Completing PDF forms and adding your signature without having to print the form

A recent post in the Gentoo Forums made me interested to find out what is actually achievable with fillable PDF forms in Gentoo Linux and Windows 10 without being required to purchase a software licence, be it for personal or professional use, in order to be able to complete PDF forms (including forms that have automatically-updating bar codes).

Designing PDF Forms

It is possible to create PDF forms with LibreOffice, although LibreOffice cannot create a form containing bar codes that get updated automatically with the information entered in fields on the form. In order to create PDF forms that contain automatically-updating bar codes it is necessary to purchase Adobe Acrobat DC or Adobe LiveCycle Designer, which are Windows-only applications. As forms usually have several fields, 2D bar code symbologies are used in order to be able to encode the amount of data in a practical way. See the Adobe demonstration video Capture electronic data from printed forms.

Using PDF Forms

However, the enquiry in the above-mentioned forum thread was not about designing PDF forms, it was about being able to complete existing PDF forms (including forms that have automatically-updating bar codes, and including being able to add a written signature to the form without printing it out):

Hi,

I need to sign pdfs, and sometimes fill out pdf forms which also need to be signed. At the moment I get them, print them, sign them and scan them back in to return to the sender. I’d like to simplify that.

I know that on Windows and Mac OS your adobe software can sign the pdf, but I don’t even know how that works exactly.

It would be really neat if there were an app which could handle all that.

Oh yeah, another thing. Some forms (all?) when you fill them out and print them have a bar of machine-readable gobbledygook on the page which lets the recipient of a printed pdf scan the data back in with 100% accuracy. That would be neat too.

Thanks.

Although I have sometimes added my signature to a PDF form before printing it out — more on that later — I had never come across PDF forms with automatically-updating bar codes, so my curiosity was piqued. I decided to investigate if free applications could be used to complete PDF forms (including those with automatically-updating bar codes) and add a written signature. My investigations were carried out in Linux and Windows 10, and my findings are given below. In summary, I discovered that I could do all these things in Linux as well as in Windows 10, although in Linux I had to resort to running a Windows application under WINE if a PDF form contained automatically-updating bar codes. I did not bother trying the GNOME document viewer Evince, as I could find no evidence on the Web of it having the capability of updating bar codes automatically, and I use KDE.

For my tests I used the following four PDF forms I found on the Web:

  1. acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf, an October 2006 PDF article from Adobe containing three sample form fields and an associated automatically-updating bar code (PDF417 symbology).
  2. barcode_field.pdf, a February 2013 sample PDF form with three fields and three associated bar codes of different symbologies (PDF417, Data Matrix and QR Code).
  3. PdfFormExample.pdf, a June 2013 sample PDF form created using LibreOffice (and therefore not containing automatically-updating bar codes).
  4. sample_barcoded_demo.pdf, a December 2005 sample PDF form from Adobe with an automatically-updating bar code (PDF417 symbology).

1. Windows 10

1.1 Acrobat Reader DC

This is the ubiquitous ‘free’ closed-source application you can download from Adobe.

Below are screenshots of the four sample PDF forms opened in Acrobat Reader DC…

1.1.1 I could enter text in the three fields in acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf, and the bar code was updated accordingly:

Acrobat Reader DC - acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf

Acrobat Reader DC - acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf

I used my smartphone’s Barcode Scanner app to read the bar code on the hard-copy form printed by Acrobat Reader DC:

Text1Text2Text3I am able to change the text in these fields of this form to see how 2D barcodes work.

1.1.2 I could enter text in the three fields in barcode_field.pdf, but the three bar codes were not visible:

Acrobat Reader DC - acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf

Acrobat Reader DC - barcode_field.pdf

1.1.3 I could enter text in the fields in PdfFormExample.pdf:

Acrobat Reader DC - PdfFormExample.pdf

Acrobat Reader DC - PdfFormExample.pdf

1.1.4 I could enter text in all fields of sample_barcoded_demo.pdf and the field contents were echoed in the box ‘Barcode Contents’ but the bar code itself was not visible:

Acrobat Reader DC - sample_barcoded_demo.pdf

Acrobat Reader DC - sample_barcoded_demo.pdf

So, in summary, Acrobat Reader DC is not a viable option if you have to deal with forms that include automatically-updating bar codes.

1.2 PDF-XChange Editor

This application from Canadian company Tracker Software Products supersedes their deprecated PDF-XChange Viewer and has additional features. Neither application is open-source, though. Some features only work fully if you purchase a software licence and enter the licence key. For example, if you add a signature to a PDF form (‘Document’ > ‘Signatures and Initials’) and then save it, DEMO stamps are added to the new PDF file (which still has editable fields). However, if you print the PDF form (either to a PDF file or to paper) then DEMO stamps are not added (but the new PDF file is not fillable/editable). Click on the two links below to view the sample PDF file PdfFormExample.pdf signed and saved to a new PDF file, and the sample PDF file PdfFormExample.pdf signed and printed to a new PDF file:

PdfFormExample_with_signature_added_then_Saved.pdf

PdfFormExample_with_signature_added_then_Printed_to_PDF.pdf

If you save them to disk and open them in PDF-XChange Editor, you will see the distinction.

As stated on the company’s Web site, the free application can be used for private and work purposes:

The FREE download of the PDF-XChange Editor may be used without limitation for Private, Commercial, Government and all uses, provided it is not: incorporated or distributed for profit/commercial gain with other software or media distribution of any type – without first gaining permission.

Below are screenshots of the four sample PDF forms opened in PDF-XChange Editor…

1.2.1 I could enter text in the three fields in acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf, and the bar code was updated accordingly:

PDF-XChange Editor - acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf

PDF-XChange Editor - acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf

I used my smartphone’s Barcode Scanner app to read the bar code on the hard-copy form printed by PDF-XChange Editor:

Text1Text2Text3
I am able to change the text in these fields of this formto see how 2D barcodes work.

Notice that the layout of the encoded text is slightly different to the bar code generated by Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.

1.2.2 I could enter text in the three fields in barcode_field.pdf, and the three bar codes were visible:

PDF-XChange Editor - barcode_field.pdf

PDF-XChange Editor - barcode_field.pdf

I used my smartphone’s Barcode Scanner app to read the three bar codes on the hard-copy form printed by PDF-XChange Editor:

The PDF417 bar code was read as follows:

text_0:PDF417 barcode:I can enter text in these fields of this form and can see the three barcodes to the right of these fields in PDF-XChange Editor.

The Data Matrix bar code was read as follows:

text_1:Data Matrix barcode:
To change the barcode field to the right, type in this box. The barcode field to the right will reflect the contents of the text field as barcode after the text field lost the focus. To reset the contents of all barcode fields, cick the ‘Rset’ button.

Notice that the words ‘click’ and ‘Reset’ in the field were apparently not encoded correctly.

The QR Code bar code was read as a meaningless apparently random bunch of characters.

The PDF file and the three bar codes were generated on the fly by PHP code calling the pdflib library produced by the company PDFlib GmbH. I do not know how accurate this particular PDF file is, or how accurate is the Bar Code Scanner app on my smartphone.

1.2.3 I could enter text in the fields in PdfFormExample.pdf:

PDF-XChange Editor - PdfFormExample.pdf

PDF-XChange Editor - PdfFormExample.pdf

1.2.4 I could enter text in all fields of sample_barcoded_demo.pdf, and the field contents were echoed in the box ‘Barcode Contents’ and the bar code itself was visible:

PDF-XChange Editor - sample_barcoded_demo.pdf

PDF-XChange Editor - sample_barcoded_demo.pdf

I used my smartphone’s Barcode Scanner app to read the PDF417 bar code on the hard-copy form printed by PDF-XChange Editor:

Brian
S
Fitzgerald
Calle Fitzcarrald, 225
Iquitos

bsf@iquitos.nom.pe

So, in summary, PDF-XChange Editor appears to be a possible option in Windows 10, whether or not you have to deal with forms that include automatically-updating bar codes. I am quite impressed with the application.

2. Linux

2.1 Acrobat Reader 9

This is the free closed-source Linux application you can install via the Portage package manager (the package is app-text/acroread).

Below are screenshots of the four sample PDF forms opened in Acrobat Reader 9 for Linux.

2.1.1 I could enter text in the three fields in acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf, and the bar code was updated accordingly:

Acrobat Reader 9 Linux - acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf

Acrobat Reader 9 Linux - acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf

I used my smartphone’s Barcode Scanner app to read the bar code on the hard-copy form printed by Acrobat Reader 9 for Linux:

Text1Text2Text3I am able to change the text in these fields of this form to see how 2D barcodes work.

2.1.2 I could enter text in the three fields in barcode_field.pdf, but the three bar codes were not visible:

Acrobat Reader 9 Linux - barcode_field.pdf

Acrobat Reader 9 Linux - barcode_field.pdf

2.1.3 I could enter text in the fields in PdfFormExample.pdf:

Acrobat Reader 9 Linux - PdfFormExample.pdf

Acrobat Reader 9 Linux - PdfFormExample.pdf

2.1.4 I could enter text in all fields of sample_barcoded_demo.pdf, and the field contents were echoed in the box ‘Barcode Contents’ but the bar code itself was not visible:

Acrobat Reader 9 Linux - sample_barcoded_demo.pdf

Acrobat Reader 9 Linux - sample_barcoded_demo.pdf

So, in summary, Acrobat Reader 9 for Linux is not a viable option if you have to deal with forms that include automatically-updating bar codes.

2.2 Okular

This is the well-known KDE document viewer application.

Below are screenshots of the four sample PDF forms opened in Okular.

2.2.1 I could enter text in the three fields in acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf but the bar code was not visible:

Okular - acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf

Okular - acrobat8_barcodedforms.pdf

2.2.2 I could enter text in the three fields in barcode_field.pdf but the three bar codes were not visible:

Okular - barcode_field.pdf

Okular - barcode_field.pdf

2.2.3 I could enter text in the fields in PdfFormExample.pdf:

Okular - PdfFormExample.pdf

Okular - PdfFormExample.pdf

2.2.4 I could enter text in all fields of sample_barcoded_demo.pdf but the field contents were not echoed in the box ‘Barcode Contents’ and the bar code itself was not visible:

Okular - sample_barcoded_demo.pdf

Okular - sample_barcoded_demo.pdf

So, in summary, Okular is not a viable option if you have to deal with forms that include automatically-updating bar codes. In fact, Okular was the worst of the bunch.

