Tag Archives: Software

LibreOffice 4 Review

LibreOffice has been around for over two years and finally we have a new version which fully branches itself away from its OpenOffice roots.

I must say, the software looks cleaner, faster and amazingingly simple to use. There are no confusing menus rather a simple interface, and all the goodies we want right in the front.

This release has very few cosmetic/UI updates but really a major core rewrite of the whole software application suite. Originally, it was a derivative of Openoffice sharing many million lines of code. But most of it has been rewritten from scratch and rethought by some 500 developers worldwide to improve and optimize the whole software experience. Truly a global open source collaborative effort.

Techie by day, blogger by night. Love the outdoors, enjoy traveling and building new and interesting things. Follow me if you want to know something.

Your Media in Plex Heaven

Living in the digital & information age also means its an age of “Information Glut”. Our brain at times is overwhelmed by the amount of information it encounters in a day. We struggle to remember it, retrieve it and even share it with our family and friends. And it is even worse on a computer. Some of the videos we shot ages ago are collecting dust in some old hard drive that wont even connect to modern computers. All this data and digital information needs to be rescued and viewed as it was originally destined.

Well, if that media is videos, music or photos you are in luck. Plex not only indexes that information for you but serves it up in a nice VIP Deluxe package that you can access on the go from any device that you may own. Welcome to Plex Media Server.

Techie by day, blogger by night. Love the outdoors, enjoy traveling and building new and interesting things. Follow me if you want to know something.

Installing Ubuntu within MacOS X

Many of us have wanted to try and install Linux but cannot part ways with our Windows or Mac OSX. Sometimes, we are not sure if it is worth the switch or if we will ever be comfortable in the new alien environment. But, there are alternatives to this. We can still run Ubuntu and other Linux within our Windows or Mac without needing to uninstall either. Yes, we can actually run Windows and Linux simultaneously using a simple and small software application called Virtualbox.

Of Course, such a solution works great on a fast computer with lots of memory and hard disk space. We recommend at least an Intel’s Core2Duo computer running 4GB of RAM. If you do it in anything less, you might run into performance issues.

Techie by day, blogger by night. Love the outdoors, enjoy traveling and building new and interesting things. Follow me if you want to know something.

Use Tor to unblock Youtube

If you want privacy and anonymity on the web from over hyper big brothers. If you want to unblock Youtube or other similar sites blocked by your government. If you want to see unfiltered and unaltered results from Google and other search engines that might be censored, then TOR is a great solution for your needs.

In their own words:

Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.

Techie by day, blogger by night. Love the outdoors, enjoy traveling and building new and interesting things. Follow me if you want to know something.

Stellarium – Planetarium for the Masses

Some softwares are just too fun to be let go off and this weekend I discovered Stellarium, a free, open source planetarium software that shows a “realistic sky in 3D”. Stellarium is designed from ground up as a simple, easy to use, open source software to observe and learn about the breath taking beauty of the night sky.

This weekend, I happened to be visiting a village in rural Mardan, Pakistan (where we are supporting a rural Tele-healthcare project). The electricity in this remote part of the world is patchy and highly unreliable. Mardan District is composed primarily of a farming community and little or no industry and technology in this rural part of Pakistan. Hence, the night sky is not only clear but dazzles with the beauty of billions of stars. In fact, on a clear night, one can see the Milky way all across the night sky.

Tonight was just one such nights, when the electricity, went out, the night sky lit up brightly with its displaying its full array of stars. The moon was at half crescent and thus it blurred a bit of dim stars out there, but over all, it was a feast for the eyes.

The software asks you to select your city through its fairly simple configuration file. And if your hometown is missing (in my case Mardan was not there), one can enter the basic information like the Latitude, Longitude and height in meters above sea level and the software then automatically sets itself to the night sky in your area. It then slowly tracks the night sky as it changes with time so that the observer is always objects slowly rise and set over the night sky.

I trained my Stellarium on the planets first. Tonight, Saturn was visible in the night sky. With the help of a basic compass and the Stellarium software, I was able to pin-point the magnificent planet Saturn with some fairly good accuracy. This was the first time I had identified any night sky object with accuracy. And the best part was that I did not have to know a lot about Astronomy nor the need to have complicated equipment. The software is designed to be easily operated by a kid as well and requires little or no prior knowledge of Astronomy. All night, I would simply find something interesting on Stellarium and then using the provided grids, a hand held compass and using other known stars as references, would get to the desired object.

One can zoom in and out of the objects (planets, nebulae, etc) and some of them do have fairly detailed images and information associated with them. If any detail is missing, one can always download it from their website and add it to the catalog. For example, if I would find something of interest in the night sky, I could get basic information including a detailed image of the object. Here in this image on the right, I got to see how Butterfly cluster looks like at close proximity and how far away it is from earth. For example, Saturn here is reported to be 8.5AU (Astronomical Units). 1 AU is equal to approximately 149.5 Million KM or in simple terms, 1AU is equal to the average distance between the earth and sun. Hence, Saturn is approximately 8.5 times farther from earth than the Sun from us. That is approximately 1.2 billion KM from earth.

