Convert Audio with Ease in KDE

I ripped a couple of CD’s for my son this evening. In the process, I decided to setup Kalarm and Korganizer on his computer so that he could set alarms to remind him to do various chores around the house. While doing all of this, I needed a .wav file so that he could use a song for his alarm. Of course, he wanted one of the songs I had just ripped from his CD. Since I had ripped his songs to .ogg format, I had to investigate which program could convert from .ogg to .wav this the easiest in KDE.

I’ve not used many of the whiz bang functions of KDE and desktop Linux…I’ve been more of a browser, mail, and RSS type of guy for many years. Now that I’ve been using Linux at work and at home, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to figure out how to do things that I’ve never done before. In this case, convert audio to .wav, .ogg, or .mp3 with ease. There is a tool called audiokonverter available in PCLinuxOS 2007 repositories that makes this a snap.

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Autostart Apps in PCLinuxOS 2007 (KDE)

There’s a question that is often asked via IRC on freenode #pclinuxos-support. Many people want to know how to get programs to startup immediately upon login.

Now there are two ways to do this…kind of. Actually, there is only one way to get programs to autostart but there is another way you can have programs startup when you login…let’s look at both of them.

The First Way

First, go to the PC Menu (or kmenu) >> Run Command >> konqueror –profile filemanagement

When Konqueror opens, navigate to /home/user/.kde/autostart (replace user with your login name). Now minimize that window…we’ll come back to it later. Next up, click on the My Computer icon on your desktop (or for other users, open up Konqueror and put the following in the addressbar: system:/). When that opens, click on applications and minimize the window and place it side by side with the previously opened window.

Hieronymus has posted a helpful tip that simplifies the process above.  After opening up Konqueror, use the Go Menu and click the entry for “autostart” which will take you directly to the correct folder for the current logged in user.  Thanks Hieronymus for the tip!  Visit their homepage here.

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PCLinuxOS 2007, USR5411 MaxG Wireless Primer

So you’ve just installed PCLinuxOS 2007 TR4 on your laptop and your wireless card is detected! Finally, a distro gets it right! However, you’re not too sure how to proceed next…do you manage the device through the PCLinuxOS Control Center? Do you start another program and work that way? Do you use KDE’s built in applet to monitor things? What’s next?

This is something that is often expressed in the forums at and something anyone associated with this fine distribution is glad to see…that is working wireless. However, as noted above, people often wonder how to control their wireless device and how to move in and out of various different environments. I’d like to share how I do wireless on my Thinkpad a22m.

I have a US Robotics 5411 MaxG PCMCIA card for my laptop. PCLinuxOS 2007 detects it out of the box but doesn’t install it by default. The reason for this is that PCLinuxOS doesn’t assume to know how you want to install it…either using the built into the kernel support for the broadcom wireless chip or ndiswrapper…which is a program that allows Windows drivers for wireless to be used in Linux. I elected to go with Ndiswrapper since I had some problems with the broadcom driver in PCLinuxOS. Ndiswrapper is installed by default in PCLinuxOS which makes this process even easier…but the process still requires some forethought and I’ll share with you what I did to make this process go smoothly and easily.

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Dealing with Runaway Processes

Have you ever been using your Linux distro and suddenly found a program won’t close? It’s frustrating when an application hangs. In Windows, one could right click on the taskbar and choose “Task Manager” and kill the hanging process (which doesn’t always work BTW). In Linux, you can also kill these hanging processes.

First, if you’re using KDE press Control-Escape. This will give all processes in a handy window called the KDE System Guard. Clicking the column heading for “System %” so the arrow on it appears facing up will sort the processes from highest system percentage to lowest. Find the process that seems to be hogging up all the resources (or if you know the name of the process, highlight that) and then hit the kill button. Your process should end it’s routines and exit.

You can also check out which program is hogging up your virtual memory with its process which can also slow things up. Clicking on the column “VmSize” and sorting largest to smallest will allow you to see this and select which process to kill. I often elect to select only user processes using the drop down menu at the top right hand corner of the KDE System Guard. Doing this filters out all system files and shows any hanging applications that are initiated by the user (which is often what is hanging for me).

Don’t worry if you see the same process more than once (for example, Apache or php may have multiple entries if you run a webserver…this is normal). If you’re using Gnome, you’ll either have to use the console method I explain below or launch the Gnome System Manager to get things rolling. Since I don’t use Gnome, I won’t cover the Gnome System Manager here.

