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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Introduction

This guide provides a step by step method of connecting the Google Nexus 7 Android tablet to the Raspberry PI using VNC.

You will need


For this tutorial you will need a Raspberry PI running Raspbian Wheezy. (Read this guide which shows how to set up the Raspberry PI).

You will also need a working internet connection on the Raspberry PI. (Read this guide which shows how to set up a wireless connection on the Raspberry PI).

You will also need a Google Nexus 7 Tablet PC (Android 4.1 Jellybean) - 16 GB.

Installing the server

  1. Boot the Raspberry PI (Doesn't matter if you have X started or not)
  2. Make sure you have an internet connection.
  3. If you booted into the Graphical Desktop double click the LXTerminal icon on the desktop.
  4. Type the following into the terminal window that opens:

    sudo apt-get install tightvncserver
  5. A message will appear asking whether you are sure you want to install the tightvncserver. Press y.
  6. A bunch of text will now scroll up the screen telling you what is being installed and how long there is to go.
  7. When the software has finished installing enter the following command to start the server:

    vncserver :1 -geometry 1200x720 -depth 16 -pixelformat rgb565
  8. The first time you run the above command you will not have any settings saved so you will be asked for a password which the user must use to connect to the PI via the VNC. You will be asked to repeat the same password.

    Note that if you choose a password longer than 8 characters it is truncated.
  9. You will now be asked if you want to set a readonly password. If you do then select yes and enter a readonly password.
  10. A message will now appear stating that settings have been saved in /home/pi/.vnc. You now have a running server.
So what did we actually do here?

In steps 1 to 3 we booted the PI, connected to the internet and opened a terminal window.
In steps 4 to 6 we installed the tightvncserver software
In step 7 we started the vnc server
In steps 8 and 9 we set the password a user should use to log in via VNC

In step 7 I said we started the server but what does the command vncserver :1 -geometry 1200x720 -depth 16 -pixelformat rgb565 actually mean.

The vncserver part is obviously starting the server. 

By default the vnc server starts running on port 5900. The :1 is the display number. What this means is that when you run the vnc client you need to specify port 5901. If you set the display number to :2 you would need to specify port 5902 and so on.

The -geometry part of the command specifies the screen resolution to use within the client and the -depth specifies the colour depth.

Installing the client

There are loads of VNC clients available on the Android platform but for this guide I have chosen AndroidVNC. It is free and it works.

  1. On the Google Nexus 7 open the Play Store.
  2. Click the search icon and type VNC Viewer.
  3. The first result should be android-vnc-viewer. Click the icon for this app.
  4. Click the install button

Connect to the Raspberry PI


  1. The first thing you need to know is your IP address on the Raspberry PI. To get this enter the following in a terminal window:

    ifconfig
  2. If you are connect wirelessly the IP address will be next to the wlan0 entry and will be something like 192.168.1.x (where x is the last number).
  3. Open AndroidVNC (it will be one of the installed apps)
  4. Leave the nickname field blank.
  5. Enter the password you entered in step 8 of "Installing the server".
  6. In the Address field enter the IP address from step 2.
  7. In the port number enter 5901.
  8. Click the connect button.
If everything has gone smoothly you should have a Google Nexus 7 connected to the Raspberry PI.


Run the VNC server at startup

I'm not sure running the VNC server when booting is a good idea by the way. If you are never going to use your Raspberry PI with a monitor then I guess there is a case for starting the VNC server every time you boot but if you generally use your Raspberry PI with a monitor but occasionally plan to use another device to connect to the PI then I would use SSH to connect to the PI and start the VNC server from within the SSH session. Read the next section to see how to do this.

To run the VNC server at startup following these steps:

  1. Open a terminal window by clicking the LXTerminal icon on the desktop.
  2. Run the following command

    sudo nano /etc/init.d/vncserver
  3. Enter the following script into the window (partly copied from http://www.abdevelopment.ca/blog/start-vnc-server-ubuntu-boot)

    #!/bin/sh -e
    export USER="pi"
    # parameters for tightvncserver
    DISPLAY="1"
    DEPTH="16"
    GEOMETRY="1200x720"
    NAME="VNCserver"
    OPTIONS="-name ${NAME} -depth ${DEPTH} -geometry ${GEOMETRY} :${DISPLAY}"
    . /lib/lsb/init-functions
    case "$1" in
    start)
    log_action_begin_msg "Starting vncserver for user '${USER}' on localhost:{$DISPLAY}"
    su ${USER} -c "/usr/bin/vncserver ${OPTIONS}"
    ;;
    stop)
    log_action_begin_msg "Stopping vncserver for user '${USER}' on localhost:{$DISPLAY}"
    su ${USER} -c "/usr/bin/vncserver -kill :${DISPLAY}"
    ;;
    restart)
    $0 stop
    $0 start
    ;;
    esac
    exit 0
  4. The script above now needs to be made executable. To do this type the following command into the terminal window:
    sudo
    chmod +x /etc/init.d/vncserver

  5. Now run the following command

    sudo update-rc.d vncserver defaults.
  6. At this stage it is worth testing that you have entered the script correctly. To do this run the following command:

    sudo /etc/init.d/vncserver start
  7. If there are errors when you run the command in step 6 check that you have the same commands as in step 3 above.
  8. If there are no errors try and connect to the Raspberry PI using your Google Nexus. 
  9. The final test is to reboot your Raspberry PI and then attempt to connect to the Google Nexus.
So what did we do in this section?

In step 1 we opened a terminal window.
In step 2 we opened a text file called vncserver which is a shell script that will start when the Raspberry PI starts.
In step 3 we created the script that is run. 
In step 4 we made the script executable. (otherwise it really is just a text file),
In step 5 we turned it into a service that starts at boot up. 
In steps 6 and 7 we test the server by starting it manually.
In step 8 we rebooted the Raspberry PI,
In step 9 we try connecting to it.

Now the script may look complicated but essentially it is building the same tightvncserver command used in the first section.

If you specify start when running the script as in step 6 then the tightvncserver command will run. If you specify stop when running the script then the server will stop.
If you specify restart when running the script the server will stop and then start.

The default option is to start.

My preferred method for connecting to the PI

I'm not that keen on running the VNC server every time I start up the PI. I think it is better to make the decision to start it when you want to.

If you followed the section to start the VNC server every time then first of all you will need to reverse step 5.

The way to do that is by running the following command from a terminal window

sudo update-rc.d -f vncserver remove

The problem now is that to be able to VNC onto the Raspberry PI you need to be able to start the server. The problem with that is that you need to be on the PI to do that.

I recommend therefore installing an SSH client onto your Google Nexus 7.

  1. On the Google Nexus 7 open the Play Store.
  2. Click the search icon and type SSH Client
  3. The client I chose was called "Connectbot". Click the icon for this app.
  4. Click the install button
To connect to the Raspberry PI from connectbot:
  1. Run connectbot
  2. In the bar at the bottom type pi@192.168.1.x (where x is the last number of your IP address)
  3. Now enter the password for your pi user
  4. Once you are connected run sudo /etc/init.d/vncserver start
Your VNC server should have started again and you can run AndroidVNC to connect to it again.

Summary

You should now be able to use your Raspberry PI without having to use a HDMI cable connected to a monitor or television. In theory you can now plug it in anywhere in the house as long as you have a wireless signal to the router.

You can use most of these instructions for connecting to the Raspberry PI from any computer. You just need to have a VNC Viewer on the client computer and an SSH client.

Thankyou for reading.


Connecting via VNC to Raspberry PI from the Google Nexus 7

Introduction

This guide provides a step by step method of connecting the Google Nexus 7 Android tablet to the Raspberry PI using VNC.

