With the Christmas holiday season coming up, I decided to do a little computer decorating and went looking for the right software. What I found is a program called Xsnow. Xsnow is a simple app that turns your desktop into a snowy landscape with Santa flying across the screen on his sleigh.
You would think that finding a good video encoding app would be easy. Solid command line tools like transcode, FFmpeg, and MEncoder do exist, but readily available graphical apps are hard to come by. Frustrated with the dedicated alternatives, I turned to Avidemux. It's known best as an easy to use video editor, but the controls also make it very easy to just transcode video.
Last weekend a family member asked me if I knew how to create slideshow on a DVD and it got me thinking. I had seen programs that indicated they could do it, but I had never had a reason to try because my TV is already directly attached to a computer. After browsing the apps in the DVD Authoring category I settled upon QDVDAuthor and decided to give it a try.
I've always thought that mosaics were an interesting art form, so when I ran across Metapixel a while back I noted it as an app worth checking out. Metapixel is a single purpose tool, but it does its job very well. In no time you can create an impressive photo mosaic using your existing photos and a couple commands.
For years Flash has been one of the limiters that prevented many people from completely switching to Linux. Fully featured development tools weren't available and many distros don't even ship with the ability to view Flash due to it being non-free. And even when a Flash plug-in was added by the user there were still some sites that would not load because they required version 8 or higher. Adobe recently announced the Flash 9 for Linux beta to address the latter issue, but you might be surprised to know that a common application that may already be installed is capable of creating Flash presentations. I'm talking about OpenOffice.org Impress.
Ubuntu has a program installation problem. To be fair, nearly all Linux distributions have the same issue, but I'll pick on Ubuntu because its popular and is the choice for many users switching from Windows. The problem I am referring to is the missing menu link after many graphical apps are installed. If you spend any time browsing Ubuntu Forums it won't take long to run across the post of a frustrated user who doesn't know how to launch the application they just installed. While Ubuntu can't control what isn't in the repositories, I'd like to see them put a greater focus on getting all programs in the repositories to include menu entries.
Searching in Linux starts those venerable command line favorites: find, grep, and locate. These tools are very powerful and can easily be integrated into scripts, but for many users, this usefulness is also one of their key weaknesses. These users require a graphical interface in order to be comfortable with a program. They don't want to have to remember syntax and drop out of another app to type commands. The new breed of Linux desktop search is all about bringing the functionality of the tried and true originals into the graphical world.
Earlier this year I saw a question on the Ubuntu Forums looking for a way to use LightScribe on Linux. Unfortunately, no software was available for LightScribe drives on Linux at that time, only Windows. Fortunately, that is no longer true. LaCie has recently released the LaCie LightScribe Labeler for Linux, also called 4L. For those who are unfamiliar with it, LightScribe is a method to write a label directly onto a CD or DVD.