Best way to change your GNOME Desktop look

Having the right eye-candy for your Linux box can be a very important factor especially when you plan to show it off to your Windows Vista or Mac fanboy friends. Customizing the look and feel of your Gnome desktop, however, can be a tedious process. You have to download the wallpapers, then know where to install the icon theme tarballs, the splash screens, etc.

Now there’s a much simpler way to do this. Install gnome-art-ng.

GnomeArt-NextGen is a successor to the older gnome-art, which was basically a theme changer. With Gnomeart-ng, one can change and customize the look and feel of your Gnome Desktop in a much more sophisticated and easier manner.

You can install Gnome-art-ng by downloading either the binary or the packaged deb file for Debian-based Distro users or   compile it from source.

Once invoked, it will ask you to download a huge 15 MB tarball containing the thumbnail previews of all the artwork, including icons, GDM greeters, wallpapers et al. It is recommended you do this, otherwise each preview will be downloaded, everytime and this can get frustrating.

Once the downloading is done, GnomeArt-NG takes some time to uncompress the data.

That’s it. You are done !!

Now just go to various tabs like Backgrounds, Window Decorations, Icons, Splash screen, etc. , preview the artwork and Apply.

When you Apply, it downloads the actual images from the GnomeArt site and even applies the settings.

It’s as simple as that.

If you want very specific contro or artwork from other sites, then you will have to go about doing it the old-fashioned way.

How to Play Old Computer Games in Linux

Whether you are a hardcore gamer or not, haven’t you had the urge to play one of the older games once in a while ? There is no comparison between modern games and the old ones in terms of the graphics, the sounds, the intelligence … the complete game-play experience. But nonetheless, the older games had a certain charm that has still not lost.

For all the old-time   gamers out there, you can now play these games on your Linux or Mac machines using a Game Emulators.

DOSBox is one such MS-DOS Game Emulator, ported on a lot of OSes including FreeBSD , MAC OS X and sundry Linux distributions. It also comes with a variety of front-ends and language support. Most importantly, it is a completely open source game emulator.

On an Ubuntu box, installing dosbox is as simple as :

$ sudo apt-get install dosbox

Once installed, it can be invoked via the Menu by clicking on   : Applications -> Games -> DOSBox Emulator , or by directly calling dosbox from the command-line.

The screenshot above shows a dosbox console.

In order to play your favourite games, you must first download the appropriate executable file. BestOldGames is a site with a huge collection of games which readily work with DOSBox. However, a simple google search should yield ample resources.

Now, once the required game is downloaded, it should be “mounted” on the dosbox as follows :

Assume that the game “Prince of Persia” has been downloaded and extracted in your home directory “PoP”.

Mount the game as a “C:” drive and excute the game as follows :

Z:\> mount c /home/<username>/PoP

Now change to the C drive

Z:\> C:

Go into the Game’s directory

C:\> cd PRINCE

And invoke the Game’s executable

C:\PRINCE> PRINCE.EXE

A quick heads-up while using dosbox is the Controls. For most games,   the Laptop’s “Fn” keys had to be utilized as a Keypad rather than the usual Arrow keys.

Apart from the MS-DOS Game Emulator, another emulator is as popular is the Super Nintendo (SNES) Game Emulator, called ZSNES. zsnes   is a SNES game emulator engine for Windows, Linux, FreeBSD and Dos. It is also a completely open source game emulator.

As earlier, installing zsnes on a Ubuntu machine is as simple as   :

$ sudo apt-get install zsnes

It will be installed under Applications -> Games -> ZSNES Emulator . Alternatively it can be invoked from the command shell by called zsnes .

Zsnes installed

In order to play the SNES games, you need to download the appropriate ROM file. DopeROMs is one of the better resources out there, but there are also others like RomNation.

Mortal Kombat

Just search for your favorite game,   download and copy the zipped ROM files in your favorite location and “Load” it from zsnes .

I personally feel that the gaming experience on ZSNES was better than DOSBox. For example, try playing Mortal Kombat on both the Emulators and see the difference. This may be attributed to the fact that ZSNES is more actively developed than DOSBox.

Apart from these two popular Game Emulator engines there are also a LOT of others out there which will work on a variety of platforms including BSDs and MACs . This link lists out the staggering number of them out there.

Updated Development Builds of Fedora & openSUSE Released

While the internet is abuzz with news of Windows 7 and OS X Snow Leopard releases, do not mistake the open source world to be dilly-dallying. Both Fedora and openSuse teams pushed updates recently for their development versions. Fedora got one step closer to its next release, Fedora 12 with its Alpha build out now and openSUSE marched ahead with its version 11.2’s milestone 6 released.