2.3 PDF-XChange Editor

To install this Windows application under WINE in Linux:

$ export WINEPREFIX=$HOME/.wine-pdfxve6
$ export WINEARCH="win32"
$ winecfg # Select Windows 10.
$ cd .wine-pdfxve6/drive_c/
$ # Copy downloaded installer to C: drive:
$ cp ~/Downloads/PDFXVE6.zip .
$ unzip PDFXVE6.zip
$ # Install PDF-XChange Editor:
$ wine PDFXVE6.exe

  • Click ‘Install’.
  • Click ‘Next’.
  • Select ‘I accept the terms in the License Agreement’ and click ‘Next’.
  • Click ‘Custom’.
  • Click ‘Browsers Plugins’ and select ‘Don’t install’. Click ‘Next’.
  • Leave ‘Create a Start Menu folder’ ticked. Untick ‘Create Desktop Icons.’ Untick ‘Set PDF-XChange Editor as default application for PDF files’. Untick ‘Set Printer “PDF-XChange Lite V6” As Default’. Click ‘Next’.
  • Select ‘Free Version’ and click ‘Next’.
  • Click ‘Install’.
  • Untick ‘Launch PDF-XChange Editor’ and click ‘Finish’.
  • Click ‘Close’.

KDE Plasma 5 then has an entry for PDF-XChange Editor in the Application Launcher under ‘Applications’ > ‘Wine’ > ‘Programs’ > ‘Tracker Software’. Alternatively, to launch PDF-XChange Editor from the command line, you should enter:

$ WINEPREFIX="$HOME/.wine-pdfxve6" && WINEARCH="win32" && wine $WINEPREFIX/drive_c/Program\ Files/Tracker\ Software/PDF\ Editor/PDFXEdit.exe

If you also want the Windows application running under WINE to be able to access PDF files on a NAS, i.e. to be able to open Samba shares, see my previous post How to enable a Windows application in WINE to access a Samba share on a NAS.

I will not bother showing screenshots of the four sample PDF files open in PDF-XChange Editor running under WINE in Linux, as the application’s behaviour is the same as in Windows (see the screenshots in sections 1.2.1 to 1.2.4 above). So, in summary, PDF-XChange Editor appears to be a viable option in Linux (albeit running under WINE), irrespective of whether or not you have to deal with forms that include automatically-updating bar codes.

3. Adding a signature to a soft copy of the PDF form

I am referring to a person’s written signature here, not to a digital signature. Rather than having to print the completed form on paper in order to sign it with a pen, then scan the fully-completed form in order to send it via e-mail, fax or whatever, many people wish to add their signature directly to the PDF form without having to print it. Below I explain the method I use to do this in both Linux and Windows.

3.1 Create a PNG file with your signature (one-time operation)

  1. Get a blank white piece of paper.
  2. Sign your name on the page.
  3. Scan the page with your scanner and save the image as a PNG file.
  4. Open the image with GIMP.
  5. Crop the image around the signature.
  6. Select ‘Layer’ > ‘Transparency’ > ‘Add Alpha Channel’.
  7. Select the Fuzzy Select Tool from the toolbox.
  8. Click on each white area and press the Delete key. Do this for the area around the signature and inside any loops. Obviously don’t click on the signature itself.
  9. Select ‘File’ > ‘Export’.
  10. Save the image as a PNG file.

3.2 Signing PDF documents

  1. Launch LibreOffice Draw and open the PDF file you wish to sign.
  2. Select ‘Insert’ > ‘Image…’ and select the PNG file of your signature. The image will be inserted.
  3. To move the signature around on the page, hover the mouse cursor over the image until the cursor changes to a red dot with four arrowheads, then click-and-hold to grab the image drag it.
  4. To reduce the size of the signature, hover the mouse cursor over the image until the cursor changes to a red dot with four arrowheads, then click and release. You will then see small blue ‘handles’ on the outline of the image. Hover the mouse cursor over a handle at one of the four corners of the image until the cursor changes to a Resize cursor. Click-and-hold and move the cursor to increase or decrease the size of the signature whilst maintaining the ratio of width to height.
  5. To save the completed and signed PDF form, select ‘File’ > ‘Export as PDF…’, click on ‘Export’ and give the file a name of your choice.

The new PDF file will contain all the information visible on the previous PDF file plus your written signature. However, unlike the original PDF file, you will not be able to modify any of the data. Therefore I recommend you retain a copy of the original PDF file before you added the signature, in case you wish to change any of field entries in future.

Note that the free PDF-XChange Editor can be used instead of LibreOffice Draw providing the PDF form is not secured or restricted, and providing you print it to a new PDF file using a virtual PDF printer driver. If the PDF form is secured or changes restricted, then use LibreOffice Draw as described above.

If you are using a PDF viewer that refuses to save your completed form as a PDF file after you have entered data in the fields (notice the message in the purple bar in the screenshots of Acrobat Reader 9 for Linux, for example), print the page to a PDF file instead by using the virtual PDF printer (‘Microsoft Print to PDF’ in Windows; CUPS ‘Virtual PDF Printer’ in Linux) at a resolution of e.g. 600 dpi (if possible). You should then be able to open that PDF file in LibreOffice Draw or PDF-XChange Editor to add your signature as explained above and print the signed form to a new PDF file.

How to enable a Windows application in WINE to access a Samba share on a NAS

I recently installed the Windows application PDF-XChange Editor under WINE in Gentoo Linux on one of my laptops. The application works fine but it could not detect the SMB/CIFS (Samba) share folder on my NAS. When I clicked on ‘File‘ > ‘Open...‘ in the application, the left pane of the ‘Open Files‘ dialogue window displayed the following options:

  Favourites
– Desktop
  + My Computer
  + My Documents
    Trash
  + /

If I clicked on ‘My Computer‘, the right pane of the dialogue window then displayed the following options:

Control Panel
(C:)
(D:)
(E:)
(F:)
(G:)
(Z:)

None of the entries in either pane enabled me to get to the Samba shares on my NAS. Anyway, it turned out to be relatively easy to configure the installation on my laptop to enable the Windows application to access the Samba shared folder on the NAS, and the basic procedure was as follows:

  1. Create a mountpoint.
  2. In the directory $WINEPREFIX/dosdevices/ create a symbolic link to the mountpoint.
  3. Mount the network share on the mountpoint.

Let’s look in detail at the procedure…

My Clevo W230SS laptop running Gentoo Linux Stable Branch amd64 currently has KDE Plasma 5.6.5 and WINE 1.9.18 installed. I had used a WINE prefix of ~/.wine-pdfxve6 to install the Windows application in the fitzcarraldo user account. Let us say that the hostname of my Linux NAS is ‘bsfnas1‘, the name of the Samba shared folder on the NAS is ‘brianfolder‘, the Samba username for that shared folder on the NAS is ‘brian‘ and the Samba share password on the NAS is ‘enricocaruso‘.

First I checked which drive letters were already being used by WINE:

$ ls -la ~/.wine-pdfxve6/dosdevices/
total 8
drwxr-xr-x 2 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo 4096 Sep 16 23:18 .
drwxr-xr-x 4 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo 4096 Sep 17 04:03 ..
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo   10 Sep 16 23:18 c: -> ../drive_c
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo    9 Sep 16 23:18 d:: -> /dev/sdb1
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo    8 Sep 16 23:18 e:: -> /dev/sdc
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo    9 Sep 16 23:18 f:: -> /dev/sdc1
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo    8 Sep 16 23:18 g:: -> /dev/sdb
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo    1 Sep 16 23:18 z: -> /

As no Windows Y: drive was listed, I decided to use that drive letter for my network Samba share as shown in the steps below.

I created a mountpoint for the share:

$ sudo mkdir -p /media/bsfnas1/brianfolder

Then I created the symlink:

$ ln -s /media/bsfnas1/brianfolder ~/.wine-pdfxve6/dosdevices/y:
$ ls -la ~/.wine-pdfxve6/dosdevices/
total 8
drwxr-xr-x 2 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo 4096 Sep 17 15:38 .
drwxr-xr-x 4 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo 4096 Sep 17 15:39 ..
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo   10 Sep 16 23:18 c: -> ../drive_c
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo    9 Sep 16 23:18 d:: -> /dev/sdb1
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo    8 Sep 16 23:18 e:: -> /dev/sdc
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo    9 Sep 16 23:18 f:: -> /dev/sdc1
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo    8 Sep 16 23:18 g:: -> /dev/sdb
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo   11 Sep 17 15:37 y: -> /media/bsfnas1/brianfolder
lrwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo fitzcarraldo    1 Sep 16 23:18 z: -> /

Finally, I mounted the network share onto the symlink:

$ sudo mount.cifs //bsfnas1/brianfolder/ -o user=brian,pass=enricocaruso ~/.wine-pdfxve6/dosdevices/y:

As before, I see the following when I click on ‘File‘ > ‘Open...‘ in the Windows application running under WINE:

  Favourites
– Desktop
  + My Computer
  + My Documents
    Trash
  + /

If I click on ‘My Computer‘ in the ‘Open File‘ dialogue window, the following items are displayed in the right pane of the window:

Control Panel
(C:)
(D:)
(E:)
(F:)
(G:)
(Y:)
(Z:)

and I can select the ‘(Y:)‘ and browse the contents of the shared folder brianfolder on the NAS drive.