Another way you can do things…especially if all Xwindows (KDE, Gnome, Fluxbox, etc) have frozen or are sluggish is to drop to a console. You can do this by killing the Xserver or by dropping to a console. You can press Alt-F2 or Alt-F3 and get directly to a console. Login as root. Now let’s take a look and see what processes are hogging up resources. Kill the Xserver and drop to a console by hitting Control-Alt-Backspace. For our purposes, I’ll assume you’ve made it to the console now.

There’s a quick console way of finding exactly what is consuming the most of your PC as far as processes are concerned. Using the the ‘top’ command will display those processes that are beasts and allow you to take note of them. Look for the process taking up the most CPU% (which should appear at the ‘top’ of your ‘top’ output). Pay specific attention to the PID column of that high CPU% item and make a note of it. This is the process ID number and every program running on a Linux box is assigned one by the Kernel. We’ve found the one making problems for us and have recorded the PID so let’s slay it. Hit Control-C to stop the top command and then type:

kill PID

Where PID is the process ID number you made a note of before. You may not get confirmation that the task has been immediately killed so let’s see if it is still running. We may not get the information we need by using top again since it is mainly for finding the higher consuming processes aka runaways. Instead, let’s use the ps command.

ps aux | more

This command outputs all processes in a nice way…using the | and ‘more’ command allows you to paginate the output so that if there are a TON of processes, you can use the spacebar or arrow keys to page down (you can do that with any command too BTW). Now look for that PID that we just killed in the second column and see if it is there. You could also get creative and use:

 ps aux | grep PID

Where PID is once again the PID you killed. The grep command will search through the results and echo back to you any matching entries it finds. If you didn’t find anything and couldn’t match your PID to that of any displayed in your ps aux command, you just successfully killed that beastly process. As always, for more information, please see the man pages (e.g. man ps or man top).

Hopefully, this allows you to more efficiently manage your processes…runaway or normal. If I’ve printed an error, please let me know via the comments below or if there is a more efficient way of doing things let me know there as well…I’m always open to improvement.

UPDATE: Please checkout the comments section for a few more tips on killing processes!

UPDATE2:  Reader Scott M writes in the comments below “You don’t have to use the PID. You can use the -f option.  e.g. if there are multiple instance of SomeProgram, you can kill them all with one command:

pkill -9 -f SomeProgram”  Thanks Scott!

KDE Shortcut Keys

Most people know shortcuts in Windows but neglect to find out shortcuts in KDE when they make the switch to Linux. So, if you have a shortcut in KDE that isn’t covered here…please comment it so that others can benefit from your knowledge! PS: Some of these might not work with your version of KDE…just test them out and see if they do!

Brings up a “Run Command” prompt

Alt-Print and Cntrl-Print
Take a screenshot. You have to paste it from your clipboard

Alt-Esc or Control-Esc
Shows the KDE session manager, from which you can switch to a specific application or log out of KDE.

Switch to a specific desktop.

Alt-Tab or Alt-Shift-Tab
Cycle through your windows.

Ctrl-Tab or Ctrl-Shift-Tab
Cycle through your desktops.

Close the current active window.

Window destroyer (every window you click on will be destroyed).

For your Window Menu

This exits KDE but doesn’t save your settings or work.

Ctrl-Alt-Numpad +
Cycles to the next screen resolution available.

Ctrl-Alt-Numpad -
Cycles to the previous screen resolution available.

Hope these help you out…please post any you might have that are helpful and I’ll add them to the list with credits. Thanks again for reading.

Schedule Tasks in Linux with Ease – Kcron

When I first started using Linux, one of the most daunting tasks was creating crontabs to automate processes. For example, one might want to rotate apache logs (done automatically now by most distros) or perhaps pull info out of those logs, paste them to a file, and send said file to the webmaster. Now this wouldn’t be feasible to do by hand daily and that is where crontabs come in. Just like scheduled tasks in Windows, crontabs allow you to run a process at a given time. Unlike Windows though, you have ultimate control over the task. Nowadays, things are much easier by using a GUI such as Webmin, pycron, or Crontooie (if you’re a MAC user). The great thing is that KDE contains a handy tool to create and manage your Crontabs. You can disable or enable them straight from an easy to understand and control GUI. Today, we’re going to take a look at how to setup a simple crontab using Kcron.

Let’s start off by seeing if the cron daemon is even running on your system. Open up a Konsole or Shell and type the following:

ps aux | grep crond

If there is output similar to that in the screenshot, we’re in business because the cron daemon is running. If not, restart cron by typing: ./usr/sbin/crond (may vary by your distro…if you need help, let me know in comments section).

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Go to File >> Save and now you're in business. Never forget to save AFTER you've altered the task, otherwise your changes will go right out the window.