Friday, 30 December 2011

How-to: The Duplicate Content Myth

I came across a post earlier in the year by Panos over on Wordpress Blogger Tips exploding the myth about duplicate content, with particular reference to serviced sites.
"Duplicate content means substantive blocks of material that exist more than once in the web – in other words, substantive blocks of material that can be accessed via more than one URL. For example, if you write a lengthy reply in someone else’s blog or in a forum, and then publish this reply as a post in your own blog (with or without changes), that’s duplicate content."

The myth in question, peddled by “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization) sites, being that duplicate content on their blog is a cardinal sin and the wrath of Google will fall upon them. Quoting the head of Wordpress Support: "I wouldn’t believe anything written on any SEO blog. Ever..."

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

How-to: Disable Guest Login Ubuntu 11.10

If you're sociable and you like having guests in your house, or indeed, logged onto your computer, skip over this. If you have a need to lock out casual visitors to your machine, then you'll want to ditch the guest login that came by default with Ubuntu 11.10.

'Guest' suddenly appeared with the LightDM login manager in 11.10 and I just want to take it out of the login list.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Full Circle Magazine Issue 56 Out Now

Full Circle Magazine Issue #56 available now from the main site!

This month:
  • Command and Conquer.
  • How-To : Make 11.10 Look ‘Classic’, LibreOffice – Part 10, Backup Strategy – Part 4, Persistent USB Stick, and Connect To IRC.
  • Linux Lab – Xbox Media Centre.
  • Review – Puppy Linux.
  • I Think – Would you attend a monthly FCM meeting on IRC?
  • Closing Windows – Moving, copying & deleting files

plus: more Ubuntu Games, My Desktop (and an extra!), My Opinion, My Story, and much much more!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Review: Responsive Web Design - Ethan Marcotte

Responsive Web Design - Ethan Marcotte, book cover"When Ethan Marcotte coined the term “responsive web design” he conjured up something special. The technologies existed already: fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries. But Ethan united these techniques under a single banner, and in so doing changed the way we think about web design." (Foreword, Jeremy Keith)

Anyone who's had anything to do with putting a web site together knows just how breakable the whole design thing is; browsers never present an identical layout and every web designer meets their Waterloo in Internet Explorer in it's many non-standards compliant versions. Add the variety of devices in wide-screen, narrow-screen and mobile, determined to break your pages all over again... One designer, Ethan Marcotte, rides to the rescue with this book.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Festive Cheer and Best Wishes

…from the Catling Mindswipe.

It’s been a busy year, posting random stuff and we’ve enjoyed getting your comments.

Best wishes to all and hope you’ll be back with us in 2012. RC

Saturday, 24 December 2011

How-to: Include a Twitter Widget on Your Web Site

Twitter Widget"Widgets let you display Twitter updates on your website or social network page.  

Our widgets are compatible with any website and most social networks. Simply choose the one that matches where you would like to include it."

Most hosted sites and web development platforms now support Widgets for all manner of third-party sites, services and functions. Twitter is one of the most common, and one of the simplest and most reliable ways to include a Twitter feed on your site is to use the official Twitter Widget generator. You can find this on the Twitter site under Resources › Widgets.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

How-to: Test for Unity Support

Unity 2-D or Unity 3-D? There's been a lot of fear uncertainty and doubt surrounding this one, even more people wondering if the Unity desktop is dramatically raising the minimum graphics hardware requirements?

The honest answer from Canonical is no; Unity tries to take advantage of features that have been specified or released many years ago. What they can't tell you is how many of those supported features you have in your ancient box under your desk.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

How-to: Install Microsoft Windows Fonts in Ubuntu

However many Open Source fonts you acquire, there's no getting away from the fact that a lot of documents and web pages are designed with the Microsoft Windows standard fonts and substitution can produce strange results - particularly when you start exchanging documents with MS-Office users.

Which is why 'Install Windows TTF fonts' always appears in those lists of "Ten things to do after installing/upgrading..."