The software has many cool features, including red eye mode to assist eyes remain adjusted to darkness. An essential requirement if we want to truly observe dim and distant objects with ease. Stellarium has many features but some of the fascinating ones are listed below:

  • Default catalog of over 600,000 stars
  • Extra catalog with more than 210 million stars (easily downloadable through the Stellarium website). The additional data is divided into further four separate files totaling around 1Giga Byte.
  • Images of nebulae (full Messier catalog)
  • Realistic Milky Way
  • The planets and their satellites (yep, even details of moons for the planets)
  • And many more

The joy was short lived as the power was restored later in the night. With the light pollution dimming many of the stellar objects in the night sky. However, this unexpected power outage has inspired me to spend the coming summer gazing at night sky with some basic telescope and track numerous objects in the night sky.

There is also a method to link the software with your telescope (if it supports computer tracking) which one can read online for more information.

The software can be easily downloaded for MacOS, Windows and Linux platforms. It is also available through Ubuntu repository of pre-compiled software packages.

KnowledgeTree – Open Source Document Management System

Every organization these days produces lots of electronic documents. Even a one man home office will generate enough files in various formats (including Office and PDF formats) over the course of the year that it will become a nightmare just finding the right file in the nick of time.

KnowledgeTree, Document Management System, is web based and therefore easily accessible from across the organization without the need to install any client software on users machines. It supports multiple users within groups with proper permissions and role definitions. It allows for easy upload of documents including support for bulk upload through a one large zip file. There is support for search within all the popular file formats as well. Email alerts can also be generated on various criteria including when a document is available to be viewed by the group. The software supports an organization work flow and even generates it automatically on specific folders and document types. The document’s are version controlled to minimize overwriting of documents when shared within a distributed environment.

The software now is supported across various platforms including Linux, Windows and even Mac. There are installers for each of these platforms (yes even for Linux a self installing binary) which guides you through the whole process with little or no glitch. Source code version is also available for those who prefer to tweak install it based on their own requirements.

I used the binary to install it on my Ubuntu Linux computer. The installation went smoothly but I ran into a small problem. It forced me to install a separate copy Apache and Mysql (on custom ports) for this software and did not give me an option to integrate it with the existing Apache and Mysql running on my machine. With the result, now I have two instances of each running on my machine on different ports. It would be nice if the installer gave us an option to choose whether we prefer to integrate and run one instance of each or not.

KnowledgeTree document management system is definitely the right choice for not only large corporations but even for Small and Medium Enterprises. It will greatly improve the organizations productivity and easy of share of knowledge within their organization.

Elisa – A Great Open Media Center

I recently installed and started using open source Elisa Media Center. Its a great little media player that works wonderfully well with all my media types for video, music, dvd and photos. It even connects to the internet and imports media from websites like youtube and flickr. The configuration is still command line based and is stored in “elisa.conf” file. All configuration information is stored in your home folder as mentioned below:


There are lots of interesting perimeters that you can configure but most importantly, you may want to specify specific directories from where to read your media. It can be done easily by configuring it as follows in the xmlmenu section:

locations = [‘file://media/da/videos’, ‘file:///media/da/itunes’]

Specify as many directories as you want by separating them with com
ma across your network.

Elisa website mentions lots of features including support for remote controls and touch screen. There are even ports available for Windows and MacOS platforms along with Linux.

Download your copy from its official website at http://elisa.fluendo.com

ClamAV – A Must Antivirus for Linux Systems

You may have heard that Linux machines do not need an anti-virus software. That may be true generally, but what if using our USB flash drive on a public computer and inadvertently copying a virus onto our system? Granted, the virus may not work on Linux but what if we inadvertently forward that file to a friend (with Windows) and send the virus along. What if we still use POP to access our email and get a virus infected email that we forward to others (along with the virus)?

To overcome such issues, especially shared USB drives, ClamAV is the simple but ideal solution. It is still command line so one has to power up their Terminal (or ssh if you prefer to remotely manage it) to run the software.

Installation is a breeze on any Linux system. On Debian release try the following:

~$ apt-get install clamav

Once installed, just type the following on command line to fire it up.

~$ clamscan -r /home

where -r option lets u scan recursively in your specified /home directory.

You can find out other options by typing clamscan –help on command line.

Once the scan is complete, it prints out the result in a neat report. Similar to the one I got from scanning my /home folder.

———– SCAN SUMMARY ———–
Known viruses: 513569

Engine version: 0.92.1
Scanned directories: 3454
Scanned files: 15656
Infected files: 0
Data scanned: 33120.57 MB
Time: 3503.674 sec (58 m 23 s)

The software keeps its virus database up to date automatically by using freshclam to download the latest definitions. Freshclam is automatically installed with ClamAV.

So my advice is to keep this software handy especially when you are copying files back and forth from a public PC.