Archive for the ‘Linux Utilities’ Category

F.lux automatically dims your computer display at night

Friday, January 29th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of F.lux

If you've ever had a roommate—or a partner, spouse, kids—who came into your bedroom at oh-dark-thirty in the morning and turned the overhead light on, you know what a pain in the neck—and the eyes—that can be. Your eyes are all used to the dark and all of a sudden, blam!, they've got to deal with regular light. You can run into the same problem with your computer as well.

When you use your computer during the day, you may have the brightness on the display turned up so that you can see the screen with all the ambient light around you. At night, though, the room lights may not be so bright, so you don't need your screen to be lit up like noonday either. And first thing in the morning when you're all squinty-eyed, you definitely don't need to be jolted like in the turn-the-light-on scenario outlined above.

F.lux is a tool that may come in handy here. Based on your location, it does a little calculation and makes its best guess as to when sunrise and sunset ought to hit for you, and dims your display appropriately after dark. You can choose from several different settings, with nighttime color temperatures ranging from 2700K up through 5000K, as opposed to normal daylight operation at 6500K. While it dims the lights automatically, you can disable it for an hour at a time, just in case you need things to stay extra bright.

F.lux is a free download. It's available for Windows (XP and Vista), Mac (OS X 10.4), and Linux.

Download F.lux

Turn Firefox into a full-blown file transfer machine

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of FireFTP

Back in the day there were web browsers. You used them to visit sites and, umm, browse the web. Then came Firefox. Sure, you can still use it to look at web pages, but with the advent of Add-ons, now you can do all kinds of extra stuff, from analyzing the structure of web pages to setting-up to-do lists, and more.

FireFTP is a full-blown FTP client that comes as a Firefox Add-on. Once you go through the install process, you've got a fully functioning FTP tool to use for file transfers to- and from your system. It supports both plain vanilla FTP transfers, as well as encrypted SFTP uploads and downloads. Even though the browser and Add-on are platform independent, you will need to go through some extra machinations to get SFTP to work on your Mac or Linux system. It's got enough options to let you customize its behavior in ways that make the most sense to how you work, including saving login info, default directories, and such.

FireFTP is a free download. Since it's a Firefox Add-on, you'll need the Firefox web browser (version 3 or later) to use it.

Download FireFTP

AnyClient file transfer tool

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

runs as Online Serviceruns on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of AnyClient

It's a big world out there. If you want to share your work, whether ideas, images, or what-have-you, with everybody else, you've got to move it from your desktop onto the appropriate server. Whether it's a web page, a file archive, or some more exotic location, nobody will appreciate your brilliance until they see your stuff.

AnyClient is a platform-independent file transfer tool. Written in Java, you can use it for bare-bones FTP exchanges, encrypted SFTP transfers, or even for WebDAV sessions. You can choose to download it and install it on your local machine, or run it via a Java applet through your web browser, with no installation required. Either way, you can save your connection information in a site profile, allowing you to easily connect to your servers again and again.

AnyClient is a free application. You'll need to have an appropriate version of the Java runtime installed on your system.

Download AnyClient

CrashPlan makes offsite backups easy

Friday, May 15th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of CrashPlan

The best backup in the world is no good if it gets ruined. Whether you're backing up from one volume to another on your desktop machine, or even burning backups to optical media and the dropping them into your desk drawer, you still aren't as protected as you might want to be. After all, your machine could crash catastrophically, taking your original data and backups with it; your home or office could experience fire, flood, storm, or worse, taking your backups out at the same time. To be extra sure, it makes sense to store backups offsite.

While it might be tempting to say you'll just stick a CD in your bank safe deposit box, realistically how often do you think you're going to do that? You need a tool that's going to make sure that you run your backups, and that they're stored in a safe place. CrashPlan can take care of that.

In its most basic form, CrashPlan works automatically in the background to take care of business. It watches your disk activity, and once a day it saves your changes and creates a backup. It will then automatically send that backup to a machine you've specified, whether it's another one of your computers, a friend's machine, or some other location. A paid upgrade lets you backup to CrashPlan's servers, but that's not required for basic service.

CrashPlan is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows systems.

Download CrashPlan

Read and write ext2 filesystem from Windows

Monday, April 27th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Windows
screenshot of Ext2 IFS For Windows

If you're looking for the best of both worlds, you may have a dual-boot system. Fire your computer up, and then decide whether you're going to run Windows, or if today's more of a Linux day. Now you've got the support and application availability of a Windows system, with the flexibility of a UNIX-like box. While this is exciting stuff, you know you're bound to have issues now and then. Like when you're running Windows but really need something that lives on the Linux side.

Ext2 IFS For Windows is a tool that lets you access your Linux files while you're booted up in Windows. As the name would suggest, you can access your Linux ext2 filesystem from Windows. This is real access, too—it supports both read- and write for your files. And if you're a more advanced Linux user and have an ext3 filesystem, that's fine too. You access it in the same way, you just don't get the journaling support that comes with ext3. Your Linux volumes get Windows-style drive letters, and every application on your system can access your data directly.

Ext2 IFS For Windows is, as you might expect, a Windows application. It will run under WinNT, Win2k, and later.

