Gary Richmond's articles

Dillo the lean browser

Using browsers which are Web 2.0 enabled whenever you just what to Google something is like calling out the Fire Brigade when you have just burned the toast. Definitive overkill. If you are just surfing for information, then you want the little browser on the low fat, low body-mass index, skinny latte diet with a low carbon footprint. If Dillo were a catwalk model, it would be size zero. Think of it as the Victoria Beckham of browsers-- but better looking; where the big hitters like Firefox, Flock and Opera sometimes move like a Sloth on Mogadon, Dillo tears down the track like a Whippet on speed.

If you can program in C/GTK+, you can also get involved with this worthy project: see the bottom of the article for more information.

DRM and the BBC iPlayer: an interview with Paul Battley

In this post I will interview Paul Battley, the man who wrote the program that worked around the DRM loophole at the BBC. No GNU/Linux user needs to be told what DRM (aka Trusted Computing, aka Palladium) is and why it is a thoroughly pernicious and Hydra-headed monster that needs to be slain. I hope to make that the subject of a post in the very near future, but in the meantime here is a quick thumbnail sketch of what happened with the BBC's iPlayer, to bring you up to speed. The interview with Paul Battley follows.

Asus Eee PC (Part Two): Setting up the full KDE GNU/Linux Experience

In Part One of my Eee PC series I looked at the hardware specifications of this miniature marvel. In such a small space Asus have managed to cram in a lot and at a price that is so low that it ought be illegal. However, it is a cliche to recall that hardware without software is junk--unless you have a fetish for silicon. In this post I will look at the software on the Eee PC. It will not be an explicit HOWTO, but it will include lots of links to enable you to get the best out of this two-pound wonder.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, is the touchpad greater than the mouse?

I was one the first people I knew to get a mobile phone (Motorola analogue flip!); but I was also one of the last to sign up for Googlemail. I am not a dedicated follower of fashion. I stand still and, sooner or later, fashion meets me coming round the other way. So, it might not come as a surprise that unlike the young turks of computing I came late to the mysteries of the ubiquitous Synaptics Touchpad. You see, I was weaned on that Faustian pact with Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), the mouse. Having endured several very unpleasant encounters with various forms of RSI in the recent past, I decided to explore the alternative therapy of the touchpad. This article is an exploration of what you can be done with it in the GNU/Linux environment, its options, utilities, graphical front ends and command line options.

Pimp your desktop: automate desktop wallpaper with Webilder

They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and if you want to make a good impression with computer lovers with artistic pretensions, a fancy wallpaper is a pretty good place to start. It can be a real ice breaker. Why stop there? Why spend fruitless hours dredging through the art galleries of cyberspace to retrieve a few hard-won digital morsels to decorate your miserable desktop? Just automate the tedious process with Webilder and free up some valuable time to hone your other more valuable Unix skills. Webilder won't make you rich, improve your productivity or make you irresistibly attractive to the opposite sex (much) but it's clever, fun and cool. What more reason do you need to use it? Enough already with the slick sales talk. Let's pimp that desktop!

The Asus Eee PC: An Ultra-portable laptop PC with GNU/Linux pre-installed

I don't know when I was last so excited about a Christmas present, but when this little laptop arrived on my doorstep on Christmas Eve I was drooling with anticipation--even if I had bought it myself.

Four days of intense Googling to locate a UK website with one in stock nearly melted down the Google server farms but in the end I managed to locate (a white) one on a Friday and by Monday morning I was tearing at the wrapping with the intensity of an excited five year old and, as I hope you will agree, with good reason.

Google extensions in Firefox

I want to take a detailed look at turbo-charging the Firefox browser with an elite selection of Google utilities. Firefox has its critics and its failings, but it has now been downloaded in excess of 400 million times: and as they say “what flies eat, they can't all be wrong!” Firefox is pretty good out of the box, but everyone knows that the functionality of Firefox is extended massively by the simple addition of extensions, security issues nothwithstanding.

In this article I will talk about how to extend Firefox so that it plays better with Google.

