VLC Multimedia Player

If you’re looking for a media player that plays all media formats, then you should look into the VLC player. It’s available in Windows, Mac and Linux. It handles DVD, VCD, SVCD, Audio CD, web streams, TV cards and whole bunch more. VLC comes with every imaginable codec that’s ever built. Hence, the reason why it plays everything.

It even plays files that are damaged, missing or are broken. This open-source media player is a favorite for many. The VLC media player can be used as a server and a client. It can send and received streaming videos. If that wasn’t enough, VLC also comes with dozens of skins to match your desktop.

To download, visit VLC’s website.

How To Connect Samba Shares on the Mac

Here’s a quick tutorial of how to connect to a Samba share on the Mac. Samba is a open-source software that provides interoperability between Unix/Linux and Windows systems. The Samba software allows for the sharing of files and printers between Windows, Unix, Linux and Mac OS X systems.

At home, I have NAS (network attached storage) with a 60GB drive running Samba. I use the NAS to store, share and backup files. I can access the NAS drive from my PC, Linux (Ubuntu) and now from the Mac. Here’s how:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Press Command-K. A window will appear.
  3. Type smb://192.168.xxx.xxx. Use the IP address of your Samba share.
  4. Click connect.

If you’re Samba share is password protected, you will see a login screen, similar to the one below. Just enter your username and password, and press Connect.

Once connected, you should be able to browse the files on the Samba drive, just like any other file or folder on your Mac. The Samba drive will also show up on the left hand panel of the Finder under the Shared section. See snapshot below. Notice the Public folder is available for browsing.

There you have it. How to connect Samba shared drives to your Mac.

Recover Grub2 After Windows Install

If you run Ubuntu and you installed Windows later, then know what I’m talking about. Windows just wrote over the MBR record. Windows doesn’t play nice at all. You no longer have access to your Ubuntu distribution.

I’ve read tons of documentation how to recover Grub2, but this is the simplest and the one that worked for me. So, to recover Grub2 after a Windows install, just perform the following:

Boot from a Ubuntu Live CD.

Preferably the same release, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you have access to a Linux Terminal or the Bash shell.

sudo fdisk -l

That’s the letter L by the way. This should tell you where your Linux distribution is located. Mine is sda1. You may to look for the one with the Linux partition. Mine was set to ext4.

sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

There shouldn’t be any errors if the partition is mounted properly. If you have experienced an error, you probably did something wrong like mounting a different partition or a partition that doesn’t exist.

sudo grub-install --root-directory=/mnt/ /dev/sda

Restore Grub2 to the MBR.

sudo shutdown -r now

There is probably a more graceful way of rebooting, but this one works as well.

sudo update-grub

Update the Grub menu after the reboot.

That was easy. Practically it’s just one command that really did the trick. There is no typing and editing involved. Like I said, the simplest way to recover Grub2 after a Windows install.

Google Phasing Out Windows

From Datamation.com:

It’s not like Google was ever going to be a showcase customer for Microsoft, but a report that the search giant is phasing out Microsoft Windows underscores security concerns that have long dogged the widely-used software.

According to a report in the Financial Times, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) began moving employees to other operating systems back in January after its systems were hacked by what the company said were operatives working out of China, a charge corroborated by Internet infrastructure provider VeriSign .

Google was one of at least two dozen U.S. businesses targeted in the attacks that security firm McAfee (NYSE: MFE) said exploited a flaw in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. Google has long been a strong supporter of Linux, and the FT report said employees are being moved to Linux and Apple’s Mac OS.

Excellent move. It also paves the way for Google to test Chrome OS.

CSS Font Order

When designing web pages, using the appropriate font for your design does wonder to the overall look, feel and layout of your page. Unfortunately, web designers are quite limited to the fonts they can use. Most web designers stick to the tried and true “web safe” fonts.

If you take all considerations including operating systems: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Unix, and browsers: IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc, then you are really stuck with just 3 of the safest fonts on the web. They are: Arial/Helvetica, Times New Roman/Times, and Courier New/Courier.

