Tech Tips

Tech Tip: Create an Automatically Scrolling Reader

By combining three useful command-line tools (less, watch and xdotool) along with two xterm windows, you can create an automatically scrolling reader. Say you have a good book in text-file form ('book.txt') that you just downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

Roll Your Own Cthulhu Flick

I may not be Steven Spielberg, but every time I see a rerun of Gumby, I'm convinced I could be a famous producer. With Linux, I don't even have to get a fancy movie set. I can make my own science-fiction adventure film with nothing more than a Webcam and a streak of bizarre creativity.

CBZ, the MP3 of Comics

Digital music and, more recently, digital video and digital books, have changed the way we consume media. Comic books are no different, and with the advent of tablet computers, digital comics are becoming more and more popular.

Rock Your World with Firefly

No, I'm not talking browncoats and spaceships. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed. If you're the musical type, however, installing a Firefly Media Server is fairly simple. It was renamed from mt-daapd, so your distribution still might call it that. After a quick install, visit the Web configuration, usually at http://localhost:3689 with the default login mt-daapd and password mt-daapd.

Books Lens

If you are an Ubuntu user and a fan of the new Unity interface, you might be interested in a new lens in development by David Callé. The Books Lens provides a real-time search interface for e-books. It currently interfaces with Google Books, Project Gutenberg and Forgotten Books. By the time you read this, that list probably will have grown.

XBMC, Now with Less XB!

Xbox Media Center (XBMC) is one of those projects whose name makes less and less sense as time goes on. Sure, people still are using XBMC on an actual Microsoft Xbox, but for the most part, XBMC now is run on computers. In fact, recent versions of XBMC installed on an ION-based nettop makes just about the perfect media center.

How You Can Have Mosquito Vision

If you've ever been outside on a summer night, then come indoors to find you've been attacked by bloodthirsty mosquitoes, you know that those little buggers must be able to see in the dark. In fact, mosquitoes use infrared light to hone in on our body's heat in order to find our juicy bits.

Scrivener, Now for Linux!

The folks over at www.literatureandlatte.com have a rather nifty writer's tool called Scrivener. For years, it's been an OS X-only program for novelists and screenwriters that acts like a project management tool for big writing projects.

Dropbox Tips and Tricks

Dropbox, or one of the alternatives like Ubuntu One or SparkleShare, are great tools for keeping computers in sync. They offer some unique abilities as well. Here are a few of our favorites: Keep config folders, like Pidgin's .purple directory in your Dropbox, and symlink to it in your home directory. It saves entering the same information on your computers.

Organize Your Shows with Sickbeard

First, a disclaimer: the program Sickbeard was created for the purpose of pirating television shows from Usenet and torrent sites. I don't condone piracy of any sort, but Sickbeard has some amazing other features that make it worth mentioning.

Adding More Awesome to Your Office

Whether you prefer OpenOffice.org or LibreOffice, which currently still are pretty similar, out of the box, they are missing some of the conveniences installed by their commercial counterparts. Granted, they are fully functional, but if you want a robust clip-art library and a decent selection of document templates, you'll want to add some extensions and templates.

SerbDict - Serbian-English Dictionary

I've highlighted a few language programs in this column, but so far they've been for Japanese, Chinese and German—all languages spoken by large populations. So a dictionary program for a language like Serbian jumped right out at me. According to the SourceForge page: "Serbian Dictionary is a bidirectional Serbian-English dictionary. It currently contains only a command-line interface.

Tor Browser Bundle-Tor Goes Portable

I've never covered a subproject of something I've reviewed before, but I noticed this a few weeks ago when trawling the Tor site (I've no idea how I missed it until now). It seemed so important that I instantly gave it top billing for this month's column.

Lock Firefox 6 Prefs (Also versions 3, 4, & 5)

In a corporate environment, it's often important to enforce Internet proxy settings for all users. Setting those options automatically is often difficult. Making them locked and immutable is even more difficult and poorly documented. Today we'll learn the basics, and from there you can customize Firefox as much or as little as you like.

The Web Proxy Autodiscovery Protocol

WPAD certainly isn't new technology. In fact, it's been around for many years. However, it seems that many system administrators are unaware of its magic. Simply put, WPAD allows you to offer proxy information to users in your network without ever touching their computers. The feature is supported by most browsers, and in general, it "just works".

How-To: Release Stuck NFS Mounts without a Reboot

Computing environments may revolve around heavy usage of NFS infrastructure. Network areas are hosted and provided by storage file servers, with compute servers mounting the exported areas into their directory tree. Periodically, the mounts expire when not in use and are removed from the directory tree on local machines.

Creating a Centralized Syslog Server

A centralized syslog server was one of the first true SysAdmin tasks that I was given as a Linux Administrator way back in 1997. My boss at the time wanted to pull in log files from various appliances and have me use regexp to search them for certain key words. At the time Linux was still in its infancy, and I had just been dabbling with it in my free time.

Moving Databases

I recently moved my personal website from GoDaddy to my home server. I have a business connection at my house, and my site gets little enough traffic that hosting at home on my static IP makes sense. Moving the files wasn't really difficult, I FTP'd them down from the old server, and SFTP'd them up to the new server. Moving the database was a bit more challenging, however.

Pint-Size PPA Primer

Package management in Linux is great, but unfortunately, it comes with a few cons. Granted, most distributions keep all your software, not just system software like Apple and Microsoft, updated. The downside is that software packages aren't always the latest versions. Whatever is in the repository is what you get.

Managing Your Dead Tree Library

If you're an e-book reader, chances are you already use the wonderful Calibre software. If not, see Dan Sawyer's article in the April 2011 issue. Like many avid readers, however, I still find something soothing about a book made from dead trees.