Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Things to Add to Xubuntu 14.04

Xubuntu is great right out of the box, but there are some things that you can add to it to make it a little nicer.  Here is the list of my favorites.  To add things, you will be using the “Ubuntu Software Center.”  Find it in the menu system and click on it.  You can browse for things as you wish, or enter part of the name into the search box.  Don’t go hog wild installing stuff.  Take a hard look at the popularity of the item and the rating.  If an App is both popular and highly rated it is probably good.  If a program is already installed you will see a green check by its name.  When you click on an App you can then read about it, check its ratings, install it, or uninstall it.  Some of the programs below have similar things already install in Xubuntu but these are better.

LibreOffice – This is a must.  It is a full featured substitute for Windows Office. It has a word processor, data base, spread sheet and more.  You can install all or part.  It also reads Windows documents.

Rhythmbox – Itunes does NOT work with Linux.  Don’t waste your time.  Use Rhythmbox or Clementine.  The work better and with a little patience you will learn how to manage your Ipod without Itunes.

Gwen View – Install Gwen View and use it to view and manipulate photographs.

VLC Media Player – You use this fine program to play all kinds of media

Cherry Tree – Use this to store all kinds of important information in a free form database.  It is fast and easy and seems reliable.

Lucky Backup – This program will take a little experimenting to learn how to use it.  It is not really hard but you do have to think about it.  It is a very powerful backup program.  It works fully automatically (once you set it) or manually.  You never even notice it working.  Its awesome.

Shutter – This is an awesome screen snapshot program.  It runs in the background and when you hit a hot key (I use ~) it take a screen snapshot according to the method that you choose.

KeepassX – This is a handy password keeper.  Put all your user names and pass words in this handy file and they are stored in a safe encrypted file that you can backup.  You DO have to remember the password that you establish for the use of this program.

Simple Image Reducer –  If you take a lot of photos and want to reduce them in size really fast, this program is tops.  Not many options but it works great.

Audex – My current favorite for ripping CD’s

That’s enough for now.  Concentrate on getting used to the system.



Things to Tweak in Xubuntu 14.04

Xubuntu has become my favorite version of Linux.  It is good right out of the box.  It is even better if you add a few things and tweak a few things.  Here is my list.

Discover the Mouse menu – Click on the little mouse in the upper right corner of the screen. (This is your “start menu.”)  Notice that there are two columns in the menu box.  The right hand column contains categories of items.  When you click on any category, all the options in that group appear in the left column.  You can then select an App from the list on the left.  These are the default settings of the menu.  Practice with it a little, its easy.  I’ll call this menu “Mouse” but the correct name is “Whisker Menu.”

Increase Panel bar size – at the very top of the screen RIGHT click on the narrow task bar, a menu will appear.  Select “Panel” then “Panel Preferences.”  An Option box will appear.  Slide the “Row size” slide bar to increase the size of the panel.  Experiment with other options if you like.

Turn on Backgrounds –  Click on “Mouse”, then “Settings,” then on “Desktop.”  A large option box will appear.  Check the box that says “Change Backgrounds.”  If you like, reset the amount of time between changes.  The default pictures are pretty crummy, but you can use your own pictures.  Put some pictures of your choice into a folder of your choice then change the setting in the “Folder” box to point to your photo folder.  I recommend using a few good pictures in a folder of their own.  Don’t use your library of 10,000 snapshots.



Put the Web Browser on the desktop – Click “Mouse” then RIGHT click on “Web Browser.”  A box appears.  Click on “Add to Desktop.”  Add other things to your desktop if you like but don’t gum it up with stuff.  That’s why you have the “Mouse.”  The first time you try to use a new desktop icon, you will get a scary warning with three options.  Just click on “Mark as Executable” and it won’t happen again for that icon.


Adjust your “Mouse” favorites – The Whisker Menu (Mouse) is so flexible.  Take a look at all of the various Apps.  If you see one that you really like and that you will use regularly, you should put it into “Favorites.”  Simply RIGHT click on the option, the select “Add to Favorites.”

Adjust Light Locker – Light locker can be very annoying but it is useful too.  It controls when your monitor shuts off and other things like that.  “Screensaver” blanks the screen after the minutes you select… I use 17.  “Switch off display” turns the monitor completely off putting it in standby mode (most monitor support this, older ones not.)  If you enable “Lock the session” then you will have to type your system password when you return to your computer.  I leave this set to “Never.”   You decide for yourself.  I also leave “Lock on suspend” off.


