Posts tagged ‘asuseee’

Laptop upgrade…

As I predicted last year, my Asus Eee 1008HA has proven to be a little too fragile, although what failed wasn’t exactly as I’d thought. When I was back in Ethiopia at the end of May, the casing started to come away from the screen:

Whilst there was an unnerving cracking noise whenever I opened the lid, it still worked ok, but after another couple of weeks, the screen failed completely. The machine itself was still usable, providing I plugged it into an external monitor, but was proving to be rather useless for travelling:

So I’ve just bought myself anther new laptop, this time a Lenovo ThinkPad X220:

I’m running Ubuntu on it (11.04) and all installed very easily, no messing around with configurations/patches to get any of the hardware (webcam/wireless etc) working which I’ve had before. All the special keys worked out of the box with no extra configuration. The only very slight comment I’d have is that it has combined speaker and mic jack socket rather than a separate one for each.

Feels good to have a proper laptop rather than just using a netbook as I have been for the last 3 years or so. Although the X220 is still quite small and light it vastly more powerful!

Attempts at video editing on the Asus Eee

RecordMyDesktopI’ve used Camtasia Studio (Windows) a few times before for creating some training/how-to screencasts, but now I wanted to have a go doing something similar using open source software (on Ubuntu Jaunty) instead. To make it more interesting I also wanted to run it all on my Asus Eee PC (4G) – not exactly a machine designed for heavy video processing.

First issue was how to record the screen, for this I used RecordMyDesktop. A very simple program to install and run, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Selecting the area to record (I wasn’t selecting whole window) was a bit fiddly and sometimes took me several attempts to capture the right area, without chopping off a side or two.

If you’re recording a for a long time and your screensaver kicks in (or screen goes blank for power saving), you’ll need to disable the screensaver and power saving – unless you particularly need a recording of it.

What I had most trouble with – and only came up with a workarounds solution to – was capturing the audio. RecordMyDesktop wil capture the audio fine but had problems getting the recording volume level right without creating a lot of hissing. The hardware on the Asus for sound isn’t exactly fantastic. In the end I found that I had best results when using a jack lead to plug the headphone output into the microphone input! If anyone has a better solution to this or some advice about on the recording levels to capture the audio more reliably, then please let me know.

So, now I’ve created a .ogv (OGG video) file but want to edit it a little. I wanted a really simple video editor for 2 reasons, firstly I don’t wand to spend the time learning a bit video editing package and, more practically, secondly, I don’t have a huge amount of disk space left on my 4Gb drive!

I opted for Aviremux, though unfortunately this doesn’t accept OGG video files, so I used mencoder to convert to AVI (basic instructions).

For the actual editing I used Aviremux. I found it very easy to get started with and use – unlike some other video editing software.

In the end I found that my original screen recording had sound out of synch with the video – not in the initial few mins of the capture, but further in. I’m not sure why this should be the case – if anyone has any idea why, I’d be pleased to hear them.

Overall, it was a little frustrating getting this to work. I’ve not managed to achieve what I set out to do, but think this was more to do with the hardware than anything else.

Can bluetooth be more reliable than a physical cable?

img_0013I’m not generally what you’d call an early adopter, and not usually into gadgets. For example, I only bought myself a GPS device a couple of weeks ago, shortly before the hype about the GPS system failing within the next year or so.

The same is true of mobile phones, for years I’ve only owned a very basic phone which only does phoning and texting, no mp3 player, camera etc.

Well, last week a friend gave me their old Nokia 6230i. The camera seems reasonable and I started thinking about how I get the photos off the camera onto something more useful (such as my laptop). The options were to use a cable, bluetooth or IR, but since my laptop (Asus EeePC) has neither bluetooth nor IR, I bought myself a cable, also thinking that a cable is likely to be the most reliable connection method anyway.

I installed Gammu, but then kept getting the message that “No response in specified timeout. Probably phone not connected.”. Trying a few different settings made no difference. I also installed KMobileTools, which did manage to connect to the phone and retrieve contacts lists, but only has limited functionality for managing or transferring files.

After spending most of an afternoon trying to get this working I gave up, and posted a message on the Ubuntu forums, but no replies as yet.

Whilst searching for a solution, few people seemed to be using a cable connection, far more instructions and help seemed available for those using bluetooth – or maybe they jut have more problems getting it set up?. So my next plan is to get a little bluetooth adapter and see if I have any better luck with that. Unless anyone else has any better suggestions/solution?

