Using Dropbox on KDE4

I’ve just started using the Dropbox service, which is rather handy for sharing files between computers. I’ve got it running on my Macs, but found setting up the Linux client on KDE4 (4.1 in my case) a little more tricky. Well until I found this great workaround:

Dropbox without Gnome : Sounds From The Dungeon

This worked a treat, but the only thing I couldn’t get straight away was getting the service to start automatically. What caught me out was setting up the symlink in the .kde4 Autostart folder, rather than the .kde one. So to do this, use the following command:

ln -s /home/USERNAME/.dropbox-dist/dropboxd /home/USERNAME/.kde4/Autostart/dropbox

Flock for 64-bit Ubuntu Feisty Fawn and Gutsy Gibbon

I’ve been using the Mozilla-based Flock browser more in the past month, I do like how integrated the social networking side of it is. I can’t find extensions for Firefox that do it all so neatly and seamlessly. I’ve decided to start using it at work, and hit an issue, namely that the version supplied on the Flock site doesn’t work with 64-bit Linux. However, Getdeb.net does compile a 64-bit version for the current and previous versions of 64-bit Ubuntu, namely Feisty Fawn and Gutsy Gibbon. This worked fine for me in Gibbon.

Blogged with Flock

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Firmware update for the Nokia N95

Nokia have recently released a new firmware update for their N95 mobile phone. I have upgraded to this, and have to mark it as an update worth having. The main benefit is supposed to be improved memory handling, and thus battery life. I can’t say I’ve noticed this in particular, but I tend towards using it for one thing at a time, so I wouldn’t have seen much difference.

However where it does score highly is in several little updates to the GUI, and to some of the applications. Search and the music player have been improved. In particular, the music player has had the podcast functionality merged into it more tightly, and the player will now remember a bookmark for each track you’ve listened to. This is very helpful with podcasts, as it means you can shut down the application, come back to it later, and if you play a track you had been listening to previously, it will remember where you were. I really missed this from the iPod, and in fact it is better, in that it seems to remember your place in multiple tracks. Also improved is the camera software, which definitely takes pictures much quicker than before. Finally, there are new applications as part of the Ovi rebranding, including a demo of the forthcoming new N-Gage platform

This is the first time I’ve properly upgraded the firmware, and I have two points to make. Firstly, I just can’t see a way to either upgrade using Linux, nor to upgrade directly on the phone (I’ve certainly done the latter in the past on previous Nokia phones). This is just wrong, even if you’re not going to support Linux, at least let me use the Wi-fi you’ve put on there to allow me to run an upgrade directly. Secondly, back up your files. This WILL wipe your phone. The way to do this is to go to the Memory Card application, and to select the option to back up the Sim card to the memory card. Once you’ve done the upgrade, you can restore from this back up.

Sync to your Nokia N95 using Amarok

I received an email today from a new reader, Mark, asking me if I had managed to sync music and podcasts to my N95 yet using Amarok on Ubuntu. This reminded me that I had been meaning to, but had been distracted by the podcasting application Nokia provide. So tonight I’ve had a look at it, and it is relatively straightforwards. This little guide assumes you’ve got Amarok installed and working in Kubuntu or Ubuntu.

1) Open Amarok.

2) Plug the USB cable into your Nokia N95, and select the Mass Storage mode on the phone. When connected, Ubuntu will ask you what you want to do, and choose to open the device in a new folder. Note the address of this folder (the mount point), it will be something like /media/name_of_your_memorycard .

3) Amarok should open up the following dialog box to allow you to set up the N95 as a device:

Manage devices in Amarok

If it doesn’t, go to Settings > Configure Amarok > Media Devices. In both cases, now click on Add Device.

4) Fill out the Add New Device dialog:

Add New Device in Amarok

Select the Generic Audio Player plugin, enter the name you want to call your N95, and the mount point for your device (that you saw in step 2). Click on OK, and OK again.

5) In Amarok, you should now have something that looks like this in the top left:

Connect to your media device in Amarok

If you’ve connected an iPod before (Amarok is pretty good at managing iPods in Ubuntu too), you may need to change the device showing in the drop-down menu. Click on Connect, and it should pick up the N95 and show you the folders on your memory card:

Nokia N95 connected to Amarok

This is the view on the Devices tab in Amarok. Go to the Collection tab to search for music, and right-click on tracks or albums, and choose Transfer to Media Device to add them to your transfer queue. Podcasts take a little setting up, but once done, you have the option to automatically add new episodes to the transfer queue.

