Hero Inc.

where heroes are an everyday occurrence

Archive for the ‘Linux’ Category



kAlarm to me is the app I was searching for months to find when I was using Windows. I always wanted an “alarm clock” application that could launch my windows media player. However, when I did search, I only found applications that didn’t truly work or required money I was not willing to spend. kAlarm does everything I want and maybe some more that I don’t even know about.

kAlarm can be found as part of the kdepim package, which will provide your KDE environment with many other mini applications design around personal information management (PIM). Since I use Thunderbird, most of the other PIM applications are not for me, but kAlarm is it hook, line and sinker. kAlarm is super easy to setup and repeat just like a normal alarm. It can be set to launch a note, script, file, command, or even email. I did write a simple Amarok script to launch my favorite “alarm clock” playlist, but now I just have it run the amarok command to begin playing. Either way works the same. I’ll probably try to write a new Amarok script to increase the volume as it plays over a period of time. This way I can keep the music soft when I fall asleep and increase the volume as the alarm clock goes off.

I did accidentally remove this application for a week or more and waking up in the morning was just not the same and not as easy to do.

Posted under Linux

Tux and I Part Ways

Today I bid farewell to A Penguin and Me. I’m not departing Linux from my home PC. I’m just parting ways with my separate website. I was finding that I was having less time to post specifically about Linux on A Penguin and Me. My original intent was to have others post along side of me, but alas, that did not happen either. Therefore, with my friend’s (Will) passing advice, I decided to hang up A Penguin and Me.

I still plan to post about my adventures with Linux, but all of the posts will appear on this website and not A Penguin and Me. All traffic directed to that site will be forwarded to the Linux category page of Hero Inc. I’ve already moved over all posts from APAM. It was fun while it lasted. Mainly fun because I really liked that WordPress theme.

A Penguin and Me Logo

Posted under Internet, Linux

BasKet Case

Struggling to keep track of little projects? Need a handy way to keep to-do lists? Enjoy keeping information handy as you search online? Well, all of these questions may not need to be answered yes for you to enjoy BasKet Note Pads.

According to the BasKet site, BasKet helps you:

  • Easily take all sort of notes
  • Collect research results and share them
  • Centralize your project data and reuse it
  • Quickly organize your thoughts in idea boxes
  • Keep track of your information in a smart way
  • Make intelligent To Do lists
  • And a lot more…

BasKet is a program that many Windows users will find similar to Microsoft’s OneNote. I had not used OneNote prior to my BasKet experience, which is probably a plus. I didn’t think I would find this application helpful at first, but I’ve soon found it to be great for keeping me focused on different things I have in front of me. I often set myself up for multiple mini projects that I easily lose track of my progress. I create To-Do lists on the fly, track the progress (or lack there of) of my sites and what updates are next, save research for upcoming purchases (computers, tickets, comic books, etc.). It’s pretty lightweight and easily runs in the background so you can bring it up at any point to add new information in some form.

After trying BasKet, I downloaded OneNote for my work computer. I found OneNote, like most Microsoft products, to not be able to handle on the fly, quick creations as well as BasKet did. A product like BasKet or OneNote should be fast, convenient and better than keeping a pad of paper and pencil helpful to record information. BasKet, to me, accomplishes just that. Now if I could have a mobile version that would sync to the desktop version, I’d be set for life with this product.

When you first start with BasKet, I highly recommend the Tour section of their site. The handy download offered there will quickly start you on your path to “getting things done” the BasKet way.

Posted under Linux

Widgets, Widgets, Widgets

Sure Windows and Mac have Widgets, but what is a widget. Wikipedia defines a widget in many different ways. However, in the computer world, a widget is “a component of a graphical user interface with which a user interacts.” In other words, something really cool to stick on my desktop to provide different types of information. Some of the most common widgets are for weather, time, system monitoring and etc.

