Monday, 14 September 2009

Well, this blog's been dead for a while as I've been a busy man. But now I'm back and hopefully will update a lot more often.

A lot has happened in the OSS universe since I've been away – the new version of Ubuntu (9.04 Intrepid Ibex) has been released for starters – but to start things off again I'm going to give you a very simple, but very useful, little tip.

Ever needed to join two or more video files together but not sure how to navigate your way round one of those huge, scary video editing suites? Well, there's a very easy way to achieve the same task on the command line. That's not to say there's anything wrong with any of the various graphical video editing suites available for Linux – they're very powerful tools – its just that sometimes something like that can be overkill for a simple task such as this.

So without further ado...

First of all we need to install a couple of command line programs: Mencoder and Mplayer.

Open up a Terminal (of course) by going to Applications > Accessories > Terminal and type (or copy and paste) the following code:

sudo apt-get install mencoder mplayer

After that we need to cd (change directory) to where your video files are stored. For this example we'll assume you have your files stored in the location: /home/user/video where 'user' is your username.

cd /home/user/video

Now we need to join all the parts together and – most importantly – re-sync the audio with the video. We'll assume your files are called part1.avi, part2.avi, part3.avi etc. Obviously, you'll need to alter the below code to the actual filenames... but you get the picture.

mencoder -forceidx -oac copy -ovc copy part1.avi part2.avi part3.avi -o full.avi

This will create a new file called full.avi in the same directory.

Alternatively, you can use a wildcard (?) to shorten the command (assuming all the parts share the same naming convention – e.g. part1.avi part2.avi part3.avi etc).

mencoder -forceidx -oac copy -ovc copy part?.avi -o full.avi

And that's it! You should now have a complete video file that is equal to the sum of it's parts :)

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Useful Firefox Extensions

Firefox, Ubuntu's default Web Browser, is a highly extensible piece of software. It's basic functionality can be enhanced in myriad ways through the use of Open Source, often community maintained extensions. Here I'm going to summarise a few extensions that I find very useful. The first two enhance security and so come highly recommended for all users. The rest however are merely enhancements that I find useful (and hopefully you will too) but are by no means necessary.



NoScript allows Javascript to run only from trusted sources - thus protecting against XSS (Cross-Site Scripting) and other nasty potential vulnerabilities. It works on a whitelist basis, which means by default it blocks Javascript globally and you have to 'train' it to allow the execution of Javascript only on those sites that you trust. You can add sites to your whitelist via a context sensitive right-click menu.

Get it here

Web Of Trust (WOT)

Web Of Trust is another highly-useful security enhancing add-on. It will warn you if the site you're trying to visit is likely to attempt to deliver malware, send spam, scam visitors or is not child-friendly. While malware is generally not a problem on Linux, scams and spam are of course platform agnostic so this add-on is still highly useful and highly recommended. It uses a simple traffic light system (green for good, yellow for caution and red for don't bother!) and will even unobtrusively integrate with most popular search engine results.

Get it here

The Rest:


BugMeNot is a great little extension that will allow you to bypass compulsory web registration forms. You know the type of forms I mean – those arbitrary registrations you have to make just to read a newspaper article on the newspaper's website. That sort of stuff. It will not allow you to log in to a pay site, or anything that requires registration for security purposes - such as social networking sites and forums etc.

Get it here

Wikipedia Lookup

Does just what it says on the tin! Simply highlight any word or phrase, right-click and choose Lookup in Wikipedia from the context menu. Et voilĂ !

Get it here

Download Statusbar

This extension simply integrates that mildly annoying floating download window that FF uses into the main window. Simple. Elegant. Useful. What more could you want?

Get it here


This one is more aesthetic than anything else. It just integrates the progress bar for page loading into FF's address bar. It can be customised to use any colour or even background images. Useful as a quick visual reference.

Get it here

Video DownloadHelper

A useful extension allowing you to grab embedded Flash video from most websites that use it – such as YouTube etc. It does this via a little animated icon on the left hand side of your address bar. When you watch a Flash video online the icon starts to spin slowly, indicating the video stream can be downloaded. Simply click the icon, select the video and a download location and away you go. It also comes with a large list of sites that it supports.

Get it here

User Agent Switcher

This comes in handy for those rare sites that aren't standards compliant and won't work properly with anything but Internet Explorer or the like. It simply makes Firefox report itself as Internet Explorer, Netscape or Opera. It can be found under the Tools menu. Always worth a try if the site you're browsing won't work properly in Firefox.

