Track Document Changes with OOoSVN

Even a modest software project would be virtually impossible to manage without a so-called version control system (VCS) which allows developers to track and roll back changes as well as manage different versions of project files. In most cases, project files are just plain text files containing programming code, but a good VCS like Subversion can manage pretty much any file type, including word processing documents, spreadsheets, etc. This means that it can be used as a powerful tool for tracking document changes, but here is the rub: as a software aimed at developers, Subversion (or any VCS for that matter) can be tricky to set up and use. Fortunately, if you want to use Subversion to manage your OpenOffice.org documents, the OOoSVN extension can help you to do this in just a few simple steps.

Before you can use OOoSVN, you have to install the Subversion software on your machine. On Ubuntu, it’s as easy as running the sudo apt-get install subversion command. Download then the latest release of the OOoSVN extension and install it using the Extension Manager in OpenOffice.org. Restart OpenOffice.org, and you should see the SVN menu.

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Set up Linutop in 5 Minutes

Just because Linutop is based on Linux, it doesn’t mean it’s difficult to configure. In fact, the little machine comes with a custom Linutop Setup applet which allows you to configure virtually every aspect of the system in a matter of minutes. By default, the applet starts automatically, but you can also launch it manually at any time by choosing Applications -> Setup -> Linutop Setup.

The Linutop Setup applet’s window is divided into four main sections: General, Network, Advanced, and Security. Besides the Language, Keyboard, and Time zone settings, you can use the General section to configure display settings. Usually, Linutop does a good job of detecting the correct display size and resolution. But if it has problems detecting the display’s properties correctly, you can select the appropriate item from the Display size drop-down list. The General section also allows you to configure autostart options, which can be useful in many situations. For example, you can configure Linutop to bypass the full graphical desktop environment and launch only a specified URL in the default Web browser. This can come in particularly handy if you want to use Linutop as a simple Web station. To do this, press the Configure autostarted applications button, select Web Page from the Select an item drop-down list, and tick the Start only this application check button. Tick then the Start with this URL or file check box and enter the desired URL.

As you might have guessed, the Network section lets you configure wireless and wired interfaces as well as a modem connection. If you are using the built-in Ethernet connection, Linutop does all the donkey work for you. However, if you still need to tweak some settings (e.g., define a static IP address instead of the default DHCP option), press the Configure your network button, select Ethernet connection, and press Properties. In a similar manner, you can configure a wireless interface. Choose Wireless Connection from the list of available connections, press Properties, and fill out the required fields.

If you are using Linutop in a mixed environment and you want to access documents and files stored on a Windows machine, you can use the Windows shares subsection to easily add shared folders. Simply press the Add button and type the IP address of the Windows machine in the Host field. Enter then the user name and password required for accessing the Windows share and press OK.

The Advanced section sports a couple of rather useful features. As the name suggests, the Backup/Restore button allows you to back up and restore the entire system in just three simple steps: press the button, select the destination drive, and press the Apply button. When you shut down Linutop it by default saves only the user settings. So if you install an application and then reboot Linutop, the system will return to its original state. This may sound like a nuisance , but this feature can be useful in situations where you don’t want other users to mess with the system. But what if you want to install additional applications? Select the full persistent system option in the Data persistence subsection, and Linutop will from now on save all your settings and applications.

The Remote access subsection lets you easily enable and configure the remote access service, so you can connect to your Linutop and control it from another machine on the network or via the Internet. Press the Configure the remote access service button, and tick the Automatically start the server check box, so that the service starts automatically when you turn Linutop on. If you want to protect Linutop from unauthorized access (which is a very good idea), tick the Request a password check box and specify the desired password. To let users view the Linutop desktop but not control it, tick the Connected users can only view the desktop check box. Finally, tick the Allow multiple connections check box if you want to allow more than one user to access Linutop. Press the Start button, and you can then access Linutop remotely.

You can use Linutop not only as a desktop machine, but also as a server. Install, for example, Samba software on it, plug in an external USB hard disk, and you can use Linutop as a nifty file server. In this case, Linutop doesn’t need the full graphical desktop environment, and you can disable it by ticking the Don’t start Xorg check box in the Misc subsection.

