Preview Linux Online

I read a post today on Lifehacker about a web site called OSvids.com that lets you preview operating systems, including Linux distros. Their front page currently has a video demonstrating Xubuntu — a lightweight version of Ubuntu.

I recommend checking out their video called Dapper XGL. "Dapper" is the name of the latest Ubuntu release, and "XGL" is the new advanced graphics system for the Linux desktop.

If the .ogg videos on OSvids.com won't play in your media player, you can download the free VLC media player. There is also a Portable version of VLC here

How to Install Software on Ubuntu

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MonkeyBlog.org has a great tutorial called How to Install Anything in Ubuntu. Ubuntu has thousands of free programs available for download, and that tutorial shows you how to get them.

If you haven't already tried Ubuntu, download the free Ubuntu live CD and then check out the MonkeyBlog Ubuntu tutorial.

KDE Kiosk Admin Tool

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LinuxLibrarian.org has an article about how to install and configure KDE Kiosk Admin Tool. The Kiosk Admin Tool is a great feature that lets you easily limit access to only some computer functions. More details about the KDE Kiosk Admin Tool can be found on Linux.sys-con.com, including an interview with the creator of the tool.

If you are not technically-minded and don't want to build the software from source code, you can use a Linux distro like Kubuntu, a KDE version of Ubuntu, to install the KDE Kiosk Admin Tool with just a few click in Synaptic Package Manager. You can find Synaptic in the menu by going to System —> Administration —> Synaptic Package Manager.

This is the Synaptic Package Manager screen on Ubuntu. You should be able to install KDE Kiosk Admin Tool on Ubuntu like this. You should also download KDE with Synaptic and on your next login choose the KDE desktop instead of GNOME. Using KDE on Ubuntu basically turns Ubuntu into Kubuntu. If you are already using Kubuntu, Synaptic will look similar to the image below and you will already be in KDE when you login.

Using Synaptic Tool to get KDE Kiosk Admin Tool

Free Wireless Internet for Travellers

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If you are traveling with a laptop, be sure to check out this list of free wireless hotspots from wififreespot.com.

HotspotHaven.com has a wireless hotspot search engine to find free and paid wireless access around the world.

Wi-fihotspotlist.com can help you find commercial wireless Internet access.

Wifinder.com has a list of commercial hotspots.

Jwire.com also has an extensive list of commercial and free wireless Internet hotspots.

Linux Internet Cafe System

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Userful.com offers a Linux-based system called Multi-station where you can run 10 Internet access terminal from one computer box, helping you cut down on the expenses of running public terminals.

Their web site has some screenshots of the system. They also have a list of case studies.

There is an article about Userful's system on Newsforge that also discusses a similar system by HP that allows up to four terminals to run from one computer box.

Linux Live CD List

There are hundreds of types of Linux ("distros") out there, and it may seem confusing deciding on which one to use.

For general everyday use, the best Linux live CD for beginners is the Ubuntu live CD. If you want an easy-to-use Linux that can surf the Web, check email, edit digital photos, chat on MSN, Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, IRC, and Jabber, run Internet telephone software (including Ekiga and Skype), then Ubuntu is a great choice.

Disable Autoplay / Autorun

One of the highly insecure features of Windows is the way it can automatically execute files on a CD or USB device when that CD is inserted or the device is plugged in.

An example of this computer attack: someone comes up to you at an Internet cafe and says "can I plug my iPod into your laptop to charge it?" The iPod is plugged in, a file is automatically executed, and your computer has been successfully attacked. (Note this is generally only a problem with Windows, not with Linux or Mac OS X.)

Another example of this kind of computer attack is when a record company used it to install spyware on people's computers.

The most basic method to prevent autoplay is to hold down the Shift key when inserting a CD or attaching a device. It is not always easy to remember to do this though.

To permanently disable Autoplay on Windows NT (including XP), you can edit the Windows Registry with the following steps. These can be found on Chami.com, but I have added screenshots to the steps. If you are using Windows 95, see the Chami.com page for instruction on disabling Autoplay on Windows 95.

1. Go to the Start Menu and click on "Run", as highlighted in the image below:

Windows Start menu, choose Run

2. In the Run box that appears, type regedit as shown below:

Running Portable Apps on Linux

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Many people have heard of Portable Apps and are probably wondering if they will run on Linux. Portable Apps (as distributed by PortableApps.com) are not made to run on Linux, but I have been able to get them to work on Linux under WINE.

To get them to work you need to have WINE installed, a program that lets you run many Windows programs under Linux. I have a page on how to install WINE on Ubuntu Linux.

Here is a screenshot of a couple of the Windows versions of Portable Apps running on Ubuntu Linux from a USB thumb drive:

Portable Apps Suite running on Ubuntu Linux with WINE

Next Linux Desktop Rivals Mac OS X in Eye Candy

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Take a look at what the next generation of Linux desktop looks like on this Linux video.

It uses Compiz and XGL to create a desktop interface that rivals or surpasses the slick look of Mac OS X. Notice the special effects when moving the windows around, and especially the desktop-switching feature, where you can switch between four virtual desktops by spinning them around like they are faces on a cube.

If you want to take Compiz/XGL for a trial run on your own computer you can try the Kororaa live CD.

Cracking Your Computer With an iPod or USB Thumb Drive

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Bruce Schneier has an article that describes a way that people can steal your passwords just by plugging an iPod or USB thumb drive into your Windows computer:

"...basically you can configure a file on your USB device to automatically run when it's plugged into a computer. That file can, of course, do anything you want it to.

Recently I've been seeing more and more written about this attack.The Spring 2006 issue of 2600 Magazine, for example, contains a short article called "iPod Sneakiness" (unfortunately, not on line). The author suggests that you can innocently ask someone at an Internet cafe if you can plug your iPod into his computer to power it up — and then steal his passwords and critical files."