Thursday, September 26, 2013

MakeMKV + Handbrake

Handbrake is a great transcoding tool, but I've come across situations where it refuses to format shift some DVDs. To get around it, I installed MakeMKV which knows how to do such things.

The process is a little more drawn out though, here's how I did it:

  1. Download the MakeMKV binary and source as per the MakeMKV Linux wiki page.
  2. In a command prompt, execute the following commands (assuming version numbers are the same):
  3. $ tar xvf makemkv-bin-1.8.5.tar.gz $ tar xvf makemkv-oss-1.8.5.tar.gz $ cd makemkv-oss-1.8.5/ $ make -f makefile.linux $ sudo make -f makefile.linux install $ cd ../makemkv-bin-1.8.5/ $ make -f makefile.linux $ sudo make -f makefile.linux install $ makemkv

  4. The last command starts the newly installed makemkv GUI. The GUI is fairly easy to work through, but this guide for using it is pretty good. I didn't need to change any of the default settings, just let it do its thing.
  5. Once MakeMKV has ripped its stuff, it will create an MKV file. You can then load this file into Handbrake and transcode into any other format as normal. The MKV can be deleted after transcode if you don't want it anymore (it can be pretty big).

Update for MakeMKV 1.8.10 Beta (14 Jun 2014):

Current instructions on the wiki page work fine, not sure why I had slightly different process above. You also need to register a key to use the beta.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Rapoo RP-X1800 Wireless Keyboard/Mouse

Since my Shintaro wireless keyboard decided to go on the fritz, I needed a cheap replacement while the Shintaro goes off on its warranty journey.

The Rapoo RP-X1800 was $19, and I have to say I'm pretty impressed with it. They keys are a little squishy (as to be expected with a cheap keyboard), there is no caps lock LED (also common for wireless keyboards) and no off switch on the keyboard (there is one on the mouse).

But the wireless connectivity was flawless. Compared to the Shintaro, which was never quite right, the Rapoo just worked straight away with no key presses lost, and moving the mouse will wake the computer from screen saver, something the Shintaro trackball never did, to my annoyance. The wireless USB adapter isn't as small as a Logitech one, but is smaller than Shintaro's.

The biggest drawback for use as a HTPC input device is the separate mouse and keyboard parts, but I'd have no hesitation recommending the Rapoo X1800 as a solid budget wireless KB/mouse combo.

Update 14-Dec-2013:

After running with this combo for a while now, I have noticed occasional glitches when typing, usually trying to type something really fast. Isn't much of an issue (doing passwords is probably the most annoying), but I didn't notice this issue when I first started using the Rapoo so thought I'd update to mention it.

For me Logitech is still the best as far as quality of wireless connectivity goes.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Conky Config

(Update 25-Oct-2014: Slightly updated version posted.

Just installed conky and looked around for some cute configs. This one by asoliverez looked nice, so I grabbed it and started playing around.

It didn't quite work for all values, since I didn't have all the pre-requisite software installed. So I hacked it up a little bit, and came up with the following that works with sensors (I worked out how to do it using this guy's example as a template), nvidia-smi (since I've got an nVidia GPU installed) and my particular file systems setup:

File: .conkyrc

background no
font Sans:size=8
#xftfont Sans:size=10
use_xft yes
xftalpha 0.9
update_interval 5.0
total_run_times 0
own_window yes
own_window_type normal
own_window_argb_visual true
own_window_transparent yes
#own_windiw_class conky
own_window_hints undecorated,below,sticky,skip_taskbar,skip_pager
# To make conky always on top, swap 'below' in above line to 'above':
#own_window_hints undecorated,above,sticky,skip_taskbar,skip_pager
double_buffer yes
minimum_size 220 5
maximum_width 220
draw_shades yes
draw_outline no
draw_borders no
draw_graph_borders yes
default_color CDE0E7
default_shade_color black
default_outline_color green
alignment top_right
gap_x 12
gap_y 35
no_buffers yes
uppercase no # set to yes if you want all text to be in uppercase
cpu_avg_samples 2
override_utf8_locale no

