Tired of typing the same long commands each time you have to use them in Linux? Create aliases! An alias is an abbreviated command, a short word you choose that will do the work of a long command requiring switches or parameters.
Creating Aliases in Linux
First, install the vim text editor:
sudo apt-get install --install-recommends --force-yes vim
Then create the hidden file .bashrc in your home directory, and open it with vim:
If you have vim installed already, all you need is:
The file will likely be empty initially:
Press the Insert key so you can write in vim’s window. Create your own aliases for the commands you use most often.
Alias creation follows the format: “alias name=’command‘. For example, if you frequently use the command ls -alr (this lists all files in a directory, including hidden files, sorted in reverse order with long listings), you can use an alias like:
alias ls='ls -alr'
Now whenever you type ls, it will actually issue ls -alr.
When you are done, press the Escape key (ESC) to exit Insert mode, then press the colon key (:) to access the input line, and type wq. The w tells vim to write the file, and q means quit.
Press enter to close vim, then exit and re-open the terminal. The contents of .bashrc are read when the new terminal opens, and your aliases will now be available for use.
One myth about Linux that just won’t die is that you absolutely need to understand and use the command line to get the most out of it. I know a number of Linux users who’ve never cracked open a terminal window, and they’re quite happy.
That said, I find the command line to be an essential part of my toolkit. And, like much in the Linux world, there are a number of options for getting to the command line. One of my favorites is an add-on for the Nautilus file manager called Nautilus Terminal.
Let’s take a look at it.
A Terminal in Nautilus?
That’s what’s advertised, and that’s what you get. Nautilus Terminal embeds a terminal at the top of the Nautilus window. You can run any command from Nautilus Terminal and no matter what directory you’re in, that’s where the terminal opens.
And if you move around directories in Nautilus, the terminal follows you. So, if you start in /usr/local/bin and move to the directory /usr/share, Nautilus Terminal changes to /usr/share automatically. No need to use the cd command to move around.
Getting Up and Running
That’s pretty easy. You can download the source code for Nautilus Terminal and compile it yourself. Or, you can get packages for Ubuntu, Fedora, Frugalware, and Gentoo. The Nautilus Terminal download page explains how to get those packages.
Once you’ve installed Nautilus Terminal, fire up Nautilus. The embedded terminal will be open.
Customizing Nautilus Terminal
I don’t know about you, but I find having the terminal open all of the time a bit annoying. It takes up a lot of space and can be distracting. You can either click the Close button to hide the terminal, or you can change the settings by clicking the Preferences icon.
In the Preferences window, click the Start Nautilus Terminal hidden checkbox.
Notice that you can also change:
The number of lines to display in the terminal window
Whether or not to show a scrollbar
The shape of the cursor in the terminal
The colors that you use with Nautilus Terminal
The font used in the terminal
Using Nautilus Terminal
Let’s assume you’ve set up Nautilus Terminal to hide until you need it. Whenever you need to use Nautilus Terminal, just click the Show button. From there, type the command(s) that you need to run and then press Enter.
Then, click the Close button and continue with what you’re doing.
While I don’t spend an enormous amount of time in Nautilus, I do quite a bit of work — file management, maintenance, and the like — with it every day. Having an embedded terminal window makes it easier on those frequent occasions when I need to use the command line.
Compiz is a compositing window manager, a program that beautifies the desktop with unique animations and special effects. It can make windows wobble when they are moved, and either explode into pieces or burst into flame and disappear when they are closed. Compiz uses your computer’s video card to manage the behavior of windows and other desktop elements.
Compiz is in the stock Ubuntu repositories and comes pre-installed, so there is no need to download or install it. Rather, it needs only the proper video drivers to run, which we cover in a bit. But first, take a look at some of the great visual effects it can offer.
What Compiz Does
One great feature Compiz adds is the ability to view multiple desktops as a 3D cube. You can even view the cube while playing full-screen video.
