Linux Video

My Cat Bubba Posts Videos and Twitters using an EeePC and Ubuntu

MAKE blogged about plants that notify the owner via text message or Twitter status update that they need water, and even thank their owners when they’re watered.

This got me thinking – why not a cat who sends a tweet when he’s eating? While I’m at it, why not toss in a video stream? After all, everyone loves videos of their cat. My ASUS eeePC runs eeexubuntu and has a webcam – all I would need to do to get my cat twittering is setup some motion sensing software that detects movement from the webcam, records a video, and upload to my server and then notifies me.

First, a proper “cat studio” is required. I picked up a laundry basket, some thin anti-slip mat and a couple of new food bowls for under $15 total. The laundry basked got a side removed by my trusty Dremel tool, and the anti-slip mat was cut to fit and hot-glued in place. After that was done, I had a spare light fixture with a clamp lying around to add to the mix for better lighting.

Motion is a great webcam application that fits my needs exactly. More specifically, when it detects motion, it records a video – think like a security camera, but way, way smarter. When Motion no longer senses any movement after a defined period of time, it encodes the captured video, and then it can run a script or set of commands afterwards. Bingo!

Here’s how I did it, after hours of trial and error:
1. Installed Motion 3.2.9
2. Configured and tweaked /etc/motion/motion.conf (probably still some changes needed)
3. Setup SSH to allow logins to my web server without a password.
4. Added the following to execute when a recording is finished:
Upload the file (using cat, of course!):

cat /tmp/motion/video.swf | ssh cat ">" /home/fsckin/

Update Twitter Status:

curl --basic --user "junglecrawler:password" --data-ascii "status=Done eating, humans were nice to me today." ""

Remove the video off the local machine:

rm /tmp/motion/video.swf

Here’s the end result:
First Video:

Latest Video (15MBish)

This videos loop over and over. Also – if a video is uploading at the same time that someone is loading the page, it might break. If you don’t see video, just count to 10 and refresh the page. If you still get nothing, bookmark this on and come back later.

Note: Audio is not yet supported by Motion, however, an experimental patch enables this already and should be be in the next version. This is a proof of concept, and it will probably be running for at least the next week – after that, who knows. All I know is after I’m long forgotten, Bubba will live in perpetuity as truly the first cat who uploaded videos of himself eating and sending tweets to his human slaves.

Follow Bubba on Twitter. Or, follow his slave, Wayne.


Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 Release Notes Rewritten in Plain English

If you have been using Windows all your life, it’s no secret that switching to Linux is not an easy decision to make. Last September I was fed up with Windows Vista and decided to make the plunge.

It wasn’t easy. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. The day where I can recommend that my father use Linux (without the fear of him calling me on a daily basis to fix things) is the day I’ll proclaim the “year of the Linux desktop” has arrived.

I’ve spent hours upon hours trying to get things working, and as time goes on, those problems get easier to solve. One problem that I find runs rampant in the Linux community is over-using jargon, acronyms and sometimes even program names that people just assume you know what they’re talking about. It’s not intentional, but sometimes it’s difficult for me to wade through, even after using it exclusively for near 8 months.

Ubuntu, who has made tremendous progress towards making life in Linux easier has it’s own share of problems. One of those problems is highlighted in their release notes.

Ubuntu claims to be a “Linux for Human Beings,” and for the most part they actually do a good job of it. One place they fail miserably is in their release notes – they’re just too damn complicated for anyone who doesn’t know what all the different component names stand for.

I’ve set out to accomplish the simple task of converting the techno-jargon into readable english that anyone can understand, by using simple language and avoiding program names, acronyms and version numbers.

A fantastic example of getting the “Feature List” documented properly, while not overwhelming the end user is the absolutely gigantic 300+ New Features list for Mac OS X Leopard. I’m not kidding.

Just about every documented feature describes what value the change is for the user. This is what is important! Users don’t care about the latest version of Program X, they want to know what benefits they’ll see from the new version.

I’m targeting Ubuntu here, since it’s what I still use on my desktop. They also have a petition on their user-submitted idea website to stop including such technical information in the release notes so “mere mortals” can understand what is changing in the new versions.

With that out of the way, let’s get started. First, the name of the upcoming release, which is less than a month away is called “Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 LTS” Even the name needs to be explained for someone who is brand new:

Ubuntu is the name of the distribution.
Hardy Heron is the “Codename” of the release.
8.04 is the version, which designates that it is being released in 2008, in April (the fourth month).
LTS means software and security updates are provided for three years.