You will need


For this tutorial you will need a Raspberry PI running Raspbian Wheezy. (Read this guide which shows how to set up the Raspberry PI).

You will also need a working internet connection on the Raspberry PI. (Read this guide which shows how to set up a wireless connection on the Raspberry PI).

You will also need a Google Nexus 7 Tablet PC (Android 4.1 Jellybean) - 16 GB.

Installing the server

  1. Boot the Raspberry PI (Doesn't matter if you have X started or not)
  2. Make sure you have an internet connection.
  3. If you booted into the Graphical Desktop double click the LXTerminal icon on the desktop.
  4. Type the following into the terminal window that opens:

    sudo apt-get install tightvncserver
  5. A message will appear asking whether you are sure you want to install the tightvncserver. Press y.
  6. A bunch of text will now scroll up the screen telling you what is being installed and how long there is to go.
  7. When the software has finished installing enter the following command to start the server:

    vncserver :1 -geometry 1200x720 -depth 16 -pixelformat rgb565
  8. The first time you run the above command you will not have any settings saved so you will be asked for a password which the user must use to connect to the PI via the VNC. You will be asked to repeat the same password.

    Note that if you choose a password longer than 8 characters it is truncated.
  9. You will now be asked if you want to set a readonly password. If you do then select yes and enter a readonly password.
  10. A message will now appear stating that settings have been saved in /home/pi/.vnc. You now have a running server.
So what did we actually do here?

In steps 1 to 3 we booted the PI, connected to the internet and opened a terminal window.
In steps 4 to 6 we installed the tightvncserver software
In step 7 we started the vnc server
In steps 8 and 9 we set the password a user should use to log in via VNC

In step 7 I said we started the server but what does the command vncserver :1 -geometry 1200x720 -depth 16 -pixelformat rgb565 actually mean.

The vncserver part is obviously starting the server. 

By default the vnc server starts running on port 5900. The :1 is the display number. What this means is that when you run the vnc client you need to specify port 5901. If you set the display number to :2 you would need to specify port 5902 and so on.

The -geometry part of the command specifies the screen resolution to use within the client and the -depth specifies the colour depth.

Installing the client

There are loads of VNC clients available on the Android platform but for this guide I have chosen AndroidVNC. It is free and it works.

  1. On the Google Nexus 7 open the Play Store.
  2. Click the search icon and type VNC Viewer.
  3. The first result should be android-vnc-viewer. Click the icon for this app.
  4. Click the install button

Connect to the Raspberry PI


  1. The first thing you need to know is your IP address on the Raspberry PI. To get this enter the following in a terminal window:

    ifconfig
  2. If you are connect wirelessly the IP address will be next to the wlan0 entry and will be something like 192.168.1.x (where x is the last number).
  3. Open AndroidVNC (it will be one of the installed apps)
  4. Leave the nickname field blank.
  5. Enter the password you entered in step 8 of "Installing the server".
  6. In the Address field enter the IP address from step 2.
  7. In the port number enter 5901.
  8. Click the connect button.
If everything has gone smoothly you should have a Google Nexus 7 connected to the Raspberry PI.


Run the VNC server at startup

I'm not sure running the VNC server when booting is a good idea by the way. If you are never going to use your Raspberry PI with a monitor then I guess there is a case for starting the VNC server every time you boot but if you generally use your Raspberry PI with a monitor but occasionally plan to use another device to connect to the PI then I would use SSH to connect to the PI and start the VNC server from within the SSH session. Read the next section to see how to do this.

To run the VNC server at startup following these steps:

  1. Open a terminal window by clicking the LXTerminal icon on the desktop.
  2. Run the following command

    sudo nano /etc/init.d/vncserver
  3. Enter the following script into the window (partly copied from http://www.abdevelopment.ca/blog/start-vnc-server-ubuntu-boot)

    #!/bin/sh -e
    export USER="pi"
    # parameters for tightvncserver
    DISPLAY="1"
    DEPTH="16"
    GEOMETRY="1200x720"
    NAME="VNCserver"
    OPTIONS="-name ${NAME} -depth ${DEPTH} -geometry ${GEOMETRY} :${DISPLAY}"
    . /lib/lsb/init-functions
    case "$1" in
    start)
    log_action_begin_msg "Starting vncserver for user '${USER}' on localhost:{$DISPLAY}"
    su ${USER} -c "/usr/bin/vncserver ${OPTIONS}"
    ;;
    stop)
    log_action_begin_msg "Stopping vncserver for user '${USER}' on localhost:{$DISPLAY}"
    su ${USER} -c "/usr/bin/vncserver -kill :${DISPLAY}"
    ;;
    restart)
    $0 stop
    $0 start
    ;;
    esac
    exit 0
  4. The script above now needs to be made executable. To do this type the following command into the terminal window:
    sudo
    chmod +x /etc/init.d/vncserver

  5. Now run the following command

    sudo update-rc.d vncserver defaults.
  6. At this stage it is worth testing that you have entered the script correctly. To do this run the following command:

    sudo /etc/init.d/vncserver start
  7. If there are errors when you run the command in step 6 check that you have the same commands as in step 3 above.
  8. If there are no errors try and connect to the Raspberry PI using your Google Nexus. 
  9. The final test is to reboot your Raspberry PI and then attempt to connect to the Google Nexus.
So what did we do in this section?

In step 1 we opened a terminal window.
In step 2 we opened a text file called vncserver which is a shell script that will start when the Raspberry PI starts.
In step 3 we created the script that is run. 
In step 4 we made the script executable. (otherwise it really is just a text file),
In step 5 we turned it into a service that starts at boot up. 
In steps 6 and 7 we test the server by starting it manually.
In step 8 we rebooted the Raspberry PI,
In step 9 we try connecting to it.

Now the script may look complicated but essentially it is building the same tightvncserver command used in the first section.

If you specify start when running the script as in step 6 then the tightvncserver command will run. If you specify stop when running the script then the server will stop.
If you specify restart when running the script the server will stop and then start.

The default option is to start.

My preferred method for connecting to the PI

I'm not that keen on running the VNC server every time I start up the PI. I think it is better to make the decision to start it when you want to.

If you followed the section to start the VNC server every time then first of all you will need to reverse step 5.

The way to do that is by running the following command from a terminal window

sudo update-rc.d -f vncserver remove

The problem now is that to be able to VNC onto the Raspberry PI you need to be able to start the server. The problem with that is that you need to be on the PI to do that.

I recommend therefore installing an SSH client onto your Google Nexus 7.

  1. On the Google Nexus 7 open the Play Store.
  2. Click the search icon and type SSH Client
  3. The client I chose was called "Connectbot". Click the icon for this app.
  4. Click the install button
To connect to the Raspberry PI from connectbot:
  1. Run connectbot
  2. In the bar at the bottom type pi@192.168.1.x (where x is the last number of your IP address)
  3. Now enter the password for your pi user
  4. Once you are connected run sudo /etc/init.d/vncserver start
Your VNC server should have started again and you can run AndroidVNC to connect to it again.

Summary

You should now be able to use your Raspberry PI without having to use a HDMI cable connected to a monitor or television. In theory you can now plug it in anywhere in the house as long as you have a wireless signal to the router.

You can use most of these instructions for connecting to the Raspberry PI from any computer. You just need to have a VNC Viewer on the client computer and an SSH client.

Thankyou for reading.


Posted at 22:09 |  by Gary Newell

9 comments:

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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Introduction

SolusOS is a Linux Distribution based on Debian Stable. It's an operating system for your computer, that provides the base system that allows you to do things like listen to music, browse the internet and create documents.
In this week's review I have started with the opening paragraph on the SolusOS website. Last week I wrote a review about Snowlinux 4 to see if that operating system achieved everything it set out to achieve. Unfortunately I think it fell short because it stated that it intended to be easy to use with a carefully selected range of software.

