Komposer: Web design like beautiful music (Day 5 of 20 days of SCALE)

February 7th, 2013

Continuing our series on preparation for the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) I’m going to go over another one of my favorite programs: Kompozer.

kompozer_icon.pngIn my last blog post I wrote about my total migration over to Linux a couple years back. I told you about some of the harder pieces of commercial software on Windows that I had to replace. One of those packages was a web design product known as Dreamweaver. I have to admit how much I loved doing web design for this product. I used to be able to throw up a web page in no time flat or edit one that someone had already created (which in all honesty was usually the case) with ease. Changing over to an all Linux system I was stuck on a couple of choices that were just adequate. One of these software packages was Nvu.

Nvu seemed to be the closest to a graphical HTML editing package that took me as far away from the code as I wanted to be most times without sacrificing my ability to look through the code. Well, Nvu is a name that was copywritten by Linspire. When they stopped making the product it became a little task for open source enthusiasts to get the name so they just took the code over the the name Kompozer (which actually I like a whole lot better so no loss there).

Komposer has evolved into a very easy to use program with minimal web design kompozerth.pngexperience to get good at editing sites. Full of all the tools I loved in Dreamweaver it was exactly what I was looking for but I can’t stress enough that I’m not a professional web designer. I know how to edit HTML code and many other web code and it fits me just fine.

The fact that it keeps you away from the code is a big perk but sometimes I need to look at the code behind something so I can make a couple small changes to a client’s site. This is made easy enough with some tabs at the bottom that let you switch between just looking at design to a split between design and code to just looking at pure code.

The power behind Komposer is Gecko which is the power behind a lot of Mozilla’s products like Firefox which you just might have heard of. There is one part of it that I have never really got to successfully use and that’s the FTP manager. That might not totally be their fault as I’ve only tried it on a local site and had a little glitch and just never got back to using it ever again out of laziness but I will try it again and give it a fair handshake later.

Doing a little web design? Try Kompozer. Have I mentioned the biggest perk? CROSS PLATFORM. You know I love that. Linux, Mac and Windows.

Come out to SCALE Feb. 22-24 and find me giving the SCALE tours (Phillip Banks) or follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll give you a couple other ideas from what you do everyday.

OpenShot: Linux in video editing (Day 4 of 20 days of SCALE)

February 6th, 2013

Today I want to talk about a project that really is a quality piece of software that doesn’t get enough attention. The software I’m talking about is a video editing software package called OpenShot.

Let me take you back and tell you why I know about this software. Many years ago I used to have a dual boot system. That means my computer could boot into Microsoft logo.pngWindows and it could also boot into Linux. I was tied to a couple programs in the corporate world that I couldn’t live without. One year I finally said I was going to cut the cord and so I told myself I’d find Linux equivalents of everything I used. This was about 6 years ago and it was hard to do back then. I had my whole life in Outlook and had to get rid of that (Mozilla Thunderbird). I was a Photoshop wiz (now use Gimp). I sometimes had to edit audio with Adobe Audition (now use Audacity). Web design with Dream Weaver (now use Kompozer). The biggest thing I couldn’t settle on though was video editing because I was from a media company before I started consulting so was very used to helping out with my skills in Final Cut Pro on the Mac and Adobe Premiere on Windows. So much so that I was doing videos for weddings, proms and funerals to make some easy cash and threw down $400 on a video card to speed up the render times by like 20x’s. Nothing good seemed to catch my attention. This was a problem because it stopped my total conversion. I had to go over to my Windows login to do video 3 or 4 times a year.

The problem wasn’t that there were no choices in that area. Cinalerra was one program that people on Linux tended to use but I found the interface so extremely difficult that it gallery1.pngstopped me from wanting to learn it. Thus I ended up using another good program called Kino. Now Kino was good for me for a little while until I started having problems with it crashing dead in the middle of a huge project that was always last minute. Then came OpenShot. Very easy to figure out and use. Took so little for me to get adjusted to it I actually had a video to get out in 3 days and learned OpenShot just before kicking this thing out ahead of time. In combination with VLC (refer back to my previous article) to capture video from a video tape and then cut in music, picture montages and transitions similar to what I was used to with Adobe Premiere and I was in business.

