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Friday, March 23, 2007

13 Applications to Install on Ubuntu running on Slow Computer

Recently i managed to install ubuntu on my laptop(IBM Thinkpad Cel 1.4Ghz 256 MB RAM) , which was a very fast machine when i purchased it three and half years back , however things in computers change very fast and now it was a slow moving machine for todays resource hungry applications . Now Ubuntu did work well on this machine however things weren't as zippy as they should be Open Office took a lot of time to load,Viewing PDF files with descent amount of Graphics and in descent quality took some time , and working on multiple applications simultaneously wasn't easy , and on using resource hungry applications like 3D games or playing encoded video files or encoding videos the system virtually stalls.
So i decided enough is enough , i wasn't going to spend money buying new hardware but i decided to try some lightweight alternatives to the common applications and use them for my desktop work and here is the applications that i found useful and instructions on how i installed them on my laptop.

Most of the application are available in Official Ubuntu repositories (Some of which have to be enabled inside the Synaptic Package Manager ) so installing them should not present any problem .

1. Gnumeric

Gnumeric is part of Gnome Office and provides Spreadsheet capabilities , Gnumeric is a lightweight alternative to OpenOffice Spreadsheet program , besided occupying very less amout of memory it's installation files are only 2-3 Megabytes in size , based on GTK Libraries it integrates well with Gnome Desktop .Gnumeric was created and developed by Miguel de Icaza , and is now maintained by Jody goldberg .

Gnumeric has the ability to import and export data in several file formats, including Applix, CSV, Data Interchange Format, Microsoft Excel, HTML, LaTeX, Lotus 1-2-3, MultiPlan, GNU Oleo, OpenDocument, 1.x, Plan perfect, Quattro Pro, SpreadsheetML, Xspread and Xbase. Its native format is the Gnumeric file format, an XML file compressed with gzip

To install Gnumeric type the following command at the Console Window(Applications->Accesories -> Terminal)

" sudo apt-get install gnumeric "

After installation is over click (Application -> Office -> Gnumeric Spreadsheet) to launch Gnumeric Spreadsheet.

This is how Gnumeric Looks

2. Thunar

Thunar is a file manager which is shipped by default with XFCE and is an integral part of XFCE desktop environment . It is similar to Nautilus but uses less resources as compared to Nautilus , and in fact one of the goals of creating Thunar was to create a file manager that was fast , clean and easy to use . It is much more responsive as compared to some other file managers available on Linux including Konqueror (KDE) and Nautilus (GNOME) . By default it is quite small and does provide a limited set of functionality , however it's functionality can be extended by using various plugins.

" sudo apt-get install thunar "

To install thunar type the following command at the command line (assuming you are running Ubuntu)

after completing this process you can launch thunar by going into (Applications -> System Tools -> Thunar File Manager )

This how thunar file manager looks : -

3. Lightweight Eye Candy for your Desktop - aDesklets

If you want to have Weather information , CPU Status , Battery Status , and other useful information shown on your desktop this application is for you .It provides features similar to available in Mac OS X Dashboard which similarly allows viewing information on desktop as widgets ,it is quite similar to another application available on Linux which provides these features - gDesklets however it occupies much less resource as compared to gDesklets .

aDesklets allows you to show these tiny widgets showing various information on Gnome , KDE or XFCE desktop .

To install adesklets type the following command in Terminal Windows (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal)

" sudo apt-get install adesklets "

After installation is over download appropriate plugin (Widgets ) from the following address .

Extract the plugin and go to the directory where the plugins are extracted example : -

I had downloaded weather 0.0.4 package which shows weather information .

Now this is how i extracted it : -

" tar -xvjf weather-0.0.4.tar.bz2 "

Then i moved into the weather-0.0.4 directory it created .

and typed " ./ " then press (r) to register it so that when you launch adesklets weather desklet is displayed . Similar steps should be followed for other desklets you want to install . Now to launch adesklets and show all the registered desklets
" adesklets --nautilus "
Important : -
You will have to repeat these steps of registering desklets every time you want to launch adesklets so you can make a shell script and put in maybe Session so it is automatically executed when you launch Gnome.

Here is my desktop running some deskltes

4. XPDF & ePDFview - A lightweight PDF Viewing tool

If you have used Adobe Reader 7.0 on Linux or Windows you must have seen that it takes a lot of time to render pdf files especially if they use high resolution images or the documents have been scanned in high resolution . Besides this , it's interface is also slow. A Nice alternative to Adobe Reader 7.0 is XPDF, xpdf is one of the first pdf viewer available on the Linux Platform , it's interface may not be very user friendly being created using Motif toolkit which gives it a less friendly look but it takes a significantly less amount of memory and renders pdf files quickly .