Now that we have the name, codename, version, and support defined, let’s go a little further into the rabbit hole.

New Features since the last release:

The latest version of Ubuntu includes upgraded core software which helps to save electricity for some of the newer 64-bit computers and laptops purchased in the last 5 years. This core upgrade also improves performance as well as new support for more hardware like printers, scanners, and other peripherals.

Enjoy a better first-time installation experience with our improved screen settings detection system. If problems arise with display settings, your computer should be able to recover gracefully.

There is a new utility to change your screen size, which is especially useful if you have two monitors. This also means that if you have a laptop and an external display (i.e. projector or 2nd monitor) you’ll be able to change things like screen size, and choose which monitor is your primary output easier in the latest version.

Hurray! The computer and file browser has been updated! This version has new features for pausing large file transfers, and also makes it possible to undo accidental file moves. If you try to send files to a folder you don’t have permissions for, you will be asked for the system password to complete the requested operation, instead of getting a nasty error message.

If you attempt to make changes to the computer that would normally require a system password to access, there is a new “Unlock” button on some dialogs to make it easier to understand what needs to be done to change the setting.

The new sound system is fantastic! Now you can play movies, music, and voice chat at the same time without running into problems.

We have upgraded to the newest version of the award winning internet browser, Firefox. It looks better and runs faster than before, while still remaining as secure as ever. We think you’ll like the improved experience.

Downloading large files has a new, more informative interface. You can easily see download speeds, percent completed and estimated time to completion.

The remote control application has been updated. You’ll be happy to know that accessing multiple computers is now easier than ever, and you can automatically find other computers to connect to on the same network.

Burning CDs and DVDs just got a whole lot easier with an easy to use wizard-based program.

Displaying Time and Weather in other time zones is simplified, thanks to our new World Clock program.

We added in a program for making posters, signs, family tree charts, and everything else that you might think about taking to a print shop. Now we can save those files in a format that your print shop technician can use.

If you have a “Windows-only network” at work, you’ll be able to login to the network easier if you take your computer into the office.

Many additional security issues have been resolved before they ever became a problem in our latest release, thanks to our development team who specializes in finding bugs – before they find you. We also updated our firewall software, just in case.

If you thought you needed help in the past to get Ubuntu on your computer that has Microsoft Windows on it right now, you’ll be happy to hear that we have integrated a new installer that works right in Windows. Just put in the CD and you will automatically see the Ubuntu Setup menu, just type in your desired username and password and press “Install” – it’s that easy to get started.

One more thing.., we made also changed to the way your computer works with hard drives and other memory so that it runs faster. How nice of us!

Need to know more? Check out our detailed release notes.

Think this is a good idea? Make your vote count, it takes less than 30 seconds to register and vote.

This message was paid for by The Linux Isn’t Just For Geek Types Anymore Campaign.


Canonical (Ubuntu) Has An Excellent Sense Of Humour

I’ve been surfing around the Ubuntu website and found a few funny exerpts…

If you’d like to see for yourself, just click through the image which is linked to the webpage I found it on.

  1. Ubuntu is hiring someone who doesn’t speak Klingon. I guess they already have enough employees who are fluent in the language.


  2. Shuttleworth filed a bug about some problem with market share for Ubuntu verses other competetors.ubuntu-microsoft.png
  3. Microsoft is such a pane in the glass!
  4. Catch Spelling Mistakes on the Fli… erro

Got any more? Feel free to share. 🙂


Roll Your Own Ubuntu With Reconstructor

When I reinstall Ubuntu, I spend the greater part of an hour reconfiguring everything the way I like it.

In particular, setting up Firefox just the way I like it takes about half that time, the rest is just little tweaks here and there. I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at configuring Firefox, including importing bookmarks, installing plugins, saving passwords, and more.

It would be safe to say that I’m a Firefox configuration god. I have no idea how many times I’ve reinstalled various operating systems since I started using Firefox, but a good bet would be something on the order of 60 times. I’ve got a bad case of operating system ADD. I write reviews on various operating systems, and add those two together and you end up with a ton of time wasted reinstalling to a base system.

A program called Reconstructor fixes the problem of needing to reconfigure everything after reinstalling.

It guides you easily through creating your own ISO and burning it to disc. The functionality is eerily similar to nLite, a program that does pretty much the exact same thing for Windows.

