Monday, 5 December 2011

How to Disable Overlay Scrollbars in Ubuntu

Looking back, I don't know why I put up with Ubuntu's overlay scrollbars for so long... they're just that awful.  Your mouse must be in just the right spot to catch the scrollbar, and forget about paging down click by click.

So this morning I decided to just get rid of them.  Turns out it's easy.  Just add this line of code:

to the file
for global removal (you may need to create that file).  To disable only on a user-by-user basis, enter the same text in the user's file:

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ubuntu Wired Ethernet Connection Not Working

I recently upgraded my home internet connection to 50 mbps.  Shaw (ISP) gave loaned me a new Cisco DPC3825 cable modem.  The Cisco DPC3825 also functions as a gateway, router, and wireless router, so I pulled the plug on my old Trendnet TEW-432BRP.  In doing this, I started to notice multiple failures between my PS3 and my Ubuntu 11.04 machine (running PS3 Media Server, both wired) in the form of frequent DLNA errors.  On top of this, Ubuntu sometimes wouldn't recognise the wired ethernet connection (even though the hardware lights activated).

Fixing/resetting this was simple:

sudo service network-manager stop
sudo ifconfig eth0 up
sudo dhclient eth0
sudo service network-manager start
These commands stop network manager, ensure the wired ethernet device (eth0 in my case) is being monitored, renew its DHCP lease, and restart network manager.  So far, it's worked for me every time.

After a little more digging, I believe the problem lies with my Cisco SPA2102 VOIP phone adapter.  It was running under the gateway and also assigning DHCP.  I've since turned this feature off and am hoping for less no more communication errors.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Explanation of the Linux (Ubuntu) file system

The linux filesystem is simple and intuitive - much more so than that of Windows.  But sometimes those abbreviations are unclear.  Here's an explanation of the folder you should see in the root of your drive ("/"):

/bin – binary applications (most of your executable files)
/boot – files required to boot (such as the kernel, etc)
/dev – your devices (everything from drives to displays)
/etc – just about every configuration file for your system
/home – locally stored user files and folders
/lib – system libraries (similar to Program Files)
/lost+found – lost and found for lost files
/media – mounted (or loaded) devices such as cdroms, digital cameras, etc.
/mnt – mounted file systems
/opt – location for “optionally” installed programs
/proc – dynamic directory including information about and listing of processes
/root – “home” folder for the root user
/sbin – system-only binaries (see /bin)
/sys – contains information about the system
/tmp – temporary files
/usr – applications mainly for regular users
/var – mainly logs, databases, etc.

Note that to the beginner/regular user, most of these folders will remain untouched, with the exception of /home.  The /home directory contains folders for each user, in which _your_ specific documents, photos, video, etc. will be.  This is similar to C:/Documents and Settings/USERNAME/ you see in Windows.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

How to fix /opt/google/chrome/ crash

I keep getting a /opt/google/chrome/ has crashed error when clicking "fullscreen" on any flash video in Ubuntu.  I'm on Ubuntu natty 11.04 and using Chrome 7.0.517.44 (I know it's old, but I have a number of issues with the newer versions).

Solution?  At least temporarily...


Expand the "Details" box in the upper right-hand corner and you will notice the "Shockwave" plugin has two entries.  I have 10.1 r103 and 11.0 r1.

Disable the older version in location /opt/google/chrome/  Flash objects now fullscreen without problem.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

How to Add a Thesaurus in LibreOffice (OpenOffice)

I just started using LibreOffice 3.3.3 and am astounded to learn that there isn't a working thesaurus.  At least not for English (UK) or English (Canada).  The Thesaurus menu option is greyed out when using either of these languages, and CTRL + F7 doesn't do a thing.

Some Googling brought me to the Weekly Whinge and a UK language thesaurus extension.  It looks like it's old (March 2009) but it works great.  Just install via Tools > Extensions Manager and you are good to go.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The New Look

Unless you're reading the RSS/Email version of this post, you've likely noticed that the JustPlainObvious blog has a new (pronounced better) look.