To install XPDF type the following command in Terminal

" sudo apt-get install xpdf "

Now you can launch xpdf by going into (Applications -> Graphics - > XPDF)

ePDFView : - This is also a lightweight PDF viewer that is based on poppler library ( Same library that xpdf uses for rendering of PDF files), it's interface is neat and fast and renders pdf files quickly .

To install ePDFView type the following command in Ubuntu : -

" sudo apt-get install epdfview "

after above step is completed you can launch epdfview from (Applications -> Office -> ePDFViewer) .

ePDFViewer rendering some random document

5. XMMS - The Winamp alternative on Linux

This is the WinAmp alternative for the Linux platform and has been in existence for quite some time now , it is based on mpg123 library for playing mp3 files . The application has look similar to winamp application and can be beautified with a number of skins , also XMMS supports a large number of plugins that add extra functionality to the player. Besides having ability to play mp3 files it can be used for plying WMA files also by installing external plugin.( Besides being based on GTK2 it also occupies very less amount of memory and it's interface is very responsive.

Website : -

To install XMMS type the following command in the Terminal Window

" sudo apt-get install xmms "

After completing above step launch xmms from (Applications -> Sound and Video -> XMMS Music Player).

This is how XMMS player looks

6. Abiword
Abiword is a lightweight word processor created using GTK libraries , it is part of Gnome Office and have been available on Linux platform for a long time . It is crossplatform and is available on Windows , MacOS X ,BeOS and other Operating System . It's interface is similar to Microsoft Word and new users of Abiword should not have any significant difficulty in moving from Microsoft Word to AbiWord.

AbiWord is packaged with several import/export filters, including Rich Text Format, HTML, OpenDocument and LaTeX (export only). Plug-in filters are available to deal with many other formats, notably WordPerfect (wpd) documents. The native file format uses XML .

To install AbiWord

" sudo apt-get install abiword "

After completing above step launch abiword by going to (Application -> Office -> Abiword Word processor) .

AbiWord is also included with many lightweight linux distributions like Xubuntu and DSL.

Abiword supports the following features:

  • Speed and size efficiency.
  • Microsoft Word-like interface.
  • Support for tables, footnotes, and endnotes.
  • Support for tables of contents.
  • Equation editing.
  • Grammar checking.
  • User interface and spell checking in 49 languages.
This is how AbiWord Looks

7. mpg123

This is command line based audio player that forms the backbone of number of graphically available Audio players , it is one of the most efficient player on the Linux platform and can play mp3 files on as low hardware specs as a 120Mhz Pentium Processor based computer . A similar command line application is mpg321 that can be used for playing mp3 files.

To install mpg123 type the following command : -

" sudo apt-get install mpg123 "


" sudo apt-get install mpg321 "

Here is how you can use mpg123 : -

mpg123 or mpg321 file name - To play mp3 file

Ctrl + C - This skips to next track

Typing Ctrl + C Twice - quits the application

mpg123 -z *.mp3 : - Command would play all the mp3 files in the directory with a shuffled play-list.

mpg123 -w filename.wav filename.mp3 :- This command would convert the mp3 file to wav file , whic can then be used for burning on to cd to make audio cd.

However if your audio files/file is located in some location in sub-folders and u don't know exact location then following command can be used

mpg123 $ (find -name "Filename")

Website : -
Website : -

8. Xubuntu-Desktop : - yes you can install it on Ubuntu

Xubuntu is a distribution based on Ubuntu that uses XFCE as it's default Window Manager , XFCE is lightweight Window Manager that provides a impressive set of features to work with and is not as resource hungry as other Window Managers ( Gnome and KDE) . Now Xubuntu Distribution is not very different from Ubuntu most of the base packages are same however a few packages are different , it has some lightweight packages that are not included with Ubuntu . You can install Xubuntu Desktop on top of Ubuntu thus installing xfce , Abiword ,Mozilla Thunderbird and customization of Xubuntu on your Ubuntu desktop .

Type the following commands in the Terminal window : -

" sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop "

after the above step is completed logout of gnome and chose xfce session in the login window to login into XFCE desktop .

9. Epiphany

Epiphany is a web browser that is based on Gecko layout engine (similar to Mozilla Firefox which is also based on Gecko layout engine) however as opposed to Mozilla Firefox whose frontend is created using resource hungry Mozilla XUL it's front end is created using Gnome Libraries and is quite fast to work with , the webpages are rendered very well since it uses Gecko layout engine and it's functionality can be extended by installing Epiphany extensions also Epiphany supports tabbed browsing, cookie management and popup blocking .

However it does not have it's own theme settings but uses the default gnome settings .

To install Epiphany Web Browser type the following Command in the terminal Window

" sudo apt-get install epiphany-browser "

After the above step is completed launch epiphany by going to (Application -> Internet-> Epiphany Web Browser)

Google Search in Epiphany web browser

10 . Meta Tracker - A Lightweight alternative to Beagle

Meta Tracker is a tool that indexes information collected from your locally located files so that you can find information easily . If you have used Google Desktop Search or Spotlight on Mac OS X it is similar to that .

