End users

End users

Atop, when you need to know exactly what's happening at the system-resource level

System resources are always limited, no matter what type of computer or server you're using. You never seem to have enough RAM, CPU threads, or disk I/O. High level tools like top, htop,sar, iostat, or vmstat do help, but they only give you the 10,000 foot overview of resource usage. They don't allow you to see what part of which program or process is eating up too much RAM or which part is creating race conditions on lock files.

A much more powerful took is "Atop", a powerful monitor program that allows you to see system-level counters concerning utilization of CPU and memory/swap, as well as see disk I/O and network utilization counters at the system level -- in real time or historically. It also allows you to store raw counters in a file for long-term analysis on system levels and process levels, as well as seeing resource consumption for each thread within a process of a multi-processor program.

Sounds exciting? Read on.

The simple guide to bitcoins using Electrum

Bitcoin is the most established digital currency available today. It provides a safe, anonymous way to send and receive a virtual currency everybody trusts. However, managing bitcoins is not quite as simple as managing a bank account. In this article I will explain how to manage your bitcoins using Electrum. Please note that in this article I will provide working knowledge of how to use Electrum, without entering the mysterious land of cryptography and technical details of Bitcoin.

Opening large PDF files in GNU/Linux: muPDF comes to the rescue

I was recently given an ebook by a friend. It was a photography book, with tons of hi-res images and very little text. When I opened it with Ubuntu, Evince (the default PDF viewer that comes with Ubuntu) gave in: after a few pages, it slowed to a crawl. I did a bit of research, and found the program that rescued my viewing needs: MuPDF. The good news was that I could finally read my book. The bad news was that I found out that the company behind it has in the past misunderstood the terms of the GPL and started a (later withdrawn) litigation against Palm.

Watch Netflix outside the US, for nearly free (without paying for a tunnel)

Some services line Netflix have an annoying geolocation restriction that made them unavailable outside the United States. In case of Netflix, this is due to licensing issues. It's not a slim difference: do you want to be able to access just over one thousand movies, or would you prefer to have access to over thirteen thousand movies?

A very tiny GIS

quickplot is a fast, interactive 2-D plotter. All it needs to do its job is a text file with x and y points in a list. If those points are longitude and latitude in decimal degrees, quickplot works like a simple GIS program, with some surprising capabilities.

This article explains how I set up quickplot to do species mapping for Australia. For most of my mapping work I use qgis and Google Maps/Earth, but quickplot is handy for quickly making simple maps and zooming in on details. With an executable size of only 453 kb, quickplot is the tiniest and fastest GIS I know.

Backup and Read your E-mails offline with Thunderbird's ImportExportTools

In a previous article on syncing and restoring your GMail account with the excellent GMVault I voiced one minor and perhaps unfair criticism. Namely, that as backed up e-mails had no recognizable titles, it was virtually impossible to identify specific messages. But, of course, that was never the intended purpose of GMVault. It would have been the icing on the cake if it was.

Backing Up and Restoring your GMail Account(s) with GMVault

Backing up all your precious data and settings is a given. However, when it comes to e-mail we tend to develop amnesia. It's the ghost at the banquet, yet losing your e-mails, your address book and contacts (especially if you run a business) would be a catastrophe. Fail to backup at your peril. Of course, if you use a desktop client like Evolution of Thunderbird, configuring either of them with IMAP will do the trick for you but if you prefer the traditional web interface for Gmail, then you need a different solution. GMVault may be that solution.

Compile Your Own PDF Books with Wikipedia and Edit them with LibreOffice and Pdfmod

Yes, you read that correctly. If you've ever wanted to put together a bespoke PDF document and then edit it to add or delete features, you don't really need to hunt for some specialist software to get the job done. Wikipedia is only a URL away and LibreOffice comes bundled with all the major distros--and if not it can usually be installed from the repositories.

Enabling Thumbnails and Embedded Video in the Konqueror File Manager

Spare a thought for old time stalwarts like Konqueror. Many great features have been stripped out but it's still a a great file manager (and a decent browser) even if Dolphin has been promoted as the default file manager of the KDE desktop. Back in the day, Konqueror was able to handle lots of media without having to open a separate application. I want some of that functionality back for those times when I just want to view it quick and fast without all the bells and whistles--and the good news is that it's not difficult to do.

