Raising little Westies, and life as parent of a special needs son

Tag Archives: geekiness

Quantal Quetzal Queerness

For the uninitiated: Quantal Quetzal is the version name of Ubuntu 12.10

My journey with Ubuntu has been pretty good all told. I have run a netbook (which suffered a fault in the charging port), a laptop (which suffered a fault in the graphics ribbon from the motherboard to the lid/display), a media centre/server (which suffered a hard disk failure, from running a “Green” disk in a torrent server 24/7/365), and a desktop.

The desktop is in daily use by my wife and three kids, as well as frequent use by myself when I am home. I mentioned the other day the troubles I had upgrading Ubuntu to Quantal Quetzal. Unfortunately my troubles are not quite over…

My googling tells me there is a bit of a long standing problem with Ubunut users losing sound. And the problem has been around for quite some time with very poor clear concise pointers to how to actually fix it.

My elder son suffered from the issue shortly after my update. But it only effected his profile. To be a bit clearer about the sequence of events:

  1. I installed Quantal Quetzal.
  2. I configured all users with a user ID and a Gnome desktop profile, which worked fully as expected.
  3. At some time, my eldest son’s profile suffered a problem where sound would work from everything except Firefox.
    That is, sound worked from VNC, it worked from Banshee… but not from Youtube or any other online media. Videos would playback fine, but there is no sound.
  4. All other users had no problem.

To solve this, initially, I created a new user profile for my son. This restored him to having a fully working profile and computing experience (including having Minecraft working, and being able to record screen captures with voiceovers, and play them back).

Then a couple of days later… the same symptom occurred to my daughter.

This time my solution was a lot less drastic: I logged off all users, rebooted the PC, and everything worked fine.

Hmm, I thought, I wonder if that fixed Magpie’s problem?

As it turned out, nope it did not. His original profile was still displaying the same problem.


Anyone who knows anything about Ubuntu knows that a lot of per-user settings reside within hidden files, and that hidden files in Ubuntu (and other *nix systems) are simply a file (or folder) where the file (or folder) name starts with a . character. So I figured… seeing as this issue is restricted to a single user profile (at a time) then it’s quite possibly situated in one (or more) of these “hidden” files.

So… I logged into the computer with a different user ID, dropped into a terminal, and used the following commands:

sudo su
cd /home/Magpie
rm -r .*

I then logged back in as Magpie.

Lo and behold! His desktop had reverted to that of a newly created user, but with the files from his /home/Magpie/Desktop folder sitting on it. I fired up Firefox, went to Youtube, and opened a random One Direction music clip (because that’s what’s on my kids shared Youtube account recent files list – YUCK!) – and it worked fine!

So: I have narrowed my response from the generic (reboot) or the outright avoidance (create a new user profile) to a slightly smaller sledge-hammer (delete all configuration files and let them all be recreated). I’m sure that the actual files which I needed to delete were only a small subset of what I deleted. I hope that if this problem comes back again, I will take a bit more time to study and narrow down exactly which hidden file or folder I need to delete, to solve this problem of “no sound in YouTube on Mozilla FireFox on Ubuntu version 12.10 Quantal Quetzal.


Now on YouTube – BestieBest3000

BestieBest3000Everyone who follows my blog.

I would absolutely LOVE it… as would my son… if you could pop over to youtube and check out BestieBest3000. This is the work of my son Magpie, who turned nine years old only a few days ago.

Working on quite a low spec PC running Ubuntu, he has been working out how to do a wide range of tasks. How to find out what version of Java he has, so he can work out how to install Minecraft in user space.

What software he needs, to record screen movies.

How to then record what he does on the screen, so once he works something out he has his own video tutorial to watch until he can remember how to do it more easily.

How to upload his own tutorials to youtube, so he can share them!

I’m really proud of what he has done. So far it’s pretty simple videos… but I have real thoughts that with the way he is going with the latest, he is going to come up with some real surprises sometime soon.