Here are some screenshots of the program in action to enjoy:






After running through the easy to use GUI to copy the LiveCD over to the hard drive and create a local copy, I found my Mozilla profile folder in ~/.mozilla and copied it into ~/reconstructor/root/etc/skel to completely skip setting up Firefox whenever I install from my custom created CD. Reconstructor is pretty damn spiffy if I do say so myself.

If you can’t get enough reading material, check out Shane’s blog over at Hackosis. It’s another Linux blog that has captivated my attention for about the same amount of time it takes to reconfigure Firefox, when I should be doing something else.


Ubuntu Documentation Solicitation at Ubuntology

James House over at Ubuntology just received a form letter from the Ubuntu Documentation Team, requesting some help in creating Ubuntu documentation guides. I think this is a great idea, but who exactly is the Documentation Team?

“The Documentation Team is a group of community volunteers who manage the documentation that ships with the Ubuntu operating system, as well as the community-developed documentation on the documentation website at”

I think James is on the right track in helping out with his material. Unfortunately, I think most of my guides are aimed at installing 3rd party applications, installing from source, or some other method which are highly frowned upon by support channels.

For example, if you followed my MoBlock article and suddenly couldn’t connect to because you didn’t follow it completely, if you started posting on the forums or owned a Dell PC with Ubuntu pre-installed, unless someone really wanted to go out of their way and help out, you’re just SOL because you edited sources.list and installed 3rd party packages that can’t be supported.

“Ubuntu Forums does not provide support for Automatix, EasyUbuntu, or any other unofficial method of installing software. We recommend, to receive assistance, that you find the direct channel to the project developer(s) before you decide to use one of these scripts.” – Matthew Helmke, Admin, Ubuntu Forums.

I’ll go through my articles and see if anything would fit into a Wiki, but I doubt it… I don’t tend to write articles that feel like they were written a dozen at a time in a cookie cutter format. Thanks for the heads up James, if any of you want to help out, hit the links above. Also a quick shout to Happy Linux Thoughts, another blog similar to mine that I really enjoy reading.


Tweak Ubuntu Software Sources To Stay Bleeding Edge

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already ahead of the pack since you run something other than Windows. If you are also running Gutsy Gibbon, now you can leap


ahead and get updates anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before everyone else.


Top 25 Ubuntu-Based Distributions With Descriptions

Have you ever sat on a toilet with the lid up and got water on your bum?   If you have, you probably remember how that initial rush of excitement eventually faded and you were upset?  Sometimes running vanilla Ubuntu can feel exactly like that.  Here’s a list of 25 Ubuntu-Based Distributions that should keep you high and dry from the Ubuntu burn out syndrome.

This is a Xubuntu derivative which uses CoLinux (a port of the Linux kernel to Windows), and is primarily designed to facilitate running Linux binaries on Windows. Ever see Konqueror running in Windows? Now you can.

Official derivative which runs the KDE Desktop, Edubuntu is focused towards the classroom, and contains many educational related packages.

The objective of the Elbuntu community project is to provide the maximum eye candy for the end-user using the enlightenment window manager and the related libraries. Elbuntu is based on the Ubuntu distro, but with E17 and not gnome.

This Ubuntu is lean, mean, and FAST as hell. It uses Fluxbox window environment, which lets it run faster on lower-end hardware – faster than most other versions of Ubuntu. This is Ubuntu without the “bloat” – not quite 7.10, but they are working on it.

If you complain that Linux does not have MP3 or WMV codecs by default, you may want to check this out since it licenses these codecs and includes them by default. Click N’ Run is really, really slick and makes installing software easier than any other distribution.

Is it me, or does anybody else read the name as gNuisance? Based on Ubuntu, this distro takes the proprietary and non-free software from Ubuntu and rips it out. Basically a bastardized version of Fedora, probably better off using the next one in the list.

This is an official version of Ubuntu that provides the same product as gNuisance. It was going to be called Gnubuntu, but Richard Stallman didn’t like the name. It currently only has a text-mode installer, but it works just great.

This little project gets all sorts of attention. Ad two parts vapor-ware with a whole lot of Google hype working for it, and you end up with a distro that Google uses internally, and thousands of people wish it were true. I’d probably run Goobuntu as long as they use Gnome. 🙂

Impi Linux
South African Linux distribution based on Ubuntu, which focuses on the enterprise and government sector.

Do you like KDE? This is an official derivative that provides a slick KDE desktop. Recently released are some packages for the beta of KDE 4 which is shaping up to be a really nice desktop environment.

