Category Archives: Open Source Software

Font Matrix : Manage Fonts on Ubuntu Linux

Installing Fonts on Ubuntu has been covered earlier in the post titled How to install fonts on Ubuntu. But, a font manager along with this would go a step further to a better UI on Ubuntu Linux. A font manager lets us group fonts, tag them and put them under categories else that simply viewing them.

Font Manager
Font Manager

Font Matrix is a cool application with which we can easily manage fonts on a Ubuntu system.

The Font management can be done for the complete system as a root user as well as for individual user accounts. Font Matrix uses the freetype engine to render fonts and the QT framework to provide the frontend for the application which is quite user friendly and well built as is evident from the screenshot.

Another great feature of Font Matrix is labeling of fonts, and tagging them which makes it a font manager and not just a simple font viewer.

With no built in application for managing, labeling and tagging fonts in Ubuntu, font manager equals it’s windows counterparts to a good extent and is a must have application for Ubuntu Linux.

To download Font Matrix for any Debian based system, visit the download page here : Font Matrix Download

How to Enable Font Smoothing in Wine

I had covered Font Smoothing in Ubuntu, in one of my previous posts.

A good font display is a top priority for me because without good fonts, any application howsoever good it might be looks like a sloppy Sunday night’s work.

Now, getting font smoothing on Ubuntu is easy. It involves editing a file to enable autohint but these smoothings are not applicable to Wine. On top of that, most of the times, the fonts of Windows  applications running in Wine are highly aliased and appear broken, sometimes illegible. This can be corrected with applying font smoothing inside Wine.

To do this, there are many tutorials which require you to create a registry key inside wine and do heavy tweaking. To keep things simple, there is an easy way out. Follow the tutorial here.

Wine Fonts
Wine Font Smoothing

[ Screenshot from Ubuntu Forums ]

This tutorial includes downloading a simple bash script, and installing it, in two easy steps through the command line. Your font rendering in Wine should improve considerably after this tweak.

How To get involved in Ubuntu Development

The Ubuntu Developer Week is an initiative taken by the senior Ubuntu members to involve newer members into the vibrant Ubuntu community. UDW gets all kinds of Ubuntu users involved in the Ubuntu development process. From translators to programmers, from novice Linux users to advanced Ubuntu users, everyone can participate in this event to learn about contributing to Ubuntu or to help others get started.

UDW is held via IRC chat sessions on the irc.freenode.net server in the following chatrooms :

#ubuntu-classroom : In this room, the Senior Developers are actually explaining the various processes of getting involved with Ubuntu, usually with a guided step-by-step example. This session does not have any other chatting banter other than an occasional point clarified from other senior members.

# ubuntu-classroom-chat : This is the room for questions regarding topics being discussed in the   #ubuntu-classroom chat room. This helps in filtering out the noise in the main session window. The senior developers are multi-tasking individuals who manage to discuss the main topics in the classroom while at the same time answering questions in the classroom-chat chat room.

As has been already posted, Ubuntu Developer Week was held between 31st August to 4th September.

Some interesting sessions held were :

  • Getting Started with Ubuntu Development
  • Linux Kernel Triaging and Debugging
  • Packaging Perl modules
  • Translation for Developers

For all those still interested in topics such as above, it’s not too late !

Daniel Holbach, one of the key guys in Ubuntu Developer Week and the regular hangout in the #ubuntu-classroom IRC chatrooms has summarized the session details and saved the IRC logs for us. You can access them directly from the following links :

Please make it a point to thank Daniel for his efforts.

Finally, learning for past mistakes, let us make sure we do not miss another of these highly informative sessions. The next series is called Ubuntu Open Week and details of how to participate, the schedule, etc.   can be found here. Make sure to mark your calendars with the event dates !!

Avant Window Navigator : Must Have Linux Software

Ubuntu Linux has many eye candy softwares but all the dock applications available for Ubuntu do not match their counterparts in Windows. But, there is one dock application which works as smoothly as the compiz desktop effects and with perfectly smooth transitions as well. This software is available across many Linux distros.

Avant Window Navigator
Avant Window Navigator

With Avant Window Navigator, you can dock window lists, launcher and third party applications in the AWN dock which rests at the bottom of your desktop primarily.

As a windows list, it stacks up similar applications into the same icon, as an application launcher, it can let you launch applications, maximize, minimize with single clicks as if it were just another Window. You can also set the visibility of these windows to hidden of always on top. That way, it forms a complete replacement for the bottom panel in Ubuntu Linux.

