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I can't open Raw files from my digital camera PDF Print E-mail
Written by Garfield Lucas   

Usually the camera manufacturer will  provide software that handles raw files from your camera. However, several problems can arise:-

  • You change computer and loose the original software.
  • You have several cameras made by different manufacturers but want to use the same application to deal with their raw files.
  • You don't use Micro$oft Windows.

So what can you do?

Before you stump up any hard-earned cash, I would suggest you download and try GIMP image editor c/w either UFRaw or DCRaw plugin:-

UFRaw is actually based on DCRaw but is much friendlier IMHO. However, Dave Coffin, the author of the original DCRaw source code is a very interesting and knowledgable chap and his site is well worth a vist anyway:-
Dave Coffin's mission:- "Write and maintain an ANSI C program that decodes any raw image from any digital camera on any computer running any operating system."
Last Updated on Sunday, 04 May 2008 16:48
Britain's metrication fiasco PDF Print E-mail
Written by Garfield Lucas   

Britain has made a complete hash of metrication whilst failing to teach its young the basic numeracy skills to deal with the ridiculous anomalies that have arisen as a result. E.g...

  • People who think 7.5 lbs is the same as 7 lb 5 oz.
  • People who think of 0 as freezing 0 as boiling and yet think room temperature as 70.
  • Local authorities such as Southampton City Council that insists building plans be submitted in metres but continue to rent allotments in rods!
  • People who weigh themselves in stone or weigh cement etc. in hundredweight but have no idea of the value of either in pounds, let alone kilograms.
  • We buy petrol in litres but our road signs are still in miles - thus making fuel economy calculations almost impossible for the majority of the population. And this is a time when we are told we need to reduce our carbon footprint!

Metric measures were legalised in the UK in 1863, yes, 150 years ago! Since then we have endured three failed attempts at metrication. Can't really blame Brits for being a bit muddled when it comes to measuring things, can you?

Last Updated on Friday, 12 February 2010 17:25
Windows can't read from my camera's memory card PDF Print E-mail
Written by Garfield Lucas   

This is more a basic "how it works" rather than a comprehensive "how-to", though I have provided links to some of the resources I use when confronted with flaky camera chips or flaky hard drives. 

Windows itself only gives you limited ways to mount a volume. Basically, if Windows  cannot recognise the volume's file system then Windows assumes it does not exist. Two basic ways round this. Whichever way you do it it is vital you do not write data to the corrupted volume.

  1. If you are still using Windows then you can install an application such as RTools on your Windows PC - but NOT on the corrupted volume.  This effectively bypasses Windows file management system and creates one or several file allocation tables on another volume that it uses to piece together the data on the corrupted volume. You then use this to restore your data to another volume. It's expensive but worth the money because it does not require much technical knowledge.
  2. OR connect the corrupted volume using an operating system such a Linux that allows you to mount file systems manually and that allows operations on data when no file system appears to be present. It requires more technical knowledge than method 1 but everything you need is free. Indeed there many tools at your disposal, some of which are detailed in a recent paper published under a "Microsoft Permissive License" entitled "Recovering Data from Windows Systems by Using Linux
However, having used both methods with a fair measure of success, I'd add that they are both tedious and time-consuming!

Last Updated on Sunday, 25 January 2009 01:21
gOS - has the Google vs M$ war just "gone nuclear"? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Garfield Lucas   

The new gOS operating system certainly would appear to up the ante in the ongoing war between the mighty Micro$haft and that pesky upstart Google. But  is it any good and is it really Google? To find out, I just booted from the gOS liveCD I just downloaded.

First impression is that it looks very nice, it's very Mac OSX-like and very green. That is, green in the sense that the wallpaper, scrollbars and most of the icons are all green!

gOS screengrab
Screengrab of entire gOS screen Click to enlarge

Last Updated on Sunday, 11 May 2008 15:39
How to make (K)Ubuntu play copy-protected DVD's, and... PDF Print E-mail
Written by Garfield Lucas   

...and Windows Media, Skype and GoogleEarth

One of the problems with (K)Ubuntu (and many other Linux distributions) is that it will not play commercial, copy-protected DVD's and a number of other proprietary file formats, out-of-the-box. There are complex legal and ethical reasons for this. However, many users just want to play their files and watch their DVD's. So what is the easiest way to make (K)Ubuntu do these things?

Linux Inside Logo

In principle, you need to add a couple of extra repositories to your system - dependent on which version of Ubuntu you are usingn(see the "how-to" below for detais of a way of actualy doing this):-

Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron)
  • deb hardy free non-free
  • deb-src hardy free non-free
Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex)
  • deb intrepid free non-free
  • deb-src intrepid free non-free
Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope)
  • deb jaunty free non-free
  • deb-src jaunty free non-free
Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala)
  • deb karmic free non-free
  • deb-src karmic free non-free

And then you have to download some packages that contain the software and libraries you need. If all goes to plan, then the instructions below will add the following additional features to your system...

