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Tinycore is an extremely small graphical linux distro, available for x86 systems. Tinycore consists of pretty much the bare minimum required for a graphical linux environment (namely a Linux 2.6 kernel, Busybox, Tiny X, and Fltk) clocking in at just 10mb. TC runs entirely within RAM, saving its self to disk when the ‘sync’command is used, or at shutdown.

TC is essentially a blank canvas. functional enough to use from the get go, but with enough potential to make a very handy machine.

TC has two main modes of opperation.

1. Cloud – Non-persistant, suited to users who wish for an uncluttered system – simply boot up, select the app you wish to use, it will be downloaded and installed from the repo. after a reboot, system will have returned to default.
Personally, I cannot get my head around why users would prefer this mode over a persistant install. this requires software to be redownloaded after every boot. also, if any configurations and other personal settings are required, these will be lost. not to mention any files saved locally (althoug you could still save to mounted devices outside of the route file system, e.g. /mnt/sdd1/myfile

2. Mount mode – Offers persistance. ‘boot’ dir on storage media is loaded into ram at boot. all installed exentions will be loaded from ‘tce’folder. in adition, a any other directory (such as home) can be set as persistant by editing te relavent script.

I installed TC on to my eeepc 900 as i was looking for a quick and nimble distro with fast boot and capable enough for everyday usage – Wifi, browser, documents, video, audio.

The tinycore team have developed their own ‘exention manager’ (called appbrowser) to handle the installation and management of new software, the ‘appaudit’ to handle dependencies, and various other graphical tools to handle system admin. making this a fairly easy to expand distro.

The graphical environment is very fast and nimble, but will require some adjustment for users familiar with other, more integrated desktop environments.

For example, by default, there is no system tray or file manager. You must either use the ‘wbar’ menu at the bottom, or right-click to access the FLTK menu. Some could argue its not a user friendly system when it takes 3 mouse clicks to check the time/date!

But ofcourse, you are perfectly at liberty to add those features, and most users most certainly will add a file manager, and various other ‘essentials’.

One thing that must be taken into careful consideration when using TC, is what extentions to add. Thanks to the active community, there are 100s, perhaps 1000s of great extentions available through the appbrowser, but not all would be smart installations. for example:

1. openoffice is available, but at 90mb, its already 9x the size of the OS itself – adding serious bulk to what was previously a slim sleek distro

2.Many exentions will have a list of dependencies as long as my arm, meaning, to use that software, you need to install a buch of other software too – again fattening up your system considerably.

3.Some games and media players reccomend the use of Xorg as opposed to Tiny X. Whereas this is technically possible, it does seem like a step backwards for a distro with lightweight asperations.

I have installed the following extentions to give ordinary functionality

1. midnight commander – console based file manager
2. opera – web browser
3. beaver – text editor
4. mplayer – video, audio player
5. abiword – wordprocessor
6. gnumeric – spreadsheet
7. pidgin – instant messenger
8. various utils, zip, rar, conky

TC on the 900 handles all of these applications very nicely. All apps load very quickly, and can be swapped between with lightning speed. certain apps (such as pidgin) would certainly benefit from a system tray – which can be installed. other than that, usage is very good.

One complaint would be the unorthodox window decorations (rather than the typical minimizing, maximizing, close it uses ‘maximize width’ and ‘maximize height’, with minimize at the top left). this often forces me to shift a maximised window aside so that i can right-click in order to select another window.

aditionally, when opera gets busy, with multiple tabs, i did wittness the occational hang up, which is easily remedied by closing some tabs.

another annoyance is the unreliablity of the appsaudit tool and the appsbrowser (on poor connections). i’ve had all my TC exentions broken by dependency errors when trying to delete software and failed installations requiring manual installation of dependencies to make them work. the whole proccess can be a bit ‘hit and miss’.

So, in conclusion, TC is a very promising distro, and has an enthusiastic community and dev team. i think this distro has a lot of potential for the future, and i will definitely be following its progress. if you are a linux newbie, avoid this distro – its probably a bit too hands on for you, and you will definitely struggle if you run in to trouble. but for everyone else, dive right in. its a refreshing change.

I hear that TC 2.10 is now available, and touts significant improvements to appsbrowser/appsaudit amoung others. defintely a fast moving distro!

4 out of 5

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gpokr

It cant have escaped too many Linux users that, the majority of poker/gambling websites seem to prevent access from Linux computers.

And its not simply an incompatibility issue, they purposefully reject Linux connections, even when Linux is technically able to run the site – Java, Flash whatever.

Well, here is a site that DOES work in Linux. Its a free-play site, so don’t expect to clean up in here – its just for practice/fun.

www.gpokr.com is built using the google web toolkit and programmed in Java, AJAX, and GWT. Not quite as flashy as some of the poker sites out there, but more than playable – even fits nicely on the screen resolution of the eeepc900 – as long as you hit f11 for full screen.

vlc_ascii
This is SO cool, even if its usefulness is somewhat limited. VLC, and also Mplayer support video output in the form of ASCII characters which can be viewed through a terminal window, tty,or even a remote session via ssh.