As someone with a lot of computing experience and a fair amount of experience using Linux I found that for an average person the installation could cause some issues and there were problems with setting up the internet. In addition to this, the software installed did not provide a complete solution.

This week I am happy to report that I think SolusOS really does live up to the statement made on its website. SolusOS is very stable, is easy to use and comes with a complete set of software for the average user.

Installation

The installer for SolusOS is the same as the one for Snowlinux so this may cause problems for users new to Linux and I will explain why shortly.

The installation starts easily enough.
 
  1. Choose your language
  2. Choose your timezone
  3. Choose your keyboard layout
Then comes the trickier bit for your average Joe.


First of all you are asked which drive you wish to install SolusOS to. Now for a Linux user this makes perfect sense but if you are a Windows user then you are used to drives being called C:, D:, E: etc. Linux names drives differently and not only that it depends on the type of drive what the naming convention is.

This is of course not the fault of SolusOS or Snowlinux as it is just the way things are done in Linux but it can be made simpler. Linux Mint and Ubuntu give options such as replace your existing operating system or install alongside your current operating system which for a novice makes the installation a much more accessible option.

Moving on to step 5 you are then asked how to partition your drives and also after partitioning you have to set the root drive. The partitioning bit would make many would be Linux converts turn away in fear.

The Ubuntu and Linux Mint installers I think work better in that for novices they give an option that works but they also give a partitioning tool for the more experienced user.


Step 6 is to enter the name of the main user of the system along with a password and a host name for the system.

Step 7 asks which drive is to be used for the GRUB bootloader and step 8 asks you to confirm your settings before installing SolusOS.

First Run Wizard

 When you run SolusOS for the first time a wizard appears.

There are five steps to the wizard.


  1. Useful Links
  2. Internet Connection setup / Firewall setup
  3. Detected hardware
  4. Setup updates
  5. Donate to SolusOS
You can run the first start wizard at any time by selecting it from the settings menu, although it would make more sense just to pick the network connections manager, the firewall manager or the update manager as the chances that you need to configure all the options again are slim.

First Impressions


SolusOS uses Gnome 2.30 which is a blast from the past for many Linux users. It looks great and it runs smoothly and performance wise it is fantastic.

The layout for SolusOS is like a lot of Linux distributions and would be familiar for most Windows users.

There is a plain desktop with a taskbar at the bottom. There is a menu button in the bottom left and a system tray in the bottom right with icons for networking, battery power, audio and messages. There is also of course a clock.


Clicking the menu button brings up a fairly nice menu with two main panes and a search box. The menu makes it easy to navigate SolusOS. 

Firstly there is the search box. Enter the name of the program or the type of application you are searching for and it will appear in the right hand pane. Alternatively you can select the category on the left hand pane to produce a list of results in the right hand pane. 

From the menu you can also bring up the control centre which enables you to perform system functions such as change desktop effects, desktop background, set up Flash, set up hardware, install applications etc.

Change the desktop background

As with a lot of Linux distributions (and Windows really) the default wallpaper is fairly bland and it is nice to change it to something more in tune with your own personality.

In SolusOS it is easy to change the desktop background by right clicking on the desktop and then selecting "Change desktop background".


SolusOS has a range of wallpapers to choose from but if you don't like any of the stock images click the "Add" button and choose one of your own images.

In addition to just changing the desktop background you can also add some effects using the Compiz Settings Manager.


There are a number of effects to choose from such as fading windows and wobbly windows and animation effects which means you can personalise the experience as much or as little as you want to.

Connecting to the internet


SolusOS works straight out of the box. I was sat on a train when I first started typing this post and I was able to see the wireless connections for the train company, a few home wireless connections and some which were clearly people's mobile phones.

I managed to connect to my own mobile phone there and then using the internet connection sharing wizard on my phone. I have since also managed to connect to my home mobile broadband and my home broadband connection.

Flash and MP3


SolusOS makes it as easy as possible for users. Flash is installed by default as are the MP3 codecs required to play music.

This means, music, video, games etc work straight out of the box.

Applications

Sometimes when I install a Linux distribution I wonder why I had to download 800mb of ISO. The reason for this is that some distributions provide a full set of applications such as LibreOffice, Rhythmbox, VLC Player and WINE and other distributions for the same size give you Abiword and Gnumeric and that is it.

Fortunately SolusOS is one of those distributions where you get the full deal straight away as you can see below:

Accessories 

  • File Roller (Archive Manager)
  • Calculator 
  • gEdit - Text Editor
  • Terminal

 Games

  •  PlayOnLinux 

 Graphics

  • GnuPaint (Similar to Windows Paint)
  • gThumb (image viewer)
  • Simplescan

 Internet

  • Dropbox (online file storage)
  • Firefox (web browser)
  • Thunderbird (email client)
  • Pidgin (Messenger)
  • Transmission (Bittorrent)
  • xChat (IRC Chat)

Office

  • Libreoffice Base (Access clone)
  • Libreoffice Calc (Spreadsheets)
  • Libreoffice Impress (Presentations)
  • Libreoffice writer (Word processing)

 Sound and Video

  • Brasero (Disc burning)
  • Cheese (Webcam viewer)
  • Gnome mPlayer (Movie player)
  • Minitube (Youtube viewer)
  • Movie Player (Movie Player)
  • Openshot video editor
  • Rhythmbox (Audio Player)
  • VLC (Video Player)

 System

  • Synaptic (Package Management)
  • WINE (Run Windows applications in SoluSOS)

There are various other applications but the ones highlighted above are the main ones. You will notice the duplication when it comes to movie players. I think the reason for this is that some you get when installing Gnome by default and the developers obviously decided there were better ones to include.

Installing Applications

SolusOS uses Synaptic for package management.


Synaptic is fairly easy to use. In the left hand pane there are a list of categories and in the right hand pane there are the applications within that category.

If you click on an application a description will appear at the bottom of the right pane.

Installing applications is a two step process. The first step is to mark the applications you wish to install and then you click "Apply" to install the applications. Dependencies on other applications are automatically marked.

Summary

Does SolusOS live up to it's promises? The answer to that is yes. SolusOS is easy to use, comes fully featured with all the necessary multimedia codecs and Flash installed and has a really good selection of applications.

The installer could do with a bit of work. I think the installer will put potential Windows users off unless they are computer savvy to start with. Having said that of course it is unlikely that non computer savvy users would ever attempt to install a new operating system.

Gnome 2 is still great and for anyone with an older machine SolusOS is a brilliant choice. The downside of SolusOS using Gnome 2 is that at some point a decision has to be made. Will SolusOS remain on Gnome 2 or move over to MATE or XFCE.

It is easy to see why SolusOS is riding high on Distrowatch. It really provides a no hassle approach to computing.

Thankyou for reading.

Click here to download SolusOS

Click here to buy SolusOS on DVD or USB


Everyday Linux User Review Of SolusOS

Introduction

SolusOS is a Linux Distribution based on Debian Stable. It's an operating system for your computer, that provides the base system that allows you to do things like listen to music, browse the internet and create documents.
In this week's review I have started with the opening paragraph on the SolusOS website. Last week I wrote a review about Snowlinux 4 to see if that operating system achieved everything it set out to achieve. Unfortunately I think it fell short because it stated that it intended to be easy to use with a carefully selected range of software.

As someone with a lot of computing experience and a fair amount of experience using Linux I found that for an average person the installation could cause some issues and there were problems with setting up the internet. In addition to this, the software installed did not provide a complete solution.

