Archive for May, 2014

Upgrading the Kernel In Linux Mint 13

May 29, 2014

Synaptic Package Manager

Upgrading the Linux kernel (the software at the heart of the Linux operating system) is an easy, painless task.  The upgrades, when available, appear in Synaptic as just another software update.  There is nothing to compile.  A few clicks of the mouse and the new kernel automatically downloads and installs.

Click on the first item in the list titled “linux-generic” to highlight this entry.  Hold down the [Shift] key and click on the last item in the list.  This will highlight all the items in the list.  Release the [Shift] key.

Right-click on any of the items in the list and select “Mark for Upgrade” from the context menu.

Mark for upgrade

This box is simply letting you know that new software will be installed on your system:

List of upgrades to be installed

Click the “Mark” button to accept the new Linux kernel.  Then click on the large “Apply” button near the top of Synaptic.

Summary of upgrades and installs

Click the “Apply” button on the Summary box to begin downloading and install the new Linux kernel.

Downloading and installing updates in Synaptic

The new software is automatically downloaded and installed.

The new Linux kernel will not be in use until you reboot your computer.  In the meantime, you may continue to use your system.  No data will be lost.

When you decide to reboot, the new kernel will automatically be used by Linux Mint.  There is nothing more to select or configure.

We’re done, right?  Maybe not.

The previous version of the Linux kernel, although dormant, is still in the system.  It’s perfectly safe to leave it.  It will not affect your computer in any way.  But it is taking up space on the hard drive needlessly and you may want to remove it.

The safest way to do this is to use a program called Ubuntu Cleaner.*

Ubuntu Tweak Janitor Tab

Click on the box next to “System” to place a check mark in the box.  Ubuntu Cleaner will scan your system for any files that can be safely removed.  Place a check mark in any boxes it reports and click on the “Clean” button.

Enter password

Because you are making changes to the system itself, you will need to enter your password twice to remove these files.  Enter your password and click “Authenticate” to begin.

Removing packages

Once the old files have been removed the system is scanned again to see if any related files can be deleted.

Removing package configurations

Click the “Clean” button again.  This time, however, you will not need to re-enter your password.

Now we’re done!  Your system is fully up-to-date and best of all…

Cool! Your system is clean!



*Ubuntu Cleaner has now replaced Ubuntu Tweak, which is no longer being updated or supported.



Updating In Linux Mint 13

May 19, 2014

Recommended updates available for Linux Mint 13

The Update Manager in Linux Mint is letting you know that you have four recommended updates that are ready to download and install.  Click on the shield icon and enter your user password.

Update manager in Linux Mint 13

Your updates are now listed.  Click on the “Install Updates” button to automatically download and install these updates.

That’s it, right?  Maybe not.

Linux Mint contains another program used to update and install software.  Synaptic can be found in your System > Administration menu.  When you launch this program and click on the “Status” button, you may find that there are more updates.

Synaptic still shows updates are available

The Update Manager is not showing any additional updates, but Synaptic says otherwise.  Staying with the default settings, the Update Manager will not display firmware or kernel updates.  It’s a good idea to check Synaptic at least once a month for these updates.

Click on and highlight the update(s).  Right-click and select “Mark for Upgrade” in the menu list.

Mark for Upgrade

Click the large “Apply” button.

Synaptic update summary

The summary indicates that one program or file will be upgraded.  Click the “Apply” button at the bottom of the box to begin the upgrade.

Downloading and installing updates in Synaptic

The file will be automatically downloaded and installed.  Your Linux Mint system is now fully up-to-date.

It’s that simple!

Tweaking Handbrake Settings In Linux Mint

May 3, 2014
Handbrake running on Linux Mint 13.

Handbrake running on Linux Mint 13. Click to enlarge.

Handbrake is a marvelous transcoding tool for ripping and converting your home DVD collection to a format that can be read and played by a variety of computer/home entertainment devices.

The default settings within the program are usually satisfactory enough to meet the needs of most users.  There are, however, certain options that allow you more control over the finished product.

These are only suggestions.

For this demonstration I have loaded a finalized DVD copy of Big Buck Bunny for transcoding.

Once the DVD has been scanned by Handbrake, you will notice a series of tabs.

Handbrake customization tabs.

Click on the Video tab.  There are two settings here that are worth noting.  The first is the quality settings slider:

Handbrake quality video setting.

This setting is rather counter-intuitive.  The lower the number, the higher the quality and the larger the file size.  The higher the number, the lower the quality and the smaller the file size.  Just like in Physics, you don’t get something for nothing.

The default setting of 20 is preferable for most people’s taste.  It’s a good balance between the quality of the finished product and the outputted file size.  Your results may vary, so you may want to try several variations to compare and contrast.

The second setting to consider under this tab is a bit more subtle.

Handbrake framerate setting.

The variable framerate option is selected by default.  Most but not all embedded media players in portable and set-top box devices can play a video file smoothly using a variable framerate.  The savings in file size using a variable framerate is negligible compared to the same video file using a constant framerate.  There is no real advantage gained in using a variable framerate as opposed to using a constant framerate, but you will reduce the risk of compatibility issues when playing that video file on different devices.

Under the Audio tab, the correct language audio track is selected for you.  You do have a few options when it comes to the embedded sound file format of the finished product.

Handbrake sound encoding setting.

Staying with the default setting will give give you good sound quality results.  Some of your options may vary depending upon what available system codecs you have installed.

The MP3 option might give you a more robust sound, but because Handbrake converts both sound and video simultaneously there can be a slight lag in the sound conversion process.  This causes the synchronization between sound and video to be offset just enough so that lip-sync on screen does not match with the sound you hear.  This phenomenon does not occur on every DVD transcoded by Handbrake.

Movie makers love to interject subtitles in their films.  Foreign language scenes with English captioning lends realism to the storyline.  On most discs, those captions are housed in a special file that Handbrake does not access by default.

Once you are in the Subtitles tab, click on the big plus-sign to load the subtitles file.  Then select “Burned In” and “Forced Only” to embed the subtitles (if any) in to the video file.

Handbrake subtitles settings.

This method will work for the majority of your transcoding jobs.  However, some discs will place the forced subtitles in a file all by themselves.  In that case, you will want to select “Burned In” only.  Always scan through and check the completed video file.

You can delete, alter, or add to any textual information you find under the Tags tab.  It’s usually best just to leave it blank.

This last tweak is strictly personal preference.  Near the top of the screen is a large button marked Picture Settings.  Click on it.

Handbrake "Picture Settings" button.

Within the picture settings is a drop-down menu containing four options.  Change the default setting ‘Loose” to “Strict” and close the pictures settings window.

Handbrake picture settings options.

Begin transcoding.

These are just few suggestions that you can use to control and manage your transcoding jobs in Handbrake.  Experimentation is the key to finding the right balance between quality and file size.  You can always delete the completed video file and try again quickly and easily.

Happy transcoding!