Fedora

Logo_fedoralogoCodenamed Constantinethe alpha version of Fedora 12 packs a box full of improved network performance, better integration with webcams and the iPv6 protocol. Power Management has been revamped which should make laptop owners, or let me say, netbook owners jubilate. There are several other changes that are worth mentioning. Software packages in Fedora have been switched from Gzip to the more efficient XZ (LZMA) compression method, to save space on mirrors and reduce download times. Drastic improvements have been made to the Ogg Theora video codec and all applications supporting it can now take advantage of the improvements.

Fedora 12 now includes a updated version of GRUB with Ext4 support as the default file system. The Fedora design team has also added support for dynamically rotating wallpapers. Making a debut in this release is support for Dracut a new booting system replacing the previous monolithic system. This replacement can be downloaded from the repository for now, but will be enabled by default in the final release. There are further improvement in design and interface and also bluetooth connectivity.

In this release, Gnome 2.28 sits aboard. Empathy becomes the default IM client and the default KDE environment is version 4.3.

Fedora 12 releases on November 18th, 2009. Meanwhile, you can try out the alpha by downloading it from here.

openSUSE

OpenSUSE Coming to openSUSE, it surely depicts signs of progress. Milestone 6 for version 11.2 came out on Monday this week and includes several new packages and updates. Bittorrent client Transmission is now available on the Gnome live Cd and the KDE version packs a bunch of new apps like Okteta, Kompare and Choqok among several others.

Support for the linux kernel has been updated for 2.6.31-rc6. Several onboard applications have been updated to their latest versions: Firefox 3.5.2, GIMP 2.6.7, GNOME 2.28 Beta, Konversation 1.2 Alpha 6, OpenOffice.org 3.1.1 Beta 2, VirtualBox 3.0.4 and Wine 1.1.27.

However, seems like they forgot to put Evolution the mail client in the Gnome Live CD, so you won’t find it there. Worry not, it’s been brought to their attention already and it’ll be hopefully fixed by the next release.

It is worth noting that Milestone releases are not major releases and include only a small number of updates or software inclusions. The final openSUSE 11.2 will be released on November 12th, 2009, six days before Fedora 12 is out. If you can wait till then, well and good, if not, grab the latest and bleeding edge 11.2 Milestone 6 from here.

And for the Ubuntu Fanboys (is that a term? Anyway, I just invented it), Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala will be releasing before Fedora 12 and openSuse 11.2 on 29th October. So don’t forget to check it out when it releases.

How to set Windows as Default OS in Grub

Some of us, or rather most of us dual boot windows and Linux. Bot the operating systems are equally important to me unless you are a Linux fanatic. Windows is as much my development platform as Linux. Now, most of us using Linux also use the Grub boot loader.

Grub
Grub

An installation of Linux after windows, places Linux on the top of the grub list and Windows at the end. That also initializes with Linux in selection and our workstation boots into Linux if allowed automatically.

To change this and put Windows as the default as well as the first OS in the list, use the steps below.

  1. Boot into Linux, that is where you will get the file to edit the boot menu for Grub.
  2. Open up the terminal, enter gksudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst This brings up the grub file in Gedit, the text editor.
  3. Look for the lines :
    title        Microsoft Windows XP
    root        (hd0,2)
    makeactive
    chainloader    +1

    without a ‘#’ comment at the line beginning.

  4. Bring it above the lines for booting into Linux. That should look something like kernel/ vmlinuz****Version** root=**** .
  5. You are all set. Save the file, reboot.

Your windows should be on top of the grub, and the selected OS as well. Alternatively, you can set the default selection to 1, in the same file or use SUM to change these settings. I will write about SUM in a future post.

Ubuntu Developers Week – Announcement and Schedule

The Ubuntu Developers Week is just around twenty days from now.

A series of workshops will be conducted  at the one week event giving developers and Ubuntu lovers an insight into the workings of the most popular Linux distro.

Ubuntu developers Week
Theme Authenticity Checker

The week will be of special interest to developers as there will be discussion on Django – the python web framwork and ways to use it to deliver good websites, a lot on sofwares and secure software development, packages and repositories and new hacks and mods unveiled by key Ubuntu gurus.

If you want to join any of the sessions, join #ubuntu-classroom on the IRC channel irc.freenode.net

There is also an open discussion section where you can talk in lie with Ubuntu developers. Do not miss out this opportunity.

If you are not very well versed in English,  there are LoCo members to help you out with translations from Danish, German, Spanish, Finnish and Catalan.

For more information and updates, visit the wiki page on Developers Week 2009.

Find Linux Alternatives For Windows & OSX Software

Linux is growing fast and a lot of people are switching from Windows and OS X. There are tons of very useful software available for Linux but sometimes it is not real easy to find.