You can also add custom images to the tops and bottoms of the Compiz Cube.
You can also view multiple desktops as a set of 2D slides. The default action to start this is to hold the Ctrl + Alt keys and press the Down arrow key. Then, pressing the left or right arrow keys (while still holding Ctrl + Alt) scrolls among the 4 desktops.
It also has effects like drawing fire on the screen:
Raindrops falling on the desktop:
How To Configure Compiz
3D hardware acceleration is required for desktop effects, so you need a decent video card with the correct drivers installed. To check, click Menu > Administration > Additional Drivers:
If no driver is available, then your PC lacks a suitable video card. You can usually buy an older graphics card that can power Compiz for a low price.
After enabling a driver from the list, the computer must reboot for the changes to take effect.
The next step is to click Menu > Preferences > Compiz Config Settings Manager (CCSM) and play with the options:
Cube Deformation is a property worthy of mention. The cube can transform into a cylinder or sphere, depending on what you want. Click Cube Reflection and Deformation:
Click the “Deformation” tab and you are presented with 3 options: None, Cylinder, or Sphere:
Each option takes effect immediately, so there is no need to restart either the desktop or CCSM. Window events like resizing, opening, closing, minimizing and maximizing each have a selection of fun animations:
Each animation is configurable to a greater or lesser degree. The animation Fire is a good example. It makes windows go up in flames when opened, closed, minimized or maximized (or all 4), with or without smoke:
Compiz offers hundreds of options, so take some time to explore and in no time you’ll have a desktop environment tweaked to your liking.
When it comes to certain desktop applications, Linux is often the poor cousin of operating systems. Take, for example, Evernote. Evernote is an application that lets you take detailed notes, and more. It’s designed to help you, as its tagline says, remember everything.
There are versions of the software for Windows and Mac OS but, as usual, Linux is out in the cold.
Sure, you can use Evernote’s Web interface but sometimes you may not want to. Or you might have to work without a connection to the Internet. So what’s a neglected Linux user to do? Give Nevernote a shot, that’s what.
Obviously, you’ll need an Evernote account. You can get a free one, or pay $5 a month for an account with a few more features. Then, download and install Nevernote.
From there, launch the application. If, like me, you’re using Ubuntu then you’ll find the shortcut by selecting Applications > Internet > Nevernote.
Let’s assume that this is the first time you’ve run Nevernote, but that you have some notes in the Web-based version of Evernote. You’ll probably want to synchronize your notes. To do that, click the Synchronize button on the toolbar. You’ll be asked for your Evernote user name and password. Once you enter them, Nevernote pulls down your notes. Depending on how many notes you have, that could take a few seconds or longer.
From there, using Nevernote is just like using Evernote on the Web. Click the New icon on toolbar to create a new note. You can give it a title, add the note to an existing notebook, and tag it. You can even add formatting and change the font.
Nevernote also supports stacks. In Evernote, stacks are like folders and subfolders. Or, in this case, categories and subcategories for notes. You can, for example, have a stack called Personal. Underneath it, you can have stacks called Receipts and Home Inventory. Doing that can help you better organize your information. It can be more efficient than using tags.
On the Downside
Nevernote is a solid application. But it does have its flaws. It’s written in Java, so it might run slowly on some computers. You can’t add attachments to notes, like you can with the Windows and Mac OS Evernote clients or on the Web. You can, however, view certain attachments that have been synchronized from Evernote. The problem is that the quality isn’t all that great.
If you use both Linux and Evernote, though, Nevernote is a must-have piece of software. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than just not bad. It offers you most of the power of Evernote, and it lets you take Evernote offline. That in itself is worth the download.
If you’re serious about your to do list and want to be sure that you can use it in the future, then you should think about embracing your inner geek by 1) going text only, and 2) doing everything at the command line. The best way to do that is with Todo.txt.
Hold On … The Command Line?
