Tagged With linux 101

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The open-source-friendly folks at the FOSSwire blog have posted a PDF "Ubuntu Cheat Sheet," covering the basic terminal commands one might have to use and, just as importantly, naming important programs and packages so you don't end up deleting or messing with something that'll cause headaches down the line. WIth the release of Hardy Heron one day away, adventurous newcomers might want to keep FOSSwire's cheat sheet printed and handy for reference.

Ubuntu Cheat Sheet

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Most relatively new Linux users might have used the wget command a few times while installing packages or grabbing specific files, but the little command word can be a pretty powerful tool. The FOSSwire open source blog points out how you can use wget to mirror a website, either one page at a time or with all the internal links available for offline browsing. As noted, however, grabbing large, multi-page sites can be a serious drain on bandwith (both yours and the site's), so adding a delay option is both considerate and wise. Hit the link for details on using wget for offline website access.

Create a mirror of a website with Wget

Predicting the future is near impossible -- but that doesn‘t stop us all from having a red hot go. Human beings have been predicting the future since the beginning of history and the results range from the hilarious to the downright uncanny.

One thing all future predictions have in common: they‘re rooted in our current understanding of how the world works. It‘s difficult to escape that mindset. We have no idea how technology will evolve, so our ideas are connected to the technology of today.

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Many, if not most, of the newest and updated Linux applications out there are crafting Ubuntu/Debian-ready .deb packages that require just a double-click to install, but many apps are still available only in the .rpm files used by Red Hat and Fedora-based distributions. The Ubuntu Unleashed blog has a quick and simple tutorial on installing the Alien conversion tool and using it to convert packages to .deb format. Once you've got Alien installed, the command is simply:

sudo alien -k name-of-rpm-file.rpm

Note that this won't work for programs that are designed to utilise specific Red Hat/Fedora functions, but will save you a good deal of digging for alternate files.

Howto: Convert Redhat and Fedora .rpm files to .deb files in Ubuntu

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Few things can be as frustrating to non-expert Linux users as seeing the phrase "... or compile from source packages" on the download page of that killer app to try out (and we know that's often the case for you patient non-Ubuntu users out there). If you're looking for a nuts-and-bolts guide to installing software from those strange-looking Whatever.tar.gz files, Tuxfiles.org has a pretty good one. While the link takes you through the unpacking, compiling, installing, and cleaning up, there's a basic command line method for almost any package (replacing "package" with the appropriate downloaded file name):

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Modern Linux systems have advanced to the point of supporting (in one way or another) most kinds of essential computer hardware—it's the peripherals that cause the vast majority of headaches. But thanks to some helpful community hackers, a wide array of webcams, from cheap to professional, can be implemented in the open-source operating system. Carla Schroder, author of The Linux Cookbook, offers a great guide for anyone trying to get their webcam set up and usable in Linux, including suggestions for software and how to find out what your distro has named your webcam. There's a part two around the corner, according to the guide, with likely more advanced tips and tricks. Photo by ThenAndAgain.

Webcams in Linux, Part 1

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If you like to have ready-to-go access to remote machines (or a home server, perhaps) from your Linux desktop, you might have noticed that you can't always get what you want. Many home and office routers kill "idle" connections after a certain length of time, forcing you to log in again. The FOSSwire blog points out a one-line addition to the end of the client's SSH configuration file (found at /etc/ssh/sshd_config in many systems) to fix this:

ServerAliveInterval 180

That should send a little ping out every three minutes to ensure the connection is kept alive. This tip should work on most any OpenSSH server that allows access to its sshd_config file, but, as FOSSwire points out, it means any connections you leave open are just that—open to any nefarious passer-by, so use session-closing caution when needed.

Keep Your SSH Connection Open

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Tired of seeing just an "Empty file" option when you right-click to create a new document on your Linux desktop? In GNOME-based systems, the key to expanding your options lies in the "Templates" directory inside your home folder, according to the Tombuntu blog. Simply open a program you want to have available for right-click creation, save a blank file with the name you want to see in the menu (like "Text file" or "New GIMP image," for instance), and save it in the Templates folder. In my case, I ended up with a bunch of working templates but generic file icons, so I went in and manually changed them to reflect their opening programs. It's just another step in making your Linux desktop a familiar one, but it's also a decent time saver.

Add Your Document Templates to GNOME

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Want to rearrange the window-top buttons in your GNOME-based Linux system? The FOSSwire blog shows how to put your titlebar in any order you please, using the ever-helpful gconf-editor tool. Launch the editor, browse through the folder trees to Apps->Metacity->General, then find "button_layout" in the right-hand pane. Double-clicking on the "Value" field lets you rearrange (or remove) the four known buttons on either side of the windows (separated by a colon), so you can get Mac-style left-focused buttons, a minimalist menu-only look, or anything else you'd like. If you mess up too badly, you can right-click the button_layout item and "Unset" to restore its default values. Hit the link below for more guidance on using gconf-editor and tweaking the window settings.

