Monthly Archives: December 2013

Windows 8.1: Change The Default Picture Viewer

Picture

By default, when you open an image file in Windows 8.1, Windows uses the Modern UI Photos app to open the image for you. If you are using Windows 8.1 almost exclusively through the Start Screen, this is fine. However, if you are viewing image files on the Desktop, having Windows throw you back to the Start Screen every time you want to view an image file quickly become annoying. To avoid this annoying behavior, you can instruct Windows 8.1 to use a different application to view image files.

To do so, go to the Desktop, and then right-click on an image file. From the context menu that appears, select Open With, and then Choose Default Program.

When you click on Choose Default Program, Windows will display a list of every application on your system capable of displaying image files. Click on one of the applications to select it as the default picture viewer. (If you have no other image viewing applications installed on your system, Windows Photo Viewer is included with Windows and will allow you to view image files while remaining on the Desktop.)

-JM

Format Removable Media In Windows 8.1

 

Format

Windows 8.1 has a big advantage over other mobile operating systems like Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android – Windows 8.1 lets you connect removable media without much muss or fuss. Assuming your computer has the necessary USB ports (which is not always true in tablet form factors) you can connect any number of USB flash drives or hard drives, or even SD cards if your system has a card reader. However, to prepare removable media for use (or to erase it quickly), you need to format it. “Formatting” a removable drive simply means that the computer writes it with a filesystem in preparation for use. A filesystem is a method of organization information stored on a disk so the computer can find it again – NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT are the most commonly used filesystems with Windows 8.1 computers.

To format a removable disk, first connect it to your computer. Once the drive is connected, launch File Explorer. You can launch File Explorer by hitting the WINDOWS+E keys simultaneously, by clicking or tapping the pinned File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, or by hitting WINDOWS+X to summon the Administrative Menu and clicking File Explorer.

Once File Explorer launches, find the drive you wish to format. Right-click upon the drive, and then select Format. Note that you can choose between three different filesystems. Use NTFS only if you intend to the drive to be used only with Windows 8.1 computers. A drive formatted with FAT32 and exFAT will work with Macintosh and Linux computers. Generally, if you have an external hard drive you intend to use with your Windows computer, you should format it NTFS, but USB flash drives should be formatted FAT32 or exFAT.

Selecting Quick Format will speed up the process considerably.

Once you are ready, click on the Start button. Windows 8.1 will warn you that all data on the disk will be lost. Click OK to continue, and Windows 8.1 will format the drive for you. The length of the formatting process depends upon the size of the drive. Windows will notify you once the format is complete, and you can then use the drive normally.

-JM

Ubuntu 13.10: Install Banshee Media Player

banshee

During Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal and Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot, Banshee replaced Rhythmbox as Ubuntu’s default media player. However, as of Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin, Rhythmbox is once again the default media player for Ubuntu. Nevertheless, Banshee has a devoted following, and if you want to install Banshee on Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander, it’s trivially easy to do.

Here’s how to do it.

Simply go to a Terminal command prompt, and use this command to install the Banshee package:

sudo apt-get install banshee

This will download and install Banshee. The total size of the files is about fifty megs, so the download might take a while, depending upon your connection speed. After the installation is finished, you can launch Banshee by going to the Dash menu, searching for Banshee, and clicking on the Banshee Media Player icon.

-JM

ADDITIONAL READING:

The Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide

The Ubuntu Desktop Beginner’s Guide

The Linux Command Line Beginner’s Guide

Windows 8.1: Connect To Secure Wireless Networks

34UnsecuredNetworks

Most wireless networks are “secured” networks, which means they are protected with encryption. That way, without the proper encryption key, it is impossible to connect to the wireless network. This offers a degree of security that unencrypted wireless networks lack, since you can then be sure that only authorized (and hopefully trustworthy) users can connect to your wireless network.

In Windows 8.1, it is not immediately obvious how to connect your computer to a secured wireless network. Fortunately, the process is quite simple.

