August 26, 2016

25 Awesome (And Some Unexpected) Things Powered By Linux

25 Awesome (And Some Unexpected) Things Powered By Linux
From your kitchen to the reaches of outer space, Linux really does manage to get everywhere…

    25 things linux

    ‘Linux has gone far beyond what anyone could have expected’
    With Linux turning the ripe old age of 25 today — halfway to its midlife crisis  — I figured: why not make one of those kooky tie-in listicles that are popular on other websites?
    So I did. I took to t’internet to find 25 awesome (and in some cases unexpected) things, companies and services that are made possible thanks to Linux.




    1. Super Computers

    super computers titan

    I couldn’t start with anything else, could I? When running down a list of impressive Linux-powered ‘things’ the ultimate in powered ‘things’, super-expensive super computers, have to feature!
    What’s more impressive than some of the most impressive machines in the world running Linux is how many of them run it: 497 of the top 500 fastest peta-flop crunching machine beasts use Linux.




    2. NASA


    NASA’s use of Linux and open-source software is testament to the versatility and adaptability of it.
    From storing data sent down from satellites and telescopes, to crunching and serving up that data to research institutions and the greater public — NASA use Linux.
    The Jet Propulsion Laboratory also uses Linux to, quote, “help with projects relating to the construction of unmanned space flight and deep space exploration”.




    3. Space Robots


    Sticking with the space theme, did you know that the first humanoid robot — Robonaut 2 — sent into space (and floating above your head right now in the International Space Station) runs on Linux? You betcha!
    NASA’s experience with R2 on the station will, it says, help them understand the capabilities and possibilities for robots in future space missions.
    Not that you’ll get to meet this pioneer as NASA say there are ‘no plans’ to bring R2 back to earth!




    4. Games Consoles


    One word is all that’s needed here: Steam. SteamOS and Steam Machines are leading the charge for Linux gaming in the living room, though Android-based set-top boxes that allow gaming could, in theory, also count.
    Certain gamers among you may even remember some of the (not hugely successful) Linux-based handhelds like the Pandora and the Neo Geo X.
    Trivia: Sony once released a Linux for Playstation 2 kit that could turn the (then new) games console into a proper Linux desktop.




    5. The Large Hadron Collider


    It’s one of the most important scientific research facilities in the world, not to mention the most expensive at $10 billion. The Large Hadron Collider relies on Linux to handle, process, store and distribute the petabytes of data it accrues.




    6. Roku

    roku tv logo

    Beating even Google’s (Linux powered) Chromecast and Amazon’s (Linux powered) FireTV, Roku is the most popular media streaming box (or dongle, depending on which you own) in the US.
    All Roku hardware runs a custom, heavily modified version of Linux called ‘Roku OS’.
    The NowTV box in the UK is a rebranded Roku device, fact fans.




    7. TiVo


    Personal digital video recorders (colloquially known as ‘DVRs’) such as TiVo — arguably the best selling DVR in the world — feature an embedded Linux-based OS.
    It’s this OS that handles the recording, playback and management of your fave movies and TV shows and runs your fave TV apps.




    8. Smart TVs


    Linux doesn’t just power a plethora of set-top boxes. A number of leading TV manufacturers offer a built-in ‘smart TV’ experience using, you guessed it, Linux.
    From LG (who use WebOS) to Samsung (who use Tizen, Orsay OS) to Sharp, HiSense, Philips and Panasonic (who use FirefoxOS).




    9. Smartwatches


    From the marketing you’d think Apple was the only smart watch seller whose device has an embedded operating system — but it’s not.
    As far back as 2000 IBM was demoing a smartwatch that runs Linux. Some 16 years on from that and you can’t move for smartwatches that run it, with Samsung’s Tizen watches and a sleeve full of Android Wear devices leading the field.




    10. The Amazon Kindle

    kindle logo

    The Kindle is almost a byword for digital e-readers, but few give much thought to the embedded operating system it runs, but it is Linux. Some hackers even managed to install Ubuntu on the early-gen Kindles!
    The very first version of the Kindle OS used Linux kernel v2.6.26, while the most recent, the Kindle Oasis, uses v3.0.35.




    11. Instagram (And Basically The Entire Internet)


    When you’re scrolling down through selfies, food snaps and insane promotions on Instagram you probably don’t give much thought to what powers the experience.
    With over 1 billion app installs on Android, serious power is needed behind the scenes to handle, process and serve millions of 1:1 pictures and videos, comments and accounts every day.
    And when you need power and adaptability you use Linux — which is what powers Instagram (and a host of other social networks) behind the scenes.
    Instagram is not alone. Many market-disrupting companies like AirbnbUber and Netflix also run on Linux and open-source software.



