I’ve been transferring everything I do with computers both at home and at work from Windows to Ubuntu Linux. Volume ControlOne of the things I did regularly in Windows was to record either streaming audio or audio from a device plugged directly into my sound card. I have a long term project to get all my old cassette tapes digitized. In Ubuntu 8.04 I installed Audacity from Synaptic, then selected each input device in turn under Edit>Preferences>Recording but none of them worked or produced an error.
The solution was however quite simple and not with Audacity at all. I opened up the master volume control on the Ubuntu panel by right clicking on the icon and selecting Open Volume Control then selected Edit>Preferences.Volume Control Preferences Next make sure the boxes marked Mix and Mix Mono are checked then Close. SwitchesClose the Volume Control and then re-open it and select the Switches tab and check the box for Mix and close again. Finally in Audacity in Edit>Preferences set the Playback and Recording devices to ALSA:default. That’s it, now anything playing through the sound card be it streaming music or from an external device such as a tape player can be recorded.

Politicians break the law they made

14 Dec 2007 In: News, Personal

In August 2005 it became illegal to demonstrate in and around Parliament Square without prior police permission under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA). So far Maya Evans has been prosecuted and a number of others have been threatened with legal action. The law states that it only takes one person to constitute a demonstration, so the question arises , if every time a politician (including the PM) gives an interview in Parliament Square are the breaking the law? Mark Thomson the political comedian thinks so and has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions calling for an urgent investigation. Mark has also written an article in the Guardian (13th Dec) explaining.

This is an absolutely crazy law which was used to get rid of Brian Haw, Maya Evans was prosecuted for reading the names of British and Iraqi dead at the cenotaph and people have been threatened with prosecution for displaying a cake with the word PEACE on it. Mark Thomas even had to get permission to where a red nose on Red Nose Day.

If you want to help, you can. If you live, work or are visiting London and
walk past College Green (opposite the House of Lords entrance) and you see an MP giving an interview then:

Here are some other useful things you can do with Google that may not be immediately obvious.

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Red Dear Close-up

17 Oct 2007 In: Personal

Red DearOn a recent trip over to the Isle of Skye we stopped off at a car park on the A82 where we often stop to take in the view and stretch our legs, only this time there were a couple of red dear quietly grazing right on the edge of the car park. I’ve walked and cycled all over Scotland but this is definitely the closest I’ve ever got to these beautiful creatures.

Essential Tools, Sofware and Resources

17 Oct 2007 In: Personal, Software

I’ve been bookmarking sites with lists of essential resources for some time now, some are lists of open source software, others to resources with hosts of information for web designers etc. All of them are useful and help you find resources and software you may not have previously known about. So this is a series of links to many of the lists I’ve found useful recently.

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A recent e-petition on the Prime Ministers web site called for the BBC to make it’s proposed on demand TV service player available to work on any operating system. The BBC had previously suggested that the iPlayer would only be available to Windows users. We wait to see how long this takes.

The Petition:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to prevent the BBC from making its iPlayer on-demand television service available to Windows users only, and instruct the corporation to provide its service for other operating systems also.”

The Government Reply:

“The Government set up the BBC Trust to represent the interests of licence fee payers, and to ensure good governance of the BBC. The BBC Trust has responsibility for ensuring that the correct degree of scrutiny is given to all proposals from the BBC Executive for new services (such as the iPlayer) and any significant changes to existing services. To fulfill this duty, the Trust conducted a Public Value Test on the BBC Executive’s proposals to launch new on-demand services, including BBC iPlayer. This included a public consultation and a market impact assessment by Ofcom. In the case of the iPlayer, following the consultation, the Trust noted the strong public demand for the service to be available on a variety of operating systems. The BBC Trust made it a condition of approval for the BBC’s on-demand services that the iPlayer is available to users of a range of operating systems, and has given a commitment that it will ensure that the BBC meets this demand as soon as possible. They will measure the BBC’s progress on this every six months and publish the findings.”

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Ubuntu Linux on an Ageing IBM Thinkpad

16 Aug 2007 In: Software, ubuntu

A couple of years ago I put Ubuntu 5.04 on my old IBM Thinkpad 390X, it worked sort of OK but the sound was all messed up amongst other things so I gave up and went back to Win 2K. Recently I decided to have another go with Feisty (7.04), I had to use the alternative CD as the live CD required more RAM than the system could provide. As in most cases the installation went without a hitch and the poor sound, as well as some other other previous problems were now OK. Since the last try I had installed a wireless network and I really didn’t have any expectations of getting this to work. As expected Ubuntu didn’t even ‘see’ the installed PCMCIA wireless card that Win 2K worked with. But, I also had an old 3Com USB wireless stick (3CRUSB10075) lying around which I hadn’t been able to get to work on any PC or laptop running Win XP or Win 2K, so I assumed it was knackered, but what the hell I thought give it a go. Plugged it in and ‘bingo’ Ubuntu network manager popped up, saw the stick and promptly asked if I wanted to connect to my wireless network, success! I was even more surprised that this was a bog standard installation of Ubuntu with the included network manager plus I was using a previously useless USB wireless stick. This time I think Ubuntu is going to stay on my old Thinkpad 390X

