Monday 20 December 2010

Evince failing to open PDF files

I noticed that Evince was suddenly failing to open PDF files with the error message:

File type PDF document (application/pdf) is not supported

Trying to debug the problem, I tried opening a PDF document through the command line and got the following error message.

(evince:1514): EvinceDocument-WARNING **: /usr/lib64/ undefined symbol: cairo_surface_set_mime_data

(evince:1514): EvinceDocument-WARNING **: Cannot load backend 'pdfdocument' since file '/usr/lib64/evince/3/backends/' cannot be read.

(evince:1514): EvinceDocument-WARNING **: /usr/lib64/evince/3/backends/ undefined symbol: cairo_region_union_rectangle

(evince:1514): EvinceDocument-WARNING **: Cannot load backend 'pdfdocument' since file '/usr/lib64/evince/3/backends/' cannot be read.

Now it suddenly makes sense! Fedora 14 has a broken implementation of Cairo graphics library which causes desktop themes to look absolutely ghastly. To get over the problem, I downgraded the Cairo libraries to F13 versions. However, this now seems to have broken Evince. Sure enough; upgrading cairo back to F14 versions made evince work again. Now I am stuck between having a working PDF reader and a nice desktop. It sure is a tough choice!

Saturday 16 October 2010

Haiku - Remember when...

Windows 95 was "awesome" and Windows 98 was slated to be "awesomer"? Linux was taking its baby steps and Mac OS was "pretty" and ruled the DTP circuit??

I was a young 'un, getting my feet wet in the magical world of computers. A Pentium 200Mhz with 32MB of RAM was my gateway in to the realm. (Yes.. it had a turbo button). Now, I do realise that there were even more magical times when people hacked away on mainframes and owning a Zinclair or Apple ][e was considered to be the coolest thing ever. I am too young to have lived in that era. So all of you grey beards, shut up and I promise to get off your lawn in a jiffy.

Anyway, the reason I am going off on a nostalgic tangent is because I remember being really excited when BeOS was announced somewhere in the mid 90's. It was a multimedia OS from the ground up; something alien to us Windows drones who had to contend with belts-and-braces multimedia extensions that never worked as advertised. BeOS had support for multi-threading and pre-emptive scheduling at its core - making processor heavy multimedia apps work faster and better. It had a new file system that supported larger files than FAT32 and most importantly, it had a cool new interface!  I was watching with an open mouth as an engineer demoed playing 4 videos at the same time in a single box running BeOS. My computer couldn't even play a single video without losing frames or freezing up. In that time period where hardware was getting faster and cheaper, an OS that could really utilise those features was a wonderful thing indeed.

Unforutnately, after the initial hype, BeOS faded into the background and was never heard of again. (The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that a certain turtleneck clad individual had something to do with it. BeOS almost managed to become the new Apple OS before they did an about turn and bought NEXT instead). Things moved on and now multimedia is not such a big deal any more. Even my phone has more multimedia capabilities than my first computer now.

Relevance aside, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that BeOS still survives in the form of the Haiku project - a project run by enthusiasts to develop and maintain BeOS. (Hands up if you stumbled on it after reading xkcd). The current version is alpha 2 and the first thing that stuck me after first booting it up is its 90's style interface. (That's not a bad thing).  The 16bit icons and pointers really made me feel nostalgic. However, regardless of the retro look, Haiku seems to be a fairly modern operating system. I was particularly impressed with the task manager - which showed a cascading menu of processes and child-processes with their memory usage embedded in the menu. That is something I would like to have in my regular desktop as well.

I don't think I am qualified enough to formally review Haiku. It is still in the alpha stage, so there aren't that many applications or features to talk about either. But, it looks to be a good enough operating system for basic day-to-day tasks. Given enough contributors, who knows? It might even become a mainstream OS someday.

If you grew up in the 90's, I definitely recommend booting up Haiku and letting the nostalgia sweep over you.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Adobe Flash 'Square' for Linux 64bit

After putting 64bit native Linux Flash player on hold indefinitely, Adobe have done an about turn and released a version of Flash Player 10.2 'Square' preview for 64 bit Linux as well. Good things about this release are that:
  • After some serious security flaws were discovered, Adobe advised on an upgrade. But for us poor 64bit Linux users, there was no 64 bit version to upgrade to until now.
  • It's a native Linux 64bit binary which should integrate well with Pulseaudio etc and use less reources. This funny comment on Slashdot illustrates the previous state of things really well.
  • I suddenly seem to be able to watch 1080p HD videos on Youtube. Can't recall ever seeing that option while I was using the old player.
So go ahead and grab the new version from here. To install the plugin in Fedora, just untar and copy to /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins

Saturday 11 September 2010

Ugly font rendering in Chrome Linux Beta and Unstable

Just upgraded to Google Chrome Beta (6.xx) and then to Unstable (7.xx) in my Fedora box and noticed the  butt-ugly font rendering in both versions. Apparently it's a known issue with gtk-webkit, but I would have expected Google to fix something as elementary and important as font rendering before concentrating on anything else.

A bit of Googling (ofcourse!) dug up this excellent post that fixed the font rendering issue in seconds!

Compare the before and after shots to see how severe the issue is:



Thursday 9 September 2010

Firefox 4 Beta On Fedora

Just stumbled on this blog post while skimming through Google Reader and thought I should share it.