Runkeeper – an iPhone app review


20121223-134104.jpgToday I set out to make good on some poor habits I have been living to over the last ten or so months in Canberra.
While there has never been a problem with the food I’ve been eating, my activity levels in Canberra were far lower than up till the end of 2011. So I thought I could employ some tech to help put my body back to normal.
First cane a surprise that I’m no heavier than I ever have been, but the waistband of my pants says that’s because fat is bigger than muscle.

I went to the apps store and downloaded RunKeeper, and found it to be easy to set up a profile and navigate. I went for a run and found it easy to use, and the voice prompts were enough to motivate more effort than I had been putting in.

Then I got back home.

I wanted to tweet about my running.
I ended up logged out, which is no big drama. Except it wouldn’t let me back in, and even though it has sent me one email it tells me that my email address is not registered.
Not only that. Their help page says to report this, I should submit a ticket.
Which requires of course that I log in …

Fail, guys. It was good till you locked me out but now it’s just dead storage on my iPhone.

My champion Magpie

Like father, like son?

A little while ago now, Magpie started talking about Minecraft. I scoffed a bit, because basically it’s the full graphic, single character version of a game I’ve been playing on-and-off for a while – Dwarf Fortress.

The game shows the nature of his interests though, and it provides some learning opportunities. He learns sequences and that “a widget is made by doing foo with bar” because that’s the nature of the game (make a tool from stuff, to do a thing). He has been intrigued by some Minecraft themed Youtube video channels, and as committed as he was to installing Minecraft on his Ubuntu PC he became equally committed to be able to record his on-screen action.

He asked me how to do it. I have a simple answer for Magpie when it comes to computers: you have a computer and the Internet. You find out. Sometimes I deviate a little, but generally, I leave it up to him. Sure enough, today he said “I’m trying to record my monitor, can you put the password in for me?

So, in a few short hours he went from inspiration, to uncovering his roadblock and negotiating it, to learning the skills he needed to achieve his goal.

This week, he is getting an Academic Achievement Award. That will validate all the great work he has been doing at school, in some pretty hard circumstances at home – with a brother who has autism, and a father who is only home three nights a week, my son has really been kicking goals this year (including at the AFL). I hope 2013 can work out much the same way, and have us feeling great about moving to Canberra (or elsewhere).

The story of Boatmurdered

An image from Dwarf Fortress, taken from the Wiki.

Before there was Minecraft, there was…. Dwarf Fortress. Dwarf Fortress looks just like a game should look: ugly. This demands something that many computer games fail to demand: player imagination.

It takes a game with images like that, to generate the most fantastic fanfic ever written. Indeed, much of the appeal of the Moria and other Rogue-like games of the 1980’s and 1990’s, was not so much the game… but the emotional bond players developed for their @, and the stories that arose from the descent of @ into the depths of dungeons of Moria, or Angband, or elsewhere.

These journeys and ascii-venture prompted Toady One to develop the freeware game Dwarf Fortress. No, not Open Source. Just Free. And for ever-so-long a time, one which would run on nothing but Windows.

The most epic fanfic ever written about Dwarf Fortress is the story of Boatmurdered. Boatmurdered is the story of a succession game – a saved game which was passed from one denizne of Bay 12 Forums to another.

The Legend of Boatmurdered is a thirty-plus megabyte PDF of over three hundred pages. It describes to the reader the horror that was boatmurdered.

As with most Dwarf Fortress fanfic, it is a telling of the game with the added element of “narrativium” to borrow a Pratchetism – in Diskworld (which also features dwarfs), Narrativium is the magical element which requires that history unfolds in a manner which leads to interesting reading, once it has been written down. With Dwarf Fortress, the point of the fanfic, is applying narrative style to the fairly random elements of the game – such as the sudden appearance of a maurauding unicorn or troop of monkeys in the early game, the inadvertant flooding of a massive hall with magma, or the creation of a wonderous artifct carved from the bone or skull of a mighty enemy of the fortress.

If you, or your kids, are into Minecraft. Read – or pass to them to read – Boatmurdered. It’s like reading The Hobbit after watching Lord of the Rings on blue-ray, you know it’s what you were always supposed to do.


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