Let’s jump forward and tell you how this works for you. My 15 year old son had a project to do last year just before his finals. His teacher wanted them to put something together for a presentation and he (like a lot of kids do) springs this on me at the last possible second. I had him draw out a plan for how a video would go and dream big. Then I gallery3-small.pngfigured I’d teach his 10yr old sister as well since she was getting into software and this was an easy one to learn. He had to stay up till about 1 am that night but the result was a video that absolutely WOW’ed his teacher and got him an A. If those two kids could just pick it up, edit and finish a project like that then most people can with a little bit of effort.

Come out to SCALE Feb. 22-24 and find me giving the SCALE tours (Phillip Banks) or follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll give you a couple other ideas from what you do everyday.

A little world wide love with OpenSuse 12.2 (Day 3 of 20 days of SCALE)

February 5th, 2013

For day 3 of my ode to all things open source in prep for my visit to the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) I’m going to give a little love to one of the big European distrobutions of Linux OpenSuse. I pronounce it “Suzy” but I’ve opensuse-geeko_button.pngheard many people pronounce it differently so I won’t be the one to tell you how to say it. Today we are also about to enter into the area of Linux where the freedom of choice can be a greater challenge than Hercules battling the many tentacled hydra or me decided what to eat for breakfast at a restaurant. You have so many choices on the look and feel of how you like your Linux to look. Then you have many choices on how you’re going to install software. These are the areas where the major differences are at play for me.

First, let me start off with saying I always have loved the look and feel of OpenSuse. I remember being blown away at a suse1.pngconvention a couple years back where it was the first distro really making this 3d rendered desktop called Compiz look so good that I took the CD home and went crazy. I had my kids computers using OpenSuse and my computers in my office using it. Well, except 2. My desktop and my laptop. As much as I love it it has one thing that I really don’t like. It installs its programs using a program called Yast (not the easiest install tool) and it uses a package type called RPM.

To explain this easily. Linux gets new software in a thing called packages. Go ahead and picture a package. Packages make it easy to install software because it knows everything it needs to make your software run. Without packages (like a distribution called Gentoo) you have to do what’s called compile each thing to make it work on your system. Compiling can take some time but the benefit is that you have it custom made for your system rather than buying it off the shelf. I’ve been using Linux since 1994 so I know a lot about compiling my software and I don’t like it. My problem with RPM is that it is off the shelf but imagine getting your package home only to find out you needed more stuff to make it fit what you already have. These are called dependencies and finding all of them for a software package that you didn’t get straight from OpenSuse or another company called RedHat you will be lost so for super techy people I advise staying clear but that’s just me. Not a battle I’ll fight. I stick with Debian based Linux’s on my desktop (like Ubuntu or Mint) because it’s just easier in my perspective but for the average user I still think OpenSuse is an extraordinary choice.

I tried out the new OpenSuse 12.2 on a liveCD which is a CD that you can start any computer up on and you’ll have a running Linux system without doing anything to your computer. New users should all do this to get a feel of the operating system and you can download it here. I used the KDE one because I love the way KDE looks and feels rather than Gnome but that’s also my taste. Both are really great to use (some of the other Window managers I just don’t like at all). I’ll get more into these things in later blog posts.

OpenSuse has added a very cool thing to it’s site though and that’s a build service. What this means is that on their site there is a page called Suse Studio where you can build a whole entire computer system using OpenSuse that can just run in something like Virtualbox which I explored in a previous post so give that a look.

So, if it’s not green… It’s just not OpenSuse. By the way, OpenSuse does have a pay version they call Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for companies to use that costs quite a bit but is to fit into the corporate environment with support costs included. OpenSuse is for your personal use (even though you can easily run a business off of it with a little know how). Have fun and join me for more tomorrow.

Come out to SCALE Feb. 22-24 and find me giving the SCALE tours (Phillip Banks) or follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll give you a couple other ideas from what you do everyday.

VideoLan’s VLC media player (day 2 of 20 days of SCALE)

February 3rd, 2013

For day 2 of my prep for the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) I’m going to talk about my hands down favorite media playing program. VideoLan’s VLC. Just for clarity’s sake you will sometimes see VLC/VLS. VLS used to be a server component forVLC streaming that was separate from VLC but I guess the mere awesomeness of VLC was more important and so they put VLS stuff into VLC.

I can’t stress how much I love this program because I use it for everything video and audio related and so does everyone in my house. It’s one of the first programs I install on any computer we buy. This is also due to the fact that it’s multi-platform.  You know that’s a word that I can’t get enough of that means it will run on Linux, Mac, and Windows. So, seeing as how my house has all of these systems then you’ll find VLC on all of them. Let’s go into why you or anyone else would use it.