To get the latest Beta installed, follow these steps:

sudo wget -O /etc/yum.repos.d/fedora-firefox4.repo

sudo yum install firefox4

Wednesday 30 June 2010

DVD Playback on Fedora 13

I never had a real need to watch DVD's on a computer - so DVD playback was not something I needed to get working with Fedora. Recently however, the need arose and to my surprise, the amount of information on the internet about Linux DVD playback is very out-of-date. libdvdcss - the library required to decrypt DVD content is not distributed by any of the usual repositories due to the licensing/legal restrictions (In the US, using libdvdcss may be considered as a DMCA violation. Whoever comes up with these ridiculous laws in the "land of the free" anyway?) The only repository carrying it was livna - which has sadly disappeared off the internet.

Luckily, ATrpm's is still maintaining an up-to-date list of packages and I found the F13 x86_64 version through pbone at

Install is a breeze with:
sudo yum --nogpgcheck localinstall libdvdcss2-1.2.10-5.fc13.x86_64.rpm

Now DVD's work flawlessly with Totem.

Saturday 20 March 2010

N900 Fun: Using a regular mouse and keyboard with N900


The Nokia N900 internet tablet is a fantastic gadget for geeks. It runs on the open-source Maemo 5 OS - which is a variant of Debian and for all intents and purposes, can be considered as a mobile computer rather than a phone.

While Maemo 5 is a great operating system by itself, it is not possible to run regular Linux software like Open Office or Gimp directly on it due to UI constraints. (Maemo has its' own GUI optimized for touch input and the small screen size of the tablet). However, a project called easy-debian allows users to install a full version of Debian on N900 and run any applications like a regular computer. It is bundled with the LXDE desktop environment and is very easy to install and use. My only gripe with the system is that it is a bit difficult to move the mouse with the finger - specially when it comes to clicking on stuff. But then again, real geeks use the command line! :)

I regularly use Synergy to share a single mouse and keyboard between my desktop and laptop. Today while messing around with the Easy Debian LXDE, I had the bright idea to see whether Synergy can be used to share the mouse and keyboard with my N900 as well. It turns out I can! The biggest advantage of this is that it allows me to type on my regular keyboard - no more finger cramps while hacking away on the phone. Having the ability to use the mouse in LXDE is pretty cool as well. Finally, don't forget the ability to copy and paste text between the computer and the phone - a very useful thing to have when you are editing config files etc.

For anyone interested, here's what I did:

On my desktop (Fedora 12):
1. sudo yum install synergy
 2. Create a config file. Mine looks as follows. (sayaka is the desktop. saori is the N900.)

section: screens
section: links
                right = saori        
                left = sayaka

3. Start the Synergy server with the config file
synergys -f -c synergy.conf

On my N900:
Start LXDE and open a console
1. Install QuickSynergy
sudo apt-get install quicksynergy

2. Start the Synergy client. Replace sayaka with your own server name
synergyc sayaka

Now if you move the mouse to the right and outside of the monior, it will appear in the N900 desktop. Try clicking on a few icons and typing something using the keyboard. Pretty cool eh?

Thursday 4 March 2010

Citrix ICA Client on Fedora 12 64bit

Getting Citrix to work on Linux can be tricky - specially since there is no official 64bit client for Linux. However, with a bit of tweaking, it can be made to work. Here's how:

1. Download the Citrix client from the website . The current version as of this writing is version 11.100
2. Install the OpenMotif libraries
sudo yum install openmotif openmotif-devel
3. Next we need to install the 32 bit version of libXaw.
sudo yum install libXaw.i686
4. Now install the client. Change directory to the location where the client was downloaded and run:

tar xvf linuxx86-11.100.158406.tar.gz

sudo ./setupwfc

5. Follow the onscreen instructions to install the client. I installed client at /usr/lib/ICAClient and disabled Gnome and KDE integration as well as USB support.
6. Restart the browser if it was already open and navigate to your Citrix site. When the browser prompts to download the .ica file, select open with /usr/lib/ICAClient/wfica and you should be able to see your remote desktop on screen.
7. Alternatively, download the .ica file and run /usr/lib/ICAClient/wfica /path/to/my.ica  (Replace /path/to/my.ica with the real path to your ica file.

Friday 26 February 2010

Disable the screen saver during Flash movies

I have been annoyed many times by the screen saver kicking in halfway through a Flash video or an SMPlayer session. No amount of fiddling with settings (SMPlayer) helped and disabling the screen saver all together was also not an option.

While browsing through the excellent Linux Journal website, I came across this tech tip about a utility called Caffeine. It's a nifty little utility that runs in the task bar and activates whenever Flash video is being played. It can also be configured to activate whenever a certain process is active - so that solves my SMPlayer problem as well.

As usual, the packaging is only in the deb format. So if you want to run it on Fedora, you need to do a couple of additional steps:

1. Download the tarball from
2. tar xvf caffeine-1.0.1.tar.gz && cd caffeine-1.0.1
3. sudo yum install python-xlib
4. python build
5. sudo python install

You should be now able to start Caffeine by typing caffeine in the command line or by clicking on Applications > Accessories > Caffeine. When Caffeine starts, an icon of a coffee cup will appear in the task bar. Right click the icon to set the properties. My current settings can be seen in the screenshot.