Customize your Titlebar

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How-to blog Tech-Recipes.com offers a useful desktop optimisng tip for Ubuntu/GNOME newcomers (and those of us who forgot it was there). The bottom taskbar installed in Ubuntu and most GNOME-based desktops can group application windows together in a fashion similar to XP. To make it do so, right-click on the dotted section just to the left of your "Windows List" section (in Ubuntu, that's between the "Show Desktop" button and the window buttons). Select "Preferences," and then choose either "Group windows when space is limited" or "Always group windows." Nifty tip, and not so easy to find.

Ubuntu: Enable Window Grouping on the Windows List

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Most guides and tutorials for Ubuntu newcomers can help you get commercial DVDs playing on your system, but only through a series of terminal commands that install new repositories or through the use of Automatix or other automated tools that can sometimes mess up your system's dependencies. How-to site Tech-Recipes.com has been on a bit of a Linux streak lately and ferrets out a two-command, no-repository solution for installing DVD playback. Enter these in your terminal:

sudo apt-get install totem-xine libxine1-ffmpeg libdvdread3sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread3/install-css.sh

That, from a quick test, should be it. It must be mentioned here that the DVD decrypting tool you're installing is not licensed and definitely not supported by Ubuntu, so it's up to you whether it's kosher to install or not.

Ubuntu: Enable DVD Playback

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How-to site Tech-Recipes.com offers up a simple but helpful tip for changing a computer name after a Linux system is already installed. To make the change, open up a terminal and punch in the following:

gksudo gedit /etc/hostname

Type in your administrator password and you should get a file that contains the computer name. Change it, save it, done. I had to search this out myself when I organised my home network with a naming scheme, and some people may need to make the change if an office network requires certain names to log in. Note that while the article claims it's an "Ubuntu" tip, most Linux systems store the computer name in the same file.

Ubuntu: How to Change the Computer Name

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While Linux is pretty efficient with a computer's resources out of the box, there are still ways you can make it run leaner and meaner on your desktop. Using a little bit of know-how, a willingness to run a few terminal commands and a mind for efficiency, you can get every last bit of power from your Linux box, or get more life from an older system. Read on for a roundup of ways to slim down and speed up Linux that any level of user can implement.

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If you've ever wanted a handy guide of Linux commands, look no further than the One Page Linux Manual. Learn the commands to move files, mount filesystems, change permissions, and print items (among other things) with this short guide that explains each command and describes what it does. Since the guide is about 8 years old, a small handful of the listed commands may not apply to your Linux distribution, but even so, it's a handy reference for the common commands that don't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

The One Page Linux Manual (PDF Link)

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Open source blog FOSSwire points to a keyboard shortcut that's dead simple, but might not be apparent to even long-time users of GNOME-based systems like Ubuntu or Debian. With the desktop focused, hit the / (forward slash) key to bring up an auto-completing prompt that opens up a Nautilus file browser window on whichever folder you end up on. Hitting Ctrl+L does much the same, but starts with your home directory pre-written in the prompt. For accessing your documents and media, it's at least faster than mousing to the "Places" menu.

Open Any Folder from Your GNOME Desktop

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Swap space, the hard drive portion used as temporary memory by Linux systems, is often one of the first stumbling blocks for anyone trying out their first installation. Luckily, Linux.com has posted a helpful guide to how swap space works, how to tweak it, and how much to set aside. The writer's basic advice is that modern desktop systems should have double their physical memory available (although commenters don't recommend going beyond 2 GB), servers should use about half their memory, and older desktops should use as much as they can spare. Linux users, how much have you set aside for swap space, and why? Share your setup methods in the comments.

All about Linux swap space

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For new Linux users, places like the Ubuntu Forums can be a great way to track down problem fixes and get tips from experienced users. Recently, however, a few really evil jerks have been preying on inexperienced users by suggesting they run terminal commands that delete crucial files, crash systems, and fill hard drives. Luckily, a forum administrator has put together a handy list of commands to watch out for, and this list applies to any Linux system, as well as OS X terminal users. The best defense, of course, is to familiarize yourself with the command line.

Attention All Users: Malicious Commands

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Add-ons like Tracker, Beagle, and Google Desktop can give Linux users powerful search-and-launch capabilities, but knowing a little command line kung-fu can be a faster path to your files and programs. Linux blog Debian/Ubuntu Tips & Tricks offers a stellar introduction to "find," a built-in command that Linux (and Mac) users can use to launch intensely specific searches. Follow along and you'll be able to locate that MP3 you downloaded last Tuesday with the word "house" in the title in seconds flat. Feel like broadening your bash skills a bit further? Check out a more full-fledged introduction to Unix commands or print out a handy guide to the command line.

How-To: Find files on your computer with find

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The Linux community is known for its do-it-yourself ethic and extensive support forums, but sometimes a single voice with solid advice fits the bill. Over at homelinux.org, one kind soul has posted an extensive collection of free Linux-related PDF ebooks, covering topics ranging from installation and dual-booting to specific distribution tweaks and programming guides. The owner has instituted a 10-downloads-per-day quota, but the books are meaty enough to make that a non-problem. You could also consider donating a few dollars to the site if you find yourself downloading, say, the 1,400+ page Linux Bible and coming back for more.

Free Linux eBooks