Linux and Ubuntu

Free Art and Design Software for OS X

I am a firm believer in not paying ridiculous amounts of money for programs. I don’t think that any program, even for graphic design, is worth over 600 pounds.  I mean, you should just buy a new computer or something for that sort of money.  Not mentioning any names of course…. *cough*Photoshop*cough* …. There are countless downloads and hacks for programs like Adobe Photoshop but I don’t believe that resolves anything.  So I use freeware and opensource programs.  There are far fewer free programs available for OS X than for Windows.  However, here are few art and graphics programs which I think are worth considering. Continue reading

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Ubuntu 10.10 – How to Reset your Administrator Password

I did get locked out of my Ubuntu system a little while back.  I’m not sure how, but the computer just wouldn’t accept my Administrator password.

Anyhow, this is for those of you who find yourselves, for whatever reason, in the same position.  Fear not!  For there are many pages about how to do this online.  But they are all slightly different which can get a bit confusing.  This is the way that worked for me.

1.)  Get to the boot menu.  This can be done in different ways depending on your setup.  Mine goes to Grub 2 menu by default.  If you are using a computer that doesn’t go to boot menu by default I think you can get there by pressing and holding shift during startup.

Your boot menu should look something like this:

2.)  You will either have a recovery mode or a single user mode option.  They can both be used in the same way.  Choose the option you have available and you should come to a menu like this:

3.)  Choose Drop to root shell prompt and press enter.

4.)  When it has finished loading you should be left at a root prompt like this:



5.)  Type passwd and then the username of the user you are changing the password for.

For example, if the username is ‘layla’ you type:

passwd layla 

Then press enter.

6.)  You will come to a prompt like this:



Type the password you want for this user and press enter.

IMPORTANT:  As you type there will be no movement on the screen.  This is normal.

7.)  You will be asked to retype the password.



Type it and press enter.  Again, there will be no movement on the screen but don’t worry that’s how it should be.

8.)  If you have typed the password correctly both times you will receive this message:



You should now be able to log-in as Admin again.


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Ubuntu 10.10 – General Software

Depending on whether you do a custom or a default install you may or may not have the following programs.  After using Ubuntu for the last 6 months I recommend the following programs.  Remember, these are all FREE so if you don’t use them you can just uninstall them and it hasn’t cost you anything.  I actually think a lot of these are better than the programs you pay for.  Especially Video LAN Player.  I haven’t yet found a single video file type it can’t open.

To install these programs I usually use Synaptic Package Manager.  If you prefer to use the Terminal or the Ubuntu Software Centre that’s fine too.  I like using Synaptic Package Manager because it recommends you all the extra bits you might need for compatibility and such.  However, the Terminal is the quickest way so I will give the Terminal command for each one, and a detailed Ubuntu Software Centre/Synaptic Package Manager example at the end.

NOTE:  To install a program using the Terminal, open a Terminal window, copy and paste the command line into your window and hit enter.  Enter your Administrator password when asked and it should install it for you.


  • Firefox – a really good web browser and far more secure than IE (and apparently Safari at the moment).  To install using the Terminal use the command

sudo apt-get install firefox

  • Open Office – similar to Microsoft Office except it’s completely FREE!  This should be included by default but if it isn’t install it using Synaptic Package Manager or Ubuntu Software Centre.


  • VLC Player – a really good multimedia player which can handle most file formats.  AVI, WMV, DIVX, OGM, FLV, etc.  To install using the Terminal use the command

sudo apt-get install vlc vlc-plugin-pulse mozilla-plugin-vlc


After that there are several optional odds and ends I recommend:

  • Audacity – a good sound file recorder and editor.  To install using the Terminal use the command

sudo apt-get install audacity

  • GIMP – the GNU Image Manipulation Program.  Similar to Adobe Photoshop… WAIT!  No…  GIMP is FREE not £650 which is the current price of Photoshop!  Seriously, who would pay that?  There are probably a few things it can’t do that Photoshop can but it’s a decent program that can do most things, and yes, it does them for free.  To install using the Terminal use the command

sudo apt-get install gimp

(if you like GIMP you can install some extras for it using sudo apt-get install gimp-data-extras)

  • Five or More – this used to be called Glines and is a bit like connect 4 but oh so much better.  Install this game at your peril, it is very addictive.  Install this using Synaptic Package Manager or Ubuntu Software Centre.

  • Inkscape – a vector graphics editor.  It’s good for people who would like to play around with Adobe Illustrator but refuse to pay the price tag.  To install using the Terminal use the command

sudo apt-get install inkscape

  • SM Player – another media player.  I find this player gets on better with some DVDs than VLC.  It’s a good alternative if you find you have problems.  To install using the Terminal use the command

sudo apt-get install smplayer



You can install any of these programs using Synaptic Package Manager or Ubuntu Software Centre.  I will give an example for each method using VLC media player.

Using Synaptic Package Manager:

1.)  Make sure you have administrative privileges and your password.

2.)  Go to System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager

3.)  Enter your password when asked.

4.) When looking for a program you have to options – you can either browse the list or use the Quick Search.  Either is fine.

