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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Organize your documents and Research papers with Mendeley

Mendeley Desktop is a free desktop application(and web service ?) aimed at helping you organize and manage your collection of documents and research papers, primarily aimed at researchers Mendeley allows one to create a bibliography database of the research papers and documents.Mendeley is strongly integrated with the web and through a service named Mendeley Web allows you to upload 500MB(for a free account) of documents online to your account , allowing you to access them freely from any place.

Mendeley was founded in London and its working team includes , former chairman of "" , founding engineers of Skype and people from some of the better universities of the world.
Mendeley, though is not open source but is available for Windows, Mac OS X and the Linux operating systems.

If you have used , which to an extent has revolutionized music social networking(if that term even exists that is) ,allowing you to find tracks that you might like based on your playlists, playcount and connect with people with similar music interests.Mendeley is claimed to be "" for researchers, allowing researchers to collaborate with fellow researchers with similar research interest as yours. The Mendeley algorithm based on your collection of papers by extracting metadata from the papers, allows you to find people with similar research interest and find papers you might be interested in.(For people finding this interesting might like to look at arXiv project )

Mendeley allows forming a group whereby you could share research papers easily within the group and collaborate with people. This is especially useful for people working in a research team , How often have you found yourself communicating using email with your fellow researchers ?

Installing Mendeley on Ubuntu

Its not very difficult to install Mendeley Desktop on the Ubuntu platform , as Mendeley team was generous enough to provide repository for the Ubuntu desktop.However, you would have to first register at their website ( , to take full advantage of Mendeley Web.

To install Mendeley Desktop follow these steps :

1. Open the terminal window and issue the following command to add the Mendeley repositories.
echo "deb /" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list
and , we update the repository information on the local system, by issuing the following command :
sudo apt-get update
If you are running a earlier version if Ubuntu , I would recommend you look at this page and find the right repository.

2. Once you have added the repository , issue the following command to install the mendeley desktop :

sudo apt-get install mendeleydesktop
Once you are done installing Mendeley desktop , you can launch Mendeley from ( Applications -> Education -> Mendeley Desktop ).

My Mendeley desktop :)

Mendeley desktop includes a inbuilt PDF reader , that allows you to highlight text and add notes in the document. Mendeley desktop reads the document and finds all the references , citations and builds the bibliography database of these on your local system. if you want you can add notes, and tag your documents based on which category the document belongs to.

Some Mendeley Desktop screenshots , showing one easily Higlight within a document in mendeley, and couple of screenshots showing that Mendeley automatically fills the information about the document and builds the list of reference used in the document.

You can add few folders to the "watch" list thus , enabling Mendeley to discover and include these documents into the library,whenever they are downloaded and put into the folder. You can synchronize your collection of research papers with the collection online maintained at Mendeley Web.
The documents in my Library , synchronized with Mendeley Web.

Overall, if you are neck deep in papers like me and want something that could help you organize them better and also help you take backup of them, than Mendeley is for you. Mendeley is a very promising document organizing system and with the added research social networking feature, it is one software/service to look forward to.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2009 , Ambuj Varshney

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wbar - Attractive lightweight application launcher for Desktop Linux

Its been some time since I have posted anything on my blog, which has to do a lot with my hectic study schedule. In case you still enjoy reading posts on my blog , mail me @ blogambuj( at {no spam} ) with :) as subject line. This , should be encouragement enough for me to keep writing and updating this blog more frequently.

Anyway, earlier in one of my posts I had reviewed Avant Window navigator which provided Mac OS X like dock bar. Also , I had reviewed gOS some time back, it had wonderful application launcher at the bottom iBar. Now, in this post I discuss extremely lite,attractive and modern looking application launcher wbar. wbar is very similar to gOS iBar. Even though I don't particularly like writing about eye candy, still, considering the number of emails I get from people requesting more of such posts, I am going to write about this one.

Wbar is an extremely good looking application launcher(Note: It is a application launcher and not a dock) and provides an easy access to frequently used applications(which can be easily configured). It is extremely light on resources, unlike some other similar docks and so you should get good performance on even moderately powerful computer e.g To get Animation and Transparency you do not need to run Compiz!

wbar is open source and has been released under GNU GPL v2 and has been coded in c++ using the imlib2 library.
This is how my desktop looks with wbar!