LinuxAppFinder not only lets you find Linux apps for any certain task, but also lists Linux alternatives for any Windows or OS X application. You can search for a software or browse the listings in alphabetical order. For almost every Windows or OS X software, there are 3-4 Linux alternatives listed. Just click on the one you like to see more details and instructions on how to install.

If you don’t find the software you are looking for, you can make a request through the forums. A regularly updated news sections is also there to keep you informed of new and upcoming Linux apps.

Linux Drop Down Terminals

Linux has a cool list of applications. Today, I will talk about the most widely used application, the terminal. The terminal is always required whenever we move out of the premises of inbuilt applications and installed softwares. These three terminals have one thing in common. They can be launched with a single click, and they fly-roll out of the top panel just like in Quake, or UT.

Tilda:

Faster Firefox
Faster Firefox

Tilda is a terminal which comes up on a special keystroke. It is one of those game type console screens with no border and a “roll out from top” startup. At just 300 KB it is a really cool geek-terminal resting on your desktop. Tilda can be customized for a transparent background also. It has support for tabs as well.

For more information on tilda Visit their Tilda project page at SourceForge.

Guake:

Faster Firefox
Faster Firefox

Guake is another drop down terminal much like Tilda. One good thing about Guake is that it has been bundled for a number of Linux distros, so there are more chances of it running for your distro. Guake homepage.

Yakuake:

Faster Firefox
Faster Firefox

Yakuake is a real game style terminal with the actual roll-out effect found in games. the scrolling is smooth and it supports a tabbed interface as well. Yakuake is available for KDE only. For more information and dowlnoad, visit Yakuake homepage.

Well, so now that you have the list,let me know which of those you are planing to use. Tilda is my first choice though.

Create Screencasts On Linux With RecordMyDesktop

Ever wanted to create a video tutorial in Linux? You have tried every software on the Internet and they do give results but far from good? Check this out, RecordMyDesktop is what you need.

RecordMyDisk
RecordMyDisk

recordmydesktop is pretty simple to use. It has a CLI (command line interface) design but also has a GUI called “the gtk-recordmydesktop".

RecordMyDesktop is an open source software and is available free of cost.

It uses py-gtk and py-qt34 (the python graphics toolkits for windowing) for the front-end and C language for the back-end. The video is saved in ogg format, and the software has support for recording sounds as well.

The recording is fully customizable and the GUI rests on the panel-tray as a record toggle button.

To install recordmydesktop ::

Key in the following code in your terminal

sudo apt-get install recordmydesktop gtk-recordmydesktop

That is pretty much all. You should be able to capture videos of your workstation now. I used it for the first time to capture videos of the compiz effects.

For more information on recordmydesktop, visit the homepage at : recordmydesktop homepage

Recover Data From Damaged Media Using Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier

Every storage media has a shelf-life. In most cases it is just a few years. Loosing precious data due to damaged media can be a devastating experience. But even if Windows File Copy fails, all hope is not lost. You can still salvage your data using tools like RoadKil’s Unstoppable Copier.

RoadKil’s Unstoppable Copier works on all media including Hard Disks and Optical Disks. Unlike Windows, Unstoppable Copier doesn’t give up when it encounters an unreadable bit. It will attempt to read the damaged portion multiple times. In case your media is badly damaged and the data can’t be read, it moves on to the next bit. Unstoppable Copier reads as much of your data as possible and then pieces them together. This technique works especially well with multimedia content. Even if some of the data is damaged beyond recovery, you would still be able to play the video or audio(with a few frame skips).

Unstoppable Copier

Unstoppable Copier also provides a few other advanced options like Batch Processing mode and File Copy automation which advanced users will appreciate. You can use it as a daily backup software by creating a batch transfer and running it as a commandline script.

RoadKil’s Unstoppable Copier obviously has its limitations. It can’t recover something which no longer exists. However it works quite well on partially damaged disks (especially for multimedia files). Unstoppable Copier works on hard disks with bad sectors as well as scratched optical disks (CD/DVD) and is available for both Windows and Linux.

[ Download Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier ]

Crontab Generator

Cron jobs are basically scheduled tasks for Linux based OS, that are supposed to run at certain intervals, users can manually add cron jobs to their system by using the command crontab eand editing the file to add new cron job.

However not many people are familiar with the syntax of Crontab, to help them out there is a excellent service that will allow users to generate the syntax, by providing with a wizard interface.

You can use the wizard to get the syntax for the cron by inputting the command name and choosing the frequency you want to run it at.

crontab_generator

Once you have selected the settings, click on Create Crontab Line button, the service will automatically generate the syntax for the cron.

You can then copy the syntax and use the command crontab eto edit cron jobs and insert the new syntax. Can’t get any simpler than this.

Crontab Generator [via tweet from @SathyaBhat]