My old blogger template was a mishmash of about a dozen or so templates, from which I had picked and chosen the best (and sometimes not-so-best) features.  It was getting pretty difficult to maintain that template...just remembering all my minor adjustments was a headache.  Make one little change, and I'd spent the next 15 minutes searching for the offending code that had broken my blog. 

Suffice to say, the old is gone; the new has come.  The folks at kindly made available the design you see today (called Isolation), and it's a complete an almost complete turn-key solution.  I think it's a nice modern, clean, solution and hope that you enjoy it too.

Just to make sure the old site isn't forgotten, here's a last look at what the JustPlainObvious banner used to look like...


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Gmail-type Labels in Outlook 2003

Gmail-type labels are very useful for organising and categorising messages.  This is important for search, especially if your network admin doesn't allow you to install nifty search plugins like Xobni or Lookout

Background:  Why is this relevant?  Because too many people are in the habit of using folders to organise their email in Outlook.  This looks like a good idea on the surface, but somewhere down the road it becomes apparent that Outlook's default search tool only lets you search in one folder.  Sure, you can do an Advanced Find and select multiple folders, but then you will realise that Outlook can only search 1 data file at a time.  E.g. either messages on your main "Inbox" server, or messages in your archive (.pst) folders.... not both together!  By doing away with folder organisation, dumping all messages into a single "archive" folder and applying labels, searching your mail will be a less cumbersome process.

This tutorial will show you how to make gmail-type labels in Outlook and use a one-click tool button to apply said label.  This is accomplished using macros, so make sure you have enabled macros in outlook.

Our "labels" are going to be Outlook's Categories.  To see Categories, right-click on any message and select Categories.  You'll see a list of available Categories such as Business, Personal, etc.  You can either use these, leave them be, or get rid of them.  I chose to delete all default categories and start fresh.  Next, add all the labels you wish to use as new categories using the Master Category List.  The names of your folders might be a good place to start.  In the example below, I have created two labels: OMess and Reference.

You'll notice you can now right click on any message, select Categories and put a check in one (or more) of the boxes.  Apply the appropriate categories to your messages (you can select multiple) and, once done, get rid of all your folders and put your messages in one general folder. 

You can now create search folders to quickly pull up those messages.  They will work the same way as the old Folder system and will eilminate the need to drag each message into its proper folder.  As mentioned before, you will also gain search functionality.  To create a search folder, go to File > New > Search Folder.  Go to the bottom and select Create a custom Search Folder.  You'll then want to name it (choose a label name), click Criteria, tab to More Choices and click the Categories button.  Then select the category/label you desire, and OK all the windows (see "Reference" example below).  You should now have a new Search Folder that pulls up your labelled messages.....just like a folder.

You're already better off now than when we started.

To make things even better, consider adding buttons that will label a message with the click of a mouse.  The macro code is below... see my Archive It post to turn it into one (or more) buttons.

Note that Subs MarkA and MarkB just call the MarkWithCategory function.  You can make as many of these as you like (one for each label) and just make sure you replace "A" and "B" with 'label_1' and 'label_2', respectively.

' usage examples setting category A or B
Sub MarkA()    
Call MarkWithCategory("A")
End Sub 
Sub MarkB()    
Call MarkWithCategory("B")
End Sub 
' This is the main procedure
Sub MarkWithCategory(strCat As String)    
Dim objItem As Object   
Set objItem = GetCurrentItem()    
If Not objItem Is Nothing Then       
objItem.Categories = objItem.Categories & "," & strCat        
End If   
Set objItem = Nothing
End Sub 
' Returns the currently selected or open item 
Function GetCurrentItem() As Object   
Dim objApp As Outlook.Application    
Set objApp = CreateObject("Outlook.Application")    
On Error Resume Next   
Select Case TypeName(objApp.ActiveWindow)        
Case "Explorer"           
Set GetCurrentItem = objApp.ActiveExplorer.Selection.Item(1)        
Case "Inspector"           
Set GetCurrentItem = objApp.ActiveInspector.CurrentItem        
Case Else           
' anything else will result in an error, which is            
' why we have the error handler above    
End Select   
Set objApp = Nothing
End Function

The end result: buttons in your toolbar that automatically label your messages!