How to Install the latest (and last?) Netscape Navigator

Before you start shouting at me, I know. Nestcape Navigator will soon be no more. After many years of faithful service, and before Firefox and Flock were a mere twinkle in a web developer's glinting eye, AOL has announced that the browser will be retired at the beginning of February and put out to pasture in its nonage. You might be thinking that installing a browser with a death sentence hanging over its head is about as sensible as a portable defibrillator in a funeral parlour, but read on.

Konqueror: doing it all from one interface

When Julius Casear said, as reported by Seutonius and Plutarch, Veni, Vidi, Vici, (I came, I saw, I conquered) he was, depending on your historical interpretation, either referring to the Roman victory at the Battle of Zela or giving a two-fingered salute to the Patrician Senate of Rome. Every schoolboy and girl who has had to endure the exquisite tortures of Latin will know that famous phrase.

Press the fast-forward button to the present and those words might not be out of place on the lips of the good people who developed Konqueror, the all-in-one browser and file manager, best described as a universal document viewer.

How to spring-clean an Apt-based distro

Quentin Crisp, the infamous, bohemian Englishman, said that he never cared much for dusting. “Why bother”, he observed, “after four years, it doesn’t get any worse”. If only the accumulated detritus of the digital dust on our computers could be treated with such cavalier contempt. Ignore it at your peril and you might just have to call in Kim and Aggie to sort out your cruft!

Managing and configuring downloads with KGet

Downloading—no matter what operating system you are using—is ubiquitous. If you’ve been on the internet you will have downloaded something at some point: PDFs, pictures, ISOs, movies, music files, streaming videos to name a few. This article will take a detailed look at KGet, a very versatile GUI download manager for the KDE desktop which is easy to use and has plenty of easily configurable options. It isn’t perfect (but the upcoming KDE4 may rectify that) but we’ll go with what we’ve got and put it through it paces.

The "alias" command

You almost certainly have speed dial set up on your home, office and mobile phone. It saves time, ensures against a failing memory and allows you to work smarter.

Devotees of the command line don’t have to be left out in the cold. One of the crown jewels of GNU/Linux is that every user, be he ne’er so base, has at his or her fingertips the kind of power of which even Caligula could not dream. Alright, I’m exaggerating—a little.

How to take screenshots with Scrot

Screenshots. Where would the internet be without them? They are ubiquitous and when you are researching that latest piece of cool software or the latest ISO of your favourite GNU/Linux distro they are an opportunity to preview the eye candy. There are many ways to make those screenshots and most KDE and Gnome users will be familiar with the GUI tools bundled with them: Ksnapshot for KDE and Take Screenshot for Gnome. They are good at what they do. However, sometimes you just need to take screenshots quick and dirty without the overheads (especially if you are using a lightweight windows manager on a relatively low-spec machine). If that's your case, you can use “Scrot”.

How to back up your Master Boot Record (MBR): fail to prepare or prepare to fail

Backup, like security, is a well-worn mantra in the world of GNU/Linux—and even the most battle-hardened, street-wise user has, for whatever reason, thought about regular backups after disaster has already struck. It is an all too familiar story. System Administrators, by the very nature of their work, will have that imperative carved on their headstones. For them it will be a way of life. Desktop users, being responsible only for themselves, can afford to be a little more louche about such things. If it all goes a bit “arms in the air” there is no one to reproach them but themselves.

How to get the best out of the history command in GNU/Linux

Anybody who has used the command line extensively to navigate, understand and configure GNU/Linux will know that in the course of a few months’ work it is possible to build up an extensive history of used commands. This necessitates some pro-active management to get the best out of it. Here are some tips to make the most of the history command.

How to close down GNU/Linux safely after a system freeze with the SysRq key

Despite jeering at Windows for the infamous system freezes and blue screens of death, there are and will be times when your computer just locks up: the cursor is frozen and even invoking a console by Ctrl + Alt + [F2, F3, ...] to close down the X windows session running on F7 is non-functional.

Desktop search tools for GNU/Linux: the competition hots up - Tracker, Recoll Strigi and Deskbar

In Part One and Part Two of this blog, I looked at Beagle and its alternative interfaces (Peagle, Yabi and Peagle). In this last part, I want to take a look at three other search engines as viable replacements for Beagle: Tracker, Recoll, Strigi, and Deskbar, an applet written in Python, which has some very handy scripts written for it and, which can extend its functionality well beyond the immediate desktop itself.

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