  • Google Earth
  • MPEG Encoder
  • Play copy-protected DVD's
  • Play proprietary Windows Media file formats
  • Skype
  • And some of the popular Windows style fonts that are frequently seen on websites.

How To...

There are several ways to do this but probably the simplest and most comprehensive is to open a terminal window and type in each of the following four commands, followed by the "return" key. Please note that all four of these commands are single lines - though your browser may have caused them to "line-wrap".

1. Add repositories. The repository you use depends on the version of Ubuntu you are using:-

Version 8.04 (Hardy):-
sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list

Version 8.10 (Intrepid):-
sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list

Version 9.04 (Jaunty):-
sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list

Version 9.10 (Karmic):-
sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list

2. If this generates a "No such file or directory" error it might be necessary to...

sudo mkdir /etc/apt/sources.list.d

3. Install GPG key - this is needed verify the repository when your machne does routine updates...

wget -q -O- | sudo apt-key add - && sudo apt-get update

4. Upgrade the distribution...

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

5. Install applications and libraries...

If you are upgrading a 32 bit version of (K)Ubuntu:-

sudo apt-get install skype googleearth googleearth-data ffmpeg mplayer mencoder libdv-bin libggi-target-emu libggi-target-monotext libggimisc2 w32codecs libdvdcss2 mplayer-doc non-free-codecs msttcorefonts ttf-xfree86-nonfree evince

If you are upgrading a 64 bit version of (K)Ubuntu:-

sudo apt-get install skype googleearth googleearth-data ffmpeg mplayer mencoder libdv-bin libggi-target-emu libggi-target-monotext libggimisc2 w64codecs libdvdcss2 mplayer-doc non-free-codecs msttcorefonts ttf-xfree86-nonfree evince

Note the adobe acobat reader is no longer available via Medibuntu. So I included the open source document reader evince instead. However, if you want the Adobe version. Adobe has now made a Linux version available from its site.  Ditto its Flash plugin:-

Thats it! Enjoy.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 October 2009 14:13
Marriage of minds or just a shotgun wedding PDF Print E-mail
Written by Garfield Lucas   

Microsoft has been in trouble for some time - but has taken its executives quite a while to realise it. Vista has been a massive flop. And M$ is becoming increasingly perceived as a company that has ruthlessly exploited its monopoly - fleecing its customers for vast sums of money whilst providing poor quality, insecure products.

Reading around the web there seems to be a growing feeling afoot that Microsoft has somehow "missed the boat"and is clinging to Yahoo in order to compete with its new arch-rival, Google. Indeed, BBC's Website Business Editor, Tim Weber describes itas, "Microsoft and Yahoo's shotgun marriage".

But let's cast aside personal bias and feelings and look instead at the figures. Both M$ and Yahoo's shares have been on a downward trajectory since before the beginning of the year. This trend pre-dates the current "sub-prime lending" gloom. Since 2007-11-01 Micro$haft has seen its shares fall from over $37.00 to around $32.00. In the same period, Yahoo shares have tumbled by over 33% from around $31.00 down to below $20.00. Yet M$'s offer for Yahoo of $44.6 billion is 62% more than Thursday's closing price. Also Yahoo is in the process of shedding 1000 staff - hardly the act of a booming corporation methinks.

This suggests that either...

  1. Yahoo has something bloody good stuff in the pipeline that it has carefully hidden from the rest of the world or
  2. Micro$oft is desperate. 
I think all-in-all, I have to agree with Tim Weber. And whilst Microsoft is a huge company with a lot of resources at its disposal compared to its rivals, I seem to recall the similar things being said in the 1980's about the seemingly invincible "Big Blue" IBM.
Last Updated on Sunday, 25 January 2009 01:17
Persuading ThumbsPlus for Windows to work on Ubuntu Linux PDF Print E-mail
Written by Garfield Lucas   

ImageThis is a crude but effective way to make one of my favourite Windows applications, Cerious Software's ThumbsPlus! version 6 or 7 work reasonably well on Linux, by using Codeweavers Crossover. This is something of a bodge and it has come about more by trial and error rather than by rational scientific reasoning - so I still need to establish why this works. Any input from the Codeweavers team would be gratefully received! ;-)

At time of writing, my test machine is an IBM Lenovo 3000C200 laptop c/w 1.5Gb RAM, running Ubuntu 7.04 with the Kubuntu upgrade. I am running Crossover 6.1.0.

I use the abbreviation TP to refer to ThumbsPlus version 6 or 7.

Click to view full size image

How I did it...