Although I found it was unnecessary to do it for PDF-XChange Editor, apparently some Windows applications require the use of Windows UNC syntax, so I also did the following:

$ mkdir -p ~/.wine-pdfxve6/dosdevices/unc/bsfnas1
$ ln -s /media/bsfnas1/brianfolder ~/.wine-pdfxve6/dosdevices/unc/bsfnas1/brianfolder

If I wanted to unmount the Samba share explicitly, rather than leaving it to be unmounted automatically when I shutdown the laptop, I would enter the following command:

$ sudo umount ~/.wine-pdfxve6/dosdevices/y\:/

Then the Windows application on my laptop would no longer be able to browse the unmounted network share:

$ ls ~/.wine-pdfxve6/dosdevices/
c:  d::  e::  f::  g::  unc  y:  z:
$ ls -la /media/bsfnas1/brianfolder
total 8
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Sep 17 15:35 .
drwxr-xr-x 4 root root 4096 Sep 17 15:35 ..
$

You may be wondering why I did not add an entry in the file /etc/fstab on my laptop, to mount the Samba share automatically when I boot the laptop. The reason I didn’t is because I often use the laptop away from home and the NAS on my home network is then inaccessible in any case. However, to save myself the hassle of having to enter the mount command manually when I am at home and want to use the Windows application to open a file that is in the NAS shared folder, I created two Desktop Configuration files named mount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share.desktop and umount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share.desktop with nice icons in my ~/Desktop directory on the laptop:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment[en_GB]=Mount bsfnas1 brianfolder share for PDF-XChange Editor
Comment=Mount bsfnas1 brianfolder share for PDF-XChange Editor
Exec=sh /home/fitzcarraldo/mount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share.sh
GenericName[en_GB]=Mount bsfnas1 brianfolder share for PDF-XChange Editor
GenericName=Mount bsfnas1 brianfolder share for PDF-XChange Editor
Icon=media-mount
MimeType=
Name[en_GB]=mount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share
Name=mount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share
Path=
StartupNotify=true
Terminal=true
TerminalOptions=\s--noclose
Type=Application
X-DBUS-ServiceName=
X-DBUS-StartupType=none
X-KDE-SubstituteUID=false
X-KDE-Username=fitzcarraldo

[Desktop Entry]
Comment[en_GB]=Unmount bsfnas1 brianfolder share for PDF-XChange Editor
Comment=Unmount bsfnas1 brianfolder share for PDF-XChange Editor
Exec=sh /home/fitzcarraldo/umount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share.sh
GenericName[en_GB]=Unmount bsfnas1 brianfolder share for PDF-XChange Editor
GenericName=Unmount bsfnas1 brianfolder share for PDF-XChange Editor
Icon=media-eject
MimeType=
Name[en_GB]=umount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share
Name=umount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share
Path=
StartupNotify=true
Terminal=true
TerminalOptions=\s--noclose
Type=Application
X-DBUS-ServiceName=
X-DBUS-StartupType=none
X-KDE-SubstituteUID=false
X-KDE-Username=fitzcarraldo

and the Bash scripts mount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share.sh and umount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share.sh launched by the above two Desktop Configuration files are, respectively:

#!/bin/bash
echo "This will mount the Samba share folder brianfolder on the bsfnas1 machine."
echo
echo "Enter your Linux account password below..."
echo
sudo mount.cifs //bsfnas1/brianfolder/ -o user=brian,pass=enricocaruso ~/.wine-pdfxve6/dosdevices/y:
echo
if grep -q "/media/bsfnas1/brianfolder" /proc/mounts; then
  echo "Samba share //bsfnas1/brianfolder is mounted."
else
  echo "Samba share //bsfnas1/brianfolder is not mounted."
fi
echo
echo "You may now close this window."

#!/bin/bash
echo "This will unmount the Samba share folder brianfolder on the bsfnas1 machine."
echo
echo "Enter your Linux account password below..."
echo
sudo umount ~/.wine-pdfxve6/dosdevices/y:
echo
if grep -q "/media/bsfnas1/brianfolder" /proc/mounts; then
  echo "Samba share //bsfnas1/brianfolder is mounted."
else
  echo "Samba share //bsfnas1/brianfolder is not mounted."
fi
echo
echo "You may now close this window."

Don’t forget to make the two shell scripts executable:

$ chmod +x /home/fitzcarraldo/mount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share.sh
$ chmod +x /home/fitzcarraldo/umount_bsfnas1_brianfolder_share.sh

If I was doing this on a desktop PC instead of a laptop, instead of creating the above-mentioned .desktop files and Bash scripts I would have added the following line in the file /etc/fstab to mount the NAS Samba shared folder automatically at boot:

//bsfnas1/brianfolder  /media/bsfnas1/brianfolder  cifs  rw,iocharset=utf8,user=brian,pass=enricocaruso  0   0

It works (I’ve tried it).

Further reading
WineHQ Forums – Mapped network drive in wine.
Estendendo suporte a UNC no Wine.

Office 2007 mime-type problem in KDE Plasma 5

Further to my 2015 post Office 2007 mime-type problem in KDE, another problem opening Excel .xlsm files in Office 2007 with WINE in Gentoo Linux Stable happened to me recently, this time in KDE Plasma 5.5.5. Whenever I clicked on an Excel macro-enabled spreadsheet file myspreadsheet.xlsm in Dolphin, a pop-up window titled ‘Choose Application – Dolphin’ would prompt me to ‘Select the program you want to use to open the file myspreadsheet.xlsm’. When I selected Microsoft Excel 2007 from the ‘Known Applications’ list and ticked ‘Remember application association for all files of type “Excel macro-enabled spreadsheet” (application/vnd.ms-excel.sheet.macroEnabled.12)’, Excel would launch and load the spreadsheet. However, the next time I double-clicked the file, the pop-up window would prompt me again. So I tried setting the file association via ‘System Settings’ > ‘Applications’ > ‘File Associations’. Now, there are three entries under ‘Known Types’: vnd.ms-excel.sheet.macroEnabled.12, vnd.ms-excel.sheet.macroenabled.12 and x-wine-extension-xlsmhtml. However, there was no application listed in the box ‘Application Preference Order’ for vnd.ms-excel.sheet.macroEnabled.12, and, if I added Microsoft Excel 2007 to the list and clicked ‘Apply’, the new entry would disappear immediately.

Unlike the situation described in the above-mentioned post, the mime type for the .xlsm file appeared correct:

$ file myspreadsheet.xlsm
myspreadsheet.xlsm: Microsoft Excel 2007+
$ xdg-mime query filetype myspreadsheet.xlsm
application/vnd.ms-excel.sheet.macroEnabled.12

The file /usr/share/mime/subclasses contains ‘macroEnabled‘ rather than ‘macroenabled‘:

$ grep macroenabled /usr/share/mime/subclasses
$ grep macroEnabled /usr/share/mime/subclasses
application/vnd.ms-excel.sheet.binary.macroEnabled.12 application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheet
application/vnd.ms-excel.addin.macroEnabled.12 application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheet
application/vnd.ms-powerpoint.slideshow.macroEnabled.12 application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.slideshow
application/vnd.ms-excel.sheet.macroEnabled.12 application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheet
application/vnd.ms-powerpoint.presentation.macroEnabled.12 application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation
application/vnd.ms-word.template.macroEnabled.12 application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.template
application/vnd.ms-excel.template.macroEnabled.12 application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.template
application/vnd.ms-powerpoint.template.macroEnabled.12 application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.template
application/vnd.ms-word.document.macroEnabled.12 application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.document
application/vnd.ms-powerpoint.slide.macroEnabled.12 application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.slide

but the work-around mentioned in my 2015 post (i.e. replacing ‘macroEnabled‘ with ‘macroenabled‘ in the file /usr/share/mime/subclasses) did not fix the latest problem: I was still prompted to choose an application every time I double-clicked on a .xlsm file. So I reverted to the original contents of /usr/share/mime/subclasses (i.e. back to ‘macroEnabled‘) and looked in the directory /usr/share/mime/application/ to see what it contained for Excel spreadsheets:

$ ls -1 /usr/share/mime/application/vnd.ms-excel.sheet.*
/usr/share/mime/application/vnd.ms-excel.sheet.binary.macroenabled.12.xml
/usr/share/mime/application/vnd.ms-excel.sheet.macroenabled.12.xml

As there was no file for vnd.ms-excel.sheet.macroEnabled.12.xml I decided to create one to see if that would solve the problem:

$ sudo cp /usr/share/mime/application/vnd.ms-excel.sheet.macroenabled.12.xml /usr/share/mime/application/vnd.ms-excel.sheet.macroEnabled.12.xml

It did! If I click on a .xlsm file now, Excel 2007 launches and opens the spreadsheet.

Automatically detecting files placed in my Downloads directory in Gentoo Linux and scanning them for viruses

I have been using Linux for almost a decade and have never been unduly concerned about viruses on my machines running Linux. However, I do receive files from people who use Windows and Mac OS, and some of those files might contain Windows or Mac OS viruses, so, as a matter of courtesy and assistance to others, it would make some sense to scan those files before passing them on. Furthermore, as I use some Windows applications under WINE, it would also make sense to scan received files for Windows viruses if I am going to use those files with a Windows application running under WINE.

External files could get into my Gentoo Linux installations via pen drives, memory cards, optical discs, e-mails, my Dropbox directory and downloads from Web sites. In this post I am going to concentrate on the last of these. All the various e-mail account providers I use already scan e-mails for viruses on their e-mail servers before I even download e-mail into the e-mail client on my laptop (standard practice these days), so e-mail is not a particular worry.

I have had ClamAV and its GUI, ClamTk, installed for a long time. Whilst ClamTk can be used to schedule a daily update of virus signatures and a daily scan of one’s home directory by ClamAV, I normally run ClamTk and ClamAV ad hoc. However, I can see some benefit in launching ClamAV automatically when I download a file from the Internet, so I decided to do the following …

Automatically scan a file downloaded via a Web browser

I use Firefox to browse the Web, and had configured it to download files to the directory /home/fitzcarraldo/Downloads/. I decided to monitor automatically the Downloads directory for the addition of any file. As I use the ext4 file system, the method I opted to use is inotify, specifically the inotifywait command which is available once you install the package sys-fs/inotify-tools.

It is surprisingly easy to create a shell script to detect files downloaded into a directory. The following script, running continuously in a terminal, would detect any files created in my /home/fitzcarraldo/Downloads directory, scan the new files with ClamAV and display a report in the terminal window:

#!/bin/bash

echo
DIR=$HOME/Downloads

inotifywait -q -m -e create --format '%w%f' $DIR | while read FILE
do
     date
     echo "File $FILE has been detected. Scanning it for viruses now ..."
     clamscan $FILE
     echo
done

A usable script would need to be a bit more sophisticated than the one shown above, because an existing file in the directory could be overwritten by one with the same name, or opened and amended. Furthermore, the script above would need a permanently open terminal window. Therefore I created a script to run in the background and use a GUI dialogue tool to pop up a window with the virus scanner’s report when the script detects a new or changed file in the Downloads directory. As this laptop has KDE 4 installed I opted to use KDialog to display the pop-up window, but I could instead have used Zenity. The final script is shown below.