Other fonts that work across platforms are: Palatino, Garamond, Bookman, and Avant Garde.

Fonts that work in Windows and Mac OS, but not in Unix+X are: Verdana, Georgia, Comic Sans MS, Trebuchet MS, Arial Black, and Impact.

If you like to consider all OS platforms in your design, then the order of your fonts in CSS is important. I recommend this sequence.

Establish a Baseline

At the very least, you need to establish your baseline font. Choose whether you want “Serif or Sans-Serif” font. The CSS would look something similar to this:

html { font-family: Serif}
html { font-family: Sans-Serif }

Choose a Web Safe Font

Next, choose a “web safe” font. Your choice comes down to either taking Arial/Helvetica, Times New Roman/Times, and Courier New/Courier. Most people don’t use the monotype Courier font except when displaying code. So, you are essentially down to four fonts, Arial/Helvetica or Times New Roman/Times. Helvetica is very popular. Arial is not far behind. New Times Roman is better than Times. In our example, will now look like this:

html { font-family: Times New Roman, Serif }
html { font-family: Arial, Sans-Serif }

Choose a Cross-Platform Font

If you must, you can choose a “cross platform font.” Again, our choices are: Palatino Linotype, Garamond, Bookman, and Avant Garde. The first 3 are Serif fonts. Avant Garde is the only Sans-Serif font.

html { font-family: Palatino Linotype, Times New Roman, Serif }
html { font-family: Avant Garde, Arial, Sans-Serif }

Add Other Fonts

If you must, you can choose other fonts, although they do not work in Unix+ systems. They are: Verdana, Georgia, Comic Sans MS, Trebuchet MS, Arial Black and Impact.

html { font-family: Georgia, Palatino, Times New Roman, Serif }
html { font-family: Verdana, Avant Garde, Arial, Sans-Serif }

There you have it. A safe way to implement CSS Fonts across all OS platforms.

Using Linux to Fix a Windows XP Patch

Apparently, there is a Windows XP patch that has gone awry. The patch has rendered a few Windows XP systems unbootable. Michael Horowitz from ComputerWorld suggested that Microsoft should use Linux to fix the booting issue. What a novel idea! Of course, Microsoft will never use Linux to fix Windows. That’s the reason why there hasn’t been any solution offered at the Microsoft Security Response Center the last four days.

Practically, most Linux distributions nowadays can boot from a Live CD, something Windows OS could not or will not do. You can even run Linux Live CD on a system with no internal hard drive. All you need is a little bit of memory and a CD player. You’re set to go.

The offending Windows XP patch is called KB977165. Here’s some detail from ComputerWorld:

The problematic patch is said to be KB977165. There are instructions online about backing out this patch using the Recovery Console. It doesn’t take much to adapt these instructions to Linux. Since Linux offers a friendly GUI, it’s arguably easier to use than the Recovery Console.

You can read more about the patch here.

Windows 7 Complaints Trickling In

A recent article from CNNMoney stated that as many as 31% of Windows users have reported problems upgrading to Windows 7. Most of the problems are with the installation and migration of data.

One common gripe, experienced by 9% of installers, is that the half-hour to an hour-long upgrade process gets to the “62% completed” point and then freezes. It’s a problem that Microsoft is aware of, and can be fixed by rebooting the computer, going into advanced settings, and typing in a code that instructs the computer to ignore plug-ins.

Here’s the top 10 list of common problems:

  1. Problems with installation – 31%
  2. Missing applets or components – 26%
  3. Aero theme is not running – 14%
  4. DVD drive not found – 8%
  5. Hidden extensions – 6%
  6. Too many minidumps – 6%
  7. Aero snap problems – 3%
  8. iPhone won’t sync with Windows 7 – 2%
  9. Custom icons get changed with new theme – 2%
  10. Taskbar problems – 1%

If you are thinking of using Windows 7, you are better off not upgrading. The ideal is to get a system that already has Windows 7 installed. If you have Windows Vista now, opt for a clean installation. Backup all your data to a USB hard drive, install, and restore your applications and documents.