In Ubuntu you can install Microsoft Windows fonts in several ways.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

How-to: Firefox 8 Pop-up Blocker and Picasa

Firefox 8 Not Guilty (solution at article end)

If you have the Firefox pop-up blocker turned on and add websites to the 'Exceptions' white-list, this should allow only those website to use pop-ups: not adverts and re-directs that you want to block, but pictures or functions that opens in a new window or tab. Pop-up blocker on is a useful tool as it prevents a lot of junk from getting thrown up on screen.

However, with the upgrade to Firefox 8, some users claim that the Google Picasa photo-sharing service is broken. Not so.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

In-place Upgrades a Bad Idea

I don't think pulse Audio killed it. I don't think Mumble killed it. I don't think Xfce killed it. I don't even think Unity or the Generic PAE kernel killed it.

All I know is, when we tried for a podcast recording the other day, Ubuntu 11.10 on my Dell laptop just died. No dektop sessions. Nothing.

This is a machine on which I ran the in-place upgrade from 11.04 and things went swimmingly, as I reported at the time; two months down the road, it's all gone horribly wrong.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Review: Linux Mint 12 Lisa De-railed

I've stuck with Mint 12 since the review of the 12 Release Candidate that rolled over into the 12 Final release. Look down the history of this blog, you'll find favourable reviews of nearly every version since Mint 5.

However, several updates later and it's still badly broken in key user-facing and usability areas and poor old Lisa is looking like the donkey with three legs.

Bearing in minds we've all been selling Mint as the Linux distro for newcomers and Windows migrants, this is turning into the Black Parade.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

How-to: Closing Windows (Guest Post)

Closing Windows - DesktopsGuest post from Full Circle Magazine Issue 54. Written by: Ronnie Tucker (KDE), Jan Mussche (Gnome), Elizabeth Krumbach (XFCE), Mark Boyajian (LXDE), David Tigue (Unity)

In this new section of Full Circle, I’d like to show certain features of Windows (XP in this series of articles, as I feel it’s the most widely-used edition of Windows) for the sole purpose of showing beginners their *Buntu equivalent. I say *Buntu as I will not focus solely on Ubuntu - I will also include Kubuntu, Lubuntu, and Xubuntu, as they each have their own way of doing things due to each of them using their own desktop manager (Gnome/Unity, KDE, LXDE, and XFCE respectively).

Monday, 12 December 2011

News: Fix for Linux Mint MATE

Thursday, December 1st, Clem released a fix for the MATE desktop enhancements, intending to fix  the following issues:
  •     100% CPU usage with certain themes
  •     Panel disappearing with certain themes
  •     Notification daemon freezing with certain themes
The MATE panel is the hybrid of Mint Menu with a sidebar launcher.

MATE has some compatibility issues between the Ubuntu version of GTK and MATE which affected the use of themes; Carbon, Mint-Z-Mate and Clearlooks are good, but most were problematic and made MATE both buggy and slow.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

How-to: Use the Right Terms for Unity Elements

So many people have been asking just what is the right terminology for Ubuntu Unity's UI elements, that Jorge Castro  and Murat Gunes have jointly put together a post on Ask Ubuntu , which I'm happily going to paraphrase, since I don't know what to call stuff, either!

Here goes...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

How-to: Configure Unity in Ubuntu 11.10

You may be a little disappointed with this one, since it is really about how little you can configure, indeed, how little Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, want you to configure Unity.

You'll find various questions on this subject, most telling at Ask Ubuntu, a generally excellent knowledge-base, where a spokesperson for the Unity  development team is uncharacteristically blunt:

"I understand that people want the freedom to tweak their desktops, but as soon as you use CompizConfig Settings Manager (CCSM), you have basically opted out of Unity's future. The bugs you report will not matter since you're not running the defaults, and any input you may have will be skewed by the customized user experience you've devised."

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

How-to: Clone a Virtual Machine in VirtualBox

"With Oracle VirtualBox 4.1 cloning a virtual machine is now available from the user interface making the process much simpler. In prior releases cloning avirtual machine  was a multi step process in which you needed to use the command line utility VBoxManage clonehd to create a clone of the virtual device and then attach that new image to new virtual machine."

