Lens for Ubuntu Unity (12.04) to browse tasks on Remember The Milk

UPDATE: latest version

IMPORTANT NOTICE:

This product uses the Remember The Milk API but is not endorsed or
certified by Remember The Milk.

Ubuntu 12.04 is out, so I decided to update my lens for remember the milk to work in Unity 5.

Actually, the lens uses singlet, by Michael Hall (many thanks for your work), so the transition to Unity 5 has been flawless.

While I was there, I made some minor improvements (e.g. the due dates are now printed in a prettier format) and added a feature to sort tasks.

As usual, I screencasted the lens at work:

If you want to try it, you can get the source code here on gitHub.

I wrote two simple scripts to install and launch the lens. You can find instructions on the README file.

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Ubuntu 12.04 and Hybrid Graphics on Sony VAIO S

As an update to this post, I confirm that using vgaswitcheroo to shutdown the discrete AMD/ATI card on the new Sony Vaio S, works perfectly also in 12.04 (Precise Pangolin).

Quick reference:

  1. Edit the file /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf (replace “gedit” with your favorite editor):
    sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf
  2. Add the following lines at the end of the file:
    # radeon
    blacklist radeon
  3. Edit the file /etc/rc.local (replace “gedit” with your favorite editor):
    sudo gedit /etc/rc.local
  4. Add the following lines just before exit 0:
    modprobe radeon
    chown -R $USER:$USER /sys/kernel/debug
    echo OFF > /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch

After a restart, use this command to verify that the AMD/ATI discrete graphic card has been shutdown:

sudo less /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch

Your output should be similar to this:

0:IGD:+:Pwr:0000:00:02.0
1:DIS: :Off:0000:01:00.0

Where the + sign indicates that the Integrated card (Intel) is currently in use and the Off keyword in the 1:DIS: entry indicates that the discrete AMD/ATI card is powered off.

The benefits I’ve noticed when using this setup are:

  • The notebook is much less noisy
  • The battery lasts longer
  • The notebook is cooler

Tasks Lens for Ubuntu Unity (11.10) to browse tasks on Remember The Milk

UPDATE: latest version

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This product uses the Remember The Milk API but is not endorsed or certified by Remember The Milk.

This is my third update for this Lens.

Unfortunately, as some of you might have noticed, the previous two have disappeared.

Anyway, here’s the last version of the Lens in all her splendor :D:

And here you can find the source code with installation instructions:

SOURCE CODE on GITHUB

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This product uses the Remember The Milk API but is not endorsed or certified by Remember The Milk.

Creating screencasts with Ubuntu: a summary of available desktop recording applications

There are many available options to record your desktop on Ubuntu, but I’ve found only one of them to be properly working with my configuration.

My results could be hardware-dependent, so, this is my hardware:

  • Sony Vaio S-Series
  • i5-2520 @ 2.50 GHz processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Intel HD 3000 integrated graphic card (Hybrid Graphics with discrete ATI card is disabled)

RecordMyDesktop

recordmydesktop

Project Home Page: recordmydesktop

This seems to be the most popular option when talking about screencasting software for Ubuntu.

It can easily record video + audio from your microphone and it is very easy to use it.

My problem is that the recorded video will not be synchronized with my actions, resulting in glitches, delay and low frame rate.

This is exactly what I am talking about:

However, many people are happy with this software (I’ve seen many HD videos properly recorded with recordmydesktop on YouTube), further, it is one of the simplest solution to test, just type:

sudo apt-get install gtk-recordmydesktop

or use the software center.

If it works with your configuration, good for you.

XVidCap

XVidCap

Project Home Page: xvidcap

This application works really well for video recording, however I wasn’t able to record audio from the microphone. Anyway, I have to admit that didn’t spend much time trying to fix the audio configuration.

The settings dialog is rich of options and the application is highly customizable.

Like recordmydesktop, you can find it in the repositories, so you can install it with

sudo apt-get install xvidcap

or through the software center.

Tibesti

Tibesti

Project Home Page: tibesti

This application is not present by default in Ubuntu repositories, but you can find instructions on its home page on how to add the PPA to install it.

Alternatively you can download the last source archive, extract it and build the application with the setup.py script:

python setup.py build

The application is very simple to use but I had major issues when recording videos.

After a few seconds, the video stopped recording what was being displayed on the desktop and started collecting a big delay.

It must be remarked that recording audio from the microphone or from the system out is very easy, but the video problem prevented me from using this application.

FFMPEG

There are many tutorials on how to use ffmpeg for recording the desktop. It is also possible to easily record audio from the microphone.

