A fairly common problem with monitors under Linux is that the screen resolutions supported by a particular monitor are not transmitted correctly to the operating system, thus resulting in less-than-ideal resolutions. To rectify this problem, one has to look up the monitor's supported resolutions in the manual, and then to manually set up these resolutions under Linux. Unfortunately, the last step is still far from straightforward in recent Ubuntu releases. Furthermore, many of the HOWTOs you find with Google only work for older Ubuntu releases (e.g. those using the now obsolete /etc/X11/xorg.conf), or they dig unnecessarily deep under the hood and might break things. In a nutshell, the correct way to do things these days is to use the xrandr command and to save the correct settings to the .xprofile file in the home directory. Superuser rights are not needed at all!

In this article I'll describe some Linux command-line tools to analyze and convert text files between different character encodings. I'll also touch on the different newline encodings of the major operating systems. Finally, we'll have a look at "forensics" on files with corrupted character encodings and how to repair them.

Imagine we have a Linux-based web server using MySQL, but phpMyAdmin is not available for maintaining the databases. In that case we can log into the server via SSH and use the command line instead. For a brief summary of basic MySQL commands see e.g. here.

Individual tables or entire databases can be easily removed using the drop command, but there is no straightforward way to delete a large number of tables from a database. I encountered this problem when attempting to upgrade a Joomla installation from v1.5 to v2.5. When I wasn't happy with the result of an upgrade attempt, I would first make tabula rasa by deleting the newly created mysql tables before making another attempt. Let's say the database in question looks like this:

Update: More recent Ubuntu versions no longer use xmodmap, so the method described below will not work.

Recently I switched from the standard QWERTY keyboard layout to DVORAK, which promises faster typing and less finger travel when touch-typing. The standard Dvorak layout is optimized according to the pattern and frequency with which letters appear in the English language, thus making it particularly useful for those who use English as their primary language on a computer.

We have all been at a point where we were so annoyed with a printer glitch that we would have liked to thrash the useless piece of junk. Apparently the folks at HP Support share our grievances, as they encourage us to throw their own products out the window and to celebrate the accomplished task. On various HP support pages relating to All-In-One printers (for example here) I found the following step-by-step instructions that are given to make jammed carriages work again:

Occasionally I perform time-intensive tasks on the command line like compiling, downloading or shuffling around large files. It would be nice to know when a task has been completed, so why not use GNOME's integrated notification system for this? The screenshot below shows what it can look like:

Here is my Emacs configuration file which I have been using on my Ubuntu box for several years. Over time I added more and more options to it. I'm sharing it, because it might be useful for other Emacs users out there. The file is heavily commented, thus hopefully making it easy to comprehend and modify.

Some features are pretty basic, while others tailor to more specific needs:

I've recently installed Ubuntu Karmic on my ThinkPad X61 Tablet, which has been upgraded with a 80GB Intel X25-M SSD. With this combination of solid state disk and the first Ubuntu version to use exclusively Upstart, the start-up and shut-down times are truly amazing! For me start-up now only takes 25 seconds and shut-down 4 seconds!

For a fresh install you'll probably need to install quite a few software packages. For this I always find the Ubuntu guide to be very useful. It's also kept very up-to-date, so you can be sure that they already cover the latest Ubuntu version at the point of its release.

Most of the features of the X61t work perfectly fine out-of-the-box in Karmic. However, there are still some that need some tweaking, among them touch input, tablet tilt and some special buttons.

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The Brother MFC-8820J is a black/white laser printer/scan/copy/fax machine that was apparently released only in Japan. Its better known international cousin is the MFC-8820D, which is probably identical in design. There are several ways to make this multifunction device work under Linux, depending on your distribution and your needs.