Installing and using wbar

(Note: These steps are for ubuntu 9.04, though you should be able to install easily on other distributions in a similar fashion.)

To install wbar, start terminal window from (Application -> Accessories -> Terminal) and issue the following command :

sudo dpkg -i wbar_1.3.3_i386.deb
However, its tad difficult to configure wbar i.e if you want to change icon , add/remove applications from the launcher etc. This can be simplified by using the wbarconf utility which can be downloaded and installed by issuing the following commands:
sudo dpkg -i wbarconf_0.7.2-1_i386.deb
once wbarconf is installed, you can launch wbarconf by typing "wbarconf" in the terminal window.

wbarconf allows you to change icons of the applications in the launcher, add or remove applications from the launcher, all of which would have required editing configuration file if wbarconf was not used.

wbarconf - Allows you to configure wbar easily!

Once you are done installing and configuring wbar, you can launch wbar from the terminal window. However, there are couple of parameters that you would need to specify before launching wbar, things like what should be the icon size, what should be its default position etc, which you can find out by typing "wbar -help" at the terminal window.
wbar -isize 48 -j 1 -p bottom -balfa 60 -bpress -nanim 4 -z 2.5 -above-desk

for example, the above line specifies that we want icons in our wbar to be of size 48 pixels, we want alpha to be 60 (in the range of 1-100) , we want four animated icons in our bar, it should be at the bottom of the screen and it should run above the desktop applications (You can learn more of these settings by issuing "wbar --help" ).


However, if you want to avoid typing in this command everytime you log into your gnome desktop, you could easily create a shell script and make it run every time gnome starts( If you need help with this , write a comment and I will add this).

In the end, if you are obsessed with speed, if you want your desktop to be responsive and do stuff in a jiffy then wbar is for you, it provides eye-candy with very minimal overhead and is extremely pretty.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2009 , Ambuj Varshney

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Configuring Reliance NetConnect on Ubuntu 9.04

Important: This post is for people living in India , using Reliance Netconnect and Huawei CDMA modem only.

Finally after spending close to six months in University, am back home. Now, at home my dad uses Reliance Netconnect ISP for Internet. It is extremely simple to configure Reliance Netconnect on Windows, as Reliance provides a very simple installer for modem as well as dialer which configures the connection, but it is bit tricky to do so if you are using one of the variants of Linux.

Now, in this tutorial I have tried explaining how to configure Reliance Netconnect on Ubuntu 9.04(though with slight modifications you should be able to configure Reliance Netconnect on any Linux distro by following these steps).

Installing wvdial

wvdial is dialer that allows you to connect to internet through a modem establishing a point to point link. Now for some strange reason( or perhaps because few people actually use dial up based internet connection) wvdial is not bundled with Ubuntu 9.04.

If you have access to internet, you can install wvdial by issuing this command in the terminal window:
sudo apt-get install wvdial
However, if you don't have access to internet on the machine you want to configure Reliance Netconnect on, download these packages from machine that has access to internet and install them by issuing the following command.


or you could download a zip file containing all these packages (has been hosted by some user , so download at your own risk) from this site.

Put all these packages in a folder (or extract the zip file , if you happen to download zip file instead) and issue the following command in that directory to install.
sudo dpkg -i *

Configuring wvdial

Now , we need to configure wvdial to connect to Reliance Netconnect; to do so open gedit or any other editor you like and modify the wvdial.conf file.

sudo gedit /etc/wvdial.conf
it should have default settings and section, don't modify them and instead add the following section:

[Dialer Defaults]
Init1 = ATZ
Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Modem Type = Analog Modem
Baud = 9600
New PPPD = yes
Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0
ISDN = 0

[Dialer netconnect]
Username = ( Add your Phone Number here)
Password = ( Add your phone number here)
Phone = #777
Stupid Mode = 1
Inherits = Modem0
Replace your Phone number with your actual phone number , like 93102xxxx for me and save the configuration file.

