MasterOfTheVortex answers your questions

posted by on 28th February 2007, at 6:45pm

This month I have decided to start answering your questions. Every month, a topic will appear on the forums and you will have the opportunity to ask me questions regarding tech and stuff. Some questions will be rephrased slightly, but the point will still stand.

Anyways, here we go.

How can I play DVDs and protected music in Ubuntu Linux? – from Andy.

Almost all DVDs nowadays have a protection scheme on them called CSS, which stops them being played on ‘Unauthorised’ players. To play DVDs in Linux, this encryption has to be broken, rather than just being processed as with an authorised player.

The easiest way to get the crackers is to install Automatix, and do it through there. Automatix is an installer for programs that cannot be installed through the normal package manager because of wierd licenses. You can get automatix from (the website is unfortunately down at the moment), and then install the Non-free codecs, as well as the multimedia codecs. After installation, you should be able to play them in Totem movie player (you may require a reboot to get this working). It will also be helpful to install the GStreamer-Extra-Plugins through Add/Remove programs.

To play music protected with DRM, you will have to remove the DRM. This is not easily possible in Linux, and so the easiest way is to remove the DRM within Windows using a program like TuneBite, or simply capturing the audio with Audacity and saving it to an MP3 (which is basically what TuneBite does anyway). Once the DRM is removed, it will be playable within Linux using Rhythmbox or VLC or another media player.

How do I unpack .rar files? There seems to be no program to do such a job. – from Cowboyofdeath

RAR is a compression standard made and maintained by RARLabs. Within Windows, it can be uncompressed with WinRAR and 7-zip. WinRAR is the official tool of RARLabs, although is shareware, and will whine at you if you dont buy it after 40 days. 7-zip is free and open source, although cannot pack to .rar files, only unpack them – it natively packs to .7z, which is better than .rar anyway, so it’s probably best to install that.

Can you put a .zip folder into a .rar? If so what program can be used to make a .rar? – from Cowboyofdeath

A common misinterpretation is that a .zip is a folder. It is not, actually, a folder, its a file, but Windows 2000 and later makes it look like a folder.

Zip, like RAR, is a compression format. Compression standards take large files or folders and compress them down into a smaller format. This smaller format, though, is then usually quite uncompressable. You can put a zip into a rar, although it wouldnt really do much, and is rather pointless.

WinRAR can be used to make RAR files, and is available from (select to download version 3.62)

Could you explain me the basic steps of programming? What you have to do? I dislike programming, but only out of ignorance, so I want to know more about it. – from Gontcha

Programming exists in hundreds of forms. There are hundreds of languages, and many ways of using a lot of those languages, and it can be quite daunting to newbies at first.

The sheer number of langauges available is one of the largest problems that programming newbies face. Do I learn VB? Maybe Java? C? Assembly?

There are hundreds of languages to choose from, all of varying difficulties, with different features. Some are good for newbies, some are not so good, some are downright horrible. Here are a few of the more popular ones for newbies.

Visual Basic – This is relatively easy to get your head around, although is not recommended for a few reasons. Firstly, it isnt cross-platform – you cannot use a VB program on Linux or Mac OS X, only Windows. Its syntax is also completely different to a lot of other languages, making it only any good if you develop in VB and nothing but VB. A good programmer will not do this – they will work with a few langauges, learning more and more all the time. I would not recommend learning VB.

Java – Java is a good language if you have a firm prior knowledge of programming, although it uses Object-Orientation all the time, which can just confuse newcomers no end, including me. As a first language, I wouldn’t recommend it, but as a second or third, it’s ok, provided the ones you have learn previously covered some Object-Orientation.

C – C is a hard language to learn, and once you have learnt it it can be very annoying, because of having to manage memory allocation and things, which are all very bug-prone. It’s very useful to know, as it makes some of the fastest programs, although it is not a good idea to learn it as your first language. If ever you want to go into kernel programming, making your own operating systems from scratch, or creating and modding drivers, you will almost definetely have to learn this.

C++ – This is quite like C, although is slightly easier to learn, and supports Object-Oriented programming. This was actually my first language, and I found it quite nice. C++ is also very popular and is used for many popular programs like Opera and Microsoft Office. Its C-like syntax is also very nice, and is used by many other languages like Perl or PHP.

Python – Python was designed to be an easy-to-use version of Perl, for beginners, and it is quite easy to use. It has a semi-C syntax, although the lack of parentheses and curly brackets, and the fact tabs and spaces have significance is slightly odd for those who are used to regular C-like syntaxes. Its a good language to start learning on, though, as it teaches good practices, but isnt too confusing.

PHP – PHP is not really a programming language, its a web scripting language – although is very easy to learn and can do some very powerful things. I have seen someone make a 3d renderer in PHP.

When it comes to starting programming, I would recommend getting a book. The publisher O’Reilly makes very, very good books on a lot of languages. The ‘In a nutshell’ series are very concise, and serve well as a self-teaching resource as well as quick reference for after you have learnt the language. Most books will cover how to install the necessary programs to be able to start programming in whatever language you choose.

Well, I hope my answers have helped. I did, unfortunately, only have about an hour to answer them all, and I apologise if I could not answer any. Next month there will be a longer timeframe for me to do research and answer them.

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