To connect to an unsecured wireless network, first summon the Charms Bar by swiping down from the upper right-hand corner of the screen, dragging the mouse down from the upper right-hand corner of the screen, or by hitting the WINDOWS+C keys simultaneously. Once the Charms Bar appears, click or tap on the Settings charm.

Once the Settings charm opens, click or tap on the Network icon. If your PC or tablet has wireless capability, you will then see any wireless networks within range. Unsecured networks will be marked with a small shield and exclamation point icon to warn you that they are unsecured. Click or tap on the network, and Windows 8.1 will ask you for the encryption key for the network. Enter the key, click or tap on the Connect button, and your system will then connect to the network.

-JM

Ubuntu 13.10: Install Amarok Media Player

Amarok

The default Rhythmbox music player that comes with Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander is pretty good, but some people need a higher level of performance out of their player software. Fortunately, it’s quite easy to install the Amarok music player in Ubuntu. You need only go to a Terminal window and run this command:

sudo apt-get install amarok

(If you don’t know how to get to the Terminal window, you can get to it by clicking on Dash, searching for “terminal”, and clicking on the icon for Terminal. Alternatively, you can launch a Terminal window by hitting the CTRL+ALT+T key simultaneously.)

The apt utility will then install Amarok and all its dependencies. Amarok is designed to run in the KDE environment, and Ubuntu by default uses the Unity and GNOME environments. Amarok can still run in Ubuntu, but it needs to download a lot of KDE stuff first – about 220 megs worth. This might take some time.

Once apt has finished installing, you can run Amarok by going to the Dash, searching for “Amarok”, and clicking on the Amarok icon.

Note that Amarok requires a bunch of KDE desktop components running in the background, so if you’re on a system with limited resources, you might want to use a lighter media player.

-JM

ADDITIONAL READING:

The Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide

The Ubuntu Desktop Beginner’s Guide

The Linux Command Line Beginner’s Guide

Windows 8.1: Connect To An Unsecured Wireless Network

34UnsecuredNetworks

Most wireless networks are “secured” networks, which means they are protected with encryption. However, some networks are left open, which means any device can connect to them without the use of an encryption key. This is most often the case for wireless networks intended for guests. When using an open wireless network, it is best to avoid sending any personal information over the network, since it is quite easy to intercept.

In Windows 8.1, it is not immediately obvious how to connect your computer to an unsecured wireless network. Fortunately, the process is quite simple.

To connect to an unsecured wireless network, first summon the Charms Bar by swiping down from the upper right-hand corner of the screen, dragging the mouse down from the upper right-hand corner of the screen, or by hitting the WINDOWS+C keys simultaneously. Once the Charms Bar appears, click or tap on the Settings charm.

Once the Settings charm opens, click or tap on the Network icon. If your PC or tablet has wireless capability, you will then see any wireless networks within range. Unsecured networks will be marked with a small shield and exclamation point icon to warn you that they are unsecured. Click or tap on the network, and Windows 8.1 will warn you that the connection is unsecured. Click or tap on the Connect button, and your system will then connect to the network.

-JM

Shut Down And Restart The System From The Command Line With Runlevels In Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander

UbuntuMAC

You might have heard someone discuss “runlevels” in reference to Linux in general and Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander specifically. A runlevel, essentially, is the mode the operating system will use – which services are enabled, which system components are loaded, and so forth. It is somewhat similar (though only superficially) to Safe Mode and Safe Mode with Command Prompt in Windows operating systems. In Safe Mode, Windows only loads the minimum necessary drivers to get to a graphical desktop, and doesn’t load any networking components; in Safe Mode with Command Prompt, you only get the command prompt.

Runlevels in Linux do something similar – they define what mode the operating system will run. The actual value of the runlevels tends to vary among Linux distributions, but the runlevels are defined like this in Ubuntu:

Runlevel 0: This shuts the system down.

