Friday, October 28, 2011

Create Killer Tracks with Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a really cool drum machine for linux. This Ubuntu application allows you to create professional tracks by programming drum patterns. It is multitrack enabled, meaning that you can add up to 64 tracks worth of music data to your beat. You can use 32 instrument tracks, and they are multilayered (meaning that there can be up to 16 samples for each instrument). 

Generally, drum machines sound a little cold and really different from the way a real person would play the drums. Hyrdogen gets around that by adding in unique human velocity, human time, pitch, and swing settings, giving the song and drum track a much warmer feel. With that, you can make the perfect song to export to Audacious or Amarok.

Hydrogen is included in the official repos, so you can install it from Synaptic, by clicking this link in Firefox, or by entering the following command:

sudo apt-get install hydrogen

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Save Your Amazing Ideas With Basket

Basket allows you to organize and take notes through a clean, accessible interface. This program is a must-have for any Ubuntu user in college, and definitely beats shoving all of your notes into a text editor or word processor.

It allows you to just click and type text. Further, you can paste links, images, files, addresses, and colors, which is useful for people in web or application development. Organization follows a hierarchy status, using baskets sorted by topic or project. All ideas support tagging, making it really easy to come back to where you were before and reconstruct previous notes. It allows password protection, and notes are automatically saved as you type them, so a power outage at the university will only bring glee at getting out of class early. This application is meant for KDE, so you may have to install some dependencies if you are a GNOME user. Install by searching for "basket" in Synaptic, by clicking this link, or by typing "sudo apt get install basket" in the Terminal.

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Cook Tasty Meals with Krecipes

Krecipes is an Ubuntu linux recipe manager that has slowly saved me from starvation. Now that I'm in my first year of graduate school, I decided that I better learn how to cook so I can save time in between class. Because of Krecipes, it's been a long time since I've eaten Ramen.

So here's the skinny: yes, pun intended. Krecipes allows you to manage a complete recipe database, and lets you track calories and carbohydrates, which is important for pretty nerds. You can also generate a shopping list, so you don't wonder around the grocery store aimlessly like I do. It's based on MySQL, so it's flexible and you could easily extend it in the future.

Krecipes is installable from the official repositories. Search for "krecipes" in Synaptic, or click here, or type in the Terminal:

sudo apt-get install krecipes

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Develop Websites with Bluefish

Linux is at the forefront of web development, and Ubuntu is a great distribution to use to build and design a website for the first time. Recently, I've been developing web applications using frameworks, and Linux in general makes these things quite a bit easier. Therefore, I figured I should present some of the basic tools you can use to create, develop, and host a website. This may abstract a bit away from the idea of "applications" in and of themselves, but I thought you may all be interested anyway.

The most logical first step for most users is selecting a development environment. Today, I'll highlight Bluefish. Later on, I'll focus on a WYSIWYG editor. (Which, by the way, is kind of difficult to find. Please, if you have any ideas, leave a message in the comments.)

Of course, to put your webpage on the Internet, you'll probably want to use a reliable web hosting. There's about a million out there, and it's hard to figure out the differences between them. I used to have a site on Bluehost, but I eventually cancelled because I thought their support was poor, and I didn't want to fax in a copy of my driver's license just to have SSH access so I could use Rails. I switched to ThinkHost a few months ago, and I've been really happy thus far. They offer reliable Linux hosting with unlimited bandwidth, space, and domains. Better yet, the servers are powered with wind and solar energy, and they plant a tree on your behalf.

Bluefish is a code editor, so users should have a basic understanding of XHTML and CSS, along with any other development languages. I learned HTML rather painstakingly from an outdated code reference, and I don't recommend you do it that way. Instead, try HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide published by O'Reilly, which can help even the most talented developer learn new tricks. In fact, it taught me all about the <label> tag, and I felt kind of dumb for previously embedding form labels in only a paragraph tag and wrestling with CSS, but alas...

