The initial install of Mint includes a handy little application called Screenshot.  It is very easy to use and in its simplicity only offers a few options.  For example, it will only store screen captures for saving in the PNG format.  That’s OK but sometimes I may want to have JPG, BMP, or GIF formats instead.  Sure, there are other programs that can read PNG and convert to other formats.  It would be nice not to need that extra step.

I noticed another screen capture program called Shutter.  Nice program!  It is still easy to use and offers a lot more functionality, including the capability to crop a captured image.  Nice!

I have included in here a wide capture of my entire desktop.  Since I am running two monitors side-by-side, it captures one image of both.  I am very happy with this set up.

I have been reading about some new work that the Mint folks are doing with Mate and Cinnamon.  They both sound exciting and I will be eager to try them.

Advertisements

Since the U.S. conversion to digital television I have been wanting to try integrating TV reception into my desktop computer.  The first step was to do some research into the TV devices that would have the features I want *AND* work in a Linux environment.  I found this web site very helpful for compatibility research:

http://www.linuxtv.org/

The leading manufacturer of TV reception devices for computers appears to be Hauppauge:

http://linuxtv.org/wiki/index.php/Hauppauge

The Hauppauge company web site is excellent.  It contains lots of detailed information about each of their products, including photos, manuals, and even tips for using their products under Linux:

http://www.hauppauge.com/pages/faq/support_faq_linux.html

In my case I located the Hauppauge WinTV HVR-1600 (model 1178 / version 74021) on Craig’s List for $40.  I believe Hauppauge sells these directly from their web site for $79.

This is a card that fits in a PCI expansion slot in a desktop computer.

The next challenge was to actually install it and get it to work!  This turned out to be a challenge, and maybe a needless challenge had I done things in a different order.  Let me explain…

Linux Mint (and Ubuntu) have the drivers for this WinTV card built into the OS.  In theory, I should be able to power down the computer, install the WinTV in a PCI slot, power up the computer, and start watching TV.  Well, my Mint 12 computer would not boot up with the card installed!  I did more research; I tried lots of things; and nothing worked.  For kicks, I booted my computer (with the WinTV card installed) using the Mint 12 DVD (for a live session) — and the TV worked!  This caused me to conclude that some configuration I did with my permanent install of Mint was creating the problem.  I suspected the NVidia drivers I installed.

So, I backed up everything, reinstalled the TV card, booted with the Mint DVD, and reinstalled Mint 12 from scratch.  And instead of installing the NVidia graphics card drivers, I simply used the default drivers in Mint 12 to configure my dual monitor set up.  I really cannot see a difference between how the displays are now (default Mint drivers) versus how the displays were before (NVidia proprietary drivers).  So I am happy.

By the way, getting my Firefox and Thunderbird configurations set up again the way I had them was amazingly fast and simple in Linux.  Basically it involves copying the .mozilla and .thunderbird old folders (from backup) into the new Mint file structure.  That might be a good topic for another post.

Now with a fresh install of Mint 12, I downloaded three TV packages (via Mint Software Manager):  TV Time, XAWTV, and Me-TV.  Over the past couple of weeks I have gotten comfortable with Me-TV.  The Me-TV interface is fairly intuitive, although there is one feature that would greatly improve it:  An option to re-scan channels.  As the program works today, Me-TV will launch a channel scan “wizard” the first time you launch it.  But that option does not exist after that.  It would be handy to be able to re-scan channels after antenna changes / repositioning.  There *is* a workaround!

Me-TV creates a database file after a channel scan.  If this file is missing, Me-TV will launch the channel scan wizard again to re-create it.  To get Me-TV to rescan the TV channels:

  1. Make sure the Me-TV program is not running (check the status bar at the top of the screen in Mint 12)
  2. Navigate to home/.local/share/me-tv
  3. Delete the file me-tv.db
  4. Launch the Me-TV program again

To make this easier to repeat, I created a link (shortcut) right on my Mint desktop to take me to the me-tv directory (folder).

Although the WinTV HVR-1600 version that I have is cable-QAM (C-QAM) compatible, my current plans are to use it to receive terrestrial digital TV, from an antenna.  Later today I hope to get the antenna installed higher up, in the attic.  But at this moment I have a home-made UHF antenna leaning against the wall in the den, about 6-feet above ground level.  To see how I made this antenna, please visit this page:

http://sites.google.com/site/artstadlin/Home/Pursuits/hdtv_antenna

Since the TV stations have their towers clustered about 30-miles from me, my reception is not so great yet, until the antenna is mounted higher.  Nevertheless I am amazed it works as well as it does.  Some stations have no drop out!Me-TV in Linux Mint 12

The Me-TV program has a nice “TV guide” section at the bottom, under the screen (see screen shot).  This makes it very easy to quickly see what programs are on, and also what programs are coming up.  There is a record capability which works nicely.  Finally, I can record digital TV!  There are also capabilities to do timed recording (like a VCR in the good ‘ol days).  I look forward to trying that feature soon.

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!