Disclaimer:  I didn't write this macro; I found it on here.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

How to Install Netflix on Wii (softmodded)

I just signed up for a 30 day free trial... $8/mo thereafter.  I'm not at all sold on Netflix yet as it doesn't appear to have any of the movies or shows I want to watch.  As a case in point, check out these search terms I ran this afternoon:  Big Bang Theory [any season] (not available), Inception (not available), Sgt. Bilko (not available), The Social Network (not available), House MD (not available) and so on.  Don't get me wrong, Netflix does have a fair collection of titles.  But an ongoing subscription does not seem useful if their collection does not include new releases on film or current tv shows.

But enough about that.  I want to watch Netflix via my 4.2u softmodded Nintendo Wii.  There used to be a Netflix disc which one would insert, load, and log in to Netflix.  The first thing I tried was downloading the disc image and loading on the wii.  Loads fine, but an error message pops up saying the disc application is unsupported and the newer version must be downloaded from the wii Shopping Channel.

Enter problem two: my softmodded wii won't load the Shopping Channel because it's out of date.  I'm prompted to perform a wii system update to get the new Shopping Channel.  Bad idea.  Doing so would render my softmod (and all applications, games, etc.) useless.  The solution to this problem is to manually update only the Shopping Channel.  Below are two methods, though only method 2 worked for me:

*Note: These methods assume your wii is softmodded a la homebrew channel.  If not, see this guide.*

Method 1 - Internet Update (Easier)

This method uses the Multi Mod Manager to perform a network update of the shopping channel.  Your wii must be connected to the internet for this to work.  I tried this method first as it seems easier, but in the end it didn't work for me (not sure why).  A quick internet search shows hundreds of other happy customers.

Open Multi Mod Manager from the Homebrew Channel.  If you don't have it, download from link below and copy the MMM folder inside your /apps directory on SD card or USB stick:

In MMM, select "Load another IOS" and choose 249.  Now go to "Manage Wii Channels" and ensure the Shopping Channel and your wii's region are selected properly.  Install, and return to MMM main menu.

From "IOS Manager" install IOS56, and say no to all patches.  Then, load IOS56-64--v5662 from the Nintendo Servers.  After everything has installed, exit MMM and restart wii.

Method 2 - Manual Offline Update

For this method you will need a WAD manager such as WAD-Manager_v1.7.

First, download these files and place them in the /wad directory on your SD card or USB stick:

Load your WAD manager from the homebrew channel and use IOS249 for a new install.  Say no to NAND emulation and select the source for your /wad directory.  Install IOS56-64-v5662 and then Shopping Channel-NUS-v20.  [EDIT: Shopping Channel is now v21.  See here for instructions]

After either of these methods, exit the installer, reboot the wii and look for the new Shopping Channel icon in place of your old one.  Load, search for Netflix and download!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Ubuntu: Make SIP Calls Using Empathy

Ubuntu's default chat client, Empathy, supports a myriad of instant messaging protocols.  Unfortunately, SIP isn't included in this list.  If you have an SIP VOIP account (almost any home phone VOIP product) you can get it working in this application in less than 10 minutes.

First, you must install the sofiasip package (it's in the universe repository).  In terminal, type:
sudo apt-get install telepathy-sofiasip
You should now see a new option in the drop-down Accounts list in Empathy, titled SIP.  Simply enter your SIP username and password and you're good to go.  

To make a call, it's just CTRL + M under the Chat file menu, select your SIP account and enter the number in the Contact ID box.

You'll get a window that looks something like the screenshot below, and you're good to go.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Ubuntu: How to Add Gmail to Indicator Applet

Ubuntu's indicator applet is a relatively new, nifty tool for getting rid of all the system bar clutter and organising it in one drop-down menu.  I'd say it's received mixed reviews... But I like it.  By default, it integrates with instant messaging, email, social broadcast and audio programs BUT its email integration only goes so far as Evolution.