You’re probably wondering why you should use the command line instead of popular Web applications like Remember the Milk, Toodledo, Todoist, or Ta-Da Lists. They’re all great, no doubt about it. But you need to be connected to the Internet to use them. And it’s not easy to export or move data between those apps or to other services.
With Todo.txt, you’re using a text file. And let’s be honest, the format of a text file hasn’t changed in … well, a long time.
Todo.txt is a shell script. To use it, you’ll need a bash shell. That’s not a problem if you use Linux or Mac OS — they both come with one built in. Windows users, on the other hand, are out of luck. Unless, of course, they use something called Cygwin (tools that add a Linux-like environment to Windows).
Once you have a bash shell, now all you need to do is download the archive containing the script. When you pop that archive open, you’ll see it contains two files:
todo.sh, the shell script
todo.cfg, a configuration file
Extract the files to a folder in your path — on my Linux-powered laptops, I put them in /usr/local/bin. Then, edit the file todo.cfg to point the shell script to where you want to store the actual to do list file. Look for the entry EXPORT TODO_DIR= and change the path.
Let’s start by adding a task. Open a terminal window and then type todo.sh add [task] — for example, todo.sh add Edit Chromium FLOSS Manual. Then, press Enter.
Obviously, you’ll want to check your to do list from time to time. Do that by typing todo.sh list in a terminal window.
Notice that each item in the list has a number. That number is useful to know when you want to add a priority to a specific task or mark the task as complete.
Why add a priority? Well, some tasks are more important than others. Adding a priority moves them up in the list. Priorities start at A (most important), and move down from there.
To add a priority, type todo.sh p [task number] letter, where letter is a letter of the alphabet. For example, todo.sh p 7 B. That adds a priority of B to task 7 in the list.
Finally, when you’ve completed a task you can mark it as done and remove it from the list by typing todo.sh do [task number] — for example, todo.sh do 7.
Todo.txt can do a lot more. To learn about all of the available options, type todo.sh -h to read the help.
You say you like the idea of Todo.txt, but the command line part is a bit geeky for you. If you have an Android-powered phone or tablet and an account with Dropbox (an online file storage and syncing service), then you can install an app called Todo.txt Touch on your phone from the Android Market.
Todo.txt Touch everything that todo.sh does at the command line, but on a touchscreen. The app saves your to do list to a folder in Dropbox. From there, you can share the list with your computer and/or with any other Android-powered devices you might own.
Even though using the command line sounds difficult and a tad geeky, Todo.txt is easy to learn and use. Even for the most ardent GUI addict. And by using Todo.txt Touch on your Android device, you can literally have your to do list anywhere and in a format that won’t be obsolete anytime soon.
No matter how careful or fastidious you are, over time a lot of cruft builds up on your computer. Things like cached files, cookies, temporary files, packages, log files, and a whole lot more. All of this builds up and takes up a tens or hundreds of megabytes of disk space.
You can remove all of that cruft yourself, but that can take time. And you might not get everything. Or, you can clean up your computer in one sweep with a powerful and flexible, but easy to use, tool called Bleach Bit.
Available for Linux and Windows, Bleach Bit scours your computer — your home directory and your system folders — to find and remove any bits that get left behind. It can not only clean unneeded system files but also the files that come from about 90 applications including Web browsers, chat clients, PDF readers, databases, and more.
The first step is, obviously, to install Bleach Bit. If you’re using Linux, check your distro’s package manager. I installed Bleach Bit in Ubuntu 10.10 using Synaptic. If Bleach Bit isn’t there, go to the download page and find the package for your distro.
If you’re using Windows, you can download installers too. But since I don’t do Windows, this post will look at using Bleach Bit under Linux.
As I mentioned, I installed Bleach Bit in Ubuntu 10.10. To run it, go to System > Administration. You’ll see two items in the menu: Bleach Bit and Bleach Bit as Administrator. One cleans your home directory, and the other cleans out system directories. Let’s take a look at both.