#!/bin/bash

DIR=$HOME/Downloads

# Get rid of old log file
rm $HOME/virus-scan.log 2> /dev/null

inotifywait -q -m -e close_write,moved_to --format '%w%f' $DIR | while read FILE
do
     # Have to check file length is nonzero otherwise commands may be repeated
     if [ -s $FILE ]; then
          date > $HOME/virus-scan.log
          clamscan $FILE >> $HOME/virus-scan.log
          kdialog --title "Virus scan of $FILE" --msgbox "$(cat $HOME/virus-scan.log)"
     fi
done

Now when I download a file in Firefox, a window pops up, displaying a message similar to the following:

Virus scan of /home/fitzcarraldo/Downloads/eicar_com.zip – KDialog

Fri 19 Feb 23:42:02 GMT 2016
/home/fitzcarraldo/Downloads/eicar_com.zip: Eicar-Test-Signature FOUND

———– SCAN SUMMARY ———–
Known viruses: 4259980
Engine version: 0.98.7
Scanned directories: 0
Scanned files: 1
Infected files: 1
Data scanned: 0.00 MB
Data read: 0.00 MB (ratio 0.00:1)
Time: 4.595 sec (0 m 4 s)

Notice in the above message that ClamAV detected a virus in a file eicar_com.zip that I downloaded from the European Expert Group for IT Security Web site (originally ‘European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research’). In fact the executable eicar.com does not contain a real virus; it was designed to contain a known signature that virus scanner creators and users can use in checking anti-virus software. You can find out more about the virus test files on the EICAR Web site.

Of course, if I use applications other than Firefox to download files, I need to make sure they download the files into the applicable directory so that the script can detect and scan the files:

fitzcarraldo@clevow230ss ~ $ cd Downloads/
fitzcarraldo@clevow230ss ~/Downloads $ youtube-dl -o Carnavalito.mp4 -f 18 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDUL3w7zFD4
ZDUL3w7zFD4: Downloading webpage
ZDUL3w7zFD4: Downloading video info webpage
ZDUL3w7zFD4: Extracting video information
ZDUL3w7zFD4: Downloading MPD manifest
[download] Destination: Carnavalito.mp4
[download] 100% of 16.61MiB in 00:05

So, now I have a shell script that pops up a window informing me whether or not any file I put in $HOME/Downloads/ contains a virus. But I would like the script to be launched automatically when I login to the Desktop Environment. Therefore, as I use KDE 4, I selected ‘System Settings’ > ‘Startup and Shutdown’ and, in the ‘Autostart’ pane, clicked on ‘Add Script…’ and entered the path to my shell script (I left ‘create as symlink’ ticked). Now, every time I use KDE, any file placed (automatically or manually) into $HOME/Downloads/ is scanned for viruses automatically and a window pops up giving the result.

As my laptop is not always connected to the Internet, I prefer to update the ClamAV virus signatures database manually, which I do either using the ClamTk GUI or via the command line using the freshclam command:

fitzcarraldo@clevow230ss ~ $ su
Password:
clevow230ss fitzcarraldo # freshclam
ClamAV update process started at Sat Feb 20 10:51:01 2016
WARNING: Your ClamAV installation is OUTDATED!
WARNING: Local version: 0.98.7 Recommended version: 0.99
DON'T PANIC! Read http://www.clamav.net/support/faq
main.cvd is up to date (version: 55, sigs: 2424225, f-level: 60, builder: neo)
Downloading daily-21375.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21376.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21377.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21378.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21379.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21380.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21381.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21382.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21383.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21384.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21385.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21386.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21387.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21388.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21389.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21390.cdiff [100%]
Downloading daily-21391.cdiff [100%]
daily.cld updated (version: 21391, sigs: 1850214, f-level: 63, builder: neo)
bytecode.cld is up to date (version: 271, sigs: 47, f-level: 63, builder: anvilleg)
Database updated (4274486 signatures) from db.UK.clamav.net (IP: 129.67.1.218)
WARNING: Clamd was NOT notified: Can't connect to clamd through /var/run/clamav/clamd.sock: No such file or directory

WINE tips: File associations for Windows applications in Linux (continued)

There is a downside to the approach described in my previous post regarding file associations for Windows applications run via WINE, at least in the case of KDE.

By using KDE’s ‘System Settings’ > ‘File Associations’ to change the application launch command from:

env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5/drive_c/Program\ Files/Visio/Visio32.EXE

to:

env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine C:\\windows\\command\\start.exe /Unix %U

the launch command in KDE’s Kicker application launcher menu is also changed to the latter. Trying to launch the Windows application from the Kicker menu (Wine > Programs > a_Windows_application) then fails. Presumably this is because the wine command expects a filename (the %U in the command string) but that is not being provided.

Alternative 1

One solution is to use a shell script as described in my earlier post: WINE tips: How to associate IrfanView with an image file type in Linux. Kicker can still be used to launch the application (e.g. Wine > Programs > IrfanView) when the menu command is of the following form but no filename is provided (even though the %f is left in the command string):

/home/fitzcarraldo/launch_IrfanView.sh %f

Alternative 2

Another solution – well, really a work-around – is to accept that the Windows application cannot be launched from the Kicker menu and to create a separate Desktop Configuration File in /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/ which uses a different command to launch the application. For example, in my previous post the file association I configured via ‘System Settings’ > ‘File Associations’ for Visio was:

env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine C:\\windows\\command\\start.exe /Unix %U

and therefore the command in the Kicker menu entry is the same, but I created a Desktop Configuration File which I named ‘/home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/Visio 5 Professional‘ which contains the command:

env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5/drive_c/Program\ Files/Visio/Visio32.EXE

$ ls -la ~/Desktop/Visio*
-rwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo users 562 Aug 26 17:42 /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/Visio 5 Professional

Notice that the command to launch the Windows application does not contain a filename parameter (%U), so when I double-click on the icon on the Desktop it launches Visio.

Summary

Ideally, KDE should be changed to allow the application launching command in ‘System Settings’ > ‘File Associations’ to be edited to be different to the application launching command in the Kicker menu. In the absence of that, you have two alternatives in the case of WINE:

  1. Create a shell script to launch the application. This allows you to launch the Windows application via Kicker and by double-clicking on a file of the applicable type.

    or

  2. Create a separate Desktop Configuration File in e.g. the ~/Desktop/ directory. This allows you to launch the Windows application by double-clicking on a Desktop Configuration File for the application and by double-clicking on a file of the applicable type. However you cannot launch the application from its entry in the Kicker menu.

WINE tips: File associations of Windows applications in Linux

I have several applications for Windows installed under WINE in Linux. These applications launch correctly if I double-click on a file for that application, but, in the case of some of these applications, the file itself is not opened. Therefore I first have to launch the application and then load the file from within the application (File > Open, or whatever). Some time ago I explained how to fix this in the case of IrfanView by creating a shell script – see my post WINE tips: How to associate IrfanView with an image file type in Linux – but there is an easier way to do it in many cases, as illustrated by the example below for another Windows application I use regularly in Linux. I finally got fed up with not being able to open .vsd (Visio drawing) files by double-clicking on them in Linux, and decided to fix this. The same procedure applies, whatever the Windows application.

I use KDE, but the principle applies whatever Desktop Environment you are using. Just use the relevant File Association configuration tool for that Desktop Environment.

  1. I selected ‘System Settings’ > ‘File Associations’ from the KDE Kickoff menu launcher.

  2. I entered ‘vsd’ (without the quotes) in the search field in order to find the application associated with that file type.

    The ‘Known Types’ box then displayed the following:

    >- application

  3. When I expanded that by clicking on it, the ‘Known Types’ box displayed the following two application file types:

    v- application
            vnd.ms-visio.viewer
            vnd.visio

  4. Clicking on either displayed ‘Visio 5.0 Professional’ in the ‘Application Preference Order’ box. I selected it and clicked on ‘Edit…’, which opened a Properties window for the application’s desktop configuration file.

  5. I clicked on the ‘Application’ tab. The ‘Command’ box contained the following command:
    env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5/drive_c/Program\ Files/Visio/Visio32.EXE

    (The wine command itself has to be preceded by the definition of the WINEPREFIX and WINEARCH environment variables because I specified those environment variables originally when I installed the application via WINE.)

    I changed the command to be the following:

    env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine C:\\windows\\command\\start.exe /Unix %U

    for both vnd.ms-viso.viewer and vnd.visio application file types, and clicked on ‘OK’ and ‘Apply’.

That’s all there was to it. Now when I double-click on any file ending with ‘.vsd’, Visio launches as before but the actual file is opened in the application. Very straightforward, and I really should have made the effort to fix it sooner.🙂

Installing Firefox for Windows and the Silverlight plug-in in WINE

I use 64-bit (~amd64) multilib Gentoo Linux on my main laptop, and had been using successfully Version 0.2.3 of the Pipelight browser plug-in in 64-bit Firefox 29.0.1 for Linux to access an office Intranet Web site that uses Microsoft Silverlight. However, after installing 64-bit Firefox 30.0 for Linux recently I found that Mozilla has removed NPAPI support by default in Firefox 30, and Web sites using Silverlight would no longer load.

By updating Pipelight to Version 0.2.6 and changing the user agent string — see ‘Firefox UserAgent Switcher list‘ — I was able to browse in Firefox 30.0 for Linux only some of the Web sites that use Silverlight, but the aforementioned Intranet Web site would no longer load and displayed the following error message instead:

It appears the browser you are using to access this site is unsupported. Please use one of the following browsers …

· Internet Explorer 8.0

· Internet Explorer 9.0

· Internet Explorer 10.0

If you are using one of these browsers and you are still seeing this message, please contact company support.

I tried changing Firefox’s user agent string to the following, which I found from the post ‘Firefox UserAgent Switcher list‘:

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 10.6; Windows NT 6.1; Trident/5.0; InfoPath.2; SLCC1; .NET CLR 3.0.4506.2152; .NET CLR 3.5.30729; .NET CLR 2.0.50727) 3gpp-gba UNTRUSTED/1.0

That user agent string allowed the Intranet’s Web page to start loading, but a window popped-up displaying the error message shown below and Firefox stopped responding (froze).

Error reading Localization file

[Xml_UnexpectedTokens2]
Arguments: Content-Type,”,’,4,18
Debugging resource strings unavailable. Often the key and arguments provide
sufficient information to diagnose the problem. See http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?
linkid=106663&Version=5.1.30214.00&File=System.Xml.dll&Key=Xml_UnexpectedTokens2

After trying various user agent strings without success I decided to install 64-bit Firefox 30.0 for Windows and the 64-bit Silverlight plug-in in WINE. The 64-bit Firefox 30.0 for Windows installed successfully and I could launch it and browse the Internet. However, I found that the 64-bit Silverlight plug-in would not install (according to a message in the Silverlight Installer window, installation of the plug-in crashed at 82% complete), so I then installed 32-bit Firefox 30.0 for Windows with the 32-bit Silverlight plug-in, and that worked. Below I list the steps I used to install and configure 32-bit Firefox 30.0 with the 32-bit Silverlight plug-in in WINE (which, in my installation, was compiled to support both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows applications).

