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Friday, December 19, 2008

Installing Adobe Air and some AIR applications on Ubuntu 8.10

Adobe Air Environment is one of the hottest new technology around, it allows one to easily create cross platform Internet rich applications combing the strength of Adobe Flex , Adobe Flash , Ajax and HTML to create applications and widget that are Internet ready . Adobe Air allows one to deploy browser less rich Internet applications on desktop that are not bounded by local storage limitations or limited file system access as is the case with Ajax application running inside a browser.

Now Adobe finally has released the stable version of the Air environment on Linux bringing it up to date with the version available on Mac OS X and Windows.

Here in this tutorial , I describe how you can easily install Adobe AIR environment on your Ubuntu 8.10 desktop and some interesting applications that you can run atop Adobe AIR.

Installing Adobe Air :

To install Adobe Air environment open Terminal window from (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal ) and issue the following command in the terminal window .


chmod +x AdobeAIRInstaller.bin

After issuing the above command you will get a installation dialog box like this follow the instructions to install Adobe Air .
Adobe Air Installer
After installation is over you will find a menu item (Applications -> Other ->Adobe Air Application Installer ) which allows one to easily install Adobe Air applications.

Installing interesting Adobe AIR applications

These are some of the Adobe AIR applications that I have found interesting , also I have tried including installation instruction and brief information about the application.


ReadAIR is a desktop client of Google Reader ( News Feed Aggregator), it syncs with Google Reader and allows you to read the feeds you have subscribed to easily. ReadAir has an extremely simple UI and has same basic layout as Google Reader and is loosly themed like Mac OS X application. ReadAIR allows one to search through feeds , also it allows you to organize feeds using tags.Though , I was somewhat disappointed to find lack of Keyboard shortcuts.

ReadAIR running on my Ubuntu Desktop

You can download ReadAIR from here : or follow this link to download (.air) package :

Now , you can install the downloaded the (.air) package using (Applications-> Other -> Adobe AIR Application Installer ) and once installation is over you can launch ReadAIR by clicking on the icon on the desktop.
ReadAir icon @ Desktop


RichFLV is a cute little video editor for flv files , some of the features RichFLV supports are :
  • Read flv Metadata
  • read/edit/modify/delete cuepoints
  • cut flvs
  • convert the sound of the flv to mp3
  • convert flv to swf
However , RichFLV is still in early stage of development and is an alpha release.

You can find more info about RichFLV here :
Download and Install RichFLV from here :

RichFLV playing video


RoadFinder combines Yahoo! Maps and Google Maps into a single application , and allows one to easily look up address using its intiuative interface. RoadFinder allows you to search maps for physical directions anywhere in the world, Also besides having option for maps it also allows you to view satelite images.

Even after entering "New Delhi" RoadFinder kept showing US map.

Download and install RoadFinder from :


WebKut allows one to capture Web Pages or part of Web Page in an extremely simple way. You open the website you want to capture within the WebKut interface and capture WebPage using 3 capture options: the entire page, the current view, or only a selection. However ,the maximum dimension for an image that can be captured is 2880 pixels.
WebKut in action, in the screenshot a part of WebPage has been selected to cut.

You can get more information about WebKut here :
Download and Install WebKut from here :

XDrive Desktop Lite

Xdrive is a data storage service from AOL and gives you 5GB of free online storage.XDrive Desktop Lite is a desktop client for the online service and allows you to manage files in your online Xdrive account.Xdrive Desktop Lite supports drag n drop and allows you to drag files from your computer into your online Xdrive account.

Download Xdrive Desktop Lite from here :

You can get more information here :


Spaz is an Open source Twitter client and features an extremely user friendly interface. Some of the important features of Spaz are :
  • Built-in global search powered by Summize
  • Short URL creation tool with support for multiple services (,,, and more)
  • In-line short URL decoding
  • Markdown syntax support
  • Multiple themes and support for user-created themes
  • User-defined CSS overrides
  • Event sounds using the Tokyo Train Station soundset by Dominik Dimaano
  • Directory listings of users you’re following, and your followers.

Download and Install Spaz using this link :

You can get more information about Spaz here :

Google Analytics
Reporting Suite

Google Analytics is a statistics tool and provides you different stats about your site/blog. This application brings you the functionality of Google Analytics onto your desktop. The application has clean and simple Interface and allows viewing reports in tabbed manner. It allows exporting reports to numerous file formats like PDF , XML or Excel.

Download and Install application from this link.


Fresh is a RSS Reader built using AJAX and Adobe AIR . The Fresh reader features offline RSS reading, multiple panels within a single window, tabbed browsing, and basic browser integration.

Download Fresh from this link :


MiniTask is a easy to use task management tool and allows you to manage your todos list efficiently and properly. It supports drag 'n' drop reorder, alarm timers, printing of pretty task sheets, copying tasks from and to other applications etc.

