Monthly Archives: November 2010


First look at Ubuntu’s Unity Interface


First Look at Ubuntu’s Unity Interface

Reprinted from International Press

Wow. This is NOT your usual interface. If your accustomed to accessing: Applications/Places/System. That’s all gone. Instead what you find are cryptic icons on the left side of the screen. Some of them you can make out, but others require you to hover over the icon to identify it.

The interface is VERY much like the Apple ipad. I.E. no multi-tasking here. I am used to opening up several instances of the terminal window to do various things. That’s gone. Like the ipad, You can only run one task occurrence at a time. And you can’t do anything to an application, except close it (X). Maximise and Minimise don’t work at all. So why have them as an option, if they don’t do anything? Task switching? NO!

And customisations. Nope, not here!

If you are like me, and accustomed to the buttons on the right side, this usually does the trick:

gconftool-2 --set "/apps/metacity/general/button_layout"
--type string "menu:minimize,maximize,close"

Nope, no way to customise the windows. It’s on the left, like it or not. Want a custom background? Not going to happen. Want to display military time, instead of AM/PM. Nope, that’s gone too!

I tried to install the ubuntu-desktop, in hopes that I’d get an option at login time. Whew it installed great! But when it came to login time, I didn’t have a choice. I was stuck with Unity like it or not. Choice is not a bad thing.

I realise that Mark Shuttleworth is trying to create the same user experience on all platforms, but removing choice options from the user, is not the optimal solution for all of us. Needless to say, Unity did NOT stay on my Netbook very long. I am installing the regular desktop edition on my Netbook, as I type this article.


How to convert or play midi files to wav files in Ubuntu/Debian


Courtesy Loni:

Timidity will play midi files quite nicely, and also output to a variety of formats. To play and output to a wav file:

timidity mymusic.mid -Ow -o mymusic.wav

UPPERCASE O (OH!) = output mode, lowercase ‘w’ (for wav file), then
lowercase o (oh) = output filename.

There are other options available too, specifying stereo/mono output, and much more. timidity -h is quite readable, the man page is more convoluted.

For stereo wav:

timidity mymusic.mid -OwS -o mymusic.wav

(be careful of the case of both the O’s (OH’s!) and the options for the mode O (uppercase). wav format = ‘w’ (lower), stereo = ‘S’ (upper)

Easily scriptable as something akin to:
(in your midi subdirectory, of course)

for f in *.mid; do
timidity "$f" -Ow -o "${f%.mid}.wav"

(umm, the %.mid bit only works with bash > v7.00)

I suppose I should do it pre-bash 7 too:

for f in *.mid; do
timidity "$f" -Ow -o "$(basename $f .mid).wav"

(not as pretty as the former, but still works!)

Hope this helps


Thanks Loni


Getting x-windows to work over an ssh connection


This is something I do so frequently, I don’t even think twice about it.  Yet it does require some tweaking.  So here’s the magic behind getting x-windows to work over an ssh connection.

1.  Let’s make sure you have what we need to get started.  If not already installed, let’s install the openssh-server on both the SERVER and CLIENT machines.

sudo apt-get install openssh-server

2.  Now let’s backup the config files:  (as always the # (octothorpe) is a comment and that, or anything after that does NOT need to be coded!)

cd /etc/ssh  # change to the ssh configuration file directory

3.  First let’s make backup copies of the files:

sudo cp sshd_config # back up the SERVER config file (WITH D)

sudo cp ssh_config # copy over the CLIENT  config file (NO D)

4.  Using the editor of your choice, let’s change the files to allow x-11 forwarding.  First the SERVER file

Let’s change the coding!

gksudo gedit sshd_config # edit the SERVER config file (WITH D)

Find the line and make sure it reads:

X11Forwarding yes

There MAYBE an ‘#’ in front of the line, you may need to remove it!

Save the file!

6.  Now we’ll change the client side:

gksudo gedit ssh_config # edit the client side (NO D)

change the lines so they look like:

ForwardX11 yes
ForwardX11Trusted yes

You may need to remove the ‘#’ in front to uncomment.

Save it!

7.  Restart ssh

sudo service ssh restart

8.  Try it!

-X      Enables X11 forwarding.

ssh -X (hostname)

9.  Try to bring up gedit on the client side by simply typing:


If we did your homework right, gedit will come up on the client machine, running under ssh.  X rides for free.  This is great for remote execution of a programme.  Could be any X programme.

10. The programme will NOT show up on the other computer. However if you want to start something, but let the other person use it,

export DISPLAY=:0.0

You lose control though. (thanks for this tip, Loni)