Tag: Mac Software

After planning and building a Ubuntu-based fileserver, it’s time to add software to the mix, so that the computer does the work it was originally meant for. In the case with my command-line only server, the software I added was for file sharing and media serving.

The software I’m explaining here was all installed via the command line. To do any of this with the GUI of Ubuntu, simply open a terminal window.

Mediatomb

The priority of my project was that the media on the computer would be accessible on my PS3 via wireless network. To do that, I researched a number of software projects, and settled on MediaTomb because I had heard good things about it. MediaTomb has lots of great features including, but not limited to: web administration, daemon operation, transcoding and instantaneous library additions.

After finding an excellent tutorial on adding all the necessary and optional libraries to get every feature working, I had a good setup. I highly recommend reading that blog post and others on it to find out about all that MediaTomb can do. Essentially, the task involves downloading and compiling MediaTomb to use all the features. While initially the MediaTomb daemon did not run, I was able to fix the problem and got everything working. I’ll be sharing the process in an upcoming post.

Webmin

Using the command-line doesn’t really bother me, but I wanted another way to administer the server over the network and a browser. To do that, I used Webmin, which enables users to change many aspects of the system, without using the terminal.

Installing Webmin is quite easy, because it is included in the Ubuntu repositories. Simply open a terminal window and type

sudo apt-get install webmin

Enter your admin password when prompted, and Webmin will be downloaded and installed automatically. Once it is installed, open a new browser window and navigate to https://ip_of_server:10000 then enter your user credentials. Once logged in, you can do many operations without using the terminal. I have found the best benefit so far to be local disk management — after all, mess that up, and your data vanishes.

ffmpeg

Ffmpeg is a suite of libraries and applications for operating on videos and multimedia. Once installed with all the add-ons, nearly every type of video can be modified and converted. Once again, the blog of Julien Simon has an excellent tutorial about making the program work with Ubuntu. Following his instructions, you’ll have a fully operational ffmpeg installation for other applications to use.

The only thing I’ll add to his tutorial is a fix for ffmpegthumbnailer, which is necessary for MediaTomb thumbnails. Install ffmpegthumbnailer by running

sudo apt-get install libffmpegthumbnailer2

then make an addition to the ffmpeg configure code. Add the text --enable-libffmpegthumbnailer2 to the configure stage, and you should see ffmpegthumbnailer — yes when the configuration has finished.

Netatalk

Netatalk is an open-source file server that can be configured to use the Apple File Protocol. To do this, I followed these instructions, and was up and running in no time. Once installed, Netatalk is very easy to administer from the command line. I was able to create multiple shares for guest and user access and can now access my files from any Mac in the house.

To enable guest access, an additional element must be added to the /etc/netatalk/afpd.conf file. Add the following text

uams_guest.so

so that the entire line is

- -transall -uamlist uams_randnum.so,uams_dhx.so,uams_guest.so - nosavepassword -advertise_ssh

This will enable you to access shares without entering a password, provided the shares themselves are open to the use nobody.

rtorrent + screen

Torrents are a convenient way to download large files like Linux distributions, and a media server is a perfect platform for unattended downloads. rTorrent is a powerful but easy to use command line client that can be customized for any situation. On its own, rTorrent will not run as a daemon, but coupled with screen, it can run in the background.

Install rTorrent and screen by executing the following commands in the Terminal.

sudo apt-get install rtorrent
sudo apt-get install screen

Once installed, start screen and attach rTorrent to it.

screen -S torrents
rtorrent

Detach the screen session by pressing ctrl + a, d and you’ll be back to the main prompt. Now rtorrent will remain running even when you disconnect from SSH.

To rejoin the rTorrent session, you must attach to it.

screen -r torrents

avidemux

Avidemux is set of audio/video tools for the command line that can do many operations. So far I’ve used it to shift audio inside video tracks. Like most other programs, it simply requires a few arguments to do whichever job you need.

sudo apt-get install avidemux

mencoder

Slightly different than ffmpeg, mencoder is another suite of video conversion for a variety of formats. This is an excellent tool to use for converting MKV or OGM files to AVI (video does not need to be converted). Again, it requires basic command line arguments, and can be used in a screen session to work in the background.

sudo apt-get install mencoder

lm-sensors

An important part of running a headless media server is making sure the hardware is operating within its temperature restraints. A tool do monitor that is called lm-sensors and must be set up with the specific hardware in your computer. I could explain the system, but a post on the Ubuntu forums does a much better job. Once installed, simply issue the command sensors to see the temperature of various compontents, and — if your motherboard supports it — the chassis fan speed.

Of course, this only begins to scratch the surface of possible software for a Ubuntu fileserver, but I think the applications shown are important for running a system without local input. Set them up, and enjoy central storage for all the computers in your house.

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The newest version of Apple’s iPhone operating system was released a few weeks ago, and since I made the upgrade to my first-gen iPod touch, I’ve been using the system off and on. It does an excellent job of polishing what was already a very good system. Since I haven’t been using it consistently yet, I’m going to hold off on a real “review” until I have a chance to go through it more.

Briefly, here are the main things that Apple has brought to this update (which are all available in detail on Apple’s website):

Cut, Copy and Paste
Copy and paste text, images and other items from one application to another. Should be a great benefit when browsing the internet, Twittering or sending email messages. Very basic implementation, which only requires you to hold your finger over the screen, slide the in and out points, and choose from the menu.