You can get more information about MiniTask from this link:

Download and Install MiniTask from this link :


Posty is a microblogging application that allows you to post simultaneously to a number of different microblogging sites like twitter, jaiku, tumblr, friendfeed and with a single click. Some of the features of Posty include :
  • browsing of personal, public and friends’ timeline
  • posting of replies (Twitter, Pownce, Friendfeed,
  • browsing and posting of direct messages (Twitter and
  • support to favorites (Twitter and
  • search of past messages (Twitter and Friendfeed)
  • automatic, as-you-type, spellchecking of messages
  • built-in url shortening service
  • configurable notification of recently posted messages (Twitter)
  • automatic notification and installation of new versions
  • visualization of multimedia items (Youtube and Vimeo videos, Tumblr audio, Flickr/Zoomr/Smugmug galleries)
  • automatic management of internet connection (works behind proxies!).

You can get more information about Posty from the following site :

Download and Install Posty from the following link : (You would need to extract the zip file and then install the .air file )

Tutorial Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Midori : Light Weight WebKit based browser for Linux

The best thing about Open Source World is the number of different choices available whether its in the number of Linux distribution available or applications, and Web Browsers are no exception.

There are a number of different web browsers available on the Linux platform like the popular Mozilla Firefox running on Gecko , Opera or the Konqueror running atop KHTML. However, most of these web browsers are bulky owing to host of features they offer and there are only few lightweight "usable" Web Browsers available on the Linux platform, last one I tried was Dillo which was good for displaying simple web pages. Midori is a notch above Dillo and is based on popular WebKit engine (used by Safari).

WebKit is an open source engine that was created by Apple computers for it's Safari web browser( which is available on a number of different platform like Mac OS and Windows ). Code for WebKit was derived from another Open Source project Konqueror's KHTML Library and KDE's Java Script Engine (KJS).

WebKit is being developed by a number of different organisation and groups and is at the heart of two popular Web Browsers Apple Safari and Google Chrome. WebKit also powers a number of web browsers on the mobile platform(in fact Nokia plans to develop a web browser based on WebKit for it's Symbian mobile platform). It is an extremely robust rendering engine , and competes neck to neck (and in fact is ahead) with Gecko , Opera in terms of Java Script rendering.

Midori is a light weight Web Browser that has been built using WebKit, Midori is the only Web Browser available presently on Linux that uses WebKit engine(Chrome is not out for Linux yet). Midori uses GTK 2.x graphical tool kit for it's user interface and is in fact part of XFCE ( a lightweight window manager) as part of it's goodies package. Though Midori is still in early phase of development and is buggy, still it is usable. Some of the features of Midori are :

* Full integration with GTK+ 2.
* Fast rendering with WebKit.
* Tabs, windows and session management.
* Flexibly configurable Web Search.
* User scripts and user styles support.
* Straightforward bookmark management.
* Customizable and extensible interface.
* Extensions written in C.
* Custom context menu actions.
Midori is extremely good at rendering Web Pages (owing to it using WebKit for rendering web pages) and is extremely fast as compared to Mozilla Firefox or Opera on the Linux platform. Though , Midori lacks flash support presently which could limit it's usage slightly, Midori could be extremely useful for some one running an Old PC or Linux based Kiosks.

Midori is included in the official Ubuntu repositories , so it is extremely easy to install Midori. To install Midori issue the following commands in the terminal Window (Application -> Accessories -> Terminal )
sudo apt-get install midori

after issuing the above command you can launch Midori from (Applications -> Internet -> Midori Web Browser ).

Midori Web Browser in Action :)

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

UsplashSmooth : TIme Based Usplash for smoother bootup bar

Usplash is an application that uses Linux framebuffer interface/direct vesa to display splash screen at boot up(or while shutting down) while all the daemons are loaded(unloaded during shutting down). Usplash displays a progress bar which shows how much the operating system is loaded, this progress bar increases in a non linear way(is not smooth) , it remains standstill for sometime and sometimes increases rapidly.Progress bar moves in a jerky way , which does sometimes look odd especially if some one is making the jump from MacOS to Ubuntu(or other operating system which have much more user friendly Boot Splashes).

UsplashSmooth tries to correct this problem , by displaying a progress bar that increases/decreases linearly and smoothly, showing you precisely the amount of time that is left for system to start or shut down. Though this is not without hitch , UsplashSmooth uses recorded time of boot/shutdown to synchronize animation of the progress bar , so if something goes wrong or lets say some daemon takes wee bit more time , progress bar animation goes out of sync with actualy boot process.

Installing UsplashSmooth

To install UsplashSmooth , issue the following command in the terminal(Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal) window:


tar -xvzf 93394-usplash-smooth-0.4.tar.gz

The above commands would download and extract archive containing the UsplashSmooth package files ( deb files).

Finally to install i386 version of UsplashSmooth issue the following command :
sudo dpkg -i usplash-smooth_0.4_i386.deb

or if you are running 64bit Ubuntu on a AMD processor , issue the following command:
sudo dpkg -i usplash-smooth_0.4_amd64.deb

If above commands executed well , UsplashSmooth should be properly installed on your pc. Reboot your pc , the first time you reboot/restart your computer you will find Usplash progressbar to be terribly out of sync with the boot process. This is because UsplashSmooth records your bootup/shutdown time and uses this time to synchronize the animation of progress bar , so first time the progress bar is out of sync with the boot process.