Now, once you are done configuring wvdial, connect by issuing the following command:
sudo wvdial netconnect and wait for pppd to start, once connection has been successful you should see local ip address , remote IP address and address of DNS servers on the screen. To disconnect , press Ctrl+C in the terminal window where you had connected.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2009 , Ambuj Varshney

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Browser Update : Opera 10 beta and Google Chrome

Past few weeks saw lot of activity in Linux Internet Browser sphere, finally after waiting almost an year; an early alpha developer version of WebKit based Google Chrome was made available. Also, Opera released beta version of their popular web-browser, Opera 10 Beta.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome was released almost an year back with much fanfare, it was initially available only for Microsoft Windows and Google promised to develop Linux and Mac OS X version of the web-browser. In the mean time , people eager to try Google Chrome on Linux and Mac OS X had to resort to version of Chrome running atop translation layer Wine and infact Codeweavers, released a package combining WINE and Google Chrome together for Linux. This , though worked was extremely slow, was bugged and provided no real benefit over native Linux web browser like Konquereor , Opera or Mozilla Firefox.

Now , after almost an year of development , controversy; Early Pre Alpha build of Google Chrome ( Chromium) is out!. I managed to try Google Chrome Dev channel build on my Ubuntu 9.04 desktop.

It was extremely simple to install Google Chrome , owing to fact that Chromium developers were generous enough to provide both 32 bit and 64 bit (.deb) package. You can get the package from this page.

NOTE: I wouldn't recommend installing this pre alpha release of Google Chrome for the sole purpose of using it as primary desktop web browser, as among many other things it lacks number of privacy feature , is unstable and may contain potentially dangerous bugs.

Once, you have install Google Chrome; you should be able to launch it from Applications -> Internet -> Google Chrome.

Google Chrome, after much confusion and controversy about Graphical Tool Kit to use , is based on GTK+ Graphical Tool Kit. Hence,its look and feel is similar
to your normal Gnome application

Google Chrome even though is alpha/pre-alpha release is quiet usable, the rendering was fast and almost all of the websites opened without any hitch. However, since a number of features have not been implemented; it lacked support for any plugins , so websites which rely on plugins like Mono or Adobe Flash don't load properly. Another, let down was the font rednering,which needs to be worked upon. A number of dialog boxes are yet to be implemented , they had options missing e.g: incomplete book mark support , missing features in options dialog etc.

Incognito browsing in Google Chrome

Google Chrome alpha supports tab browsing , has some rudimentary privacy and developer features, supports incognito browsing ( does not keep track of cookies, webpage is not saved in history etc) but that's pretty much it. It is still in development and it will some time before we have fully functional browser. Though, it is shaping up pretty well.

Opera 10

Opera has been a dark horse in the Desktop Browser market for some time now .Opera had been plagued with cluttered and non user-friendly interface for some time now, which probably has attributed to it having a small fraction of Desktop Browser Market; in spite of having extremely feature rich browser.

Opera released beta version of their software, codenamed Perigerene a couple of weeks back. Opera 10 beta features, fresh , professional looking and clean interface compared to previous release of Opera. This,interface revamp could be partially credited to Opera hiring John Hicks(credited with designing Mozilla Firefox logo) a popular British designer last October.

Opera 10 beta includes new Turbo technology , that improves the loading time of web-pages by almost 40%(as claimed by Opera).It does so by compressing the images, the page might not look good but for people like me who get speed of 4 Kilobytes per second during day in the university where I am studying, it is heaven sent gift.

The interface is slick , icons are much more user friendly and better looking, and one piece of genius is the new tab bar ,besides being clean and attractive, it is resizeable allowing you to drag the bar downward giving you thumbnail view of the opened tabs.

Notice thumbnail view of opened tabs at the top of the window.

Opera is extremely fast and probably has one of the most user-responsive graphical interface. Like the previous release, Opera still has Speed dial(which can now be personalized) allowing you to open frequently visited websites quickly.

Other cool features include , inline spell checker , better support for online search , new crash reporting tool and compliance to standards ( it scored perfectly to Acid3 webstandard compliance test and supports HTML 5).

Installing , Opera 10 beta is easy. Download debian package for Ubuntu from this page and install using dpkg -i command.

Overall ,Font rendering is something I did not like , fonts looked funny on my PC(could be due to missing fonts) besides that Opera 10 beta is feature rich and impressive. The interface is asthetic (though one could improve choice of colours used :P) besides that it is one web browser to look forward to coming out of beta(I liked it more compared to Google Chrome).

