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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bodhi Linux 1.1.0 : Ubuntu and Enlightenment based Promising Linux distribution

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Bodhi Linux is a relatively new GNU/Linux distribution being developed by Jeff Hoogland. I had read couple of reviews of Bodhi Linux earlier, but comment from the maintainer of Bodhi Linux in the review of MacPup 520 Linux ( you can read this review here ) , made me take notice of Bodhi Linux, and I decided to give Bodhi Linux a try.

Bodhi Linux 1.1.0 is a distribution based on popular GNU/Linux distribution Ubuntu, Bodhi is a Sanskrit word which to some extent means enlightenment, it is widely used in Buddhism and thus the name itself for Bodhi Linux is positive. Bodhi Linux is based on Enlightenment Window Manager, I am huge fan of Enlightenment, I recently reviewed MacPup 520 and I was very impressed with what I saw, thus I had huge expectations from Bodhi Linux.

The test environment was very modest, I have a close to four year old Core 2 Laptop with 1.5Ghz processor, which runs VirtualBox, I tested Bodhi Linux in Virtual Machine with 768 Megabytes of RAM. Though, this is still way above bare minimum system requirement as listed on Bodhi Linux website, which is -

  • 300mhz i386 Processor
  • 128megs of RAM
  • 1.5g HD space
Bodhi Linux believes in philosophy of minimal environment, that is keeping everything to bare minimum and giving user preference to install applications they so wish, and so, Bodhi Linux comes with lightweight Enlightenment desktop and a minial set of applications by default. Bodhi Linux gives tool for user to easily install applications from Repositories. I find this idea very interesting, I usually use few applications which come by default with Ubuntu like Mozilla Firefox or Open Office, there are many applications which I do not use, but come by default with Ubuntu desktop, and hence they are of little use to me and I can always install them when I need them. Providing a very minimal set of application, sufficient enough to install new applications is very interesting idea.

When I booted Bodhi Linux, I was presented with login screen asking me to chose from number of different profiles, these profiles were :

(a) Bare

This configuration only loads the clock, and is more useful for people who want to build their own custom enlightenment desktop and customize it according to their needs.

(b) Compositing

This is configuration with all the fancy UI enabled, it uses Enlightenment's composite window manager and works both with hardware and software acceleration.

(c) Desktop

This is configuration that is going to interest most people, it has menu, taskbar,application launcher and is similar to desktop of most conventional operating systems and hence users should find the interface similar.

(d) Fancy

A more artistic fancy layout.

(e) Laptop

This configuration is similar to Desktop configuration, however, it has additionally, Power Monitor and CPU Scaler which might be useful for laptop users.

(f) Netbook

This configuration is optimized for tablets/netbooks with small screen, there are other customizations specific to these devices.

I liked the idea of showing snapshot of the profile to help one decide, however, I feel there are too many profiles right now, If this can be reduced to 3-4, this would make the distribution look less Geeky, for instance "fancy" could be easily removed and Laptop and Desktop combined, with user being asked through a druid when he logs into,if he is using Laptop or Desktop. This can make the distribution more user friendly.

Profile selection, notice - text about the profile and a screen shot

Once you are done choosing Profile you want to run Bodhi Linux in, you are asked to choose Theme which you want to use, there are couple of descent looking themes here, though I do not like the idea of asking theme upfront.

Theme selection Option before you load Desktop

Once the desktop loads, you are greeted with a beautiful desktop, there is a dock at the bottom, panel at top with button to access different menus, as well as indicator for remaining battery life and CPU usage along with easy switcher for different workspaces, the interface is surprisingly fast and animations are smooth, inspite of running this on a virtual machine with very meagre configuration and this has largely to do with using Enlightenment as Window Manager.



Since, Bodhi Linux was built with speed and supporting light weight applications in mind, the default choice of application is somewhat different, it comes by default with Midori as a web-browser, Midori is extremely fast and small Web Browser, that I had reviewed couple of years back ( You can read review here ). Though, personally I would have preferred likes of Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, MacPup for instance came by default installed with Mozilla Firefox, but I understand motive was to make distribution as simple as possible and allow users to download applications they need.

Bodhi Linux comes with Linux kernel 2.6.39, since Bodhi Linux does not use Gnome, it does not have Nautilus installed, instead it uses another lightweight replacement for Nautilus called PCMan File Manager, PCMan File Manager is very functional, extensible through plugins and is lightweight, I had reviewed PCMan File Manager couple of years back ( you can read review here ) .