I don't use Evolution.  I find it too clunky and prefer my web-based gmail client.  But the indicator applet menu doesn't allow for web-based gmail noitification by default.  To enable, we must install the gm-notify package.  The good news is that it's contained within the universe repository and installation is a piece of cake.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gm-notify

You will see a new menu item called GMail Notifier Configuration under System > Preferences.  Open it and configure your account:

Once saved, you need only to restart your menubar and all will be well:

killall gnome-panel

Based on my settings, clicking Inbox will open a Google Chrome browser and take me to new mail.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Ubuntu: How to Change Computer Name

My Ubuntu computer used to be named laptop and my other machine was desktop.  That was all fine and dandy until I installed Ubuntu on my wife's laptop.  Now we run into a situation where names are no longer clearly defined.  You may run into a similar situation.  Or you may regret initially naming your system Darth-gr8-hax0r and the like.  Here's how to change your system name:

From terminal, run:

gksudo gedit /etc/hostname

This will open a text file with your system's current name.  Simply replace the old name with a new one, save, close and log out/in or restart your system to show the name name.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

How to Configure Google Chrome for Tor

(This article supposes you already have tor installed on your Ubuntu system.  If not, see How to Install Tor in Ubuntu)

With firefox practically pioneering open source browser technology, it's no surprise that there's a turn-key package for tor browsing in firefox.  But I like google chrome or chromium and there's no tor add-on.  Not to worry, it's fairly easy to make yourself.  Below are 3 completely different ways to get chrome working with tor:

Method 1 - Configure on Launch (best)

This is the best option for a couple reasons: it's easy to setup and it protects the most data.  All you need to do is run the following command from terminal:

google-chrome --proxy-server=";https=;socks=;sock4=;sock5=,ftp=" --incognito

This command line:
- tells chrome to load using proxy settings
- ensures http, https, socks, socksv4 and sockv5 all use localhost port 8118 (
- loads incognito
- goes to for verification

You can substitute any homepage you wish for but it's nice to have positive verification on load.  You may also remove the --incognito option but I recommend you do not.  Incognito ensures your cookies are not seen by visited websites (cookies easily show the website who you are).

If you don't want to remember that command, simply create a launcher and stick it in the Applications > Internet menu next to chrome:

Just remember that, using this method, you must close all instances of chrome before launching with tor.  If you already have chrome open, the open application's settings will override the tor launch.

Method 2 - Switchy! extension (ok)

This method involves adding the Proxy Switchy! extension to chrome and configuring it for tor/non-tor browsing.  It's good because it allows you to turn tor on and off with the push of a button, but is bad because it doesn't hide your cookie data.

To configure, visit the Proxy Switchy! extension page and install to chrome.  After install, open the extension's settings page and configure to speak with tor/polipo.

Create a profile and name it tor.  Configure this profile to use proxy port 8118 for all protocols.  Your settings should look like the image above when finished.  Now move to the General tab and enable Quick Switch and Binary Switch.  I have my default settings as Profile 1 and my Tor settings as Profile 2.  Just hit the extension image in your toolbar to switch back and forth.

Make sure you visit to ensure it's working!

Method 3 - Proxy Location (worst)

This is another easy method but not my favourite, as it requires a manual switch from non-tor to tor (each time) and it doesn't protect your cookie information.  For this method, we will create two profiles (or "locations" as chrome calls them) and tell one to use tor, and the other to use a direct connection.

Tools > Preferences > Under the Hood  will get you to the Network settings.  Open Change Proxy Settings and select New Location from the Location drop-down menu.

Select Manual proxy and add proxy and port 8118. Select the checkbox asking if you want to use the proxy for all protocols, and you're finished (screen should look like above image).  Now you must switch from default to tor profile whenever you wish to browse the net over the tor network. This is a good option for someone who wants to use tor all the time and doesn't keep saved cookie data.

Happy anonymous browsing!

How to Install Tor in Ubuntu

(This article shows you how to install tor in ubuntu.  If you're trying to use tor with Google Chrome, see How to Configure Google Chrome for Tor)

This morning I read an article about a German judge who recently awarded a Subpoena to Sony for hacker geohot's website.  This means that Sony will soon have in its hands a list of IPs who have visited (and downloaded) geohot's PS3 hack.  Sony may even be able to link web traffic IPs with PS3 IPs and take action against PS3 online gamers.  Of course, this is a very bad move by Sony since it attacks users who haven't broken any laws.  But I digress.... this got me thinking about the need for internet privacy.  If you're thinking the same thing, Tor may be for you.