With Super Karamba, my desktop has come to life with widgets. Due to the speed of my current system, I’ve kept the widgets to a minimum and I am happy with my three main widgets and one substitute widget. These widgets include:

  • Liquid Weather ++ => This widget is a weather widget designed to provided updated information concerning weather in a particular area or many areas. It can also provide weather maps for upcoming storms and web cams for different views around your area. You will of course need to provide the addresses for the web cams, but that isn’t too difficult to find.
  • A-Foto => This widget is probably my favorite of my list. This one provides a wonderful picture frame of pictures based on a folder location. I find myself leaving my desktop clear so that I can see this particular widget.
  • R-Monitor-SE ENGLISH => This widget provides up to the minute system information for monitoring purposes. I was happy with this widget from the start, but then I realized how easily I could modify the widget to look how I wanted it to look and I grew to love it even more. Now it matches my website (Hero Inc.) and personality. The link for the widget will show you how the widget looked prior to my alterations being made.
  • cdKase Amarok => It’s always great to display album art if you have it. This widget provides a casing for the album art and Amarok controls on the desktop. However, I vary rarely use my desktop to control Amarok. It does look great though.

All of my widgets were found through kde-look. If anyone knows some other great widgets I should check out, please let me know.

Posted under Linux

Happy Memorial / Mandriva Day

That’s right. On this wonderful holiday, I’m choosing to celebrate by beginning my summer of dorkiness. With the girlfriend away (Europe and Asia), I am now able to tackle the following IT tasks:

  • Reformat Mandriva – Basically looking to do a real install rather than the Live one I did. This is more for me to relax and truly install from the start. I also originally installed with the dual boot option for Windows. However, with my VirtualBox, I never need to boot back into Windows. My Linux box will grow from 20GBs of space to 40GBs of space. That’s a big deal even though it is still small.
  • Finish my Perl book – I’ve started the language and it’s ok. I now feel I should have went after Python, but that can be my next task.
  • Complete and update my WordPress Plugin – With the addition to GCStar in my life, I began building a simple WordPress plugin. I have version 0.0.1 written, but I have ideas of what can be next for it. Once I have it to an “acceptable” level, I’ll release it for others to download and mock my poor understanding of a simple solution. Yeah, I don’t have too much faith in my programing skills for the masses.

It’s time for the SUMMER OF BEN!!!!

UPDATE: Here are a few screenshots of my newly installed Mandriva system. Click on the images to get a larger version to view.



Posted under Linux

Collectors Unite

The more I search for a great application to solve my current issue, the better each application becomes. The current "find of the century" is GCStar .


GCStar is a media collector that can catalog Movies, Books, Video Games, Board Games, Stamps, etc. It even allows you to create your own type of collection and define the specified fields needed for each item in the collection. I personally jumped at this application due its ability to record my DVDs and pull the necessary information from the web. The additional collections were just secondary items that sweetened the deal.

Before GCStar, I had built my own PHP/MySQL based application to hold my DVDs and display them. I had to input the information manually and it was a pain at first but decent in the long run. GCStar would pull the information from the web (IMDB, Amazon, etc). The only changes I had to make were to resize the DVD images so there was a consistency across my collection. GCStar also allows the information to be exported to different formats. I found the HTML format (samples of how it can be displayed [Books,Movies] and best to use FireFox) to be the most useful because I wanted to display my collections on my website. This also led me to begin building a simple WordPress plugin to assist me in posting these collections faster. I’ll post more on this plugin once I have a user friendly and limited manual input version ready to post on WordPress plugin websites.

GCStar also lets you track who has borrowed items from your collections. By saving the name and email addresses, GCStar will launch the local email client to send automated emails if you require your items returned. I find this especially helpful since people seem to borrow my movies and games and my horrible memory doesn’t remember it.

Tellico is another program that promises to perform the same tasks as GCStar but it was originally developed for books and that’s where it seems better suited (based on limited interaction). I’ve found GCStar to be simple, intuitive, and powerful. I also like the XML data that is stored instead of using a database. This may mean I have to wait a longer period of time before my collection is loaded into the program, but it also means I can take the data later and use it as I please if GCStar doesn’t continue providing me with all of the features I enjoy. Based on the screenshots alone, I was ready to download the program and begin building my collections.

Posted under Linux

The XO Arrives

On Friday, I received a call from my father saying a box had arrived at his office for me. This could only be one package for me, The XO Laptop. For those that do not know, the XO Laptop is the laptop in the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) program. Back in December, the foundation was running a “buy one, get one” program. I was very interested in this project and the cause. Therefore, I could not argue against ordering one for myself and as long as another one was purchased for a child in another country (not counting Alabama).