Though Usplash is no where near perfect , one thing in particular I noticed was most of the times shutdown progress bar animation was out of sync with the shut down process(it moved slowly). Leaving these minor glitches aside UsplashSmooth is an interesting piece of addition to Ubuntu desktop , it's small addition like these that makes ubuntu experience complete and makes Ubuntu user friendly.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

References used:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Review : KDE 4.1 - Next Gen Linux Desktop

KDE was one of the first desktop environment I used when I started using Linux Back In 1998 , KDE was just out of beta and KDE Team had released 1.0 version of the Desktop Environment. At that time KDE was a revolution on the Unix platform, other desktop environment like CDE etc though were extremely good as desktop manager, but were not user friendly and there was non-existent interaction between different applications running atop these Window Manager.The applications running atop these Window Managers felt alike and disconnected from each other.

Over the past decade I have been a distro-junkie, jumping from one distribution to other and from one desktop environment to other.However ,over the past couple of years I have spent most of my time on Gnome (another popular desktop environment that was born because of licensing issues about QT, a framework KDE uses internally) because it was much faster compared to KDE and there was nothing radically different in KDE that gnome did not offer.However, KDE 4.1 might soon change all that.

KDE 4.1 released a couple of months back boasts of an extremely robust framework based on number of open-source technologies and includes a number of features , eye candy and applications that puts it head and shoulder above other desktop environment on Linux(and Unix ) and other Operating Systems. In the article I try to explore some of these features :

KDE 4.x includes the Plasma desktop Shell, that extends the capabilities of the conventional desktop by allowing you to interact with Visual elements like Panels, Icons , Widgets to a level that you might have never done on other Desktop environment/Operating Systems e.g : If you want you can rotate the Plasmoids , or maybe change the orientation ,length or height of the panel at the bottom.
Rotated Trash Plasmoid on my Desktop :)

Number of alignment and height changing option available for Panel

Plasma desktop allows you to put Widgets (aka "Plasmoids") on desktop. Plasmoids are small applications that perform a number of different tasks (like Displaying Comic Strips , or essential things like Displaying Trash Icon , Displaying Icons on your desktop etc ), Also it is extremely easy to install new Plasmoids . Support for Mac OS X Dashboard applets is underdevelopment and it should be included in future releases.
Plasmoids on my KDE 4.1 Desktop

One of the most useful "Plasmoid" is the "Folder View" Plasmoid that allows you to view content of different folders on your desktop easily.

KMenu is like the Start bar in Windows , and is one of the most used feature of the KDE desktop. KMenu has number of different categories like "Applications" , "Favorites" , "Recently Used" and "Computer" which helps in properly organizing applications and document links .


KDE 4.1 includes the refurbished oxygen icon and widget theme , Oxygen is extremely visually appealing icon/widget/window theme and gives KDE a visually aesthetic look.

Oxygen uses SVG vector images to represent Icons, which allows using alpha channels, translucency, embedded bitmaps to allow complex three dimensional effects, with highlights and shadows. For improving identification of Icons of different types , Oxygen uses slightly different characteristics of shape, detail and color for Icons of different types.
Mime Types Icons used by Oxygen
FileSystem Icons used by Oxygen

Besides the Plasma Desktop, Some other important frameworks KDE 4.1 includes are :
  • The state of art Phonon Multimedia API - which provides multimedia support to various applications running atop KDE 4.1 without having to worry about underlying framework like Xine or GStreamer.
  • Sonnet - Multilingual Spell Checker
  • Akonadi Personal Information Management Framework :- Akonadi stores data for mail applications , calendar , address book etc . Akonadi helps in making data of one application compaitable with another application, Also Akonadi ensures that if data changes in one application it is reflected properly in other applications too.
  • Solid - Device framework that allows different KDE applications using Solid to know easily about Hardware Device status without worrying much about underlying hardware layer.
  • Plasma Desktop Shell

KDE 4.1 Packs in a impressive array of Applications, some of the intresting application included in KDE 4.1 are:

  • Dolphin - default file manager and with KDE 4.1 dolphin now supports tabbed folder browsing i.e browsing multiple folders simultaneously in different tabs
  • Dragon Video Player - An extremely lightweight video player that uses KDE's Phonon Multimedia framwork for playing number of different Audio/Video files
  • Okular - Okular is an extremely popular document viewer that allows you to view different document files like (.pdf , .ps etc) easily it even allows you to scribble , underline , highlight , add notes etc while browsing documents .
  • KSCD - Audio CD Player
  • Oketa - Hex Editor.
  • k3b - CD Burning Application
  • Gwenview - A Simple image viewer that supports basic image manipulation.
  • KOffice - Open source Office Suite based on KDE libraries.
  • Kopete - Instant Messaging client
  • Konqueror - Internet Browser
Okular - Document Viewer

Gwenview - Simple Image Viewer

Conclusion : KDE 4.1 is a visual delight ,Plasma desktop is one of the coolest looking desktop shell you will find across Operating Systems, it is definitely Linux Desktop of the future and with the included frameworks like Phonon , Solid etc KDE 4.1 makes the task of developing applications for KDE relatively easy for developers.

