Random Culprits

Solutions of random problems I have encountered.

HOWTO: Automatically disable pointer acceleration whenever mouse is plugged

posted Dec 25, 2013, 7:27 PM by Nicolay Doytchev   [ updated Dec 25, 2013, 7:32 PM ]

If you're like me, you often use a mouse with your laptop and while you like pointer acceleration with your touchpad, you can't stand it with your mouse. I've gotten used to just hitting Alt+F2 and typing "xset m 1/1" but today I decided to break from this habit and to find a more intelligent way to do this. I've done some digging which resulted in a Q&A on askubuntu.com, detailing how to disable pointer acceleration whenever a mouse is plugged in your machine. You can find it here. Enjoy a smarter, acceleration-free mousing!

WORKAROUND: Streams on thecomedynetwork.ca Don't Start on Ubuntu

posted May 21, 2013, 6:12 PM by Nicolay Doytchev

I'm a fan of The Daily Show and as a Canadian I watch it on The Comedy Network's web site http://www.thecomedynetwork.ca . The video streams used to work on Ubuntu for a while, then they suddenly ceased starting. Not sure why but if I have to guess I reckon it's some change in the DRM they use. There is a similarly looking issue with Google Play movie rentals. For a while I've been using Firefox via CrossOver which worked fine except the performance was bad. The streams don't work in Chromium either. However today I tried Google Chrome and surprise - they work!

So if you want to watch video streams on thecomedynetwork.ca - use Google Chrome.

vpnmon - A VPN connection monitor for Ubuntu

posted Dec 14, 2012, 7:39 PM by Nicolay Doytchev   [ updated Dec 16, 2012, 12:35 PM ]

The Problem

Most of us using a VPN connection to our workplace have had the secure connection occasionally drop. When that occurs and we don't notice, all of the connections applications make to our office go unsecured and become prone to malicious snooping. More often than not we cannot afford that, which is why we never leave a computer connected via VPN unattended or we employ other inconvenient schemes to avoid information leakage.

vpnmon notifications

vpnmon

What we have here is a simple open source tool for Ubuntu that monitors the state of your VPN connection. Whenever your connections drops, vpnmon will either immediately disable your entire networking, or it will execute a custom command in case you provided one. The tool will also display a notification whenever it takes an action.

Dependencies

vpnmon should work fine on any Linux distribution that satisfies its dependencies. In general it needs python, gobject, dbus, NetworkManager and pynotify. There isn't any sort of dependency checking mechanism at this time, so running Ubuntu is considered a requirement. This requirement makes sure all dependencies are satisfied. Naturally, if you know what you're doing, you don't need to stick to it.

Getting The Software

Unfortunately I haven't packaged vpnmon for Ubuntu yet, but I may end up doing that in the future. For now you can follow the steps below. They were tested on Ubuntu 12.04, but should also work on most recent version as well:

  1. Change directory to a temporary location:
    cd /tmp
  2. Download the archive:
    wget -O vpnmon.tar.gz https://github.com/lightrush/vpnmon/archive/v0.1.2.tar.gz
  3. Extract it:
    tar zxf vpnmon.tar.gz
  4. Change directory to vpnmon:
    cd vpnmon-0.1.2
  5. Install vpnmon:
    ./install
  6. Remove temporary files:
    rm -rf /tmp/vpnmon*
  7. Log out, then log in.

Make sure to test it out and make sure it works before leaving your VPN connection unattended. That's about it!

Source

The source for vpnmon can be found here. Please do not hesitate to fork it, modify it or do whatever else permissible by the license. You can also email me if you encounter any issues I may be able to help with.

HOWTO: Workaround Quake Live not Working in a Firefox Window under Linux

posted Dec 9, 2012, 4:33 PM by Nicolay Doytchev   [ updated Dec 9, 2012, 4:34 PM ]

It seems that a change in Firefox 17 broke the windowed mode of Quake Live. Whenever one tries to join a game, nothing displays in the designated are within the browser, but the game works since sounds can be heard. That seems to be caused by a regression in Firefox tracked in this bug report. Fortunately there is a dedicated browser bundle called QLPrism. It's made by the folks at www.qlprism.us. QLPrism is an older version of Firefox that directly launches the Quake Live web site. It also features a few nice additions such as a customized match browser. So in short, to get Quake Live working again:
  1. Download QLPrism from: http://www.qlprism.us/download/.
  2. Unzip it somewhere.
  3. Read the INSTALL file for instructions on how to create a shortcut.
  4. Play!

I tried QLPrism as a workaround to the Firefox bug, but now I like it better than using the standard browser!

HOWTO: Workaround the Startup Disk Creator Crash on Ubuntu 12.10

posted Oct 21, 2012, 12:14 PM by Nicolay Doytchev

I have just upgraded to Ubuntu 12.10 myself just to find that Startup Disk Creator is broken. It crashes before completing a USB startup disk. Turns out it's a bug and it has already been reported. Fortunately there is a simple workaround until this bug is fixed. Use UNetbootin:
  1. Open the Applications lens in the Dash by pressing "Super + A". Alternatively open the Dash and select the Applications lens by clicking on its icon on the bottom.
  2. Search for "unetbootin".
  3. Click on the appeared "UNetbootin" result. The Ubuntu Software Centre will open.
  4. Now click "Install" on the entry in the Ubuntu Software Centre.

