Archive for the 'Linux' Category

A mix of six was suffering from some technical glitches over the past few days, so some of the posts I had planned out over three days got glommed together.

That’s a good thing really; I realize there is more than enough material out there to do a “cli-app-a-day” blog for at least a year or two without having to duplicate posts.

So if you’re in the mood to take on such a project, let the world know. People seem to dig it. In the mean time, here’s another mixed half-dozen that might give you reason to pause.

First, here’s yapet.

Password “wallets,” as I am tempted to call them, are not something I usually pursue. I rely on traditional cellulose-based methods … which is to say, a pencil and a piece of paper.

But this might enthuse you as something that can encrypt and retrieve passwords, as well as generate them and protect them from casual view.

I have to mention though, that at very low speeds — like 120Mhz — the screen refresh for yapet was horrific. I am afraid I can’t use this one because just jumping between text boxes caused the screen to flash three or four times over the course of two or three seconds, with each key press.

I don’t know why that is, if it’s a side effect of the way the program was written or if it’s something oddball about Debian’s version, but I’ve never seen that in other text-based applications. :|

Next is pdmenu, which also falls in the useful cyan gadget category:

This I like very much, because in conjunction with Debian’s menu utility, you have arrow-key access to the bulk of the software that’s installed on your machine.

Not that I need help with that; I don’t have many more than about seven or eight discrete programs that I use on a daily basis. I’m not likely to be surprised by anything pdmenu happens to find.

But for anyone else who might be, say, chained to my desk chair and forced to use a Pentium with only text-based software on it … well pdmenu might be what saves them from a short screaming fit. :D

Next up are two file managers, lfm on the left, and vfu on the right.


lfm is strikingly similar to mc and the traditional two-pane file manager genre, being distinct in its relative freshness (last update was May 2010 for the Debian Squeeze version, I believe) and its python underpinnings.

lfm also includes a little something called pyview, which stands as a text or hex file viewer, independent of lfm or cued by it. Two for one, in a manner of speaking.

vfu is strikingly different from lfm or its mc heritage, by being almost completely text, without any sort of graphic adornment save color bands.

In a way I like this one, and you might too. It shows almost all the pertinent information for a file, up front and immediate, and you don’t have to manage panes or trigger info displays.

If you ever wish you could pan through the results of an ls -lha --color=auto command, this might be the application you’re looking for.

And now, sports fans, it’s time for a little action. First is asciijump.

I giggled as I tried it, and while I haven’t figured out all the commands, I can tell you it runs relatively quick on a 120Mhz machine that’s simultaneously accessing and controlling a second computer, and running about eight different applications at the same time.

Which isn’t too shabby. Invariably I crash as I land, but the judges don’t seem to mind, so I’ll stick with this one for a little while.

Last is a aajm, which is half sports, half science.

I didn’t know juggling was such a detailed and mathematical event, but I have now been schooled. I’ll give you a hint — start with aajm -s 453 to get the results you see there, but after that you’ll have to research siteswaps.

That’s good for today. I shall finish this “series” off tomorrow and get back to proper blog materiel. ;)

Seven in a row

I am going to succumb for a few days to the overwhelming list of terminal applications I want to note. Ordinarily I try to space these out by a week or so at a time, but the list is growing faster than I can manage.

So here is day one of what will probably be two or three posts on console applications. Today: Hex editors and text editors.

I can think of exactly one occasion when I actually needed a proper hex editor, and unfortunately it was so long ago that I wasn’t even using Linux at the time.

Just the same, there is always the chance that something like this might come in handy, so here’s tweak, on the left, and beav.


Both work well and do the job as you would expect. beav gets a point for being easy to decipher, with on-screen help prompts and more interaction, but I couldn’t find an option to widen the screen display.

tweak is more or less the opposite, with a few options (like stretching the display over the width of the terminal :roll: ), but fewer on-screen tips and commands are a little more cryptic.

Both tweak and beav are more aligned to the emacs style of doing things — I believe both use CTRL+X CTRL+C to quit, as an example. Here’s one for the vi camp: hexer.

Probably simpler and less functional than the other two, but if you know vi you’ll be quicker at the starting line with this one. hexer, I should mention, feels a little less complete; perhaps it’s still a work in progress.

Enough with hex editors though; let’s move on.

Of course, mentioning a text editor for Linux is like pointing out one particular grain of sand on entire beach. There are just too many, with each of them doing something special in its own right.