Runlevel 1: This boots the system into single user-mode. Basically, the system boots to a command-line interface, with no GUI, no networking, and only allows one login at a time.

Runlevel 2: This boots into full multi-user mode with GUI and networking.

Runlevels 3-5: The same as 2.

Runlevel 6: This reboots the system.

You can use any of the runlevels from the command line with the init command. For instance, to reach runlevel 6 (thereby rebooting the system), you would use this command:

sudo init 6

Your system will then restart.

Note that init has to be run with root permissions, so you’ll need to use it in conjunction with the sudo command.

-JM

ADDITIONAL READING:

The Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide

The Ubuntu Desktop Beginner’s Guide

The Linux Command Line Beginner’s Guide

Windows 8.1: Set A Custom Account Picture

AccountPicture

With Windows 8.1, when you can set a custom picture for your account. You will see this picture when logging into your system and working with your user account, and whenever you use certain apps that require an account picture (for instance, the Contacts app).

To change your account’s picture, proceed to the Start Screen, and then tap or click on your Account icon in the upper right-hand corner of the Start Screen. From the menu that appears, tap or click on the Change Account Picture item. This will launch the PC Settings app, and will automatically take you to the Accounts section and the Your Account subcategory of the app.

From here, you can choose to create an account picture with the Camera app, if your Windows 8.1 system is equipped with a webcam. The camera will take a picture of you (assuming you are in front of the webcam) and set it as your account picture.

Alternatively, if you wish to set a custom account picture (the resolution on most tablet or laptop webcams is not every good) you can click or tap the Browse button, and navigate to the location of a picture file to use as your account picture.

-JM

Install Skype In Ubuntu 13.10

Skype

In 2013, Skype released version 4.2 of its client for Linux, which is good news, since the Linux client has been stuck on 2.1 for years. If you want to use Skype 4.2 on Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander, it’s quite easy to install.

(Note that if you already have an older version of Skype on your Ubuntu system, you’ll have to uninstall it first. Attempting to install version 4.2 of Skype for Linux on top of an older version will not work.)

To install Skype 4.2 on Ubuntu, go to the Skype download page:

http://www.skype.com/download

You’ll want the multiarch .deb installer file for Ubuntu 12.04 (it still works under 13.10).

Download the .deb installer package to your Downloads. Once it’s downloaded, double-click on the package to run it. You’ll be redirected to the Ubuntu Software Center. Click on the Install button, enter your password to authenticate, and the Ubuntu Software Center will install Skype for you.

Once that’s finished, you can launch Skype by going to the Dash, searching for Skype, and then clicking on the Skype icon.

And that’s it! Getting your webcam to actually work with Skype on Ubuntu might be a bit trickier; check to see if your webcam is supported on Ubuntu’s hardware compatibility list.

-JM

The Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide

The Ubuntu Desktop Beginner’s Guide

The Linux Command Line Beginner’s Guide

Windows 8.1: Update Modern UI Apps With The Windows Store

AppUpdates

In Windows 8.1, Modern UI apps automatically update themselves (or notify you that updates are available) when the developer releases an update for the app. However, if you wish to manually check for updates, it is quite easy to do so.

First, launch the Windows Store app by clicking or tapping on its tile on the Start Screen (if you have it pinned there) or on the App screen. Once it launches, summon the Charms Bar by swiping down from the upper-right hand corner of the screen, dragging the mouse down from the upper right-hand corner of the screen, or by hitting the WINDOWS+C keys simultaneously. Once the Charms Bar appears, click or tap on the Settings charm, and then click or tap on the App Updates link.

This will bring up the settings for App updates. Here you can control whether or not Modern UI apps update themselves automatically. The default setting is automatic, though if you wish to check for apps manually, you can turn this setting off.

To check for updates manually, click on the Check For Updates button. The Windows Store will then check for any available updates for your Modern UI apps, and give you the option to install them.

-JM