Screensaver – There is currently NO excellent screen saver (one that displays photos etc) for Linux.  There used to be a really cool one, and you can still use it, but it is buggy now that Linux has advanced and support for the screensaver fell by the wayside.  So I recommend just using Light Locker combined with changing screen back grounds.  If you must have a photo slide show, there is a really cool program called FEH.  You can use FEH to make your own photo frame out of an old computer or you can use it to have a one button slide show on your every day computer.  Using FEH is an advanced technique so we will save that for later.

Wierd Names – This is really a brain tweak for you not the computer.  Linux programmers seem to like wierd names so just get used to it.  Instead of Photoshop, you get Gimp.  Then there is Feh, Thunar, Catfish, etc etc. You’ll get it.

Discover the Terminal – The terminal opens a small black Unix like command window that looks similar to a DOS prompt.  In this window you can type direct commands to install things and tweak things.  For now you just need to know how to get to it.  Click “Mouse”, then “Accessories”, then “Terminal Emulator”

Virus Checker – You don’t need one.  Really.  There is one called “Clam” with a user interface called “ClamTK.”  You can download it and use it if you like but you are wasting your time.  Browse responsibly and you will be safe.  The other day I came across one of those “attack” web sites that zaps Windows with false virus messages and pops up forever afterward.  No big deal.  It showed a message that immediately stalled out and then I went on browsing elsewhere.

Shut Down – How do you turn the thing off?  Click “Mouse” then in the lower rightcorner you will see a power button icon.  Click that and pick your option.


Try it you’ll like it

You might be thinking….gee, why don’t I run Linux. Well, its not for everybody. If you do only the basic things with your computer…. Email, write letters, use a spreadsheet, browse the web, play simple games… then Linux would be good for you. You could kiss Bill Gates goodby along with all of his on line activation, virus checkers, spyware, malware etc. You would have to adjust to the goofy names that some Linux programs have… for example… I use “Gimp” instead of “Photoshop.” But its all pretty simple.

Linux is probably NOT for you:
.. if you run a lot of really High Tech games, like Halo, etc…the really intense ones. Oh, a lot of them can be jerry rigged to run on Linux but they run slower and are buggy.
.. if you have some “Pet” program that you just have to have and it won’t run on Linux…for example “Turbo Lister” from Ebay… or “Microsoft Streets”, then maybe its not for you. I can get both to run on Linux but they are too buggy to use that way.

There is a THIRD option…you can run Linux ALONGSIDE of Windows. I have been doing that for years. Its called DUAL BOOT. Linux takes up about 1/3 of your disk and Windows has the rest. When you turn on your computer, you choose… Linux or Windows. Linux can see and use all of the Windows stuff, but Windows cannot see or use any of the Linux stuff. Its neato. I hardly ever use Windows, but its has been there for those special moments when I need it for some lame reason.

Vista Frustration

Talk about frustrating…. I bought my wife a new computer, well it was a refurbished one that I found in a Walmart ad and purchased online from some partner company. $169.00 for a I5 processor with 4 gigs of Ram and Nvidia Graphics card. It came with Windows 7, just what she needed to get away from XP. It looks and works like new.

We’ll I decided to erase her old computer, an Acer Revo R1600 and install Windows Vista on it so I could use it to run slide shows of all our photographs. That would be its only task so age and speed did not matter. Well! It took me a little over SIX hours to get Vista to work on it…. Oh it installed right away with no errors…but then nothing worked. No internet, no modem, cruddy video, no sound. I had to use another computer to go online and find the drivers for the Revo, download them, put them on a thumb drive, and then use them to FIX all the things that Vista could not do by itself. Then curiosity struck again….. I grabbed my Linux Thumb drive…..that’s right, it fits on and boots from a thumb drive…..and restarted the machine.

In 12 minutes, the machine was up and running in Xubuntu Linux 14.04 and EVERYTHING WORKED the first time. That’s cool. To be fair, newer versions of Windows would probably work the first time too…but may be not….and they would run slower on this older machine. The Revo has an Intel Atom processor and only 1 gig of Ram. Its not a slug. You can still buy them… but its not anywhere close a whiz bang model. It runs pretty snappy on Linux.