Cleaning your home directory
Of the two options, selecting Bleach Bit from the Administration menu is the safer of the two. You’ll only be able to get rid of cruft in your /home directory. And you’ll be amazed at what collects there!
The left side of the Bleach Bit window contains a list of cleaners (the types of applications and files that Bleach Bit works with). Click a check box beside a cleaner to activate it. When you do that, a little more information about what the cleaner does appears in the right side of the application’s window.
After you’ve chosen the cleaners that you want to use, click the Preview button on the toolbar. This will create a list of files that Bleach Bit will delete. It will also tell you how much disk space will be freed up.
As you can see, I haven’t done a cleanup in a while …
When you’re ready, click the Delete button on the toolbar. Depending on the number of cleaners you’ve selected, and the number of files there are, it can take Bleach Bit anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes to do its work.
Go admin or stay at home
Running Bleach Bit as Administrator is a slightly different ball game. In Linux, you need to run it as root. And when you do, the application scans everything outside of your /home folder. Like what? Like the /usr directory and its subdirectories, the /tmp folder, and more.
Other than that, running Bleach Bit as Administrator works in the same way as running it in your /home directory. A few click, a preview, and you’re ready to clean up!
One cleaner that you should approach with caution, though, is Free disk space. This cleaner will overwrite any free disk space to hide hidden files. That’s not a bad thing in of itself, but the process is slow. It can take upwards of an hour to do the job. During that time, your system will bog down noticeably.
Bleach Bit is a powerful and useful tool. It gives you a fast and easy way to get rid of everything you don’t need on your computer, while at the same time freeing up disk space and improving performance.
Pidgin (formerly known as Gaim) is a free, multi-protocol instant messaging application for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Pidgin is highly customizable and supports popular instant messaging networks like Google Talk, MSN/Windows Live Messenger, AIM, Yahoo! Chat, and can connect to services like Facebook Chat through plugins (or directly through the XMPP messaging protocol).
In recent versions of Pidgin, the developers changed the default “close chat window” hotkey from the Escape key to the combination CTRL + W. While I understand their reasons for doing this (many desktop applications have standardized CTRL + W as the ubiquitous “Close Window” hotkey), I simply can’t break the habit of closing IM windows with Escape.
Here’s how to change Pidgin’s configuration so Escape closes the IM window instead of CTRL + W.
Update: Reader Miguel submitted a much easier way to use the Escape key to close IM windows. Thanks!
Step 1: In Pidgin, go to Tools –> Preferences.
Step 2: In the Interface tab, enable the checkbox for “Close conversations with the escape key”.
That’s it! This change will make Pidgin recognize Escape as the hotkey to close IM windows. Commence celebration.
The other (more difficult) way to use the Escape key to close IM window
Step 1: Close Pidgin.
Step 2:Windows XP: Navigate to the following directory on your computer (where username is the user you’re logged in as):
C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\.purple\
Windows Vista or Windows 7: Navigate to the following directory on your computer (where username is the user you’re logged in as):
Linux/UNIX: Navigate to the following directory:
Step 3: Locate the file called accels and open it with Notepad (or a similar text editor, I prefer Notepad++).
Step 4: Find the line that contains the following code:
; (gtk_accel_path “/Conversation/Close” “w”)
Delete the semicolon (;) and change the line to the following code:
Vim is a versatile and powerful text editor for command-line environments in Linux/UNIX systems. Vim is free, open source, and is available on many different platforms, but it does have some quirks out of the box. If you’re comfortable working in a regular text editor you might find yourself lost, but in this guide I’ll show you how to supercharge Vim with a simple configuration file.
Besides the idiosyncrasies of being a non-GUI’d text editor, there were a couple things I wasn’t wild about when using a fresh, unmodified version of Vim:
On some computers, the arrow keys don’t always navigate. They might instead insert random characters into your file (like the up and down arrows insert the letters A and B instead of navigating).