Gadget Manager allows you to install gadget on desktop, there are few gadgets that come by default with Bodhi Linux, I was able to put some of these on desktop without any problem.

Gadget Manager and some Gadgets on Desktop.

In the Dock at the bottom of the screen, there is icon to install Bodhi Linux on local hard disk, the installer is tweaked version of installer which Ubuntu uses and hence installing Bodhi Linux shouldn't be a problem, and it should be relatively easy to install Bodhi Linux.

Time Zone selection while installing Bodhi Linux on local Hard disk, notice the installer is similar to one used in Ubuntu Linux.


Since, Bodhi Linux is based on Ubuntu ( which is inturn based on Debian), Bodhi Linux uses debian packages and hence all the apt-get commands should work, additionally, Synaptic package manager allows you to easily install application through graphical interface. the number of applications available in Bodhi Linux repository is though less, only some useful applications are there.

There are two meta-packages, which is application set consisting of useful applications, it is divided into two categories -
  • Nikhila Application Set - This has applications which most user might need like Rhythmbox, LibreOffice, GIMP etc, the entire download is about 450 Megabytes in size. The entire list of Applications in this application set, as well as instructions to installing these can be looked up here.
  • Pratibha Application Set - This has applications which are lightweight, it includes for instance DeadBeeF instead of Rhythmbox ( Read Review of DeadBeeF here ), Midori web browser, Geany text editor, VLC etc, the entire installation is about 168 Megabytes in size. You can find instructions on installing these packages, as well as complete list of applications included in this application set here.
Installing applications is extremely easy, you could go to either software section of Bodhi Linux website and chose the application you intend to use, this will use apt:url feature to install application, this is the recommended way of installing application for newbies, or if you are comfortable with debian based distributions you can use apt-get and synaptic package manager to install application instead.

Entire list of applications available in Bodhi Linux repositories is available here, the list is very properly organized under different categories, the list of applications available is very exhaustive and covers most of the useful applications user might need, there is Firefox, Chromium, Opera, GIMP, Dia, Adobe Flash plugin, Java plugin, Libreoffice,Deluge,Skype and many other useful applications.

Settings Panel allow you to configure different aspect of the system.

Shutdown options

Overall, I am satisfied with what I have seen, I had high expectations for Bodhi Linux, and I wasn't disappointed, it is pretty neat for a distribution that is relatively new, there are things that Bodhi Linux needs to work on, interface of some of the druids, reducing number of options that plague new users when they log into the system, are some of them, additionally, I liked the idea of having limited number of applications in software center, and categorizing them, too many choices make it difficult and confusing for new users, having codecs, plugins in repository is another plus, though legality of this might force developers to eventually remove them from repository. I also liked the idea of having limited number of applications installed by default, though I would have preferred to see more functional browser like Firefox instead of Midori.
In short, I am happy with Bodhi Linux, it can compete with likes of DSL or Puppy Linux, though I would start using it only after some more releases, when it matures more.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (blogambuj@gmail.com)
For Linux on Desktop Blog , http://linuxondesktop.blogspot.com
(C) 2011 , Ambuj Varshney

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Music on Console : Midnight Commander styled Console based Music Player

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Music on Console is a console based music player with interface inspired by the classic Mindnight Commander file manager, it allows you to play number of audio file format and yet is light on memory and is extremely simple to use.

Music on Console is written in C using POSIX system calls and uses a number of different libraries to decode different audio format, its interface is created using ncurses text based interface library.

Some of the supported audio formats include -
  • mp3
  • Ogg Vorbis
  • FLAC
  • WAV
  • Musepack
  • Speex
  • AIFF
There are couple of more audio formats supported by MOC, The major ones I have listed above.

The interface of MOC is divided into two panes, while one pane on the left has all the MP3 files in the directory , the left pane has playlist, which you can create dynamically or load existing m3u playlist, bottom of the screen has information about the file like running time, file length, codec information etc.

To install Music On Console issue the following command in the Terminal Window in Ubuntu, MOC is available in Ubuntu (official) repositories and hence installing MOC shouldn't be a problem.
sudo apt-get install moc

Once, you have installed Music On Console, launch the terminal window, chdir to directory having the mp3 files and issue
mocp
This should open up Music on Console,with all the audio files in the present directory, you can chose to play audio file from present directory or chdir to another directory, When you pick a file to play from the current directory, all the files from the present directory are played and there is no need to create separate playlist unlike some other players. MOC also supports gapless playback as it precaches part of file.