Installation and configuration of 32-bit Firefox for Windows and the Silverlight plug-in

1. I used a Web browser to download the file ‘Firefox Setup 30.0.exe‘ from the Mozilla Firefox Web site to the /home/fitzcarraldo/Downloads/ directory. The Mozilla Web site offers a choice of localised versions, so I downloaded the installer for Firefox for Windows in British English.

2. I opened a Konsole window and entered the following commands:

$ cd
$ export WINEPREFIX=$HOME/.wine-firefox
$ export WINEARCH="win32"
$ winecfg # Set Windows Version to Window 7.
$ cd ./.wine-firefox/drive_c/
$ wget http://winetricks.org/winetricks # Download winetricks so I can install Windows fonts.
$ chmod +x winetricks # Make winetricks script executable.
$ ./winetricks # Launch winetricks and install Windows fonts.
$ cp /home/fitzcarraldo/Downloads/Firefox\ Setup\ 30.0.exe .
$ wine Firefox\ Setup\ 30.0.exe
$ env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-firefox" WINEARCH="win32" wine /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-firefox/drive_c/Program\ Files/Mozilla\ Firefox/firefox.exe # Launch Firefox and download the Silverlight installer.

N.B. Keep the Konsole window open and use it to enter all the commands listed in this post.

Notice that I downloaded and launched the excellent winetricks script so that I could install some Windows fonts that Firefox for Windows might need to use. When the winetricks window opens, all I needed to do was:

  • Select ‘Select the default wineprefix’ and click ‘OK’
  • Select ‘Install a font’and click ‘OK’.
  • Select ‘allfonts’ and click ‘OK’.
  • Optionally, if you have an LCD monitor and you would like to enable subpixel font smoothing, select ‘Change Settings’ then ‘fontsmooth=rgb’ and click ‘OK’.

3. I used the 32-bit Firefox for Windows Web browser to download the Silverlight plug-in installer to the /home/fitzcarraldo/Downloads/ directory. The files downloaded were Silverlight.exe and Silverlight.exe:Zone.Identifier which were both downloaded when I clicked on the ‘Click to Install’ button on the ‘Get Microsoft Silverlight‘ Web page and I then moved them from the directory /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/ to the /home/fitzcarraldo/Downloads/ directory.

4. I exited Firefox for Windows and installed the Silverlight plug-in:

$ cp /home/fitzcarraldo/Downloads/Silverlight* .
$ wine Silverlight.exe # Now install 32-bit Silverlight.

5. Then I launched Firefox for Windows again to configure the User Agent:

$ env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-firefox" WINEARCH="win32" wine /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-firefox/drive_c/Program\ Files/Mozilla\ Firefox/firefox.exe

I entered ‘about:config‘ (without the quotes) in the Address bar and added a new preference named general.useragent.override containing the following string (it is a User Agent string for Microsoft Internet Explorer 10.6 in 32-bit Windows 7):

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 10.6; Windows NT 6.1; Trident/5.0; InfoPath.2; SLCC1; .NET CLR 3.0.4506.2152; .NET CLR 3.5.30729; .NET CLR 2.0.50727) 3gpp-gba UNTRUSTED/1.0

N.B. This is the user agent string I used to get a specific office’s Intranet Web site that uses Silverlight to load in the Firefox 30.0 for Windows browser. You may need to use a different user agent string for the particular Web site you want to load. Use a search engine to search the Web for suitable user agent strings for the specific Web site you wish to browse. I have seen various user agent strings given for Netflix, for example, so you may have to try several to find one that works for you.

Alternatively, rather than using about:config you could install a Firefox extension such as User Agent Switcher and the associated ‘useragentswitcher.xml‘ file (see the ‘Firefox UserAgent Switcher list’ reference above for details of how to install), which would allow you to add, edit and select user agent strings more easily. An alternative to User Agent Switcher is the Firefox extension User Agent Overrider which may give you better results than User Agent Switcher on some Web sites that use Silverlight. I have tried it and it enables me to view the Silverlight test pages on the Web (I selected ‘Windows / Firefox 29’ from the User Agent Overrider pull-down menu).

6. I also made sure that plugins.click_to_play is set to ‘true’ (it should be by default) and I gave permission to Firefox to use the Silverlight plug-in on the relevant Web site I wish to use (Open menu > Add-ons > Plugins). See ‘Issues related to plugins – 4.1 Click to Play in Mozilla browser versions 23 and above‘ on the mozillaZine Website and ‘How to always activate a plugin for a trusted website‘ on the Mozilla Support Website.

Launching Firefox for Windows correctly in Linux

To launch Firefox for Windows from the command line you will need to enter either of the following commands:

$ env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-firefox" WINEARCH="win32" wine /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-firefox/drive_c/Program\ Files/Mozilla\ Firefox/firefox.exe

$ env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-firefox" WINEARCH="win32" wine C:\\windows\\command\\start.exe /Unix /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-firefox/dosdevices/c:/users/Public/Start\ Menu/Programs/Mozilla\ Firefox.lnk

Alternatively, you can set up a Desktop Configuration File (.desktop file) on your Desktop and/or an entry in the Desktop Environment’s launcher menu. In my case, WINE took care of doing both of those during the installation of Firefox for Windows, and it used the standard Firefox icon. I just needed to edit the entry’s command for launching Firefox, to make it match one of the commands listed above.

Postscript

Regarding the file Silverlight.exe:Zone.Identifier that was downloaded when I downloaded the Silverlight installer (Silverlight.exe), I had never come across such a file type before but have now found out what it is:

File that contains metadata describing the security zones associated with another file; generated automatically when a file is downloaded from the Internet or received as an email attachment; often created by Internet Explorer.

See the article .ZONE.IDENTIFIER File Extension for details.

You can therefore forget about the Silverlight.exe:Zone.Identifier file (if one even exists in your case). The important thing is to download the Silverlight installer, which is a single .exe file.

Installing the Windows version of Google Earth in WINE

Some Gentoo Linux users have reported that, although the native Linux release of Google Earth crashes, they can run the Windows version successfully under WINE. However, those users have also reported that the Windows installer for Google Earth did not work under WINE and so they copied the C:\Program Files\Google\Google Earth\ directory from a Windows PC to the virtual C:\ drive in their .wine directory (it would be ‘Program Files (x86)‘ in a 64-bit Windows installation, as Google Earth is a 32-bit application).

Now, if you download the Windows Google Earth installer from the Google Web site, what you get is a file GoogleEarthWin.exe that is 534.6 KiB in size (the size may vary depending on the release). However, you can instead download the Offline Installer using the following URL:

http://dl.google.com/earth/client/advanced/current/GoogleEarthWin.exe

and then you get a file GoogleEarthWin.exe that is 24.3 MiB in size (the size will vary depending on the release), which does run in WINE and does install the Windows version of Google Earth in WINE.

So, you might like to try that if you cannot run Google Earth in Linux but you have WINE installed. However, note that you will be wasting your time if the native Linux version of Google Earth crashes because of its incompatibility with the closed-source ATI or NVIDIA video driver. For example, Google Earth 7.1.2.2041 for Linux crashes on my main laptop using the 14.3_beta version of ati-drivers (AMD ATI Catalyst driver, a.k.a. FGLRX).

Anyway, if you want to install the Windows release of Google Earth under WINE here’s how to do it in a Konsole/Terminal window:

$ cd
$ export WINEPREFIX=$HOME/.wine-googleearth
$ export WINEARCH="win32"
$ winecfg
$ cd ./.wine-googleearth/drive_c/
$ wget http://dl.google.com/earth/client/advanced/current/GoogleEarthWin.exe
$ wine GoogleEarthWin.exe

And, to run it later:

$ env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-googleearth" WINEARCH="win32" wine C:\\windows\\command\\start.exe /Unix /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-googleearth/dosdevices/c:/users/fitzcarraldo/Start\ Menu/Programs/Google\ Earth/Google\ Earth.lnk

(Of course replace “fitzcarraldo” with your user name.)

But, as I wrote above, if the native Linux version of Google Earth crashes due to its incompatibility with the closed-source video driver (ATI or NVIDIA), it is highly unlikely the native Windows version will work under WINE.

A guided tour of my KDE 4.8.4 desktop (Part 2)

In A guided tour of my KDE 4.8.4 desktop (Part 1) I gave a brief overview of the KDE desktop on my main laptop. This time I’m going to cover some applications, KDE and non-KDE, that I use. Just to prove that I don’t look at KDE through rose-tinted spectacles, I’ll also mention a few problems too.

I don’t use a desktop PC. This laptop is my main PC and I use it for all my professional and personal tasks. I travel frequently and have to connect to public and private networks (wired, wireless and broadband modems) and to many different network printers, so a reliable desktop environment and reliable network management software are essential. KDE satisfies the first requirement. The desktop environment-independent NetworkManager and its KDE front-end, the Plasma widget NetworkManagement, satisfy the second requirement. I also use my laptop for the usual leisure activities such as watching DVDs, video files and TV programmes; listening to music files, Audio CDs and Internet radio; messaging/telephony (PC-to-PC and PC-to-landline/mobile internationally); browsing the Web, blogging and so on.

So this is very much a mission-critical machine for me. The fact that I’m using KDE successfully for all these tasks is a testament to the power of KDE (and Linux, of course). I should also point out that, for a mission-critical machine, I’m living a little dangerously as I use the testing branch (a.k.a. unstable branch), rather than the stable branch, of Gentoo Linux. I’ve been using the unstable branch for several years on this laptop and its predecessor, with only a few hiccups, although I do have to keep an eye on the Gentoo forums in case someone reports a problem.

Office suites

Microsoft Word and LibreOffice Calc

Snapshot 1 - Microsoft Word and LibreOffice Calc

I use both LibreOffice and Microsoft Office 2007, the latter under WINE (see WINE tips: Giving each Windows application its own environment). Office 2007 guarantees me 100 per cent compatibility at work but I also find it easier and more reliable than LibreOffice with the large, complex documents and spreadsheets I create. That said, I also have many Word 97 documents and Excel 97 spreadsheets that I still need to access, and LibreOffice opens some of them that Office 2007 cannot. I prefer to use Writer rather than Word for simple tasks such as typing a letter, as I dislike the Ribbon Interface. And I’m happy to use Calc rather than Excel in the majority of cases.

Once I got Office 2007 running under WINE I did not have to boot into Windows any more, although recently that changed for one very specific task on one work project: checking out (downloading) a Microsoft Word file from a Microsoft SharePoint repository, editing it locally and checking it back in (uploading it). Using Firefox in Linux I can upload a Word file to the SharePoint repository initially, but I have to boot into Windows and use Internet Explorer and Word to check-out, edit and check-in the revised document. I’ve used third-party document management and collaboration software in the past that does not require the use of Internet Explorer and Word. I can see how Microsoft lock you into their product line, and I don’t like that.