5.)  So if I wanted to install VLC Media Player I would search for it in the Quick Search and then right click and choose Mark for Installation.

Of course as I already have it installed it already has a green mark next to it.

6.)  Click Apply and it should be installed.  If it asks whether you want to install the recommended extras, choose yes.  VLC should now be successfully installed.


Using Ubuntu Software Centre:

1.)  Go to Applications > Ubuntu Software Centre

2.)  In the search type VLC media player and select it from the list.   You can click on more info if you would like to read about it before installing.

3.)  When you are ready click the install button.  The installation may take a little while but at the end VLC should be successfully installed.

Categories: Free Software, Linux and Ubuntu, Ubuntu 10.10 - Maveric Meerkat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ubuntu 10.10 – Plug-ins, Codecs and all that Jazz… (Part Two) Playing Online Videos

So you have your nice shiny new Ubuntu OS set up and you want to browse the latest Simon’s Cat or Zero Punctuation videos on YouTube.  And it doesn’t work.  Because Ubuntu only includes open source software by default, and the plug-in needed is not open source (yet).

The main thing you need to play online videos is an Adobe Flash Plug-in.  You can install Flash straight from their website or you can get it via your Ubuntu Software Centre, Synaptic Package Manager or even just through your Terminal.  I’ll explain each of these methods so you can choose the one that suits you.

NOTE If you have already installed the Ubuntu Restricted Extras package from the previous post you may find Flash Player is already installed.  Either way it is best to make sure it is there and installed correctly.


Installation Using the Terminal

To install the Adobe Flash Plug-in, open the Terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal), copy and paste the following command, and hit enter.

sudo apt-get install flashplugin-installer

An alternative instruction is

sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree

They are different ways of doing the same thing.  It will probably ask you to type your Administrator password to execute the command, which is one of the best ways Ubuntu keeps your system secure.  Nothing runs without your permission.  Anyway, that’s all you need to do.


Installation using the Ubuntu Software Centre

To install the Adobe Flash Plug-in using this method, open the Ubuntu Software Centre from the Applications menu (if you haven’t got this by default please see my previous post).  Then in the search box type Adobe Flash.

As I already have it installed I have a Remove option where the Install option would usually be.

NOTE: if you have not allowed your mutiverse repository Adobe Flash may not show up.  My previous post will show you how to include the multiverse repository in the Ubuntu Software Centre.  To install simply click the Install button, enter your Administrator password when asked, and it’s done.


Installation using Synaptic Package Manager

If you prefer using Synaptic Package Manager, open Synaptic Package Manager, type your Administrator password, and ensure you have  access to the multiverse repository (see previous post on how to do this).  Type ‘flashplugin-installer’ in the Quick Search and it should be the one at the top of the list.

Right click and choose Mark for Installation.  When you do this it may ask whether you want to install recommended packages for it as well.  Choose yes.  Then click Apply and everything should be up and running.

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Ubuntu 10.10 – Plug-ins, Codecs and all that Jazz… (Part One)

Ubuntu is open source, which on a basic level means pretty much free and unrestricted.  You can read about it here:

Anyway, this means that restricted third party software is not included by default.


Installing Plug-ins, Codecs, etc.

Most of these are pretty straightforward to install once you have the basic settings in place.  These are all settings for the main methods of installing software in Ubuntu which are Synaptic Package Manager, the Terminal, and Ubuntu Software Centre.


Synaptic Package Manager

The first thing to do is to check Synaptic Package Manager and make sure your repositories are in good working order.

System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager

To access this Ubuntu will ask for your Administrator password.  It may take a few seconds to load.

Now go to

Settings > Repositories

which will open a window called Software Sources.

Make sure you have all the boxes ticked.  It is extremely important to have the fourth box, Software restricted by copyright or legal issues (multiverse), ticked.

We won’t be using the other tabs but just so you know.  As you add packages they will appear in the Other Software tab.  In the Updates tab you can configure the system, security and software updates for your Ubuntu system.


The Terminal

Applications > Accessories > Terminal

The Terminal is the quickest way to do anything in Linux.  It is extremely fast and efficient.  On the downside, typing the wrong thing can create a lot of problems.  So some people feel safer avoiding it, which is fine as you can get by without using the Terminal at all.


Ubuntu Software Centre

Applications > Ubuntu Software Centre

If you go to Applications and can’t find Ubuntu Software Centre don’t worry.  Sometimes it is not included on the menu by default.  Just right click on Applications in your panel and choose Edit MenusUbuntu Software Centre should be at the bottom of the main Applications list.  Tick the box to ensure it appears on your Applications menu.

If you are uncomfortable using the Synaptic Package Manager or the Terminal this is a good option.  Most basic software can be installed from here.


Ubuntu Restricted Extras

The first useful thing to have is the Ubuntu Restricted Extras package.  This will install basic things like JAVA, Firefox plugins, Adobe Flash Player etc.  The recommended way to install is via the Terminal.  If you install it another way your installation may not be properly completed.  You can read about that here.