This week I am happy to report that I think SolusOS really does live up to the statement made on its website. SolusOS is very stable, is easy to use and comes with a complete set of software for the average user.

Installation

The installer for SolusOS is the same as the one for Snowlinux so this may cause problems for users new to Linux and I will explain why shortly.

The installation starts easily enough.
 
  1. Choose your language
  2. Choose your timezone
  3. Choose your keyboard layout
Then comes the trickier bit for your average Joe.


First of all you are asked which drive you wish to install SolusOS to. Now for a Linux user this makes perfect sense but if you are a Windows user then you are used to drives being called C:, D:, E: etc. Linux names drives differently and not only that it depends on the type of drive what the naming convention is.

This is of course not the fault of SolusOS or Snowlinux as it is just the way things are done in Linux but it can be made simpler. Linux Mint and Ubuntu give options such as replace your existing operating system or install alongside your current operating system which for a novice makes the installation a much more accessible option.

Moving on to step 5 you are then asked how to partition your drives and also after partitioning you have to set the root drive. The partitioning bit would make many would be Linux converts turn away in fear.

The Ubuntu and Linux Mint installers I think work better in that for novices they give an option that works but they also give a partitioning tool for the more experienced user.


Step 6 is to enter the name of the main user of the system along with a password and a host name for the system.

Step 7 asks which drive is to be used for the GRUB bootloader and step 8 asks you to confirm your settings before installing SolusOS.

First Run Wizard

 When you run SolusOS for the first time a wizard appears.

There are five steps to the wizard.


  1. Useful Links
  2. Internet Connection setup / Firewall setup
  3. Detected hardware
  4. Setup updates
  5. Donate to SolusOS
You can run the first start wizard at any time by selecting it from the settings menu, although it would make more sense just to pick the network connections manager, the firewall manager or the update manager as the chances that you need to configure all the options again are slim.

First Impressions


SolusOS uses Gnome 2.30 which is a blast from the past for many Linux users. It looks great and it runs smoothly and performance wise it is fantastic.

The layout for SolusOS is like a lot of Linux distributions and would be familiar for most Windows users.

There is a plain desktop with a taskbar at the bottom. There is a menu button in the bottom left and a system tray in the bottom right with icons for networking, battery power, audio and messages. There is also of course a clock.


Clicking the menu button brings up a fairly nice menu with two main panes and a search box. The menu makes it easy to navigate SolusOS. 

Firstly there is the search box. Enter the name of the program or the type of application you are searching for and it will appear in the right hand pane. Alternatively you can select the category on the left hand pane to produce a list of results in the right hand pane. 

From the menu you can also bring up the control centre which enables you to perform system functions such as change desktop effects, desktop background, set up Flash, set up hardware, install applications etc.

Change the desktop background

As with a lot of Linux distributions (and Windows really) the default wallpaper is fairly bland and it is nice to change it to something more in tune with your own personality.

In SolusOS it is easy to change the desktop background by right clicking on the desktop and then selecting "Change desktop background".


SolusOS has a range of wallpapers to choose from but if you don't like any of the stock images click the "Add" button and choose one of your own images.

In addition to just changing the desktop background you can also add some effects using the Compiz Settings Manager.


There are a number of effects to choose from such as fading windows and wobbly windows and animation effects which means you can personalise the experience as much or as little as you want to.

Connecting to the internet


SolusOS works straight out of the box. I was sat on a train when I first started typing this post and I was able to see the wireless connections for the train company, a few home wireless connections and some which were clearly people's mobile phones.

I managed to connect to my own mobile phone there and then using the internet connection sharing wizard on my phone. I have since also managed to connect to my home mobile broadband and my home broadband connection.

Flash and MP3


SolusOS makes it as easy as possible for users. Flash is installed by default as are the MP3 codecs required to play music.

This means, music, video, games etc work straight out of the box.

Applications

Sometimes when I install a Linux distribution I wonder why I had to download 800mb of ISO. The reason for this is that some distributions provide a full set of applications such as LibreOffice, Rhythmbox, VLC Player and WINE and other distributions for the same size give you Abiword and Gnumeric and that is it.

Fortunately SolusOS is one of those distributions where you get the full deal straight away as you can see below:

Accessories 

  • File Roller (Archive Manager)
  • Calculator 
  • gEdit - Text Editor
  • Terminal

 Games

  •  PlayOnLinux 

 Graphics

  • GnuPaint (Similar to Windows Paint)
  • gThumb (image viewer)
  • Simplescan

 Internet

  • Dropbox (online file storage)
  • Firefox (web browser)
  • Thunderbird (email client)
  • Pidgin (Messenger)
  • Transmission (Bittorrent)
  • xChat (IRC Chat)

Office

  • Libreoffice Base (Access clone)
  • Libreoffice Calc (Spreadsheets)
  • Libreoffice Impress (Presentations)
  • Libreoffice writer (Word processing)

 Sound and Video

  • Brasero (Disc burning)
  • Cheese (Webcam viewer)
  • Gnome mPlayer (Movie player)
  • Minitube (Youtube viewer)
  • Movie Player (Movie Player)
  • Openshot video editor
  • Rhythmbox (Audio Player)
  • VLC (Video Player)

 System

  • Synaptic (Package Management)
  • WINE (Run Windows applications in SoluSOS)

There are various other applications but the ones highlighted above are the main ones. You will notice the duplication when it comes to movie players. I think the reason for this is that some you get when installing Gnome by default and the developers obviously decided there were better ones to include.

Installing Applications

SolusOS uses Synaptic for package management.


Synaptic is fairly easy to use. In the left hand pane there are a list of categories and in the right hand pane there are the applications within that category.

If you click on an application a description will appear at the bottom of the right pane.

Installing applications is a two step process. The first step is to mark the applications you wish to install and then you click "Apply" to install the applications. Dependencies on other applications are automatically marked.

Summary

Does SolusOS live up to it's promises? The answer to that is yes. SolusOS is easy to use, comes fully featured with all the necessary multimedia codecs and Flash installed and has a really good selection of applications.

The installer could do with a bit of work. I think the installer will put potential Windows users off unless they are computer savvy to start with. Having said that of course it is unlikely that non computer savvy users would ever attempt to install a new operating system.

Gnome 2 is still great and for anyone with an older machine SolusOS is a brilliant choice. The downside of SolusOS using Gnome 2 is that at some point a decision has to be made. Will SolusOS remain on Gnome 2 or move over to MATE or XFCE.

It is easy to see why SolusOS is riding high on Distrowatch. It really provides a no hassle approach to computing.

Thankyou for reading.

Click here to download SolusOS

Click here to buy SolusOS on DVD or USB


Posted at 00:44 |  by Gary Newell

19 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Introduction

What is white and can't connect to the internet? It really is snow joke.

The description of Snowlinux on distrowatch reads as follows:

Snowlinux is a set of Linux distributions based on Debian's latest stable release and featuring four different desktop environments - GNOME, KDE, LXDE and Xfce. It aims to be user-friendly, incorporating many useful tweaks and carefully selected software applications. The project also develops a separate, Ubuntu-based edition featuring the MATE (a GNOME 2 fork) desktop.

For this review I decided to use the Xfce edition which is based on Debian's latest stable release.

The machine I installed Snowlinux onto is an Acer Aspire One D255 netbook.

Installation

The first three steps of the installation are fairly straight forward.

  1. Choose your language
  2. Choose your timezone
  3. Choose your keyboard layout

The next few steps require some knowledge of disk partitioning which might scare away people who haven't used Linux before. 

Ubuntu and Mint provide a few easy options for users which will make them feel comfortable such as "Replace your current OS" and "Install alongside your current OS". 