Cloning a virtual disk or machine in VirtualBox used to be a royal pain; achievable, but complex.  You had to know the guest operating system and whether it was a 32-bit or 64- bit machine when creating the new virtual machine.

The new method for cloning a virtual machine is much simpler and less error prone. Cloning provides the opportunity to spawn new instances of existing virtual machines.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

How-to: Adjust Virtual Disk Size using VBoxManage

It's a common problem: you run VirtualBox, create a virtual machine, probably with a dynamic disk, at your best guess at an adequate disk size, run it for a while, then find you're running out of space.

You can easily expand the hard disk size VirtualBox using the command: VBoxManage modifyhd --resize.
The --resize option allows you to change the capacity of an existing image; this adjusts the logical size of a virtual disk without affecting the physical size. It  works only for expanding the capacity of VDI and VHD  virtual disk formats, and only  dynamically allocated not fixed size disks.  But this is a way to add more space to a virtual disk without needing to create a new image, attach and copy all the data across within a virtual machine.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Review: Linux Mint 12

Linux Mint 12 RC DesktopIt's that time already, as Clem and the team gear up to push the next version of Linux Mint through the gate, the rest of us wonder if Mint can maintain it's momentum in gaining a larger share of the Linux user base. Mint has built a reputation as the alternative to Ubuntu, variously catching the defectors from Ubuntu Unity and at times even overtaking Ubuntu in the distro download charts. Given the fact that Mint is dependent on the upstream efforts of Debian, Gnome and Ubuntu, this release is going to be far from plain sailing.

Linux Mint 12 is based on Gnome 3.0 atop the Ubuntu 11.10 base. More on that shortly. As usual, I've got Mint in two configurations; in a virtual machine on VirtualBox and on physical hardware in the shape of the old Celeron test box with 1Gb memory and GeForce 440MX graphics card.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

How-to: Get More Traffic to your Website

Traffic Analytics thumbnail 
When it comes to building an audience for a website or blog, there is no magic wand to wave, it all comes down to hard work and patience.

While you might get lucky occasionally and time a pertinent article now and then, relying on the odd Stumble or Digg or trending Tweet is not going to provide an audience that keeps coming back.

Let's assume you've followed the advice in Promoting Your Blog post, as applied to Blogger and delve a little deeper into building an audience.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Full Circle Magazine Issue 55 is Out Now

Full Circle Magazine Issue 55 is out now!

This month:
  • Command and Conquer.
  • How-To : Program in Python – Part 29, LibreOffice – Part 9, Backup Strategy – Part 3, Audacity Basics, and Quick Home Server.
  • Linux Lab – VOIP at Home.
  • Review – BackTrack vs BackBox.
  • I Think – Did you update your current install or do a fresh install?
  • Closing Windows – Control Panel and Device Manager
plus: Ubuntu Women, Ubuntu Games, My Desktop, My Story, and much much more!

Coooooome and get it!

How-to: Add Floating Social Media Buttons to Blogger

This may be leaping on a bandwagon, but I've been updating the blog and have added an extra layer of social media sharing. It seems everyone is using floating social buttons in the left side or right side of the page of every site or blog. I blame Mashable.

I've used a bit of common code to add a bar of social media buttons to Blogger. The bar is actually the bit that's fixed in place on screen while the rest of the page scrolls, but what's in a description?

The Social Media bar here includes Facebook Share, Twitter,   Digg This and Google +1 (plus one) buttons with a live counters. It's all javascript, of course, with some cunning CSS that's fairly robust and cross-browser (I think!)

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Review: Free eBook - Five Rules for Ubuntu Migration

Canonical Migration GuideThe latest free e-book from Canonical, distributor of the Ubuntu Linux operating system, hopes to persuade you that "times are changing on the enterprise desktop."

In the latest pith for the corporate market, Canonical hopes to pass on the rules for a successful Ubuntu migration. I give it a qualified three stars as a primer and agent provocateur for small as well as big business.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

What Makes A Linux Desktop?