  1. Create a Microsoft wine bottle.
  2. Install a full Microsoft Office 2000 or 2002 first into this wine bottle. ThumbsPlus has an important Microsoft dependency for its data access. By default TP stores thumbnails in a Microsoft Access data file. The prior installation of M$ office seems to cater for this dependency. Simply installing the MDAC2.5, (which you can download from Cerious Software's FTP server), seems not to work in this instance.
  3. Install ThumbsPlus! version 6 or 7 using the Crossover Installer. You should find it installs OK. You should also find that Crossover will create a desktop icon and a menu item for it.
  4. When you start TP, a dialog will appear advising you to label "drive_z". Unless you installed Crossover as root you will not be able to do this. Actually I'm not sure being root would help anyway. So cancel the dialog, ignore the warning and continue.
  5. You should find the application will run and it will actually make thumbnails too.
  6. Unfortunately when you actually use TP to open a graphics file, it will crash!
  7. The trick here is to use the winecfg tool located in the Crossover Control Panel for the Microsoft wine bottle I created earlier...
    1. Select "Applications" tab.
    2. Browse for TP executable (usually somewhere like "drive_c/Program Files /thumbs7/Thumbs.exe").
    3. With Thumbs.exe selected, select "Windows 95" from the "Windows Version" pick list .
    4. Click Apply then close the dialog.
    5. Next time you run TP, it should open graphics files just fine, without crashing.
I'm not sure why making the TP executable think it is running in Win 95 should stop it crashing. My guess is that it makes a different DLL call. My next task is to figure out why and hopefully provide a more elegant fix.

Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2008 10:02
Go Trabi Go! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Garfield Lucas   

Trabifest, Zwickau 2007-06-16 and 2007-06-17

I found myself at the 50th Anniversary Trabifest in Zwickau in the former East Germany back in June 2007. Not sure I fully understand the enthusiasm for these funny little cars - though I did find myself becoming bitten by the bug.  I guess there is a large cultural element to this phenomenon. It seems the humble Trabi has become another cultural icon. One enthusiast I met described the Trabi as, "A smile rising from a troubled past."

They certainly are quite amusing little things, as these images will indicate...

Go Trabi Go
DVD's of German-made "Go Trabi Go" movies
c/w Chinese-made model Tabant 601's
and a litre bottle of Jagermeister, mmm...

Golden Trabi
Trabant memorabilia - a golden Trabi 601 + a few Trabi books

Firstly, I managed to glean from some friendly Trabi enthusiasts that there is a heirchical distinction between the four-stroke models and the earlier two-stroke versions. Cars fitted with the Volkswagen-built four-stroke engine can be distinguished from earlier two stroke models by their larger rear light clusters. These came with the amazing modern innovation of built-in reversing lamps!

Two-stroke rear view

Two-stroke front view

The four stroke-models also had asymmetric radiator grilles. However, I am reliably informed that the four-stroke versions are not considered to be"real Trabis" by the Trabant 601 cognoscenti. Real Trabis should sound like sewing machines and leave a trail of dense blue smoke behind them, apparently.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 August 2009 15:23
Hungarian rebels against the "Microsoft Tax" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Garfield Lucas   

[Reproduced from DEOSS ]

Seems that Micro$haft's corporate enslavement permeates far beyond the English-speaking world. A long and complex legal battle is currently raging in the former Eastern Bloc state of Hungary. APEH (the Hungarian Tax Office) has decided that all Hungarian businesses now have to submit their tax returns on-line.

This would not be a problem in itself. However in an act of inexplicable ignorance, APEH has assumed that all computer users use Microsoft Windows. To complete their tax returns, Hungarian business people have to download two Windows executable programs, run them on their Windows based PC's and then submit these back to APEH, duly completed, using Windoze of course!

APEH's tax return files simply do not work on any other platform, not even using WINE or CrossoverLinux. So if you are a Macintosh or Linux user, then tough luck mate! This has infuriated Hungarian businessman and software developer, Charles Barcza. He develops and runs blackPanther, one of the biggest home-grown, Hungarian-language Linux distribution. 

Despite smiling for our photo, Charles is not a happy Hungarian at all because APEH's decision renders his blackPanther OS and all other non-Microsoft operating systems useless for submission of tax returns in Hungary.

Last Updated on Sunday, 25 January 2009 01:18
Vista woes might lead us to better things PDF Print E-mail
Written by Garfield Lucas   

We bought a couple of IBM Lenovo 3000C200 laptop PCs in 2007 May. These are fairly average 1700MHz laptops purchased from a UK supplier called eBuyer for around 300 quid a throw. These came preloaded with the basic version of Windows Vista. To describe Vista's performance as dismal would be understatement of the year.

Another "BadVista" logo

Problems included...