This is what Meta Tracker's official website has to say : -

"Tracker is a tool designed to extract information and metadata about your personal data so that it can be searched easily and quickly.

By using Tracker, you no longer have to remember where you've left your files. To locate a file you only need to remember something about it, such as a word in the document or the artist of the song. This is because as well as searching for files in the traditional way, by name and location, Tracker searches files' contents and metadata."

Now a similar tool beagle is available on Linux but it consumes a huge amount of memory , system virtually becomes unresponsive during time of indexing of files if you have less amount of ram as in my case (Shared 256 MB of RAM) . However Meta Tracker is much more efficient and takes much less amount of resources .

To install Meta Tracker : -

Launch Terminal and type the following command to install the GPG key for the new repository we are adding : -

wget -O- | sudo apt-key add -

Now go to (System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manager ) , type in the root password .Then Go to (Settings -> Repositories )

go to third Party and add the following there
: -

deb edgy main

Press Close and press the Reload button to download new package information from the repository.

Now type the following command in terminal Window to install tracker : -

" sudo apt-get install tracker "

and to install graphical search tool : -

" sudo apt-get install tracker-search-tool "

Now to start indexing of your files type the following command in terminal : -

" trackerd & "

And to search for files graphically launch Tracker Search Tool by going to (Applications -> Accessories -> Tracker Search Tool)

Graphical Tracker search tool

11. Multimedia Codecs : -

Whether you have a slow system or a fast one you would surely want to install multimedia codecs here is my earlier post describing how you can install multimedia codecs : -

12. Downloader for X

Downloader for X is a nice download manager that allows downloading files from Internet , pausing them and downloading them later . It also supports splitting file into number of segments so that files could be downloaded quickly . However one thing that i didn't like about is it's interface is somewhat difficult as compared to some of the download manager available on Windows.

Anywas to install Downloader for X type the following command : -

" sudo apt-get install d4x "

then launch it by going to (Applications -> Internet -> Downloader for X)

This is how Downloader for X looks

13 . PCMan File Manager : -

PCMan File Manager is extremely small and Fast file manager that supports Tabbed Browsing , it may not be as feature rich as Nautilus however it does the job of file manager well . It has been created using GTK2 Libraries and it's website claims it can start in one second .

Here is the list of features (Taken from it's website ) :-

  • Extremly fast and lightweight
  • Can be started in one second on normal machine
  • Tabbed browsing (Similiar to Firefox)
  • Drag & Drop support
  • Files can be dragged among tabs
  • Load large directories in reasonable time
  • File association support (Default application)
  • Basic thumbnail support
  • Bookmarks support
  • Handles non-UTF-8 encoded filenames correctly
  • Provide icon view and detailed list view
  • Standard compliant (Follows
  • Clean and user-friendly interface (GTK+ 2)

To Install PCMan File Manager download the debian package from here : -

Now You can install it graphically by double clicking it and launching the Graphical installation tool or issuing the following command in the terminal window after moving into directory where you have downloaded the debian package : -
Graphical installation of PCMan File Manager

or from Terminal window

" dpkg -i pcman* "

Now launch PCMan File Manager by going to (Applications -> System Tools -> PCMan File Manager )

Here is a screenshot showing PCMan File Manager

Notable Mentions (Added Later ) : -

Dillo :- A Really Small Web Browser

Dillo is a web-browser that is only 420 kilobytes in size and is based on GTK libraries , it is very fast however because of small size it provides limited functionality . It's development has been going on for over 6 years now . Dillo aims to be a multi-platform browser alternative that's small, stable, developer-friendly, usable, fast, and extensible. It is particularly suitable for older or smaller computers (such as the PlayStation 2) and embedded systems. In addition to its small size, Dillo is highly secure — cookies are disabled by default. Due to its small size Dillo is also the browser of choice for many space-conscious Linux distributions including Damn Small Linux and Feather Linux .

To install Dillo : -

" sudo apt-get install dillo "

after the above step is completed start dillo by typing " dillo " in the terminal window.
Opening screen of Dillo Browser

Sylpheed - A Fast Email and News Client

Sylpheed is a Email and News client created using GTK libraries , Sylpheed is a simple, lightweight but featureful, and easy-to-use e-mail client.

Now personally i havent been able to to try Sylpheed since i dont use POP accounts anyways to install it type the following command .

" sudo apt-get install sylpheed "

After the above step is completed launch sylpheed by typing "sylpheed " at the command line .

Default Window of Sylpheed

For more information visit Sylpheed Website : -
Article written by Ambuj Varshney <>
(C) 2006 , Ambuj Varshney

Friday, March 16, 2007

Nostalgia : Running Windows 3.11 On Ubuntu

Nostalgia : Running Windows 3.11 On Ubuntu

Microsoft Windows 3.11 Released back in 1992-1994 was one of the most popular version of Microsoft Windows Operating System family that made Windows a brand on desktop computers and established supremacy of Microsoft on Desktops. At that time it faced competition from IBM OS/2 and other gui frontends like GEOS and VisiOS and of course Apple however with it's innovative features and user friendly GUI Windows 3.11 became one of the most popular and used version of Windows operating system .