This application requires a composition manager like Beryl or Compiz to function properly. It is also available for the Xcfe desktop environment.

You can also drag and drop applications on applications in the dock to perform an “Open with” operation. It has an excellent glass engine on the background. Written in C, AWN uses the GTK+ frontend to deliver sleek graphics and transition effects.

Currently AWN is available for Gentoo, Ubuntu, Fedora and for OpenSuse.

To install AWN on your Linux distro, go to the installation page here .

Red Hat in the News

With the Red Hat Summit being held at Chicago from the 1st to 4th September, the company has suddenly flooded the industry with announcements and releases ranging from their bread-and-butter Enterprise-grade Operating System to it’s forays into new technologies and product offerings.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux

At the Red Hat Summit, Red Hat officially announce the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.4
RHEL 5.4 primarily focuses on Virtualization support in the kernel via the Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM). Alongwith virtualization, this enterprise-grade operating system also introduced support for Fibre Channel over Ethernet, compatibility with x86/amd platforms, feature enhancements for application developers in the area of profiling and lots of security and bug fixes. Also included in this version is strengthened partnerships with industry giants like IBM, HP and Dell.

Also mentioned in the Summit was a sneak-peek at Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.0. RHEL 6.0 will focus on better power management, optimizations for large scale deployments, emphasis on performance and an increases focus on KVM based virtualization.

GateIN

During the Summit, Red Hat also officially announced the launch of the GateIN portal project .      GateIN uses JBoss   technologies to create a new portal framework. According to Red Hat, the ultimate goal is to provide both, an intuitive portal to use as-is   and a portal framework to build upon depending on customer needs.

JBoss

Speaking of JBoss, the company also announced the delivery of the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 5.0 middleware for the cloud.

SpaceWalk

Red Hat announced the release of Red Hat Network Satellite 5.3, the first release of it’s Systems Management tool built from the SpacelWalk open source project. The basic idea behind Spacewalk, started at last year’s Summit, was to have an open source Systems Management project as the next step for it’s proprietary Network Satellite (RHN) application.

DeltaCloud

Finally, the Summit also saw the foray of Red Hat into Cloud computing. With the unveiling of the DeltaCloud project, Red Hat plans to enable an ecosystem of developers, tools, scripts, and applications which can interoperate across the public and private clouds.     The Deltacloud effort is creating a common, REST-based API, such that developers can write once and manage anywhere, across clouds like Amazon’s EC2 or Rackspace.

With so many Service and Product offerings, Red Hat seems to have redeemed it’s silence. With this Summit, the largest independent Linux Company in the world is not about to give it’s top position to the likes of Canonical and Novell just yet.

Slackware 13.0 Released with Official 64 bit Port

Slackware is one Linux distro which has not gotten distracted with all the eye candy flying around on  Linux distros and has always tried to keep things simple and serious.

Slackware
Slackware

This is precisely the reason Slackware is used for distros like Backtrack, which is a powerful security scanner tool set available as The Backtrack Linux Distro. Very recently, Slackware has released its version 13.0 which includes an improved collection of the X packages.

But the biggest change in the latest version is a new feature: 64 bit support. This ensures  an ongoing development for 32 bit with a net port to the 64 bit, being managed alongside. There are changes in wicd, and new Intel drivers have also been included in this latest release.

A new Intel driver is experimental and is not present at the regular location. Other advancements include an improved KDE version 4.2.4 which is the latest stable version and Xcfe environment and a new package format, the .txz format with a higher compression that the regular .tz format. Apart from KDE and Xcfe, Gnome desktop is also available for Slackware.

This new version of Slackware requires the latest build of the Linux Kernel, version 2.6.22.xx is the minimum requirement.

Get your copy of the latest release here .

How to use a Ramdisk in Linux

Ramdisk is a feature in Linux which lets us use a RAM device as if it were a storage media. A RAM disk has a fixed size and behaves like just another disk partition with exceptionally fast speed. As the disk is physically located on the RAM, it’s access time is as fast as that of the RAM.

With a RAM disk, we can keep temporary data needing fast calculations and access in the RAM. This may include caches, compressed files and encrypted files. Using the RAM disk as a web cache can speed up browsing considerably. It can also be used to load guest operating systems for faster virtualization.

The only disadvantage of using a RAM disk is that you will lose all data in case of a power failure. But, this comes as an advantage in case when you are browsing through the Internet and using the RAM disk to store the cache or when you are using RAM disk to deal with encrypted files. In both the cases, the data is lost without a trace and desirably.

