Android -> Linux Desktop Remote Control (better documentation than official)

I just went ahead and used URemoteDesktop to turn my Android phone into a remote control for when I am watching movies or listening to music on my computer, and don’t have immediate access to my keyboard.


(Image Credit: From here, published under this license.)

The app I used and its Linux support is good, but the official English documentation is not that great.  Also, much of the website is in Spanish (something I can not read!). The official English documentation works if one is already savvy enough to understand it all, but still leaves the user having to type numerous terminal commands to get it going.

One advantage of this app over others, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t try to be smart and tailor itself to specific desktop software. It sends generic play, volume up, etc, commands and leaves it to your computer to interpret. It seems to work everywhere that the identical buttons on my keyboard work. I like that, because it doesn’t place barriers between me and trying new software out.

Hopefully these instructions will simplify the process, and require only one terminal command on your computer. It will even tell you your current “Host IP Address” needed by the Android phone. I hope these directions are basic enough to be accessible to all – if not, please let me know what I need to clarify.

These directions are for Ubuntu. If you aren’t using Ubuntu, you probably already know how to translate the directions into your distribution’s lingo. If you aren’t using gnome, you probably know how to translate directions into gnome.

Install Instructions:

1 ) Install the app on your phone. You can search the market for “URemoteDesktop” on your phone, or point the barcode scanner here:

2 ) Download the needed .zip file from here. That is the desktop server that talks to the app on your phone. Double click on that .zip, and extract it to your home folder so that it is at /home/YOURUSERNAME/URemoteDesktop_Server.

3 ) Install the xautomation and curl packages, needed for the server to work: sudo apt-get install xautomation curl

4 ) Go to places -> Home Folder -> URemoteDesktop_Server

5 ) Right click on launch.sh -> Properties -> Permissions -> Verify that “Execute” is checked next to “Owner”. Do the same process with vd.sh.

6 ) Type this in a terminal: gedit ~/.bashrc

6 ) Copy and paste this line of code at the end of .bashrc, replacing ‘whatever’ with whatever you want (I used ‘amote’), but leaving the rest the same:

alias whatever='echo My IP is && curl http://www.whatismyip.com/automation/n09230945.asp && echo && cd ~/URemoteDesktop_Server && ./launch.sh

7 ) Save and exit.

8 ) CLOSE THE TERMINAL, and you are done. If you leave the terminal open, you aren’t done yet.

Use Instructions:

1 ) Open a terminal (you did close it when you were done installing, right?).

2 ) Type ‘whatever‘ or ‘amote’ and hit enter.

3 ) On the next line in the terminal, it will tell you your IP address.

4 ) Turn your phone’s wifi connection on, connect to your home wireless network. Start the app on your phone.

5 ) Put the IP Address from step 3 into the app.

6 ) Works!

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Android -> Linux Desktop Remote Control (better documentation than official)

iOS (iPod, iPad) Devices on Linux – Long Term non-jailbreaking Solution

Outline of the Problem.

Many people would like to have their iOS devices, such as iPods and iPads interact with their Linux devices. Apple clearly lists Microsoft Windows or OS X as a requirement for such devices, but I can nonetheless understand why someone may wish to get use out of a gift they received or similar instead of selling it or giving it away. There are several reasons why I personally avoid such devices, but I can respect the choices of others.

Those that have chosen to own iOS devices and not use proprietary desktop operating systems are frequently met with frustration when trying to sync them or have them otherwise communicate. A method is developed by a clever open source volunteer programmer, it works for a few months, then suddenly stops working with an iOS update. Rinse, repeat.

There is already a long-term solution that, while legal, voids your warranty on the device and is often difficult for non-techy types.

A Humble Proposal.

There generally is no long-term approach outlined to break this cycle that doesn’t involve voiding of warranties, so I will outline and propose one.

  1. Look into methods to cease software/firmware updates to the device.
  2. Wait for the open source volunteer programmers to work around Apple’s shenanigans as of the last time you did get an update, and thus your device will eventually work again.
  3. Continue to not update the device.

I have no idea if this is currently possible without jailbreaking an iPhone with an active data plan that is always internet-facing, but I would encourage the aforementioned open source volunteer programmers and casual tinkerers to focus on a method wherein the device is not fully jailbroken. Only any forced system update software needs to be turned off, disabled, or have its knee caps busted with a sledge hammer. Ideally, the semi-skilled bureaucrat at the Apple Store will not be able to tell at a that this was done when casually going through the itemized warranty verification checklist.

The simplest method of avoiding updates for an iPod is to simply never connect it to iTunes.

Worth Noting.

This long-term solution could be implemented in addition to the current short-term solution that works, as outlined somewhere on the internet so that you can get your device working today. I cannot link to the current method because that would render this post obsolete exactly one iOS update from now, but I can offer you a hint: for the short-term solution that currently works, you need to be looking at how-to guides and discussion forum posts more recent than the date of the last iOS update you received.

Remember that the short-term solutions are cyclical and temporary. Don’t be surprised if the method that worked last month no longer works today.