Around 10 years ago I changed totally over to VLC when I was still at work using a desktop that was running Windows and a laptop that was running Linux. I was using Winamp on the PC and couldn’t quite settle on one for Linux. VLC came into play and soon my kids were using it as well. I worked in the audio post production industry at the time and ended up having them use it because it could play every format there was. I also met the creator of the format Ogg and FLAC (Chris Montgomery) at a SCALE back then and started becoming a big user of those formats and of course guess who supported them.

The interface is extremely easy to use but it has a TON of power under the hood if you really play with the options. Using the HTTP interface you can have a computer connected to a TV or just on it’s on and control it from another computer or useful apps on your phone (Android apps I should say because this is something I haven’t tried on iOS phones and the iPad yet). That gives you an instant no holds barred media center and I’ve used this just bringing a laptop and a video cable to someone’s house.  Doing a video presentation? I keep a copy on the usb stick on my keys with a copy of the presentation. If there’s a computer connected to the projector then I can boot to a Linux from my stick and play it or there’s a portable VLC app that runs on Windows that I keep with me to play it. This has come in handy at a couple of prom parties that I did the video for.

The bevy of ways you can use this program has given me tons of examples to use as we vlc-20-gnome3-debian.jpgeven use it to replace iTunes for listening to music. Once at a Podcaster’s convention I spoke to a crowd about how I used it to stream video to a port where my kids and even my mom from her computer a couple miles away could view it from my computer.

Since the program can also capture video from standard devices like video capture cards and webcams I have used it to convert video I fed into a video capture card to convert a VHS into a DVD and AVI file for the saving precious moments or making a video blog (although still not the greatest method).

Come out to SCALE Feb. 22-24 and find me giving the SCALE tours (Phillip Banks) or follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll give you a couple other ideas from what you do everyday.

Virtualbox desktop (day 1 of 20 days of SCALE)

February 2nd, 2013

Ok, let me apologize ahead of time because this blog post will not be an in depth review of Oracle’s Virtualbox. I started this out as a daily review of what I think about different software or services pertaining to open source but I hit a small glitch with one of my favorite software packages. It seems that due to some tweaking of dual screen setups Ivbox_logo2_gradient.png have somehow found my Virtualbox setup a little broken. I will come back to this as I have to fix this in order to work with the distributions I know and love so well on a regular basis. So lets get started.

It would be a shame to try to explain virtualization in a short blog post but I will give you a quick run down on it that might make a seasoned professional cringe. Virtualization is software for making a fake computer inside of your own computer. So, how is this useful? As a computer guy I have to work with people using a lot of different types of operating systems (Windows, Mac, and a couple Linux, BSD’s and Unix’s). I have a very good memory but over the phone I sometimes can’t remember exactly what my client is looking at. My solution to this is having Virtualbox and about 10 different operating systems that fully work and now my computer is that operating system that they are looking at and I can work in it. Yes I even have one running Windows 98 because there has been the rare situation where a person actually still uses it (before I get them to use a Linux that is far more functional on older hardware).

How does this work for you? I have looked at quite a few articles on the different virtualization software the biggest competitor being  VMware. Now don’t get me wrong. I really like VMware too but a while back I went totally Virtualbox because VMware’s really good virtualization workstation costs a little money and I’m big on teaching companies and small businesses to do the most for next to nothing. To do that, I have to live in the software and I do (I’ll tell you more later on how this is useful for companies). Before that, let’s look really quickly at the setup.

Virtualbox has a major feature that I also look for in software as much as possible It’s cross platform. That means it can be installed on Linux, Mac, and Windows. Once installed you’ll be able to get a quick and easy walk through showing you how to setup a space on your hard drive for an operating system setup “virtual” hardware and next thing you know you’ll see a whole different computer in front of you. This virtual hardware could be whatever you dream of like multiple dvd drives blah blah blah. You’ll have to look into it further for that.

Now, all of that to say this: You can do way more for less! Here’s how. If you haven’t tm_win7.pngnoticed most people are not using half of the power that these modern computers have. I see more people with 4 gigs or RAM and they’re just running a web browser and maybe typing up some notes in a word processor. Do you know that you can also run a server in the background using Virtualbox to let all your office connect to? I have also had a situation where a person only had one computer. I ran a Virtualbox with a Linux server on it and that one computer is now a desktop and a server that everyone could connect to. This required a little secret sauce using a domain name, good router setup and Dyndns but it made a small business seem large.

