End users

End users

An easy library catalog with Tellico

Setting up an electronic "card catalog" for my books always seemed like a lot of work, so I hadn't really attempted it before; lately, I happened across a KDE program called Tellico that made it so easy and fun that I completed my inventory in under a week. Plus, I finally found a use for that "CueCat" scanner I've had collecting dust for the last several years!

Shutter on Ubuntu: is this the mother of all free software Screenshot Utilities?

Like anyone else who writes about software I subscribe to the maxim that a picture paints a thousand words. In short, I like to illustrate my text with timely and relevant screenshots; so I'm always on the lookout for good, free software to get the job done. Back in the mists of time I looked at a command-line utility called Scrot. It's immensely powerful and configurable but it does take some setting up.

Htop, a tip-top ncurses interactive tool for system monitoring your desktop

You don't have to be an uber system administrator of a network to use Htop. It might have been designed with the masters of the universe in mind but just because you are a mere solitary desktop user in a Pizza-strewn study room staring at a single machine doesn't mean you can't get it and use it too. This article will show you how to configure and use htop to monitor system resources and how to use this dinky interactive application to manage running applications and processes on your desktop.

Eye candy for KDE Desktop Manager (KDM)

There are several layers at which a GNU/Linux system's appearance can be customized. By far the most visible, especially on a multi-user machine, is the login manager screen. KDM (the KDE desktop manager) has a highly-flexible and easy-to-use XML-based theme system. If you can draw what you want, you can make it happen with a KDM theme. I'll talk you through the construction of one simple theme I designed for my ASUS Eee PC.

Ubuntu 8.10 upmc for the Asus EeePC? Don't bother, just install the full distro

I discovered recently the truth of the old saying that necessity is the mother of invention. Yes, I finally did it. I bricked my beloved EeePc. I had just installed the Smart package manager and a subsequent reboot saw me stuck in, well, an eternal boot loop. Impulsive mixing of repositories always ends in tears--but not being able to boot? Argh! To rub salt into the wound I had mislaid the Xandros DVD to do a reinstall and I didn't even have an external CD/DVD drive anyway. Organised or what?

Homebuilt computers for Christmas

In tight economic times when I was growing up, my family generally had "homemade" Christmases, where all the gifts were handicrafts they had made. It takes a lot of time, but it does save money, and in all honesty, those were some of the best I can remember. This year, I'm following much the same pattern, though my skills are different (I couldn't knit a sock to save my life, and while I can sew, I'm not exactly good at it): this year I'm giving my kids (refurbished) computers.

10 things for non-coders to do with free software over Christmas

Some of us will find some kind of alleged spare time on our hands over the next few weeks. Certainly, there's often some kind of break from "work" over the festive season. Traditionally free software developers have used such times for long coding sessions, get-togethers and "hack-fests". Of course we're not all hard-core (or even soft-core) hackers so here's a few suggestions for the rest of us who might want to try something new over Christmas.

YouTube and GNU/Linux: download and convert videos the easy way

YouTube has a rather frivolous reputation, the sort of site you might visit to see a video of snowboarding hamsters or jetpacking gerbils. It wasn't until I started re-learning the guitar, learning to play the piano too and sight reading sheet music that I began to realize that YouTube was a great source of online tutorials. The quality varies from the execrable to the sublime, but I found sufficient quality material to start wondering how I might best use YouTube to organize my digital music lessons. As a committed GNU/Linux user I wondered how to make the most of my distro's ability to manage my viewing and download experience. Unixland is a free country full of choice and here are the choicest tips, tools, tricks and applications to get the best out of YouTube.

Shred and secure-delete: tools for wiping files, partitions and disks in GNU/Linux

I carry a small, laminated card indicating my subscription to the IUSP (International Union of the Super Paranoid, tin hat division). Well, you can't be too careful. After all, we live in a dangerous world and computers are just an extension of that. After you've installed the right operating system--GNU/Linux, of course--secure browsers, rootkit and virus scanners, you might just start to feel secure--and smug. Don't be. Until you have understood and mastered some of these GNU core utilities to securely delete, shred and wipe files, directories, partitions and whole disks you're not in the clear. Why not?

In the last year or so the British press has been full of stories about Government departments and individual employees who have lost laptops and flash sticks. Lost in the post, left on train seats, you name it. Not password protected, not encrypted. Nothing, and you can bet they were all running Windows. A wet dream for anyone trading in identity theft or blackmail. This cavalier approach to computer security should come as no surprise. Most people just want to switch computers them on and use them. Security is usually an afterthought--if at all.

The H3v web browser. Is it a Dillo killer?

