understandable linux tips, tricks and tutorials

Android App of the Week: Tasker and NFC Task Launcher


This is one for the old school hackers. Unix like operating systems (of which Android is one) have had a few core mantras over the years, for example, programs should “do one thing and do it well”. Two other driving ideas are “Write simple parts connected by clean interfaces” and “Design programs to be connected to other programs”. In this review, I’m looking at two apps that work well alone, but when combined have the potential to be dynamite. Tasker has been around for a long time. It’s essentially a visual scripting language for automating your phone. There are a number of other automation apps around, but none seem to be as comprehensive as Tasker. NFC Task Launcher is more recent, and mirrors a tiny fraction of Tasker’s functionality. However, does one ting that Tasker does not do, which is programming NFC tags, including programming them to launch Tasker tasks. Tasker I won’t go into detail about what Tasker is and can do. The basics are that you can create profiles that launch tasks when certain things happen – eg. at a certain time, in a certain location, when you receive a text, when the phone disconnects from a Bluetooth

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Android App of the Week: UCCW


If you’re into theming your android device, you will probably know about UCCW. It used to be called “Ultimate Custom Clock Widget”, but as the functionality has expanded, they’ve dropped the “Clock”, but not the corresponding “C” in “UCCW” – but I digress. UCCW is not actually a “widget” at all, but a framework for creating your own widgets. It allows you to create and edit widgets right on your phone, as well as to import skins that other people have made. You can now even download skins from the Play store. An example of what can be done with UCCW is in the screenshot to the right. The top widget is UCCW, and the skin can be downloaded here. With UCCW, you can create widgets that show the time (as digits, words or analog); date (including days of the week bars); battery status; weather conditions; counts for undread gmail and sms and missed calls; and hotspots to launch apps. The editor is a little tricky to get used to, but the UI is quite clever in terms of providing maximum editing flexibility on a small screen device. To start creating a widget, you just drag the size of widget

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Android App of the Week: AIX Weather


This is a new thing I’m trying. I’ve been an Android user for about 8 months, and having churned though my fair share of apps, both good and bad, I’ve decided to share some of the gems I’ve come across. AIX Weather I’m going to start small, with a widget. As an ex-iphone user, having widgets on the homescreen (without having to jailbreak and use kludgy html based widgets) is great – and the grandaddy of all widgets is the weather widget. There are a lot of great weather widgets, but not that many that show hourly forecasts as their primary function. AIX Weather does this in a compact, informative and attractive way – bottom widget in the screenshot, just in case you were wondering. AIX Weather displays a grid/graph showing weather conditions, temperature and rainfall for the next 24 hours in your chosen location. As you can see from the attached screenshot, the style is very simple, but attractive, and most of all, informative. Weather data is sourced from either NOAA, or the Norway Meteorological Institute. The Global coverage seems to be pretty comprehensive, and the data seems to be pretty accurate. Unfortunately, you need to manually set the

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review: opensuse 12.2


I’m going to put my conclusion to this review right up front – OpenSuse 12.2 is a solid desktop and server operating system built on the incremental improvements that have been made across the linux ecosystem in the last 10 months. Whilst that sounds rather like damning with faint praise, in the current operating system ecosystem, there will be many who will find such an unspectacular and solid release, reason for wild celebration. OpenSuse is not trying to shoe-horn a tablet UI onto a desktop machine, ala OSX 10.8, Windows 8, and Ubuntu. OpenSuse is putting out a solid OS that provides its users with a system that they understand and meets their needs, is stable and performant, which in this day and age, is rather refreshing. Installation I won’t bore you with a long drawn out explanation of the installation, other than to say, it was straight-forward and uneventful. The installer is straight forward and simple, but also provides enough options to satisfy the advanced user. New Features bowels A huge number of the new features are found deep in the bowels of the system: It uses the 3.4 linux kernel, which introduces improvements to the btrfs file system,

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2Do App Ported to Android


One of my favourite task manager apps has been ported to Android from iOS. 2Do is a fantastic app with the key features I’m looking for from a task manager app all in one package: heirarchical lists, tags and persistent search folders. Check out this review of 2Do app for Android.

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KDE SC 4.8 – Is KDE In A Permanent Feature Freeze?


On 22 December, KDE unleashed its first release candidate of the next major iteration of the 4.x series on an unsuspecting pre-Christmas world. KDE 4.8 is a major release number. As such, I was hoping for some pretty cool new features. However, looking at the release announcement, I see that there are only three new features worthy of mention, being: implementation of Qt Quick in Plasma Workspaces; dolphin’s file view has been rewritten. This has some really nice performance improvements, and some pretty slick animations when resizing windows; KSecretService, enabling password storage which is available to non-KDE apps on the plasma desktop and vice versa. There’s also the ubiquitous catch-all of “bug fixes and performance improvements”. Hardly worthy of a major release number bump. Initially, I thought there must be more. However, when I looked at the full feature list on KDE.org’s techbase website, looking through the full feature list on yielded a handful of complete features, all of which were completely underwhelming. So where are the features? When the KDE 4.x series was first launched, there was a lot of talk about early releases stabilizing the frameworks underlying KDE SC and achieving feature parity with the 3.x series. Once

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Apple’s Siri Makes The Command-Line Cool


As a Linux user, I’ve listened to my fair share of derision from users of other desktop operating systems, about the need to use the command-line on Linux. When confronted with such silliness, I’ve never been a Linux user who insists that you no longer need to use the command-line to use a Linux desktop. I’ve always been a user and supporter of the command-line. To me, the command-line interface has a solid home on the desktop. For many tasks it is far more efficient than the gui. To me, the command-line embodies the very purpose of computers – it allows you to do repetitive tasks very efficiently. The command-line excels at these and a GUI generally sucks at doing them. This view may be a product of the time at which I adopted Linux. In the late 90′s there were a lot of things that could only be done in Linux on the command-line. I agree that things have changed and many functions that were command-line only, are now happily served by a GUI interface. However, I’ve never subscribed to the view that no matter what, the GUI > the command-line. A common criticism of the command-line is that

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editing HD video: linux vs imovie

tux vs imovie

Yesterday, my kids were making a home movie to send to my mother in law. They’d made up some songs, which I’d recorded and were shooting the video to go with them. I suggested that they should edit the video in iMovie on my macbook pro. I figured that they should be able to cope fine with it – they’ve used macs at school to edit video and together with the “legendary” ease of use and “just works” approach of Apple software, it should be no problem. Sadly, they never got to try. The camera I use is a Canon HG20. It has an inbuilt hard drive and records video in the AVCHD format. This is an HD video format for consumer grade cameras and is used widely in mainstream cameras by the main camera makers. I have the latest version of iMovie ’11, which claims to have support for the AVCHD format. However, apparently, this support is limited and selective. Unfortunately, I have a camera that produces unsupported files. After trying to import the files into iMovie, iMovie simply says there has been an error importing the files, and would I like to make an archive of the files

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KDE 4.7 – A First Look At Beta 1

dolpin default

On the 25th of May 2011, KDE released the first beta of KDE SC 4.7.  As an ardent KDE fan – so prepare for this article to be horribly biased – I’ve hunted down the openSUSE packages and installed it on a test machine.  The test machine is a circa 2 year old Dell XPS M1330 laptop with 4GB of RAM and mobile NVIDA graphics running openSUSE 11.4.   In the last couple of major releases of the 4.x release of KDE SC, the changes have been largely incremental.  In fact, it seems that Gnome and Ubuntu (separately but contemporaneously) have swapped places with KDE SC 4.  Previously it was Gnome that was the steady plodder making minor incremental changes through the 2.x series, building stability and only adding minor features.  However, with the recent releases of both Gnome Shell and the Unity desktop on Ubuntu, the Gnome/Ubuntu side of the desktop linux equation has made radical and controversial steps away from the well loved Gnome 2.x series, leaving KDE 4.x as the “steady as she goes” option. Having said that, there are a few radical changes to KDE, but these are more under the hood than front and centre,

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KDEnlive 0.8 Released – Best non-linear video editor for Linux

kdenlive screenshot

For a long time I’ve been a big fan of kdenlive. I’ve written a two articles about it. One is a general overview of video editing on Linux and the other is more specific to kdenlive. For a number of years, video editing on linux – at least at a consumer level – has been patchy at best. This is somewhat ironic given the heavy use of linux in major Hollywood block film production. However, with the advent of kdenlive, things are looking pretty good and with the release of version 0.8, there have been some great features added for the more advanced users, while still retaining a simple and easy to use UI. The new features include: Rotoscoping. This is an advanced technique for tracing over live action to create life like animation; Perspective image placement; Widget layouts. This allows you to quickly switch between different layouts for different workflows. Very handy for more efficient editing; Light Graffiti. Audio Spectrum and Spectrogram. Stop Motion Capture. Tooltips with quick explanations for filters/effects. There are some really useful tools there for advanced video editing and is increasing the compositing features of this editor. In addition, many existing features have been improved

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Site last updated October 20, 2012 @ 12:53 pm; This content last updated September 12, 2012 @ 2:30 am