Unity 11.04 Linus DesktopI have been reminded that many readers coming here for the first time won't have a clue what Linux is, much less the difference between the many Linux 'distros' (releases), or the many Linux desktop environments.

Much as you think Windows looks different from the Apple OS-X desktop, wait til you see the variety of Linux desktops...

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

News Wire 22 Nov 2011

News Icon

Friday, 18 November 2011

Review: Squeeze Archive Manager for Xfce

Squeeze Archive manager for XfceTo quote Squeeze developer Stephan Arts, "Squeeze is a modern and advanced archive manager for the Xfce Desktop Environment. Its' design adheres to the Xfce philosophy, which basically means Squeeze is designed to be both fast and easy to use."

Currently version 0.2.3 is the latest release of Squeeze. That's not a very advanced version number, reflecting the fact that Squeeze is indeed lightweight, and fast, at the cost of being functionally thin and undocumented.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

How-to: Adjust Density in New Look Gmail

Gmail Density control settings"You are my density..."
(George McFly, Back to the Future)

A common complaint about the new look Gmail is that we can't find the Denssity control to adjust the screen 'density', that is the effective resolution - font size and the amount of white space - in folder views.

Just to confuse us all, you get TWO gear icons in the new look Gmail for controls; the main Settings for Gmail overall is the one in the top bar, top-most right corner.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Making a Usable Unity Hybrid

I am a well-known Unity sceptic. The Unity launcher gets too full too quickly, full of icons I can't always remember; then there's that weird concertina-slide effect to scroll down the launcher stack.

Removing any option for a conventional gnome panel and menu system remains a step backward; principally because the Unity Dash doesn't work for me. Try to run an application and you're either clicking on 'More' and scrolling through pages of icons, or you're trying to type the exact name of some executable hoping for a quick hit so that you can get on with some work. I still fail to see how this is a usability increase unless all you use are the same four things in the launcher?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Review: Steve Jobs - iChanged the World Channel 4 Documentary

Steve Jobs - iChanged the World Channel 4 DocumentaryThis documentary on Steve Jobs aired on the UK TV's Channel 4 last week (still available on the 4od streaming channel). An efficient whistle-stop tour of the man's career, it suffered from two principal shortcomings.

The first was the lack of Jobs himself. Clearly the makers were unable to secure the rights to much video material featuring jobs (or couldn't afford it from the rights holders given the topicality of former Time Magazine cover-boy Jobs death). Secondly there was little of a personal nature in it other than the broadest, most well-known comments already in the public domain. One suspects the programme-makers are still shy of the eager Apple legal team jumping on any perceived defamation.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Full Circle Magazine Issue 54 Out Now

We nearly forgot this month's issue of the Ubuntu and Open Source Magazine featuring regular contributors Catling and Smithie; Issue 54 of Full circle Magazine is available now from the main site.

This month:
  • Command and Conquer.
  • How-To : Program in Python – Part 28, FreeMind, Backup Strategy – Part 2, Apt-Cache NG, Ubuntu For Business & Education – Part 3.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Opinion: Ubuntu on phones tablets TV’s and smart screens everywhere

Immediately preceding the Ubuntu Developer Summit last month, Mark Spaceshuttle set forth Canonical's stall on the software platforms of the future.

"By 14.04 LTS Ubuntu will power tablets, phones, TVs and smart screens from the car to the office (to the) kitchen, and it will connect those devices cleanly and seamlessly to the desktop, the server and the cloud."

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Full Circle Podcast Episode 26 Blame it on the Ferrets

Full Circle Podcast LogoFull Circle Podcast Episode 26 Blame it on the Ferrets is available from the main site.

In this episode, UDs, Public Speaking and Barcamp Blackpool.

Full Circle Podcast is also a proud member of the Tech Podcasts Network.  

File Sizes:
* OGG 27.8Mb
* MP3 20.4Mb 
Runtime: 1hr 00mins 03seconds

How-to: Change Xfce Window Controls

If you do choose Xfce as your Linux desktop environment, you may find the window controls not quite as you'd like them. Fortunately the lightweight desktops Xfce and LXDE both feature the ability to arrange buttons and controls as you wish.