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2009 , Ambuj Varshney

Monday, May 18, 2009

Relive old NES days with Secret Maryo Chronicles

Mario Bros and Super Mario has been one of the most popular games in computer games/console games history. The story of character Mario , who tries to save princess in Mushroom land has been like a legend in the video game world. I still fondly remember spending my childhood playing these awesomely made games day and night out (along with another awesome computer game Price of Persia :P) on my black and white television.

Since then i.e 1980's and early 1990's computer gaming has changed a lot. We have powerful consoles which boast of Cell architecture processors and almost life like , photo - realistic graphics in games. I do play the likes of World of Warcraft , Counter Strike or even Spore :P but I still miss doze good old NES games, games which were not complicated , were innocently simple.

Now , there are couple of ways to actually run those old games , you can use an SNES/NES emulator to run those old ROM's if you manage to get them i.e or you could play one of the ports of these games. Many people have created ports of these games for different platforms , and infact you can play a lot of these games online as Flash Games or Java applet.

Secret Maryo Chronicles is loosely based on Mario Bros but has more friendly graphics , catchy sound/music and is extremely friendly. It is based on cross platform SDL library and hence could be played on number of different platforms. Secret Maryo Chronicles has been in development for number of years now , in fact it was listed on Sourceforge for the first time in 2003.

The character in Secret Maryo Chronicles is aptly called Maryo and similar to classic Mario you have to naivgate through Mushroom land by going through pipes and collecting different powerups and fighting monsters.

It is extremely easy to install Secret Maryo Chronicles in Ubuntu , as it is available in the official repositories and could be easily installed by issuing the following command in the terminal window:

sudo apt-get install smc
After issuing the above command you can launch Secret Maryo Chronicles from (Applications -> Games -> Secret Maryo Chronicles).

There is tons of information about Secret Maryo Chronicles available on their website which can be accessed at :

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2009 , Ambuj Varshney

**(one of the screenshots has been taken from SMC website)

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Look at Ubuntu 9.04 "Jaunty Jackalope"

First of all , I am sorry for taking hiatus from blogging, I was having my End Semester examination and hence wasn't able to devote much time to Blogging. Anyway , couple of days back Cannonical came out with new release of Ubuntu, Ubuntu 9.04 "Jaunty Jackalope" and being ardent follower of Ubuntu, I decided to take a look at some of the exciting new features in Ubuntu 9.04.

Ubuntu 9.04 does not boast of ground breaking or earth shattering new features but instead tries to be as simple as possible. Infact , compared to previous releases of Ubuntu it might be one of the least radical release.Ubuntu 9.04 is more of an update to the earlier release of Ubuntu. Though , there have been some significant changes in Ubuntu 9.04 which I try highlighting here.

I tried installing Ubuntu 9.04 on my Intel 965GM graphic chipset based laptop , only to discover that I was getting awful frame rate while playing HD or even Sub-HD videos. After spending some time on Google and Ubuntu forums , I found few Intel chipsets were blacklisted in this release of Ubuntu and would only be fully supported in Update to Ubuntu 9.04, which was kind of sad :( . However, I found one solution (is bit nerdy and could make your system unstable) which seemed to have got Graphic performance of my system back to awesome again. If you own one of these chipset based graphic card , you might like to see this post.

Ubuntu 9.04 is extremely fast and entire desktop loads up in a jiffy , Infact entire boot process and loading up of desktop took less then 45 seconds on my cranky old laptop. Another , awesome change in Ubuntu 9.04 is the new sleek interface and brand new visual notification system.

The new visual notification system does away with any sort of interaction element like buttons, this way Cannonical has tried reducing the distraction caused by notification popups. The notification bubbles are more aesthetic looking and are translucent. Multiple notifications pile up below one another , and hovering mouse over notification makes it translucent.Notification disappears automatically after few seconds.

Ubuntu 9.04 also includes a number of community themes which were optional in Ubuntu 8.10.Ubuntu 9.04 also has improved support for multiple monitors.

New Wave - One of the new themes included in Ubuntu 9.04

Ubuntu , has a entireley new log in screen and is extremely simple yet sexy.

Ubuntu 9.04 has removed Shutdown option from the System menu and instead the only way you can switch off , hibernate , logout , lock your system is by clicking on small power button at the top right corner of the screen. I found this bit annoying, I have been used to Shut down option in System menu for some time now.

