Blogs

Printing ODT documents from the command line (and mass PDF exporting)

I recently had to print a collection of documents I had created over the year and I really was not thrilled at the prospect of having to open the file, Command+P, Enter, Command+W, Command+Tab, open new document, rinse, repeat for some 60 odd documents. All the documents in question were ODT documents created using either OpenOffice or LibreOffice, depending on how old they were.

A bit of research on command-line printing using OpenOffice and LibreOffice led me to some outdated posts that didn't quite give me the information I was looking for, but gave me a good place to start: the Writer application's binary is named 'soffice' and accepts various command-line arguments. A quick search revealed that the file does indeed exist inside the OS X application file:

$ find /Applications/LibreOffice.app -name soffice
/Applications/LibreOffice.app/Contents/MacOS/soffice

(for those that don't know, OS X applications are actually just plain folders that hold the application's metadata, executables and related files)

What's even better is that LibreOffice now has an option to do exactly what I was looking for:

$ /Applications/LibreOffice.app/Contents/MacOS/soffice -h
LibreOffice 3.5

Usage: soffice [options] [documents...]

Options:
--minimized    keep startup bitmap minimized.
[...]
--print-to-file [-printer-name printer_name] [--outdir output_dir] files
      Batch print files to file.
      If --outdir is not specified then current working dir is used as output_dir.
      Eg. --print-to-file *.doc
          --print-to-file --printer-name nasty_lowres_printer --outdir /home/user *.doc

Using the "--print-to-file" parameter will convert any document that LibreOffice can read into a raw postscript file by the same name.

Although I could easily send the resulting PostScript files to the printer using CUPS' lp utility, I wanted to take this one step further. Each of these documents contained the same colour logo and I wanted to avoid wasting any ink. Another search brought me to this question on SuperUser.com, where ysis's answer demonstrated that the gs (GhostScript) utility can do this and even merge all the documents into one file:

gs -sOutputFile=converted.pdf -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sColorConversionStrategy=Gray -dProcessColorModel=/DeviceGray -dCompatibiltyLevel=1.4 -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH input1.ps input2.ps input3.ps

After about 30 seconds of processing all of the 60 files were there, in blank and white, concatenated into converted.pdf. Printed it using OS X's Preview application using the "fast draft" setting and I had all my 60 documents printed with minimal ink used in less than 5 minutes!

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Disable Time Machine's local snapshots feature

Lion introduced a new Time Machine feature the OS would automatically create local snapshots of files so that even without a backup disk attached, you could still enter time machine and recover or undo changes to certain files. As your disk space becomes low, this space is automatically freed and the rate of snapshot creation is reduced.

This is great on desktops and I would assume the newer Macbook Pros that have better disks, but on my older MacBook Pro I've noticed that Safari has had trouble loading web pages and during this time, I hear the disk thrashing for about a minute or so and then all of a sudden the page loads. After a bit of researching and some help from the 'fs_usage' command, I discovered that a process called 'mtmd' was accessing the filesystem often and it turns out that mtmd is responsible for creating these local time machine snapshots. A quick Google revealed how to disable the local snapshot functionality:

sudo tmutil disablelocal

We'll see if that helps the disk thrashing! I did immediately recover 1GB of disk space though which is a good sign.

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Twitter Integration

After giving it some thought, I think I am going to try and integrate my Tweets (@stewartadam) with the blog posts here since my blog posts tend to be lengthy or technical posts one in a while with nothing in between. I tweet about once a day or so, so even if it's not much at least there will be some new content consistently when you check back to the homepage! Thoughts? Module suggestions? I know that this is easily possible with Drupal, but I haven't begun looking into competing modules yet. If you've done something similar I'd love to hear about the module you used and what you think about it overall.

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How to Convert a GPT disk layout to a MS-DOS/MBR layout without data loss (and Gigabyte Hybrid EFI)

If you're coming here from Google searching for how to convert a GPT disk layout to MS-DOS/MBR and don't want to read through my (probably boring) story, click here ;)

Adventures with Hybrid EFI

My gaming PC has been long overdue due for a reformat. I naively allocated only 30GB to the Windows partition (and the other 120GB to 3 flavours of Linux) thinking I wouldn't use Windows for much other than Starcraft 2, but a few months back I had the urge to play Battlefield 2 again. Ever since installing and fully patching it disk space has been running pretty tight. I had to disable sleep, hibernation as well as system restore and still only had 4GB of free space, so my filesystem became fragmented easily. With the release of Windows 8 Customer Preview (download it free here), I figured it was a good time to reformat my disk and reinstall all my OSs from scratch.

I figured while I'm at it, I would make all of the big changes at once and enabled EFI booting on my Gigabyte GA-Z68A-D3H board. Little did I know that when the BIOS says "EFI," it really means Gigabyte's "Hybrid EFI" implementation and not UEFI (although in retrospect, the fact that I made the change in the BIOS should have been enough of a hint, right?). With Hybrid EFI enabled, Windows 7 and Windows 8CP installed perfectly and even created a nice GPT disk layout so reinstalled my games and activated Windows 7. Then I rebooted to play around in Windows 8CP for a bit (I do not like it, btw).

