Toggle Desktop Effects..

After messing about testing Compiz on Hardy, I decided that although it worked well it still had one main problem left. It can interfere with some of the other programs installed in Ubuntu, mostly games and programs that use OpenGL.

I began looking for an easy way to disable it without having to go into the Preferences menu every time and I came across Compiz Switch. This software sits on your Desktops Start Menu + Task Bar and just needs a single click to turn all your effects off. When you want the effects turning back on, just click it again.

Compiz Switch

I’ve tested the version 0.2.0 .deb package on Hardy Heron Beta and haven’t found a problem with it yet.

To get it working, just download this package on Forlong’s Blog..

Ubuntu (this includes Kubuntu and Xubuntu)
compiz-switch_0.2.0~ubuntu_i386.deb

Double click it to install using Gdebi and you should find a shortcut already in your Accessories menu called compiz-switch. If you want to make a Task Bar icon as well, just right click the menu entry and add this launcher to panel.

All I need to do now is figure out a way to auto disable/enable the effects when my laptop changes to and from battery mode and I’ll be completely happy πŸ˜€

Thanks to Forlong for making this super easy and for writing up an excellent tutorial on How to set up Compiz Fusion. Looks like I won’t need to write one myself after all. There’s a couple of things that I think he missed off, but I can always write a follow on tutorial to fill in the blanks later if I feel the need πŸ™‚

p.s The image is straight from Forlong’s Blog. I’ll be replacing it with my own after the final version of Hardy comes out.

Easier Scanning in Gnome..

XSane’s a great piece of software for scanning on Linux, but suffers from over complexity for new users & it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of your Gnome programs when it comes down to the looks department.

Gnome Scan is software that was originally developed as part of the 2006 Google Summer of Code. This is another project that I’ve been keeping an eye on for a while, just waiting for it to mature enough before recommending it to you guys. I’ve only tested the 0.4.1 version as that was the one in the Ubuntu repository (still is) and the newest version is 0.5.2. I’ll try and find a newer .deb for testing when time permits.

This version will scan fine to PNG, JPEG and TIFF formats, but the scan to PDF option doesn’t fully work yet. It’s a shame as the scan to PDF feature is one of the most useful options in this software. With having no controls for changing colours etc. it’s not as well suited to scanning photographs as XSane, but the simplicity makes it perfect for quick scanning documents for friends or work mates.

This is the main program window..

Scan

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the options for this program. The developer has taken great lengths to keep the software as simple & straight forward to use as possible. Some options are even hidden until you choose a certain option, then it allows them to be changed.

EXAMPLE: If you choose the scanning feature from within Gimp (File, Acquire, Scan …), the option to save won’t even show up in the program and you will instead be presented with the option to scan straight to a layer within Gimp itself.

Getting Started (Stand-Alone Mode):

Click on the scanner that you want to use from the list of detected hardware, choose what you want to do with the image after you’ve captured it (where to save it and what type of image format to use etc.), click on the Advanced tab to set what resolution you’d like (normally 300dpi) and click on the preview tab to select what part of the image you want to scan..

Scanning

If the preview image isn’t already present in the window then click on the Refresh button to acquire it. It would be nice if it did this automatically, but it’s not really a big deal to do it yourself. The boundary box can be used to select the region for scanning. Just left click and hold on any of the little squares and drag until all the wanted image is inside the dotted lines. Then all you need to do is press Scan..

Aquasition

The good thing about this software is that you can still choose to use XSane if you want to. Both programs will live on your system quite happily together.

To install, either open up a terminal and enter..

sudo apt-get install gnomescan

or search for gnomescan in your package manager.

Once installed, you should be able to find its shortcut in the Gnome menu under the Graphics section and it’s named Scanner Utility.

I really hope they update this to the newest version soon πŸ™‚

Loads Faster ;)

Preload monitors applications that users run, and by analyzing this data, predicts what applications users might run, and fetches those binaries and their dependencies into memory for faster startup times.”

That was the promise anyway, but does it actually work?