One of the nicest things about Bluefish is that it uses 30 to 45 percent less memory than other editors. This makes quick edits less of a hassle. Sometimes, other editors can be too clunky, and I found myself reverting to a console-based text editor to make a minor change, but Bluefish should stop this from happening. It has built-in project support, so you can easily open multiple files and keep them organized in the right path. It has all the standard stuff, like line-numbers, search and replace, and code highlighting for languages like HTML, Ruby (go Rails!), Python, and PHP. Best of all, the menu bar allows you to instantly drop in code that developers use often.
Bluefish allows you to connect to a remote server and edit files, so here's a quick guide to using Bluefish with ThinkHost. This tutorial assumes you are using GNOME, though I'm sure you can do the same thing with KDE.
  1. Click on the "Places" menu, and select "Connect to Server...".
  2. In the dialog box, type in your FTP address in the "Server" box. You should be prompted for a username and password.
  3. Now, open up the mounted server in Bluefish, and now you can easily edit and save all of your files on Thinkhost.
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Detect Wireless Networks with Kismet

Kismet is a 802.11x wireless network detector and sniffer. It can detect any wireless network in range, assuming that you have a card that supports raw monitoring and that the network is broadcasting in 802.11b, g or a. I use this a lot when I have interference with my wireless connection, and I need to figure out what channels are open. Many people use this to discover and map wireless networks in their area.

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khtml2png - Take Command Line Web Screenshots on Linux

khtml2png is a helpful tool for capturing an image of a webpage with ease. It's nice to use because it will get the entire length of the site, no matter whether it is fully visible in the browser. And, it sure beats shell scripting Firefox to open on a different display and capturing an image with Imagemagick, which is a royal pain in the butt. I embed this application in PHP scripts to create web design roundups over at my other blog. I was able to capture 75 minimal web designs without much hassle.

Example of a khtml2png webshot

This application is a little harder to install because it's not in the Ubuntu repositories. I couldn't find a Deb file, so you'll have to compile it from scratch. Scratch that! I found one at Sourgeforge. Install that, or compile with the directions below. That being said, if someone wants to post a link to a Deb file or a repository, I would love you forever. You need to have a few packages compiled to use khtml2png, including g++, KDE 3.x, kdelibs for KDE 3.x (kdelibs4-dev), zlib (zlib1g-dev), and cmake. This command should work:

sudo apt-get install g++ kdelibs zlib1g-dev cmake

You may need more packages than that. It's hard for me to tell because I have so many already installed ;-) Post in the comments if you need help. After that, compile it!

make install

You can use it to take a screenshot with a command like the following:

/usr/bin/khtml2png2 --display --width 1024 --height 768 /home/you/webshot.png

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Create Oscar-Worthy Movie Scripts With Celtx

Celtx is a media pre-production editor that allows you to easily create screenplays and storyboards for your next movie. You can use it to create a whole assortment of media, including theater, comics, advertising, and video games.

Celtx utilizes a full tagging system for authors to keep track of characters, cameras, and effects. Match that with storyboard scenes and sequences, built-in schedule production, and the detailed reporting features, and it's pretty easy to create a script with Celtx.

This application is not in the official repositories, but it's pretty easy to install regardless. Just click to download the archive, and extract it to a folder. Navigate to the folder using the terminal, and launch the celtx binary with ./celtx. You can append a & like ./celtx & to run it in the background.

Do you know of any applications that deserve to be featured on The Daily Ubuntu? Leave a message at @simplrdesgn on Twitter, and I'll stick it up along with a link to your site or social media profile. As always, you can subscribe to The Daily Ubuntu for free by RSS to get an app every weekday.

Agave - Intuitive Color Palette Management

Hello dear readers! I'm glad to be back from my vacation feeling refreshed and ready to bring you some nice Ubuntu applications. Thanks again for all of the wonderful suggestions thus far. The best way to keep up to date with all of the new programs featured here at The Daily Ubuntu is to subscribe to the site feed.