Snowlinux does not provide such comfort but this isn't a criticism because there are many distributions that do not provide such simple options. Really it is a good idea to understand how partitioning disks really works as opposed to allowing distributions like Ubuntu to do it all for you. 

Snowlinux requires you to think about how you want to set up your installation. 

If the disk is completely blank then a message will appear asking you whether to allow Snowlinux to work out the best way to partition the disks.

Either way you are shown the available disks and the partitions on the disk and you must then choose how to set up the partitions and on which partition to install Snowlinux.




The partitioning of disks is outwith the confines of a review.

For my partitioning I set up a 20 gb primary partition formatted to ext4 for installing Snowlinux.

I then set up a second 20gb primary partition formatted to ext4 for another operating system that I intend to review next week.

I set up a home partition for the rest of the disk minus 8gb also formatted to ext4. The 8gb was used for the swap partition.

It is imperative that one of the partitions is set to be the root partition so I set the first primary partition to be the root partition (/).

The final three steps are more straight forward.


  1. Choose your username, password and machine name
  2. Choose where to install the bootloader
  3. Review the choices of the installation script and install.
At this point Snowlinux will install and it is possible to reboot into a new version of Snowlinux.

Before installing Linux and partitioning disks you should always back up any important files and folders and make sure you have a way to recover if the unexpected should occur. 

First Impressions


I have used XFCE quite a bit over the past few months so the Snowlinux 4 interface is fairly familiar. The look and feel should be quite familiar to Windows users as well.

There is a taskbar at the bottom of the screen with a menu button, quick launch bar, a system tray and a clock. 

On the desktop there icons for the home folder, the wastebasket and all available disks.

If you would like to customise the XFCE desktop you can follow this guide which explains how to do so. It was written back in November. 2012 when I started reviewing Xubuntu but should work for all distributions running XFCE.

The desktop

The Snowlinux desktop is a little bit bland but there are a whole host of stock photos available in /usr/share/xfce4/backdrops.

To change the background right click on the desktop and choose "desktop settings".

The desktop settings screen will appear.

Click the plus symbol (+) to add a new background image.

Navigate to the folder where the backdrops are located and choose the image you wish to use as the background.




You can of course use an image you downloaded from the internet as well.

Connecting to the internet

Now this is where the difficulties began. 

With every distribution there is always one little thing that causes an issue that you have to find a solution for. More often than not the issue is to do with playing MP3s but very rarely do I ever have a problem connecting to the internet anymore.

Imagine my surprise when I clicked the little network icon in the system tray only to find out there were no available wireless networks.

My first thought was that because Snowlinux is based on Debian it must be a driver that needs to be downloaded.

Now this is of course an issue. If your sole method of getting online is to use a wireless connection then not being able to get on wirelessly makes it very difficult to download drivers.

I have a USB wireless dongle that I normally use for my Raspberry PI so I borrowed this for the netbook but this didn't work either.

Luckily I have another computer so I looked online to find out which drivers I might need and there were several suggestions.

After a few downloads I was able to get the TPLink USB dongle to connect to the internet but the Intel Centrino Wireless-N 1000 controller inside the Acer Aspire One just would not work.

I would like to be able to tell you what I did to fix the problem but I'm not sure which step it was that fixed the issue. If you follow this link then you will get some of the ideas I worked through. First of all I installed an earlier version of the kernel and I set 11n_disable=1 which sped the internet up. However what I can't explain is that now I'm running the original kernel that was installed with Snowlinux again and the wireless is working. If anyone has an explanation as to what may be wrong with Intel Centrino Wireless-N controllers please feel free to leave a comment below.

What occurs to me is that this is a real step backwards. I'm not sure whether this is just an issue for Snowlinux or other distributions as well. Is it a kernel issue? Wireless connectivity works fine with Ubuntu, Mint and all derivatives that I have tried. Do they run a different kernel that just doesn't have the problem? Is this a problem that is going to come to light again and again in the future? Time will tell I guess on this one. 

Connectivity issues are like buses, you get no issues for ages and then two come along at once.

The second connectivity issue was that whilst choosing a wireless connection I received the following error:


Flash and MP3

Flash did not work straight away but it was easy enough to install via the Synaptic package manager although there is another issue to discuss later on regarding Synaptic.

After installing the Flash package from the repository I was able to watch videos on Youtube.

To test playing MP3s I loaded Rhythmbox.

I was expecting to get an error but was pleasantly surprised when the song "Safe Home" by "Anthrax" blasted out into the living room. My wife was less impressed.







Applications

I can't speak for every version of Snowlinux but the XFCE version is very light when it comes to the applications that are installed by default.

Accessories

  • Application Finder - Find applications
  • Orage Globaltime - Clocks from different timezones
  • Root Terminal - Terminal (logged in as Root, a password is required)
  • Thunar File Manager - File manager

Graphics

  • Shotwell - Photo management
  • Simple Scan - Scanning application

Internet

  • Firefox - Web browser
  • Thunderbird - Email client
  • Pidgin - Instant Messenger
  • Transmission - BitTorrent

Multimedia

  • Audio mixer - Volume control
  • Brasero - CD/DVD burner
  • Movie player  - Movie Player
  • Rhythmbox - Audio Player

Office

  • Abiword - Word processor
  • Orage Calendar - Calendar application
  • Orage Globaltime - Clocks from different timezones (duplicate)

Installing Applications

The default package manager in Snowlinux is Synaptic.

This is where my next problem occurred. 

Synaptic won't load from the menu. 

The only way I could get it to work was to open a terminal and type "sudo synaptic".

Summary

To begin to summarise Snowlinux I will refer back to the aim of Snowlinux which is to "be user-friendly, incorporating many useful tweaks and carefully selected software applications."

Snowlinux isn't particularly user friendly. There are just too many hurdles to get around. 

Installing Snowlinux is possibly too challenging for some would-be newcomers to Linux and the problems connecting to the internet were issues I thought were left in the past. Add to this the problem with the permissions and the inability to run Synaptic from the menu and it could get very frustrating.

XFCE is clearly a good choice because as a desktop environment it is very familiar and very easy to customise, however the software choices don't seem particularly "carefully selected. There is no real office suite (just Abiword) and there are no games. 

To be honest there is nothing to identify Snowlinux ahead of other distributions. I intend to try the MATE version out to see if I get a better experience.

Thankyou for reading.







Everyday Linux User Review of Snowlinux 4

Introduction

What is white and can't connect to the internet? It really is snow joke.

The description of Snowlinux on distrowatch reads as follows:

Snowlinux is a set of Linux distributions based on Debian's latest stable release and featuring four different desktop environments - GNOME, KDE, LXDE and Xfce. It aims to be user-friendly, incorporating many useful tweaks and carefully selected software applications. The project also develops a separate, Ubuntu-based edition featuring the MATE (a GNOME 2 fork) desktop.

For this review I decided to use the Xfce edition which is based on Debian's latest stable release.

The machine I installed Snowlinux onto is an Acer Aspire One D255 netbook.

Installation

The first three steps of the installation are fairly straight forward.

  1. Choose your language
  2. Choose your timezone
  3. Choose your keyboard layout

The next few steps require some knowledge of disk partitioning which might scare away people who haven't used Linux before. 

Ubuntu and Mint provide a few easy options for users which will make them feel comfortable such as "Replace your current OS" and "Install alongside your current OS". 

Snowlinux does not provide such comfort but this isn't a criticism because there are many distributions that do not provide such simple options. Really it is a good idea to understand how partitioning disks really works as opposed to allowing distributions like Ubuntu to do it all for you. 

Snowlinux requires you to think about how you want to set up your installation. 

If the disk is completely blank then a message will appear asking you whether to allow Snowlinux to work out the best way to partition the disks.