All the same, I think I should point out the lighter, more unusual ones I find — that, after all, is my gimmick. I’ve mentioned e3 in the past; here it is again along with mg, joe and jed.





e3 is amazing for fitting a fully functional editor into a 10kb sliver, along with the option to use different command sets that are closer to what you’re familiar with. So that whole emacs-vi thing can go away for once.

mg is likewise a teeny little thing, but this one, as I understand it, is much like zile in its attempt to be a (much) lighter emacs.

I suppose, in that sense, both e3 and mg are useful to people who are accustomed to the way one particular editor works, but want something much, much smaller.

I have a hard time separating jed and joe in my mind (no joke intended there), but you might know joe as one of the editor options in the Arch Linux installation sequence.

joe works well for being obvious and easy to manage. Help commands are listed in a drop-down box, which makes them quick to find while you’re learning it. And it feels like an editor, if that makes sense.

jed, on the other hand, might be the most replete and easy to manage of the editors listed here. jed feels like a graphical application, with drop-down menus, windowed documents, and so forth.

But like I said, these are just four grains of sand on a huge beach of text editors for Linux. I’d be mad to ever mention another text editor again, and probably will be, just for mentioning these four.

There we are though, seven more I can cross off my list. Seven steps forward, ten steps back. … :|

Skimming subfolders for files to copy

Basic tip today, this time for sifting through a directory tree and plucking out files that match a certain filter.

I needed to move some of the office photo collection off CD and USB into a different location to sort them manually. A lot of international characters and intermingled, unwanted files were complicating things.

I’m sure there are lots of ways to do this, but this is what I did.

find /media/ -iname "*jpg" -exec cp '{}' /home/kmandla/hold/ \;

Obviously you can change that to move the files, or anything else you like.

The regular cp command — or as I was trying to use it, cp -Rv /media/*jpg /home/kmandla/hold — wasn’t working with me, and my variations on that line were likewise failures.

find did the job right the first time. And was quicker than pointing and clicking, that’s for sure.

Looking over Crux again

It’s been a while since I installed Crux on any machine in the house, and even longer since I put it on anything faster than about 150Mhz.

Just for old time’s sake, and to make sure I hadn’t lost my touch, and to see what would happen, I put it on the 2.5Ghz Celeron the other day, and did some system updates overnight. The end result:

That’s an 8-year-old machine jumping from Grub to the X desktop in just over 9 seconds. I don’t underconfigure my systems, so everything is working there — sound, network and what have you.

I also didn’t overconfigure it: CFLAGS are only -O2 and the recommended settings for a Pentium 4 Celeron, as per the Gentoo wiki.

So why so fast? No good reason … except for the one I mentioned a while ago, when I made the same pitch.

If you recall a speed jump when you moved from something gluttonous and bloated, like Ubuntu, to something sparse and clean, like Arch … well, you’ll see the same improvement when you move to something skeletal and streamlined.

To illustrate the point:

The same system, same hardware, same filesystem, but more than 20 seconds for Arch to start just to the console — and that’s with the network daemon backgrounded so it doesn’t hang while it contacts the router.

Of course, the day-to-day speed improvement comes at the cost of building up a system from scratch (more or less), and like a lot of my Crux systems, this one quickly went southward when I started tweaking it.

Plus, it took me two or three attempts just to get the kernel working, and another one or two to get the graphics system functional.

Personally, I consider that to be a good thing — I’ve learned a lot from Crux, and I can always stand to learn some more. I learn my making mistakes and figuring out how to solve them, or at least circumvent them.

So while I don’t use this much for faster, heavier machines, I still rely on it — sometimes too much — for low-end hardware and extra slow systems.

Because if it can trim Grub-to-X to under 10 seconds at 2.5Ghz, imagine what it can do for 150Mhz. :twisted:

P.S.: Sorry about the sideways videos. I thought YouTube let you rotate a video after posting it, but it appears that I am wrong. :|

Sorry, Microsoft: Still no cookie for you

Yes, yes. I saw the news. Microsoft disabled a botnet and now applauds itself for carving away 39 percent of the world’s spam.

I’m going to go out on a limb though. I say: If they hadn’t come up with such a long string of sub-par operating systems, thereby inventing both the opportunity to process huge volumes of spam, and the niche markets for anti-spam and security software … well, we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place.

