From AVI to MP4

I have quite a few video files which I like to watch fro time to time.

I used to use an XBox 360 as a media player but that finally gave up the ghost.  I switched to an original XBox which I got from a good friend.  That too recently died the death.

A couple of weeks ago I invested in a WD TV Media Player, which is essentially a solid state interface between a file store and  TV.  On screen it is very similar to XBMC.   

It claims to play all flavours of video.  Their list states it will play AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T (MPEG1/2/4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS, WMV9 and FLV (h.264). 

I did however have some problems with some AVI files (I'm still waiting from a response from their Support on this).   The files would play for about three to four minutes before dropping out without warning or error.  The files in question play perfectly in my laptop Media, so I reckoned on a problem with the file format. 

I tried converting them to MKV using HandBrake but while the resulting files apparently worked they crashed again around the thirty minute mark.

I decided to try converting to MP4.

After a lot of research and a few program downloads (that either didn't work or wouldn't do batch processing) I came across WinFF.  On the face of it, that would do everything I required.  However it failed on my first attempt.  The solution is to install an extra package – libavcodec-extra.

I ran a test on one of my dud files and the resulting MP4 worked perfectly.

I now have a spare PC sitting quietly in a corner working its way through all my AVI files.

I reckon that will take a while!

Running KDE programs in Linux Mint 7.1 Cinnamon

I have just upgraded to Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon 64bit.

For various reasons, I did a complete format and install, so the following may not affect those just doing an upgrade.

There is a small problem with running some KDE applications.  As an example, I installed KNetWalk [a small timewaster!] and this is the menu bar that is displayed -

Dud KDE Menu

With a bit of research, I found the answer as submitted by Clem.

apt install kdelibs-bin kdelibs5-data kdelibs5-plugins

Rerunning the application, this is the result -

Fixed KDE Menu

Just in case anyone has similar problems…….

OpenBVE broken on Linux Mint 17

Due to a bug in the libraries, OpenBVE won't run on Linux Mint 17.

The fix is straightforward, as follows -

Download the following files

For 32-bit machines:

For 64-bit machines:

Using Synaptic, find 'ligdiplus' and uninstall it.

Install the two downloaded files in the order libtiff4 followed by libgtiplus.

Install OpenBVE.

That's it.

A final note: Update Manager will inform you there is an update to libgtiplus.  Right-click and select "Ignore updates for this package."


I recently did a fresh install using Linux Mint 17 V2.  Some time later I tried installing OpenBVE.  It failed.

The cause this time is apparently another problem in libgdiplus, causing it to crash if it can't load an image. 

The solution -

In your OpenBVE installation, locate the the files "Data/Menu/icon_parent.png" and "Data/Menu/icon_folder.png".  Both these files are saved in "indexed colour" mode.  Using Gimp [or your application of preference] open these files and export them in "RGB colour" mode overwriting the originals.

The value of Partimage

A while ago I started messing around with Partimage.

Partimage is a simple to use piece of backup software which takes a snapshot of a partition and saves it as a file.

The hard disk on the machine I use has a straightforward set of partitions -

Partition 1 contains the Windows Restore files that came installed on the machine.

Partition 2 contains the boot sector.

Partition 3 contains Windows 7.

Partition 4 is an extended partition and contains the Linux install with Swap, Root and Home in their separate partitions.

Naturally to benefit from Partimage you will need an external drive, either networked or USB drive.  I would also highly recommend Ultimate Boot CD (which contains Partimage) for the event that a partition becomes corrupted and the machine becomes unbootable.

When I started experimenting with Partimage, I created backups of the first three in the list above with a view to combining 2 and 3 as one partition and doing a standard Windows install. I abandoned that as there were too many specific drivers required for the machine and it was a lot simpler to leave things as they were.  I rarely use Windows anyway.

A few weeks ago I had a problem with this machine – "No Operating System found".   I tried all the usual tricks but nothing worked.  Then I remembered my experimental backup, so I ran Ultimate Boot CD and reinstated the boot partition from my USB drive.  The restore itself took a matter of seconds and the machine was fixed.

This morning, the same problem occurred – "No Operating System found".  I knew what to do this time and was up and running in a minute or two.

It just goes to show the value of backups.

They are the difference between a working PC and an expensive brick!

How to install Mint beside Windows 7

So you want to install Linux Mint on a PC that already runs Windows?

This is quite a simple task and the only proviso is that you have sufficient spare capacity on your hard disk.  Linux requires about 8Gb for the operating system and you will need some space for all your files, so I would suggest a minimum of 20Gb.

Before we start, back up all your data.  It's very unlikely that anything will go wrong, but just in case…..

First of all you'll need to download Linux Mint (32-bit or 64-bit depending on your processor. Not sure? Use 32-bit).