When it comes to browsers, the Unix community is positively spoiled for choice: Firefox, Konqueror, Flock, Opera, Epiphany, Galeon, Kazehakase, Links, Elinks, Lynx, W3m and Dillo. From the minimal to the relatively bloated all life is there. You might just be thinking that we need another browser like Medieval Europe needed the Bubonic plague, but I'm always a great fan of the different and new, of people doing their own thing. Even Firefox had to start somewhere. H3v is a relative newcomer to the browser pack and it definitely falls into the "lean, mean" category. I think it deserves a little more exposure.

Songbird plus Mozilla, the ultimate media mashup for your music

GNU/Linux has come a long way since XMMS, the Winamp wannabe. The number of free media players has bloomed: Amarok, Banshee, Rhythmbox, Kaffeine, Kplayer and JuK. They have enough features to cater for every need a dedicated music lover could wish for. So Songbird, which is not even at version 1.0, would have its work cut out to rival those media players especially the ability to play video as well as music. But Songbird has one unique feature. It has a built-in browser, Mozilla, which allows it to extract maximum mileage from your music collection. Web integration leverages your music and allows you to do some really great stuff. This article will look at the features of Songbird that make it an essential addition to any installation.

Desktop Adapted For Dad

Sun, 2008-10-26 13:44 -- ajt

A long time ago I gave my retired father a computer. Having previously given my mother a computer with Windows 98 on and not being a success for my father I planned things differently and achieved a quite different result.

I wrote my story and ideas down in various places, giving a talk at my local LUG and even getting a short paper published in the British Human Computer Interactions Group "Interface" magazine.

Crossweavers Chromium: some wine to go with your chrome sir (and some bugs too)?

A few weeks ago I discussed the main features of the Chrome browser and Google's motives; at that point I was like the poor child, nose pressed against the window pane, looking inside at the sumptuous feast at the master's table. I, like all GNU/Linux users, hadn't been invited. Same as ever. Crossweavers decided to gate crash the party and bring their own drink too. In short, in just eleven days from the launch of Chrome they built a version running under Wine, and although their products are proprietary and they usually reciprocate by giving code back to free software like Wine, this time they gave it away for free. Thus did Chrome become Chromium and I had a chance to download and install it. Reader, I benchtested it.

Updating your system: GNU/Linux 5, Windows 0

The pace of software development -- regardless of the licence -- is pretty fast these days. The state of your systems need constant monitoring. New features, bug-fixes and (most important) security updates need to be properly managed. Here, in no particular order, are five ways that choosing a free operating system will make system maintenance a lot easier and simpler. In short they are ways that -- when it comes to system updates -- GNU/Linux beats Windows.

Krusader: one file manager to rule them all

I don't like KDE4. I don't like the Dolphin file manager either. There, I said it. I'm not trying to start a flame war. Really. But those dislikes are proportional to my concern about the future of Konqueror. For my money, it is just about one of the best things before and since sliced bread. I loved it enough to write about here at length and in depth. As a file manager it is packed to the gunnels with power features and as a browser it's not half bad either. The integration of both in this universal document viewer is the killer feature but it is getting rather left behind behind in the Web 2.0 goldrush. I worry that it might wither on the vine. Then, I discovered Krusader. It's a massively powerful and feature-packed twin panel file manager and if Dolphin isn't cutting the mustard Krusader might just be what you've been looking for.

OpenStreeMaps: free software's answer to Google and commercially-restricted geo-data

In a recent article on free software and the Large Hadron Collider I mentioned that here in the United Kingdom The Guardian, a national British newspaper, had founded a campaign called "free our data". They objected to the fact that the Ordnance Survey (and others), funded by the British taxpayer, was charging business and individuals for its cartographic data thus effectively making people pay for it twice. Their campaign is great but until such times as it succeeds an alternative is needed. A free software alternative. Enter OpenStreetMaps.

Google Earth and Google Maps are too well know to require iteration here, but the spectre of proprietary software haunts them. They are not free software. If you want to incorporate any of them into you budding business project and run your software under a relatively permissive licence for others to take up your ideas and improve them you will have to find something else.

Just like Wikipedia, on which it is loosely modelled, OpenStreetMaps is resolutely free software. It is an attempt, by community participation, to map the Earth.

Using Dia for diagrams

Everybody needs diagrams. Most users need to create one more often than they think: that flowchart for a presentation, that sketch of the bird feeder to build this weekend, or a time line. Getting more technical, there are always circuits and blueprints and the like. Stop wasting time with an office app, the GIMP, or a paint program: use Dia, an easy yet powerful made-for-diagrams editor.

Getting Dia

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