Now you can launch UNetbootin and make your USB startup disk. I hope Canonical manages to fix the crash soon so we won't need to do this.

Make your Android 4 Device Feel Twice Faster

posted Sep 20, 2012, 10:10 AM by Nicolay Doytchev   [ updated Sep 20, 2012, 11:32 AM ]

Most actions we execute on Android follow a transition animation. Whether it's an app activity that switches to another, or menu popping up. Most of the time the underlying activity or menu has already loaded but you have to wait for the transition animation to finish before you get to use it. These transitions are great. Transitionless interface looks incredibly clunky and feels unnatural to the human brain because nothing in the real world happens in an instant. Obviously people trained to use computer interfaces in the Windows 1.0-XP era will disagree, but so we can disagree that they have normal human brains. So in Android 4.0 (and I think in 4.1) Google placed a setting that controls the transition animations duration. Halve the duration and your device begins to feel twice faster while preserving its natural look. To do that follow these steps:
  1. Go to the system settings.
  2. Find the "Developer options" item in the list and tap it.
  3. Find the "Window animation scale" item in the list and tap it.
    1. Set it to "Animation scale .5x".
  4. Now tap on "Transition animation scale".
    1. Set it to "Animation scale .5x".

Now you have halved your transitions lengths, effectively making your device feel twice faster.

Ubuntu Boots in Low Graphics Mode When it Runs Out of Disk Space

posted Aug 21, 2012, 10:16 AM by Nicolay Doytchev

I recently encountered a problem where Ubuntu would boot in Low Graphics Mode and it wouldn't log in for no apparent reason. Logs showed no errors, older kernel did not change a thing. The system showed absolutely no other symptoms of a problem. After a lot of testing and investigation it turned out that the disk was completely full. That caused the aforementioned behaviour. If you ever run into this, make sure to check your disk usage from a console:
du -h
If it turns out that your disk is full, free up some space and reboot your machine - all should return to normal afterwards.

This may sound like a really rare problem, however with the recent proliferation of SSDs, people end up buying small drives due to their lower price tags. That was my case as well. Those usually come in 60-120GB sizes and that's not a lot. With current high definition media formats, a disk of that size can be filled in no time.

Ubuntu Wallpapers from Past Releases

posted Jun 6, 2012, 10:46 AM by Nicolay Doytchev   [ updated Jun 6, 2012, 10:54 AM ]


Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft)

I am a little unimpressed with the wallpapers shipped with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. That prompted my interest in finding an easy way of obtaining wallpapers from past Ubuntu releases. I launched Ubuntu Software Center and typed "wallpaper" in the search box. Nothing apparently useful showed up. Not until I clicked on "Show technical items". It turns out that there are packages containing the wallpapers from almost all of the past Ubuntu releases.

For Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic) and later, the packages are called:
ubuntu-wallpapers-[codename]

For earlier releases they are named:
[codename]-wallpapers

So for example if you wish to install the wallpapers that came with Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty) you need to install:
ubuntu-wallpapers-natty

And if you want to install the ones from Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy) you need to get:
edgy-wallpapers

You can use your favourite package management tool to install those.

That Edgy wallpaper looks truly retro - Back to Brown!

The Recommended Way to Use QThread

posted May 7, 2012, 12:57 PM by Nicolay Doytchev   [ updated May 7, 2012, 3:06 PM ]

Reaching this page, you are likely looking for information on how to use QThread. Right. The page gives plenty of information on what the class is about and how to use it, including some code samples.

The problem is, the usage is wrong.

The documentation recommends sub-classing QThread and that's where it goes wrong. It's not until you scroll all the way to the bottom of the page where you see a note showing you the right way to use QThread. Sub-classing QThread is neither needed, nor recommended. Thus, I strongly encourage you to visit that page scroll to the bottom and review the note. You will find a handy snippet of code showing you how to do it right.

HOWTO: Fix Duplicate GNOME Terminal / Byobu Icons in The Unity Launcher

posted Mar 5, 2012, 11:34 AM by Nicolay Doytchev

I've recently encountered a problem where if I lock GNOME Terminal and/or Byobu to the Unity launcher, then close and restart it, a second icon of the same application would appear in the launcher. The launcher would keep producing a duplicate icon for every subsequent re-launch of the application. Needless to say this is extremely annoying but fortunately I've found a workaround. It turns out the two ways to put an icon in the launcher - locking and dragging from the Dash behave differently.

The wrong way:

Normally I would:

  1. Launch the application.
  2. Right click on the icon in the launcher.
  3. Click "Keep in launcher".

The right way that would workaround the issue:

Instead:

  1. Open the Dash.
  2. Search for the application.
  3. Drag the icon from the Dash on to the launcher.

So if you find yourself hitting this issue - remove the icons you've created using "The wrong way" and use "The right" one.

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+Nicolay