Syntax highlighting is not on by default.
Smart indenting is not enabled by default.
Line numbers are not enabled by default.
The Delete key does not function normally.
No mouse functionality.
Vim’s settings are stored in a configuration file called .vimrc which is located in your profile’s home directory. You can add dozens of excellent features to Vim by making some very simple changes in this file – only one problem, you have to do a lot of reading to figure out which settings to enable.
A co-worker of mine recently gave me bartered with me for an excellent .vimrc file, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to post it here. He notes that he originally found it on the internet and made changes to it, so if you want to take any credit for this wonderful configuration just let me know in the comments.
Modifying Vim’s Settings
To edit (or create) a .vimrc file, just go to your command-line environment and use a text editor to open ~/.vimrc (the ~/ syntax denotes your home directory). If you already have Vim installed, you can use the following command:
After that, copy and paste the following code into the file (you might need to press Shift + Insert to paste), then write the changes to file with the command :wq). These changes will immediately take effect after you’ve re-opened Vim.
If you’re wondering what any of these settings do, check out the comments after each single quotation mark (“). Single quotation marks in the .vimrc file are viewed as comment syntax, meaning they will be ignored by Vim.
set nocompatible "This fixes the problem where arrow keys do not function properly on some systems.
syntax on "Enables syntax highlighting for programming languages
set mouse=a "Allows you to click around the text editor with your mouse to move the cursor
set showmatch "Highlights matching brackets in programming languages
set autoindent "If you're indented, new lines will also be indented
set smartindent "Automatically indents lines after opening a bracket in programming languages
set backspace=2 "This makes the backspace key function like it does in other programs.
set tabstop=4 "How much space Vim gives to a tab
set number "Enables line numbering
set smarttab "Improves tabbing
set shiftwidth=4 "Assists code formatting
colorscheme darkblue "Changes the color scheme. Change this to your liking. Lookin /usr/share/vim/vim61/colors/ for options.
"setlocal spell "Enables spell checking (CURRENTLY DISABLED because it's kinda annoying). Make sure to uncomment the next line if you use this.
"set spellfile=~/.vimwords.add "The location of the spellcheck dictionary. Uncomment this line if you uncomment the previous line.
set foldmethod=manual "Lets you hide sections of code
"--- The following commands make the navigation keys work like standard editors
"--- Ends navigation commands
"--- The following adds a sweet menu, press F4 to use it.
"--- End sweet menu
With these changes, you should be dominating source code with Vim in no time. And I have no doubt that it will impress the ladies, too.
As an exclusive Windows user (with two computers running Windows 7, one running XP, and a Vista boot disk just in case), I find myself in a comfort zone. Windows has been the bread of my computing life; starting all the way back to good ol’ Windows 95. But just because I feel safe in the arms of Microsoft, that doesn’t mean I am naïve.
To be frank, the Windows XP installation on my oldest machine has become a burden and a resource hog. Nothing, even Windows Explorer, is fast anymore. And this is even after re-installing the darned OS a few times (viruses may or may not have been involved in some of them). The system just makes me want to shout expletives.
So at 10pm on October 17th of 2010, I switched that machine to Ubuntu. I had previously dabbled with 8.04 (Hardy Heron) by trying it out on a Live CD, but that was when Microsoft’s clutches still had a considerable hold on me. Now that 10.10, also known as Maverick Meerkat, has been released, I fully expect myself to give Ubuntu the college try and hopefully show Windows XP the door.
So let’s take a tour of Ubuntu, shall we?
First off, downloading the ISO and installing Ubuntu was easier than brushing your teeth. And look at all these options! Ubuntu 10.10 lets you partition, un-partition, boot from the CD, and run right alongside Windows without any major disruptions in booting or partitioning (it’s known as Wubi, and it comes standard). Furthermore, if you are already running Ubuntu you can just update using the Update Manager.