    12. In-Car Entertainment


    From the Tesla Model S to the 2013 Cadillac XTS — many cars are turning to Linux to power their in-car infotainment systems.



    13. In-Flight Entertainment


    Oh yeah, it’s not just cars that get to have all the nerdy fun. Plenty of in-flight entertainment systems aboard airplanes run Linux, including that used by Delta Air Lines.
    Next time you’re whizzing across the planet in a metal tube pay extra attention to the screen in front of you: it could be powered by open-source.



    14. Digital Signage


    From advertising screens to train station terminals: Linux is used in a variety of kiosk and signage situations around the world — far too many to list individually!
    There’s (naturally — this is the internet!) an entire Tumblr dedicated to Linux in public. 



    15. Self Driving Cars


    Google’s autonomous car computers run Linux, as do prototype self-driving vehicles from General Motors (GM) and Volkswagen.



    16. Smart Electric Motorbike


    The Mavizen TTX02 was more than the first electric-powered racing bike to come on the scene. Keeping the electro-bike firmly up to speed was an on-board computer running Linux. This has a USB port and Wi-Fi to allow real-time system feedback, manual tuning and other monitoring to take place.




    17. Smart Refrigerators


    ChillHub is a smart fridge that runs on Ubuntu – but it’s not the only cool kitchen appliance kitted out with Tux. The Electrolux fridge released in early 2010 also uses Linux to keep things nice and chilled.




    18. Washing Machines


    Newer washing machines come with all sorts of fancy features, from load-sensitive scales that adjust the amount of water needed, to programmable washes that kick in at a certain time. And powering much of those on-board brains is Linux.
    Samsung is a big user of Linux in its range of modern washing machines.




    19. Advanced Air Traffic Control


    The Federal Aviation Administration of the United States switched to Linux back in 2006. It runs custom-built software to manage and display air traffic flow – software that runs on Linux.




    20. Chromebooks


    You’d be surprised how many people think Chromebooks run Android — they don’t. Chromebooks run Chrome OS, a Linux distribution based on (but heavily modified from) Gentoo.




    21. Japanese High Speed Train


    The Shinkansen “Bullet Train” is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan that hit pretty breathtaking speeds of 240–320 km/h.
    To keep things running smoothly the Shinkansen employs a centralized traffic control to keep all train operations – and all tasks relating to train movement, track, station, schedule, etc. – networked and computerized.
    And what do these system run on? Yup, Linux.




    22. The New York Stock Exchange


    The world’s financial exchanges have long been fans of open-source software and Linux thanks to its ability to perform, transact and analyse calculations, quotes, prices and messages at lightning fast speed.




    23. U.S. Department of Defense


    The United States Department of Defense is the single biggest customer of Red Hat Linux. The military (!) are enthusiastic about open source software, with one military bigwig calling it a vital part “of the integrated network fabric which connects and enables our command and control system to work effectively, as people’s lives depend on it.”




    24 Nuclear submarines


    Way back in 2004, Lockheed Martin gave the US government a nuclear submarine powered by Red Hat Linux. Linux is used to power the submarine’s on-board sonar systems.
    If it was running Windows I don’t think I’d be able to sleep as soundly!



    And Finally…

    25. Your Computer

    You’ve made it this far reading an article about Linux, written on Linux, hosted on Linux and, importantly, there’s a chances you’re reading it on Linux too.


    August 22, 2016

    10 Great Apps to Convert Audio & Video Files in Linux

    With the different audio and video formats available, there is often the need to inter convert amongst them – sometimes for quality and sometimes for compatibility. Here are some of the better software, that you can use to achieve the inter conversions on your Linux box.

    Sound Converter

    Available via the package manager, Sound converter provides basic batch audio file conversion. Select the files or drop in an entire folder, choose the output format and bitrate from within Edit > Preferences and basically, you’re done.


    Gnormalize is a GTK based tool for audio conversion. In addition to converting audio (between mp3, mp4, mpc, wav, ogg, ape and flac), Gnormalize can adjust the volume of sound files to compensate for varying recording levels. You can also use Gnormalize to rip CDs, edit metadata and play your songs as well.


    KDE users can try SoundKonverter. It has all the features of Gnormalize like reading tags, replay gain calculation but supports a few additional audio file formats.