One thing which pissed me off was the new update notification dialog box , unlike earlier releases where you had update icon in the bar, If updates were available. In Ubuntu 9.04 , update dialog box pops up every now and then and forces you to update your system(which is good , but this frequent popping up of update dialog box is annoying! ).

On technical side, Ubuntu 9.04 includes ext4 file-system which has support for extremely large files and is extremely fast, ext4 also allows you to defrag your drive which many Windows users might relate to. Though , ext4 is not enabled by default and you have to chose ext4 manually during partitioning.

Installation , has also been simplified with extremely user friendly time zone selector, which basically splits entire world map into different time zones and lets you chose your time zone graphically.
New Time Zone Selector :)

Ubuntu 9.04 includes OpenOffice 3.0.1 as Office Suite unlike Ubuntu 8.10 which carried older 2.x version of OpenOffice, Gnome 2.26 as desktop environment , Mozilla Firefox 3.0.9 and Kernel 2.6.28. Ubuntu 9.04 also to be future safe includes support for Cloud Computing.
Brasero - CD/DVD Burning tool

Ubuntu 9.04 has Brasero as it's default CD burning application , it also provides backend functionality to nautilus for burning CD's.

Conclusion : In conclusion I am not going to claim that Ubuntu is going to beat Windows on desktop or we will see hordes of people jumping onto Linux bandwagon, but instead with Ubuntu 9.04 Cannonical has made Ubuntu 9.04 simple yet functional and I sincerely beleive simplicity is what is going to make people adopt Linux! Ubuntu is definately on right course and given proper oppurtunity(in forms of OEM adopting it) we will definitely see more and more people chosing Ubuntu as their primary desktop operating system.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2009 , Ambuj Varshney

Monday, March 30, 2009

Easily Convert and Encode videos with Handbrake

Handbrake has been one of the more user friendly tools available on Windows and Linux for ripping DVD's and converting them to mp4 format. However , handbrake has been available on Linux as a command line application and did not support converting videos to lets say a format that could be easily played on Portable Meda Players. Handbrake with version 0.9.3 on Linux is available with a GTK+ based graphical frontend and supports a number of different video formats as source, allowing one to convert these video formats into format suitable to be played on your PMP's like Apple iPod.

Installing HandBrake

It is extremely easy to install HandBrake on Ubuntu 8.10 , HandBrake provides easily installable .deb file for Ubuntu 8.10. To install HandBrake issue the following command in the terminal window (Application -> Accessories -> Terminal)

sudo dpkg -i HandBrake-0.9.3-Ubuntu_GUI_i386.deb
This should install HandBrake onto your system , you can launch HandBrake from (Applications -> Sound & Video -> HandBrake ).

Using Handbrake

The first time you launch Handbrake you should see a number of predefined presets on right hand side of the Window , allowing you to easily configure Handbrake to convert videos to format capable of being played on number of devices.

Once you have selected the device you want to convert video for, configure/tweak the settings further and select source to select the source video which you would like to convert to suitable format, Also select the destination where you would like to save the video. Now , press Start button to start encoding the video.
Encoding in Progress

Handbrake also supports queues allowing you to put number of files for conversion into the queue and automating the conversion proces. Handbrake offers a number of options and features which cannot be fully described in a short article like this. So , What are you waiting for ? Download and Test Handbrake today.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2009 , Ambuj Varshney

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Scan for Viruses under Linux with AVG Free Antivirus

Most of us run multiple Operating Systems on our PC's and are connected to LAN with machines running different Operating Systems. Now, Linux even though is sort of immune to viruses (there are few viruses, and Linux can get infected ) most of Desktop Linux users don't need Anti virus tool, but there are people who run Windows and there are umpteen number of Viruses, Worms and Trojans for Windows and removing them can be difficult.

Running Antivirus tool on Linux can be especially helpful in such cases , searching and removing viruses from a different Operating System would definitely help speed up the process and prevent Viruses from interfering with AntiVirus's scan process, also for PC's connected to LAN, Anti virus for Linux could detect any virus laden file transfer prompting one to take appropriate action and prevent virus from spreading to other PC's on the LAN.

There are couple of AntiVirus tool available on Linux, and in this article I would look into AVG Free Antivirus, which is one of the most user friendly of the Lot and offers a simple , intuitive interface.

