Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Updating to Ubuntu 8.10 (64bit)

I recently described that upgrading to 8.10 beta was no pain at all. Today I upgraded my production notebook (as tomorrow will be the big day and I presume there will be no bandwidth available).
sudo update-manager -d
Here are some miscellaneous updates on my previous report:
  • VMware Workstation 6.5 offers a new dialog informing you that kernel drivers require updating. You can confirm and it does it automatically. (Hey, this is a feature I long waited for)
  • There is something with the new font in Mozilla. It is slightly slimmer (like Helvetica vs. Arial) and it gives a much nicer look on pages.
  • OpenOffice installation as described in my previous article works on 64bit equally well.
My thanks to Canonical (the Debian group, the Gnome fellows, the OpenOffice folks and all the others that participated). This edition of Ubuntu deserves to be called a desktop alternative.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Open Source tool to migrate Outlook calendar

When I moved from Windows to Ubuntu, I faced one mayor hinderance: Outlook.

In particular, migrating calendar entries from Outlook was near impossible.
  • OL2003 lets one export one single calendar item to iCal format (and you have to use a trick to even get there).
  • OL2007 lets you export more than one entry at once, if the entries are less than 1000 and do not span more than a 10 year periode (earliest to latest entry).
The last limit is particularly nasty, as birthdays will not migrate and if you have more than 1000 entries (which I had), you have to partition the export (which means you have to switch to list view, which also shows canceled and updated calendar entries).


Cut a long story short, I wrote a little program, available on SourceForge that exports all calendar items at once, regardlessly.

FreeMiCal comes as a source zip-package or just the executables (for easy use). It is written in C# and requires nothing more than a Windows machine with Outlook 2003/2007 and .NET 2.0 installed.

FreeMiCal was downloaded over 11.000 times in the last year. It seems to do the job and helps obliviate Outlooks calendar lock-in.

OpenOffice 3.0 on Ubuntu 8.10

OpenOffice 3.0 is not released with Ubuntu 8.10. I downloaded OOo300 (.deb) from the OpenOffice web site, unpacked them and tried to install it.

Using the update shell script did not work

Installing all .debs packages manually is possible but tedious. One also risks that aptitude or apt-get does not see the installation. Certainly, old packages are not removed. This page describes the procedure. Not recommended.

Using dpkg-scanpackages to create a Packages.gz is a possibility. However, this requires to install from a local drive which produces errors. Not nice, but works.

The Fast lane

The following procedings seems the fastes and most secure way to install OpenOffice 3.0 and maintaining the upgradability on the fly:
  1. Launch Synaptic Package Manager
  2. Select Settings/Repositories (this will start the Software Sources control panel)
  3. Add the following line to the Third party software repositories:
    deb intrepid main
  4. Close the dialog and confirm that the list of repositories will be reloaded
  5. Choose Mark All Upgrades
  6. Apply changes.
This will upgrade your OpenOffice 2.4.1 to 3.0. It will also migrate your settings (some things are reset though, like the year offsetting digit replacement).

I have tested this on Ubuntu 8.10 32bit and it works. On 8.04.1 64bit it seems that not all programs are available as packages (e.g. Draw and Impress are missing). I turns out, this is due to missing libraries.

VMware Workstation 6.5 on Ubuntu 8.10

VMware Workstation 6.5 comes in 32bit and 64bit flavours. If you download, you can either get RPMs or installable files, that end in the extension .bundle. These are combined shell scripts with embedded binaries.

Installation works fine. First I had to chmod the file to be executable, then sudo ran it. Ths installation starts a graphical installer that does the rest. If you have Eclipse installed, you can accept the path to the debugger. Other than that, no excitement.

The installer copies both VMware Workstation 6.5 as well as VMware Player 2.5 onto the machine. It recognises and takes over the old settings (both network and VM favorites). Also the software recognises fingerprint readers as well as bluetooth devices.

The installation still requires if you change kernel modules.


A new feature in VMware Workstation 6.5 is Unity. It allows guest applications to run in parallel with native host applications.

In practice this means, I can run Visual Studio side by side to my native OpenOffice or Geany IDE.

If nothing else, this feature is the reason to upgrade.

Other than that, there are background snapshots, background operation, enhanced settings on VMs, etc.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Making films in GCompris

I wanted to make a film in GCompris recently. GCompris is an educational suite for children.

There is an animation program in the suite and I wanted to integrate my own characters (the set included is limited). There is a directory with a Readme file which says: All custom images in here.

Well: I can put custom images into this directory. The software stores animation sequences into this directory as well. So far so good.

Unfortunately, I cannot add my own characters to the application or my film for that.

I'm still looking for a way to add my own characters to the film. Keep you posted (appreciate hints all the same).

PS: Tyler has an important hint on how to do this. I think it's worth for everyone to read his comment. Tyler, thanks.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Lost notification icons

Sometimes I loose my notification area. This is where programs like Firestarter or Network manager put their icons to inform you about some system state.

Here is how I get them back (this is mainly a reminder as it always takes me some hours to refigure out the procedure):
  • In the area where you want to see the notification ...+ Add to panel...
  • scroll down to Notification area
  • click Add...
should do the trick.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Easy system backup tool

Before upgrading 8.04 to 8.10 I did a full backup of my harddisk. There are several tools around but I found CloneZilla to be well suited and easy to use.

CloneZilla comes in two flavours:
  • LiveCD (for on the fly backups)
  • SE (Server Edition for workgroup or corporate backup)
There is another source that offers an added feature:

CloneZilla - SystemRescueCD - SuperGrub

This is a compound bootable CD that offers both CloneZilla and SysResCD in one package. The latest version can be downloaded here. Additionally to CloneZilla this CD offers a system recovery CD and a tool that allows to repair the grub boot loader.

Upgraded to Ubuntu 8.10 (32bit)

I upgraded to 8.10 b1 today.
sudo update-manager -d
My first impression is positive. The system upgraded fine on my HP nx8220. Some visuals irritate me though:
  • Menus now have two broad lines indicating a submenu (I liked the black triangles)
  • Some icons come directly from the gnome desktop (The quit icon is a running man in green, while the original was this ring with a vertical bar on red ackground)
  • There are two ways to exit a session. One allows to switch users, the other adds shutdown and hibernate to the menu.
Some apps were dropped to maintain compatibility to Debian:
  • I used AVscan as a frontend to clamAV. This was dropped. I replaced it with ClamTK (which has a nicer GTK+ GUI). It's ok.
I had a tool that allowed to adjust the display (external monitors, frequency, and resolution). displayconfig-gtk was dropped (after being introduced in 8.04). The Preference panel "Screen Resolution" offers the functionality as well as lets the display be controlled from the panel. This is nice.

What else needs mention?
  • Netbeans comes in V6.1 (nice and fast. Core modules update from the Netbeans website)
  • MonoDevelop is V1.0 (disappointing, as V2.0 a1 is out)
  • Geany is 0.14 (offers improvements under the hood, I keep it as a fast IDE)
  • Network Manager 0.7 offers a clear and clean interface for managing network connections (there will be thorough testing this on my side)
  • There is OpenJDK with Webstart on the machine
I did not find much of a change with Gnome 2.24. Tabs in Nautilus are OK but nothing spectacular. I didn't find the promised improvements on PAM so far.