Going to Application -> Settings -> Settings Manager -> Windows Manager, there's an area in the middle of the panel where you can drag and drop or hide window controls to create your ideal button layout.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Review: Ubuntu Developer Summit - Designing and Creating Ubuntu Experiences

Presenting the notes from the Community track at UDS-P, this was the first of a series of 3 sessions:
- "Designing and creating Ubuntu Experiences"
- "Meet with the Ubuntu Desktop Designers"
- "Community Participation in User Experience"

The difficulty of not being in the is that the notes come across as a bit trite, with some marvelous examples of "statin' the bleedin' obvious" (Monty Python). I'm thinking particularly of "... define roles for design, implementation, testing, integration and documentation."

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

11.10 USB Printer Fail in Kernel

This is the kind of nonsense I thought we'd left behind around version 7.10. Did nobody regression test final 11.10 with some USB printers? There's whole printer families this kernel doesn't work with, now we're all back grubbing around (no pun intended) at command lines trying to get printers to work!!

We spend years evangelising about Linux only to get another Canonical ball-drop on hardware, setting back the cause yet again, just as we think we can get out of the ghetto of minority operating systems.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

How-to: replace Banshee with Rhythmbox on Ubuntu 11.10

Removing Banshee in Ubuntu 11.10I tried. I did try. Truth is Banshee media player and I never did get on. Banshee's searching and sorting never got into my head, simple though it is. I liked Banshee's left pane listing of all media sources, really I did. It's just everything on the right got piled up and was never customisable the way I wanted. I guess I never got over my 'ex': Rhythmbox.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Opinion: User Testing of Unity Yields Surprising Results?

Fresh from the Unbuntu Developer Summit UDS-P, just closed:

"Every 3 months Canonical conduct ‘benchmark testing’ of Unity, to ensure that the design decisions being made are improving user experience and not hampering.

In a UDS session presenting the results of recent testing, some surprising results emerged – and most of it countering the negative perception many assume Unity has in the eyes of the target mind."

Friday, 4 November 2011

Review: New Look Gmail

New Look Gmail: Welcome screenIf you have seen the visual makeover already launched in Google Docs and Google Reader then Googlemail's (Gmail) announcement of the new look won't come as a big surprise.

A revised, less cluttered layout, new colour schemes, new themes, labelling and threading, it all adds up to the biggest change to Gmail in some time.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

News: Banshee Out, Rhythmbox Back In - UDS-P

Install Rythmbox in Ubuntu 11.10If you're following the Ubuntu Developer Summit, UDS-P, you may have heard that Banshee is to be dropped for Rhythmbox in 12.04. Yay! Good news. And after all that fuss over which media player to include as default in 11.10!

Glad to see that RB won through in the end, hopefully this ends the uncertainty over ongoing development.

I’m going to remove Banshee and the mono stack right away.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

How-to: Additional Drivers in Ubuntu 11.10

So, the wireless failed to work after the clean-install of Ubuntu 11.10 on the net-book. Consulting the forums, I struggled to get the firmware installed; that is, failed. Then I stepped back with the brainwave: run the Additional Drivers search first!

This pulled up the appropriate Broadcom drivers without having to my having to manually tease out firmware. All working again inside 2 minutes.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

How-to: Create a Desktop Shortcut on Ubuntu 11.10

Thanks to the changes effected by the Unity interface, adding a desktop shortcut is no longer easy. The old right-click on the desktop, selecting "Create Launcher" no longer works.

You can create a custom launcher on the desktop, either via the terminal or the run line invoked by Alt-f2

gnome-desktop-item-edit --create-new ~/Desktop

The New Launcher window opens for you to create the launcher commands. The new shortcut will now appear on your desktop as soo as you save it. RC

(Original tip found on the Upbuntu site)

Saturday, 29 October 2011

News: The Flying Handbag Podcast

Not to be confused with the Flying Handbag bar, this is a one-off podcast recording from Barcamp Blackpool of October 15th 2011.