Music on Console

Additionally, you can chose different themes in MOC, you can do so by pressing keystroke "T" this should allow you to pick themes for MOC, you can install new themes for MOC as well.


Picking new theme for MOC, MOC with a new theme :)

Music On Console also supports playing from Internet Stream, I tried to play local FM station which broadcasts using AAC streams and I was able to play FM without any hitch, you would need to enter URL by pressing "o" keystroke in MOC and entering the URL to use this mode.

MOC supports creating playlist as well as using existing playlist, it supports m3u format.
There are other neat features in MOC, you can find out more about it through MOC website, additionally, you can learn about different keystrokes to use MOC by pressing "?" this should open the help menu, thus allowing you to find out different keystrokes and associated functions.

Information about different Keystrokes!

However, the mode that I liked the most was Server mode, you can switch to server mode by issuing "q" keystroke, in this mode, MOC runs in the background as a server and allows you to close Terminal, restart X server and the music will continue to play, I see this to be very useful, having ability to deattach logic to play music files from the interface is very very useful. Once you have activated server mode and deattached interface, you can launch interface again and attach interface with logic to play music files by starting MOC again in console "mocp" command.


Overall, I am very pleased with MOC, the server mode is brilliant to say the least, not having to deal with the Window or Terminal Window while playing songs from playlist is extremely useful, additionally, supporting wide variety of audio codecs and having ability to play online streaming audio, all these features makes it an excellent music player which can even replace some GUI based music players on Linux especially for people with computers low on resources.

Link -
Music on Console Website - http://moc.daper.net/about


Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (blogambuj@gmail.com)

For Linux on Desktop Blog , http://linuxondesktop.blogspot.com
(C) 2011 , Ambuj Varshney

Saturday, June 11, 2011

BlueProximity : Awesome application to lock screen as you leave Computer

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I spend most of my time in Embedded Systems and Wireless Sensor Network lab of the university where I am studying, there are many research engineers as well as Phd students there who work there, as well as assistant, it is a collaborative environment and frequently I move in and out of the lab and for privacy I keep my screen locked when I leave desk. This sometimes gets very irritating, having to lock screen, type in password to unlock as you come back to terminal, I often thought tool like the ones we use to change presentation could be very useful to lock/unlock screen remotely as you leave Desk.

BlueProximity is ideal tool for such scenarios, BlueProximity is a very neat, clever little application available for Ubuntu and other GNU/Linux operating systems,that allows you to lock screen as you ( carrying Mobile Phone which is paired to your Linux machine) move certain meters away from the terminal for a duration of time, and unlocks it automatically as you( with the Mobile Phone) come back within range of the computer. As the name suggests, Blueproximity talks to Phone through Bluetooth.

BlueProximity is available in the Ubuntu repositories and could be installed very easily by issuing the following command in the Terminal Window :
sudo apt-get install blueproximity
This should install blueproximity , you can launch blueproximity from (Applications -> Accessories -> BlueProximity ).

Caution : You would need to have bluez or the Linux bluetooth stack to be installed on your computer before (if it is not already), you can do so by issuing the command sudo apt-get install bluez

Once you have installed blueproximity, first you need to pair your bluetooth device which is your Phone with BlueProximity, so that it can communicate with device and find out its distance from the computer.


Ye! BlueProximity detected my Bluetooth enabled phone.

Once you have paired your phone with BlueProximity, you need to configure the distance phone should go out of reach of radio on Laptop before blueproximity locks, the duration as well as the range within which phone has to come back for blueproximity to unlock the computer screen. This can be done through options presented under ProximityDetails tab.

Lock and Unlocking distances.

Blueproximity locks screen by calling gnome-screensaver with different parameters when phone goes out of range, however, if you want, you can call different application as well, I can think of some really creative choice(s) of application there!

Application to call when phone goes out or within range, notice option to log all the events.

Now, you are ready to test this, take your mobile phone and move some distance away from the computer, your computer should lock screen and as you approach laptop again, the screen should be unlocked.

Overall, this is a pretty neat and simple application which could be immensely useful for some people, though the only problem I have with use BlueProximity is, keeping Bluetooth on, on my old laptop or a old Nokia phone is going to drain battery and this is a serious drawback, though still it is very useful.