Get it here

FEBE (Firefox Environment Backup Extension)

Last but by no means least is FEBE. This helpful extension allows you to quickly and easily backup you Firefox profile to a location of your choosing. This includes all your extensions, bookmarks and preferences. Very useful for those times you need to re-install FF for whatever reason. It will also restore your profile from a saved location too. Great stuff!

Get it here

These are just a few of the thousands of add-ons available for Firefox. Go to the Firefox Customisation Page and have a look for yourself. Chances are, if you're looking for specific functionality, someone has already created an extension to do it. Happy hunting! :)

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Basic Desktop Effects

Here I'm going to show you how to get basic Desktop effects running on your system.

Right-click in a blank space anywhere on your Desktop, select Change Desktop Background and in the resulting dialogue box click on the Visual Effects tab.

Select Extra then click Close.

This will enable the stock visual effects. To be able to control and change the effects you'll need to install the Compiz Settings Manager.

Open a Terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal) and type (or copy/paste) the following code;

sudo apt-get install simple-ccsm

You'll now find the Settings Manager in System > Preferences under the name of CompizConfig Settings Manager.

Have a play round with it and customise the effects to your heart's content!

Check back in a little while for a Tutorial on Advanced Desktop Effects – such as the Desktop Cube etc.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

A Few Things To Do Post-installation

Okay so if you followed the last guide you should now have a fresh installation of Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex (or 8.04 Hardy Heron LTS – this guide will work for both).

Before you go about using your new OS there's a few things that should be done;
  • Install important security updates
  • Install support for restricted codecs (to enable support for playback of DVD and MP3 etc), Java and Flash
  • Make a list of your hardware (you never know when you'll need it)
  • Install an archive manager (better support for .zip .7z .rar files etc)

Installing Important Security Updates

This one should be done first – preferably immediately after installation. Linux is a far more secure OS than Windows et al but only if you're a responsible user – this means staying on top of security updates. Whenever Ubuntu detects available system and program updates, you will see a little red downwards-pointing arrow on the taskbar in the top-right hand corner of your desktop (see below image). All you need to do is single-click on this arrow. This will bring up the update manager. The list of updates will be rather large after a fresh install and, depending on your connection speed, may take a long time to download. Simply click on the Install Updates button and enter your password when prompted (this is the password you used to log in). The update manager will do the rest. You may need to restart your system after the updates – but you will be prompted to do this.

Installing Support For Restricted Codecs, Java and Flash Etc

By default Ubuntu doesn't ship with native support for playback of proprietary formats such as DVD Video, MP3, WAV, DivX etc etc. Neither does it support Java or Flash. This is due to licensing issues – in some countries it may be illegal to freely distribute these Codecs/Programs. However, Ubuntu makes it easy to install support for these.

There are two ways you can go about it – the graphical way (long-winded!), or the Command Line way (easy!). Here's how to do it the easy way;

Open a Terminal by going to Applications > Accessories > Terminal and simply copy and paste the following code;

sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list && wget -q -O- | sudo apt-key add - && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install -y ubuntu-restricted-extras non-free-codecs w32codecs totem-mozilla libdvdcss2

Enter your password when prompted and Ubuntu will start to pull in support for all the restricted Codecs and Java and Flash etc. Depending on your computer's specs and connection speed this may take a long time but you'll only have to do it the once. About half way through you'll be presented with a a rather ugly looking EULA (End User License Agreement) screen. Just use the Tab key to highlight [OK] and hit the Enter key and installation will continue. Once complete you will have support for all your favourite formats :)

Make A List of Your Hardware

This step is not essential and many of you could get by just fine without it. However, it only takes a moment and may come in handy if you ever need to provide a spec sheet for your computer, or if you're just curious about what's inside your box.

Open up a Terminal and type (or copy and paste) the following;

sudo lshw -html > pcspecs.html

This will create a nice little HTML document with details of all your installed hardware and deposit it in your /home folder.

For those who'd prefer a graphical application to show them their system specs, a little program called Sysinfo is available from the Ubuntu repositories. To get it type the following into a Terminal;

sudo apt-get install sysinfo

Once installed you'll find it under Applications > System Tools.