I have a huge number of cassette tapes which have been languishing in a box unplayed for some time now. I always knew it was possible to digitise these and I had all the tools, but getting round to actually doing it was another matter. This is a simple run down of what I did. First the tools, if your PC sound card accepts external inputs (most do) then just connect any tape player (or LP player). In my case I used an old Sony Walkman. The software I used was audacity1Audacity, an open source cross platform sound editor. Since Audacity does not encode mp3s I also downloaded the Lame mp3 encoder. I set the preferences under Edit>Preferences to 2-channel stereo and 32 bit float quality, then selected the source to stereo mix and adjusted the input volume to 0.2 to get maximum volume whilst avoiding clipping. With these basic settings all I had to do was insert a tape, hit play, click record in Audacity and leave for 45 minutes (one side of a C90 tape). Now I had to chop the single track into individual song tracks and there’s an easy way to do this with audacity2Audacity using a label track. Place the cursor at the start of a track and select Project>Add Label at Selection (or Ctrl-B). This produces a label track below the two stereo tracks with a red flag at the cursor which you can type the track title next to. Continue doing this for each successive track remembering to cut any long sections of noise between tracks. audacity3Now to export the entire project, select File>Export Multiple, this opens up the dialogue to select the format and location etc. You can then type the artist and album data which will be tagged to each mp3 file and will end up with all the individual mp3 tracks being save in the chosen directory.

Wickerman Festival

23 Jul 2007 In: Personal

wickermanJust back from the Wickerman Festival, a sort of laid back early Glastonbury, less commercial sort of affair. There were no real big names playing unless you count the Fun Lovin’ Criminals (who we missed) and the Proclaimers (who sadly we didn’t miss) and the Orb. The highlights for me were the Peat Bog Faeries who were excellent on the main stage and a few good bands who’s names I forget in other tents, especially the acoustic tent. The festival is loosely based around the Wickerman film which is shown on a small outdoor cinema each night and culminates with the burning of a giant Wickerman.

wickerman2At my age there’s not many places I’d feel comfortable dancing to ‘rave’ music but at this festival it seemed natural and I had a great time dancing with my wife and daughter. Perhaps it’s because your virtually outdoors all the time that makes people less inhibited, or maybe it’s because everyone else is doing the same sort of thing. There were inevitably some characters who went out of their way to give others a good time, I particularly liked the dark Spider Man especially when he was being hoisted aloft the crowd at the main stage. There were also a couple of guys who provided a few photo opportunities dressed as Frank-n-Furter from the Rocky Horror Show, I don’t know how they managed the soft grassy field in those heels.

On the Saturday night we hung around the top of the hill so we could see the Wickerman, we were quite a way from the main stage but unfortunately we could still hear the Proclaimers, fair go to them for building a career on one hit song but I really can’t stand them. At around 23:40 my daughter and I went to the toilet…bad idea, by the time we got out it was wall to wall people gathered to see the Wickerman go up in flames, it was just luck that we managed to bump into my wife again. wickerman3The show started with fire juggling with giant poi which was pretty impressive but I had to laugh when two cyclists on burning bikes cycled round the Wickerman in opposite directions, what mad genius came up with that idea? I did notice they got off the bike pretty sharpish after riding round the front of the Wickerman. Then the Wickerman itself went up slowly at first then into a giant running man shaped inferno.wickerman4 What is it with people an fire, we all seem to be totally fascinated by it and any show involving fire draws a crowd. It was all over pretty quickly though and the night was rounded off by watching some poi jugglers practising and listening to the Axis sound system from London. I think I’ll be back next year.

Using Ubuntu Linux on a Corporate LAN

11 Jul 2007 In: Software, ubuntu

Like so many people I have to use Windows at work because that’s what we’re supplied with and our IT support refuse to support anything other than Windows and MS Office. But like many other people I find Windows a real pain at times and I’d really like to use Ubuntu…but how? Well the answer was even simpler that I could imagine. The first stage was to create a dual boot system. It was important to defragment the HDD before going any further as I have read of many problems encountered by not doing this. Then simply boot from the Ubuntu (Feisty 7.04) live CD and hit Install. The process is fairly straightforward, the only complicated part being the creation of the partition for Ubuntu to reside on. That done you can re-boot and choose to boot to Ubuntu . So far so good. Now, how about my email (MS Outlook), calender and contacts? At first I wanted to use Thunderbird as this is my email client of choice, but it doesn’t interface with MS Exchange server. The solution was staring me in the face, Ubuntu installs Evolution as the default email client and amazingly it can interface with MS Exchange server using the Outlook Web Access (OWA), which is usually something like https://mail.yourcompany.com. Evolution is very easy to set up and if you choose MS Exchange Server then you’ll need to input your OWA URL. The last thing to set up with Evolution is your MS Outlook Global Address list (if you use it). To find the address for this list (from Windows) open your Address book in MS Outlook, right click on global address list and click properties, this should give you the server address for the list. You can then set this up in Evolution by going: Edit>Preferences>Mail Accounts then click on your mail account and click edit, under receiving options there’s text box for you to add the URL of your global address list. Job done, you should now be up and running on your corporate LAN with access to your Email, Contacts and Calender. There’s lot’s more functionality you can add like accessing shared folders on servers etc. but most are fairly obvious.

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About this blog

This is the personal web site of Seòras, pronounced Shaw-russ, Gaelic for George. I'm from Aberdeen (Scotland),I'm a scientist, union activist, researcher, web designer, photographer, cyclist, hill walker, guitarist & father.


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