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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Monitor and Inspect your Hard-Disk easily with GSmartControl

smartctl is a tool that comes with smartmontools package and enables one to control and monitor storage systems using the Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology System (SMART) built into most modern ATA and SCSI hard-disks. This allows one to access the state of hard disk , it's level of degradation and monitor other parameters of hard disk, in addition to this it allows one to perform test to acertain this information. GSmartControl is a GUI frontend of this tool and allows one to find this information in a simplified way.

Since GSmartControl is only a front end to smartctl , we need to install first the smartmontools package, which can be easily done by issuing the following command in the terminal window(Application -> Accessories -> Terminal ):

sudo apt-get install smartmontools

To check whether smartmontools and inparticular smartctl has been installed properly , issue the following command in the terminal window :

sudo smartctl -i /dev/sda1

Note : Replace sda1 with your hard disk device file

This should show detailed information about your hard disk, for example in my case I got the following output:
Output of smartctl on my system.

Once smartmontools is installed and functioning we can proceed with installing GSmartControl. GSmartControl is presently not in official Ubuntu repositories so we would need to download appropriate debian package and install them manually.

To download and install GSmartControl issue the following command in the terminal window :

Or, if you want you can download package from this location. Now, to install GSmartControl issue the following command:
dpkg -i gsmartcontrol_0.8.3-0~getdeb1_i386.deb
To run GSmartControl issue the following command in terminal window:
sudo gsmartcontrol
You will get a window like this , click on the hard disk you want to find information about.

Now, GSmartControl has a number of different tabs where by you can know about your Hard-Disk , and even run tests on your Hard Disk. If you feel lost out hold you cursor over tab,information anything and GSmartControl is smart enough to show you detailed information in form of popup explaining you what that option,attribute etc means.

smartctl is an extremely powerful tool, allowing one to perform diagnosis of SMART enabled hard disk , allowing one to know state of hard disk and take appropriate action if it is about to fail. GSmartControl simplifies this task by putting all this together in an easy to use , simple interface allowing even newbies to use this tool.

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

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Review : Songbird - Sleek , Simple and Feature rich cross-platform Music Player

I had reviewed Songbird close to two years back , and at that time Songbird was impressive but was bug ridden, lacked important features and certain degree of polishing which was expected from an application intended to be used on Desktops. Songbird 1.0 is an entirely different story altogether, Songbird 1.0 is mature, has slick interface and most importantly is stable enough to be used by newbiess.

Here in this article I try reviewing some of the important features of Songbird.

Installing Songbird on Ubuntu

It is relatively simple to install Songbird on Ubuntu , open terminal window(Application -> Accessories -> Terminal) and issue the following command to install Songbird :



sudo dpkg -i songbird_1.0.0-0~getdeb1_i386.deb

Or if you want you can download packages from here.

Songbird is cross-platform media player, and is available for Linux , Windows and Mac OS X owing to it being based on solid Mozilla XUL platform and Gecko Rendering engine. XUL(XUL—eXtensible user-interface language) language allows one to create cross-platform Internet enabled feature rich applications. Mozilla Firefox , arguably one of the most popular open source desktop application is also based on Mozilla XUL Platform. Besides being based on Mozilla XUL, Songbird uses Cross Platform GStreamer framework to play media files. Songbird supports a number of media formats, However on Linux media files support is limited (lacing support for WMA files , AAC Files and DRM protected files) and songbird supports Ogg Vorbis , FLAC and MP3 on Linux.

Songbird , notice Artist information at bottom of the Window

Songbird features a Simple and Sleek UI interface , which to some extent resembles interface of Apple iTunes.There is uncanny resemblance between Mozilla Firefox and Songbird in terms of functionality, because both of them are based on same Mozilla XUL platform. Like Mozilla Firefox you can open multiple tabs in Songbird, simultaneously browse Internet and manage music inside Songbird using tabs and add different addons/plugins by using add on manager similar to one in Mozilla Firefox.

I am playing FLAC Files and Browsing Internet Simultaneously inside Songbird

Like Mozilla Firefox which features a Google Search box at top right of the Window, Songbird features a music search box at the top left corner allowing you to search for a song/media in your local library or Internet if you are connected to the Internet. Songbird's interface is divided into number of different panes , which can be used for different things including adding plugins , managing playlist/library , controling playing of audio files etc. By default Songbird comes with four Intelligent playlists , Highest Rated, Most Played ,Recently added and Recently played.

Songbird can be easily extended adding more functionality by using addons and plugins which can be easily installed, By default Songbird comes with these plugin pre-installed :
  • mashTape


    Discover Flickr photos, YouTube videos, biographies, Google news (and more) for the currently playing artist.

  • Scrobbling Scrobbling

    Integrated support allows you to scrobble, love, and ban your tracks.

  • Concert Tickets

    Concert Tickets

    Discover upcoming shows in your area based on the artists in your library. Event listings powered by Songkick.

  • SHOUTcast Radio

    SHOUTcast Radio

    Stream music using the integrated SHOUTcast Radio directory.

iPod Device support plug in is extremely useful if you own iPod, this plugin allows you to manage files on your iPod using Songbird, Though it allows you to manage only Audio files on your iPod. I have 30 GB 5.5 G Video iPod and Songbird could play files stored on my iPod and display playlists in iPod, but i found Songbird to be little slow while accessing files on iPod.

Managing iPod using Songbird

One feature that Songbird comes with is and is extremely important , is it's ability to import media files from iTunes allowing one to shift their entire media collection from iTunes to Songbird without any hassle. UI of Songbird can be easily customised with Skins which are cutely called feathers in Songbirds.

Installing Feathers in Songbird. Notice , this is similar to installing themes in Firefox

Songbird with Cartoon Theme :)

Over the past two years Songbird has progressed from being a great piece of software in development to one that can compete with the best , can take head on likes of iTunes. Though there is scope for improvement too , better integration with Online Music Services , making it more responsive when managing huge amount of files and video support are some of the areas Songbird team could work on.

  • Songbird promises to be the Firefox of media players.

    —Aaron Boodman, Greasemonkey
Such statements don't look far fetched and with the kind of quantum leaps Songbird is taking, Songbird might just be the next Big Desktop Open Source application after Mozilla Firefox.

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