The difference between MATE and Cinnamon is essentially one of taste – they are different desktops with roughly the same software behind them.

Once downloaded, burn a DVD using the .ISO file.

In Windows, right-click on Computer -

(Click any image to enlarge)

Select Mange and click on Disk Management.


Here you can see the layout of my hard disk (Disc 0).  It has two partitions: a System Reserved area and the C: drive.  The latter is the one we want to mount Linux in and the top line shows it has 41.19Gb of spare space.  We need to resize that partition to make room for Linux as the latter needs its own file system.

Right click on the area labeled (C:) and select Shrink Volume.


After a bit of thought it will pop up a window telling you how much free space you have and giving an area to enter the amount of space to shrink in Mb.  I entered 20000.  Click on Shrink.


After a short while it will display the new disk layout.  We now have three partitions – System Reserved, C: and 19.53Gb of Unallocated space.  (I know I entered twenty but it will adjust that to the nearest suitable size).  That Unallocated space is where we are going to install Linux.


Place your Linux Mint DVD in your drive and restart (assuming your BIOS is set to boot off a DVD before the hard disk!)

Linux will load and you should see the following -


At this stage Mint is running off the DVD.  We want to install it, so double click on the Install icon.  It will ask which language to use.  Select and click Continue.  It will then confirm that you are plugged in (if you're using a laptop), that you are connected to the Internet and that there is enough space available (it reckons 8.1Gb is enough!).  Click continue.

You will now be asked for your preferred Installation Type.  It has detected that there is another operating system and the first option is to install alongside.  This is the quick and dirty method.  The second option is to delete your Windows and use the entire disk.  Do NOT select that!  The bottom option (Something Else) is my preferred one as it gives greater control over how the disk is used.


Here we see the disk layout again, with the System Reserved at the top -Windows 7 Loader, followed by the Windows partition, and then the area marked free space at the bottom (Linux reads this now as 20973Mb which is fine).


Select the free space and click on the little + button.  We are about to add a Swap partition (all Linux distros require a Swap partition to use as disk memory)

[N.B. See Notes at the bottom of this post regarding partitions and sizes]

I have set the swap size to 2000Mb for the purpose of this exercise. Normally a Swap partition should be equal to around twice the PC's memory, but if the PC has over 2Gb memory then the Swap size isn't so critical).  I have selected "Swap area" in the drop-down list beside "Use as:".

Once that's done, the Swap partition will appear in the window, and naturally the free space has shrunk a bit.  Select the free space again and once more click +.

This time we'll set up the Root area where Linux itself resides.  All operating system files will go in here and it needs around 8 to 10Gb.  I have set this example at 8000Mb.  "Use as:" can default to "Ext4 journaling file system" and the Mount point (very important) is set to /.  Click OK.


Our free space is now down to 10973Mb.  Select the free space, and once more click on +.  As we want to use all this space, let the size default.  The only thing to set is "Mount point".  This should be set to "/home".  Click OK.

Your screen should now look like this:


Note the second and third columns – it is important that they are correct.  If you have made an error, simply select the errant line and click change.

That's the hard bit done.

Click on "Install Now".


You will be brought through a series of screens to select your location, and keyboard (I always find that Mint detects those correctly).  You will be asked for your name, username and the password of your choice and then you can sit back and relax as Mint installs itself.

When it has finished, it will either automatically eject the DVD or as you to remove it.  Reboot and you will see the following screen


Arrow down or up to select Windows or Linux and that is it.



Generally I like to install Linux in three partitions – Swap, Root (/) and Home (/home).  It is quite possible to manage with two where everything is installed in the Root partition but this has one major disadvantage.  Root is where Linux resides, while Home is where all your documents, preferences and settings are held and placing them all on one partition can make reloads problematic.

In the unlikely event that you have to reinstall Linux, simply go through the above procedure, but when it comes to the partition, select / , select "change" and make sure "format partition IS selected.  Then select /home  and make sure "format partition IS NOT selected.  This will give you a fresh install of the operating system but all your documents, settings and preferences will remain intact.  You will have to re-install any extra software but those preferences and settings will remain intact too.

The machine I am using at the moment has 4Gb of memory which is plenty for Linux.  I have therefore set my Swap size fairly low at 3Gb.  I might add, the partition is rarely used!

I have allocated 10Gb for the Root partition to allow for some slack.  Even with all my software loaded, that is currently running at 5.55Gb so there is loads of slack room.

My /home partition is currently set at around 150Gb which is ample for my needs. 

A little tip….  I use a few programs such as audio and video editors that create massive temporary files.  Normally these files will be created in the Root partition, and if the partition is relatively small (as mine is) the programme can easily complain.  The simple fix is to go into the Preferences of these programmes and set the temp filder to a folder in the Home partition.