Download Ext2 IFS For Windows

Free disk cloning tool

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Clonezilla

Disk cloning tools are a handy way to make a complete—and we do mean complete—backup of any system. Not just data, not just apps, you're grabbing everything on that disk, from boot sectors on up. This makes for a thorough backup, but might also be helpful in case of total catastrophic system meltdown—recreate your HDD exactly as it was. That could be handy!

Clonezilla is a free disk cloning tool. It works like Norton Ghost, but doesn't cost like it, since it's absolutely free. It supports just about every filesystem under the sun—FAT and NTFS for Windows, ext2 and ext3 for Linux and the like, and HFS+ for Mac users. It can even do a sector-by-sector copy for filesystems it doesn't understand. You can use it on just about any system that runs on i386 architecture, so most of your needs should be covered (sorry, not your PowerPC Mac).

Clonezilla runs as a Live CD, so even if you have only one partition or volume, you're not going to run into any "you can't image the boot volume" problems. Nice.

Clonezilla is a free download. They've also got a multicast version that will let you image a whole room full of computers at once, if you're so inclined.

Download Clonezilla

Remember to take a break with Workrave

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

runs on Linuxruns on Windows
screenshot of Workrave

For folks who spend too much time in front of a computer, repetitive strain injury (RSI) can be a real problem. The effects can range from mildly annoying to physically debilitating; from headaches and eye strain up through carpal tunnel syndrome. One important way to try to avoid these types of problems is to mix up your routine, and to avoid repeating the offending actions. It's hard to remember to take a break, so sometimes a tool like Workrave can be a help.

Workrave is an application that reminds you to take a break. There are three different types of reminders for you: a micro-pause, a rest break, and a daily limit. The micro-pause is a frequent break of short duration—just a few seconds to take your hands off the keyboard and mouse and to focus your eyes somewhere else other than on your monitor. A rest break is a bigger break to your routine. You'll want to get up, move around, maybe go get that cup of coffee you've been craving. And, or course, the daily limit tells you that you've done enough for the day, and that you really ought to get on with the rest of your life.

The intervals between each of these breaks, as well as their duration, is individually configurable. If you haven't had any RSI problems, you may want to spread the timing out here; if you have had problems, then you may want to dial your breaks up to help keep from exacerbating problems. Needless to say, if you are experiencing RSI symptoms, it's always a good idea to check with your medical provider to explore ways to help deal with them.

Workrave is a free download. It's available for both Windows and Linux platforms.

Download Workrave

Adeona theft recovery tool

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

screenshot of Adeona

Could there be anything more horrible than the loss of your laptop computer? Well, yes, I suppose so, but it's certainly pretty high up on the list. Whether you misplaced your machine, or somebody decided to acquire it via "five finger discount", now you're here and your baby's somewhere else. If you'd like to be reunited, it would be a good idea to have installed Adeona on your machine before it goes missing.

Adeona, named after the Roman goddess of "safe returns", is a free, open source tool that lets you track your laptop or any other computer. Unlike proprietary solutions, you don't have to rely on a server somewhere keeping track of the whereabouts of your machine—meaning they could keep track of where you go, as well as where any potential thief may go with your system. Adeona "phones home" about every half hour, but not on an exact schedule, making it a little tricker to detect its use. It reports back a wealth of information about your missing computer: IP address, nearby routers, wireless hotspots currently in use. The Mac version can even use your built-in camera to snap a photo of the thief.

It's important to remember that while Adeona can help you locate your missing computer, and perhaps even implicate the thief, that you should then report this information to law enforcement or other appropriate authorities and not try to effect a recovery yourself.

A free download, Adeona is available for Linux, OS X (10.4+), and Windows (XP+) users.

Download Adeona

Download YouTube Videos

Friday, May 30th, 2008

screenshot of Free YouTube Downloader

Can't get enough YouTube? Whether it's the latest viral video, some slick "how-to" program, or any of a zillion other types of content, we've all grown addicted to YouTube. Here's a tool that helps you download YouTube videos to your machine, so that you can enjoy them again and again.

Free YouTube Downloader does exactly what the name suggests: it enables you to grab those videos and save them locally. Just copy and paste the URL of the content you want, and press the button. It couldn't be easier. It supports multiple downloads as well—just type several addresses into the box, each on a separate line.

Free YouTube Downloader is a Java application, which means that it will run on Linux, Macintosh, Windows, or just about any other platform that has Java Runtime Environment Standard Edition, with Java version 1.5 or better.

Download Free YouTube Downloader

Find duplicate files

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

screenshot of Duplicate Files Searcher

How much of your hard drive space is taken up with duplicate files? Sure, they were all important when you created them, but now you've got three identical copies of that report you created, and you don't even know where they all are. Is that really the kind of clutter you need?

There are several tools out there that will help you to discover duplicates on your system, but Duplicate Files Searcher goes one better. Not only does it work on your local hard drive, but you can also use it to check for duplicates on removable media like CDs, DVDs, and even USB drives. In addition, you can also search mounted network drives, which can help you find stuff you've left on your network share as well.

Duplicate Files Searcher does a byte-by-byte compare of your files, so you know that you're identifying actual duplicates, and not just documents with the same name and different content. You don't want to clobber all your incremental backups, after all.

Duplicate Files Searcher is a Java app, so it'll run on just about anything.

Download Duplicate Files Searcher