Simply put, the tor project allows users to mask their identity and internet habits by bouncing their web traffic over a number of random nodes located all over the planet.  These nodes are sustained by tor volunteers who donate their spare cpu and bandwidth to the network.  You can read more about it here.  This guide will show you how to install the tor client (not server) on your Ubuntu linux machine.  If you're using another OS, check out these other installation guides

Step 1 - Download tor

Add the tor repository to your sources list:
sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

And add the following code to the file.  Save and exit.
#### Tor project -
deb maverick main

(You may substitute lucid, karmic, jaunty, etc. for maverick if you're running a different version).  Add the necessary keys:

gpg --keyserver --recv 886DDD89
gpg --export A3C4F0F979CAA22CDBA8F512EE8CBC9E886DDD89 | sudo apt-key add -

Install tor via terminal:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tor tor-geoipdb

Step 2 - Configure Polipo

If downloading tor didn't also download polipo (it likely did), you must get it manually as it is required for proper proxy:
sudo apt-get install polipo

Now get rid of the default polipo settings and configure for use with tor.  Open the polipo config file:
sudo gedit /etc/polipo/config

 and replace its entire contents with this substitute configuration.  Save, exit, and restart polipo:
/etc/init.d/polipo restart

Step 3 - Use Tor

Now you can configure any application to route its internet traffic through tor.  Just go to proxy settings, and configure HTTP/HTTPS/SOCKS to point to localhost port 8118 (  Remember that you can visit anytime to see if you've configured correctly.

Some applications allow proxy on/proxy off configuration.  Some require you to manually set the proxy each time you wish to use it.  Have a look at Torbutton for Firefox.  It's probably the easiest turn-key solution.  But I use Google Chrome and torbutton doesn't work.  For great detail on this, see my guide on How to Configure Google Chrome for Tor.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Enabling USB Support in VirtualBox for Ubuntu

Unfortunately, I still need Windows.  There are a few applications that won't work properly on WINE in Ubuntu (iTunes and Rosetta Stone to name two)...  So I use VirtualBox to boot Windows XP inside Ubuntu.

Here's the problem: there's no native USB support in VirtualBox.  This makes the whole virtual system just useless.  If you install the virtualbox-ose package from the Ubuntu repositories you will face this problem. The solution is to install virtualbox-4.0 from  Here's how:

This procedure was tested on Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick using a Windows XP Pro SP3 virtual machine.  The virtualbox started out as virtualbox-ose 3.2.8-dfsg-2ubuntu1 and ended up as Oracle virtualbox-4.0.4-70112~Ubuntu~Maverick.

*Don't worry about your existing virtualbox machines.  The install procedure outlined below is turnkey and  your machines will roll over unharmed to the upgraded application.*

1. Add the repository

sudo gedit /etc/apt/source.list
Add the appropriate repository relative to your linux distribution
deb maverick contrib
deb lucid contrib
deb karmic contrib
deb jaunty contrib
deb intrepid contrib
deb hardy contrib

Get the Oracle public key:
wget -q -O- | sudo apt-key add -

Upgrade virtualbox:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install virtualbox-4.0

2. Install the VirtualBox Extension Pack

You can grab it here or from the downloads page if the address has changed.  Virtualbox manager will open and ask if you wish to install the extension pack (yes).

3. Enable USB support

Add the current user (or whichever user will be running the virtual machine) to the vboxusers group.  You can do this graphically by System > Administration > Users and Groups.  Select the desired user and click Manage Groups.  Scroll to vboxusers, select Properties and add the desired user.

Next, open virtualbox manager if not already open.  You should be able to do this via Gnome Menu > System Tools > Oracle VirtualBox Manager or by launching virtualbox.  Select the machine in question, scroll to USB and enable.  You may need to install a generic usb driver to get the ball rolling.  

Next time you boot the virtual machine, simply right click the USB icon in the lower right hand corner to enable.


Finally, USB support for Windows programs in Ubuntu... now that wasn't so hard lol.

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