${color white}SYSTEM ${hr 1}${color}

Hostname: $alignr$nodename
Kernel: $alignr$kernel
Uptime: $alignr$uptime
MB Temperature: ${alignr}${iconv_start UTF-8 ISO_8859-1}${exec sensors|grep 'Physical id 0'|awk '{print $4}'}${iconv_stop}
CPU Temperature 0: ${alignr}${iconv_start UTF-8 ISO_8859-1}${exec sensors|grep 'Core 0'|awk '{print $3}'}${iconv_stop}
CPU Temperature 1: ${alignr}${iconv_start UTF-8 ISO_8859-1}${exec sensors|grep 'Core 1'|awk '{print $3}'}${iconv_stop}
CPU Temperature 2: ${alignr}${iconv_start UTF-8 ISO_8859-1}${exec sensors|grep 'Core 2'|awk '{print $3}'}${iconv_stop}
CPU Temperature 3: ${alignr}${iconv_start UTF-8 ISO_8859-1}${exec sensors|grep 'Core 3'|awk '{print $3}'}${iconv_stop}
Fan 1: ${alignr}${hwmon 1 fan 1} RPM
Fan 2: ${alignr}${hwmon 1 fan 2} RPM
#Battery: ${alignr}${battery_percent BAT0}%
CPU: ${alignr}${freq} MHz
GPU Temp: ${alignr}${exec nvidia-smi | grep '. ..\% ..C'|awk '{print $3}'}${iconv_start UTF-8 ISO_8859-1}°${iconv_stop}C
Processes: ${alignr}$processes ($running_processes running)
Load: ${alignr}$loadavg

CPU1 ${alignr}${cpu cpu1}%
${cpubar cpu1}
CPU2 ${alignr}${cpu cpu2}%
${cpubar cpu2}
CPU3 ${alignr}${cpu cpu3}%
${cpubar cpu3}
CPU4 ${alignr}${cpu cpu4}%
${cpubar cpu4}

Ram ${alignr}$mem / $memmax ($memperc%)
${membar 4}
swap ${alignr}$swap / $swapmax ($swapperc%)
${swapbar 4}

${color gray}Highest CPU $alignr CPU% MEM%${color}
${top name 1}$alignr${top cpu 1}${top mem 1}
${top name 2}$alignr${top cpu 2}${top mem 2}
${top name 3}$alignr${top cpu 3}${top mem 3}

${color gray}Highest MEM $alignr CPU% MEM%${color}
${top_mem name 1}$alignr${top_mem cpu 1}${top_mem mem 1}
${top_mem name 2}$alignr${top_mem cpu 2}${top_mem mem 2}
${top_mem name 3}$alignr${top_mem cpu 3}${top_mem mem 3}

${color white}Filesystem ${hr 1}${color}

Root: ${alignr}${fs_used /} / ${fs_size /}
${fs_bar 4 /}
Files: ${alignr}${fs_used /files} / ${fs_size /files}
${fs_bar 4 /files}

${color white}NETWORK ${hr 1}${color}

Eth0: ${addr eth0}
Down ${downspeed eth0} k/s ${alignr}Up ${upspeed eth0} k/s
${downspeedgraph eth0 25,107} ${alignr}${upspeedgraph eth0 25,107}
Total ${totaldown eth0} ${alignr}Total ${totalup eth0}

Wlan0: ${addr wlan0}
Signal: ${alignr}${wireless_link_qual wlan0}%
Down ${downspeed wlan0} k/s ${alignr}Up ${upspeed wlan0} k/s
${downspeedgraph wlan0 25,107} ${alignr}${upspeedgraph wlan0 25,107}
Total ${totaldown wlan0} ${alignr}Total ${totalup wlan0}

(Text wrap doesn't work real well...sorry. It should cut and paste okay though if anyone is interested in it).

(Update 23-Dec-2013: Added option to keep conky "always on top").

(Update 27-Sep-2014: Fixed CPU bar always showing same % issue).

Looks pretty good sitting there over in the corner of the screen:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fixing Tearing with Kubuntu 13.04 and nVidia 304.88

UPDATE 26th May 2014: I tried this same fix on Kubuntu 14.04, and it black-screened the system. I'd also been tinkering with some other stuff at the same time, so haven't tracked it down exactly (or what the new fix might be), but I suspect it is the GL_YIELD change to /etc/profile below. I don't recommend doing it unless you're ready to rollback/recover the original.. UPDATE 20th Oct 2014: Tried a very similar fix on 14.04 and this time it worked, so not sure what was going on here.

After finding a workaround to fix tearing on Mint 15 Cinnamon, I jumped to Kubuntu 13.04 because there were some strange issues with screen recording in Mint, I assume because of the tearing workaround affected some of the internals in the graphics stack that screen capture uses.