A few days back I found in my CD collection Windows 3.11 setup files ,Now since Windows 3.11 was the first Operating System (GUI shell since Windows 3.11 was more of a GUI shell running on MSDOS ) I had used a lot of good memories were attached to running Windows 3.11 on my 386 , 40 Mhz , 4MB ram PC that i had back in 1995. So i wanted to install it again.

Since i use Ubuntu i knew it was possible to run Windows 3.11 under qemu or Vmware after installing MSDOS in virtual machine , but i wanted to try a different approach .

A few posts back i had mentioned it was possible to run some old classic dos games under Ubuntu/Linux using DosBox , while writing that post idea struck me about running Windows 3.11 inside DosBox instead of using bulky Machine Virtualisation softwares so well i started fiddling around and here is how i installed DosBox in ubuntu and installed Windows 3.11 in it.
It is very straight forward and you should not have trouble installing it : -

To install dosbox under ubuntu follow these steps (Assuming your repositories are in order if not read this): -

Open (Application -> Terminal) and type the following command in Terminal Window

sudo apt-get install dosbox

after the process is over create a directory say (/home/dosdrive) where you would like to keep your dos files .

Now extract / copy the Windows 3.11 Installation files to the directory created in above step.
I had extracted the Windows 3.11 archive in directory /home/user/dosdrive/Windows3.11

A ScreenCast Showing Installation of Windows 3.11 Under DosBox

Now launch DosBox by typing in dosbox in terminal window.

after launching DosBox type

mount d /home/dosdrive

to mount dosdrive folder as drive letter d in dosbox . You are free to use any drive letter you want or directory you like to use.

now chdir to d drive and go to the directory where you have copied the windows installation files and type


Opening Screen of Windows 3.11 Installation
Installation in progress (Still in Dos mode )

Follow instructions as shown during installation type in the directory where you would like to install windows (note: change drive letter to d or any other you have assigned using mount command ) and wait of installation to over.
Installation now in graphical mode
Windows setup in progress

Also if the installation or system is running too slowly press Ctrl + F - 12 to increase CPU Cycles i was able to use Windows 3.11 in nice speed in 10,000 Cpu Cycles . You can experiment this value.
Windows 3.1 Starting Up

After installation is over if everything went all right go to the directory where you have installed windows (For me D:\Windows ) and type win it should launch Windows 3.11 within few seconds.

Default Windows 3.1 desktop

Windows 3.1 File Manager

Windows 3.1 Mine Sweeper Game
Write (default) Word Processor

Cardfile tool under Windows

I feel probably Windows 3.11 was the most descent of Windows os - fast , quick and less error prone ,you can still get Windows 3.11 if you don't have installation media from various abandonware sites on the Internet , i would not like to mention exact links since this would amount to piracy however if you are really serious you can also use google to find them . But i would'nt recommend downloading pirated versions .

Some KeyStrokes to remember while using DosBox : -

ALT-ENTER Go full screen and back.

ALT-PAUSE Pause emulation.

CTRL-F1 Start the keymapper.

CTRL-ALT-F5 Start/Stop creating a movie of the screen.

CTRL-F4 Swap mounted disk-image (Only used with imgmount).
Update directory cache for all drives!

CTRL-F5 Save a screenshot.(png)

CTRL-F6 Start/Stop recording sound output to a wave file.

CTRL-ALT-F7 Start/Stop recording of OPL commands.

CTRL-ALT-F8 Start/Stop the recording of raw MIDI commands.

CTRL-F7 Decrease frameskip.

CTRL-F8 Increase frameskip.

CTRL-F9 Kill dosbox.

CTRL-F10 Capture/Release the mouse.

CTRL-F11 Slow down emulation (Increase dosbox Cycles).

CTRL-F12 Speed up emulation (Decrease dosbox Cycles).

ALT-F12 Unlock speed (turbo button).

By Ambuj Varshney
(C) 2007 Ambuj Varshney (blogambuj(at)
For Linux on Desktop(

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

software Review : Songbird - Impressive media player

Software Review : Songbird -Impressive Media Player For Linux and Windows

I like listening most of my music on Ipod or my phone , i use laptop mainly for browsing Internet , programming and some other casual work . However since i purchased new set of speaker for my laptop so i decided to play some of my collection on my laptop at least when i am working on it and my search began for best tool for playing audio files on Linux i tried some of them including Songbird and Songbird even though is not a final release and still has bugs in it but it was impressive enough to be reviewed.