I’d be quite surprised if it did work with bluetooth, especially since it’s always had a bit of a reputation as being fiddly to set up correctly. But maybe I’ve an instance where bluetooth can do what a physical cable connection can’t?

My first edits to OpenStreetMap

josmSince I’ve been back in the UK, although I’ve been pretty much tied to the house, with Amazon now back available to me, I’m able to spend money again. One of the items I bought was a GPS. Originally I was going to be borrowing one from someone in Addis to be able to do some mapping of Mekelle, but since I’m in the UK it seemed to make sense to get hold of my own whilst I was here. I eventually opted for the very basic Garmin eTrex H, thinking that it does everything I would want and I’m unlikely to spend money buying maps to download onto it – the main reason for buying it was to contribute to the OpenStreetMap project.

Once it had arrived my first challenge was getting it hooked up to my Asus EeePC (running Ubuntu) and installing the right bits of software.

For up & downloading to the GPS I installed QLandkarte, which only started recognising my device once I’d also installed the gpsbabel package.

Next I needed a desktop program for editing OpenStreetMap – using the online Potlatch application wouldn’t be a great option for me once back in Ethiopia with no decent internet connection.

I started off by installing Merkaartor but quickly ran into problems. When I tried connecting to the OpenStreetMap (OSM) server to download a map to edit, I kept getting “403: Forbidden” messages. The problem was that the particular version of Merkaartor the Ubuntu package manager installs doesn’t work with OSM Protocol v0.6. I think there may be a version of Merkaartor which works with v0.6, but I’m not generally very keen on installing software outside the Ubuntu Add/Remove Applications

I then tried Java OpenStreetMap (JOSM), again installing from the Add/Remove Apps and I was getting similar problems in being unable to connect to the OSM server. Again the problem was the protocol version.

Merkaartor and JOSM appeared to be the only programs available for editing OSM on Ubuntu (please let me know if there are others), so I had to resign myself to manually installing one of them. I opted for JOSM as it was quite easy to run manually and once installed all seems to be working relatively well.

I do however had a few gripes about the user interface, especially on the small screen of the Asus EeePC. For example some of the dialog boxes are fiddly to expand to get the OK/Cancel buttons to appear. Also, the drop down list of “presets” (the different map features, places of interest, amenities etc which can be added) is too long to appear on the screen, but there’s no way of navigating down to the bottom of the list to see which options are available.

Apart from that, I feel like I’ve got the hang of OSM editing (a little at least) and I’ve managed to add a few new roads. Hopefully once I get back to Mekelle, I’ll be much more productive, especially since I’ll be starting on a blank canvas.

OLPC for Uni students?

My previous comments about the computing ability of some of the Computer Science students may not have been too generous, however, if they’d all been given a laptop on arrival at Uni, something like an Asus EEE PC or OLPC XO, I’m sure many would not be having the problems I mentioned.

The OLPC project is certainly having some problems and I previously criticised how the OLPC laptops were being used in schools. Looking back now I realise that maybe the project isn’t meeting it’s intended aims, but even if it’s just getting students used to being able to use a keyboard and a computer generally, then surely that’s not a bad thing? I’m dealing with first year computer science students who have little idea about even login names, passwords or keyboards.

In the last week I conducted a mini-survey amongst our Computer Science Uni students about their access to computers and attitudes towards having access to course materials online, almost all (around 90%) said that access to a computer was one of their main problems. Given that this survey was online (OK, maybe not my brightest of ideas for this type of survey!), the total figure is likely to be more than 90%. For info, there are about 10-15 working PC’s per 80-90 computer science students and less than 10% have access to a PC outside the those provided by the university.

I’m sure that giving the uni students a laptop, even just a cheap one, would be immensely beneficial to the next generation of computer science students/graduates. So if anyone is looking to improve the computing capabilities of those in the developing world, you could no worse than providing laptops to university level students. In my opinion, the more access and practise students have with PCs, be that Window or Unix, the better.

As an aside, I’ve been quite surprised by the number of university computer science students who don’t yet have an email address. I hadn’t even thought to ask this in my survey, but it’s come up in training sessions, when students fill in their profile, many have asked what to enter in the email field if they don’t have an email address!