To install this package using the Terminal go to

Applications > Accessories > Terminal

Then copy and paste the command

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras

Enter your Administrator password when asked and wait for it to finish.  Now your basic media extras should be installed.

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Ubuntu Step Three (internet)

Network Connections


System > Preferences > Network Connections


If you don’t have any password security Ubuntu will ask if you want to connect to the available network.  I have wireless password secured internet.  In order to add my network I opened network connections and clicked Add which opens the window below.

Enter the name of your network at the top and choose whether you want it to connect automatically using the box directly below.  There are several tabs but the only one I changed was Wireless Security.  If you are on a password protected home network it is most likely that your wireless is WPA & WPA2 Personal so choose that option from the drop down list.  Enter your password and click Apply.


If you want to turn your network on and off manually you can do so by clicking the network icon (the one on the far left of the system tray) on your panel.


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Ubuntu Step Two (languages)



Not everyone uses more than one language but for those who do, Ubuntu handles languages like a dream.  Say goodbye to all those Windows problems with languages not being recognised or not installing or just generally not working.  I use Japanese and English language systems and for me everything worked first time. 


Language Support


System > Administration > Language Support


This is an important one if you want to use more than one language in your system.

To add a language to your system click Install/Remove Languages and choose the language you want.  Seriously it IS that easy.  You can choose any Keyboard Input method system but I use ibus.


Keyboard Input Methods


System > Preferences > Keyboard Input Methods


Because I use ibus, my Keyboard Input Methods come up as iBus Preferences by default.

Here you can check how to swap between languages using your keyboard.  For me it is Alt+Shift+L.

I choose to Show icon on system tray as I use it all the time.  If you click on the icon you can turn your languages on and off manually.  As you can see I have mine off by default.


If you click on the Input Method tab you can select the one which works for you.  I use Anthy and it works fine.


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Using Ubuntu Step One (general and appearances)

When you first start using Ubuntu 10.10 there are many basic things you can configure.  These are mostly found in either


System > Preferences


System > Administration


Most things in Administration I haven’t really touched since I first set Ubuntu up but a lot of settings overlap between Administration and Preferences so I won’t separate them by where they are located.


Before we start…




Your Panel is the bar at the top of the screen.

If  you use an application a lot you can also add things to your panel either by dragging the item from your menu, or by right clicking on the panel and choosing Add to Panel.

As you can see I have a few things like Mozilla Firefox added to mine (on the left).  On the right you will have your System Tray with all your practical icons like Volume etc.  You can set these to appear manually but some will appear by default.



If you can’t find anything I mention it is probably hidden by default.  In order to add one of these things to your menu right click on Applications in the panel and choose Edit Menus.  You can also get to this menu through


System > Preferences > Main Menu


You can add any item to your menus by selecting it here.  You can also create a new original menu using the New Menu button on the right.




System > Preferences > Appearances


Everything you can can customise involving your display such as themes, backgrounds and fonts are in Appearance.

  • Themes

You can install new themes from the website by going to the Themes tab and clicking Get more themes online.

Once you have downloaded your theme, you can install it by dragging the whole folder (don’t extract it – take the whole tar.gz) into your theme tab window.  It will ask you if you want to apply theme now.  Click on apply and then Customise to get the colours/buttons you want.  When you are finished click save as to save the theme for later use.

NOTE:  with some themes you will not have the option to change the colours etc.

As you can see I have created my own custom theme by choosing my favourite controls and colours from the tabs.

  • Backgrounds

To add a new background to the default collection just go to the Background tab, click Add, find the picture you want to use, and click Open.  You can then choose it from the collection.


Keyboard Shortcuts


System > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts


Exactly what it says.  An extremely useful list of all the keyboard shortcuts you will ever use.


Power Management


System > Preferences > Power Management


This is just like the power management in Windows.  You can edit settings like how long your system waits till it dims the screen and the action you want it to take when you close the lid.  Also, you can choose whether to show the Battery icon in your System Tray or not.

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Using Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat)

“The Box said, ‘Requires Windows 95 or better’.  So, I installed Linux.”


I am actually not a completely new convert to Linux.  I used to have fun playing all the games on old Red Hat systems when I was younger.  But I stuck to Windows through college and uni due to the simple reason it was the system most (affordable) laptops come packaged with.  But now, being thoroughly fed up with the total mind boggling stupidity and general inefficiency of Windows I was ready for a change.

I would like to take this opportunity to say, and as a Windows 3.1, 95, 98, XP and Vista user I feel I have the right, that Microsoft really is just getting worse.  Seriously.  Convert now while you still can.

Anyway, now I have Ubuntu 10.10 and it is absolutely awesome!  I have set my system to dual boot so I can get Windows if necessary, but I am considering getting Wine (a Windows emulator for Linux) which would mean I never have to use Windows again!  Hurrah!!

Of course Linux is a big change for a first time user.  As a newbie myself, there are a lot of things I don’t get right the first time like codec settings etc.  But for every single problem I have had there has been a person out there helpful enough to have written a solution.  So I thought I’d write a few posts myself just to express my thanks and share all the information I found useful.

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