Setting up and Managing RSS Feeds in the Thunderbird E-mail Client

I love Mozilla Thunderbird. I love using it with IMAP which lets me synchronize with GMail. To make the experience complete, I also like to view my RSS feeds. Setting them up is shamefully easy. There's no excuse not to try it, so let's do it.

First, we need to set up an account so select Other Accounts from the File > New drop-down menu to initiate the Account Wizard. There are three choices. Accept the default for Blogs and Newsfeeds.

Figure 1: Follow the Wizard to set up your feedsFigure 1: Follow the Wizard to set up your feeds

Powering up the Fluxbox Menus with Fluxbox Editor

All desktops are created equal; however, some desktops are created more equal than others. LXDE, Gnome, Unity and KDE are brimming with menus but Fluxbox is Spartan by comparison. Great for speed on older, slower machines but I still use on my latest dual core, 3GB memory laptop. I want that speed but I also want a better choice of applications in the Fluxbox menus. In short, all the speed without sacrificing the power. That's the problem. Fluxbox Editor is the solution.

A picture paints a thousand words, so here's why you need it.

Installing Software from the KDE System Settings Menu

Think "installing software in distros like Debian and Ubuntu", and you think automatically of Synaptic, apt-get on the command line or the new kid on the block, Unbuntu Software Centre. Sometimes, you just overlook the obvious. Did you know that you can also install and remove software using the KDE System Settings Menu? Thought not. Me neither, until I accidentally stumbled upon it--and I wasn't even in the KDE desktop at the time. I was using the LXDE desktop when I spotted it in the Preferences section of the Start menu. Curious? Me too. Let's take a look.

Controlling Privacy Setting in Ubuntu with Gnome Activity Log Manager

Whenever the The Electornic Frontier Foundation (EFF) commends Ubuntu for "retrofitting operating systems to support privacy against local attackers" as a worthy objective, I'm inclined to sit up and take notice. Since Ubuntu Precise Pangolin (12.04) these privacy setting have been integrated out of the box as a feature in the System Settings menu. It's called Activity Log Manager (previously Zeitgeist Global Privacy), a GUI frontend to partially control Zeitgeist. It's what powers Ubuntu's Dash in the Unity desktop. Here's how to use it to control what the Gnome activity log is recording.

File Juggling with Sunflower

When it comes to file managers, Linux users are spoiled for choice. But that doesn't stop developers from building tools for juggling files. Take Sunflower, for example. This file browser is built for speed, and it will appeal to fans of the twin-panel interface. Indeed, Sunflower's unobtrusive and lightweight interface allows you to manage files with consummate ease. Although Sunflower is designed to play nicely with the Gnome desktop environment, the file manager doesn't look out of place on other desktops, including KDE.

Compare two images easily with Geeqie

In my entomological work I often need to compare two images of bugs side-by-side.

Comparisons are surprisingly hard to do with either of the image viewers I normally use, namely Eye of Gnome and Ristretto. First I open two instances of the viewer and adjust their window sizes and positions for easy side-by-side comparison. I then open one image in one viewer window, and the other image in the other window. If I want to zoom in or out, or pan across the images, I have to do this independently in each viewer window. If I don't save this two-instance arrangement on a dedicated workspace using 'Save session on exit', I'll have to repeat the setting-up next time.

Comparisons are much simpler in Geeqie image viewer, which is now in most of the Linux distribution repositories. I first heard about Geeqie in 2011 when it was featured in a glowing online review. I hope this article adds to the glow.

The Qt-based Tea Text Editor: Managing Image and Text Files in One Application

I like tea. Well, I'm British. I've just discovered a new brand that I've never seen before. You can't dunk it in a cup of boiling water but it has some powerful features. This article explores two of the best.

Tea is a text editor. It's available in the Ubuntu repositories. If you're using another distro, try Tea's homepage. Text editors are ten a penny but Tea is different. When you first start it, you'll notice that the view mode is controlled by built in vertically-stacked tabs.

Can the Terms of the GPL Prevent GNU/Linux being used for War?

There's been a lot of noise on the internet recently about the fact that the Windows-based software being used in the remote control system of drones use by the American military has been hit by a virus and this has caused the Department of Defense (DOD) to use GNU/Linux which is a more secure option. This has, predictably, caused raised eyebrows and demands by some that any military organisation should be prevented from using GNU/Linux in offensive weapons systems.

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