Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Swift Border - Linux Game

Over the past months I've been working on a new Linux game, which I call Swift Border. I plan to release it in the next few days in the Ubuntu Software Centre, or until then, look at it's site at

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Precise Pangolin

Ubuntu's been greatly improved for this release, good thing to as it's the LTS. I did a clean install, backing up my home files and installing over my old 11.10 partition. This time I'm using 2 separate partitions (one for / and one for /home) so I'll be able to upgrade more easily next time.

12.04 has plenty of visual improvements, from the login screen to window decorations, though not all are in my favour. One feature I haven't yet got used to is how many windows are faded slightly when they lose focus. It sort of seems that you're only meant to look at one window at a time.

Speed improvements are the best part of this release I believe. Being an LTS that's important as more serious users may be sticking for 2 years at least.

Stability also appears to be good, though it's too early to say for certain. 11.10 never crashed for me, unlike 11.04 (but I won't say any more about that)

I'm still staying with Unity, and as a vaguely sideways implementation of the Windows 7 taskbar, I like it. I do use the smallest pixel setting because at 48px it's too big to save space. Then again, it never gets full up because I only dock Chrome & Nautilus in it, and use the Dash search for everything else.

One thing that has surprised be about this release is the HUD. Pressing Alt will bring up a text input that lets you search the menu bar. Now, just like the Dash speeds up open applications, HUD speeds up using the menu bar. However, it seems I never used the menu bar in the first place as I have not yet had the chance to use the HUD, instead the top tool bar of all my programs contains the buttons I use.

All in all, 12.04 is a great release, possible better than 10.10, but what might come in next releases?

Here are 2 of my predictions for what should come soon: Smooth/anti-aliased window corners: If you position the top left/right corner of a window in a while background, you'll see the jagged edges of each pixel. I'm hoping that this will be fixed in 12.10

Wayland replacing X: It's been worked on for some time now and the old X window system isn't optimal for today's computers. Wayland should bring a number of improvements, not least helping the developers with a cleaner code base, so who's to say what will come of that? I'm thinking that Wayland will come in 13.04

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

CPU Frequency Scaling application

In addition to my post on how to use frequency scaling with the terminal, I made a GUI application  that allows you to quickly scale the frequency without having to note down and type in commands.

You can download it at:

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Use Compiz to annotate your screen

There are times when it can be really useful to draw on your screen, like when making a tutorial for example. You can draw around important features to highlight them and help people see what they need to do. Because Ubuntu uses Compiz to decorate the windows this functionality is already there, you just need a way to access it.

Install compizconfig-settings-manager and start it up (a shortcut is to type ccsm). Click the Extras button on the left and choose Annotate, then click Enable annotate to activate it. If some of your panels mess up at this point, open a terminal and run "compiz --replace" to restart Compiz and fix them.

As will all Compiz features, annotate is very customisable and you can change key actions, colours and even how shapes behave. Try it out, it's easy to do!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Recover forgotten passwords with Evolution mail

Once you've received mail with Evolution you'll have entered your password for your email account, which you may have chosen to save. The thing is though, where does it save?

Old versions of Ubuntu used to save into a file in ~/.gnome2_private/ which stored base64 encrypted passwords (which was very insecure). If you're using a later version (which you probably are) then passwords are saved in a different way. The Gnome Keyring Manager now handles encrypted data on Ubuntu to provide a secure way of storing sensitive data.

To view your saved passwords, run the application "seahorse" which will open the password manager, double click the "Passwords: login" folder, and scroll down to your email account. Double click that and you can view your password for that account.

Easily view your saved passwords with Seahorse and Gnome Keyring

You'll also notice that browser passwords and some other keys are stored here too as it is used for all passwords.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Extend laptop battery life with CPU scaling

If you have a laptop with poor battery life, it is really annoying to have it run out when you're doing something important like word processing. Many computers support CPU scaling however, which is a way of making your processor use less power.

(Note that this post might look a bit intense, but it really isn't, it just has a few terminal commands)

The first step of this is to see what modes your CPU can use, so type
cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_available_governors
in a terminal. You should see a range of options, if not your CPU may not support scaling. My options are: "conservative ondemand userspace powersave performance".

At this point you should check the default for your CPU with:
cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_governor
this will tell you which mode your computer is currently using so you can switch back to it later.

You can then tell your computer to use a certain mode on the CPU. If you're just taking notes at work you probably need no more than powersave (or your CPU's equivalent).
cpufreq-selector -c 0 -g powersave
Note that you must put your core number after the -c. If your CPU has a dual-core processor (2 cores), run this twice with "-c 0" and "-c 1" (and do the appropriate for triple/quad cores).

And that's it! You can check how your CPU is doing with
cat /proc/cpuinfo | grep "cpu MHz"
Try comparing it with performance mode to see the difference.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Battle for Wesnoth

Battle for Wesnoth is a full turn based strategy game, available on a number of platforms. Notably on Linux because we don't get many games here!

You can get it in the repositories be installing "wesnoth".

The graphics are well drawn and it has the sense of a game that you would pay for. There are loads of different character types and each one has a different image, they're not just edited with different colours.
Wesnoth has great level designs, despite being limited to a hexagonal grid

As a turn-based strategy, Wesnoth has lots of different factors in gameplay. Units level up, and have various statistics, multiple weapons (which also have lots of stats). Playing in the night changes your units abilities, or playing on different terrain. At first it can seem a lot to get your head around but it really makes playing more fun when you have to review all the stats before you make a move. It's also got a battle calculator so you can predict the possible outcomes of each battle before you attack.
Level, HP, XP, MP, Defence, Allegiance and weapon stats all to consider

Game time:
Wesnoth has a extensive single player campaigns and and multi-player over the internet, so it doesn't get old. Single player will last you a while if you play a few hours a day and once that's done you can have countless battles over the internet (which is even more exciting, in my opinion).
There are 15 campaigns, most with over 10 scenarios

In conclusion, Wesnoth is an amazing game which, being free, is something you really should try because on Linux it's one of the best games available.