For schematic diagrams and flowcharts I usually use an old version of Visio (5 Professional) I bought in 1999, again under WINE. I find Visio easier and faster to use than Dia, a GNOME application I also use sometimes for simple diagrams.

E-mail client

I use Thunderbird to access several POP3 e-mail accounts and, via the excellent DavMail, a couple of Microsoft Exchange OWA (Outlook Web Access) accounts at different companies. DavMail is a life-saver. Having to access those two accounts via a Web browser was a hassle and inefficient. A single e-mail client which can be used to access and manage all my e-mail accounts is a godsend. I still have work e-mails from more than ten years ago, and Thunderbird enables me to find information in them with ease. For professional use by ‘power users’, WebMail cannot hold a candle to a good e-mail client such as Thunderbird. I use a number of Thunderbird extensions which I find essential: Lightning (calendar); Provider for Google Calendar (bidirectional access to Google Calendar); Timezone definitions for Mozilla Calendar; Change quote and reply format (why isn’t this functionality built-in to Thunderbird?); ConfigDate (ditto); Enigmail (encyption/decryption of e-mails); ImportExportTools (conversion tools for different e-mail formats); Dictionaries for several languages.

One of the reasons I chose Thunderbird was because it is available for both Linux and Windows. As I can dual boot this laptop, I put Thunderbird’s data files on the Windows NTFS partition (Windows cannot access Linux file systems), and Thunderbird in either OS accesses the same data files. I virtually never boot into Windows, but it is good to know that I can access my e-mail accounts from either operating system using the same application.

Scanning

I occasionally use SANE scanner interface software and its GUI front-end XSane for scanning images and documents to create image files. But I am much more likely to use the GUI front-end gscan2pdf, as I often need to create PDF files for work. gscan2pdf is another application I find indispensable.

Web browsing

Browsers and Google Earth

Snapshot 2 - Browsers and Google Earth

I use Firefox and the KDE browser/file manager/universal viewer Konqueror. I configured Konqueror to use the WebKit rendering engine instead of KHTML (Install the package kwebkitpart then launch Konqueror, select Settings > ‘Configure Konqueror…’ and select ‘WebKit’ as the ‘Default web browser engine’ on the General tab). There have been a few times when Firefox has not been able to display a Web page properly or at all, and Konqueror came to the rescue. The KIO Slaves I mentioned in Part 1 also add to Konqueror’s versatility.

I use the Oxygen KDE Firefox extension (see Snapshot 2), a theme for Firefox that makes it look like a native KDE application. Very nice indeed.

Google Earth needs no introduction. It runs well in KDE on my laptop, and I find it useful both in my work and for personal use.

I have the KDE blogging client Blogilo installed and it was easy to configure it to synchronise with my blog. In fact I started preparing this article in Blogilo but had to abandon it as Blogilo would not save reliably my incomplete work to my hard disk. After losing changes several times I gave up and turned to my tried and tested KWrite to draft the article offline first. Shame, really, as Blogilo looks really handy for preparing blog posts offline and then uploading them. Hopefully the next release will work for me.

For Web site creation and editing I use KompoZer. It’s not as sophisticated as Dreamweaver, but is easy to use and does a good job for my purposes.

Messaging and telephony

I use Skype for Linux for PC-to-PC and PC-to-phone communication domestically and internationally. There is simply no alternative if I want to communicate with my Windows-using friends, family and work colleagues: they are not going to switch to anything else. Actually, I find Skype for Linux perfectly usable (unlike Skype for Android on my Motorola Xoom tablet, which has a fiddly and rather annoying user interface). In some countries the state-owned telecom provider blocks Skype for commercial reasons, but I have been able to circumvent this using Tor (see How to install and use Tor for anonymous browsing or to access country-restricted content from another country). Furthermore, some office networks I use also block Skype, to enforce the use of another product or to stop personal communication, but Tor has helped me out there too.

Graphics

I use the GIMP quite a lot, mostly for photo editing/retouching for work purposes but sometimes to edit/retouch personal photos. I have only used the vector graphics application Inkscape a few times at work and at home. I enjoyed using it to produce the graphics for a laptop ‘Powered by’ sticker.

Gwenview

Snapshot 3 - Gwenview

Apart from the excellent KDE image viewer Gwenview, which gets better with every release of KDE, I use GQView. GQview has been around for many years and its UI looks rather dated, but it has some powerful features which I find useful at work (and at home). GQview makes it easy for me to assign keywords to image files and to search on keywords; to examine EXIF data; to print thumbnail proof sheets; to view multiple image files and page through directories of image files, and so on. This application has often been of help to me at work.

Okular and Adobe Reader

Snapshot 4 - Okular and Adobe Reader

KDE’s Okular document viewer and Adobe Reader are in frequent use on my laptop. I use them both but resort to Adobe Reader for the huge PDF files I sometimes have to view at work, as they load quicker in Adobe Reader. Also, Okular has had a rather irritating habit of printing Landscape pages in Portrait, and vice versa. This problem seems to come and go with different releases of Okular.

CAD

I hardly ever need to use CAD applications, but occasionally I do need to view some old AutoCAD files. For this I use an old version (2009-en-1.06-1) of VariCAD Viewer which opens those old files although it can’t open newer AutoCAD files. I tried unsuccessfully to install newer versions of VariCAD Viewer in the past, but have not tried again recently.

E-books

I only recently began reading e-books. The EPUBReader Firefox extension is an excellent and easy-to-use e-book reader, library manager and shop window for both free and commercical e-books in ePub format. The display of book pages when using the extension as a reader is better than many of the dedicated e-book applications I have seen.

Calibre is an excellent dedicated e-book reader and format converter that I discovered by accident when reading a review of the Amazon Kindle. If you are looking for an application that can handle all the various e-book formats, convert between them, manage your e-book library, upload and download e-books, and act as a reader, look no further. Even the application’s Web site oozes class.

Multimedia

SMPlayer multimedia player, and YouTube in Firefox

Snapshot 5 - SMPlayer multimedia player, and YouTube in Firefox

I have far too many multimedia players installed, but I like to alternate between them. In any case it’s useful to have several players installed because sometimes one of them is able to play a certain file that another cannot.

SMPlayer, VLC and Xine play DVDs, CDs, music files, video files, Internet radio, and digital TV (DVB). I like all three.

Miro is a music and video player, torrent downloader, Internet TV and podcast viewer, and more. Another very polished application I enjoy using.

Dragon Player is a KDE player for CDs, DVDs, audio and video files. It plays DVDs, audio and video files well on my laptop, but cannot play Audio CDs for some reason. It is not as versatile or as polished as the multimedia players mentioned above, so I rarely use it.

UPDATE (January 10, 2014): As of KDE 4.11.3, Dragon Player can play Audio CDs on my laptop. I believe this was due to an update to KDE’s Phonon and/or the Phonon backends.

Clementine music player

Snapshot 6 - Clementine music player

The music players I have installed are Audacious, Clementine and Amarok. These three applications focus on playing and managing collections of music files, Audio CDs and streaming Internet radio.

In the days of KDE 3 I used exclusively Amarok 1.4, which was darn near a perfect music player. But new releases of Amarok were buggy in early releases of KDE 4, and today Amarok still does not work as well for me as the KDE 3 version did. Some of the album covers disappear randomly from the album cover manager, and it is irritating to have to restore covers. Clementine, on the other hand, has no trouble managing album covers and I find it is more polished than Amarok and nicer to use all round. I cannot get Amarok to play Audio CDs with the KDE GStreamer Phonon backend, only with the KDE VLC Phonon backend. Even then the optical drive in my laptop spins very fast and produces a loud noise, making listening to Audio CDs painful. Audacious, on the other hand, plays Audio CDs quietly and perfectly on my laptop. Although Clementine is superb in other respects, for some reason it cannot play Audio CDs on my laptop, whichever KDE Phonon backend is selected. All three players can stream Internet radio without problem, although the long pre-configured list of radio stations in Clementine is simply excellent. If Clementine could play Audio CDs on my laptop, it would be my favourite music player.

UPDATE (January 10, 2014): As of KDE 4.11.3, Clementine can play Audio CDs on my laptop. I believe this was due to an update to KDE’s Phonon and/or the Phonon backends.

MIDI players and Karaoke

I have four different MIDI players installed. PyKaraoke (see HOWTO: PyKaraoke) and KDE’s own KMid can both play MIDI files with and without embedded karaoke lyrics. TiMidity++ is a MIDI file player, as well as an ALSA sequencer which can be used by the other MIDI player applications here. Drumstick has three applications: a MIDI player, a drumkit sequencer and a virtual piano keyboard. I enter the following command once before launching any of them:

modprobe snd_seq && timidity -iA -Os

Actually, I have put the above command in a Desktop Configuration File with a nice icon in my Desktop directory, so I just double-click on it. I could have instead loaded the snd_seq module automatically at startup by specifying it in the file /etc/conf.d/modules.

Audio CDs

KsCD is a simple KDE application with a sole purpose: to play Audio CDs. For me it fails miserably in this task, and has done in several releases of KDE. The last time I remember it working for sure was in KDE 4.3.3, and here we are today with KDE 4.8.4. The KDE Bug Tracking System has quite a few bug reports regarding KsCD. I don’t know if the application itself has a bug, or if the KDE Phonon backends are buggy, or if KDE has a bug, or if there is a problem with udev, or a combination. Anyway, whatever the reason, in my case KsCD is useless. Come to that, for Audio CDs Amarok is next to useless. Luckily for me, Audacious, SMPlayer, VLC and Xine can play Audio CDs perfectly on my laptop.

UPDATE (January 10, 2014): As of KDE 4.11.3, KsCD can play Audio CDs on my laptop. I believe this was due to an update to KDE’s Phonon and/or the Phonon backends.

YouTube

I should mention the excellent command line tool youtube-dl (‘YouTube download’) which is great for downloading videos from YouTube. You can specify the resolution, extract the audio, and various other tricks. Well worth adding to your set of mutlimedia tools. Or, if you prefer a GUI, Minitube is a cracking application for watching and streaming YouTube videos without using a Web browser, and also enables you to download them.

Backing up CDs/DVDs or ripping audio and video

K3b is a superb KDE application. It’s a one-stop shop for making back-ups of CDs and DVDs, creating data CDs and DVDs, and ripping CDs and DVDs. I use K3b to rip my Audio CDs to mp3 files.