    OggConvertWaoN and flac

    You always have a plenty of choices at your disposal when choosing software in Linux. Here are some command line tools that are good for specific audio conversion tasks. OggConvert provides you tools to convert almost all major audio formats into Ogg. flac and WaoN are good to use use when working with Flac or mid files respectively.


    Then there is SoX – Sound eXchange. Although not just a conversion tool, geeks swear by it. You just cannot write an article about sound and not mention SoX. It does some hundred different amazing things and is rightly called the “Swiss Army Knife” of sound-processing programs.


    FFmpeg pretty rules the roost here. You can get all geeky and learn the command line switches or you can try WinFF. WinFF provides a frontend to FFmpeg. It works on Windows and Mac as well. It (actually FFmpeg) can be used for batch conversion of audio and video files. Just add the file(s) you wish to convert, choose the desired format, apply device presets if you desire. Once you are set, hit the Convert button and out pops the command line with one big ass command! Glad we don’t have to type in that ourselves, thanks to WinFF.
    You can do pretty amazing things with WinFF or FFmpeg in general. We saw how we can use it to create actions so that you can convert video for your iPod with a right click in Nautilus. Studying the command line that WinFF pops out, you can create more of such custom actions. You can for example, write an action to extract audio out of videos, the possibilities are endless.


    Handbrake is a popular multi-platform video transcoder. It can be used to convert DVDs to MP4, MKV, AVI and OGM. It offers additional features like chapter selection, burning subtitle into the picture, cropping and scaling.


    If Handbrake converts your DVDs to MP4s, DeVeDe takes in video files and creates DVDs and CDs that you can run on your regular home CD/DVD players. DeVeDe is available for Windows as well.
    There are plenty of choices for you to consider and choose from if you are looking for some good Audio/Video converters for Linux. Did we miss out on your favorite software? Let us know in the comments


    Honorable Mention: GNAC -

    Gnac is an easy to use audio conversion program for the Gnome desktop. It is designed to be powerful but simple! It provides easy audio files conversion between all GStreamer supported audio formats.

    You can download it at:

    How To Convert Media Files in Linux

    swap-1-vlcOnce in a while, you need to convert media from one format to another, even in a cloud-centric world where everything is a “stream.” There can be different reasons for doing so. In most cases, I have to convert videos that I shoot or purchase so that I can play them on my mobile devices or other players, which support only certain formats.
    Converting media files or transcoding is extremely easy in Linux, thanks to many open source projects.

    Transcoding Videos

    I have a heterogeneous environment at home, a mix of Mac OS X, Linux desktops, Chrome OS devices, Android phones and tablets, Yamaha music system, and car infotainment. So, I always convert my videos in a format that is supported on all these platforms and, in most cases, the supported format is .mp4.
    There are two ways you can convert your videos to mp4: either using a less-known feature of VLC or with the standalone app Handbrake.

    Use VLC to Convert Videos

    VLC is known as the media playback Swiss army knife because it can play virtually every media format out there. However, many features of VLC are less known, and transcoding is one of them.
    To get started, open VLC and, from the main menu, choose Media > Convert/Save (see Figure 1 above).
    Then, click on the Add button and browse the video file that you want to transcode. Click on theConvert/Save button at the bottom and it will open another window. Here you will see the source file, and under Settings, you can choose what format do you want to convert it into.
    You can also click on the wrench/screwdriver icon, which will allow you to fine-tune your transcoding as you can choose the appropriate container, codecs for your video (Figure 2).
    If you are transcoding for a particular device or platform, for example YouTube, you can choose appropriate format from the drop-down menu (Figure 3)
    swap-5-vlcOnce you have chosen the desired output format, it’s time to choose the destination. Click on the Browse button and choose the location where you want the converted file to be saved. At this point, you need to give a name to the file you are going to convert. (I wish it used the current name of the file.) Give it a name and then click on Save.
    Once everything looks good, hit the Start button and VLC will start transcoding your video.