Either way you are shown the available disks and the partitions on the disk and you must then choose how to set up the partitions and on which partition to install Snowlinux.




The partitioning of disks is outwith the confines of a review.

For my partitioning I set up a 20 gb primary partition formatted to ext4 for installing Snowlinux.

I then set up a second 20gb primary partition formatted to ext4 for another operating system that I intend to review next week.

I set up a home partition for the rest of the disk minus 8gb also formatted to ext4. The 8gb was used for the swap partition.

It is imperative that one of the partitions is set to be the root partition so I set the first primary partition to be the root partition (/).

The final three steps are more straight forward.


  1. Choose your username, password and machine name
  2. Choose where to install the bootloader
  3. Review the choices of the installation script and install.
At this point Snowlinux will install and it is possible to reboot into a new version of Snowlinux.

Before installing Linux and partitioning disks you should always back up any important files and folders and make sure you have a way to recover if the unexpected should occur. 

First Impressions


I have used XFCE quite a bit over the past few months so the Snowlinux 4 interface is fairly familiar. The look and feel should be quite familiar to Windows users as well.

There is a taskbar at the bottom of the screen with a menu button, quick launch bar, a system tray and a clock. 

On the desktop there icons for the home folder, the wastebasket and all available disks.

If you would like to customise the XFCE desktop you can follow this guide which explains how to do so. It was written back in November. 2012 when I started reviewing Xubuntu but should work for all distributions running XFCE.

The desktop

The Snowlinux desktop is a little bit bland but there are a whole host of stock photos available in /usr/share/xfce4/backdrops.

To change the background right click on the desktop and choose "desktop settings".

The desktop settings screen will appear.

Click the plus symbol (+) to add a new background image.

Navigate to the folder where the backdrops are located and choose the image you wish to use as the background.




You can of course use an image you downloaded from the internet as well.

Connecting to the internet

Now this is where the difficulties began. 

With every distribution there is always one little thing that causes an issue that you have to find a solution for. More often than not the issue is to do with playing MP3s but very rarely do I ever have a problem connecting to the internet anymore.

Imagine my surprise when I clicked the little network icon in the system tray only to find out there were no available wireless networks.

My first thought was that because Snowlinux is based on Debian it must be a driver that needs to be downloaded.

Now this is of course an issue. If your sole method of getting online is to use a wireless connection then not being able to get on wirelessly makes it very difficult to download drivers.

I have a USB wireless dongle that I normally use for my Raspberry PI so I borrowed this for the netbook but this didn't work either.

Luckily I have another computer so I looked online to find out which drivers I might need and there were several suggestions.

After a few downloads I was able to get the TPLink USB dongle to connect to the internet but the Intel Centrino Wireless-N 1000 controller inside the Acer Aspire One just would not work.

I would like to be able to tell you what I did to fix the problem but I'm not sure which step it was that fixed the issue. If you follow this link then you will get some of the ideas I worked through. First of all I installed an earlier version of the kernel and I set 11n_disable=1 which sped the internet up. However what I can't explain is that now I'm running the original kernel that was installed with Snowlinux again and the wireless is working. If anyone has an explanation as to what may be wrong with Intel Centrino Wireless-N controllers please feel free to leave a comment below.

What occurs to me is that this is a real step backwards. I'm not sure whether this is just an issue for Snowlinux or other distributions as well. Is it a kernel issue? Wireless connectivity works fine with Ubuntu, Mint and all derivatives that I have tried. Do they run a different kernel that just doesn't have the problem? Is this a problem that is going to come to light again and again in the future? Time will tell I guess on this one. 

Connectivity issues are like buses, you get no issues for ages and then two come along at once.

The second connectivity issue was that whilst choosing a wireless connection I received the following error:


Flash and MP3

Flash did not work straight away but it was easy enough to install via the Synaptic package manager although there is another issue to discuss later on regarding Synaptic.

After installing the Flash package from the repository I was able to watch videos on Youtube.

To test playing MP3s I loaded Rhythmbox.

I was expecting to get an error but was pleasantly surprised when the song "Safe Home" by "Anthrax" blasted out into the living room. My wife was less impressed.







Applications

I can't speak for every version of Snowlinux but the XFCE version is very light when it comes to the applications that are installed by default.

Accessories

  • Application Finder - Find applications
  • Orage Globaltime - Clocks from different timezones
  • Root Terminal - Terminal (logged in as Root, a password is required)
  • Thunar File Manager - File manager

Graphics

  • Shotwell - Photo management
  • Simple Scan - Scanning application

Internet

  • Firefox - Web browser
  • Thunderbird - Email client
  • Pidgin - Instant Messenger
  • Transmission - BitTorrent

Multimedia

  • Audio mixer - Volume control
  • Brasero - CD/DVD burner
  • Movie player  - Movie Player
  • Rhythmbox - Audio Player

Office

  • Abiword - Word processor
  • Orage Calendar - Calendar application
  • Orage Globaltime - Clocks from different timezones (duplicate)

Installing Applications

The default package manager in Snowlinux is Synaptic.

This is where my next problem occurred. 

Synaptic won't load from the menu. 

The only way I could get it to work was to open a terminal and type "sudo synaptic".

Summary

To begin to summarise Snowlinux I will refer back to the aim of Snowlinux which is to "be user-friendly, incorporating many useful tweaks and carefully selected software applications."

Snowlinux isn't particularly user friendly. There are just too many hurdles to get around. 

Installing Snowlinux is possibly too challenging for some would-be newcomers to Linux and the problems connecting to the internet were issues I thought were left in the past. Add to this the problem with the permissions and the inability to run Synaptic from the menu and it could get very frustrating.

XFCE is clearly a good choice because as a desktop environment it is very familiar and very easy to customise, however the software choices don't seem particularly "carefully selected. There is no real office suite (just Abiword) and there are no games. 

To be honest there is nothing to identify Snowlinux ahead of other distributions. I intend to try the MATE version out to see if I get a better experience.

Thankyou for reading.







Posted at 00:21 |  by Gary Newell

9 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Introduction

Things are easier nowadays. When I was younger I could not afford music and my parents rarely bought me a cassette or 7 inch single. These things were usually saved for Christmas or birthdays and to be honest I preferred getting games for the Sinclair Spectrum.

In the 1980s a good number of teenagers and children obtained their music by playing the charts on Radio 1 through a portable stereo.

With a 90 minute TDK cassette at the ready we would sit and wait for each song to come on from 40 down to 1 and every time a song we liked came on we would hit the play and record button.

Great care was taken to make sure we hit pause before the DJ ruined it all by speaking over the top and a pen was at the ready to write down the artist and song on the tiny lines made available on the inlay card.

If you were lucky enough your stereo had a counter which would tell you where in the tape each song started and finished so that you could fast forward and rewind to the songs you liked the best.

Now of course if you can get online then you can listen to most of the songs you want to listen to through sites such as Grooveshark or Spotify and there are a plethora of tools that enable you to rip songs from such sites.

If you are a younger person then your parents may limit your computer use and the price of music hasn't really come down all that much (especially in the UK).

If you are lucky enough to have a Raspberry PI then this guide will show you how to do the modern day version of recording off the radio. Now though you don't have to worry about the adverts because the software is clever enough to strip the adverts and the voice of the DJ. You also have a choice of thousands of radio stations.
 
By ripping music from the radio you will have access to music even when you can't get connected to the internet.

What do you need?

For this guide you will need a Raspberry PI (actually any computer running Linux will work but this guide is aimed at PI users primarily). I assume you already have your PI set up and ready to go but if not read this guide.

You will also need the application streamripper. This is the tool that we will be using to download music from the radio stations of your choice.