Another well-known KDE application is the excellent K9Copy DVD ripper. Unfortunately the developer stopped working on it in July 2011. I hope someone else picks it up, as K9Copy has an intuitive GUI and I have used it on a number of occasions to rip my DVDs to my hard disk so that I could watch them when travelling.

dvd::rip does just what the name suggests, and I’ve used this excellent application too. The GUI is intuitive and the online documentation is very good.

Winki the Ripper is a good application for ripping DVDs to MKV files (it can also rip to AVI files). I have used it but noticed recently that the Web site is up for sale, so I hope the application is still being developed.

WINE

WINE menu in Lancelot Launcher

Snapshot 7 - WINE menu in Lancelot Launcher

I have mentioned Office 2007 already, but I have a few other Windows applications installed under WINE, such as IE7 (so that I can see how a Web site looks in a Windows browser), IrfanView, Lotus ScreenCam Player (so that it is still possible to view some videos of a specialist application running in Windows 95 many years ago), Notepad, Pinball and a few applications and utilities I need that are not available in Linux. WINE is not perfect, but it is wonderful software that also makes it possible to run some older Windows applications that are probably not able to run in Windows Vista and 7.

Utilities

Some utilities

Snapshot 8 - Some utilities

I used to use the brilliant command line utility ImageMagick to scale image files, but have not had to resort to the command line since the GUI front-end Converseen was released (see Converseen, a GUI batch image converter and resizer using Qt4 and ImageMagick).

I encrypt and decrypt some of my sensitive files using GnuPG GUI front-ends KGpg and Kleopatra. Kleopatra is slightly easier to use than KGpg, but they’re much of a muchness. The Enigmail extension I use in Thunderbird also uses GnuPG.

KAlarm is a handy KDE utility to produce sounds or pop-up reminder messages, or issue commands, at specific times or time intervals. The GUI is easy to use and KAlarm can be used in many cases as an alternative to setting up a cronjob. It was simple to configure it as a talking clock (see Setting up a talking clock easily in Linux).

AutoKey is a macro utility I use frequently. It can be used in a number of ways, but I use it to insert text in documents and e-mails. For example, I have configured AutoKey to insert the output of the Linux date command where my cursor is in an open document or e-mail if I press Ctrl-Alt-D: Sun Jul 22 14:41:25 BST 2012. For another example, I have configured AutoKey to enter my full postal address when I type “adr” and press the Space key (but puts it back to “adr” if I press the Backspace key). It is a very handy utility and can be configured to execute simple or complex scripts.

Easystroke is the mouse equivalent of AutoKey. For example, I have configured Easystroke to type “———- Original Message ———-” when I press the mouse scroll wheel and move the mouse pointer diagonally from left to right on the screen. As another example, I have configured it to launch an instance of DavMail to access a specific company’s OWA Exchange Server when I trace the first letter of the company’s name on the screen with the mouse cursor. It’s a clever utility!

BasKet Note Pads is a KDE application for recording and reading notes. The notes can be simple text or complex with embedded pictures, hyperlinks and so on. I switched to BasKet from Tomboy as the latter is a GNOME application and requires some GNOME-specific packages that I didn’t want cluttering up my hard disk. However, I can’t say I like BasKet: I miss the simplicity and easy-to-use UI of Tomboy which was a pleasure to use. I think I may have to try another KDE application (KJots) instead of BasKet, as it may fit my needs better.

KRename is a batch file renamer for KDE that has come in handy both at work and at home.

Filelight is a KDE utility that shows you graphically how much of each partition is occupied and how much is free. I like it because it makes it easy for me to see at a glance how much disk space I have left.

JDiskReport is another utility for showing you disk occupancy graphically. You can select pie carts, segment charts or bar charts. It is freeware but not open-source, but is nevertheless a nice utility to have in your set of tools.

Antivirus software

BitDefender Antivirus for Unices

Snapshot 9 - BitDefender Antivirus for Unices

As I run some Windows applications under WINE, and as I dual boot with Windows 7, I use both BitDefender Antivirus Scanner for Unices and ClamTk, the GUI front-end to ClamAV. That way I can scan my Windows directories from Linux. My work colleagues sometimes pass work files to me on USB pen drives, and I use these two anti virus utilities to scan the pen drives just to be a bit safer. Yes, it has flagged the occasional malware in Windows files.

Games

Games

Snapshot 10 - Games

I hardly ever play games, but still installed the entire KDE Games suite (you never know, after all!). Of the KDE games, I play KPatience, KCheckers, KBlocks (a Tetris clone), KBreakOut (takes me back to playing BreakOut written in Applesoft BASIC on an Apple II+!) and KMahjongg, a solitaire game using beautifully rendered Mahjong tiles.

I have also installed a few non-KDE arcade games such as Missile Command and Pacman Arena (nicely done in 3D). I loved Pac-Mania on my Acorn Archimedes in the early 1990s, so I also use SDLMame and its GUI front-end GMameUI to play Pac-Mania and a few other old favourites such as Frogger.

As far as chess is concerned, I installed the 3D DreamChess, as well as the older but perfectly decent XBoard and eboard.

Scrabble and Boggle are popular games in my family, so I installed XScrabble and GBoggle, the latter being one of only a handful of the packages mentioned in this article that I had to install outside the Portage package manager because there is no ebuild (another being the commercial game Machinarium, which is available for Linux, beautiful and I recommend highly).

I occasionally play TORCS, which is not bad for a car racing game.

There are a lot more Linux games to discover, if you’re that way inclined.

Summary

I’ve just scratched the surface, but hopefully have given you a taste of how I use KDE (and Linux). Of course my needs and uses are different from everyone else’s, but I hope this and the previous article have shown you the breadth of KDE and Linux applications, and that they are completely viable on the desktop. If you have not tried KDE yet, I hope this has tempted you. And, if you’re new to Linux, I hope this has tempted you to try Linux too.

Editing from a Linux PC the phone book (contacts list) in an Android phone

A mobile phone stores contacts in the phone itself and/or on the SIM. Over the years, the phone book on my SIM became cluttered with duplicate entries, inconsistently-named contacts, and so on. I decided recently to tidy up the phone book, and looked for a way to do it from Linux.

Now, the last time I tidied up my phone book was back in 2003 when my SIM was in a Sony Ericsson T68i. These days I’m using the same SIM in an Android smartphone: the HTC Desire. Back then I used a shareware application called Mobile Navigator on a laptop running Windows XP. So, naturally, I thought it would be possible to do something similar from a PC running Linux.

An indirect method of editing a phone book in an Android phone is recommended in many Web forums. The advice is to synchronise the phone’s phone book with GMail on your PC, edit the contacts in GMail on the PC and then the contacts will be updated in the phone when the phone next synchronises with GMail. That is all very well, but I don’t want to import my phone contacts into GMail and thus have them stored in ‘The Cloud’, plus I don’t see why I should be forced to do that just to make it easier for me to tidy a phone book in my phone. So I set about searching for an application to do the job.

My search turned up three applications that appeared to enable a user to edit the phone book (phone and SIM):

1. Gammu (CLI) and Wammu (GUI front-end), FOSS with versions for both Linux and Windows.

2. MOBILedit!, a closed-source commercial product for Windows.

3. MyPhoneExplorer (Version 1.8.1), closed-source ‘donationware’ for Windows, recommended in various forums and that has been used with WINE in Linux. Not only does MyPhoneExplorer allow you to edit the phone book, it also provides a host of other features such as: viewing the phone’s call logs, messages, hardware status, files and applications; sending messages via the PC; etc. It’s a nifty application.

Web browsing told me that Gammu/Wammu does not yet work with the HTC Desire (see the bug report Don’t get any connection to HTC Desire via bluetooth in Wammu/Gammu). This is a pity, as Wammu and Gammu look well-designed, and Wammu has a professional feel to it.

The price for MOBILedit! is not extortionate but I wanted to find a cost-free solution if possible, and, more importantly, I could find no evidence on the Web of MOBILedit! having been used with WINE in Linux to edit the phone books in the HTC Desire.

The MyPhoneExplorer forums include a thread on using it with WINE, so MyPhoneExplorer looked like my only option (although it is a pity it is not FOSS). I installed MyPhoneExplorer with its own WINEPREFIX but, despite following the instructions in the MyPhoneExplorer forums, I was unable to get MyPhoneExplorer to connect to the HTC Desire via a USB cable in Linux. This may be because, despite what I have read on the android developers Web site (see Using Hardware Devices and OEM USB Drivers), as is the case with Windows it is necessary in Linux to install ADB USB drivers (the ADB drivers can be installed in Linux by installing the Android SDK). However, I was able to connect MyPhoneExplorer to my HTC Desire via WiFi at home (but not in a hotel, as connection depends on the router and internal network IP address space), and via Bluetooth (anywhere).

How to install MyPhoneExplorer in WINE

1. Use the Android Market to install MyPhoneExplorer Client on the phone.

2. Surf over to the MyPhoneExplorer Home Page and download MyPhoneExplorer_Setup_1.8.1.exe to ~/Desktop/

3. Open a Konsole/Terminal window and perform all the following steps in the same window.

4. Install MyPhoneExplorer on your PC under WINE:

$ cd
$ export WINEPREFIX=$HOME/.wine-myphoneexplorer
$ export WINEARCH="win32"
$ winecfg
$ wget "http://download.microsoft.com/download/5/a/d/5ad868a0-8ecd-4bb0-a882-fe53eb7ef348/VB6.0-KB290887-X86.exe"
$ wine VB6.0-KB290887-X86.exe
$ cd ./.wine-myphoneexplorer/drive_c/
$ cp $HOME/Desktop/MyPhoneExplorer_Setup_1.8.1.exe .
$ mv ${WINEPREFIX}/drive_c/windows/system32/oleaut32.dll ${WINEPREFIX}/drive_c/windows/system32/oleaut32-alt.dll
$ mv ${WINEPREFIX}/drive_c/windows/system32/olepro32.dll ${WINEPREFIX}/drive_c/windows/system32/olepro32-alt.dll
$ echo -e REGEDIT4\\n\\n[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\\Software\\Wine\\DllOverrides]\\n\"asycfilt\"=\"native\"\\n\"comcat\"=\"native\"\\n\"msvbvm60\"=\"native\"\\n\"oleaut32\"=\"native\"\\n\"oleaut32\"=\"native\"\\n\"olepro32\"=\"native\"\\n\"stdole2.tlb\"=\"native\"\\n[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\\Software\\MyPhoneExplorer]\\n\"Language\"=\"English.lng\" > temp.reg
$ wine regedit temp.reg
$ wget http://www.kegel.com/wine/winetricks
$ chmod +x winetricks
$ ./winetricks # Install Visual Basic 6 SP6 (I had to do this as well as wine VB6.0-KB290887-X86.exe)
$ ./winetricks # Install msxml3
$ wine MyPhoneExplorer_Setup_1.8.1.exe # Install MyPhoneExplorer

(Make sure you select the WINEPREFIX first when using winetricks)

5. Edit your Desktop Environment’s menu to use the following command for launching MyPhoneExplorer:

env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcaraldo/.wine-myphoneexplorer" WINEARCH="win32" wine C:\\windows\\command\\start.exe /Unix /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-myphoneexplorer/dosdevices/c:/users/Public/Start\ Menu/Programs/MyPhoneExplorer/MyPhoneExplorer.lnk

(Of course replace “fitzcarraldo” with your user name.)

