Sunday, January 29, 2006

Taming Ubuntu (MPlayer and simple SMTP sender)

I did it. Today I reistalled my computer and "upgraded" from Debian to Ubuntu. It was partly because of the fact that after pressing shift-U for "update" in aptitude, it suggested to download and install 7 gigabytes of packages, most of which I never intended to use! Also, I wanted to try something different. So, instead of investigating why aptitude went crazy, I installed Ubuntu. The installation went without a hitch (I only backed up my /home/fuxoft/ directory), there were no serious problems with supporting my US Robotics WiFi card, SoundBlaster Live and NVidia hardware acceleration. However I had to tweak a few config files here and there and an absolute beginner probably wouldn't have 3D acceleration and volume control working without outside help (more about this later).

So far, everything I used before (in Debian) works well in Ubuntu (which really shouldn't be any surprise). The only problem was with getting MPlayer to work correctly and integrate it with Mozilla Firefox. But it's really simple once you know what you are doing.

First, install the standard Ubuntu MPlayer and "MPlayer fonts" package. Then, try playing some movies (and change the default application for the video file types to mplayer, the original default player is something called "Totem" which really didn't impress me). You will notice that quite a few movies cannot be played using MPlayer (especially Windows Media or Quicktime). But we can sort it out. Now, visit MPlayer homepage, download "essential codecs package" (or, "all codecs", just to be sure) and unpack all the files from it into /usr/local/lib/win32/ directory (you'll probably have to create it). Then, try playing the "problematic" videos again. If they still don't work, try renaming the "win32" directory to "codecs".

And now, for the Firefox integration. Close Firefox, install Ubuntu package "mozilla-mplayer", restart Firefox and try if embedded videos (for example on are played back by MPlayer. If they are, great, you are done. If they aren't, and Totem still wants to play them, go to /usr/lib/mozilla-firefox/plugins/ directory and erase all files that have "totem" in their name (two in my case). Also, there should be bunch of mplayer files in here at this stage. If they are not, you forgot to install "mozilla-mplayer" package. And that's all.

This was so far the biggest Ubuntu hurdle I had to overcome. The reason why this isn't simpler is probably because of legal reasons - you simply cannot distribute proprietary Windows codecs through the official Ubuntu distribution mechanism. I figured all of this out without much problems but it just shows that, as much as I love Linux, it still isn't quite ready for the "average Joe" users, unless someone with more expertise helps them with the basic configuration.

However, I have one small problem: I know there are several Linux apps to send photos to but I preferred my own simple script which took all the JPGs in given directory and sent them, one after another, as e-mail attachments to my flickr uploader e-mail address. However, I had to install exim4 mail transfer system and configure this monumental beast just for this simple script to work. I'd like to use some really simple tool to turn JPGs into mail attachments and to send them as e-mails, but is has to be done one after another, i.e. the script must wait until the first e-mail is completely sent and only then start sending the second e-mail. This is necessary to prevent traffic congestion (my upload is not very fast) and to keep the uploaded pictures in the right order. Does anyone have any suggestions about this? Otherwise, I'll probably have to either install and configure exim4 or to write a script using Ruby and its SMTP library...

UPDATE: Solved beautifully using ssmtp and mutt. Thanks to anonymous tip. After you install them (and configure ssmtp, which is trivial), you can use the following simple script to send all files from the current dir to Flickr. Note that the script in its current form deletes the files as it sends them! Also note I am not very good with Bash...

#cd /home/fuxoft/upload
du -h
echo "ENTER to send all"
read DUMMY
echo "" > $BODY
for PIC in *
ls "$PIC" -sh
mutt -s "$PIC" $EMAIL -a "$PIC" < $BODY && rm "$PIC"
echo `ls|wc -l` remaining

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The new icon

There are several Czech "discussion servers" (,,,, many more) which basically provide the user with similar functions for communicating with other members of the community. Because all of them are inspired by the original "" from mid-90s, they all share some unique features not found outside the Czech Republic. For example, the avatars (here called "icons") are always 40x50 pixels large.

This is my old "icon", based on my photo for the "Internet" magazine interview circa 1997. I used it on all discussion servers for many, many years. The bug on my face was the first stupid idea I got when thinking about easiest possible animation. GIF animations were THE NEW SHIT back then.

