Print what you like from any web page

There are times when you need to print stuff from a site you visit. However, printing from some sites can be a really painful experience in that the printout tends to come with all the ads and images on the page. PrintWhatYouLike is a nice tool that helps you choose any portion of a webpage for printing.

All you have to do is enter the URL of the page you want to print and select the portion of your choice. You also have the option of saving a page as a PDF or HTML. There is a bookmarklet you can add to your browser to make accessing the tool easier.

Blender Basics e-book for free download

Blender is one of the most powerful applications of the Open Source community. It’s used for various things such as modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, water simulations, skinning, animating, rendering, particle and other simulations, non-linear editing, compositing, and creating interactive 3D applications, including games.
If you are new to it or would like to take a serious look at it for a project you may have, then Blender Basics should be of interest to you. It is available as a full book download or choose the chapters you want. You are free to use it in your educational setup.
If you want to be convinced of what you can do with Blender, take a look at these videos.

Vectorial Drawing on Linux – Xara Extreme

When you think of vector drawing in Linux, do you think only about InkScape? But there are several programs for drawing vector graphics with many features. In this series of articles, I will address several graphics programs available on Linux, starting with a not very known, Xara Extreme.

Xara Extreme
Xara Xtreme for Linux is a powerful general-purpose graphics program for Unix platforms including Linux, FreeBSD and (in development) MAC / OS-X.

Formerly known as Xara LX, it is based on Xara Xtreme for Windows, which is the fastest vector-graphics program available. The source code of Xara Xtreme was released in open source in early 2006 and is being ported to Linux. This process is almost complete and Xara Xtreme for Linux is available for download now.

Linux Version
Xara Xtreme for Linux (or Linux Xara Xtreme Edition) is the open source version of Xara Xtreme. It was formerly called Xara Xtreme LX or just Xara LX, LX is an acronym for Linux. The name “LX” is maintained in some places (eg, the executable is still called “xaralx”).

The first version was released for Linux in October 2005, and Xara Group Ltd. announced it will release the source code for the Linux version (a simplified version) under a free software license, the GPL, and seek help from the community in porting to Linux and Mac OS X using the wxWidgets toolkit.

In the opening of the Libre Graphics Meeting 2006 in Lyon, France, Xara has released most of the source of Xara Xtreme for Linux on an updated website with information on how to access the source code of the software. According to the Xara Xtreme for Linux Homepage, the source code released contains “most of the sources of Xara Xtreme”. Currently, the only part of Xara Xtreme for Linux that is not under GPL is the rendering engine CDraw, which is only available as static libraries for some selected CPU architectures  and only for C + + compiler GCC, but , there is not the intention of releasing the CDraw engine of Xara on GPL, since it would hurt the sales of their other paid products  for the Windows platform.

The 0.3 beta series for the first time, allowed the use of the new file format *. xar to the open source version. Previous versions only supported for opening and viewing packaged demo files which came along the product, to show its capabilites.

Version 0.5 was the first to also have the ability  to save. The current version is 0.7.

A version for Mac OS X is still non working, but it is in development, and there is a call for developers on the project site.