Songbird is based on solid Mozilla XUL platform like Firefox which is also based on Mozilla XUL(XUL—eXtensible user-interface language) , XUL language allows one to create apps that are cross platform
and can be standalone or work on Internet ,hence besides having ability to play audio files it also allows one to browse Internet without any hitch or rendering issue . For Linux Songbird uses GStreamer to play audio files and for other platforms it uses VLC plugin for playing audio files.Songbird supports a number of file formats including Ogg Vorbis , FLAC,Windows Media , and MP3 . It can also play some video files . However Songbird is still in early stage of development hence do expect few bugs when using it . The first version of Songbird was released in February 2006 and current version of Songbird is 0.2.5 .

Songbird since is still in early stage of development hence it is not available in ubuntu repositories so i had to download it from the songbird's website . The package Songbird_0_2_5_linux-i686.tar.gz was 15.4 Megabytes in size , the Songbird ran without any problem after extracting the archive on my Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy system.

Here is how you can install Songbird

First download the archive say you have downloaded the archive in directory /home/user

Now extract the contents of the archive by using command

tar xzvf Songbird_0_2_5_linux-i686.tar.gz

This would extract songbird in directory /home/user/Songbird however if you would like to extract Songbird in different directory copy the Songbird archive to different directory and use the same command to extract file there.

Now you can run Songbird by going into Songbird directory and typing ./Songbird to launch Songbird music player.

Creating menu item : -

If you dont want to type these commands every time you to launch Songbird you can create a menu item by following these steps: -

1. Download the Songbird icon from this page , a number of graphics image of Songbird are give there at bottom of the page download the most interesting one onto your computer . I downloaded button_jetpack.png to my home directory.

2. Now right click on menu bar and click on edit menu .

3. After clicking edit-menu you should see a Menu layout window like this.

4. Go to Sound and Video tab and click on 'New Item' to create a new entry in the Sound and Video category.

5. Type name - 'Songbird' in text field and in command go to the directory where you have extracted songbird and select the songbird binary file.

In icon select the icon you have downloaded by clicking on icon button and specifying the icon location.

6. Your menu should be created , launch Songbird by clicking on the menu entry.

Opening Window of Songbird Interface

The first thing you notice after launching Songbird is it's impressive looks , i have to admit it is one of the best looking audio player i have seen for some time on Linux platform , besides this it provides all the features that other similar media players offer and adds some of it's own, Songbird can be customized further and as it supports plugins ,various plugins could be installed offering different functionalities. Initially when you launch Songbird it presents you with choice of installing plug-ins for iTunes import, Shoutcast, audioscrobbler and Wikipedia. More extensions could be installed the same way as you do on Mozilla Firefox since both share common platform , so installing extensions for Songbird should not present any problem to you . You can find more extensions for Songbird from the following Internet address : -

Window Showing various installed Extensions in Songbird (Note the window is same as one in firefox)

Also on launching first time you are asked to import audio files from folders in your hard disk , this unlike other MP3 players take significantly less time to scan for media in your hard disk and add them your to Library.

Songbird allows one to play Internet radio stations , it allows making different play lists and customizing them and intermixing different play lists .

Watch folder Window

Songbird also has a feature to keep an eye on a folder for new media files which would automatically be added to Songbird's Media Library Whenever new media files are added to the folder.

I tried tuning into few radio stations , i searched for using shoutcast and on clicking Tune In icon , the radio stations were added into a new Shoutcast playlist from where they could be played.
But when i tried playing some of them strangely they did not play , i am not sure whether the Internet station were down or the functionality is not working in Songbird right now .

Anyways , Songbird groups audio files ,video files , the Internet radio stations together in library this can create some difficulty for users who have large number of audio and video files to sort them out ,It can be really a time consuming affair to search for music files or video files if you have large collection of audio and video files. So they can look into this and improve this in next release.
Cheezy Video Player integrated in Songbird

The video is played in strangely named Cheezy Video Window , there is small bar at bottom showing status of video (position of frame ) , and as usual Pause/Play button , a forward and rewind button and a volume bar . I tried playing mov,mp4 and mpg files on songbird and they played on songbird well , i could not try other file-formats so you might like to add the movie files you were able to play using songbird in comments section of this post.
Checking my GMAIL inside Songbird WebBrowser

Songbird can be used simultaneously for browsing Internet and listening music and you don't have to launch a new web browser or a media player to do so since it has Internet browser and media player built in it . You can browse website on Songbird without compromising on quality of page rendering on it.

Songbird's impressive looks can be changed using different themes which are called feathers in Songbird .

Another nice feature of Songbird is it allows one to do music search from within Songbird window, you can search various music blog for information related to song you are playing also you can configure Songbird to get additional information about the Track you are playing from the Internet and show it simultaneously while you are playing the song .
Wikipedia Plug-In showing Artist information as Song is playing inside Songbird

You can launch Wikipedia plug in window by going into Tools -> Wikipedia , now this plug-in shows you Wikipedia entry about artist whose song you are currently playing ,provided your ID3 Tags are set correctly if you are using mp3 file format.