Support for creating RAM disks has been present in Linux from the Kernel Version 2.4.

To create and use a RAM disk, you can see the step by step guide to creating a RAM disk .

This tutorial is for Red Hat which has a number of built in RAM disks. For other distros of Linux, based on the kernel 2.4 and above, the tutorial should work equally fine.

Ubuntu Service Engineers for rent

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux, has rolled out a new service for Enterprises users,   renting out expert Support Engineers for Ubuntu.

The Premium Service Engineers, or PSEs, are Ubuntu experts who can provide more personalized service to Enterprises. These engineers will be trained to handle not only simple everyday issues faced by large enterprises, but also some of the complex ones like heavy load, complex architectures and other non-standard environments. Furthermore, Ubuntu claims these issues will be dealt with fast!

Ubuntu

Some of the obvious benefits that enterprises will receive with this arrangement is having a “virtual team member” to deal with these issues, a one-point contact for suggesting and guiding the organization with tailored needs, a direct access to the developers and engineers working on the core softwares (and possibly also with upstream developers).

The PSEs will also guide the organization with it’s Ubuntu deployment strategies with respect to future releases, advise on updates, etc.

More information and service brochure for PSEs can be seen here.

For a rumored $50K a year, having a Ubuntu expert on your team without actually having the overhead of hiring one, this is one sweet deal.

With Ubuntu’s eleventh release, code-named Karmic Koala or Ubuntu 9.10, scheduled for October 29 th of this year, Canonical is getting increasingly better at competing with biggies like Apple and Microsoft.

How to add Google Repositories to Ubuntu Linux

Google releases regular updates for it’s Linux distributions of Picasa and Google Desktop applications. Picasa is an amazing image viewer and manager. It is one of my most used softwares for Linux when it comes to viewing image albums.

Default update service for Picasa is not present in Ubuntu itself, but can be easily added. Now, this can be done with a GUI as well as from the command line.

To add Google repositories from the command line, follow the steps below.

  1. Add the GPG signing key for Google repositories by entering
    wget -q -O - https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub | apt-key add -
    apt-get update

    into your terminal.

  2. To add the repository URL, open the file /etc/apt/sources.list and append the following code at the end
    # Google software repository
    deb http://dl.google.com/linux/deb/
    stable non-free main
  3. Update your software package update list with
    sudo apt-get update
  4. Update Picasa with
     sudo apt-get install picasa

Now, your Picasa will update automatically with your other packages every time Google provides an update. This will also fetch package update lists for any other Google software you use.

How to Get Smooth Fonts in Ubuntu

Fonts is an area which needs a lot of improvement in Linux. With the lack of good fonts, Linux applications and softwares always lack that smooth looking competition from the Windows GUI. Most of the fonts available by default on Ubuntu are just barely enough to work with and the others which we can install manually, lack the crisp and sharp font effect we get on windows.

Ubuntu
Ubuntu

I had covered installing fonts on Linux earlier. Now,  you might also like to add font smoothing to the fonts you install. This will improve the visual aspects of your Ubuntu installations remarkably.

To enable font smoothing for true type fonts,

  1. Go to your home directory.
  2. Press ctrl+h. This will enable showing hidden files.
  3. Lookup the  .fonts.conf file.
  4. Edit the file to make it look like this
  5. <?xml version="1.0"?>
    <!DOCTYPE fontconfig SYSTEM "fonts.dtd">
    <fontconfig>
    <match target="font">
    <edit name="autohint" mode="assign">
    <bool>true</bool>
    </edit>
    </match>
    </fontconfig>

That is all. Now logout and log back in. Your font should be smoother than before. To test this check the font rendering of a white text against a black background.

For more details, see original Ubuntu forums discussions here.

Get Opera 10 For Ubuntu [Linux]

Ubuntu comes bundled with Firefox as the default web browser. Firefox, with all it’s addons and customizations, is a great browser in itself, but it’s toll on the memory is a big annoyance at times. For those suffering from this, you can try out the Opera web browser for Ubuntu.

Opera 10
Opera 10

Opera has always been an innovative web browser and has a rapid growth in the browser sector. It has in built support for many of the features offered by many Firefox plugins. Opera has an extremely smooth tab switching and has introduced a revolutionary feature of Opera Turbo in it’s version 10, which is an unmatched integrated-into-browser technology to speed up web browsing.

Today, Opera has unveiled the final build of version 10 of it’s web browser and it is available both for windows as well as for Linux.