Installing AVG Free Antivirus on Ubuntu

AVG provides a debian package along with packages for other distributions that you can download from this site , Or if you are on Ubuntu you can issue the following command in the Terminal (Application -> Accessories -> Terminal ) window to install AVG Free Antivirus.

sudo dpkg -i avg75fld-r51-a1243.i386.deb
Finally , Once you have install AVG Free launch it's GUI Frontend from (Applications -> Accessories -> AVG for Linux Workstation ).

AVG Antivirus Linux Frontend

The AVG Free version that you have downloaded and installed contains Old Virus definitions and needs to be updated which you can easily do by clicking on the Update button.
AVG Antivirus Updating itself

Now, once AVG has updated itself you can start scanning your drive for Viruses. You might though like to configure few of AVG Antivirus settings which you can do easily from (Service -> Program Settings ).
Different AVG Antivirus settings

To scan click on the Test button and select the folder/drive you want to scan. However , one thing I disliked about AVG Free anti virus was that it does not offer any option to remove scanned Viruses ( You would have to buy a commercial version of the AVG to enable removing of viruses). You would either have to go to the path and delete the infected file yourself or use some other Virus scanner on Windows to remove viruses. I looked into the manual for options to enable removing viruses or at least quarantining infected file and found we could do by modifying configuration file , I tried on my system but it sadly did not work.
Scanning for viruses , and final test result.

The Test result of Virus scan are stored with names of virus , date/time and location where virus was found stored in the database. The Test Result can be accessed by clicking on Test Result button in the front end of AVG.

Virus Scan test result archive

: Antivirus on Linux is not essential, still it is useful addition to your desktop arsenal especially if you are computer is part of a network with Windows computers. AVG Free though is limited with its lack of ability to disinfect virus laden files, still AVG Free is one of the most user friendly Antivirus solution available on the Linux platform.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2009 , Ambuj Varshney

Friday, March 13, 2009

Open Multiple Terminals in Single Window using Terminator

While programming I have often found myself switching between terminals, debugging and compiling program in one terminal , looking up man pages in other and modifying source code in the other. I have always wished somehow I could avoid this nuisance of switching and juggling between terminals . Terminator is an application that might just solve this problem.

Terminator allows you to open multiple terminal in a single window , each of these terminals are independent of other, and one can easily switch between these terminals by clicking on the terminal you want to use.

Terminator does not come pre-installed on Ubuntu, but is available in the repositories and can be easily installed by issuing the following command in the terminal window :
sudo apt-get install terminator

Once, Terminator is installed you can launch it from (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminator)

When you first launch Terminator , it looks like your normal Terminal window(by normal I mean without multiple terminals ). However , you can easily split this window into multiple terminals by either right clicking in the Terminator console and selecting one of the Split options or using the following shortcuts :
  • Ctrl-Shift-O: split horizontally.
  • Ctrl-Shift-E: split vertically.
  • Ctrl-Shift-Q: exit terminator.
Multiple Terminals in a Single Terminator Window

Terminator is an extremely useful application especially for programmers , or people who like typing in commands , using terminal and shell instead of using GUI.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2009 , Ambuj Varshney

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Create Screencasts with recordMyDesktop

Screencasts are an important and user friendly way of demonstrating application capabilities and explaining them. Screencasts in lame man terms are video of desktop/application allowing you to demonstrate it's capabilities to people who might not be running the application or might not be running a computer at all.

Now , I have been working on an application for some time now I wanted to show it's features and capabilities to few of my friends but I was unwilling to share pre-alpha code with them. So , I decided to Screencast my application and share this Screencasted video with them. While searching for right Screencasting application , I discovered an extremely simple , small and functional application called recordMyDesktop.

recordMyDesktop is a command line application that allows you to record entire desktop , a portion of desktop or activities in a particular window as a (.ogv) file. However , since most people might find command line cryptic, there is also a graphical front-end to recordMyDesktop which is aptly called gtk-recordMyDesktop (GTK is the graphical toolkit it has been created with) which simplifies creating Screencasts.


To install recordMyDesktop and gtk-recordMyDesktop issue the following command in the terminal window(Application->Accessories->Terminal ).
sudo apt-get install recordMyDesktop

sudo apt-get install gtk-recordMyDesktop
Once , gtk-recordMyDesktop is installed you can launch it from (Applications-> Sound & Video -> gtk-recordMyDesktop ).