Impressed , A number of linux distributions like Kubuntu 8.10 and Mandriva Linux 2009.0 comes preinstalled with KDE 4.1, also it is relatively easy to install KDE 4.1 on Ubuntu , Fedora or anyother major distribution.

Important : Some of the Images in the article have been taken from different KDE subprojects website.

Links : -

KDE :-
Plasma :-
Phonon :-
Kubuntu :-
Mandriva Linux : -

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Review : Ubuntu 8.10 "Intrepid Ibex"

Ubuntu is one of the most popular desktop Linux distribution around and the latest avatar/version of Ubuntu , Ubuntu 8.10 named "Intrepid Ibex" is due to be released in few days (October 30 to be Precise) . Being a huge Ubuntu fan , I decided to give the RC version Ubuntu 8.10(released a day back) a try , to see some of the exciting new changes and additions that we can expect in the latest version of Ubuntu.

One of the first things you would notice after booting into Ubuntu 8.10 Desktop , is the new improved Human theme which has got a tinge of Orange. Status bar,Buttons glow and few icons have been changed and made more friendly looking. Ubuntu 8.10 also includes a brand new theme "Dark Room".
This is how my desktop looks with "Dark Room" theme applied

However , with "Dark Room" theme I noticed I was unable to read text in Menu Bar sometimes.

Improved Shutdown dialog box
Ubuntu 8.10 includes the latest stable version of Gnome - Gnome 2.24 . Gnome 2.24 is an extremely polished desktop environment and includes a host of feature addition. Nautilus the default File Manager in Gnome , now supports like Mozilla Firefox , Tab Browsing allowing you to browse number of different directory location inside a single nautilus window in separate tabs. Also Nautilus now supports encrypted private directory.
Multiple tabs in Nautilus, also note new eject icons infront of mountable drives and encrypted folders

Furthermore , Ubuntu 8.10 includes improved Network Management tool allowing you to easily configure your DSL , Wireless , Wired , VPN etc networks.
Gui tool for Managing Network connection

Ubuntu 8.10 supports "Guest Login" allowing anyone to log into Ubuntu machine without having an account ,however only catch is Guest users will not get access to any file of other users or be able to create files for security reason. This is especially useful where a single computer is used by a number of users , and you dont want others to peek into your files.

Hardware support has definitely improved with version of Ubuntu 8.10 , everything from Network Card , Bluetooth to Sound Card worked out of box on my cranky old Lenovo y410 laptop, In fact prior to version 8.10 I had hell lot of trouble configuring my sound card properly and even then headphone jack never worked properly. Inclusion of Alsa-1.0.17 in Ubuntu has definitely improved audio hardware support.Also there is improved support for NVidia graphics chipset/card. Proprietary drives can be easily downloaded and installed onto the system from (System -> Administration -> Hard Ware Drivers ). One reason why HardWare support is better in Ubuntu 8.10 is Ubuntu 8.10 is based on Linux kernel 2.6.27 which has significantly better hardware support.

Also , I am not sure whether it's me only or other people have also noticed that Intrepid Ibex runs a lot faster compared to earlier version of Ubuntu - "Hardy Heron" everything opens in a jiffy.

On the Software side , File-Roller now supports ALZ, RZIP, CAB, TAR.7Z file types , Ubuntu 8.10 includes updated version of X.Org - X.Org 7.4 which includes new much helpful failsafe X to diagnose cases where X Server fails to start. Ubuntu 8.10 also includes updated Samba 3.2 for browsing Windows Share on a network.

However , Ubuntu 8.10 includes older version of Open Office even though Stable 3.0 Version of Open Office is out. Though it will not be difficult for someone to update Open Office from repositories on a new Ubuntu 8.10 system.

Conclusion : Overall Ubuntu 8.10 is a well polished desktop Linux distribution , though not radically different from earlier version 8.04 of Ubuntu. Features like Tabbed Browsing in Nautilus , Encrypted Folders , better Hardware support ,being faster etc are reason compelling enough to Upgrade to the latest offering from Ubuntu team.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Installing Adoble Flash Player 10 in Ubuntu 8.04

Adobe a couple of days back released the latest version ( 10) of their popular Adobe Flash Player and surprised many by releasing a full fledged Linux version of the Flash Player simultaneously with the release for other popular operating systems.

Adobe Flash Player 10 includes a number of new features like visual performance improvements ,GPU hardware acceleration , native 3D transformation and animation , advance audio processing , custom filters etc. Linux users will notice among other things improved performance of Full Screen Video playback , transparency through Flash, and page elements rendered above Flash support as well as improved overall performance of Adobe Flash Player.

Some of the major new additions to Adobe Flash Player 10 includes :

  • Improved support for 3D Effects
  • Custom Filters and Effects
  • Dynamic Streaming - Streaming videos that adjust to network conditions
  • Hardware Acceleration
  • Dynamic Sound Generation
  • Advanced Text Support
etc. For a detailed look into the features of Adobe Flash Player 10 visit this link.

However , like the earlier releases Adobe still does not provide package for 64bit version of Linux which is somewhat disappointing.

Installing Adobe Flash Player 10(32 bit) in Ubuntu 8.04 :

Note : Close all the instances of Mozilla Firefox before issuing the following commands.