Useful links -

Blueproximity sourceforge page - http://sourceforge.net/projects/blueproximity/

Ubuntu Forums Thread - http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=702372
( This could be useful if you run into trouble with blueproximity, this could be ideal source to ask question as well in case of problem in using blueproximity)



Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (blogambuj@gmail.com)

For Linux on Desktop Blog , http://linuxondesktop.blogspot.com
(C) 2011 , Ambuj Varshney

Friday, June 03, 2011

uGet download Manager updates to 1.8.0

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One of the things that makes Linux so powerful is the terminal, and the level of control over the operating system it provides, I like to use terminal for most of the activities, from searching for files to finding out essential information about the system or for that matter downloading using wget or alex. However, using terminal is difficult for Linux newbies, and thus we have many graphical utilities/frontends to make life simpler, there are bunch of graphical download manager on GNU/Linux platform like d4x, kget, uget etc.

uGet is a cross-platform graphical Download Manager available for both GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows platform. Recently, uGet updated to 1.8 stable version, I had tried uGet couple of months back, I wasn't impressed much back then, I decided to give uGet another try and test the new updated version.

To install uGet on Ubuntu 11.04 based system, issue the following command in the terminal window to add stable PPA, and then install uGet onto the system.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:plushuang-tw/uget-stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install uget
Once you are done with installing repository and subsequently uGet download manager you can launch uGet from ( Applications -> Internet -> uGet ).


uGet as such has clean interface, however, the dialog boxes, the menus are cluttered with too many options, which can potentially overwhelm a Linux newbie, these could very well be hidden or be put under Advanced tab to make user interface much more user/newbie friendly.uGet has many interesting features, in addition to allowing you to download files, which I would discuss here.

One of the features I liked in uGet was support for batch download, you could specify wild card character and specify range thus allowing you to download number of files from the server, this could be useful while trying to download multiple sequenced files from the server.

Multiple batch downloads in uGet

The other feature I liked in uGet was allowing one to download links saved in clipboad, you could select link to be downloaded in browser, copy it and click on uGet icon on panel and chose "New from Clipboard" to download link. However, I found rather irritating that dialog popped up in uGet as soon as you chose to download file from clipboard, asking you to confirm the link, this does away the novelty of quick download of file from clipboard, Ideally, it should download valid link automatically from clipboard if someone choses the option.



uGet supports adding categories, downloads belonging to particular category share default attributes like download folder, proxy, etc, category further allows one to control number of parallel downloads from a category as well as classify ongoing/running/finished downloads.


Further, one interesting and useful feature is to be able to restrict upload and download speed of download, upload speed should be useful for torrents, this allows you to control bandwidth used and thus could be useful if your Internet service provider meters the internet connection.

However, one thing I wasn't able to get to work was using multiple threads in a single download to increase the download speed, for some reason option for multiple connection to server was greyed out. Without support for threaded download, uGet will not be useful much.

uGet downloading!

There are other simple neat features in uGet,though they are lost in the interface of uGet.

uGet as of version 1.8.0 supports downloading of Bittorrent and Metalinks, in addition to scheduler. uGet as I understand has not implemented Bittorrent protocol in the application but is only graphical front end for aria2.

A more detailed release log ( for 1.8.0) as obtained from uGet homepage is :

What’s new since 1.6:
1. support for Torrent and Metalink file (with aria2 plug-in).
2. support for application indicator.
3. It can do speed limit control per download.
4. It can sort downloads by column in “All” category.
5. add scheduler.
6. add new plug-in that support aria2 version >= 1.10.
7. add new timestamp columns – “Added On” and “Completed On”.
8. add configure option “–with-gtk3″ to enable GTK+3 support.
9. add Belarusian translation file (Mihas Varantsou)
10. move web site from http://urlget.sourceforge.net/ to http://uget.visuex.com/
Overall, I have mixed feeling regarding uGet, it has progressed but not much, Batch downloads is an interesting feature along with having support for adding multiple categories, however, the interface is still cluttered, I couldn't get multi-threadeded download to work, further, torrent protocol is not implemented as part of uGet, it uses external aria2 application to do so, which makes uGet only a front end, additionally, I disliked the dialog popping up when one choses option to download link from Clipboard, uGet needs to improve further to force me to migrate from console based download managers to uGet.


Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (blogambuj@gmail.com)
For Linux on Desktop Blog , http://linuxondesktop.blogspot.com
(C) 2011 , Ambuj Varshney