Finally it would help if there was a music player installed on the Raspberry PI to play the music through but you can always copy the music off and play it on your MP3 player. The player I recommend for the Raspberry PI is Guayadeque.

Installing streamripper


Open up a terminal window by double clicking on the LXTerm icon which is located on the desktop. (This assumes that you are using Raspbian).

Type the following command:

sudo apt-cache search streamripper
 
A list with about 6 or 7 applications are listed. We are going to download streamripper.

To install streamripper type the following command:

sudo apt-get install streamripper
To see if the install worked correctly type streamripper and press return.

 
A long list of options should appear. This lets you know that Streamripper is working.

Finding radio stations

There are other tools out there that make finding radio stations easy including streamtuner2 which can be downloaded from the repositories. I have deliberately chosen not to go down this route because there is a lot of questionable material within that application.

For the purpose of this guide we will use the humble web browser to search for online radio stations. Google is of course our friend and a search for online radio stations brings back 75 million results.

We will start with http://www.internet-radio.com/.


This site has a huge array of musical categories to choose from. You can browse through all the categories or use the search box to search for a style of music.


I am getting a bit old so out and out metal is no longer my scene. I prefer a little bit of ska punk such as "Less Than Jake" or "Reel Big Fish". Searching on Ska Punk only pulled back one station but one is enough.


Clicking on the link available I arrived at the radioi site and I was given an option to Listen. I do not however want to just listen. I want to download the tracks. To do this I need the URL to the radio stream.

In this case there is a little link just under the listen button. When I click the link it opens up a dialog box asking how I wish to open the linked file.





Now I do not want to actually open the listen.pls file. What I need from the above dialog is the URL which is http://85.17.30.90:8090.

Armed with this information I can now start ripping music from this station.

Rip music with streamripper

We will start with the simplest way to use streamripper.


To simply start ripping from an online radio stream type the following into a terminal window:


 streamripper http://85.17.30.90:8090

Obviously you would need to replace the http part with the URL of the station you wish to rip from.


Streamripper will automatically skip parts of songs so you don't get half a song the first time you run it.

When the next song starts it will rip it into MP3 format.

So where does the file go? Streamripper creates a folder with the same name as the stream.

This is the simplest way to rip music. Start it running before you go to bed and by the morning you will have around 6 hours of music.

There are of course a plethora of options available with streamripper and I'm not going to pretend to understand all of them. There are in depth guides on the internet and of course you can type man streamripper to read the manual.

Organising the output

If you want to place the files in another folder you can specify an output folder as follows:
streamripper URL -d OutputFolder
The -d switch enables you to specify an output folder where the MP3s will be saved.

Replace the bit that says URL with the radio stream and replace OutputFolder with the name of the folder you wish to save the MP3s.

What will happen is that the stream will be created as a folder within the output folder specified. This is all well and good but what if you want all the songs in one folder no matter which online radio stream you use.

You can choose to suppress the creation of the stream folder by adding -s as follows:

streamripper URL -d OutputFolder -s

If you really like to control the naming of your files you can use the -D option with various switches as follows:

  • %S - Stream
  • %A - Artist
  • %T - Title
  • %a - Album
  • %D - Date and time (per song)
  • %d - Date and time (per execution)
  • %q - Sequence number (automatic detection)
  • %Nq - Sequence number (starting from number N)
  • %% - Percent sign
If you want to rip to a single file you can specify the -a switch. This will create one large file. You can use the switches above to determine the name of the file.

It is possible that you already have a track that is being ripped again. You can choose whether to always overwrite the track, never overwrite the track, overwrite only if the file is larger or keep both tracks (renaming one).

To do this use the -o option with one of:

  • never
  • always
  • larger
  • version
The following is an example showing how to do this:
streamripper URL -d OutputFolder -o never

Determine how long to stream

If you have a download limit on your internet account then streaming music continuously will eat into your limit.

You do not however want to sit around for hours on end until you have reached your defined limit for the day.

Streamripper provides a number of options to determine how long to keep going.

The first switch you can use is -l. The -l switch determines how long in seconds you want streamripper to run.

To run streamripper for an hour type:
streamripper URL -l 3600
You can also keep ripping until a certain number of megabytes have been downloaded by using the -M switch.

To run streamripper until 50 megabytes have been used type:
streamripper URL -M 50

Handling the unexpected

As Streamripper is relying on an internet connection and the stream it is ripping it isn't guaranteed that Streamripper will rip for as long as specified by the -l or -M switches.

If the stream drops Streamripper will try and reconnect. If you do not want this to happen use the -c switch as follows:
streamripper URL -c
Sometimes the stream will hang which means nothing is being downloaded. If you specify the -m switch then Streamripper will shut down and restart in the specified number of seconds, for example:

streamripper URL -m 60

Playing the music

You can of course copy the downloaded MP3 files to an external MP3 device such as a Sony Walkman or you can copy the files onto a USB drive to be copied to another computer or you can play the music direct from your Raspberry PI.

I plan to write a more complete guide about playing music on the Raspberry PI soon so I won't go into too much detail here.

I have tried a number of options on the Raspberry PI and there are two that I would recommend generally but for beginners to Linux I would recommend Guayadeque as it is lightweight enough to run on the Raspberry PI but fully featured and easy enough to use.

To install Guayadeque open a terminal window and type:

sudo apt-get install guayadeque

When you start Guayadeque you will see a screen similar to the one above. Click on the My Music option in the "Local Media" section on the left hand side.

Guayadeque needs a path to import music from. To add a path click on the My Music tab and in the bottom window right click and select "collection -> add path" from the menu.


I don't think Guayadeque has the most intuitive interface but once you get used to it then it does what you want it to which is play music.

Find the path on your machine where you want to import the files from and click open.

The files will be added to the song window.

At this point you will notice that songs from the incomplete folders will probably have been imported as well. You can delete these by right clicking on the file and selecting remove from library.

By using the above technique you can import files in the same folders by choosing the rescan option. Therefore if you rip more and more music to the same folder structure Guayadeque can be kept up to date with the touch of a button.

There is however an easier way to import files and that is to use the file manager. Open up the file manager and find the MP3 files on your machine and drag and drop them into Guayadeque.


To play a track double click it. To queue multiple tracks drag them into the window marked "now playing".

Summary

This guide gives yet another use for the Raspberry PI, the £35 computer with seemingly endless possibilities.

With thousands of radio stations available, you will easily be able to find a stream that plays the music you like and then rip the music from that station to your Raspberry PI.

I do not know the legality of downloading music this way and it is up to each individual to check that ripping music does not violate any copyright laws.

If you are satisfied that you are within the boundaries for the law of the country you are living in or you are just going to stick it to the man anyway then happy ripping. (I take no responsibility for anybody dragged away in the night, extradited to the USA, and then ultimately incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay because they upset the record producers).

Thankyou for reading.

 







 



Using your Raspberry PI to rip music from online radio stations

Introduction

Things are easier nowadays. When I was younger I could not afford music and my parents rarely bought me a cassette or 7 inch single. These things were usually saved for Christmas or birthdays and to be honest I preferred getting games for the Sinclair Spectrum.

In the 1980s a good number of teenagers and children obtained their music by playing the charts on Radio 1 through a portable stereo.

With a 90 minute TDK cassette at the ready we would sit and wait for each song to come on from 40 down to 1 and every time a song we liked came on we would hit the play and record button.

Great care was taken to make sure we hit pause before the DJ ruined it all by speaking over the top and a pen was at the ready to write down the artist and song on the tiny lines made available on the inlay card.

If you were lucky enough your stereo had a counter which would tell you where in the tape each song started and finished so that you could fast forward and rewind to the songs you liked the best.