I then tried installing Fedora 16. To my surprise EFI booting failed every time, despite the all of the Fedora 16 installation media being EFI-capable. When attempting to boot from my Fedora 16 Live (x86_64) USB key I just would get a black screen with "........." printed one dot a time and then it would proceed to fall back to the next boot device (Windows boot manager on the hard disk). Upon re-examining my BIOS settings, I was disappointed to find that the setting was actually called "CD/DVD EFI Boot Option" indicating that perhaps USB EFI booting was not supported. Fair enough, I burnt the same F16 image I was using on the USB key to a CD and tried again. The same "........." text appeared.

It was then as I went back to boot Windows 7 that I discovered my attempts to set it as the default OS from Windows 8CP removed my capability of booting Windows 7 somehow. At this point it was 2AM and I was fed up with this stupid Hybrid EFI. I looked for a way to revert to a good old MS-DOS/MBR partition layout. After some Googling I stumbled across Rod Smith's website. He has extensive documentation on EFI booting, including with Gigabyte's implementation of Hybrid EFI. He says that it shares a large amount of code with EFI DUET (tianocore) and although it does work natively with Windows 7, it is not a full UEFI implementation. That would explain the problems I was having with Fedora, then.

The actual GPT to MBR conversion

Through the Rod Smith's guidance and a few dirty tricks, I was successfully able to convert my GPT partition - without data loss or deleting any partitions - and then boot Windows 7 in legacy/MBR mode. In order to do this you'll need your Windows installation media at hand as well as a copy of the Fedora 16 Live media. If you don't have a copy of Fedora 16 Live handy, you can download the Live media ISO (64-bit) from a local mirror here. See the Fedora 16 Installation Guide for details on burning this image to a CD or on creating a bootable USB key.

Keep in mind that at this point I only had 3 partitions and a bunch of unpartitioned space on the disk, so conversion was a rather straightforward process (all GPT partitions mapped directly to primary partitions). Although it is theoretically possible to convert GPT partitions with >4 partitions by defining which ones are to be logical partitions after conversion, I have not tested this.

  1. Boot your Fedora 16 Live media and wait for your session to start. If you're having troubles booting, press Tab at the boot loader screen and try booting with the nomodeset parameter added.
  2. Depending on your graphics card, you'll either be presented with the new Gnome 3 Shell or with the traditional interface. Start a terminal session by putting your mouse in the top right corner of the screen and typing "terminal" in the search (Gnome Shell) or by selecting Applications > System Tools > Terminal (traditional interface)
  3. Install gdisk:
    su -
    yum -y install gdisk
    This may take a few moments.
  4. Make a backup of your current GPT scheme:
    gdisk -b sda-preconvert.gpt /dev/sda
  5. Now we will attempt to convert your GPT disk layout to MS-DOS/MBR. Start gdisk:
    gdisk /dev/sda

    You should be prompted with:
    Command (? for help):
  6. Press r to start recovery/transformation.
  7. Press g to convert GPT to MBR.
  8. Press p to preview the converted MBR partition table.
  9. Make any modification necessary to the partition layout. See Rod Smith's Converting to or from GPT page for more details on this.
  10. When you're happy with the MS-DOS/MBR layout, press w to write changes to the disk.
  11. Shutdown Fedora 16 and boot from the Windows 7 installation media
  12. Enter your language & keyboard layout and then select the option to repair your computer in the bottom left corner.
  13. From the available options, select Startup Repair. Windows will ask for a reboot.
  14. Follow the previous three steps again to boot the Windows 7 installation and run startup repair
  15. Once again, boot the Windows 7 installation media but this time opt to open a command prompt instead of choosing startup repair. Type:
    bootrec /scanos
    bootrec /rebuildbcd
    bootrec /fixmbr
    bootrec /fixboot
  16. Close the command prompt and run Startup Repair one last time.

That's it! You should now have a bootable installation of Windows 7 on a MBR partition layout.

References

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New module: uc_cano forked as uc_conditional_attributes

I have been using uc_cano on a few Ubercart sites and found that it is a great module for restricting attributes combinations when one attribute only makes sense if a certain option is selected on another attribute. Unfortunately, the module is very minimally maintained and there are many bugs present in the most recent release. Several community patches have shown up to fix some of the issues, but they need to be mixed and matched to get a working module. Furthermore, out of the box uc_cano is not compatible with the uc_node_checkout nor uc_aac modules.

In order to future centralize development efforts, facilitate releases and maintain a more up-to-date code base, I have collected the various community contributions plus written several fixes of my own and forked uc_cano as uc_conditional_attributes, now available on Drupal.org at http://drupal.org/project/uc_conditional_attributes. I hope you enjoy the new module! A dev release is available and I am hoping to add the first stable release soon after two known bugs are taken care of.

Some the changes I have made to cano include:

  • Rewrite of the JavaScript code and the addition of hooks
  • Addition of a new hooks & preliminary API for other modules to use
  • Compatibility with uc_aac (patch also required to uc_aac until it gets accepted upstream)
  • Compatibility with uc_node_checkout
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