First we need to remove any existing version of Flash Player that you might have , you can do so easily by issuing the following commands in the Terminal window (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal ):
sudo apt-get remove flashplugin-nonfree
Now finally to download and install Adobe Flash Player 10 , issue the following command :
sudo dpkg -i install_flash_player_10_linux.deb
Flash should be properly installed , you can verify so by launching firefox and typing in "about:plugins" in the address bar. This should show you all the plugins installed in your system , you should see Adobe Flash Player 10 listed here , if it installed properly.
Adobe Flash Player 10 listed as installed plugin in Mozilla Firefox

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dillo : Light Weight webbrowser for Linux hits version 2.0

Dillo is a Multi platform lightweight web browser that has been in development for close to 8 years now, it is feature rich with features like Tabbed Browsing , support for multiple languages , anti-aliased text etc while occupying an extremely small memory footprint.

Dillo has been used as default web browser by a number of lightweight Linux distributions like Damn Small Linux , VectorLinux etc. Dillo supports CGI Forms , SSL , Cookies though it misses support for Javascript which limits its usage slightly. However , Dillo was never intended to replace normal web browser instead it was designed to be usable on simplest of hardware(like really old computers , or may be PDA's ) for displaying simple web pages quickly and accurately which it does extremely well. Dillo could be particularly useful for Kiosk terminals where we don't have access to expensive hardware needed for running modern web browsers. Also Dillo has been used extensively by Web Developers to check for Web comply-ability of there websites using bug meter feature in Dillo.

This is how Dillo's website describes Bug Meter :

Dillo's bug meter shows the number of detected bugs inside a web page. The bugs are caught at parsing time, and therefore the error messages also show the line where they occur and provide a hint of what was expected instead!
Dillo with version 2.0 has moved to FLTK2(Fast Light Wight Toolkit ) from GTK , which has made Dillo even faster . I found on a fairly modern computer astonishingly , Dillo occupied Less then 3 MB of memory to render a fairly complex web page.

Impressed , you can easily install Dillo by issuing the following command in the Terminal(Application -> Accessories -> Terminal ) window:
sudo dpkg - i dillo_2.0-1_i386.deb
If the above command worked without any problem , you should have Dillo installed properly . You can Launch Dillo from (Applications -> Internet -> Dillo ).
Dillo in Action :)

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Running CrossOver Chromium aka "Google Chrome" under Ubuntu

Chrome is a free web browser released by Google few weeks back , based on open source Chromium codebase and WebKit engine for rendering web pages. It offers attractive user interface , integration of Google services in the browser ,out of box support for Google Gears , shortcuts for Web Applications , suggestions for web pages while typing them in address bar and other exciting features.

Now even though Google Chrome is based on Open Source Chromium, still Linux and Mac OS X version of Google Chrome were not released with the Windows version as they are still under development. This was a huge(hmm?) disappointment to both Linux and Mac OS users , who wanted to try the latest offering from Google.

However, a few days back Codeweavers( a Linux company specializing in developing customized version of Wine , which is a translation layer that allows running of Windows application atop Linux) released a easily installable package (called CrossOver Chromium) of customized version of Wine capable of running Chrome with minor glitches and Chrome package, providing an easy way for Linux users to try the Google Chrome browser before native version is released for Linux.

Installing CrossOver Chromium on Ubuntu

To install Crossover Chromium issue the following commands in the terminal window (Application-> Accessories -> Terminal):

Note: The package downloaded below is for 32bit version of the CrossOver Chromium , Codeweavers has released 64 bit version too. You can download 64bit version from this page.


sudo dpkg -i cxchromium_0.9.0-1_i386.deb
CrossOver Chromium should be properly installed and you can launch CrossOver Chromium from (Applications -> CrossOver Chromium -> Chromium ).
Google Chrome running on my Ubuntu Desktop

CrossOver Chromium, though usable is extremely erratic,sluggish and does not integrate with Linux desktop properly owing to it being a windows application running atop Wine. On my system I found it to be extremely slow (at least compared to Mozilla Firefox and Opera) ,of the numerous problems I encountered while using CrossOver Chromium the major ones were problem maximizing browser window , also i had difficulty in setting proxy settings .
Strange looking Dialog Boxes (and yup i could not change my proxy )

CrossOver Chromium even though is a commendable initiative by Codeweavers to provide users of Linux(and Macintosh's) at least feel of Chrome before it is released natively, is far from being stable enough to be used as a replacement for any popular Web Browser available for Linux. At the present moment ,your best bet would be to wait for either native version of Google Chrome for Linux or continue using Firefox/Opera/Konqueror.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Desktop on Linux Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Monday, September 15, 2008

Launchy : Application Launcher for Linux

Launchy is a popular application launcher , that has been available for windows for quite some time now, recently they launched the Linux version of their application . Launchy is a application launcher that allows you to launch applications , open documents , webpages even search Google or get weather information, just by typing into a centrally located textbox on the desktop. As you type text in the textbox , Launchy tries to guess what you are trying to type(name of application you are trying to start , or document's name).

Launchy trying to guess Application , you want to run.