Time to try Windows

Last night, before hitting the sack, I decided to boot up Windows 7 and see how it was doing. Right off, the screen looked a little different and then I got this message in a big box with a oscillating bar. The message said something like, Windows cannot start….attempting to make repairs. So I turned off the monitor and went to bed. Its now 11 AM and the message was still on the screen. I tried to push cancel…but it replied, “You can’t cancel this operation.” I thought, “Oh yes I can!!.” With that, I held the power button down until the computer shut off and I went back to Linux. Here I am….all OK. The files that I deleted were truly duplicate files… Not only the same file name but also the same content…just different folders. Some of the files had the same content but a different file name. Why did I delete them? Curiosity. Many of them were just data files of my own making…backups etc….but most were made by Windows for whatever reason. So, the big question now is…. do I restore Windows from backup or just hit the big TRASH button. I only use Windows about 1 or 2 percent of the time and only for non-essential things, like games. The rest of the time I use Linux…. it is faster and safer and it not so geeky any more.

First Blood

Last night after deleting the 99,000+ files from my Windows system, I loaded up my favorite Bible program “The Word” into Linux. It is a Windows program that resides on my Windows disk, but I use Linux to operate it. Well, it didn’t work any more…an ominous sign. The reason is that it stores all of its fonts and other critical files as DUPLICATES in its own folders instead of just reading the fonts from the the Windows System folder. A lot of programs do this to save a smidgen of time. So I had to restore that program from Backup and then it worked fine again. But it was an ominous sign.

Deleted Gobs of Dulicates

Whoa!!! I just used Linux to delete 99,000 duplicate items from my Windows 7 system…… We’ll see if Windoze can take it. Hard to believe that Windoze can accumulate so much sludge. Windoze 7 should now be leaner and meaner or may be it will just choke and die. We’ll see. If it chokes and dies, may be I’ll just delete the whole thing and forget it.

How to make a Link in Dolphin file manager

If you run a dual boot Linux system, then you have probably discovered that it is difficult to find what you want on your old Windows file system.  Since Windows cannot “see” your Linux documents and photos, it is sometimes good to store your Linux stuff in the Windows file system where dumb old Windows can find it.  This means that you have to be able to find your way around in the Windows file system.  That is a little tricky and requires lots of mouse clicking.  Using Dolphin, you can not only navigate your Windows system, but you can also make quick “links” to locations that you need to use often so that all those clicks are reduced to ONE.  Start Dolphin now and we will learn how.


Fig. 1

In the left hand column of Dolphin you will see all of your available locations.  To be sure you can see everything, right click in the left column and select “Show all entries.”  A few new items may appear.  Mine looks like figure 1, yours will look different.

“Home” should be at the top.  This is where your Linux documents are stored and it contains several other folders that show when you first start Dolphin.  “Root” is the Linux file system, you mainly leave this alone, but click it now to see what appears in the right column.

In my system, the entry call “HP” is my Windows file system  (your will be different) and the entry call “Docs” is a link to a specific folder inside my Windows system.  With ONE mouse click on “Docs” I can zoom right into my Windows documents.  This would require about 10 clicks otherwise.  If you happen to have a “dead link” that no longer works, you can right click on it and select “Remove” and it will be gone.  Files are NOT deleted, only the link is removed from Dolphin.  If you do not have a “Remove” option, then it is NOT a link and cannot be removed.  I will now remove “Docs” and then put it back step by step…there…. its gone.  Acck!  What have I done??


Figure 2

To make a link, first you have to find a place to which you want to link.  Click the places in the list in the left column until you have found your Windows file system…. you can tell it is Windows because it will have a folder called “Documents and Settings.”   That’s a dead give away.  Ah!! There it is…see figure 2.  Now I am going to click on “Documents and Settings,” then on my user name.  Notice the folder called “My Documents”…. for now, THAT is what I want to make a link to.  Highlight it. (Figure 3)

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

While it is highlighted, RIGHT click on it and select “Add to Places.” (Figure 4)

Figure 4

Fig. 4


In the left column of Dolphin, “My Documents” should now appear.

If you do not like the name that is used in the left column for your new link, you can easily change it.  In the left column, right click on the link and select “Edit” and then type a new name for the link….keep it short.  (see Figure 5)

Figure 5

Figure 5

You now have a direct link to your Windows documents.  You can use Dolphin to copy and move things to and from Windows or you can save Linux documents directly to the Windows file system using this link.  You can make lots of links but keep is simple and make only what you need.  One more thing…. Right Click in the left column and un-check “Show all Entries.”  This will hide the things you don’t need to see all the time.