Now of course if you can get online then you can listen to most of the songs you want to listen to through sites such as Grooveshark or Spotify and there are a plethora of tools that enable you to rip songs from such sites.

If you are a younger person then your parents may limit your computer use and the price of music hasn't really come down all that much (especially in the UK).

If you are lucky enough to have a Raspberry PI then this guide will show you how to do the modern day version of recording off the radio. Now though you don't have to worry about the adverts because the software is clever enough to strip the adverts and the voice of the DJ. You also have a choice of thousands of radio stations.
 
By ripping music from the radio you will have access to music even when you can't get connected to the internet.

What do you need?

For this guide you will need a Raspberry PI (actually any computer running Linux will work but this guide is aimed at PI users primarily). I assume you already have your PI set up and ready to go but if not read this guide.

You will also need the application streamripper. This is the tool that we will be using to download music from the radio stations of your choice.

Finally it would help if there was a music player installed on the Raspberry PI to play the music through but you can always copy the music off and play it on your MP3 player. The player I recommend for the Raspberry PI is Guayadeque.

Installing streamripper


Open up a terminal window by double clicking on the LXTerm icon which is located on the desktop. (This assumes that you are using Raspbian).

Type the following command:

sudo apt-cache search streamripper
 
A list with about 6 or 7 applications are listed. We are going to download streamripper.

To install streamripper type the following command:

sudo apt-get install streamripper
To see if the install worked correctly type streamripper and press return.

 
A long list of options should appear. This lets you know that Streamripper is working.

Finding radio stations

There are other tools out there that make finding radio stations easy including streamtuner2 which can be downloaded from the repositories. I have deliberately chosen not to go down this route because there is a lot of questionable material within that application.

For the purpose of this guide we will use the humble web browser to search for online radio stations. Google is of course our friend and a search for online radio stations brings back 75 million results.

We will start with http://www.internet-radio.com/.


This site has a huge array of musical categories to choose from. You can browse through all the categories or use the search box to search for a style of music.


I am getting a bit old so out and out metal is no longer my scene. I prefer a little bit of ska punk such as "Less Than Jake" or "Reel Big Fish". Searching on Ska Punk only pulled back one station but one is enough.


Clicking on the link available I arrived at the radioi site and I was given an option to Listen. I do not however want to just listen. I want to download the tracks. To do this I need the URL to the radio stream.

In this case there is a little link just under the listen button. When I click the link it opens up a dialog box asking how I wish to open the linked file.





Now I do not want to actually open the listen.pls file. What I need from the above dialog is the URL which is http://85.17.30.90:8090.

Armed with this information I can now start ripping music from this station.

Rip music with streamripper

We will start with the simplest way to use streamripper.


To simply start ripping from an online radio stream type the following into a terminal window:


 streamripper http://85.17.30.90:8090

Obviously you would need to replace the http part with the URL of the station you wish to rip from.


Streamripper will automatically skip parts of songs so you don't get half a song the first time you run it.

When the next song starts it will rip it into MP3 format.

So where does the file go? Streamripper creates a folder with the same name as the stream.

This is the simplest way to rip music. Start it running before you go to bed and by the morning you will have around 6 hours of music.

There are of course a plethora of options available with streamripper and I'm not going to pretend to understand all of them. There are in depth guides on the internet and of course you can type man streamripper to read the manual.

Organising the output

If you want to place the files in another folder you can specify an output folder as follows:
streamripper URL -d OutputFolder
The -d switch enables you to specify an output folder where the MP3s will be saved.

Replace the bit that says URL with the radio stream and replace OutputFolder with the name of the folder you wish to save the MP3s.

What will happen is that the stream will be created as a folder within the output folder specified. This is all well and good but what if you want all the songs in one folder no matter which online radio stream you use.

You can choose to suppress the creation of the stream folder by adding -s as follows:

streamripper URL -d OutputFolder -s

If you really like to control the naming of your files you can use the -D option with various switches as follows:

  • %S - Stream
  • %A - Artist
  • %T - Title
  • %a - Album
  • %D - Date and time (per song)
  • %d - Date and time (per execution)
  • %q - Sequence number (automatic detection)
  • %Nq - Sequence number (starting from number N)
  • %% - Percent sign
If you want to rip to a single file you can specify the -a switch. This will create one large file. You can use the switches above to determine the name of the file.

It is possible that you already have a track that is being ripped again. You can choose whether to always overwrite the track, never overwrite the track, overwrite only if the file is larger or keep both tracks (renaming one).

To do this use the -o option with one of:

  • never
  • always
  • larger
  • version
The following is an example showing how to do this:
streamripper URL -d OutputFolder -o never

Determine how long to stream

If you have a download limit on your internet account then streaming music continuously will eat into your limit.

You do not however want to sit around for hours on end until you have reached your defined limit for the day.

Streamripper provides a number of options to determine how long to keep going.

The first switch you can use is -l. The -l switch determines how long in seconds you want streamripper to run.

To run streamripper for an hour type:
streamripper URL -l 3600
You can also keep ripping until a certain number of megabytes have been downloaded by using the -M switch.

To run streamripper until 50 megabytes have been used type:
streamripper URL -M 50

Handling the unexpected

As Streamripper is relying on an internet connection and the stream it is ripping it isn't guaranteed that Streamripper will rip for as long as specified by the -l or -M switches.

If the stream drops Streamripper will try and reconnect. If you do not want this to happen use the -c switch as follows:
streamripper URL -c
Sometimes the stream will hang which means nothing is being downloaded. If you specify the -m switch then Streamripper will shut down and restart in the specified number of seconds, for example:

streamripper URL -m 60

Playing the music

You can of course copy the downloaded MP3 files to an external MP3 device such as a Sony Walkman or you can copy the files onto a USB drive to be copied to another computer or you can play the music direct from your Raspberry PI.

I plan to write a more complete guide about playing music on the Raspberry PI soon so I won't go into too much detail here.

I have tried a number of options on the Raspberry PI and there are two that I would recommend generally but for beginners to Linux I would recommend Guayadeque as it is lightweight enough to run on the Raspberry PI but fully featured and easy enough to use.

To install Guayadeque open a terminal window and type:

sudo apt-get install guayadeque

When you start Guayadeque you will see a screen similar to the one above. Click on the My Music option in the "Local Media" section on the left hand side.

Guayadeque needs a path to import music from. To add a path click on the My Music tab and in the bottom window right click and select "collection -> add path" from the menu.


I don't think Guayadeque has the most intuitive interface but once you get used to it then it does what you want it to which is play music.

Find the path on your machine where you want to import the files from and click open.

The files will be added to the song window.

At this point you will notice that songs from the incomplete folders will probably have been imported as well. You can delete these by right clicking on the file and selecting remove from library.

By using the above technique you can import files in the same folders by choosing the rescan option. Therefore if you rip more and more music to the same folder structure Guayadeque can be kept up to date with the touch of a button.

There is however an easier way to import files and that is to use the file manager. Open up the file manager and find the MP3 files on your machine and drag and drop them into Guayadeque.


To play a track double click it. To queue multiple tracks drag them into the window marked "now playing".

Summary

This guide gives yet another use for the Raspberry PI, the £35 computer with seemingly endless possibilities.

With thousands of radio stations available, you will easily be able to find a stream that plays the music you like and then rip the music from that station to your Raspberry PI.

I do not know the legality of downloading music this way and it is up to each individual to check that ripping music does not violate any copyright laws.

If you are satisfied that you are within the boundaries for the law of the country you are living in or you are just going to stick it to the man anyway then happy ripping. (I take no responsibility for anybody dragged away in the night, extradited to the USA, and then ultimately incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay because they upset the record producers).

Thankyou for reading.

 







 



Posted at 00:01 |  by Gary Newell

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