Landscape mode in more applications
A controversial move by Apple with the original iPhone was the onscreen keyboard and many users seemed to resist the device because of it. While the original iPhone did have the ability to use the full width of the screen for the keyboard, many primary applications did not include this feature, which made typing significantly easier and more accurate. Apple seems to have addressed this by enabling the landscape mode in more of the built in applications. Mail, Notes, Messages (on the iPhone) and Safari all get the landscape treatment, with better support for 3rd party applications as well.

Full Spotlight searching
This is a feature I have noticed in my brief time using the new software. Usually, when on a secondary home screen, a press of the Home button brings you back to the primary screen. Now, once you are on the primary screen, another press of the Home button brings up the Spotlight screen, which a basic search field. Start typing, and every match is added to the results below the text box. In fact, it operates almost identically to the Spotlight function on Mac OS X. Additionally, this search field is now present in more applications like Mail, Music and Videos.

Other features include MMS messaging, internet tethering, better automatic WiFi login and Voice and Video recording (when using the new iPhone 3G S).

With more time spent on the new iPhone software, I’m sure I’ll find out more about the hidden bonuses and add-ons. From what I’ve seen so far, it is a worthy update and is definitely recommended for nearly all users.

Happy birthday to me!

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I really like finding little applications that do a single specialized task really well. In this case, it is a Dashboard widget called Deep Sleep that puts your computer into hibernation. I discovered it on MacOSXHints and have been using it regularly for a few weeks.

Mac laptops use three sleep mechanisms: Safe sleep, deep sleep and quick sleep. The primary difference between them is how the computer reacts when all power is removed. Safe sleep is the default behaviour and will resume normally even after the power source is completely disconnected (that means you can change batteries without fully shutting the computer down). Deep sleep also wakes normally (albeit more slowly) and draws no power at all. Quick sleep will not remember any data when started after a power loss.

The nice part about this widget is that it enables you to use the deep sleep method once, then have it revert back to the standard form afterwards. It is especially convenient for when you know the computer won’t be needed for a few hours, but you’ll need the full battery afterwards. This ability is also useful for when the battery has aged and no longer holds the original power (like mine).

So if you need to put your computer away for a while, but still want power when you wake it again, give Deep Sleep a try.

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It’s not often that an Apple product gets me well and truly frustrated. Generally I can pinpoint a repetitive problem and find other people with similar issues, and often find a solution.

But the current problem I’m having with Keynote is completely unacceptable and I have absolutely no idea why it’s occurring.

Let me set the scene. You’re working on a large multimedia presentation that uses video backgrounds, transitions, pictures and transitions. In a burst of creative genius, you furiously hammer out a dozen slides and sit back to admire your handiwork. In your eagerness, you press the Play button before saving to see the result of your work, and suddenly the screen goes black and you hear the tell-tale sound of the optical drive and the sickening startup chime (it’s sickening because you realize all your hard work could possibly be toast).

In my case, I was working on a presentation with more than 250 slides, with videos, photos and transitions — the works. Even though I had saved a few minutes earlier, I still lost work. The strange part is that there seems to be no real connection to when the button works and when it restarts. My theory is that somehow it determines the longest time between saves, then breaks — just to spite you. The other unusual thing is that the MacBook starts up without any of the information requests like when it shuts down improperly. I can’t figure it out.

Have you ever seen anything like this before?

[tags]Keynote, troubleshooting, Mac OS X, iWork, iLife[/tags]

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UPDATE: TV.com (which I use to find the show titles) has since changed their format, so I cannot guarantee that this script works as advertised. I will confirm it in the near future.
UPDATE 2: This Applescript has been replaced by a more efficient and lightweight Bash script.

After picking up a 750 GB hard drive for my Airport Extreme, I’ve started to rip my DVDs so that I can watch them on my computer. The problem is that the files don’t come out with descriptive episode titles, leaving you guessing when you want to pick a show to watch. If you decide to add the titles yourself, the process can be tedious and time consuming, not to mention downright annoying.

That is why I’ve created a combination Automator/Applescript workflow to do the job automatically. After entering the name of the TV show you’re looking for, the program takes the selected files and searches TV.com’s vast episode guide for the correct titles. Once the data has been collected, the titles are added to the selected files. The only preparation you must do is rename the files in the format SxxExx where S is the season number, and E is the episode number (S02E05, for example). This step is very easy when you use a program like NameMangler, which can add sequential filenames in one pass.

Download

Get TV Titles Application Download and run as standard application
Get TV Titles Workflow Automator workflow that can be saved as an application or Finder plugin
Get TV Titles Finder Plugin Can be run from the Finder contextual menu (right-click). To install, download and save to the folder Userfolder/Workflows/Applications/Finder.

Instructions

  1. Collect files and rename them in the SxxExx format. Using NameMangler seems to work best, but there are other applications out there to do the same thing.
  2. Select all the files you wish to add titles to.
  3. Start the program in whichever way you’ve downloaded: directly from Automator, the standalone application, or by the contextual right-click menu and navigating to More > Automator > Get TV Titles.
  4. Type in the name of the TV show you’re looking for episodes from.
  5. If you’re running it via the contextual menu, you’ll see this status message in the Finder menubar.
  6. Once the computer has processed the data, you’ll see all the episodes neatly named.

So far I’ve been able to edit more than 20 files at once. Of course, your mileage may vary, so please comment with feedback and results.

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