The XO Laptop is not top of the line, nor is it built for an adult (my fat fingers can’t type on it). However, it is built for kids and for kids to learn. The design is perfect, especially with the way it hides ports (USB, microphone, audio, SD, etc.). The speed is slow for those of us with a decent computer, but it serves its purpose. I can’t wait to play around with it more and learn what I can do. Until then, check out the OLPC website.

XO Laptop

Posted under Linux

We Will Amarok You!

Amarok is the single greatest application and is probably the best reason I switched to Linux in the first place. I didn’t want to make the switch, but once I was turned on to this app, I never looked back. Music is a big part of my daily computer use and having a media player that would go above and beyond my needs was a necessity. Amarok was the answer.

Like any normal media player, Amarok plays your audio files. I don’t need it to play videos because I use VLC for that. I did need it to connect to my media device and transfer any needed files. With Amarok, my audio files display all of the tag information correctly and easily as well as provide a pop-up displaying album art and information as my songs play. The main tabs while music is playing are Music which offers information concerning the current song (who is it by, do you have other songs by the artist, how many times do you play this artist, what is the popular song by this artist), Lyrics (display the lyrics for the song which are pulled from online sites, if no lyrics are found they can be added), Artists (pull Artist information from wikipedia, learn how the group started and any other current information that is truth according to Wikipedia).

Connecting my media device (Creative Zen Vision and Creative Zen V Plus) was a breeze. I navigated to the Amarok settings and selected the MTP Media device. Once that was setup and a nickname was provided for the device, I clicked connect and I was on my way. I ran into issues trying to move video files, but that’s a subject for another post (a Creative specific app is used in my case will I’ll provide info for later).

Besides my massive music collection (by my standards its big and size does matter), I wanted to connect to certain radio stations to listen to streaming music. This is an old school thought since radio is not great any more compared to a media player’s playlist, but there are a few good ones out there. I personally love Atlanta’s 97.1 The River. It plays a great collection of classic rock with limited commercial breaks and no morning DJ’s that prevent the tunes I so desperately need in my morning commute. Here’s a quick list of the streams I added to my amarok for those interested:

Amarok Screenshot

Posted under Linux

Missing JRE?

While trying to access a site the other day, I realized that my browser (FireFox was without a Java Runtime Environment and I was therefore unable to access certain Java applets from various websites. My Mandriva Linux Control Center wasn’t helpful at the moment (I spent only 3 minutes trying that route) so I turned to my good buddy, Google.

Sun’s Java site provided the installation guide that could be followed word for word for installation. In under five minutes, I was up and running with a JRE and could access annoyingly slow applets that were of true no use to me. Maybe one day I’ll find one that is of use to me.

Posted under Linux

“Virtually” Windows

For many of us avid Windows users, a change from Windows to Linux is no easy task. As if we are junkies seeking our next fix, we have feelings that we “need” to return to Windows for some particular program. Linux offers WINE to run many Windows programs, but to me that is just another short term fix that will not help us slowly move away. That’s where virtualization comes into play. Virtualization allows you to create virtual machines running any OS.

There are many different virtualization programs available (VMware, Parallels, Qemu) for free or purchase, but I settled on an open source application called Virtualbox. VirtualBox is easy to install and even easier to use. Since running VirtualBox for a few months now, I’ve only run into two problems.

The first problem was the way it would read my CD burner, which means it actually would not read the burner. VirtualBox understands that I have a CD drive, but the burner capabilities do not exist. According to the documentation, this is the way VirtualBox currently runs. For a work around here, I found a program that would allow me to create virtual CDs that I could burn and rip. I needed this functionality because I run Napster in my Windows box.

The second problem was an error I received asking me to recompile a certain driver. After a few google searches, I discovered this happens when there is a kernel update and VirtualBox is still set to run off the old kernel. I did a simple uninstall of the kernel and VirtualBox returned to working normally. A configuration file in VirtualBox could probably be changed and download the latest driver for VirtualBox, but I have not had the time yet to track this problem down further. I’m happy not running the latest kernel at the moment. I’ll need to fix this problem later, but that’s later and this is now.

For more information concerning VirtualBox and a few more vm applications, Techthrob.com has a good article comparing four different virtualization applications.

Posted under Linux