EasyTag 1, Apple 0

A short note today, to mention that EasyTag, the audio file renamer tool, won another fan recently — this time, an iPod owner.

I have to say up front that I know next to nothing about iPods, and I intend to keep it that way. There is no joy like being able to deflect iPod questions, by virtue of not knowing anything about them. :roll:

In any case, the iPod owner, who is also an Ubuntu user, wanted to move the entire collection off the iPod without having to rely on the iTunes utility.

Something about the utility arbitrarily deleting music files in the process of “synchronizing” with the owner’s list of approved titles. Again, I don’t know how those things work.

Apparently Ubuntu would mount the device and the files could be pulled off, but the file names were scrambled — renamed to a number sequence, and out of the original folder structure.

How inconvenient. Steve Jobs strikes again.

In any case, that’s where I suggested EasyTag as a mass renamer, using the tag information embedded in the files to restore them to their original state.

And apparently, after a little experimentation, everything is back to the way it was. EasyTag to the rescue.

I suppose I should close with brief tirade against proprietary music players and any machine that transfers control of your product to some corporation … but that would be overkill, now wouldn’t it?

Let’s just leave that last part unsaid. Suffice to say, I never had that problem with this player. :twisted:

A gold smiley for EasyTag: :D

One tool, one game, one clock

I still have a long list of console applications that I want to note. Sometimes this is for my benefit, and sometimes it’s in hopes of being someone else’s benefit.

Some of these I discovered via the wiki, which continues to be as much a resource for me as it is a way of discovering new talents for the terminal.

Starting as simply as possible, here’s concalc.

There are plenty of console-based calculators, and superficially it appears that concalc doesn’t do much that a reasonably educated bash user couldn’t do anyway.

It does handle scripting though, which might be of use to you, and it will no doubt streamline some more complex math functions if you need them at the terminal prompt.

And as is always the case with small, soft-spoken applications like this, there is a potential beyond the obvious. Take a closer look and see what you come up with.

Next is a game — pente.

Dating back a decade and still in the Debian repositories, pente is the traditional variant of go usually called five-in-a-row.

This one is easy to use and manage, with any number of console keys that will control the cursor for you, and a simple key press to place a marker.

This will run in either the console or in X supposedly, although it was nice to see that the Debian version didn’t incur any giant dependencies when installing it.

The last one today is a clock, and a rather nifty one at that.


This is tbclock, which I didn’t see in AUR or in Debian Squeeze, and that’s a shame really. It’s a very nice clock with a lot of color and movement to it, and a large improvement over the old binclock package — no matter how you dice it.

It also supports vertical arrangements, as you can see above, plus a digital readout to help us lesser beings understand what time it is, and a built-in game. :shock: This place has everything. …

Personally I’m going to jam this last one into my handy-dandy screensaver script for screen, and watch it do something while I do nothing. :)

That’s all for now. Three down, 400 more to go. …

Back in action

My area of the country was mostly unaffected by Friday’s events, even if it did cause a ripple in our work flow. But the bulk of that is past and it isn’t really appropriate for me to pause much longer.

Nor is it practical. I’ve gotten a lot of links and notes in the past few days, and many of them are from people who appear to be on the same quest as I.

  • Vincente Munoz sent a note about a home server running in a 433Mhz Celeron with 128Mb of PC100 on a 40Gb main drive and a 10Gb slave, with more to come.

    Vincente says Debian 6 is making it all work, and mentioned not only alpine, axel, rtorrent and so forth, but music and video players for the console. It sounds like the system might end up as an entertainment center, if I understand correctly. Nice work!

  • Kristian Nordestgaard wrote about a Thinkpad 770 — looks like a 200 or 233Mhz Pentium, probably with 32Mb or so — being used as a hybrid typewriter-computer.

    Kristian said it does a much better job of trimming distractions than faster, high-end machines running heavier desktops that can run “no distraction” software. I’d second that.

    And Kristian said that one has “the best keyboard ever produced.” I don’t have a 770 to confirm that assertion, but if I run across one I’ll definitely put it to a test. :)

    N.B.: Kristian has an unusual method for a session backup. Check it out here.

  • One writer who asked not to be identified mentioned this sparkling gem of a site: I’m ashamed to admit it, but I didn’t even know such things were possible.

    I’m tempted to go out and buy the next dull yellow-beige component I can find — regardless of age, brand or function — just to give that recipe a try.