In the Upper Right Corner of the gtk-recordMyDesktop there are two slide-bars which allows you to tweak Sound and Video quality of the Screencasted video. The better the quality more file size your video will take. Under Advanced section of gtk-recordMyDesktop you can configure a number of trivial things like your default working directory , tweak Performance , tweak Sound etc.

Even though most of the options under Advanced section are self explanatory with helpful tool-tips , still I am describing Performance section here.
Frames Per Second : as the name suggest allows you to select number of screen shots you want recordMyDesktop to take per second. The more FPS the smoother your video will be and larger would be your file size.

Encode on the Fly : This Encodes the video simultaneously as gtk-recordMyDesktop records activities of your desktop , this would take bit more processing power, but if you have descent processor would save you time.

Zero Compression : If Encoding on the Fly is disabled and you have enabled Zero Compression the temporary file that is created before final encoding is done is not compressed , so this option would consume hard disk space if enabled.

Quick Subsampling : If enabled Screencasting video will take less processing power but this option can make your Screencasted video blurry.

Full Shots at every Frame : For recording 3d Windows or Composite Window Manager.

Once you have configured recordMyDesktop , you can start recording video. You have to select either a region which you want to record , by selecting from the " Thumbnail view of Desktop " in recordMyDesktop the region you would like to record or you can press Select Window button and click on any Window in the Thumbnail you would like to record.

Selecting the region of desktop to record

Once , you are done selecting the region click on record button to start recording Screencast. When you are done recording the Screencast press the toggle button in the task bar to stop recording.

gtk-recordMyDesktop would do some processing and you will get back your original window. Now, press Save As button and specify pathname and file name to save the screencasted video.

Conclusion : recordMyDesktop is an extremely powerful application that allows you to take Screencasts of your desktop easily, coupled with simple and easy to use and friendly frontend gtk-recordMyDesktop , it allows anyone to make user friendly Screencasts.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2009 , Ambuj Varshney

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Take and Manage Screenshots easily with Shutter

Shutter is a simple application that allows you to take, manage and store screen shots. One might ask, What is the need for a separate application to take screen shots when we can easily take screen shot using Print-screen. Shutter is a huge improvement over Print-screen approach , Shutter offers number of features and improvements over the conventional Print-screen approach.

Installing Shutter

To install shutter issue the following commands in the terminal (Application -> Accessories -> Terminal ) window. These commands would add repository of shutter to your local list of repositories and allow you to download and install shutter using apt-get command or synaptic package manager.

NOTE: The commands are for Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex only for other version of Ubuntu or Distributions see Shutter website

sudo echo "deb intrepid main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list

sudo echo "deb-src intrepid main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list
wget -q -O- | sudo apt-key add -
and , finally
sudo apt-get update
Now , Once you are finished adding and updating repository data issue this command to install shutter on your computer.
sudo apt-get install shutter
Now you can launch Shutter from (Applications -> Accessories -> Shutter - Screenshot Tool ). First time you launch Shutter you will find a screen similar to one shown here.

Now , Shutter offers five different options for taking Screenshots which you can chose from (File -> New ) , these options are :
  • Selection : This allows you to take Screenshot of a particular section of the screen.
  • Full Screen : As the name suggests allows you to take screenshot of entire screen.
  • Window : This allows you to take Screenshot of a particular window
  • Section : Section allows you to take screenshot of particular part of Window or Screen. This is slighltly different from Selection as you dont have much control over the area you want to copy.
  • Web : This is probably the most interesting option , this option allows you to type in an URL and shutter would take screenshot of the webpage at that URL.

Trying to take screenshot of a website

Shutter Selection option for taking screenshot of user defined area of screen

I tried Web option on my Ubuntu installation but for some strange reason it did not work. I am not sure whether this is actually a bug in the application or something related to my system's configuration (as I am using proxy to access Internet).
Once you take screenshot each of the screenshots are opened as seperate tabs in Shutter.

Once you have taken Screenshot , you can perform basic editing on the Screenshot using built-in shutter DrawingTool it has a number of simple image editing tools like Pencil , Eraser , Rectangle , Ellipse , Text etc.

shutter drawingTool

Finally , Shutter comes with a number of plug-ins preloaded that allows you to add number of different effects yo your Screenshots like Grayscale , pdf export , soft edges , sepia etc.