Launchy is very similar in functionality to Open Source "Gnome DO" file manager which i had reviewed few months back(Read the article here) and Quicksilver application available for Mac OS. Launchy has an attractive user interface , which can be further customized with number of themes available online. Furthermore , compared to GNOME Do , Launchy has much smaller memory footprint.

Right Clicking anywhere in Launchy's windows gives you options to Customize launchy further(like changing default theme of launchy , or changing the file type and location where to scan) or Rescan Catalog .

Customizing Launchy

Launchy with different themes

Installing Launchy

Launchy is available as Source code or debian package . If you are using any non debian distribution like Fedora , OpenSuse etc you would need to compile the package to install Launchy. However , if you are using Ubuntu (or any other debian based distribution) you can install Launchy easily by following the below mentioned steps:

First launch Terminal windows from (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal) and issue the following command to download and install launchy:


sudo dpkg -i launchy_2.1.2-1_i386.deb

If you did not encounter any error in above step , launchy should be properly installed. To start Launchy click on (Applications -> Accessories -> Launchy ).

Now, to show Launchy on desktop press (Cntrl + Space) , you should get Launchy's window in the center of the desktop.
Launchy located centrally on my Ubuntu desktop

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Desktop on Linux Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Monday, September 01, 2008

Entering the world of GNU/Linux

Linux is a UNIX like operating system and has been one of the most popular proponents of free open source software. Even though popularly GNU/Linux is called Linux operating system, but the name is somewhat misleading because Linux is the name of the kernel of the operating system, which was created by Finnish hacker Linus Torvalds as a hobby project, infact in the first message posted on newsgroup announcing his project he had the following view about Linux becoming big: “It is NOT portable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that's all I have :-(.” . The entire GNU/Linux operating system is based upon host of open source tools and libraries of which GNU tools and libraries form a significant chunk (started by Richard Matthew Stallman (rms) one of the most popular MIT based hacker and founder of free software foundation, rms has iconic status in free and open source world), hence the name GNU/Linux.

Since traditionally UNIX operating systems have been used mostly in servers and by developers/hackers/and students, and Linux being similar to UNIX proved to be no exception. Linux began as an operating system that started replacing UNIX on the server side, and it did particularly well too (with the latest figures putting Linux market share in server market to be around 13%). Desktop Linux however did not take of like the server versions of Linux, partially due to lack of availability if quality window manager , lack of high quality software and inertia of users from moving to entirely different environment in comparison with Windows or Mac OS.

However, over the past decade there has been considerable development in the desktop front for the Linux operating system with the emergence of user friendly desktop environment in form of Gnome and KDE, and a number of other robust free open source software, extremely user friendly Linux distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora and big corporate (IBM, Novell, Dell and even most staunch rival of Linux Microsoft) supporting GNU/Linux. Linux is slowly but surely making strides on desktop front with latest estimate pegging its market share to 4% of overall desktop market (making it almost at par in terms of market share with Macintoshes).

Let’s look at some of the advantage Linux enjoys over its popular closed source commercial counterpart Microsoft Windows:

Security: This is probably one of the most important advantage of Linux over windows, being open source any vulnerabilities detected are patched almost immediately as opposed to windows. Also like UNIX because of its extremely robust architecture and not granting root level access to all the users, there are very few viruses (almost non existent) to worry about unlike Windows on which hundreds of new viruses are created almost everyday.

Customizable : Being based on a number of different open source projects and libraries , a number of different distribution of GNU/Linux operating system exist from which one could chose distribution to use according to one’s need. Also it is very easy to customize a GNU/Linux system, which is not possible with closed source Windows operating system. E.g if you have a really old hardware you could easily customize Linux distribution, stripping all the fancy features and producing a basic rudimentary system that works well on your old hardware or maybe you might like making your desktop interface look like Mac OS .

Stability: - GNU/Linux is one of the most stable operating system around, and this is probably due to layered design of the operating system, where if one component fails entire operating system does not crash unlike Windows operating system. People have actually managed to run GNU/Linux operating system for months altogether without rebooting.

Excellent Development Platform: GNU/Linux is a programmer’s paradise with host of free open source tools, libraries, compilers, IDE etc available and the best thing is you don’t have to worry about licensing since almost everything in GNU/Linux is free, open source under GPL or LGPL license.

No Licensing restriction: Unlike Microsoft Windows which impose host of licensing restriction on you e.g. you cannot install windows on more then one computer , Windows is loaded with all kind of restrictions like DRM(digital rights management) preventing you from playing a number of different audio/video files . You don’t have to worry about such licensing restrictions on Linux you can play all the audio/video formats (provided you have codecs installed) out of the box and you can install Linux on as many computers you want, infact it is encouraged to share Linux media free of cost and some distributions like Ubuntu actually ship CD/DVD’s free of cost of the installation media.

Free :- This is probably one of the most important advantage of GNU/Linux over Windows especially for developing countries like India .Almost everything in Linux is free , you don’t have to pay a single penny for operating system , office suite , development platform ,software’s etc . Though commercial software also exist for Linux but sheer number of free open source software alternatives available on Linux overshadows them , providing you with alternatives to almost all the commercially available software on Windows platform. Infact there are tools available (WINE) which actually allows you to run Windows application on Linux free of cost without purchasing license of windows operating system.