The main use i can imagine for this is if you run a NAT/torrent workhorse without X server,you could ssh to it and actually check media files.

To activate in VLC, go to Tools>Preferences>Video and then select ASCII from the outputs drop down. Colour ASCII is also available.”

sony_video_player

If you’re a linux user, and own a Sony MP3 player, Sony couldnt care less about you. Even if you are a Windows user, the syncing software provided by sony (connect and sonicstage) are possibly the two worst pieces of software I have ever encountered – so I was overjoyed to discover this project.

JSymphonic is a Java program for synchronising and transferring music to and from Sony MP3 players. Being java based, it is platform independent, able to run on any machine that handles java. Supports generation 3 onwards, which covers almost everyone. If you havea sony player you NEED this. say goodbye to sonys awful software forever.

Peep the excellent documentation right here

Often when I fire up my machine, I don’t even want X to start, say I’m just going to let my torrents download, or I just need to quickly check something online or login to finch. Whatever it might be, if I don’t need X, I don’t want X.

So here is a really simple method of telling your system to boot to the CLI, and not launch X. Just enter the following into the command line:

sudo update-rc.d -f gdm remove

Reboot, now once on the command line, should you wish to launch X, simply type ‘startx’ and your back in the gui.

If you need to undo this, use the following to restore to default:

sudo update-rc.d -f gdm defaults

I’m pretty sure that most linux users must have been introduced to computers using windows before finally reaching enlightenment, i certainly know I was. So here is a little selection of apps and utils that I put together when I was a Windows user. check it out, because there is some pretty cool stuff here. Word of warning, the stuff on here is a little netbook/EEE specific, but still worth a look even if you’re not on that hardware

Launchy
Launchy is a program that allows applications and directories to be accessed with a simple keyboard shortcut.

Call launchy by pressing Alt+Space, start typing an application, press enter

Simply press Alt+Space, and start typing the name of the application or folder, Launchy will usually guess correctly after just two or 3 characters have been typed. If launchy guessed wrong, just select your choice from a drop down (launchy will remember your choices for next time) or press escape to dismiss the active window. Say good bye to the start button forever!

EEECTL
EEECTL is a utility which allows you to overclock, or underclock the CPU of the ASUS EEE PC.

In addition, it also provides a reading of the CPU temperature, allows control of the system fan, and also screen brightness

Fully configurable - you can set your own profiles for clockspeed, fanspeed and screen brightnessThe software can be modified via a .ini file, allowing individual users to set their own parameters. This means custom profiles can be created allowing users to overclock or underclock as much as they want (at their own risk ofcourse).

The program was written for the EEEPC 700 series, but is compatible with all celeron M based EEEs – head over to http://www.eeeuser.com forums for more advice on this program, as well as pre altered .ini files best suited to your model.

Perfect for squeezing a little extra performance or a little extra battery life out of your machine, depending on your needs.

Be warned, some configurations can lead to system instability

Bat Stats
As all netbook users know, battery life is important. with such a portable device, its very common to find yourself a long way from the nearest power outlet. so for this reason, its important to have accurate battery life indicator.

One problem that many laptops suffer from, is the lack of a ‘smart’ battery, often leading to battery indicators being wildly inacurrate.

One program that overcomes this problem is batstats. It works by profiling a battery once (letting it run down from a full charge, timing it, and recording voltage levels each minute). This allows the software to accurately assess your batterys remaining charge in minutes and percentage by cross referencing it against the recorded data.

batstats was written for the EEE PC, but will work just as well on any laptop (so long as a custom battery profile has been created.

Batstats will also act as a ‘low battery alarm’ and ’emergency shutdown’ – meaning you can disable the Windows power management options for this.

batstats1batstatsThe only shortfalling of this program is that, aesthetically, it is somewhat ugly, but the tray icon is fine, and once configured, you shouldnt ever need to open the main program again.

I highly recommend this program to anyone using a ‘dumb’ battery in their netbook.

More of these coming soon.

You know what its like, you have an idea for a script or program you want to write, and then sure enough, someone else has already done it better than yours would have been anyway…

This happened to me just now. I wanted to write a program or script that would sign into my xbox live account via www.xbox.com and report back the online status of my friends.

Well, it turns out a very nice python program already exists in the form of XBL Status. Nowl how about the ability to integrate this into conky, and then its perfect.

XBL Status is action - not my screenshot, i grabbed this from the official XBL Status ubuntuforums thread

XBL Status is action - not my screenshot, i grabbed this from the official XBL Status ubuntuforums thread

Windows users can check out this program: XBList

and Mac users can check out: MacLive