Unfortunately, Kubuntu had the same tearing issue that Xubuntu exhibited. The solution again was a workaround, but different:

  • Install KDE 4.11 as per the instructions at this noobslab article:

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

    (Not sure if this was actually necessary, but it was one of the other things I tried first).
  • In "Desktop Effects -- KDE Control Module" => Advanced tab, set Compositing type to "OpenGL 3.1" and Tearing Prevention (VSync) to "Re-use screen content".
  • Add:

    export __GL_YIELD="USLEEP"

    To /etc/profile as per this KDE forum post. NOTE: But see above regarding this possibly having problems in more recent versions.

That should fix the tearing.

Note on Fullscreen Games

For some reason, the above worked in the general desktop environment, but fullscreen games were still tearing. The fix that worked in that case was to uncheck "Suspend desktop effects for fullscreen windows". Not sure why that made things better, since I would have thought the other way around would work, but that's the change that fixed it.

Things That Didn't Work

For reference, here are the things I tried that didn't work:

  • Turn off compositing with Alt+Shift+F12 (no effect).
  • Install KDE 4.11 (as noted above, this by itself didn't help, but may be necessary for the workaround).
  • Install compiz. The tearing was perhaps a little better, but still not great, and compiz just doesn't look as good as kwin.

And one last resort I would have tried eventually: Re-compiling KDE with this patch.

Running Card Hunter in Linux

I read a recent PAR article on new browser-based game Card Hunter so I signed up to give it a shot.

Unfortunately if you're using Linux and Firefox, depending on the version of the flash player you have installed, it probably won't work.

To get it going I installed Chromium and the Pepper flash plugin, following these instructions (as referenced in the Card Hunter forums). This works perfectly.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

New Linux Install -- Software List

Software and setup for a new distro install:


  • /etc/fstab SSD tuning
  • Case insensitive bash
  • Copy over .fonts folder
  • Copy over .xsetwacom, .vimrc, .hgrc


  • GPU drivers (if needed)
  • Firefox, plus add-ons:
    • AdBlockPlus
    • NoScript
    • FlashGot
  • Mercurial
  • Thunderbird
  • Gvim
  • KeepassX
  • ia32-libs
  • Handbrake
  • Unetbootin
  • Imagemagick
  • VLC
  • lm-sensors
  • Gimp
  • Krita
  • Eclipse

Optionals/As Needed

  • VirtualBox
  • Wine
  • Wallch
  • SimpleScan
  • k3b, xfburn (or some other DVD burner)


  • Tupi2D
  • recordMyDesktop
  • Vokoscreen

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Budget Small(ish) Web Browser Box

I wanted a small box to sit in the corner as basically nothing more than a web browser. Since mITX parts were so difficult to source locally, I went the smallest mATX case I could find.

Here is the parts list:
  • CPU: AMD A4-5300 $55
  • Mobo: Asus F2A55M-LK-Plus $49
  • RAM: 1x4GB 1600 (already had)
  • SSD: Plextor M5S 128GB $89
  • Case: Coolermaster RC361 $49
  • PSU: Corsair VS450 $49
  • KB/Mouse: USB combo (already had)

Total: $291 (would have been about $350 if I didn't have RAM/KB/mouse already).

Some happy snaps:

The motherboard, fresh out of the box. Notice how it captures the light...(because of my crappy photography)

The motherboard was fairly low end, but was a good price so I grabbed it. It doesn't have a USB 3 header of SATA 3, but since the build didn't need either, it filled the requirements.

CPU, pins pins pins

Motherboard with RAM, CPU and HSF mounted

Mounting the AMD HSF was straightforward: stick it on the CPU and clip it into place. Easier than Intel's "four pins" mechanism, which takes a little getting used to.

The empty case

The Coolermaster RC361 is about the smallest micro-ATX case I could source locally. It's a "sideways" mini tower, so can stand upright or on its side. For a case that cost less than $50, it's not too bad.

Case with the power supply (tucked away, unusually, in the front of the case)

Mounting the power supply was fairly tricky, and given its unusual location, there's no way to turn the PSU on or off without pulling the front of the case off (which, unlike some cases, came off easily). I don't think access to the PSU switch will prove too much of a problem for my uses. The case also has no place to mount an SSD. Since I didn't have a mounting kit, I just taped it to the bottom of the case. The RC361 does come with a comprehensive set of extra screws and cable ties.

The completed build. SSD isn't visible because it's taped to the bottom of the case

Installed Kubuntu 13.04, it worked really well. The AMD A4-5300 (with proprietary Catalyst drivers installed) will even play some games at a reasonable level (if with low settings).