For the next meeting we are going to look at the handling of PDF files on various platforms. Hopefully this will including not only viewing but generating and modifying PDF documents using not just Adobe applications but increasingly third party tools.
During the evening we aim to cover as many applications and their uses for interacting with PDFs as possible with particular emphasis on the tools available to RISCOS users and the
built-in support for PDF that is standard on the Mac.
As a result of speaking to John at the previous meeting we changed the format of the evening slightly to focus on running Linux, in this case Ubuntu under Virtualbox. This allows for trying in a virtual environment under Windows, Mac or even another Linux operating system without
repartitioning discs or otherwise modifying the system.
VirtualBox is a virtualisation application similar to VMWare and was originally written by Innotek before being acquired by SUN, and is now owned by Oracle. It is free for personal use.
To create a new virtual machine we follow the steps in a wizard. To begin with we can select which operating system we wish to install, in our case Linux and from there we can even choose Ubuntu which will optimise the virtual hardware settings for the chosen guest system. On the next screen of the wizard we select the amount of memory visible to the guest operating
system, in this case 512MB is the recommended minimum. Moving to the next screen we can create a virtual hard disk file, and again we have a recommended minimum of 8GB. At this point we can also select whether all this space is pre-allocated, or whether the hard disk image is dynamic, starting small and growing up to the size set as data is stored within the virtual machine.
Other settings such as network are preconfigured and in this case will be set to network address translation to share the main machines networking.
In order to start the installation we need to attach the installation media which could be a physical DVD in the drive but in our case is the image of the Ubuntu installation downloaded earlier from the Ubuntu website. We can attach this image directly to the virtual machine as the CD/DVD ROM device and will be installing Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat).
Clicking start opens a new window for the virtual machine and we see the VirtualBox equivalent of the PC BIOS screen before the Ubuntu DVD starts to boot up - all very like a PC. The installation boots to a screen that affords us two options - to try out Ubuntu running from the DVD, or to install to a hard disk which is what we wish to do this evening.
As the installation starts we are reminded of the minimum memory and disk requirements and the installer highlights that we have no internet connection available. If a connection were available the installer would download and integrate the latest security and bug updates from Ubuntu's servers as part of the installation. On the following screen we select the hard disk to install to which in this case is simply the hard disc file we created within VirtualBox. The default option here is to use the entire disk which is what we need in this case. If we were installing as a second OS on a PC we would need to carefully partition here so as not to disturb a Windows installation for instance. At this point the system begins installing but in parallel we can set the timezone and a username and password.
As the installer runs we can click various icons for more information on this release of Ubuntu.
After the installer completes the system needs to restart into Ubuntu from the hard disk and we will be prompted to eject in the install CD.
Upon first boot we are presented with a login prompt and are then presented with the desktop which looks nearly identical to previous versions of Ubuntu we have demo'ed in the past. As standard we have Firefox as a web browser,
Empathy as an instant messenger which has replaced Pidgin, we have OpenOffice and various other graphics and remote access utilities etc. Software Centre allows us to install over 30,000 additional programs and utilities although only a subset are available via the install disc, the
rest being available from Ubuntu servers online.
To optimise the experience of running Ubuntu within the VirtualBox. environment we ideally need to install the guest tools, which contain enhanced graphics and network drivers together with a driver for accessing
files from the host operating system, in this case Gareth's Mac. The graphics driver not only improves performance, but also provides automatic resizing of the desktop and enables seamless access to the guest as the mouse and keyboard with automatically capture the guest when the mouse is moved into the window, without these tools installed we have to manually capture and release.
For a Windows guest installing the Guest Additions is as simple as installing the software drivers but it is slightly more complex on Linux.
As there are so many kernels and variants of Linux available the drivers are supplied in source form and must be compiled. This is all automated via a single script but we do need a compiler installed. Unfortunately the compilers didn't seem to be on the CD and need installing from the internet, but we were able to log onto a BT Openzone hotspot at the venue to install these. There is a meta package available to install the compiler and other build tools required - we simply need to install "build-essential".
To install the guess additions we select the option from the Devices menu within Ubuntu which mounts the guest additions CD image. We then open a terminal within the virtual machine, change directory to the CD and run the Linux Additions shell script which will compile and install the kernel modules for the graphics, network and shared folder drivers. The Ubuntu machine will require a reboot to enable these extensions.
Currently to mount a shared drive from the host PC you need to use the command line 'mount' command, but this can be automated simply to persist across reboots. Essentially there is a new type of filesystem called vboxsf available so for instance
we could run
'mount -t vboxsf Documents /mnt/documents'
to mount the shared folder Documents on the host PC as /mnt/documents within the Ubuntu virtual machine. We can then read and write files in a similar manner to a network shared drive.
VirtualBox also allows you to pass devices through to the virtual machine appearing as if they were physically connected via USB. This works for external drives and memory sticks, webcams etc. as standard and you can write simple filters to do this for other devices, Gareth has a USB smart-card reader that also works using a filter.
We ended the evening by installing the Flash plugin from Adobe to enable videos on the BBC website and played a clip, full screen smoothly, to show that even virtualised the performance is more than adequate for most tasks.
Wishing you all a very Happy Easter.
Gareth and Peter
|20 April||PDF handling||Frank, Michael and Gareth|
|18 May||AGM and games||All|
|15 June||PC optimization and protection software||All|
|20 July||Video, mediacentre and transcoding.||All|
|17 August||Social evening - venue TBA||All|
|21 September||Solid state drives (SSD) and storage devices.||All|
|19 October||Mac Evening||All|
|16 November||HD video opportunities||All|
|21 December||Party and Gadgets evening||All|
|18 January||Social evening - venue TBA||All|
|15 February||Linux 2011 on ARM etc.||All|
|21 March||Slide show evening||All|
|18 April||AGM + extras||All|
Meetings are now on the Third Wednesday of the month unless otherwise stated.
Our meetings are held at the Bourne Vale Social Club, Halifax Road, Ipswich IP2 8RE , for a map and other details please see the website. http://icenicomputerclub.users.btopenworld.com
The first visit is free and subsequent visits for non - members is £2·50. The membership fee is £20 due from the AGM date in April, but may be reduced for those joining late in the year.
Continuing our publicity for EAUG events, there is now a full list of meetings up to the end of the year on their website.
Tea/coffee/biscuits usually available.
Visitors pay 2.00 GBP for the evening, which is deductible from the normal joining subscription if you decide to join at a later date.
See the Membership page of the website for more information:
Meetings are at the Great Baddow Village Hall, on the second Tuesday of the month
opening at 7:30 p.m. for a start at 7:45 - 8:00 p.m.
For directions see below (note the new web addresses)
They have now moved to the St. Andrew's Computer Club at Britannia Road, Ipswich.
They have a full programme on the parish website (http://www.ourstandrews.co.uk), We may be able to make new contact with them to arrange something in common.
"ICENI does not have any Insurance cover for computers or other equipment so please be advised that you bring machines to the club at your own risk."
However many household insurance policies will include cover away from home often with no increase in premium. (Ed.)
If anyone would like a copy of the CD of our old newsletters this could be arranged.
I am open to suggestions on what people would like to have included in the website.
Our website URL is
http://icenicomputerclub.users.btopenworld.com as a virtual domain,
it can also be reached using http://www.btinternet.com/~icenicomputerclub
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org