If your iOS device is receiving updates, one will eventually break all currently existing non-iTunes & non-Steve-approved support.

Limitations.

This difficulty is by design, not accident. The entire point of many of Apple’s so-called security updates is to maintain or re-introduce Apple’s security and control. Over you.

The base problem that causes the problem outlined in this article is a social problem – how people treat people, such as how the folks running the Apple Corporation treat customers. Thus, what I propose here falls into the realm of a technological solution to a social problem. In itself, that presents a problem. A smart fellow just the other day pointed out that technological solutions to social problems are generally imperfect (much like military solutions to social problems). This proposal, even if implemented perfectly, will still be imperfect. It will still require extra hassle on the part of the end-user, for example.

If you have come across this blog entry, then you have also probably read a relevant Wikipedia article or two, or maybe even three. Thus, I trust that you already know that there is a series of social solutions to this social problem and ones like it. Please respectfully and tactfully advocate for such a solution, when you see such an opportunity present itself.

iOS (iPod, iPad) Devices on Linux – Long Term non-jailbreaking Solution

Ubuntu Linux Sucks.

Well, not really. I like it and blog from it and use it every day by choice. Anyways, what follows is a post of mine from a discussion over at ubuntuforums.org about Ubuntu’s difficulties in entering the mainstream.

Someone else said this:

The main problem with the competition for Ubuntu is not Mac or Windows. it is the other operating systems you can download for free, the hacked versions of Windows.
A few people criticized and mocked him. His post was not looking very popular, because it didn’t make anyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. Here is what I have to say, in response to his comment:

I think he is onto something, here.

It isn’t significant that one 20 year old nerd thinks he has it made with cracked windows–

–it is significant, however, that he has the 4 or 6 people in his life that he sets up with that cracked version and that he provides the tech support for. The best operating system for any non-nerd is whatever OS their local nerd is willing and able to support, period.

I spent 20 minutes just last night explaining to my Ubuntu-using mother what a ‘checkbox’ looked like in nm-applet over the phone, and that the lack of a check in the box did not mean it was magically no longer a checkbox. Or something. I really have no idea what I was explaining to her, I got more confused the longer I talked to her. All I know is that she eventually clicked around enough that her wifi that had previously magically broken had suddenly magically started working again. I wish I could claim to have helped my mother, but I really have no idea what broke and what fixed it. Fairy dust is just as good a guess as any. The point is this: I told my mother that I was willing and able to support Ubuntu, and she thus uses Ubuntu.

Another example: My nerd girlfriend has a Mac and, thus, so do both of her parents and all of her siblings and a few of her other friends. Not because anyone did any rational cost-benefit analysis, but because that is what she told them to purchase because that is what she felt she was willing and able to support. One nerd willing and able to provide support to her loved ones translates directly and exactly into 6 or 7 computer sales. Impressive, huh?

Ubuntu needs to replicate that effect.

I hate to say it, but the best thing that could ever happen to Ubuntu’s market share in the short term is that every cracked copy of Windows ceases to function tomorrow.

Few people will pay $200 for a start menu (or a dock) and facebook. Many will pay $0.99 to burn a CD-R for facebook – something that Ubuntu provides, like it or not.

Ubuntu Linux Sucks.

History of UNIX User Interfaces – 1969 to 1998

I recently came across a phenomenal graphical history of UNIX user interfaces done by user “Spice Weasel” over at ubuntuforums.org, and I thought I would share it.

It includes screenshots of what the UNIX desktop looked like from the dawn of our modern operating systems in the late 60s to the turn of the millennium.

Sneak Preview:

Image of the CDE desktop from 1993. It is gray and purple colored, and pixels are clearly visible.
(Image Credit: screenshot from ubuntuforums.org)

Click here to see this wonderful piece in its entirety. Click here for the full discussion that includes it.

You will note that most of these old UNIX screenshots look much nicer than what you would find on a typical home computer of that same year. The most stunning case in point is the 1993 CDE, pictured above, as compared with the contemporary Windows 3.11 or Windows 95 that was still a few years in the future. Part of that is because these were intended for expensive and mission-critical big business uses, not for writing a letters to grandma.

The screenshots are of the following:

  • Unix in 1969. All of us Linux and Mac users are still using principles and methods that date from this period in time.
  • The great leap forward of twm in 1987. twm relied on the X Window System, from 1984. Many of us Linux and Mac users are still using X’s child, X11, on a daily basis.
  • 1989’s OpenWindows from Sun Microsystems.
  • CDE – Common Desktop Environment – in 1993.
  • FVWM-95 in 1995, a Red Hat implementation.
  • KDE in 1998.

To complete the history and fill in the last decade of UNIX user interfaces for a total of 42 years, this was me playing around with my desktop as of a few hours ago in the context of a hyper-nerdy discussion. If I weren’t lazier, there would have been a fancy icon and more imaginative text in the upper left corner.

(Click for full size)
sexy.

History of UNIX User Interfaces – 1969 to 1998