However, this week, the whole Cinema magazine staff (including externists, i.e. me) went to take their professional photos in the atelier. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to change my icon. So far, it's not animated but I'll probably think of something after I come to grips with GIF animation in GIMP...

But enough about me, now play this oldskool game.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Art of News Photography

Whoever crops photographs for probably thinks he is really clever!

Nintendo remake (Warning: Tasteless humor)

Do you remember that old Game&Watch LCD game called "Fire" where you had to rescue as many people falling from the burning building as possible? You had three "lives".

It seems these people didn't play "Fire" very much. They scored precisely zero points.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

This is Still Life

I spend lots of time on Flickr, just randomly browsing other people's photographs. I often find something that I want to share with friends but they are not always in the mood for "looking at this Flickr link Fuka just sent them over IM".

Now, thanks to the miracle of automatic Flickr->Blogspot blogging, I set up this miniblog at where I will put the photos. If you want to know what I found, just use This is Still Life's Atom/RSS feed and look at it whenever you are in the mood.

All the photos are linked to their Flickr pages. That means if you find some of them interesting, just click on them and explore the neighboring photos from the same author.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Our country needs strong leaders

Seriously, this is the first time since my early puberty I regret not being U.S. resident and registered voter. This man currently runs for the office of Minnesota Governor. He is Satanic wrestler impaler:

He is way cooler than anyone who ever ran for any office in my country. I certainly hope he wins. Remember that this man was the Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003:

He also starred in Predator:

Although our Minister of Culture starred in several Czech movies, he never ever said anything like "I've got no time to bleed" or used machine gun. Pussy.

Rise of the machines

I must admit the previous post about my dogs now being cyborgs was meant as a joke. But yesterday I took this photo. I am scared.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Megaupdate: Movies and Linux

Sorry for not updating but I am currently up to my neck in work. Thanks god for Animal Crossing for Nintendo DS which at least allows me to play few minutes a day while riding in the subway.

Apart from the regular movie and videogame reviews, I am also currently translating Pixar's CARS for Czech theatrical release. I am not allowed to reveal any details about the movie itself (which is currently pretty much complete) but let me put it this way: Has Pixar ever released anything that wasn't utterly amazing?

My next translating projects will be X-MEN 3 and SUPERMAN RETURNS. And possibly HOSTEL (I'm not yet sure if I will be able to do this). It's really sick slasher movie which, apart from decapitations, popped eyeballs and cut tendons also features (un)healthy dose of psychological terror and extremely black humor. And, best of all, it was shot completely in the Czech Republic (although it's supposed to take place in Slovakia) and features several Czech actors in prominent roles and Czech and Slovak 80s hits on the soundtrack (Michal David!!!).

On the computer front, I was recently asked by a friend's girlfriend to install Linux on her Laptop. I am using Debian myself and I opted for Ubuntu Linux for her. And I must say I am VERY impressed! Although I love Linux, I don't think it can replace Windows for the average user yet ("average user" here means "someone who wants to browse, write documents, play music and movies, and tweak few things here and there"). However, Ubuntu comes VERY close. The first "shock" was that it immediately recognized and correctly configured US Robotics WiFi card (with which I had big trouble on Debian). And most of other stuff Windows people take for granted also works on Ubuntu "out of the box". And if you are more experienced, there is your trusty Debian "under the hood" of Ubuntu. I am seriously considering replacing my Debian with Ubuntu. Although I consider Ubuntu marketing campaign to be just a bit scary:

Also concerning Linux: After the installation, I wanted to configure some small things on her computer from my home. Unfortunately, she is behind NAT, with no public IP address, so I couldn't just SSH to her. Instructing her over the ICQ how to setup VPN seemed like overkill. But then I discovered this trivial method ("Reverse SSH tunnel"). It allows you to easily SSH to any computer (even behind NAT or firewall) if your computer has public IP address. I knew it could be done but I needed this short example to understand how easy it really is.

And today, both Albert and Chucky got their id microchips implanted. I guess that means they are now officially cyborgs.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Twisted firestarter

The new year is here. Yesterday, I bought pocket fireworks for $5, with bizarre name "Prasolet" ("PigFlight"???) which I wanted to detonate during the New Year celebrations.

However, I decided to wait for today, for the giant fireworks on Letenska Plain. Check out this photoset to see fireworks, PigFlight in action and me drinking Chinese Plum Wine and looking gay.