    To think of all the machines I could have used that with. … :shock:

  • Totalizator sent along a link to a very interesting interview with Ryan Gordon — alias icculus, who is possibly responsible for a huge portion of my Linux gaming experience.

    It’s worth skimming through the interview at the very least; Ryan has a lot of interesting comments on how games translate between systems, and some interesting perspectives on other points too.

    And it’s always nice to hear about another C-64 devotee. :)

That’s about all for now. If you want to brag about your latest elderly computer system, please feel free, and send along an image so we can all drool over it. :)

Quit means quit

I’m either getting old or getting young, because it takes more concentration than I can afford to wade through this semi-interesting novella about the Ubuntu design meisters taking an axe to the “quit” function.

I really only have one thing to say in reply: Quit means quit. One thing that always irritated me about Windows programs over the years was that some of them seemed to hang in memory until forcibly removed.

Even Skype, which I use only rarely, drives me batty because clicking the giant X in a box in the upper right corner, which on most planets means “Your work here is through,” only causes it to sink into the system tray.

If I actually want to rid the running system of it, I have to use the even more brutal right-click-quit-and-confirm command. Rubbish.

Quit means quit, and if the logic behind removing quit functions is to keep programs running silently in the background, count me out.

When I say stop, I mean stop. When I say close, I mean close. When I say quit, I mean quit — with extreme prejudice.

Furthermore this is not a new perspective for me. I hated it when AT-style hard-switch power systems, circa 1998, made the move to power systems that required you to hold down the button for the system to turn itself off.

There was never anything quite so satisfying as hearing the snap and click of an old-style power switch, viciously and unequivocally severing the system from its power source, in the space of an instant.

I want the same behavior from programs. Quit means quit, and chances are I’ll seek out applications that follow that rule.

Of course, most of the computers I use couldn’t run Ubuntu if their temporal existences depended on it, so the chance that a quitless program and I might cross paths … well, it’s pretty slim.

In closing I’ll say that it’s altogether possible that I completely misunderstood the point of that missive. It was quite long, you see. And while that’s sometimes a sign of a well thought-out argument, this time it only meant more words to string through my brain.

And in the end, for me, the issue is simple: Quit means quit. That is all.

The problem is all inside your head, she said to me

I wrote a quick post to the Ubuntu Forums about a week ago, in reply to a thread that asked about underestimating the abilities of hardware and Linux.

The point of my reply was masked a little in the geek details, which was a shame because I have a feeling the essence of almost everything I’ve learned over the past few years is encapsulated there.

The problem isn’t old hardware. The problem is how people look at old hardware.

If you can realign your viewpoint to see how things work best, and learn to adapt your requirements to fit that angle, an old-old-old machine is every bit as functional as a new one.

In essence, the problem isn’t the computer, it’s you.

And chances are, you just proved my point. If your initial reaction was, “Yeah, well, your 133Mhz Pentium can’t show 1024p flash videos, so into the dustbin with it” … I thank you.

I don’t expect it to run Crysis in wine, or show 1024p flash video, or recompile gcc in under an hour. It can’t. It was never meant to.

But I do expect it to double as a slideshow picture frame, while playing streaming audio and holding my meager ogg audio collection with Debian Lenny.

I do expect a 120Mhz machine to handle my instant messenger, mail reader, file manager, system profile, appointment calendar, web browser, blog client, personal wiki and to-do list, maybe improve my typing skills and possibly throw in a game or two.

Anything beyond those points is relegated to the domain of faster, heavier machines.

But the fun part of this adventure has been realizing how much can be done without a heavier, faster machine. Yes, I use a 2.5Ghz Celeron for movie playback.

But I’ve used a 550Mhz Celeron for that in the past, and the only real difference between the two was the size of the screen.

You have to make the mental switch that allows you to use a machine beyond what the corporations and advertising executives want.Nobody can do that for you.

But you have the tools, even if you don’t feel you have the experience or the know-how. Give yourself the time and the patience, and maybe you’ll start putting your leftovers back to work. Maybe even on the front line. :)


Visit the Wiki!

Some recent desktops

May 6, 2011
Musca 0.9.24 on Crux Linux
150Mhz Pentium 96Mb 8Gb CF

May 14, 2011
IceWM 1.2.37 and Arch Linux
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

Some recent games

Apr. 21, 2011
Oolite on Xubuntu 11.04
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

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