If ID3 Tags are not set correctly Songbird does provide tool for changing them , you can set artist information and other information in multiple files with ease using it's in built track editor.
Inbuilt Track Editor

I tried the music search feature and typed in the name of few songs it searched for the song from the web using Dogpile and quickly showed the links to the song which were then added to Web library of Songbird allowing you to play song from Internet or download from the web to the local library, there were not any problem playing songs from web. Songbird by default uses Dogpile to search for audio files from various sources on the internet including yahoo,google and Singingfish .

On right clicking song inside songbird interface you can search for lyrics for song from internet or view them if you have added lyrics to song earlier.

Whenever you browse any internet page through songbird's interface and you encounter audio or movie links they are automatically added to web play list from where they can be downloaded to computer.
File being downloaded inside Songbird

Downloaded song from Internet using songbird are automatically added to local library.

A Screen Shot Showing my library inside Songbird

If you would like to sync your ipod with songbird you have to install ipod plug-in , however i could not try this feature so i would welcome any comment describing your experience with installing ipod support and using it.

Whenever you search for a music using Songbird's interface when it shows result you get this window at bottom of screen showing files which are then added to Web Play list ,
Window at bottom showing media files it found on site

from there file can be played on Internet or downloaded to local library.

Besides the full featured full screen mode songbird can be also used as a mini player occupying a small portion of your desktop you can switch from full screen mode to a mini player mode by clicking on this icon in top-right corner of the screen , also Songbird comes in over 39 Languages and list is growing day by day .So you can expect to work on Songbird in your local language.

However while playing i did encounter lockups 2-3 times since it is still in early stage of development so few bugs were expected.

Songbird currently does not support buring audio tracks to cd or ripping music from the cd to library expect these features in subsequent releases of Songbird.

Some of the features Songbird's developer are plaining to add in future release are : -

  • Tabbed Browsing
  • CD Playback, Rip, Burn
  • Crossfading ("Gapless Playback")
  • Normalization ("Replay Gain")
  • Equalization
  • Visualization
  • Device Support
  • XSPF Playlist Support
  • Better Smart Playlists
  • Subscription (podcast) Aggregation
  • Changing the UI to anything else ("Bones")
  • Lan/Internet Library Sharing (UPnP/Bonjour/Etc)
  • Writing metadata edits back to the media files

In the end i can say it is one of the best looking Media players to look to in coming future expect Songbird to rise further and become popular in coming days as songbird reaches it's final release.
Songbird has a potential to do in media players what Firefox did in browser market .

Here is offical Songbird Website : -

Here is Screen Cast showing Songbird's Features : -

By Ambuj Varshney ( blogambuj(at)
For Linux On Desktop (

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thunar : Versatile and Impressive replacement for Nautilus file manager

Thunar : Versatile and Impressive replacement for Nautilus file manager

Thunar is a file manager that is shipped by default with XFCE and is a integral part of XFCE desktop environment . Thunar is developed by Benedikt Meurer and has been named after the god Thor of Norse mythology . It is similar to Nautilus but uses much less resource as compared to Nautilus , and in fact one of the goals of creating Thunar was to create a file manager that was fast , clean and easy to use . It is much more responsive as compared to some other file managers available on Linux including Konqueror (KDE) and Nautilus (GNOME) . It has been designed to comply with standards set by and is quite small compared to nautilus and is quite
good to work on since it hogs less resources as compared to Nautilus. By default it is quite small and does provide a limited set of functionality , however it's functionality can be extended by using various plugins.

Now , my laptop is very old to be precise it is three years old and has a very modest amount of ram 256MB .I am able to run Ubuntu and Gnome but overall i would not rate my experience of using Ubuntu on my laptop to be good since the System is not as responsive as it should be and running things like beagle daemon in background just slows down the system to a awful pace . So well i decided to look for some light weight alternatives to some of the application installed by default on my Gnome desktop . And the first thing i wanted to change was the nautilus file manager , well nautilus is a nice app and does provide a impressive set of features but i did not quite like it since it was buggy and slow , i liked Windows Explorer in Windows it was really fast . I was looking something on that line and i came acrossthunar . I had used thunar previously while using XFCE but i never though about installing atop my gnome Desktop . so well here is how i installed thunar on Ubuntu : -

To install thunar type the following command at the command line (assuming you are running Ubuntu)

sudo apt-get install thunar

after completing this process you can launch thunar by going into (Applications -> System Tools -> Thunar File Manager )

This how thunar file manager looks : -

Now by default thunar shows file name and associated icon , however i like viewing files and directory as detailed list so well i decided to change how it shows files and folder by clicking on (View as compact list) .