If you plan to use Linutop as a public terminal, the Security section allows you to lock the machine, so no one can modify the system (except the administrator, of course). To do this, simply tick the Use the Linutop lock check box, and specify the desired administrator password.

Thanks to the Linutop Setup applet, configuring your Linutop machine is a pretty straightforward process that doesn’t require a lot of time or particular Linux skills. Using easy-to-understand options available in the Linutop Setup applet, you can configure the tiny machine in virtually no time.

Collaborative Editing with AbiWord

AbiWord may not be as powerful as OpenOffice.org Writer, but it does include a few nifty features that make it a worthy addition to your productivity toolbox. Take the Collaboration feature, for example. It allows several users to work on the same document on the local network or via the Web in a rather straightforward manner. First, you have to create an account. In AbiWord, choose Collaborate -> Accounts and press the Add button. Choose the desired protocol from the Account type drop-down list. If you want to share documents with users on the local network, select the Direct Connection (TCP) option. Select then the Accept incoming connections option and press OK to save the settings. Once you've created an account, choose the Share Document item from the Collaborate menu to share the currently opened document.

Now, let's take a look at how to access the shared document from another machine on the network. Choose Collaborate -> Accounts, press the Add button, and select the Direct Connection (TCP) option from the Account type drop-down list. Select then the Connect to a server option and enter the IP address of the machine that hosts the shared document. Press OK to save the settings. Choose then Collaborate -> Shared Documents, select the document you want from the list of shared documents, and press the Connect button. This opens the selected document and you can work with it as if it was a local document. The only difference is that you can't save your changes: this can only be done by the user who shares the document.

You can also use the direct TCP connection to share documents via the Internet, but this means that you have to configure your network to accept incoming connections -- which is probably not a very good idea from a security point of view. If you need to share a document via the Internet, a better solution is to set up a XMPP-based connection. XMPP is an instant messaging protocol, and to use it for document sharing you and the users who want to access shared documents need Jabber-based accounts. You can easily set up a Jabber account using one of the many IM applications like Pidgin, Gajim, or Kopete. To share documents via XMPP, create an XMPP account in AbiWord: choose Collaborate -> Accounts, press Add, select Jabber (XMPP) from the Account type drop-down list, and enter your user name, password, and Jabber server address in the appropriate fields in the Account properties section. Press OK to save the account, then use the Share Document command to enable sharing for the current document.

To access the document shared via XMPP, choose Collaborate -> Shared Documents, press the Add Buddy button and enter the Jabber user name of the user who hosts the document. Press OK to save the settings, select then the document you want, and press Connect.

While the Collaborate feature in AbiWord provides an easy way to share documents with other users, it does have a few limitations. For example, there is no way to track changes made by different users, and remote users cannot save changes. But even with these limitations, the Collaborate feature can come in handy if you need to share a document with other users and allow them to make changes to the document.

FastMailMerge: Mail Merge Made Easy

“Mail Merge” and “easy to use” are not the words you often see in the same sentence. While you can use the Mail Merge feature in OpenOffice.org to perform rather advanced mail merge operations, it can also be rather difficult to get to grips with and cumbersome to use. Fortunately, the FastMailMerge extension can help you to run simple mail merges with minimum effort.

Once the extension is installed, it adds a separate toolbar in Calc containing the FastMailMerge button. Before you press the button, though, make sure you have your mail merge data in an OpenOffice.org Calc spreadsheet, as this is the only data source FastMailMerge can use. Open the spreadsheet containing the mail merge data, select the desired data range, and press the FastMailMerge button.

This opens the FastMailMerge dialog window where you have to configure mail merge settings. You can create a new Writer document for mail merge from scratch (the Create a new document option) or select the existing one (the Open an existing document option). You also have to specify a directory for saving merged documents and select the desired format (you can choose between PDF, Microsoft Word, ODT, or HTML). Enter then a name for the merged files, and press the OK button to perform the mail merge operation.

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Remote Management : video

Linutop is now Linutop 2.4!

Paris, February 3rd, 2009

Linutop is pleased to announce today Linutop 2.4 the latest version of Linutop.

Linutop OS 2.4 now includes :

- Remote management (Demo)

- It can be used as a thin client

- USB key back up

- wifi USB key network manager

as well as:

- Firefox 3.0

- Open Office 2.4

- Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron.

Press release.