Come out to SCALE Feb. 22-24 and find me giving the SCALE tours (Phillip Banks) or follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll give you a couple other ideas from what you do everyday.

20 days of Open Source (SCALE Linux prep)

January 31st, 2013

First there’s Christmas but my personal technology Hannukah is the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE). This year is the 11th one and I’ve been apart of the planning of this since it started so my wife and kids are apart into it as well since my wife manned the registration desk while pregnant with my daughter who just turned 11 years old along with SCALE.  So, with that in mind I like to prepare every year so I know what I’m talking about with exhibitors when I lead a tour around the expo floor. This year I want to let everyone else in on the project with my 20 days of SCALE blog series. 20 days of projects I’m going to do and things I’m going to look into. Stay tuned all February.

SCALE Tours at Southern California Linux Convention

January 25th, 2013

SCALE is not your grandfather’s convention so neither should the experience be. There are a lot of exhibitors to see and too many things you want to get your hands on. Our two full ballrooms of exhibits can be overwhelming to some. All our exhibitors want you to hear about their product, solution or mission and we definitely have worked hard to get the people in front of you that offer the most bang for the open source buck. The problem is that usually you might get bogged down with too much information with one and not enough with some of the others before you want to get back to all the great talks or events going on.

For that reason we have been making an exciting feature we call our SCALE tours. What we’d like to offer you is a fun filled walk through both sides of the convention that will be the best couple minutes you’ve ever had at a convention.I (Phillip Banks) will take groups on a trip that passes a lot of cool places and people and asks them to give you 2 minutes of “Absolute open source goodness.” Exhibitors have come to love the attention it brings so they come prepared with lots of goodies like tshirts, demo media and maybe a song, dance or some other random act of weirdness that you just don’t get anywhere else. The best part about the tour is that you come out of it with a snippet of what is going on and will probably have a list of exhibitors that you want to go back and talk to for more information or products you want to return and get.

Last year we added a kids tour so feel free to bring your children. SCALE has a kids track so children can come and learn scalekids.jpghow to do all kinds of cool things with their computers. After their class we take them out on the floor and it’s unbelievable how much they love all the stuff the exhibitors have that is focused on raising the next generation of techies. I vouch for it myself because my own 10 year old daughter is among the bunch and opened her bag like it was Halloween candy.

So, come on out and ask about the tours at the registration desk. If you’ve been before you already know how fun it can be.

He who has the most tools wins

June 21st, 2012

I am told quite often, “You must have a lot of time on your hands.” This is usually following an off the wall rambling on Facebook, Twitter or at a client site. The funny thing about it is I’ve always got things to do I just make sure that I have a LOT of time to enjoy life. Among lots of reading, sports, lots of time with family, church obligations, phone calls, cooking and so many other things the goal is to fit as much into smaller amounts of time as possible.

A while ago I read the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and it is a book that has a cult following among efficiency experts. The GTD processes are something you can find a million websites and tools on. The one thing it didn’t mention is what a computer guy loves the most. TOOLS! See the thing my dad taught me by accident is that he who has the most tools AND knows how to use them wins. See my dad knew how to use every tool but didn’t always have them all around. However, a neighbour down the street had the most organized garage ever with tools of every kind. My brother and I would be sent down the street sometimes when we were working on our car, house, plumbing or carpentry. We’d learn how to use everything.

Translate this into modern day I acquire as many mental tools as I can as well as geek tech tools. Earlier today I had to do something and it would have been a project that a group of people would have taken hours doing. However, I know how to use databases well, I’m great with picture editing software and I know the web. The combination of the three had me set a timer for 30 minutes and knock this out in record time with unexpectedly fantastic results. At times in life I’ve actually learned things and immersed myself in them for a short period of time to get really good at them so I can do it faster.

Tools cost a lot right? Well, unlike the days of our neighbour’s garage, you don’t have to spend thousands on tools. Get some books on Amazon, install some apps on your phone, look at useful websites or search for “tip” or “tricks”, download free or open source software, read the table of contents on a book with the subject you want to learn and Google the rest or just pay somebody that knows what they’re doing in that area so you can be more efficient in the others. Get good at what you do and use the right mental, physical and software tools for the job and you’ll be a winner.

Where’s my quickening?