Used to be called Lindows, it’s a commercial distribution that likes to make it easy to use for an average person. Costs $50.

Ever want Linux with a ’10 foot’ user interface to facilitate running it on your gigantic TV? It’s an add-on to Kubuntu that makes this a reality.

Linux Mint
My girlfriend loves Linux Mint, which says alot more than I could. Their goal is “to produce an elegant, up to date and comfortable GNU/Linux desktop” I suggest trying this as an alternative to Ubuntu if you’re looking for something that is a bit more familiar out of the box to new Linux users.

Ubuntu based MythTV distribution that is easy to setup and use. The Mythbuntu Control Centre gives you a GUI to configure MythTV and it can be used as a Backend, Frontend, or both.

Aka Network Ubuntu, this one is a pretty sweet distro including network penetration test tools, like Wireshark, nmap, dSniff and Ettercap.

Ubuntu Christian Edition
Ever wonder what version of Linux Jesus would download?  Now you know.  Ubuntu CE is designed for christians. I’ve reviewed Ubuntu CE from the point of view of an agnostic, and ended up giving it a general “thumbs down” but I think with the next release (and especially after correspondencewith the primary developer) the 7.10 version will receive a better score. It has several neat ideas for christians such as a daily bible verse on the desktop, and several bible thumping Firefox plugins that cater well to a specific niche market.

Ubuntu Home Server
UHS is in production status but deserves mention. It’s a product that will compete directly with Windows Home Server.

Ubuntu Satanic Edition
Linux for the Damned is not technically an Ubuntu distro. It’s simply some repackaged themes which allow you to deck out your computer with some wicked screensavers, desktop backgrounds, etc.

Ubuntu Studio
This distro is geared towards people who want to produce and manipulate multimedia content. It provides a different kernel to facilitate audio processing with minimal delays, and has a bitch of a problem with not being able to fit on a 700MB CD. Bust out your DVD-RW disk like I did and take a look at this sucker if you’re interested in doing any sort of video, audio or graphic creation, I highly reccomended it.

Ubuntu Ultimate Edition
Take Ubuntu, update it, then plug in all sorts of extra software and then you have yourself an Ultimate Edition of Ubuntu.

Got kids? Grab an old Pentium PC (minimally a 75MHz Pentium with 32MB RAM), install Dans Guardian, and boom – PC for the kids to browse the web.

The Muslim Edition of Ubuntu, much like Ubuntu CE provides tools for those practicing Islam, like prayer times, Quran tools, web filtering, etc.

Official release that runs an Xfce desktop environment, it’ll run faster than a regular vanilla installation.

Does anyone really need to run Linux on their 1st gen Xbox?  Really?  Pfft.

If you enjoyed the article, please Digg it.  I’ll be doing my normal Thursday Linux Nation post within the next few hours.


Gutsy Gibbon Enabled 3D Compiz Fusion Effects – But Where Are They?

Most of the 3D visual effects are controlled by keyboard shortcuts by default in Gutsy Gibbon. Obscure keyboard commands like Super(Windows Key)+E to emulate Expose, or Super+Right Click to Zoom around… but where’s a list of all the shortcuts? Who knows, it’s probably hidden in the Gnome configuration somewhere.

What I do know is that we can install the Compiz Fusion configuration tool and setup our desktop the way we want to. It’s easy as baking no-bake cookies. 🙂


Partitioning or Resizing Drives In Ubuntu Using GParted

Ubuntu does not come with any graphical tools to repartition or resize a drive. Luckily, GParted comes to the rescue!

Games Linux

How To: Run Team Fortress 2 (TF2), Portal, Half-Life 2, HL2 EP 1&2, and Counter-Strike In Ubuntu Using Wine

For those of you who are not familiar with The Orange Box, it’s five games in one box. It contains Half-Life 2, Half Life 2 Episode 1, Half-Life 2 Episode 2, Portal, and the one everyone has been waiting for: Team Fortress 2. My god! For 50 bones this IS the best deal in video game history.

Let’s start with a overview of what we need to accomplish: Copy DVDs to Hard Disk, Install & Configure Wine (including obtaining a proprietary, non-free font), and finally, configure the game to run properly.

I highly suggest finding some music to listen to while you do this. It takes about 30 minutes total, but well worth the time invested, as you could conceivably spend hundreds of hours playing these games.

May I suggest some Led Zepplin? OK, now that you’ve got something to kill time with, let’s get down and dirty.