Features

  • Opens and renders all the XAR files. Rendering 100% complete.
  •  Text now renders (note that text will only render exactly as intended by the designer if you have the required fonts installed on your system).
  •  Text tool includes new support for tabs and rulers
  •  Xtreme menus
  •  Selection tool
  •  Object delete cut/copy/paste/duplicate/clone using menus or Ctrl-X,C,V,D,K
  •  Drag objects around, plus scale, rotate, shear. Plus numeric control via Infobar
  •  Right click drop-copy while dragging
  •  Magnetic object snap. Grid snap and grid display.
  •  Zoom tool
  •  Push tool (middle mouse button also works to push the page around while in any tool)
  •  Group and ungroup (Ctrl-G, Ctrl-U)
  •  Undo/redo using toolbar, icons or Ctrl-Z / Y
  •  Shape editor for editing and creating shapes
  •  Pen bezier path tool
  •  Rectangle, Ellipse and QuickShape tools
  •  Arrange toolbar and menus – change the z-order of objects, slice/join/add/subtract shapes
  •  Interactive Feather tool with new popup slider added to wxWidgets
  •  Fill tool
  •  Transparency tool
  •  Blend tool
  •  Bevel tool
  •  Text tool, including ability to set the font
  •  Freehand tool (No brushes yet)
  •  Shadow tool
  •  Color line and full color editor
  •  Save
  •  JPG, GIF and PNG import and export
  •  Import/export of many ImageMagick supported types inclduing TIFF, BMP, PICT, XPM and others.
  •  Bitmap export dialog includes image previews
  •  Early version of SVG import (work in progress)
  •  Working Adobe Illustrator import (to same level as Windows Xtreme version)
  •  Drag and drop file import
  •  Layer, color, line and bitmap galleries
  •  Guidelines
  •  Rulers
  •  A choice of document templates
  •  Status line and progress bar
  •  Many new menu items e.g. convert lines to shapes
  •  Clipviews
  •  Tracer tool
  •  New plug-in system for import/export filters (documentation and example filter code for this will appear on our web site soon)
  •  Options dialog (and most options now operational)
  •  Printing.
  •  Profile editing in feather, fill, transparency and blend tools
  •  Full comprehensive Help now integrated.

The Ubuntu Software Center- An under utilized asset?

Sometime back I had talked about another use to which the Ubuntu Software Center can be used to help fund app developers. I probably did not articulate my thoughts well so maybe reechoing it here will do some good.

The USC as it is in Lucid is really great. Well polished, nicely categorized and above all easy to navigate. However, don’t you think there is still one thing missing? Look up an application and it comes up with brief descriptions of what it does. Then you have a place there that tells you the price (in all cases that I have seen, FREE). 

One thing that baffles me is, when you go to the official sites of virtually all the applications, you have small Paypal icons there that entreat you to donate to support the continued development of the application. Now since most of the end users are not likely to go the sites to download these applications, why not follow them with these appeals?

If there is a price tag in the USC that states that application X is free, then I strongly suggest right next to the FREE price, there should be a way for users to be able to donate to support the developers. Price free, but you can donate right from the comfort of the USC. Developers get supported, end users are are also given a of way of contributing to the applications they enjoy using. Win-win situation.  

Open Source I believe goes both ways. As we enjoy the great and freely available applications that are the labor of thousands of individuals who also have bills to pay, we should also be more than eager to contribute to their support in our own small ways. In this regard, the Ubuntu Software Center could be used for more than it is now. What do you think?

5 cool Linux audio editors worth knowing

One good thing about using Linux is the amount of choices one has when it comes to the use of any application. If you are a music lover, the following 5 music/audio editors are worthy of note
“LMMS is a free cross-platform alternative to commercial programs like FL Studio, which allow you to produce music with your computer. This includes the creation of melodies and beats, the synthesis and mixing of sounds, and arranging of samples. You can have fun with your MIDI-keyboard and much more; all in a user-friendly and modern interface.”

Talking of features, it boasts of

  • Song-Editor for composing songs
  • A Beat+Bassline-Editor for creating beats and basslines
  • An easy-to-use Piano-Roll for editing patterns and melodies
  • An FX mixer with 64 FX channels and arbitrary number of effects allow  unlimited mixing possibilities
  • Many powerful instrument and effect-plugins out of the box
  • Full user-defined track-based automation and computer-controlled automation sources
  • Compatible with many standards such as SoundFont2, VST(i), LADSPA, GUS Patches, and MIDI
  • Import of MIDI and FLP (Fruityloops Project) files

    

Available for all three popular platforms, Traverso DAW is “a GPL licensed, cross platform multitrack audio recording and editing suite, with an innovative and easy to master User Interface. It’s suited for both the professional and home user, who needs a robust and solid DAW.” 

The developers call it a complete suite because it “is a complete solution from recording to CD Mastering. By supplying many common tools in one package, you don’t have to learn how to use lots of applications with different user interfaces. This considerably lowers the learning curve, letting you get your audio processing work done faster.” Worth Checking out.

Rosegarden, the development of which is sponsored by Typo 3, “is an easy-to-learn, attractive application that runs on Linux, ideal for composers, musicians, music students, and small studio or home recording environments. It is a well-rounded audio and MIDI sequencer, score editor, and general-purpose music” composition and editing environment.”