  1. Waiting over an hour to get the OS from pre installed state to being actually usable (and I use the word "usable" lightly).
  2. MS outlook 2002 crashed on start - seems the pre-installed Office 2007 conflicted with it.
  3. Painfully slow start up, over five minutes
  4. Painfully slow to do anything at all.
  5. Stupid user interface with lots of unnecessary clutter that needed switching off in order to get any speed from the machine.

So I took the "brave" step of reformatting the drive on one machine and installing Ubuntu Linux instead. Now, I have flirted with Linux on desktop PC's for some time, though not in any serious way. Until recently Linux was not user-friendly enough for desktop use and besides, it lacked decent applications. However I have used Linux much more successfully on web servers for many years. Garfnet and our sister site DEOSS both run Debian Linux c/w Apache webserver.

But things change very quickly in the IT Industry and Linux in particular has come a very long way.  Besides Vista made me so angry that I thought it was time to try one of the "new" Linuxes as a Windows replacement on a real, working desktop. So I undertook quite a lot of research to try to establish which Linux best suited to day-to-day, desktop use in a harsh business environment. There are many choices but in the end I opted for a Debian-based distribution called Ubuntu.

Free software foundations "bad vists" logo

This is what I discovered...

  1. It took less than 15 minutes to install a working Ubuntu, c/w a fully working OpenOffice.
  2. I then decided to Outlook with the far superior (and free) Mozilla Thunderbird. This has never crashed and handles my huge archive of old emails far better than MS Outlook. FYI MS Outlook goes decidedly wibbly as its *.PST file approaches 2GB.
  3. Ubuntu's start up averages less than 1/3 of the time that Vista takes.
  4. Applications load at a speed that I have never experienced with any Windows machine.
  5. I have no problems with virus, spyware, trojans, adware etc. Remember that on many Windows PC's half your system reources can be taken up running anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall and other "protective" software.
  6. Ubuntu, and almost all the software for iUbuntu is FREE! No strings, no spies, no adware. In fact there are none of the "nasties" that one has come to expect with Windows.

Three months and countless installed applications later, these Ubuntu-based machines still deliver the same performance that they did when they were new. Compare that with any version of Windoze, where machines get slower and slower the more applications you install.

I subsequently upgraded from Ubuntu to the (IMHO) much more stylish and functional Kubuntu - featuring the KDE desktop. KDE is one of many free desktop systems available for Ubuntu. Which one you use is purely a matter of personal choice - something else greatly lacking in the Windows arena.

Since 2007 May, we have purchased 3 Lenovos and dumped Vista on all 3 machines in favour of Kubuntu. In addition we are gradually migrating all our Windows PC's to Kubuntu as well. I am at my wits end with constant upgrading, security patching of Windows operating systems. I am sorry to say that Vista is one seriously-flawed operating system too many for us and I am utterly sick of all the broken promises from Microsoft.

KDE logo

(K)ubuntu has made migrating to Linux really easy for us. So easy that my non-techy girlfriend was able to install a complete Hungarian language version of Ubuntu for her sister in Hungary, including Skype and all the other doodads, whistles & bells in just over half an hour.

There are still issues with drivers for scanners etc, but these are gradually being resolved. Our few "must have" Windows applications, such as ThumbsPlus, Adobe PageMaker and Microsoft Access will all run adequately on Linux by using CrossoverOffice from Codeweavers (costs around 25 quid). Infact MS Access on Linux is actually faster than on Windows! Seriously!

All our other data can be handled perfectly adequately using the fantastic array of free, open source applications available for Linux - such as OpenOffice (opens and saves M$ Word, Excel & Powerpoint files), Gwenview (for managing photos), Amorok (for MP3's) Kaffiene (for playing DVD's and other movie files).

There is also a fantastic array of free, open source educational software that is unrivalled on Windows. The support one gets from the Ubuntu community is far superior to anything you can expect from Micro$oft.

My final comment is that anyone struggling with Vista should seriously consider one of the Ubuntu family of Linuxes instead. My view is that if one has the hassle of learning something new then why not make this intellectual effort really worthwhile?

My remaining niggle is that presumably I must have paid for all these unwanted Vista OEM licences? Clearly Vista is not of merchantable quality. So I wonder how I can get my money back? I feel a letter to the Office of Fair Trading coming on!

Last Updated on Monday, 24 March 2008 01:24
The Open Source Revolution PDF Print E-mail
Written by Garfield Lucas   

This is a whistle-stop tour of the rapidly changing world of open source software. It is intended to give you an idea  of some of the arguments in favour of open source software. Obviously open source has its critics too. However this article does not cover these criticisms. If you are interested in the counter arguments then please visit the Microsoft FUD (fear uncertainty & doubt) site, amusingly entitled "Get the Facts". 

Last Updated on Sunday, 25 January 2009 01:17
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