the web that you want to keep, you can capture it with this download helper.  Easy and it works.  What’s nice is that you can instruct it to download a video and then navigate elsewhere while the download is completing.  While I was in the Add Ons I noticed they have Themes (skins) for Firefox, and a whole section of Themes called “Compact.”  I selected one and now my menus and toolbars are smaller, so I have more “real estate” to see the web pages.  And I also noticed Firefox has an Evernote add on.  Installed it and it puts an Evernote button right in the browser to make it super easy to snip stuff into my Evernote file.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/themes/compact

Search for “Classic Compact” theme.  I am using a version that works with Firefox 9.0.1.

Display Settings — My computer has two displays driven by an nVidia graphics card with two display outputs.  However I did not recognize the display driver in use.  So I decided to play:

Menu > System Tools > System Settings > Additional Drivers

This spends several minutes scanning for drivers that might need to be installed for my hardware.  It presented me with about 8 choices, all nVidia.  I picked the one with “Recommended” next to it. Now I have nVidia’s display set up screens.  I picked some really advanced options, and it said a reboot was required.  So be it.

But when I rebooted, it was clear my display configuration was hosed!!!  Left screen blank-white.  Right screen had no icons — nothing to click on.  Pretty sad.  Suddenly that sinking feeling, “I screwed up.”

Only one command seemed to get a response:  CTRL-ALT-DELETE.  This got me back to the Mint login screen, where there is a menu of login options.  Three of those are GNOME variations, and there is a fourth option to use MATE.  Never used MATE, so what the heck, I tried it.  Actually very simple but complete desktop.  Seemed to work pretty good with my hosed display settings.  Via Google I found that I could bring up the nVidia display configuration screens from Terminal using the command line: “sudo nvidia-settings”.  I set the display settings to something reasonable, rebooted into GNOME, and all is perfect now.

http://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/21

When you have 2 monitors and you try to save the twin view, you get an error (sometimes).  To fix:
1. Open Terminal.
2. Type “sudo nvidia-xconfig”
3. Type “sudo nvidia-settings”
4. Setup the way you want. Click on save.
5. Enjoy.

Thunderbird — I can feel a new addiction coming on.

View > Layout > Vertical View

This puts my folder structure in the left column, my email headers in the middle column, and the mail I’m currently reading in the right column.  But here’s the neat part:  I stretch the Thunderbird window across both screens and size the columns such that the screen break is between columns two and three.  This is surely going to spoil me!

The automount question was on my mind during a neighborhood party, so it came up in conversation when a neighbor mentioned he was into Ubuntu.  Long story short, he recommended a GUI application called “NTFS-Config” and this web tutorial:

http://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/automount_ntfs.html

Hot dog!  It worked.

During this episode I learned that Mint *used* to automount drives as its default but stopped doing that.  Users in the Mint forum don’t seem happy about this change.

Also I learned that the control of the automount function is inside the file “/etc/fstab” which you can edit manually — if you know the syntax.  The NTFS-Config GUI application adds the correct lines to the fstab file.

Automounting a drive in Linux also requires a “mount point”, which NTFS-Config creates.  This created a new “path” to my Thunderbird mail files, which meant that I needed to re-Browse to my mail folders on my Windows “C:” drive (which is my “sda1” drive in Mint).

All is now working fine.

By the way, to complete the story of my automount journey, I need to mention two solutions I tried that did *not* work:

“pysdm” seems to have a dedicated following, but it did not work for me.  The fields I needed to change were grayed out.

“mountmanager” held a lot of promise, with it’s nice GUI interface and many options settings.  Maybe I didn’t check the right boxes.

As mentioned above, “ntfs-config” worked like a charm.  It let me set all my drives to automount on boot, and also to mount with Write permissions.  If, after installing ntfs-config it does not work, follow the instructions on this page and it will work in Mint:

http://www.noobslab.com/2011/12/install-ntfs-configuration-tool-and.html

Windows users never deal with disk mounting.  Linux users should not have to either.  Windows = 1, Linux = 0.

More notes with my new install of Linux Mint 12:

Mouse — My default mouse speed seemed to be set just short of speed-of-light.  Very uncomfortable.  I found the Hardware Settings menu and noticed it was already set to the slowest setting!  Hmmm.  Google search turned up something called “gpointing-device-settings” which may be downloaded to help.  I found it in Mint’s “Software Manager” (1 of ~36,000 free applications available) and installed it.  After running it, I did not find any useful settings adjustments.  But somehow, my mouse is much slower now.  If it works, don’t question it!

Firefox — This is pre-installed and has an icon on the Favorites menu.  Aside from setting a few preferences, my biggest need was to Sync (get) my bookmarks from the Sync cloud.  I selected “Set Up Sync” from the Tools menu, entered my user ID, password, and 31-character sync Key, and like magic, all my bookmarks and bookmark folders are there!  Easy!

Thunderbird — Not easy.  Will try to keep this short.  First hour was wasted in a struggle just to get Thunderbird to Send/Receive with my ISP (Verizon).  This really had nothing to do with Mint.  I got confused by the relationship Verizon has with Yahoo Mail.  My Verizon credentials did not work with “incoming.verizon.net” and my Yahoo credentials did not work with “incoming.yahoo.verizon.net” — *but*, finally, in desperation, I found that my Verizon credentials *do* work with “incoming.yahoo.verizon.net.”   Frustrating process, but it’s working.

In Thunderbird Account Settings there is a place to Browse to the mail folder you want to use.  I pointed it to my active mail folder in Thunderbird under Windows, on my “C:” drive.  In my case this is:

</media/Local-C/Documents and Settings/Art.BLACKTIGER/Application Data/Thunderbird/Profiles/67si3olf.default/Mail/2011mail>

Mint is installed on a partition on my “D:” drive.  (This might be important later…)

Once I confirmed I could see all my old emails, and Send/Receive email using Thunderbird in POP3 mode, I powered it down for the evening (last night).  This morning, I boot into Mint, launch Thunderbird, and ALL EMAIL IS GONE!  Huh?  I go back into Thunderbird settings and re-Browse to my mail folder.  My email is back!  Why?  OK, let’s test this.  I power down the PC, re-boot into Mint, launch Thunderbird, and ALL EMAIL IS GONE AGAIN!  OK, I have a hunch.  I re-boot into Mint.  This time I Mount my drive (C:) by opening it.  *Then* I launch Thunderbird and all is GOOD!

So this is my current riddle to try to solve:  Find an automated way to Mount C: drive on boot up.  Or, Mount C: as part of an open Thunderbird script.

Desktop Icons — I would like my heavily used programs (like Thunderbird) to have an icon right on the desktop so I don’t have to drill-down menus to get there.  From the Mint forums it seems this has tripped up a number of people, mostly because we think in the paradigm of Windows or an older version of Linux.  In Mint the answer is to click the Infinity symbol (upper left corner), then on the word “Applications” which is sort of floating out there near the top/center of the screen.  Hover over the application you use heavily and Right-Click it, then choose “Add to Favorites.”  The icon will be added to the main menu of
program selections.  Good enough for me!

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