When you’re done, click on Transfer, and then Disconnect when it’s finished. Once this is done, go to the icon for your phone on the desktop, right-click, and select Safely Remove. Your phone will been and show a message to let you know when you can remove the USB cable.

Let me know if this little guide is useful to you. I think personally I am going to go back to managing my podcasts through Amarok, it is a good podcasting application, and a bit better to use than the built-in Podcasting app on the N95.

Catch-up on Google, Mobile, Firefox and other things of interest

It took me quite a while after my recent holiday to catch up on my RSS feeds (I had a mere 7500 posts to work through, with more coming in all the time), so I had to be quite careful not to miss things of interest to me over the past few weeks. And there has been a lot in the area I write about here.

The Google phone has been intriguing for several months now. It sounded like an odd idea, and quite brave. The initial idea, as it was put forward by many news sources, was that it would be Google’s own phone, with it’s own OS and applications. It’s one thing for say Apple to move into the mobile phone arena, there are a lot of complications compared to other areas of hardware, it’s quite another for a company like Google who of course have the money to tackle the problems, but just haven’t operated in such a field before. A fair comparison may have been to Microsoft with the original Xbox. They got a lot wrong before they got a lot right (I’m slightly regretting giving mine away, as I have got a fondness for it, but then it went to a good home, so I’m fine about it really).

However, the New York Times broke some new details about Google’s plans. They suggest it is not a phone, but a phone OS. It will be built on Linux, be designed as a competitor to Symbian and Windows Mobile, and will be licensed for free to phone manufacturers. Now this sounds a lot more interesting to me. For one, it seems like the idea would be to get it on as many manufacturers phones as possible.

Further reading and speculation throughout the tech news blogs suggests it might even not be an OS, but an application designed to run on the major mobile platforms as if it were the phone’s OS, just wrapping together existing Google mobile apps with some new functionality. This seems like the most sensible suggestion yet to me, and mirrors the work they’ve done on the desktop. You can now use a whole suite of applications within the browser already on Mac, Linux and Windows, which is what I do at the moment. They just move onto the mobile platforms with similar, optimised for mobiles. Not such a huge leap, but instantly moving onto many mobiles at once, and doing the important jobs for them of having their applications used wherever their users are, and also pushing adverts to them.

Changing tack slightly (I’ll be coming back to that), the next day Mozilla announced they are working on a version of Firefox for mobiles. I’ve been crying out for this, I do like Opera Mini, but I’ve used Firefox for a good few years on the desktop, and it just works for me. I like being able to add in functionality to the browser as I need it, and see the best of that functionality rolled into the browser itself over time. Mozilla aren’t committing to any particular phone OS at the moment, but there has to be a really strong possibility it will be on both Windows Mobile and Symbian. They are promising extensions, built in the same way as the main version.

Now again, a lot of speculation about this in the tech news world. It does seem remarkably close to the news about Google’s plans for mobiles, Firefox is the favoured browser of Google (they bundle it with Google Desktop, with the Google Toolbar installed and also produce a few very useful extensions for it). So the suggestions are that both projects could be in some way linked, or at least will end up being complimentary in some fashion. A Google OS for mobiles will need a browser in some manner, and one would expect that if this was going to be written by Google themselves, they would have already shown off a desktop version. They haven’t, they seem very happy with Firefox as is.

Google have been rumoured for many years to be working on their own desktop OS. Usually a form of Linux, containing all their applications as the installed software. As with the Google browser, this has never materialised. Instead, they have slowly trickled out a series of apps within the browser, until now you have a wide-ranging set you can use individually, or set up in conjunction with a set of desktop based apps you can download in a bundle with third-party software such as Firefox and Adobe Reader.

Since the two announcements I described earlier, there has been a steady stream of updates to the existing Google mobile apps, and the launch of new ones as well. There was the 1.5 release of the Google Mail app, the launch of Google Calendar optimised for mobiles, the new Google Maps application, and today a new mobile version of Google Docs. All this leads me to believe that we aren’t really waiting for Google Mobile OS after all. We’re getting it now, just like we did with the dripfeed of Google applications on the desktop. In time, we may get a bundle of everything in one unified interface, but all the main elements seem to be dropping into place right now.