Install An Archive Manager (to provide support for compressed files such as .zip .7z .rar etc)

Open up a Terminal (you should be getting good at this bit by now!!) and type the following;

sudo apt-get install p7zip-full

That's it! You should have the basic necessities now. Go start enjoying the benefits only an Open Source OS such as Ubuntu can bring :)

Next we'll be looking at adding some eye candy to your Ubuntu experience with tutorials on basic and advanced desktop effects. Keep checking back as they should be up within the next few days.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Installing Ubuntu Linux

To install Ubuntu Linux on your system you'll first need to get it. Go over to the Ubuntu Download Page and download the .iso image. I'll be using the latest version of Ubuntu for this tutorial – 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) but the steps for installing 8.04 (Hardy Heron) LTS are the same.

You'll need to burn the .iso to a disk as an image file - not as a data disk. How you do this will depend on what burning software you are using. However, you should be looking for an option along the lines of burn image to disk or burn file to disk as image or similar.

Once you have your shiny new Ubuntu disk ready you'll need to set your computer's BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) to boot from CD-ROM. Once again how you do this will depend on what BIOS you have. Usually you can enter your BIOS by hitting either the F2 or DEL key when you first power up your computer. Different BIOS manufacturers may use different keys. If you're unsure of how to access your BIOS have a look here. Once in the BIOS set your computer to boot from CD-ROM, save and exit the BIOS and pop your Ubuntu CD into your CD-ROM drive.

Your computer will begin to read the disk and after a short amount of time you should see the following screen (you may be asked to choose your language first);

Use the arrow keys and the Enter key to make your selection. We're going to select the first option: Try Ubuntu without any change to your computer. Ubuntu will now boot from the CD and after some time you will be presented with the default Gnome Desktop (see image below). Please note that Ubuntu may appear to be a bit slow and unresponsive – this is because it is running directly off the CD – the CD-ROM's data throughput is a bottleneck to performance. After installation to the Hard Drive it will run much, much faster.

Have a play round on the Ubuntu desktop and make sure everything works properly and that your hardware has been detected and set up properly. If you like Ubuntu and want to 'take the plunge' then read on.

Double-click the Install icon on the desktop and answer the questions about your location and keyboard layout. You will then be presented with the Partition Manager (see below image). If, like me, you are installing to a blank Hard Drive, you'll want to select the Guided – use entire disk option. This will set up the necessary partitions and allocate the whole drive to Ubuntu.

If you already have another Operating System installed (e.g. Windows) then the Ubuntu installer will detect this and you will have an extra option: Guided – resize partition #1 (sda) and use freed space. Select this option and the Ubuntu installer will resize your existing Windows partition to make space for Ubuntu (NOTE:.this is a non-destructive process and you will still be able to use Windows and access your data afterwards... however there is always a very small risk that something will go wrong, so make and test a backup of your important data before you install Ubuntu... just in case!).

After you're done partitioning you will be asked to enter a username and password. This will be what you use to log in and to perform administrative tasks (such as adding and removing software) so make sure your password is memorable but strong. Once you're done with that the installer will ask you to review your options and confirm you wish to install Ubuntu to disk. Use the Back button if you want to make any changes and when you're done click Install. Sit back and wait while Ubuntu installs itself. It will typically take around 20-30 minutes on a modern machine. Once it's done you will be presented with the following screen;

Click Restart now and when prompted remove the CD from the drive. Close the drive, hit the Enter key and et voilĂ  – your computer will restart. If you installed alongside another OS you will be presented with a menu to choose which OS you want to boot into. If not your computer should boot straight to the Ubuntu login screen. Log in with the username and password you specified during installation and start using your brand new OS.

I'll be upping another tutorial within the next few days that details what to do post-installation and the basics of installing extra software.

Have fun!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


Welcome to Save The Girhogs - your source for Linux DIY.

Over time I will be adding tips and tutorials covering everything from the basics of getting up and running with a Linux based OS to customising your desktop, installing programs from source code, streaming media to your Xbox 360 and PS3, managing your MP3 player and even *gasp* writing your own code.

I'll be basing my tutorials on Ubuntu Linux. This is simply because Ubuntu is currently the most popular Linux distribution, and therefore this blog will be of help to the largest amount of people. It shouldn't be hard to port the instructions over to any Debian based distribution however, and I'll provide notes on any differences or potential problems where possible.

The first tutorial should be up within the next week, and they will be coming thick and fast after that. So set those bookmarks and tell your friends!!