CD/DVD read/writing on the Asus Eee

A few days ago I ordered myself this external USB powered CD/DVD for taking away with me so at least I’ll be able to watch films (and backup my data!) on my Asus Eee.

It arrived earlier today and I’ve just been having a play (if you can play with a DVD drive!), all appears to be working fine so far- I was unsure that the USB ports would have enough power for the drive, but fortunately they do 😉

The only slight problem I’ve found is that when playing a film I can’t get to the main menu screen for the DVD, so I can’t change the language/subtitles or get to the ‘extras’. Though I suspect this may be more to do with the Totem Movie Player than the drive itself – if anyone knows any different, or has a way around this, then please let me know!

Until then I’ll only be able to watch ‘The Bunker’ in directors commentary mode and ‘Shaun of the Dead’ dubbed in Russian.

Recording Video on Asus Eee

I’ve just spent a frustrating couple of hours unsuccessfully attempting to get my Asus Eee (running Ubuntu Hardy Heron) to allow me to record short videos using the built in webcam and mic.

I started off by applying these fixes and have checked that it all works fine using skype. I first tried recording using ‘Cheese’ – this resulted in the video working fine – but no sound ( I also tried with plugged in mic/headphones). So I installed ucview and gave that a go instead,  but his was quite erratic too, most of the time it would appear to record, but then on playback, only the first frame would be visible, and no sound (using either built in mic or a plugged in mic). I also found that sometimes ucview wouldn’t stop recording even after I’d clicked the button and I had a to kill the process to get it to stop.

I then went back to looking at cheese only to find that it now won’t start, the top window bar appears, but with big grey square underneath – no menus or webcam preview. Restarting, removing and reinstalling all made no difference 🙁

Really not sure what is causing these problems, from googling & reading wikis and blogs most other people seem to have got ucview and cheese working fine – so just me then 😉 If anyone has an idiots guide as to what to check then feel free to send on to me

I’ve been trying to get this working in the hope that when I go away to Ethiopia I’ll be able to record short video blogs to post up – but I may have to fall back to just using my digital camera and the video/sound recorder on that, but would’ve been nice to be able to use the webcam and mic.

On a different note, I hope that Ubuntu updates will soon include FireFox3…

iPlayer/Flash on Ubuntu Hardy Heron

A few days ago I mentioned that I was having problems with playing BBC iPlayer programs on my Asus Eee. I was also having problems with _some_ other Flash content – though not all.

Turns out that I’d installed the wrong version of the Flash plugin – actually I’d installed more than one and the conflicts were creating the same problems as if the plugins hadn’t been installed at all. However the instructions in the forum posting fixed me up.

Upgrading to Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

I’ve updated my Asus Eee from Ubuntu 7.10 to the latest release (8.04), though I didn’t strictly speaking upgrade, it was more of a reinstall. I’d intended to upgrade using Ubuntu’s update manager, but when I tried this I got a message to say that I didn’t have enough disk space, needed 1.3Gb, but I’d only got about 1Gb free. In the process of freeing up some space by removing packages, I think I removed too much, as I couldn’t even get the login screen to appear. So anyway, I ended up just doing a reinstall. All went fine, though I needed to look up a couple of bits to get the wireless working.

My only little niggle with Ubuntu 8.04 is that it’s got Firefox 3 Beta 5, rather than the current stable version of Firefox, this causes a bit of an issue for me because it means I can’t install Google Gears or the del.icio.us plugin, neither of which work with Firefox 3 yet – I assume they’ll soon get them working when v3 is fully released (don’t know when this is due – maybe summer, but hopefully soon). Having been playing with Firefox addons the other day, I think I may be able to hack the del.icio.us plugin to make it work, but don’t think I’ll be able to do the same for Google Gears.

Another unresolved issue I have is that I can’t seem to view any BBC iPlayer programmes. Flash appears to be installed fine and works for other sites, but when I try to play any programmes I just get the message “Something went wrong. There seems to be a problem playing this video. Please try again. undefined” 🙁 But I haven’t yet figured out where this problem is. [Update, I now have this resolved]

Asus Eee arrived

The Asus Eee I ordered a few weeks ago has finally arrived. I’m beginning to have a bit of a play with it, though the first thing I really want to do to night is to update to Ubuntu. I’m not too experienced in Linux, but there seems to be plenty of help and forums to help me out.