Now since Thunar supports extending it's functionality using plugins , well i tried some of them (there are handful of plugins right now but expect that number to grow quickly) here is how i installed some of the plugins i found useful : -

One of the plugin that impressed me was "Thunar archive plug-in" that allows one to extract file using the right click menu in Thunar as well as creating file using right click menu of mouse.

To install it : -

sudo apt-get install thunar-archive-plugin

There are a number of other plugins that you can check from the website : -

The offical XFCE website : -

The Thunar File Manager Website : -

here is a screen cast of thunar filemanager : -Click on the image to see the Animated Screen Cast of Thunar File Manager

However if you are still stuck using Nautilus as your file-manager you can try these tips for speeding up things a bit : -

First Open the Nautilus File Manager now go to (Edit -> Preferences )there under Preview tab try modifying the following settings : -

1. Turning off Thumbnails : - By changing setting to never you can turn off thumbnails of pictures that are shown by default in nautilus file manager this setting can speed up nautilus significantly if you have a slow system and directory you are browsing has a lot of high resolution images.

2. Turning of text in icons : - This is another setting that can be turned off , unnecessary resources are wasted in showing the content of text files as thumbnails . This can help speed up nautilus a bit.

3. Turning off count for number of Items : - Now this can speed up things a bit in nautilus since some resources are used in counting the number of items present in directory however it wont show any significant improvement on new machines or even on half descent machines. Try this only on very slow computers.

4. Turning off sound preview : - If yo have mpg123 or ogg321 installed nautilus provides a way of previewing sound files now this does consume some resources and hence can be switched off.

By Ambuj Varshney
For Linux on Desktop (

Monday, March 05, 2007

Making animated movie of your Linux/Ubuntu desktop

I have a number of friends who are new to using computers and as usual use windows, recently Windows Vista was launched and a lot of them were really impressed with the snazzy graphics vista offered and were willing to switch from Windows XP to Vista paying a awful amount of money (considering Linux is free) just for Aero looks that vista provides. Well as with most computer newbies they had no clue about Linux or Ubuntu , so when i said that Ubuntu with Beryl provided a interface that could compete with Aero interface that vista provides and to top it is free and comes at no cost whats so ever well they took it with a pinch of salt and did not quite believe me . So well i decided to make a movie of my desktop showing all the glitzy effects that beryl provided so to prove them that Linux can kick Windows Vista Aero interface anytime.

I started google and various other blog looking for tool that would allow me make a movie of my desktop , the softwares that i came across for recording my desktop was xvidcap ,vnc2swf,Wink, Byzanz , and hacked version of ffmpeg . If you have used windows and screen cast tools on windows before you can say these tools are quite similar to tool available on windows for recoding the desktop the Lotus Screen Cam.

Here is how i installed and used these screen cast tools : -

1. xvidcap

Installation : -

Since i could not find xvidcap in my Ubuntu repositories so i had to download xvidcap from it's website (download xvidcap from the following address ) , luckily the website provided a debian package which was small in size (2.82 MB) . After downloading the package i launched the Terminal (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal ) now i moved into directory containing xvidcap and typed in the following command to start the installation of xvidcap.

sudo dpkg -i xvidcap*.deb

After completing the installation go to (Applications -> Sound and Video -> Xvidcap screen capture ) to launch the Xvidcap screen capturing utility.

Now after launching the Xvidcap application you would see a window like this and a Red square that defines the area of screen you would like to capture . You can change this to any size square for capturing that part of screen . However you should note that larger the area the more memory it would consume hence slower your system would become so try to get a small square .

Now to start capturing select this tool to select screen area you would like to capture . Now click on Record button to start capturing the screen .

However since recording videos consume a lot of memory so be careful about the type of applications that you would like to record and frame rates and video format when recording application . I had very bad experience recording video since my laptop is not very fast and frame rates were low with default DivX compression , but with a descent hardware you should be able to record videos without any problem. So well i found a way changing this right click on the button that shows test.mpg there go to Preferences .

The following window should show up , now go to Multi-Frame there increase the number of Frames per second to at least 25 and remove the auto before Video Codec and select MPEG1 if you are low on hardware and want to capture screen at a nice frame rate without significant lag. However if you are not low on hardware specs you can experiment with the Quality and Frame rate and video codec .Also you may like to disable the recording of audio to save some resources . Give a suitable name to the file name .

A nice feature of xvidcap is that it allows making screen cast in a variety of different file format including Macromedia Flash which allows you to include your screen cast in your website . To create Screen Cast in Flash format type in the name of file in the Multi-Frame of Preference dialog box as filename.swf this causes xvidcap to automatically select Video Output as Flash Video and File Format as Flash File (.swf)

Now you are ready to start recording your desktop.

After completing the recording the following windows should show up . Click close /play depending upon what you would like to do .Y our movie should be ready to be played .

2. The simplest one Byzanz

Byzanz is a small Gnome Panel applet that allows one to record screen as a animated gif file .

To install Byzanz type the following command at the terminal .

sudo apt-get install byzanz

now after completeing installation right click on the gnome panel now select the "Desktop Recorder" applet from the Miscellaneous section . After selecting you would find a Cross marked button in your applet .

Now to start recording click on the button it would start recording your desktop . Now when you have completed recording press the button again , it would ask for filename and after this your screen cast should be ready.

3. Patched version of ffmpeg(using ideas from this blog)

FFmpeg is a software that allows one to record and convert digital media . It can be used for converting video files from one file format to another file format .It also allows playing of simple media files. However the best utility of ffmpeg is in converting file from one format to another file format.

Now ffmpeg does not as such supports recording screen but we patch it's source code to make it record the desktop and create a screen cast based on that.

Now , to start this first launch terminal from (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal) and type the following command in the terminal .

Now since by default ubuntu does not come with tool for compiling programs so we download a few additional tool for compiling applications and development libraries xlib

sudo apt-get install build-essential xlibs-dev

This command would fetch ffmpeg source code.


Now we extract the archive

tar xjfv ffmpeg-0.4.9-p20051216.tar.bz2

cd ffmpeg-0.4.9-p20051216

Now after moving into ffmpeg source code directory we download a patch and apply them here .


patch -Np1 -i ffmpeg-0.4.9-p20051216.diff

Now after this you have to modify configure script (open gedit or vi or any other text editor) and open "configure" script(for gedit configure in ffmpeg directory) and change this line




Now after this issue the following command to build Makefile

./configure --extra-ldflags=-L/usr/X11R6/lib --enable-x11grab --enable-gpl

now you are ready to start building ffmpeg


After completion of this operation your ffmpeg binary should be ready for making screen cast.

Now to record your entire desktop issue the following command : -

./ffmpeg -vcodec mpeg4 -b 1000 -r 10 -g 300 -vd x11:0,0 -s 1024x768 ~/screencast.avi

This would create a file named screencast.avi in your $HOME directory and you can use any video player to play your screencast.

Now you can explore more options that ffmpeg provides , you can chose a different video codec if you like or change screen size to capture a portion of screen .

./ffmpeg -vcodec mpeg4 -b 1000 -r 10 -g 300 -vd x11:10,10 -s 102x76 ~/screencast.avi

-vd option specifies the upper left corner of screen from which ffmpeg should start making screen cast. and -s 102x76 is size of window to be used for making screencast.

./ffmpeg -vcodec mpeg4 -b 1000 -r 10 -g 300 -i ~/screencast.avi -s 640×480 ~/screen.avi

This would convert your previous screen cast to a video resized to 640x480 resolution.

4. pyvnc2swf

pyvnc2swf is a python script that records one desktop using vnc protocol and stores it in a file in swf file format.

To install pyvnc2swf issue the following command in terminal(assuming you are running Ubuntu 6.10 ) : -

sudo apt-get install x11vnc

sudo apt-get install python-tk

sudo apt-get install python-pygame

after this all libraries should be ready to enable recording of screen.

Now download vnc2swf from this website :-

Open and extract this file either by using file-roller tool or from command line

Now open two terminal windows in one windows start x11vnc server by typing the following command at terminal


This would start a vnc server on your machine if you like you can specify a password to avoid unauthorized access to your machine.

in second terminal go to the directory where you have extracted pyvnc2swf and type


at terminal to launch the application.

After this the following windows should show up allowing you to record your Ubuntu desktop screen . Since the application is graphical so it should not give you any major problem.

Press start to start recording desktop and when you have completed press stop button . Then go to file and save as and give a appropriate name of file and directory where you want to save flash video and associated HTML file.

5. Wink

Wink is a tool for creating tutorials and presentation that is available both on Windows and linux platform . It provides one feature that's not available in the other Screen cast tools available on linux , that it allows adding of popup windows having additional informations within the Screen cast . So it can be really handy for explaining someone Linux with help and hints popping up.Besides this Wink is available in a number of languages including English, French, German, Italian, Danish, Spanish, Serbian, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese and Simplified/Traditional Chinese. .

It is probably the best tool to create interactive tutorial like presentation . Anyways you can download Wink from the following website address .

After downloading it extract it into any directory you wish . Open terminal from (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal) and go to that directory where you have extracted files and issue the following command to start installation of Wink.


now go to direcotry which you specified to install Wink and type


to launch Wink

To start making screen casts go to (File -> New Project ) set various parameters according to your need and press OK .

Now you should see a dialog similar to this .

Now to start recording screen press " Shift + Pause " and to stop press it again.
To create a swf file click on Render (Project -> Render ) inside the Wink interface to compile the Screen Cast to a swf file(IMP : Change the frame rate of screen cast to value you typed when you started recording). You can explore other option of Wink yourself. Since it is graphical and should not present any major challenge .

Ambuj Varshney ( blogambuj(at)
For Linux On Desktop