How to connect via Bluetooth

1. Look up the phone’s Bluetooth MAC address in the phone itself, write it down and keep it to hand. (I use the MAC address 11:22:33:AA:BB:C1 in the examples below.)

2. Enable Blutooth on your PC and phone, make them both discoverable, and pair them.

3. Launch MyPhoneExplorer Client on the phone and wait a few seconds for it to load and run.

4. Now check which channel is used by MyPhoneExplorer Client (In the example below it is Channel 17):

$ sudo sdptool browse
Inquiring ...
Browsing 11:22:33:AA:BB:C1 ...
Service RecHandle: 0x10000
Service Class ID List:
"PnP Information" (0x1200)

Service Name: Headset Gateway
Service RecHandle: 0x10001
Service Class ID List:
"Headset Audio Gateway" (0x1112)
"Generic Audio" (0x1203)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 1
Profile Descriptor List:
"Headset" (0x1108)
Version: 0x0100

Service Name: Handsfree Gateway
Service RecHandle: 0x10002
Service Class ID List:
"Handsfree Audio Gateway" (0x111f)
"Generic Audio" (0x1203)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 2
Profile Descriptor List:
"Handsfree" (0x111e)
Version: 0x0105

Service Name: Object Push
Service RecHandle: 0x10003
Service Class ID List:
"OBEX Object Push" (0x1105)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 3
"OBEX" (0x0008)
Profile Descriptor List:
"OBEX Object Push" (0x1105)
Version: 0x0100

Service RecHandle: 0x10004
Service Class ID List:
"AV Remote Target" (0x110c)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
PSM: 23
"AVCTP" (0x0017)
uint16: 0x100
Profile Descriptor List:
"AV Remote" (0x110e)
Version: 0x0100

Service Name: BRCM Advanced Audio
Service RecHandle: 0x10005
Service Class ID List:
"Audio Source" (0x110a)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
PSM: 25
"AVDTP" (0x0019)
uint16: 0x102
Profile Descriptor List:
"Advanced Audio" (0x110d)
Version: 0x0102

Service Name: Phonebook Access PSE
Service RecHandle: 0x10006
Service Class ID List:
"Phonebook Access - PSE" (0x112f)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 4
"OBEX" (0x0008)
Profile Descriptor List:
"Phonebook Access" (0x1130)
Version: 0x0100

Service Name: OBEX File Transfer
Service RecHandle: 0x10007
Service Class ID List:
"OBEX File Transfer" (0x1106)
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 5
"OBEX" (0x0008)
Profile Descriptor List:
"OBEX File Transfer" (0x1106)
Version: 0x0100

Service Name: MyPhoneExplorer
Service RecHandle: 0x10008
Service Class ID List:
UUID 128: 00001101-0000-1000-7000-00304b7f34de
Protocol Descriptor List:
"L2CAP" (0x0100)
"RFCOMM" (0x0003)
Channel: 17

5. Bind a virtual serial device to the phone (You can look up the phone’s Bluetooth MAC address in the phone itself to double check):

$ sudo rfcomm bind 1 11:22:33:AA:BB:C1 17

N.B. If you have been tinkering already with binding, and the virtual device /dev/rfcomm1 is therefore already bound, you will get an error message saying “Can't create device: Address already in use“. You can release the virtual device by using the command:

$ sudo rfcomm release /dev/rfcomm1

6. Create a symbolic link for the virtual serial link:

$ export WINEPREFIX=$HOME/.wine-myphoneexplorer
$ sudo ln -is /dev/rfcomm1 ${WINEPREFIX}/dosdevices/com2
$ sudo chmod 777 ${WINEPREFIX}/dosdevices/com2 # you may not need to do this, as the permissions may already be 777.

7. Launch MyPhoneExplorer (e.g. in KDE this would be: Kickoff > Applications > Wine> Programs > MyPhoneExplorer > MyPhoneExplorer), then press F2 (or select File > Settings).

8. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Phone type’ to be ‘SonyEricsson phone with modeminterface’. Tick ‘Stable connection (some features are deactivated)’.

9. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Phone type’ to be ‘Phone with Google Android-OS’.

10. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Connect via…’ to be ‘Bluetooth’ and enter “COM2” (upper case, and without the quotes) and click on ‘OK’.

11. Press F1 (or select File > Connect) and your PC should be able to connect to the phone and synchronise with your phone’s phone book (Extras > Start Multi-sync), thus enabling you to edit the contents and re-synchronise to update the phone book in the phone.

Script to make subsequent connections via Bluetooth easier

Note that the channel used by MyPhoneExplorer Client will change the next time you want to connect, so there is no point editing /etc/bluetooth/rfcomm.conf (the Linux configuration file in which you would normally specify the channel). Therefore, to make life a little easier, I wrote a simple Bash script to automate as much as possible the process of reconnecting via Bluetooth in future. If you want to do the same, use your favourite text editor and save the following script with the file name myphoneexplorer.sh:

#!/bin/bash
echo -n "Please switch on Bluetooth via System Tray icon, make Bluetooth discoverable then press ENTER: "
read RESPONSE
echo -n "Please enable Bluetooth on the phone, make it discoverable then press ENTER: "
read RESPONSE
export WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-myphoneexplorer"
export WINEARCH="win32"
echo "Checking current rfcomm status..."
sudo rfcomm -a
echo "Trying to release rfcomm1 in case it is in use (no message means rfcomm1 is released and is now OK to use,"
echo "and the message Cannot release device: No such device also means rfcomm1 is OK to use)..."
sudo rfcomm release /dev/rfcomm1
echo -n "Now please launch MyPhoneExplorer Client on the phone, wait a few seconds then press ENTER: "
read RESPONSE
echo "Find channel of MyPhoneExplorer Client:"
sudo sdptool browse
echo -n "Enter the channel number: "
read RESPONSE
sudo rfcomm bind 1 11:22:33:AA:BB:C1 $RESPONSE
echo "Checking current rfcomm status..."
sudo rfcomm -a
echo "If all is OK then please launch MyPhoneExplorer from Kickoff > Applications > Wine > Programs > MyPhoneExplorer"
echo "and press F1 to connect to the phone."

(Of course replace “fitzcarraldo” with your user name, and replace “11:22:33:AA:BB:C1” with the Bluetooth MAC address of your phone.)

Then make the script executable:

$ chmod +x myphoneexplorer.sh

The next time you want to use MyPhoneExplorer, open a Konsole/Terminal, execute the script:

$ sh myphoneexplorer.sh

and follow the instructions it displays in the Konsole/Terminal window.

How to connect via WiFi

Connecting MyPhoneExplorer to the phone via WiFi is easier than via Bluetooth. Note that WiFi connection will not work with a public WiFi network, just a home WiFi network.

1. Enable WiFi on your PC and phone.

2. Launch MyPhoneExplorer Client on the phone and wait a few seconds for it to load and run.

3. Launch MyPhoneExplorer (e.g. in KDE this would be: Kickoff > Applications > Wine> Programs > MyPhoneExplorer > MyPhoneExplorer), then press F2 (or select File > Settings).

4. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Phone type’ to be ‘SonyEricsson phone with modeminterface’. Tick ‘Stable connection (some features are deactivated)’.

5. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Phone type’ to be ‘Phone with Google Android-OS’.

6. Select ‘Connection’ in the left pane and then select ‘Connect via…’ to be ‘WiFi’ and click on ‘OK’.

7. Press F1 (or select File > Connect) and your PC should be able to connect to the phone and synchronise with your phone’s phone book (Extras > Start Multi-sync), thus enabling you to edit the contents and re-synchronise to update the phone book in the phone.

Useful references

The MyPhoneExplorer forums are oriented to Windows as it is a Windows application, but there is a thread for Linux users: HowTo: Use MyPhoneExplorer under GNU/Linux (English Version)

The thread for Windows users of MyPhoneExplorer may also be of some use: Howto and FAQ: Use Android Phones with MyPhoneExplorer

Limitations in WINE

The only limitation I have found using MyPhoneExplorer 1.8.1 in WINE is that it crashes if I try to cut and paste when editing a phone book entry. Additionally, some people have reported that the buttons on the button bar do not work when you are connected to the phone; they usually do work for me (apparently it depends on whether you have installed msxml3) but sometimes don’t. In any case, if they don’t then you can use the pull-down menus from the menu bar instead.

Other than that, MyPhoneExplorer works well in WINE and enables me to edit the phone book in my Android phone without involving Big Brother! It’s a nice application.

Firewall rules if using WiFi

If you’re using MyPhoneExplorer to connect with the phone via WiFi instead of Bluetooth, and your PC has a firewall enabled, according to a post on 7 June 2011 in the MyPhoneExplorer forums you have to configure the firewall with the following rules:

TCP port 80 (outgoing) – Check for update
TCP port 5210 (outgoing) – Communication with client
UDP port 5211 (outgoing) – Communication with client
UDP port 5212 (inbound) – Broadcast from the client

Below I list the rules I implemented in Uncomplicated Firewall:

# ufw status
Status: active

To              Action          From

--              ------          ----
Anywhere        ALLOW           5212/udp

80/tcp          ALLOW OUT       Anywhere
5210/tcp        ALLOW OUT       Anywhere
5211/udp        ALLOW OUT       Anywhere

Alternatively you could just disable the firewall on your PC while you’re using MyPhoneExplorer with your phone, which I do anyway when I’m at home as my home network is protected by the firewall in my router.

EDIT (October 25, 2012): Now there is another way of editing an Android phone’s contacts list from Linux: AirDroid. And you don’t need to mess around with WINE to use it. For details see my post AirDroid, a handy Android app for managing your phone from Linux.