To find out, open up a terminal and enter the following line..

sudo aptitude install preload

You can also install it by searching for preload within your package manager.

I haven’t bothered doing a highly scientific test on this; basically I just started counting after I had clicked on the programs shortcut and stopped once the program had fully loaded. It doesn’t really matter though as the programs start up noticeably faster.

Before Installation:

Firefox = 8 seconds
Thunderbird = 13 seconds
Gimp = 20 seconds
Writer (Open Office) = 40 seconds
Rhythmbox = 11 seconds

After Installation:

Firefox = 2 seconds
Thunderbird = 3 seconds
Gimp = 6 seconds
Writer (Open Office) = 8 seconds
Rhythmbox = 3 seconds

These can’t really be considered consistent results. The programs didn’t start up quite as fast once I performed a clean reboot, but they were still faster and easily worth the meager resources that Preloads background daemon uses. It only makes a difference to programs that you start and stop a lot.Β  I don’t use email enough to warrant keeping Thunderbird open all the time and I’m forever opening and closing the Gimp so this suits me fine.

There’s no extra configuration necessary by the way, just install and enjoy πŸ˜€

Big thanks go out to The Social Retard for this little nugget. Check out their post on Optimizing Ubuntu for more hints and tips πŸ™‚

Secret Maryo Chronicles!

I’ve been following the progress of this game for over four years, but up until now I’ve been a bit reluctant to recommend it to anyone. It was originally too much like the Mario Bros games (Nintendo could have pulled the plug on the project at any time), support for joysticks/pads and other controllers wasn’t very good and the game itself just didn’t feel playable enough. That’s all about to change though as version 1.5 is on the horizon and shaping up very nicely indeed πŸ™‚

To install it, look for smc in your package manager or type sudo apt-get install smc into the terminal.

Secret Maryo Chronicles started life as an attempt to make an open source Super Mario type game with the added bonus of a level editor so users could create their own levels and worlds. Most of the projects original graphics were basically just copies of the official Nintendo ones, as was the music and sound effects. I’m guessing it was done this way to make it easier for the developers to concentrate on coding the game engine and level editor, without having to worry too much about the more artistic side of the game. This was definitely a good move as the project is currently at its 1.4 release and the game engine and level editor both seem to be working superbly.

Old screenshots from the 0.97 release…

Old Style! Editor1

Little by little with each release the temporary graphics, music and sounds have been replaced by new user created content and the games finally getting its very own unique look and feel to it.

New screenshots from version 1.4…

New Style! Editor2

Particle effects have been added to sweeten the graphical goodness, as have multiple layers for the backgrounds, weather effects (that can be made to affect game play) and new music + sound effects licensed with either GPL or creative commons licenses.

The games engine now offers support for multiple exits from a level, hidden rooms, horizontal and vertical extended playing screens, better handling and movement of the player camera, big boss battles at the end of a level, movable or rotating platforms, different surfaces that affect how your character handles and an editable world map view that allows the player to get to the next level or re-visit one that they’ve already completed.

As well as improvements to the actual engine of the game, the developers have been busy with adding tons of new playable features too. They’ve taken the best user ideas (not only from Nintendo’s games, but from other platform games too) and are integrating them all into a well balanced game that will appeal to most people. It’s fun and colorful enough for kids to enjoy and tricky enough to keep the average adult occupied.

You’ll probably find yourself familiar with a lot of the main characters actions and power ups already (if your used to playing Nintendo’s Mario games). So far they include…

Big – Allows you to get hit once by enemies before reverting you back to normal size.
Fire – Allows you to throw fireballs and kill most enemies.
Ice – Allows you to throw iceballs which kill more enemies than the fireballs.
Invincible – Grab a star and become unbeatable for a short amount of time.
1up – Adds an extra life to your character.
Ghost – Allows you to walk past enemies without them seeing or chasing you. It also shows up blocks and shortcuts that are usually hidden from sight.

Smash blocks for power ups.
Pick up and throw shells.
Climb up and down vines and ladders.
Collect 100 coins to receive an extra life.