Ardour
Released under the GPL, Ardour is a hard disk recorder and digital audio workstation application that runs on Linux, FreeBSD and Mac OSX. The application aims to provide a digital audio workstation suitable for professional use with features such as recording, mixing, editing and mastering. Ardour relies heavily on plugins ot get some features to work.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is an advanced drum machine for GNU/Linux. It’s main goal is to bring professional yet simple and intuitive pattern-based drum programming with features such as
  
  

  •     Up to 64 ticks per pattern with individual level per event and variable pattern length.
  •     32 instrument tracks with volume, mute, solo, pan capabilities.
  •     Multi layer support for instruments (up to 16 samples for each instrument).
  •     Ability to import/export song files.
  •     Unique human velocity, human time, pitch and swing functions.
  •     Multiple patterns playing at once. 


There are dozens of others out there that easily get the job done no matter its complexity. If there is any one reason why Linux is such a force to reckon with, it’s about how hard it is to choose from lots of solutions to any given problem. Give any of the above apps a try and tell me what you think of them. If you prefer others not mentioned here, please share them with us in the comments.

Artha – A Linux desktop dictionary worth having

The default dictionary that ships with Ubuntu requires one to be online to be able to look up a word. Well what if you are not online or have no internet connection at your disposal at the time you want to look up the meaning of a word? That is where Artha shines.
Artha is a WordNet based thesaurus released under the GPL that works completely offline. It is a “handy thesaurus that focuses on high usability, without trading off simplicity and ease of use. It has the following distinct features that increases its usability:
  • WordNet – Artha harnesses the extensive & in-depth database provided by WordNet. Unlike other dictionaries which goes on-line for every single lookup, Artha works completely off-line; thanks to WordNet for its excellent and cognitive database
  • Hot key Lookup – When you press a pre-set hot key, after selecting some text on any window, Artha pops up with the selection’s definitions looked-up.
  • Regular Expressions Search – When a word is vaguely known, i.e. the user is unclear of its spelling or when it’s start/end alone is known or when the number of characters is known; one can speed up/narrow the search using regular expression to locate the particular word they have in mind.
  • Notifications – Artha can show passive notifications (balloon tips) instead of the application’s window popping up, so that you can continue what you were doing, uninterrupted. (like reading, writing, etc.)
  • Suggestions – When a misspelled word is queried for, Artha gives you its near-match suggestions.
  • Relative to Sense Mapping – Relative words like synonyms, antonyms, etc. that are displayed are many. You might not know to which sense/definition of a word does a relative map to. In Artha, when you select a relative, its corresponding definition is scrolled to and highlighted for easy comprehension.”
For me, the killer feature about Artha is its ability to pop  up a balloon with the meaning of a word which I highlight and press a predefined key. It is really cool and makes using very pleasant in that it gets out of your way while at the same time helping you make sense of whatever it is that you are reading. 
It is available for download source compilation for other distros while both Debian and Fedora together with their derivatives already have it in their repositories.

5 free online image editing tools worth trying

If like me, you really are hopelessly incompetent when it comes to image editing, then a tool that is easy to use and to some extent fun is always welcome. The following 5 online free image editing tools fall into the above category and are worth trying.
Aviary is my favorite tool when it comes to online image editors. With its massive array of functionality, it sure will be able to do the work just right the way you want it. The site also features an audio editing tool that you can use to remix, apply sound effects and more. There is also a Firefox plugin called Talon that allows you to
  • Fully or partially capture the screen of any webpage
  • Quickly launch any and all the Aviary editing tool set
  • Quickly search the Aviary creation library
  • One click editing and saving of any image you come across online and more
FotoFlexer is “the worlds most advanced image editor” which true to that phrase, is really advanced. It gives all the functionality that is found is most advanced image editing softwares like curve tweaks and intelligent lassoing.  FotoFlexer is really great if you are very conversant with high end image editing techniques, yet not intimidating to beginners like me :-).
Pixlr is also another great online image editor that features custom brushes, filters, layers and other tools to help transform your image into anything you want. Very user friendly interface and easy to use.
“Splashup, formerly Fauxto, is a powerful editing tool and photo manager. With the features professionals use and novices want, it’s easy to use, works in real-time and allows you to edit many images at once. Splashup runs in all browsers, integrates seamlessly with top photo-sharing sites, and even has its own file format so you can save your work in progress.” Need I say more?
Recently acquired by the almighty Google, Picnik is a fun to use online image editing tool that helps you tweak your image to your heart’s desire. With this service, you can crop, resize, use advanced controls to fine to your exact taste and much much more.
It is worth noting that all the above services work within your browser, require no download of anything, are free to use and require no sign up. So now you have it, five free tools that you can use to fine tune that holiday photo or to learn what the pros mean when they talk of layers and redeye among other image editing jargons.