One of the reasons I think this is a good thing is the usability of Google products. Sometimes it can be very frustrating using Symbian, it can seem like it was designed by someone who just loves clicking dialogue buttons, and typing extra characters much more that I do. Why do I have to type "http://" so much? Where is the cut and paste? Why can’t I move information between applications? I’m not suggesting Google Mobile will solve everything, but one of the first signs I have seen is in the new version of Google Mail, where although the app is designed to do email, I can go into my contacts, and call them directly (if I’ve put their phone number in). That’s the start of the sort of functionality and usability I want on my mobile. It’s going to be very interesting to see where this all goes in the next few months.

Set up an FTP folder in Kubuntu

Small tip today, I found this the other day, and it’s very handy to have FTP folders set up, rather than use a separate FTP program. Just saves on a few clicks here and there.

To set this up in Kubuntu, go to System Menu > Remote Places, then click on Add a Network Folder. You then get a dialogue where you can choose the type of ftp folder you want. You can choose from Webfolder (Webdav), FTP, Microsoft Windows network drive, secure shell (SSH) or recent connections. It’s pretty useful. Pick FTP, enter your settings and click on Save and Connect. You’ll be prompted for your password, which you can choose to save, and then you’re done, and have a permanent connection you can now connect to from the Remote Places folder.

Sync Gmail Contacts with Kontact

So I’m on a quest to get, well, everything on everything. I want everything in sync. Now that’s quite a project, so I’m taking little steps. What I’ve done today is to get my Gmail contacts to sync with my desktop contacts app, Kontact (in Kubuntu). I do all my email in Gmail, so it makes sense to me that I have that as the base point. I thought that if I could get my contacts onto the desktop, then I’ve got a place to then figure out how to get them onto my N95 later on.

What I used was a rather nifty piece of software called GCALDaemon. What this is designed to do is to sync Google Contacts and Google Calendars to, well, pretty much most things you can think of. And it runs on Windows, Mac and Linux (as it’s Java-based). Follow the detailed instructions, and then you can have both sync’d. I’ve got it working nicely fairly quickly. The only thing I can’t do yet, rather embarrassingly, is get the Daemon itself to run automatically on login. I’m going to hassle someone to help me out with this.

One gotcha is to make sure you are running Java 1.5 or higher as your default Java JRE, I missed this first time round.

And I found this thanks to the lovely people at Lifehacker.

Moving to a new phone – Nokia N95

Well I’ve been away for a week in New York, which was rather exciting and relaxing. Upon my return to work, I was somewhat delighted to find my new phone had arrived. I’m now the proud owner of a Nokia N95. So naturally I’m going to be testing out just what I can do with it and Linux. Baby steps tonight, I’ve managed to copy over a few files manually, just so I could check that video Drum n’ Bass podcasts work okay on it. I’ve just been listening and watching the Hospital Records video podcast #3 on it, which looks and sounds great, especially with headphones on. Definitely happy with how the N95 handles such things.

However the challenge is now to get it really working for me as best I can. I want to replace my iPod with it, so I need to see if I can get it to sync with Amarok like my iPod nano does. I’d like to get a reasonable level of contact management working, better than I have managed with the 6300 so far. And I would like to see what else I can do with it. Of course I’ll be tracking my progress on here too.

What I also hope to do though, is to try these things out on a few Nokia models, so I’ll hang onto the 6300, and may try and revive my previous phone as well. I’ve got a little collection now, so it makes sense to try a few things out on them, and see if I can broaden my knowledge a little further.

The Easiest Way to install a LAMP server in Ubuntu Feisty 7.04

I’ve had to install a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) server before, and it can be quite a hassle. Well under Feisty 7.04, it seems like the process is a lot more painless. Thanks to the wonderful Ubuntu Guide Wiki for Feisty Fawn 7.04 (which is where I start for instructions on setting up most things in Ubuntu), I found this fantastic little tip. You can install a complete LAMP server package from the Synaptic Package Manager:

System-->Administration-->Synaptic Package Manager-->Edit-->Mark packages by Task-->LAMP Server-->OK

Then apply the packages update, and all is done for you. So far, it looks like Apache 2 and PHP5 have been set up for me properly. I’ll test some more, but this was a real timesaver compared to the last time I did this.