(Note… if you cannot find your Windows file system in the left column, click on “Root” then “media” and you will find it in there.)


How to Copy Photos from Linux to Windows

If you have a dual boot system you may want to copy something from Linux (that you usually use) over to Windows (that you seldom use.) To do this you use Dolphin.LO_50

Launch Dolphin. Click the big K, then system, then Dolphin. The Dolphin window should open showing you the layout of your hard disk.
If you happen to have a Dolphin icon on your desktop already, you can just click that to start Dolphin.

In the right hand column, navigate to where your photos are located.  In my case I have a folder called Pictures.  You may have such a folder with many other folders under it.  Find the pictures that you want to copy.

Now lets find the target location in Windows.  In the upper left corner of Dolphin click on “Split.”  LO_51Another column will open to the right of the first column, the contents will be the same.  You can switch the “focus” from one column to the other by clicking anywhere in the column (one click.)  Try switching back and forth a couple of times to get the feel of it.  Notice that the column that has the focus will have a blue border around it.  Change the focus to the right hand column.

Now the tricky part.  You have to FIND the target folder in Windows where your want photos to be stored.  In the left most column of Dolphin, click on the Windows drive.  The problem is, it probably will not be called “Windows.”  In my case it is called simply “HP” which stands for Hewlitt Packard.  It could be anything.  It will probably not be the top entry, that is usually “Home.”  There is no harm in clicking every entry until you find it.  When you click a location, its contents will appear in the RIGHT hand column, since it still has the focus.  Search until the contents of your Windows disk drive appear in the right hand column.  You can recognize Windows because it usually has a folder called “Documents and Settings.”  Find and open that folder.LO_52

When you open that folder, you should see a list of Users, in my case, the active user is “Tom” so next I am going to open the “Tom” folder.  Underneath “Tom” I have a whole bunch of folders but ONE of them is called “Pictures.”  So I am going to open it.  I cannot accurately predict exactly what your folders will be named but the principle is the same.  Explore around until you find where you want to place the new  pictures.  You may have to dig deeper than I did to find the location.  If you have done all of this correctly, you should see the contents of your Linux folder in the middle column with some picture files showing.  In the right column you should see the contents of your target Windows folder that may also have some files showing.  Now, all you have to do is “drag and drop” the pictures from the middle column (Linux) over to the right column (Windows.)  To do this, left click on a single file and hold down the button, then drag the file over and release the button when it arrives in the right column.  In the illustration below, you can see 3 photos in my middle column and miscellaneous stuff in my right column.  When you release the button a small option box will appear asking you if you wish to “Copy, move, link, or cancel.”  Select either copy or move.

LO_53That’s it!  Pretty easy.  The directions look a lot scarier than it really is.  You can’t really hurt anything so just dive in and practice until you have it down.  You can also copy more than one file at once.  Select several files before you do your final “click and drag.”  You can copy or move as many as you like.  The same procedure is used to copy other types of files.  Its not just for  pictures.

LO_54See, now all my  files are in Windows.

If you wish to close one of the columns, click on “Close” in the upper left corner of Dolphin.  To put Dolphin away, simply X out of it or click File, Quit.





Change your physical Keyboard

If your keyboard does odd or unexpected things when you are typing you may have the wrong “physical keyboard” selected.  Here is how to check and fix it.

Click the Big K

Click System

Click System Settings – A big box full of icons appears

Click  “Input Devices” – another box appears showing your various input items, “keyboard” should be highlighted.

By default, it should say something like “Generic 101-key PC.”  This works fine for most people, but modern keyboards have gone wild.  Many have extra keys that do special things.  If such is your case, selecting a different keyboard type may help.

Look at the keyboard model slot…. see the down arrow to the right?  Click it and a list of keyboards will appear.  Scroll up and down and see if your model keyboard is listed. (Look on the bottom of your keyboard…sometimes the model is listedLO_48 there.)  If yours is on the list, select it, then apply settings.  Test and see if that helped eliminate the odd behaviors.  If not, you will have to experiment with other keyboard types on the list until you find one that works well for you.  Remember “Generic 101-key PC” works for most.

If all else fails you can fish for help using Google.  Enter a google search something like “Kubuntu 14 whangho keyboard”  (Put your model in place of wangho).  Vary the search if necessary.  Look for blogs or forums that may have helpful info…. just make sure you find help that pertains to Kubunt 14.  Things vary from version to version.