One of the most useful resource I’ve come across is this page on Ubuntu Forums.

This is a very effective solution, but a GUI approach is preferred by most users for this kind of applications.

Kazam

Kazam

Project Home Page: kazam

This is the winner for tonight contest on desktop recording applications.

  • It records video flawlessly: no glitches, no frame losses, perfectly synchronized
  • When you stop the recording, your video is instantaneously available (with recordmydesktop you have to wait for a long encoding process)
  • It is very easy to record audio with video
  • The interface is modern and the look and feel is great, a special mention goes to the countdown window preceding the recording of a new screencast

Kazam is not present in Ubuntu repositories, but you can easily install it using the .deb archive that is provided on the launchpad page.

Conclusions

Kazam really had all the features of a modern desktop recording application for a modern OS. I was quite surprised for not having found it in the official repositories.

If I have omitted some other relevant desktop recording applications, just let me know about it.

Doing backups with Ubuntu: again with Back In Time

In the past, I’ve always used Back In Time to do my data backups, then I switched to DejaDup when it became the official Ubuntu backup tool in 10.10.

I’ve been quite happy with DejaDup: simple and neat interface (maybe even too simple), easy to use, solid.

The problems with DejaDup started when I wanted to search for a particular file across the backups. I was sure it was there, but I couldn’t remember in which backup (the date of the snapshot) I included it. DejaDup doesn’t provide a “snapshot browser” as Back In Time does and it is not possible to browse the data directly on the storage device as it is archived in tar format.  The only option is to recover a snapshot by its date.  In this situation, the lack of a more advanced set of functions made me fell helpless.

I don’t want to talk about the features of Back In Time here, as they are well documented on the web site along with some nice screenshots, but about why I preferred it over DejaDup. A single reason:

  • Backups are stored in plain format (files and folders) on your storage device, with the same directories structure of the source data

This implies a whole set of benefits:

  • Control: you can browse a snapshot with your favorite file browser or even with the very rational Back In Time interface. You have everything under your control (“Was that folder included in the backup?” Just go and check it!)
  • Portability: you can extract the data you need from the storage device even if the backup application is not installed. As long as the OS of the computer where you need to extract the data is able to read the file system of the backup driver, you can get every file you need

In conclusion, I installed Back In Time and re-started doing my incremental backups with this very nice tool.

If you want to give it a try (gnome and kde versions are available from Ubuntu repositories):

sudo apt-get install backintime-gnome

or

sudo apt-get install backintime-kde

Ubuntu 11.10 and Hybrid Graphics on Sony VAIO S

I bought this Sony VAIO S series notebook almost 8 months ago. As the majority of modern high-end notebooks, it is delivered with two graphic cards:

  • The integrated one, by Intel (i915)
  • The dedicated, or discrete one, by AMD/ATI (HD6470m in my configuration)

This system, called Hybrid Graphics, is intended to provide users with two different and ready-to-use configurations to regulate performance vs. power saving modes. VAIO notebooks have a STAMINA/SPEED hardware switch to decide which one of them to use.

It works pretty well on Windows 7, where you can use the STAMINA mode to activate the integrated card and increase battery duration or the SPEED mode to activate the AMD card and get the best performance out of this notebook.

Things are a bit different on Ubuntu. Ever since I own the notebook (Ubuntu 11.04 and 11.10), not only I’ve never been able to use the STAMINA/SPEED switch, but I’ve had a lot of problems when trying to use the AMD card in a “static” configuration (however, AMD is working on their proprietary Linux drivers and they are progressing a lot: http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MTAyNzk).

The good thing for me is that I don’t need to use the AMD card at all.

The Intel one works very well for pretty much everything, including HD videos and any kind of desktop effect. However, I’ve never tried games.

So, the solution for me has been simple: do not use the AMD card! There’s still something missing however: you cannot completely forget about the discrete graphic card, if its fan keeps spinning as loud as a vacuum cleaner or if it is producing so much heat below your wrist!

So, finally, here’s the solution I’ve always proficiently used to switch off the AMD card and use my notebook as it was provided without that (I’m assuming your system is clean as it is after a new installation):

  1. Edit your /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf file and blacklist the radeon module (replace “gedit” with your favorite editor):
    sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf

    Add the following lines at the end of the file:

    # radeon
    blacklist radeon
    
  2. Edit the /etc/rc.local file to use the vgaswitcheroo kernel module and switch off the discrete card
    sudo gedit /etc/rc.local

    Add the following lines just before exit 0

    modprobe radeon
    chown -R $USER:$USER /sys/kernel/debug
    echo OFF > /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch
    

And that’s all, from next restart you can forget about the AMD card.