An impromptu round-table discussion (minus actual table) featuring Dan Lynch of Linux OutlawsPete Cannon of Dick Turpin Roadshow fame, our good friend Les Pounder of Blackpool LUG, Dan Westley, Tony Hughes and Michael 'Heeed'.

Friday, 28 October 2011

How-to: Add Places as Quicklists in Unity

Unity Quicklists Quicklists in various desktop environments can be controversial features. Are they a cheat or a compromise of standards and usability, or a useful ergonomic aid?

Disappointingly, quick-lists are not included as a feature in Ubuntu 11.10. However, you can add your profile's Places as quicklists.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

How-to: Change Icon Theme Ubuntu 11.10

Change icon set using Dconf-editorIn yet another frankly dumb-ass move, Canonical stripped out the controls in Ubuntu 11.10 to allow you to change icon sets independently of your desktop theme. Yet more ability to customize your system taken away. WHY???!!!

It's not like this is something that is going to break your system (unlike the utterly stupid inclusion of system janitor by default -  good riddance to that one).

So the among the first things you'll want to do is restore some lost functionality now that Appearance Properties have been dropped in Ubuntu 11.10 and the System Settings doesn't support a change the icon theme.

Monday, 24 October 2011

How-to: Run Xfce on Ubuntu 11.10 Final

Xfce Dekstop panelXfce is a lightweight desktop environment which is designed to be responsive and consume fewer system resources than say, Gnome with Unity, or KDE. It's also a useful substitute for Unity now that Gnome panel has been removed in 11.10.

I am now running it on the regular Ubuntu 11.10 Unity release; that's not Xubuntu, but the regular 11.10 with the usual Ubuntu applications stack, with Xfce4 on top. I now have the choice of Unity or Xfce. Guess which I'm using for my everyday environment?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

How-to: Promote Your Blog

Promoting your blog
Not our most original post, this is largely a lift of Blogger's advice on promoting your Blogspot site.

Not unique to Blogger, you can apply this advice to most platforms, even if the specific tools vary.
  • 'Set your blog to Send Pings. When this setting is activated, your blog will be included in various "recently updated" lists on the web as well as other blog-related services.'
  • Install Email This Post... people will be able to forward your posts to friends... it enables others to publicize your blog for you.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Opinion: Google Plus Identity Fail

Google Logo
Now that Google Plus is out of Beta on public release, I'm expecting another wave of dissent over the whole user name debacle. If there isn't one there should be, since Google's policy on this is assinine, naive, dangerous and plain dumb.

If you go to the answers document about profile naming, you will find the feedback form at the bottom. Take the time to send them appropriate abuse over this. I did.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

How-to: Add WordPress Custom Forms

Wordpress custom form field add and has sharing buttons for every social network under the sun, plus you can make your own for anything not covered. Other kinds of interactivity are limited by the free hosting option and the lack of customisable plug-ins. For those you need the self-hosting option of

However, you can dress up a custom contact form in order to collect reader information and have it emailed to you. It's a surprisingly powerful feature that actually works.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Ubuntu 11.10: Release the Ocelot!

The latest version of Ubuntu, 11.10 codenamed Oneiric Ocelot, was released on October 13.

What's new?
You can see the list of new features on the official Ubuntu website, or take the snazzy visual tour. You can download directly from the Ubuntu Download page.

You can follow the same upgrade process as normal. Simply upgrade from the Update Manager and your settings, files and bookmarks will stay the same.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Review: Dynamic Views in Blogger

Last month Google’s Blogger (Blogspot) platform released a revamped template portfolio for blogs hosted on their platform. Called 'Dynamic Views' the idea is a set of easy-to-apply web 2.0 templates to keep the vast number of blogs from becoming stale.

There are many hundred thousands of blogs; huge numbers look the same or very similar, since they use the same free templates (Bloggers' own or common third-party designs). Dynamic Views aims to provide an instant make-over with some snappy effects thrown in. But do they work?