Shutter Sepia Plugin and Different default plugins available in Shutter

File sharing Website configuration

Shutter also allows you to configure online photo sharing accounts enabling you to take screen shots and upload directly onto these photo sharing websites like Imageshack. However , as i was having problem connecting interent through Shutter I wasn't able to try this feature.

Conclusion : Shutter might not be a revolutionary desktop application but it can prove to be extremely useful for people like me who spend a lot of time taking screenshots of application. Shutter with extremely simple and user friendly interface should prove to be extremely useful tool in each bloggers arsenal.

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (
For Linux on Desktop Blog ,
(C) 2009 , Ambuj Varshney

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Ubuntu Tweak 0.4.6: Easily Configure and Tweak your Ubuntu Desktop

Ubuntu Tweak a druid based application that allows you to configure various aspects of your Ubuntu Desktop easily and tweak number of settings, is out with new version. Ubuntu Tweak 0.4.6 introduces some new features and has number of important bug fixes. If you remember I had written a short write up about Ubuntu Tweak close to an year back and In this article I would try to divulge bit more details of Ubuntu Tweak.


Like most applications available on Ubuntu , it is relatively simple to install Ubuntu Tweak on your system. Open Terminal from (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal ) and issue the following command:


sudo dpkg -i ubuntu-tweak_0.4.6-1%7Eintrepid1_all.deb

Note: The above installation instructions are for Ubuntu 8.10 - Intrepid Ibex

Once you have installed Ubuntu Tweak , you can launch Ubuntu Tweak from Applications -> System Tools -> Ubuntu Tweak . The first time you launch Ubuntu Tweak you will be greeted with the following screen.

Now , In Ubuntu Tweak under Applications section there are a number of different features concerning applications on Ubuntu. One of the features is Add/Remove which allows you to install a number of popular desktop applications easily without using messy Synaptic Package manager or apt-get command.

Number of applications can be easily installed using Ubuntu Tweak

other options under Application section of Ubuntu Tweak are, Source Editor which allows you to easily add/remove repository from your system's config file, Third Party Sources which allows you to add various third party repositories and Package Cleaner which allows you to remove unneeded packages or remove downloaded packages from cache.

Note: for using most of these options you would have to unlock these features.

Unlock button to use these features

Next is Start Up section which has options Session Control and Startup. Session Control allows you to configure things like Splash Screen while Startup allows you to configure which applications you want to start after you log in.

Startup Programs

Desktop has option concerning UI of Gnome.It has Icons ,Windows, Gnome and Compiz Fusion options. Desktop allows you to configure which icon you want to show on desktop, whether you want Trash/Home Folder icon to appear on desktop etc.

allows you to configure different effects for Windows like Translucency, Mouse action and other Metacity options. Compiz Fusion allows you to tweak Compiz Fusion allowing you to configure things like whether you want Wobbly or Snapping Window effect enabled , or Simple Desktop Effects setting manager installed etc. Gnome has gnome related settings.
Different Compiz Fusion settings

Personal has options like Folders which allows you change location of default folder(don't change them unless you have valid reason this can leave your system in unstable state ) , Scripts allows you to add different nautilus scripts and Shortcuts allows you to configure different keyboard shortcuts.

Finally , System has as name suggests system related options which allow you to configure and tweak different part of your desktop. System has options File Type Manager , Nautilus , Power Management and Security. File Type Manager allows you to associate different file types with different applications.
File Type Manager

Nautilus option allows you to configure different things relating to Nautilus , Power Management allows you to configure different Power Manager related settings like whether you want to enable hibernation or sleep or whether you would like to disable Network Manager when computer sleeps. Finally , there is Security option which allows you to configure different simple System Security Related settings like whether you would like to have Printing, Lock Screen , Run Dialog or Print Setup disabled etc.

Conclusion : Ubuntu Tweak has definitely progressed and become more user friendly compared to previous version(0.3 to be exact) I tried close to an year back . Ubuntu Tweak is like Swiss Army Knife in hands of Ubuntu Newbie allowing one to easily configure different aspects of Ubuntu desktop without typing Cryptic commands.

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