This is by no means a complete list of the games features, but it should give you a general idea of what the game engine is capable of and how much time and effort has already gone into making it (5 years so far).

One of the best things about this project is that it’s completely open source. Anyone with an idea to improve the game can create a new post on the forum and help the developers implement it. It’s very gratifying to contribute to a project such as this and pretty amazing to see how it evolves with every new update.

Nice work to the developers and everyone that’s contributed so far in the creation of Secret Maryo Chronicles and all the best for your projects future πŸ˜€

p.s This game will work on any VGN-FS model laptop as it doesn’t require a very powerful processor, tons of free RAM, or use any 3D graphics.

SecretΒ Maryo

Update ClamAV in Ubuntu..

First of all.. Visit the ClamAV website for the latest definitions (you have to right click and choose save link as… on the menu) and save them in your home directory, or just open up a terminal and do this..

wget http://db.local.clamav.net/main.cvd

then..

wget http://db.local.clamav.net/daily.cvd

and..

sudo mv daily.cvd main.cvd /var/lib/clamav

Which will move the newly downloaded files to the correct /var/lib/clamav directory.
Now enter your admin password & you should have completely up to date virus definitions πŸ˜€

WARNING: This will only work if the ClamAV team use the same link every time for the daily updates?

To keep up to date with the definitions then, open a terminal &

wget http://db.local.clamav.net/daily.cvd

Which will download the latest definitions to your home directory, then..

sudo mv daily.cvd /var/lib/clamav

..to transfer them to the correct directory again.

Just found this out myself and it should help you all out πŸ™‚

More on Fonts..

Those of you who read my prior post on Ubuntu Fonts & followed Carthik’s howto, might be interested in installing Gnome Specimen. This fantastic little program lets you compare all your fonts; making choosing the right one to use in your work a lot easier.

To install, simply open up a terminal & enter..

sudo apt-get install gnome-specimen

Press y to confirm the installation when asked.

Once installed, the program can be found in the Graphics category of the main Gnome menu under the name of Specimen Font Previewer.

Specimen

As you can see from the screen shot, the program is really easy to use. All the fonts installed on your system will show up in the left pane of the window. Each font name has a small arrow to the left of it that shows (or hides) all the modes of that font (Bold, Italic, etc.) when pressed. Select the modes of the fonts that you want to compare & press the add button. If you want to compare all the modes for a font, you can highlight the name of the font & click the add button. It will add all the supported modes for that particular font to the list.

The great thing about this program is that you can change the size or colour of the fonts, add new fonts to the list that you’re comparing & instantly see any changes you make. There’s no messing about with reloading every time a change is made or anything πŸ˜€

This is an extremely useful program & I can’t see it being too long before It’s either installed as standard on Ubuntu, or it gets converted & fully merged into the Gnome desktop software.

Windows Package Management on Linux..

Personally I never use Commercial Windows programs any more.. not even on a Windows computer. I use open source software as much as possible; failing that I use decent freeware from sites like SnapFiles. That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the need for people to continue using Windows software on their Ubuntu laptop though.

Wine-Doors is an attempt to make the installing of Windows software on an open source operating system as painless & hassle free as possible. Once the project has had the chance to mature a little more, you will be able to download & Install all the needed files to run a piece of Windows software just like you do when installing Linux software through the Synaptic Package Manager in Gnome. Not only that, but it will also install icons for the programs into your Gnome menu.

To put a finer point on it.. you will be able to install & run Windows software, as if it was made for the Linux operating system hurrah!

The project is currently in the very early stages, but there are some programs that work with it already (Half Life 2 anyone?) & I’m betting a lot more to come. I won’t go too much into the technical details of the software, but simply tell you to head over to the home page & check it out for yourself if you still feel the need to run Windows software.

I’d like to wish the Wine-Doors team members the best of luck with this project. It’s a pretty big task that they’ve decided to undertake & the results could help to attract a lot of new users to Linux + bring about more awareness of open source software in general.