June 6th, 2012

I’m really big on reading. Lets just say when I was a kid I didn’t go anywhere without something to read. Usually even just a magazine. I guess my whole goal in life was to be that wise older guy with salt and pepper hair. Picture Morgan morgan.jpgFreeman sitting with a newspaper in hand telling stories the enlighten you while also letting you know he wasn’t the most perfect child. That’s me. That’s the story of my life. I look at my bookshelf at home now and when people ask me have I read those books I scratch my head and say, “Oh crap I guess I have read most of them.” I have no idea why this still surprises me but it does every single time.

About 5 or 6 years ago I read an article where a guy said that if you read 50 books a year then imagine how much information you will have gained in 20 years. I said, “You know what you’re right!” So, starting from then I’ve set out on this mission. The first year was easier because I broke my leg pretty bad so I was on the couch for a month so I did nothing but read. One problem though. I didn’t receive my quickening. Where’s my quickening?

An old movie series that started in the 80’s and also had a the_quickening.jpgTV series based on it was called “Highlander.” Now the thing about Highlander was that there were these random people that for some reason or another became immortal. The one caveat to this is that they could sense each other and knew they’d have to search the earth to kill all the others because as the tagline says, “There can be only one.” Whenever any immortal cut off the head of another immortal the sky would become turbulent, clouds would circle and they’d go into convulsions as lightning would come from the sky into them giving them all the knowledge gained by the other immortal over his/her lifetime. This is the quickening. That’s what I expect from reading.

Last year I took a course in speed reading. I felt that I could consume even more content if I read faster since I have a really short attention span and I keep stopping for crazy things. Did it. Got good but still no in the middle of the night quickening.

I now see life as a slow quickening. The new info is in there. Churning itself together with the old stuff. I will it so I will one day be that Morgan Freeman guy but just like with everything in life, you don’t just wake up one day and you’re someone or something else. Patience is for the virtuous who want to change.

Do you know me? 10 random things about me.

October 26th, 2011

Ok, so I was dared to do this so I had to stop and do it. Don’t think a challenge to me will go unheeded. Here’s a list of 10 completely random facts about me.

1) I feel an overwhelming urge to take any dare. When I was a kid there was nothing you couldn’t dare me to do. Once you say the word “dare” I’m sucked it. I’ll do it. I’ve jumped off roofs, ate balls of wasabi, all kinds of crazy things that I can’t even mention if the word dare is involved.

2) I used to absolutely LOVE model trains when I was a kid. I wired up this train set when I was a kid that was 4’x8′ and took up a good portion of my den. My parents bought electronic parts because I kept wiring and building till I pretty much had the space shuttle in the den when I was 12.

3) I fear talking to no one. At present I believe this to be true. I’ve talked to many A list celebrities, people passing by, music celebrities, etc. If I am in the place and they are I’ll talk. However, if they seem like they know they’re important I’ve snubbed just as many people because I don’t want to feed anyone’s ego unnecessarily.

4) When I was in elementary school I prided myself on the weird fact that I knew where every country in the world was (152 at the time) and their flag. Weird but true.

5) I ALWAYS stuck up for the underdog. In elementary or high school I’d always try to make that person that nobody liked or cared about feel a little bit better because I felt like I was straddling the fence between all the groups of people.

6) I absolutely HATE coconut. When I was little kid I’d get on my sister’s shoulders so we could sneak some cookies out of a jar on the shelf. One false move and you’d open the jar with coconut. I grabbed and ate one time and was disgusted with it ever since. P.S.: Yes I have been dared and did eat a whole coconut.

7) I have been told by people I’m the most resourceful person they know. I absolutely loved McGyver when I was a kid. I can grab a gang of pieces and make something. When the last big earthquake hit L.A. I asked some relatives in Texas where they afraid of me getting hurt and they said if anyone would survive it would be me on an Island like Gilligan with all the amenities.

8) I love sports period but contrary to popular beliefs my first love is football. Can tell you why. I just love the sport.

9) I LOVE CHRISTMAS time! I will sing Christmas music out loud in public. In a crowd. Call me crazy but I’ll belt out Chestnuts just to be doing it.

10) I’m not brown because I’m black. I’m brown because I eat so much chocolate. I love the stuff. It’s heaven here on Earth. I’ve been known to do work and get paid in cookies (Family only so don’t ask).

Whew! Ok, that wasn’t too bad. I’m not usually one to talk so much about me. I liked to get people to talk about themselves more than I talk about me.