Current_Issue.tar.gz - Linux: the Root of All Coolness

by Shawn Powers

If you are a regular visitor to the Web site, you might recognize me as the goofy video Gadget Guy, or possibly as the Web author with a penchant for controversy. While the latter is largely coincidental, the former is just the way I am (my wife can grudgingly attest to that). This month marks the first issue that I'm the Associate Editor of the print magazine as well. Whether adding me to the staff will be beneficial, or more like the spreading of Windows spyware, is yet to be determined.

The Cool Projects issue is significant to me for another reason as well. A year ago, in the August 2007 issue, my “How to Build Your Own Arcade” article marked the first time I was published in Linux Journal ( It also appeals to my inner child that thinks life should revolve around stuff that's “cool”. The 2008 Cool Projects issue (the one you're reading now) offers plenty of opportunity to have fun with our favorite operating system. Whether you're looking for a cool way to do your job, or whether you're trying to avoid doing your job altogether, we've got you covered.

If you subscribe to Linux Journal at work, and you're trying to justify the Cool Projects issue to your boss, fear not. We make it much easier than trying to explain the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition to your significant other. Eric Pearce shows us how to make a 16-Terabyte file server out of bubble gum and popsicle sticks. Well, okay, maybe not with those ingredients, but he walks us through the process of creating a really big server.

Bill Childers shows us one of the coolest uses of a USB Flash drive I've ever seen. With an outdated 256MB drive, Bill shows us how to make a bootable device that will install many different Linux distributions and launch a handful of utilities too!

If you can't find something this month that directly ties to your job, feel free to play the “professional development” card, and have some fun while you're furthering your technological horizons. Michael Surran, for example, tells us all about his use of Linux in education. As someone who has implemented Linux in schools before, I always find it cool when schools take the plunge.

Perhaps you are a programmer, and code all day, and code all night. Reuven M. Lerner shows us how to make sure our Rails are optimized, and Dave Taylor helps us extract really important data—from the Internet Movie Database. Along with some open-source mapping software, this issue is really full of easily justifiable diversions.

For me, however, the exciting thing about the Cool Projects issue is building cool stuff. Have you seen the Bug Labs' BUGs? All you have to do to build a cool project with them is snap together the pieces you want. The BUGs are amazingly versatile and are being developed every day. We show you how to make the little buggers bend to your will. Or, maybe you want to learn to use E-Ink technology and handcraft your own tiny PC. Jaya Kumar shows us how.

What if you don't subscribe to Linux Journal at work, and you're just looking for some cool things to do with Linux in your spare time? Kyle Rankin and Marcel Gagné felt the same way. Kyle shows us how to interface a Wii remote (Wiimote) to our Linux machines and use the controller as a joystick and mouse. Marcel, taking the word “cool” literally, shows us a handful of penguin and ice games bound to keep you busy for hours.

Finally, if reality isn't cool enough, we've got Zenoss, and we've got “How to Fake a UFO Landing”. Granted, the two have nothing to do with each other, but if you name your network-monitoring system Zenoss (Zeen-ohss), you're just asking for some taunting. So, sit back, prop up your feet, and enjoy this issue of Linux Journal. If you get tired of reading, maybe catch a few flicks on TV with your Neuros OSD. We'll tell you about that little beauty as well.

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on

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