Antivirus System Pro

I have a client who just recently got his system hijacked by the nasty Antivirus System Pro malware. I could not remove the rogue virus running the normal antivirus software. I ended up removing the program files, DLL files and several registry entries from Windows. What a struggle that was. Here’s some info about the Antivirus System Pro from remove-malware.net.

Antivirus System PRO (aka AntivirusSystem PRO or AntivirusSystemPRO) appears to be the representative of the new generation of rogue anti-spywares. Being a clone of the infamous Spyware Protect 2009 and System Guard 2009 scarewares, Antivirus System PRO inherits its determinative traits; moreover, the hackers have been driving a lot of traffic to the websites promoting it, one of which is Antivirsystem.com.

Antivirus System PRO infiltrates the target computers through illicit browser-hijacking techniques or via Trojans using backdoor tactics to trespass undetected. When inside, Antivirus System PRO freeware will do its best to convince the victim to register its license. For this purpose, Antivirus System PRO usually floods the compromised system with its exaggerated popup alerts that state the PC is badly infected and needs a remedy, i.e. Antivirus System PRO full version which demands payment.

The deceitful effect of Antivirus System PRO pop-ups may he reinforced by its bogus security scanners that emerge out of nowhere and claim to detect more infections on your computer. The ultimate goal of Antivirus System PRO is to brainwash the victim into purchasing its license; if the victim is “stubborn” and refrains from installing the pimped scamware, Antivirus System PRO will attempt disrupting the target system. Therefore, it’s strongly recommended to remove Antivirus System PRO rogue as soon as possible.

In case you run into the same issue, perform the following to remove the annoying Antivirus System Pro malware.

Delete the following files:

  • c:\windows\sysguard.exe
  • c:windows\system32\iehelper.dll.

You may have to boot to the Windows command line to remove these files especially if the DLL file is running in the background.

In addition, you need to remove these registry entries:

  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\AvScan
  • HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{BAD4551D-9B24-42cb-9BCD-818CA2DA7B63}
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Browser Helper Objects\{BAD4551D-9B24-42cb-9BCD-818CA2DA7B63}
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run “system tool”

Good luck. It’s an annoying virus if there was one.

Linux Saves The Day

Here’s an interesting article about a user having problems booting into Windows. The laptop was getting the dreaded blue screen of death. The technician tried booting from ‘safe mode ‘and from ‘last known good’, but still, it will not repair.  The technician tried booting from a Windows installation DVD, Vista and even Windows 7. Still can’t boot. Then, Ubuntu 8.04 came in to the rescue. The system booted just fine in Linux. The technician was able to access the files. All the technician did was restore the backup registry files. Presto. Windows rebooted like nothing happened. Why can’t Vista, Windows 7 boot CDs make this repair is beyond me.

Do you really need Windows?

Do you really need to run Windows? It’s a question most computer users haven’t really thought about. Most users perform basic functions such as browsing the web, checking email, word processing or running a basic spreadsheet. What most people don’t realize is that these are functions that you can easily perform and run in Linux.

Most users are already familiar with the Firefox browser. If you’re not a Firefox fan, you can use Google Chrome which also available in Linux. If you’re still not happy with either one, you can try Opera, Konqueror, Flock, Galeon, Epiphany and even Lynx, a text-based browser.

There are a number of options in Linux for word processing. Open Office is pretty much standard in most Linux distributions. You can also use KOffice or AbiWord. The same goes for spreadsheets. The choices are many.

One benefit Window users will get from Linux is having a rock stable environment that’s free from viruses. In addition, Linux will cost you $0 dollars. It’s absolutely free. Compare that when buying Windows 7 upgrade or the full version.

When I converted to Linux, there was a transition period where I was running both Windows and Linux on my desktop. I dual booted for several months before moving strictly to Linux. Weaning Windows users might be the ideal approach for the switch.

Linux has come a long way. Linux is grown up. Linux has improve by leaps and bounds. If you’re still on the fence about converting to Linux, well, get off it. Give Linux a try. It’s definitely worth your while.