TV-Browser- Your open source electronic TV guide.

TV Browser is a simple, free and open source application that “gets the daily TV program from the internet and shows it clearly aranged – like a printed TV guide.” In other words, it is your daily TV show guide that works on all platforms- Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.
It supports over 500 channels. You only need an internet connection during the data update Java Runtime Environment installed to use TV Browser. It is available for download for all platforms from Sourceforge.

Ubuntu Linux and proprietary software – Let the demand decide.

There’s a survey that seeks to get a feel of what proprietary applications Ubuntu users would want to have on the distro. It includes some long time cravings like Adobe Photoshop and World of Warcraft. I am all for the inclusion of these applications or making them a few clicks away for those who want them.
Like any other product or service, the supply should always be determined by the demand. Thanks to a paradigm shift, the world of operating systems  is increasingly becoming more and more hemoogeneous, where no one of them can truly be an island. People would like to use Ubuntu for the security it offers relative to Windows, but at the same time rely on Windows applications to put food on the table.
Sure there’s GIMP, but what if people want to have their PS not because they hate GIMP whatsoever but because they just want PS and that’ it? If having these applications will go some way to get people to switch to the relative safety of Linux, then so be it.
I am seriously not in support of the idea that you should not use certain software because of some schism. The times when operating systems were used based on extreme ideological reasons I believe are long gone. I use Ubuntu because first and foremost it helps me get stuff done. This I think is the over riding reason why you also use any other software.
I’d like to add my voice to the survey (taken it already, please do so if you have not) in telling Canonical that if there is an overwhelming demand for such applications from Ubuntu users, they should not hesitate to make them readily available. I cannot tell which form the delivery should take, but the bottom line is that they must be made available together with a convenient way of payment.

A cursory look at Lives Video Editor for Linux

An application that was somehow lacking on the Linux platform was a good and easy to use video editor. However, thanks to the tireless efforts of some really great people out there, we are now beginning to see such applications forthcoming. A good example is OpenShot. In this article, I’d want us to take a cursory look at another and relatively unknown video editor for Linux – Lives Video Editor
Lives Video Editor is a stable, open source, GPL’d, easy to use video editor that runs very well on the Linux platform. It is great for home use and at the same time for small to mid range professional video editing. It boasts among others the following features
  • Support for many video formats thanks to the Mplayer decoder.
  • Support for fixed and variable frame rates
  • Ability to edit many file types and sources including remotely located files (with mplayer/ffmpeg libraries), and directories of images.
  • Encode to over 50 supported output formats like mkv, dv, swf, Ogg Theora, Dirac, MNG, Snow, xvid, animated GIF and more
  • For audio, mp3, vorbis, mod, it, xm and wav files are supported
  • Trimming of sound to fit video selection
  • Sample accurate cutting and pasting of audio within and between clips.
  • Resampling of audio (rate, channels, sample size, signedness and endianness); audio is auto-resampled between clips.
  • Can be extended through the use of plugins
  • Support for extending encoder formats through encoder plugin API
  • Frame accurate cutting and pasting within and between clips.
  • Saving/re-encoding of clips, selections, and individual frames.
  • Lossless backup/restore.
  • Streaming input and output.
  • Real time blending of clips (various chroma and luma blends).
The full list of features available in Lives Video Editor can be found here. This application really has something for every video enthusiasts out there. Whether it be that you want to edit that holiday video you took or make your own video to upload to Youtube, Lives Video Editor certainly has something for you. You can download it here and find a detailed online manual here.