Updated Software Center
Since Ubuntu is the ultimate freeware OS, it is obvious that having a good Software Center is essential. Ubuntu 10.10 creates a very user friendly option for searching and installing new applications, and has added “Featured” and “What’s New” sections on the main page to keep yourself with the “in” crowd. For the most part, a simple search in this repository can find equivalent programs to do tasks and jobs that old software did in Windows or Mac. And like the Android market, this Center keeps on growing and growing and growing…
When it comes to images in Ubuntu 10.10, F-Spot is out and Shotwell is in. Now I don’t necessarily know why Ubuntu made the switch for it’s default image program, but I can say that both have the same bells and whistles. Both applications allow for importing and exporting images, editing images with tools like red-eye detection, cropping, and color enhancements, and uploading the images to media outlets like Flickr and Facebook. Also, if one is upgrading from F-Spot to Shotwell, there is an import button to ease one’s transitioning woes. But ultimately if Shotwell doesn’t fit one’s fancy, it can always be uninstalled and replaced by F-Spot via the Software Center.
Quick Access to Email, Chat, Etc.
Were these features always in Ubuntu? Oh, well they look new to me. Right off the bat, Ubuntu makes it a cinch to chat and update yourself in real time. The three main items Ubuntu brings to the table are Empathy for messaging, Gwibber for social updating, and Evolution for email. Typing in all those account passwords into these programs might take a while, but it’s definitely worth it. Lord knows we all like simplicity when it comes to getting information and sharing it, and these programs do the trick.
Ubuntu One is all about cloud computing. Like Dropbox, Ubuntu One grabs your attention by giving you 2GB of free space in the cloud to sync, back-up, and stream your files anywhere you want. But unlike Dropbox, Ubuntu One also syncs any contacts, bookmarks, and notes from Ubuntu that enter its domain. And if one is feeling even more ambitious with their One account, they can get their Android or Apple mobile phone (with a monthly subscription fee) to stream music straight from their Rythmbox library.
So far so good, right? Well Ubuntu took things a step further with 10.10. Not only is there a desktop version and a server version, but now a netbook version as well. Well okay, so the Netbook Edition is not a completely new thing for Ubuntu (See Ubuntu 8.04 and 9.04, filed under “Remix”), but this new netbook OS is considered new in most aspects. Called Ubuntu Unity, the system boasts a clean user interface with quick access to preferred and commonly used applications. Besides that, it runs exactly like Ubuntu 10.10 on the desktop. Simple social networking, fast performance, and access to all the software you want. What more could one ask for?
So there you have it. Some new Ubuntu things, some old Ubuntu things, and a rookie Ubuntu user questions his place in the realm of Microsoft. It is pretty clear that the open source giant Linux is getting things right on this one. Fast access, free and comparable software, and simple interfacing makes this a solid replacement to XP, or any other OS for that matter.
Now it may not completely break me from my Microsoft habit, but it surely makes me reconsider. I mean, let’s be honest here. If Ubuntu keeps raising the bar like this, we may discover the mysteries of the universe sooner than expected.
To my surprise, Sondbird for Linux is still available for download with unofficial support. This has been made possible by extra work from developers and the software community.
Downloading Songbird for Linux
To download the Linux version of Songbird navigate to the Songbird Developer’s Wiki. On the Contributed Builds page, select either the 32-bit or 64-bit version and download the tarball.
Once downloaded, extract the files and copy the Songbird folder to anywhere you wish. I usually put software into /opt but you generally need root access to do that.
To start Songbird you can double-click the file named songbird or execute “sh /path/to/Songbird/songbird” from the terminal.
The main software dependency required by Songbird is gstreamer. If you’re running Songbird on a mainstream Linux distribution like Fedora or Ubuntu, you shouldn’t have any problems running Songbird as gstreamer should already be installed.
If you have any questions be sure to comment below.