    Handbrake for Batch Transcoding

    Although VLC does an excellent job of transcoding, Handbrake is the open source app that was created just to do this. And, it can also do batch conversion. If you are on an Ubuntu-based system, you need to install two packages in order to get .mp4 support. Add the handbrake repository to your system and install those packages:
    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:stebbins/handbrake-git-snapshots
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install handbrake-cli handbrake-gtk
    Open Handbrake and click on Source. Then, select the file you want to convert; once it’s loaded, click on the Enqueue button, and it will add the file to the queue. Click on Source again, select the next file, and add it to the queue. Repeat the process to add all the files that you want to convert (Figure 4).
    swap-7-handbrakeAlternatively, if you want to make it easier, create a folder and copy all the files that you want to convert into that folder. Then select that entire folder -- instead of a file -- from Source. Once Handbrake scans all files, click on Queue from main menu and choose Add Multiple. Handbrake will then add all the files from that directory to the conversion queue.
    Once all the files are added to the queue, choose the desired output format from the Preset List. You can further fine-tune it by adjusting the settings from the options on the main window.
    Next, choose the destination for the exported/converted files. If everything looks good, go ahead and start conversion either from Queue > Start Queue or by hitting the Start button.
    Handbrake will start converting your files (Figure 5).

    Audio Conversion with Sound Converter

    swap-13-lf-soundVLC can convert audio files as well, just follow the instructions above and choose audio files instead of videos files. But if you are looking for batch processing or a simpler app, then you can install the Sound Converter application on your Linux box; it’s available in the main repo of major distributions. The app has a very simple interface.
    If you want to convert only one audio track, choose Add File, if you have more than one file, then choose Add Folder option.
    Once all files are added, click on Preferences and change the destination in the Where to place results option. You can also choose how to rename files (if you want to).
    The third and the most important option is output format. Most players support .mp3 format, so that’s the one I would prefer. Adjust the bitrate and quality, if you want to, and close the window (Figure 6).
    swap-14-soundYou will see the list of all the files you added; select them all and click on Convert; Sound Convert will transcode all your files in the desired audio format.
    One of the greatest features of Sound Converter is that it can also “extract” audio from video files. So, if you need to rip just the audio, this is the app for you. Just add the video files and convert them to the desired audio format. As you can see in Figure 7, there are three video files that I am converting to audio files.
    That’s pretty much what you need to convert media in Linux. It’s Linux, so there’s more than three ways to do it; tell us how do you do it.


    August 20, 2016

    How to Upgrade to LibreOffice 5.2 on Ubuntu

    LibreOffice 5.2 was released last week
     and you are loving the changes it brings, like a new single-toolbar mode for Writer.

    And while packages were made available in a variety of formats, from source downloads to Snap and Flatpak, I know some of you have been patiently waiting to upgrade from the official PPA.

    So this post is a short PSA to tell you that the latest version of LibreOffice is now available to install from the official LibreOffice PPA.

    Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and Ubuntu 16.04 LTS are supported.

    To add the LibreOffice PPA to your Software Sources you should open a new Terminal (Alt + Ctrl + t) and enter the following command, confirming your user password when prompted:

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa && sudo apt update
    But before you proceed to run sudo apt upgrade or launch the Software Updater to complete the upgrade there’s a small package conflict you’ll need to take care of first.

    LibreOffice 5.2 uses the newer LibreOffice-GTK2, so you’ll need to manually remove the old version before LibreOffice can be upgraded:

    sudo apt remove libreoffice-gtk

    Now complete the upgrade by running:

    sudo apt dist-upgrade && sudo apt install libreoffice-gtk2 libreoffice-gnome
    That’s it. You should now have shiny new versions of LibreOffice Writer, Calc, Impress, et al.


    June 23, 2016

    ChaletOS 16.04 is an impressive & polished XFCE Distro

    I tried the new ChaletOS 16.04 XFCE distro based on Xubuntu 16.04 LTS, and it is an impressive and polished linux distro. It offers a smooth transition to former Windows users using the familiar Windows 7 launcher, along with a number of tools for the new user like: Start Point- a grouping of recommended downloads, and how-to videos, Synaptic Package Manager, as well as many of the best-in-breed linux applications like: Firefox, Pidgin IM, Audacious music player, VLC audio/video player, Winetricks, and more. It does not come pre-loaded with an Office Applications Suite, but LibreOffice is available for download. It also offers a number of very polished themes available through the Style Changer. In the Style Changer, it also offers pre-configured Conky Manager themes. This alone is a big time saver for the new user. It runs fast and looks great with a large number of high quality wallpapers too. Users looking for a polished, fast, and easy to use distro, have found a new home in ChaletOS 16.04. Below are my screen shots and a link where to download it. Enjoy.

    Thunar (included) and Nemo File Managers

    Style Changer theme utility

    Start Point recommended applications

    Start Point how to videos

    You can download ChaletOS 16.04 here: