End users

End users

Free software Easter eggs

It is grey a dull, overcast day here in downtown Amsterdam. The weather is rather oppressive, summer’s smile long gone and my wine cellar miraculously has grown to quiet emptiness. However, I know a not too-well guarded secret. Hidden in the cracks, just at the edge of your eyesight, is extra humorous functionality in your favourite free software applications. Silent professional Easter eggs are waiting stealthily to make you smile.

How to fix your computer's graphics with dpkg-reconfigure

There is always a time when your GNU/Linux machine's screen output stops working. Maybe it's displaying garbage to your monitor instead of Gnome or KDE. Or maybe it's displaying 640x480 resolution with 8 colors instead of 1280x1024 with 24 colors. Actually, this will happen with Windows as well. But unlike Windows, GNU/Linux provides a handy tool to fix it. It's called dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg.

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 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!

Using PDFedit in Kubuntu

I’m over the moon. So far over, that I’m somewhere out near Neptune at the moment.

You see, I love books. Long ago I picked out PDFs as the best digital equivalent and I’ve collected tens of thousands of free books in my digital libraries. One of the only bits of proprietary (sort of) software on my computers is Adobe, simply because it’s the best reader.

Free software drivers: the unmatrix

Well, it’s been a while—“cough!”—the set’s all dusty since my previous post about 3D cards...

One thing that isn’t quite dusty though, is the state of free software drivers! I will sum up the different evolutions (some would even say, revolutions) that have occurred over this summer (June-September 2007).

Just peachy: free software, free movies

Apparently I’ve been living under a rock, because I only recently found out about the Blender project’s free and open source short movie, Elephants Dream, when I happened across Terry Hancock’s review of it last year on this web site. The motivation behind Elephants Dream was to create a great movie short using only free and open source tools, while at the same time finding ways to improve the quality of those tools and free software projects in general.

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”.

From the driver to the window manager: how to install Compiz Fusion for Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Xubuntu

The 3D world just got a lot brighter with the birth of Compiz Fusion, a powerful compositing window manager for GNU/Linux operating systems. Originally there was one project, Compiz, but the project forked into Compiz, and the unstable and unofficial fork of Compiz known as Beryl. Now, the two projects have been reunited for one amazing compositing window manager. In a nutshell, it adds effects to your desktop like wobbly windows (the windows actually wobble when you move them), a cool virtual desktops manager via a cube, and much more. For proof of how cool it is, just do a Google Video/YouTube search for “compiz fusion”.

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.

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 completely ditch GUI internet applications for the command line

Today, terminal-based programs have almost disappeared. GUIs are taking over, whether we like it or not. However, there is still a place for the old command line. Take the internet as an example: everyone’s using Firefox, Thunderbird, and Pidgin for their internet activities. Even though these are great, quality, free software apps, they tend to be bloated. That’s where the terminal comes in.


Kopete: the KDE instant messenger

Today, everyone uses a different instant messenger. Your boss may use Lotus Sametime, your colleague AIM, your friend Google Talk, and your kid Yahoo! Messenger. However, these all take up hard drive space, RAM, and CPU usage. In addition, many of these are proprietary and Windows-only (two big minuses for GNU/Linux users). Luckily, the free software world has several alternatives that enable users to chat with users of all of these programs (and many more). For KDE users, the answer is Kopete.

How to use Quake-style terminals on GNU/Linux

We know all about how powerful the GNU/Linux terminal is. However, it’s a pain to have to fire up a terminal emulator like Konsole or gnome-terminal, wait for a few seconds for it load, and then have to keep Alt-Tabbing to it. Wouldn’t it be easier to just have a terminal that automatically hides and shows itself at click of a button? Today, I’m going to look at three different terminal emulators that do just that.

What the heck is a Quake-style terminal?

Customizing your screensaver in GNOME

One popular screensaver in Ubuntu is “Floating Ubuntu”, which displays a number of Ubuntu logos floating around the screen. This screensaver exists in many different flavours; for example in Ubuntu you can also find “Floating Feet”, that has the GNOME logo instead of Ubuntu’s; or, on Debian you have Debian’s “swirls” floating around. I thought that it would probably be easy to customize it and have an image of my choice floating around instead. Unfortunately, screensavers in Ubuntu are not configurable using the GUI so I had to hack the screensaver myself. Here’s how I did it.

Creating a book template with Writer

While Writer allows you to create an advanced book template that consists of a master document and a number of subdocuments, there are situations where using a simpler, one-file template makes more sense. The main advantage of a one-file book template is that it helps you to work around two major problems in Writer.

Gnome panel mania

If you’re a GNOME user I expect you’re more than familiar with the panels that come as standard with your desktop; if you use openSUSE you’re probably also familiar with the slab menu that Novell have developed. There are, however, several other applications out there that can extend and beautify your Gnome panels.


Gimmie is a unique desktop organizer for Linux. It’s designed to allow easy interaction with all the applications, contacts, documents and other things you use every day.”


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