Linux only: Flyback, the previously mentioned Linux backup utility that aims to mimic Mac OS X Leopard's Time Machine for set-and-forget usability, has a cutting-edge 0.5 version available in its Subversion repository that adds a good number of great things. Choosing what to back up, which external drive or server to place it on, and when exactly to do it, is a lot easier to grasp for those not schooled in rsync. The Ubuntu Unleashed blog has detailed instructions on getting the cutting-edge SVN version installed on your Debian, Ubuntu, or Red Hat-based system. Flyback
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Linux only: Free IP-filtering application IPlist protects your BitTorrent downloads from third-party snoopers and blockers by controlling which IP addresses can and cannot connect to your system. The default blacklist installed with IPlist is a pretty good start to protecting your torrent privacy, and an "Update" button adds the latest known addresses with bad juju behind them, but the app also lets you add ranges, specific addresses, and other kinds of traffic to allow and block. Simply fire up IPlist before running your BitTorrent client, and the app will do its work. IPlist is a free download for Linux systems; hit the link below for prerequisites and installation help with Debian/Ubuntu and Fedora systems. IPlist
Linux only: Free multimedia note organizer BasKet takes a page from Microsoft's OneNote, along with a good portion of Getting Things Done-style organisation, to offer an all-in-one spot to drop your thoughts and next actions. You can quickly paste in text and images, sure, but you can also set up launchers to open files with particular programs, grab a section of your screen to paste up, and grab text from files. BasKet also runs as a desktop widget, and offers a pre-built GTD package for help in getting yourself oriented. BasKet is a free download for Linux systems, and requires a number of KDE libraries to run. Thanks, Mark!
Linux only: We're big fans of application dock and launcher Avant Window Navigator around here, but free utility Cairo-Dock makes a strong showing as well, not least for its highly-configurable and slick appearance, as well as a good range of plug-ins and third-party applets. Changing Cairo-Dock's appearance with transparencies, two-bar-splitting, and other tweaks is a bit easier than with AWN, and, while not offered in as many official repositories, it's easily installed on Ubuntu and Debian-based systems, and not too hard to compile for other distributions as well. Cairo-Dock is a free download for Linux systems only. Hit the via link for help on an Ubuntu installation and configuration. Cairo-Dock
Linux only: Any Linux user clutching a mouse with more than the standard two buttons and a scroll wheel doesn't have it easy trying to match the same kind of configuration options given by the manufacturer's setup software, which is almost always Windows or Mac-only. The Flow of Consciousness blog walks through installing btnx, a program that can assign nearly any mouse click to a huge variety of actions. Got a Logitech with left and right buttons? Feel free to set them to switch workspaces or even rotate a four-sided desktop cube. The tutorial requires a fair bit of command line work, as the package isn't available in most respositories, but the Ubuntu-related instructions can be adapted to most any distribution. btnx is a free download for Linux systems only. HOWTO Install btnx for better mouse control in Ubuntu Hardy
Linux only: Flickrfs makes uploading to, downloading from, and organizing a Flickr account just like handling files in a mounted file system. After installing and setting up the link to your account, you can see all your photos separated into tag folders, edit and back up the pics and their metadata, and crop and resize photos on the fly, all reflected in realtime in your online account. The tool works mostly through your native file browser and the command line, but the program's author has created a visual desktop Flickr organizer that links into his app. Flickrfs is a free download for Linux systems only; Step-by-step instructions on setting up the dependencies and the program itself available at the project's home page. Photo by myrtti.
Linux only: Open and extract files from ZIP, RAR and 7Zip archives you've forgotten the password to, or never found at the download location, with RarCrack, a free Linux command line utility. Using a brute-force algorithm, RarCrack simply gets to work determining the password for compressed archives, which, in the case of most downloaded RAR files, isn't all that tough. You can point RarCrack in the direction of any special characters you know were used in creating the password, but the standard use—rarcrack yourfile.zip—works just fine in most cases. RarCrack is a free download for Linux systems only; Source files are available at the home page, and Ubuntu Unleashed explains how to quickly compile them. RarCrack
Linux only: Control the volume of individual Linux applications and other sound-producing items with PulseAudio Volume Control, a free download for Linux systems. That in itself is a pretty handy feature, given how often many of us watch and listen to streaming, Flash-based media, but PulseAudio's volume control applet remembers your settings when you log in, lets you kill sound support to particular apps, and control microphone and other input volumes in a similar manner .The Volume Control applet requires use of the PulseAudio sound driver, enabled by default in Ubuntu 8.04 (now in beta) but installable in nearly any Linux distro. PulseAudio Volume Control is a free download, available in source packages and in some repositories; hit the via link for the Ubuntu installation line. PulseAudio Volume Control
Linux only: Previously-posted Linux widget engine Screenlets can convert and run Google Gadgets and other web-based widgets on the desktop in its latest version, adding thousands of mini-apps to its menu. You'll need to add Screenlets' Launchpad repository to your sources and install the latest version, which the Screenlets home page (and the Tombuntu blog) helpfully walks you through. Once you're up and running with Screenlets, simply hit "Install," choose "Web Widget," and you'll get a link to each supported database's catalogue page, as well as basic instructions on installing. With more than 45,000 to choose from in Google's database alone, there's likely a great and useful widget waiting to find your Linux desktop.