Opera 10 has some new features, like visual tabs showing a page preview on the tab, automatic memory management depending on system resources and a lot more. You can get a detailed overview of these features at Pallab’s blog post on Opera 10-new features.

Currently, Opera 10 is available as a package for all major Linux versions like Ubuntu, Mandriva, Slackware, Suse, Mint, Fedora, Gento etc.

To get the Opera 10 package for Ubuntu or for any Linux platform, visit the Opera 10 download page for Linux .

GParted : Must have Linux Software

GParted

Windows has many limitations on the number and types of partitions we can create. Also, it becomes very hard to edit or modify the system partition in Windows. There are third party softwares like Norton Partition Magic which let us do just that but they come for a price, and are not very user friendly.

GParted is a Linux software which lets us manage our partitions, all for free. GParted is written completely in the C++ language and is pretty lightweight as it uses GTK+ frontend. It can detect, read and create all major file system. GParted can run at the boot level. This gives it unrestricted access to all partitions. Some of the features of GParted are:

  • It can Create or delete partitions. With GParted, we can also set partition types while creating partitions and bypass the windows limit on the number and types of partitions.
  • GParted also lets us resize and move partitions. This helps us rearrange data.
  • We also have options of copying and pasting full partitions.

But these are not the only reasons to use GParted. GParted is available along with many Linux distributions as well as a standalone Live CD which can be downloaded here: Download GParted Live CD

Backtrack : Linux Distro for the White Hat

Backtrack is a slackware based Linux distro which uses the KDE environment. Backtrack was developed by the Mati Aharoni, an Israeli security consultant.

BacktrackThis distro helps in extensive testings of workstations for security loopholes on both the system itself as well as on a network.

Today, from being a simple Slackware based distro, it is a complete security analysis tool used by professionals all over the world. Backtrack has taken computer security to such a level, that now we have a new field of education called “Offensive Security” with a certification, the education for which is focused around the use of this distro.

With a variety of spoofing tools, sniffers, tunneling softwares and much more, Backtrack is the perfect choice for any hacker or anyone interested in learning network exploits and ways to prevent them. It has more than 300 tools arranged categorically, and was awarded the #1 Security Live Distribution. It includes popular applications like Wireshark, chntpw etc. chntpw can be used to reset a lost password for windows. Other tools are also available for fun on computer networks.

Backtrack can be downloaded for free. The Version 3 is 700 MB in size, whereas the version 4 which is a pre-final version currently is 1.32 GB in size.

Get backtrack here.

Clonezilla : Partition Snapshot Software

Clonezilla is a software which lets us create clone images of partitions. The software is actually a Debian based bootable Linux with support for cloning partitions and disks. It includes the ntfsclone, partclone and partimage softwares along with the bootable live distro.

Clonezilla
The technology on which Clonezilla is based is the same as the proprietary software Norton Ghost, or it’s open source counterpart Partition Image. But the difference here is that Clonezilla is a thousand times faster than these softwares. It is said that the Server edition of Clonezilla can clone around 5 GB of data to more than 40 computers in less than 10 minutes. That is faster than any other disk cloning software. This technology of cloning through a server is called Multicasting Cloning. Clonezilla also supports Unicasting Cloning, whereby we can clone a single computer to another single one.

Currently, Clonezilla supports over 10 file systems including ext2, ext3, ext4, xfs etc of Linux, NTFS and FAT of Windows and HFS+ of Mac OS.

This software will come in very handy if you are running a web server and want to clone-backup it. Alternatively, we can also setup a cronjob to schedule this backup. clonezilla is licensed under GPL, which means all this, can be done for free.

to download Clonezilla, go to the download page here.

Launchy : Must have Ubuntu Software

Launchy is a revolutionary open source application available for both Linux and Windows. It is a real time keystroke launcher for searching through installed programs and system paths for executables specific to the system and run them.
Launchy

Launchy maintains a small index of it’s own and we can check the number of files in the index. The index is updated automatically on schedule but there are options for manual updates as well.

Originally suggested as a Windows start menu replacement, it has a search algorithm which surpasses the search algorithm of the Windows start menu launchy.

With Launchy, we can search both the web as well as our desktop. Another popular feature in Launchy is a real time calculator. So we just go on typing an expression and it evaluates in real time. Parenthesizing expressions is also allowed. In addition to this, Launchy has extensive suppport for themes and plugins.
The application takes a very small amount of memory and is a must have software for both Windows and Linux.

Get Launchy here.