Agave is a color palette selection tool used to pick design layouts for desktop themes, web site designs, icon creation, and much more. It simplifies the process of choosing colors by generating a palette based on an initial color selection according to the selected rule and color set. Supported color sets include GNOME Icon, Tango Icon, Web-Safe, and Visibone.

Picking the initial color requires no knowledge of complex codes: all you need to do is pick a color from the grid, and Agave generates the rest. From there, it will spit out the color information in hexadecimal, RGB, and HSV form for use in The GIMP, CSS, or other implementations. You can even generate a random palette for creative assistance. As soon as you find a color combination you like, you can easily adjust it by making it lighter, darker, or changing the level of saturation. Add it to your favorites, and export it to a file for easy reference.

You can install Agave via the Add/Remove... dialog found in the Applications menu or with Synaptic (further directions found here), or by typing the following into the Terminal:

sudo apt-get install agave

OR you can click on this link, and apt will do it for you! Thank you to adn for explaining that bit of ninja magic.

Conky - A Desktop System Monitor

Conky is a system monitor. It handles a bunch of different system variables, including CPU, disk space, running processes, RAM, temperature, network transfer, and log data. Conky is a fork of torsmo. You can customize the layout, colors, and fonts. It can be a bit of a bear to configure --- it requires significant work with the .conkyrc file in order to get it up and running. Fortunately, you can find a variety of good configuration templates and files all over the Internet. (Hat Tip to lyrae for the weather script I currently use)

Installing the package takes the normal route. Fire up a Terminal, and type the following:

sudo apt-get install conky

From there, you can launch the application by typing 'conky' into the Alt+F2 dialog, creating a menu launcher, or by adding it to startup.

Speaking of Terminals though, I've been thinking of doing a roundup of my favorite terminal emulators. Currently, I'm a fan of rxvt. What do you use, and why do you prefer it?

Frozen-Bubble - A Ridiculously Addictive Puzzle Game

Frozen-Bubble has blissfully stolen hours and hours of my life with its addictive gameplay and flippin' awesome soundtrack. It's an easy game with a simple premise: shoot colors bubbles onto the game board in an attempt to match up three or more similarly colored bubbles. Doing so will cause them to fall from the board, taking connected bubbles with them. If you clear all of the bubbles, you move on to the next level. If the bubbles pile up and cover the entire screen, you lose the game and restart the entire level.

Because my description is probably dense and hard to grasp, here's a video. By the way, no one gets to make fun of my mad Frozen-Bubble skillz.

The developer website lists the features well:

Colorful 3D rendered penguin animations, 100 levels of 1p game, hours and hours of 2p game, nights and nights of 2p/3p/4p/5p game over LAN or Internet, a level-editor, 3 professional quality digital soundtracks, 15 stereo sound effects, 8 unique graphical transition effects, 8 unique logo eye-candies.

Let me emphasize again: the soundtrack is amazing. It sounds really, really good. And the multiplayer is a lot of fun, especially over the LAN.

Install frozen-bubble using Synaptic, the Add/Remove... dialog, or by typing the following into the Terminal:

sudo apt-get install frozen-bubble

htop manage your system processes in seconds

Htop is a process manager that builds on the functionality of top. It allows you to view available memory and CPU usage as well as kill and manage running processes. It integrates quite well into the system manager Conky.

You can see it in action with this video via YouTube (credit: owburg):

Htop has a few features not found in top. First of all, the interface is more appealing, and it is easier to see what's going on. It opens a little faster, and you can kill processes by highlighting the name and pressing F9 instead of remembering the pid. You can scroll through the process list to see more than the first slew of items. Htop supports mouse operation as well.

As Debian Admin points out, top does have one advantage over htop:

[...] top is older, hence, more used and tested

You can install htop automagically by clicking here, searching for it in Synaptic, or by running the following command:

sudo apt-get install htop

This is by far my favorite CLI process manager. In fact, I haven't used the GUI included in GNOME ever since I found this. If you need help with usage, don't hesitate to leave a comment or a link to your question on