Linux only: Tag and organise documents of nearly any kind and generate complete bibliographies with Referencer, a free utility for Linux systems. PDF files, office documents, saved web pages, and whatever else you have laying around can be tagged and organised, and you can enter the metadata needed for a bibliography report by hand, or have Referencer jump onto arXiv, PubMed, or CrossRe to see if any titles match up with what you're looking at. For those with a lot of nested folders' worth of documents or anyone harnessing Tux's power for academic pursuits, Referencer can be a great tool and freak-out-preventer. Referencer is a free download, available as source and pre-compiled for many Linux distributions. Referencer
Linux only: Want to have your system shut down at bed time, or restart while you're away? GShutdown, a free Linux utility, lets you tell your system to turn off, restart, or log off at a specified time and date, after a certain delay, or upon a specific action being run. You can tell GShutdown to run a command before doing its thing, and users with older systems can specify the terminal command used to bring everything to a halt. GShutdown is a free download for Linux systems, available in many repositories and pre-packaged at the link below. GShutdown
Linux only: Convert audio files from inside your favourite music/playlist manager with transKode, a free plug-in for Amarok. If you've never installed an Amarok script, it's simple—grab the package ending in .tar.bz from the link below, head to the Tools->Script Manager menu, then hit the "Install" button and point to where you put that package. The plug-in is highly configurable, being based on the Mplayer multimedia tool, and accessible by right-clicking a file from the playlist. transKode is a free plug-in for Linux systems running Amarok only.
Linux only: BillReminder might seem like an unnecessary tool in the age of ubiquitous calendars, but the free Linux app lets you determine exactly when and how you get reminded about your monthly obligations, and helps you visualise and keep notes on each one. Once you've set up your bills into colour-coded categories, you can set the amount due, leave yourself notes on how (or maybe why) they should be paid, and then have BillReminder tell you about them at specific intervals—in case you only need a day or two for electricity, but would like a week's warning on that hefty cable charge. BillReminder is a free download for Linux systems only. BillReminder
Linux only: Dig into your genealogy with GRAMPS, a free software package that offers an array of tools to build and store your family history. GRAMPS gives you a lot of choices as to how you'll build your tree, from standard database entries to multimedia diagrams, and offers a pretty convenient "calendar" view that lets you see birth (and death) dates for your extended clan. The real benefit of GRAMPS is that you can put as much or as little detail as you want into each entry, making it an amateur genealogist's dream. GRAMPS is a free download for Linux only, although "experimental" installers are available for Windows and Mac OS X. For a Windows-friendly approach, try a Microsoft Word family tree template GRAMPS
Linux only: Expand OpenOffice.org's document opening, saving, and conversion powers to Office 2007 documents with the OpenXML Translator, a free plug-in intended for Ubuntu systems (although other Debian-based systems might be able to use it as well). Grab a package for your 32- or 64-bit system, install it (hitting the via link if you need help with that) and OpenOffice will be able to read and save files to the .docx format. Conversion from Microsoft Office-authored files remains hit-and-miss, but it's a nice step forward for the free and open-source office suite. The OpenXML translator is a free download for Linux systems only. OpenOffice.org OpenXML Translator
Linux only: SSHMenu, a free taskbar application, makes Linux life a little easier for those who regularly make one or more SSH connections to remote machines on a regular basis. Once you've added the app's repository and installed, you place the SSH menu button anywhere you'd like on your taskbars, and then click it to pull up shortcuts to your frequently connected clients. The real benefit here is client-specific colouring—you can have your home server terminal pop up blue, for instance, and an important work server with a red background, and you can have the app remember preferred window sizes and positions. SSHMenu is a free download for Linux systems only; hit the link below for help on getting the program set up. SSHMenu
Linux only: We've seen how visualizing your hard drive usage can help you clear the biggest space-eaters and make room for more useful information, and KDE-based Linux users have a great tool to do that. Free download Filelight scans your hard drive and displays space usage on a colored radial, with details that pop up as you mouse over each segment. Directories closest to the system root are show on the inside, and Filelight seems to have few problems analysing mounted non-Linux-format partitions, such as Windows. For those who liked the looks of Baobob but try to operate in a clean KDE environment, Filelight is an attractive space-making tool. Filelight is a free download for Linux systems only.
Ubuntu Linux only: Ubuntu Tweak is a small customisation tool that gives you a single access point to some of the interface and file browsing options tucked away in Ubuntu's advanced preferences or text configuration files. Along with a few of the more common Compiz Fusion and interface preferences, Ubuntu Tweak lets you enable useful functions for CD burning, easily enable and change splash screens, make advanced power management changes, and even lock down certain tools for security reasons. Experienced users may know how to change a lot of things in this app, but for new installs, and new users, it's a time saver. Ubuntu Tweak is a free download for Ubuntu Linux systems.
Linux only: Free open source backup utility FlyBack exists to offer part of the features in Mac OS X Leopard's vaunted Time Machine—at least the part involving set-it-and-forget-it, time-stamped backups. Install and load FlyBack, tell it where your external drive is and which folders you want to back up and when, and the program sets up your Linux system's cron scheduler to do it. The program is still in its infancy, but has come a long way since a buggy version I gave up on in early November, and I prefer the pared-down interface edges to more advanced apps like TimeVault. FlyBack is a free download for Linux systems and may require installing a few Python libraries to get running (detailed at the project page)
Linux only: The GRUB boot-selector tool has made dual-booting Linux and other systems easy, but changing how your boot menu looks requires digging through text files and praying you don't make a single typo. QGRUBEditor, a free visual GRUB editor, takes the guesswork and some of the hassle out of tweaking your boot settings. You can change menu orders, colors, splash images, and defaults, and preview the effects your changes have without having to reboot. The program has a few non-dire quirks, but it's still easier than guessing and paging through the menu file by hand. QGRUBEditor is a free download for Linux systems only, and requires three QT (KDE) libraries to run.