Impressed, here is a short guide on how to start using Linux:

Picking right Distribution

Hundreds of Linux distributions exist, so the task of picking right Linux distribution becomes even more difficult. However based on my experience of using and installing Linux, I would suggest the following Linux distributions (though I would still suggest that you look into Distrowatch ( for right distribution that suits your need) :

Desktop : - Ubuntu (or any derivative of Ubuntu) because of extremely user friendly interface , easy access to online documentation and support forums , huge number of packages available in repositories and easy installation method and finally solid debian based architecture.

Development: - Fedora because of sheer number of development tools available out of the box on the fedora platform, plus fedora is one of the oldest and most well supported Linux distributions available.

Installing: -

Installing Linux especially partitioning disk is probably one of the most difficult step for Linux newbies or Windows converts, though over the years with the development of user friendly graphical installers even installation has been simplified to a considerable degree. Still there are few things that you could keep in mind while partitioning your disk while installing Linux:

• Backup your data: It is imperative that you backup your important data from windows drive as there is a real possibility that you could unknowingly corrupt your partion table losing all your precious data.

• Create separate partitions (logical) for /home , / , /usr (if possible) and swap : This helps you while upgrading or installing a new Linux distribution keeping your old data intact.

• Create Swap partition double the size of your Physical Memory

However if you find partitioning difficult , it is possible to install Linux without partitioning on your windows partition (though this is not recommended ) few Linux distributions like Ubuntu , provide installer that allows you to install Linux easily like any normal Windows program without having to worry about partitioning.

Using Linux:-

Even though a number of really good graphical desktop environment exist inform of KDE , GNOME and XFCE, but sooner or later you will find your self using terminal (Bash :P ) so it would be really helpful one learns if not all some basic terminal commands and if possible bash scripting.

Here are few links that might help you learn basic Linux commands:

Getting and Installing applications:-

This is probably one of the most fun part of using Linux, finding and installing software from a number of freely available alternatives each good enough to compete with popular commercially available counterpart. If you are using Ubuntu just fire up “Synaptic’ package manager or better still use console based “apt-get” command , and install right application from thousands of freely available software. There are third party repositories available too like CNR (click and run) which offer a huge collection of free, closed and commercial software for Linux platform which could be installed easily with a single click.

However, being open source many times you would find need of compiling application from source (may be binary is not available) or just for purpose of producing optimized binary according to your system’s configuration.

Here are few links you might help you in installing applications on Linux:

1. Getting debian binary package for Ubuntu(or any other debian based distribution):
2. Gnome/GTK+ Applications :
3. Guide to Installing applications:
4. Another useful forum post on installing applications under Linux:

Getting Help:

Even though Linux does not provide over the phone support like some of the commercially available operating systems provide, still it is relatively easy to get support for your Linux problems easily from number of online forums available and freely available documentation. These forums are quite active and you can expect satisfactory solution to your problem within few hours of posting problem. I have tried listing some of the sources I have found useful below:

Ubuntu Forums :
Linux Forums :
Linux Questions :
How to Forge :
Linux Documentation Project :

Article by : Ambuj Varshney
Author is an undergraduate student at Dhirubhai Ambani Institute for Information and Communication Tech , Gandhinagar , India and a pro-blogger who blogs about Linux related issues at , you can reach him at :
© 2008 Linux on Desktop blog

Linux gets 13 % Market Share :
Linux gets 4% Markey Share :

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Review : gOS 3 Gadgets(beta)

Couple of months back i had reviewed gOS version 2.0(Read the article here ) , which even at that time was quite radical and impressive , a lot different from most of the other Linux distributions in the market right now . Since then as gOS has moved from Ver 2.0 to 3.0, it has undergone a number of major changes and has become even more user friendly , which i have tried highlighting in my review below.

gOS is still Ubuntu based and uses official Ubuntu repositories , with Version 3.0 gOS has moved from using Enlightenment desktop manager to LXDE(Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) . LXDE is a lightweight GTK based desktop environment that integrates a number of lightweight applications like PCMan File Manager , LXPanel , Leafpad ,LXNM etc providing a lightweight alternative to likes of KDE and Gnome. Now based on my experience of using gOS 2.0 , I found LXDE to be bit slower as compared to Enlightenment desktop environment nonetheless it was zippy compared to Gnome running on Ubuntu and more feature rich (and actively developed) compared to Enlightenment desktop environment.
gOS 3.0 Desktop (Note Google Gadgets on the Desktop )
Option for adding Google Gadgets onto the Desktop integrated into the gOS "Start" menu

Another interesting addition to gOS is integration of recently released Google Gadgets (Installation instruction for Google Gadgets on Ubuntu Linux), with the desktop. Google Gadgets provides access to over 1,000,00 Widgets providing you host of different functionality like Weather Information , System information , Google News , Battery Status , Calendar etc on your desktop with a click of button. Addition of Google Gadgets does improve the user friendly index of gOS and makes it even more attractive to Linux newbies.

Unlike other distributions which have icon for only Local Applications in Panel , gOS provides , icon link to Online Web 2.0 Applications like Google Documents , YouTube ,Google Mail etc and local applications like Skype , Open Office Applications , Firefox and Pidgin.

Another change from gOS 2.0 is clicking on any Web 2.0 Application icons , loads the application in Mozilla Prism (earlier called WebRunner) instead of Mozilla Firefox . Mozilla Prism is a innovative new experiment from Mozilla Labs which tries to integrate web platform with desktop experience . This is how Mozilla Wiki (Read more here )describes Mozilla Prism :
Prism is a simple XULRunner based browser that hosts web applications without the normal web browser user interface. Prism is based on a concept called Site Specific Browsers (SSB). An SSB is an application with an embedded browser designed to work exclusively with a single web application. It doesn’t have the menus, toolbars and accoutrements of a normal web browser. Some people have called it a "distraction free browser" because none of the typical browser chrome is used. An SSB also has a tighter integration with the OS and desktop than a typical web application running through a web browser.
gOS 3.0 also includes Wine application layer which allows running a number of Windows application on Linux desktop . Even though Wine is out of beta after decade long of development, still it is buggy and not all applications run well on WINE. So it would be better to run Open Source native applications instead of running Windows based application unless there are no alternatives available.

Overall gOS 3.0 worked flawlessly on my system , and I was able to install it easily on my system with user friendly Graphical Installer. However while shutting down i encountered error(which apparently was being caused by Google Gadgets being closed) for some strange reason , Now i am not sure whether this is a problem with my system only or with distribution.I hope they rectify this when final version of the distro comes out.

Now even though Adobe AIR and Mono version of Microsoft Silverlight is still in Beta stage and are very buggy, still gOS team might consider including them in future release , since they are positioning their distribution as a Internet/Web 2.0 Applications ready Linux distribution and there are all signs that Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight are going to be extremely important platform for delivering feature rich internet applications onto desktop in future.

gOS like it's earlier version uses the same green theme. Now gOS overall is extremely user friendly distribution that might be particularly useful for people who have old systems and would primarily like to use their system to say maybe use online Web 2.0 Applications like Google Documents , Mail ,Flickr which are less resource intensive compared to local Desktop applications. gOS could also be the right distribution for someone new to Linux , since it is based on Ubuntu and is extremely user friendly and being based on Ubuntu provides easy access to Ubuntu repositories for installing/upgrading additional packages.However for some one already familiar with Linux, gOS provides very little reason to migrate to gOS from the likes of Ubuntu,Fedroa ,Suse .

Overall comparing with gOS 2.0 , there has been number of important changes in gOS 3.0.gOS 3.0 is has become extremely user friendly and feature rich, and is probably one of the simplest distribution available for Linux Newbies to get themselves acquainted with.

Review Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Desktop on Linux Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Install Ubuntu(and other Linux distro's) on a Pen Drive under Windows

For close to three months DVD drive of my laptop has not been functioning properly , it fails to read burned DVD's and CD's properly. Now since we have wonderful LAN in the university where i am studying, I never cared about getting the DVD drive fixed. However a few days back as i was tweaking something on my system I inadvertently corrupted partition table of my laptop hence i was stuck with a laptop without MBR to load operating system and no way to install operating system (Windows or Linux ) as both the operating systems were on DVD and i had a non functional DVD drive , and to make situation worse when i called Lenovo dealer here in India they told me fixing DVD drive(My laptop is still under warranty) could take as much as 14 days. Now i knew it was possible to boot computer through a USB Pen drive , however i had never tried installing Linux/Windows on a pen drive. Using Google i came up with a solution to installing Linux on a pen drive , which i have tried documenting in my article here.

Universal NetBoot Installer(UNetBootin) is a tool that allows you to install a number of Linux distributions either on a USB Pen Drive or on a hard-disk partition.
UNetBottin is available both on the Windows as well as the Linux platform. In this article i am using UNetBottin for Windows.

First, we need to download UNetBootin which you can do so from the following website : .

To make USB Pen Drive bootable , first we need to format the USB Pen Drive to FAT32 file system as we cannot boot a NTFS file system based pen drive . You can do so easily through "My Computer " :
The entire package is about 3.5 MB in size and you don't need to install to run UNetbootin

Now, once you launch UNetbootin you will find a dialog box similar to one shown above . If you want to allow UNetbootin to download files for the distribution automatically from the internet then in the drop down box at the top of the dialog box chose the distribution and it's version that you want to install . UNetbootin would then download relevant files from the internet of that distribution , however keep in mind most linux distributions are gigabytes in size hence don't try downloading from the internet option unless you have a really fast broadband connection.

However if you have an ISO file you could use the ISO file to make bootable USB Pen Drive or make a partition bootable. Enter the location of ISO file chose the Letter of USB drive and press OK button to start installing Linux distribution onto the USB drive :
Installation in progress

Once installation is over reboot the system , go into the BIOS and change the boot sequence to boot from USB drive if it is not configured already. If everything went right you should be able to boot from the USB drive.

Tutorial Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Desktop on Linux Blog ,
(C) 2008 , Ambuj Varshney