Daily Archives: June 26, 2011

Watching multimedia in Slackware’s browser

While I was sitting in my chair with little room for escape (I sprained my lower back yesterday when trying to lift something and can barely move) I thought, I need to do something useful while being constrained.

So, I created some new packages and wrote a few blog posts – this one being the last, because sitting in this chair is becoming equally painful.

What packages? You can already find them in my repository or its mirrors. They are dconf (new package altogether) and updates to gnome-mplayer as well as gecko-mediaplayer for which I did not yet have Slackware 13.37 packages.

And why exactly these three?

I was not too satisfied with the state of viewing embedding media clips in a web browser on Slackware. In the past, I used to check out the new movie trailers on Apple.com, In Slackware, that has never been possible I think. The VLC browser plugin crashes more than that it works, and the mplayerplug-in program which uses MPlayer to show the embedded video did not work reliably. I had built the gecko-mediaplayer browser plugin for earlier versions of Slackware – it uses gnome-mplayer to display embeeded media – but that too never worked with the Apple trailers and it had some of the same quirks that mplayerplug-in also had (all too natural since gnome-mplayer is a continuation of the abandoned mplayerplug-in by the same author).

But today, I grabbed the latest sources and built packages. And lo and behold! I can view Apple’s trailers!

Now, why did I mention that dconf package? Well, it turns out that gnome-mplayer which should not depend on any Gnome library, in fact does depend on an “application settings storage backend” – which is Gnome’s gconf… which is not part of Slackware. So, my Slackware package has gconf support disabled, but that only lead me to the next issue – my firefox kept crashing after installing the gecko-mediaplayer & gnome-mplayer packages.

Easy to spot the cause: you only need to run either firefox or gnome-mplayer from the console and you’ll see the following error message:

GLib-GIO-ERROR **: Settings schema ‘apps.gnome-mplayer.preferences’ is not installed

That error was fixed by adding the following command to gnome-mplayer’s post-installation script.

glib-compile-schemas /usr/share/glib-2.0/schemas

But we are not there yet. Without a settings backend to store the app’s preferences (your preferences), many of the preference settings that you change do not survive an application restart. Running gnome-mplayer from the commandline shows why:

GLib-GIO-Message: Using the ‘memory’ GSettings backend.  Your settings will not be saved or shared with other applications.

This is where the dconf package enters. Let me quote: “Dconf’s main purpose is to provide a backend to GSettings on platforms that don’t already have configuration storage systems.” It’s a small and efficient program without dependencies, and after installing dconf, our gnome-mplayer no longer complains. All its preferences are now being stored on disk.

Looking back on the weekend which is almost over now, I have performed a number of related plumbing activities: I upgraded my MPlayer package to a recent snapshot – you can grab that and use it to upgrade Slackware’s version of MPlayer with mine. Plus, I have not one, but two graphical front-ends for the mplayer binary: my repository now has the entirely new UMPlayer (universal multimedia player) which has a Qt4 interface, and an updated gnome-mplayer whose GUI is based on the GTK widget set. The choice is yours! But you should definitely give UMPlayer a trial run if you are a regular YouTube visitor – it has an awesome YouTube search & play feature that does not require a webbrowser.


Google toolbar in Firefox 5

Mozilla upgraded its Firefox browser to version 5.0. Slackware followed by packaging it for Slackware -current and offering it as a patch (it fixes some security holes) to the old 4.0.1 version in Slackware 13.37.

Infected by Google Chrome’s release strategy, it seems like the Mozilla developers now think that jumping to new version numbers fast, while abandoning their older release, is a good thing to do. Their rationale, “the web is changing fast and our software should keep the same pace” sounds valid, but I predict that it will negatively affect their usage statistics.

Read this blog entry which voices concern over the deployment of Firefox in enterprise environments and especially Mozilla’s director for the Firefox browser (Asa Dotzler)’s comment… I do not think he did the right thing by downplaying the corporate environment in which most of us have to spend 40 hours every week.

I work in two different “corporate environments”: one is that of my employer (IBM) where we have standardized on Firefox but internal IT keeps tight control over versioning and features… I guess IBM can do that. And then I face the IT landscape of my customer where Internet Explorer is king and open source / open standards adepts are fighting an uphill battle in getting Firefox accepted as a viable alternative.

Leaving alone all the enterprise stuff for a bit, what consequences has this new Mozilla strategy for you and me, Slackware users? Well hum.

It became obvious very soon after running slackpkg and upgrading to the latest slackware-current… I started Firefox and was greeted with the message that my Google Toolbar extension would be disabled because supposedly it is not compatible with Firefox 5.0:

I know, some of you consider that toolbar a piece of legalized spyware, but it keeps my search history available to me and not just Google (what do you think happens with all the search queries you enter in a Google search?) and I like it. So… I wanted it back ASAP.

It is most unfortunate that Google no longer considers the Toolbar as the ultimate weapon to get their Google services onto everybody’s desktop; now they have their own browser, Chrome, and that gets all the attention. This means that updating the Toolbar to the latest Firefox requirements does not have a lot of priority.

There is a way around it, which does not involve waiting for Google, and does not require any other software to be installed. Adding one configuration setting is all:

  • Open the Firefox configuration window by typing “about:config” in the URL entry field
  • Right-click on any of the items displayed and select “New” and then “Boolean
  • The name of the new entry should be “extensions.checkCompatibility.5.0” and its value should be set to “False
  • Then, restart your Firefox browser.

If you open your add-on configuration Window now (“Extra > Add-ons“), you will see that the compatibility check has been disabled for Firefox 5.0! And you will also see that the Google Toolbar (and possibly other so-called incompatible add-ons) are enabled again – at your own risk of course:

I hope this helps some of you.

Cheers, Eric

Libreoffice 3.3.3 versus 3.4.0

I uploaded Slackware packages for LibreOffice 3.3.3 last week but never mentioned that on my blog.

As promised earlier, I will try to keep building packages of the 3.3 series on Slackware 13.1 for as long as the libreoffice-3.4.x series is considered “experimental” or “unstable”.

It looks from what I saw in the #libreoffice IRC channel that it we will have to wait at least until 3.4.2 to see a “stable” release in the 3.4 series. So there you have it… my libreoffice-3.3.3 packages, built on Slackware 13.1 but they should work on Slackware 13.37 too. If you run into compatibility issues on Slackware 13.37 please let me know!

Get them at any of the following sites (and look in the “13.1” directories, not the “13.37” directories!):

If you feel adventurous and are running Slackware 13.37, you could use my libreoffice-3.4.0 packages. I heard about some crashes of 3.4.0 (mainly in calc) which possibly relate to the cached extensions in your ~/.libreoffice directory. If you experience bad behaviour of LibreOffice, try removing the “tmp” directory below “~/.libreoffice/3/user/extensions/” and if that is not doing it, also remove the “shared” and “bundled” directories you find there.