Clines: Addictive Game for Firefox

Thanks to extensions you can do pretty much anything without leaving the convenience of your favorite browser. But can you play games? Indeed, you can. There are a few rather good games you can play right from within Firefox. One such game is Clines, a clone of a popular Color Lines game for DOS.

The original game was developed by Oleg Demin, and it was hugely popular in Russia along with another Russian blockbuster Tetris. The idea behind Clines is rather simple. Using the mouse, you have to align at least five balls of the same color horizontally, vertically, or diagonally on the 9×9 field. When you do that, the row disappears. Your task is to align and remove as many balls as you can. It may sound like a dead-simple thing to do, but it is not. Each time you move a ball, the game places randomly three new balls on the field, and they can block the ball you want to move. As the number of balls on the field grows, moving them around becomes more and more difficult. Every time you make a line, you receive points depending on how many balls there are in the line:

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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.

Displaying Weather on the Desktop with ConkyForecast

For a lightweight system monitor, Conky can display an awful lot of useful information. But besides the usual stuff like RAM usage, processor load, and wireless signal strength, you can use Conky to display something more interesting like the current weather conditions and a four-day forecast complete with snazzy weather icons. Usually, though, this would require a lot of manual tweaking, but the ConkyForecast package makes the process of turning Conky into a desktop weather station rather straightforward on any Ubuntu-based system.

First off, you have to install the Conky Forecast. To do this, open the sources.list file for editing using the gksudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list command. Add then the following line at the end of the file:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/m-buck/ubuntu intrepid main

Open the terminal and run the command below to install ConkyForecast:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install conkyforecast

Next, you have to obtain a Partner ID and a License Key from the The Weather Channel which is required for accessing weather data. Once you have done that, use the command below to copy the .conkyForecast.config file to your home directory:

cp /usr/share/conkyforecast/conkyForecast.config ~/.conkyForecast.config

Open then the copied file for editing using the nano ~/.conkyForecast.config command and enter the obtained Partner ID and License Key as follows:

XOAP_PARTNER_ID = Your Partner ID

XOAP_LICENCE_KEY =  Your License Key

Next step is to find out the Location ID of the city you want. To do this, use the http://xoap.weather.com/search/search?where= url followed by the name of the city, for example:


http://xoap.weather.com/search/search?where=BERLIN

Copy the Location ID (in this case, it’s GMXX0007), and open a sample Conky configuration file for editing:

sudo nano /usr/share/conkyforecast/example/conkyrc

Replace the default Location ID with your own, save the file, and launch Conky by pointing it to the sample configuration file:

conky -c /usr/share/conkyforecast/example/conkyrc &

You should see a Conky window with a nice-looking weather forecast. If you don’t already have a .conkyrc file in your home directory, copy the sample file using the command below and edit the copied file to your liking:

cp /usr/share/conkyforecast/example/conkyrc ~/.conkyrc

You can then start Conky using the conky & command.

Manage Your Personal Data with Pygmynote

If you are looking for a simple tool for keeping tabs on your personal data, consider Pygmynote. This lightweight personal data manager is designed specifically for machines with limited system resources, so it runs lightning fast on netbooks and Linutops.

Pygmynote uses the embedded SQLite database engine to store the data in a local database. To make Pygmynote work on your machine, you have to install Python and the python-pysqlite2 package. Once you’ve done that, you can launch Pygmynote using the python pygmynote.py command.

To manage your data, Pygmynote uses a few easy-to-remember commands. For example, the i command allows you to insert a new record. To list all records in the database, you can use the a command, while the td command shows all records containing the current date in the tags field. The latter allows you to quickly view a list of tasks and events scheduled for today. You can also use Pygmynote to store links which you can open in the default browser using the url command.

Pygmynote can also manage email reminders thanks to the eml command which fetches emails containing a specific keyword (e.g., “Pygmynote” or “Reminder”). You can specify the desired keyword and email account settings in the IMAP connection settings section of the pygmynote.py script.

Look up Words in Firefox with Dictionary Search

A tool that lets you look up any word on a Web page in Web dictionaries and references can come in handy for most Firefox users. There are several Firefox extensions out there which allow you to do just that, but Dictionary Search scores high when it comes to the perfect balance of simplicity and flexibility. Once installed, this extension adds the Search Dictionary command to the context menu. Using Dictionary Search couldn’t be easier: select the word you want to look up, then right-click on it and choose the Search Dictionary command.

DictionarySearch.png

By default, the extension uses the Dictionary.com dictionaries to look up words, but you can specify up to three custom references. To do this, choose Tools -> Add-ons and press the Preferences button next to the Dictionary search extension. Let’s say you want to add Wikipedia. First, you have to specify the name of the command in the Text field, for example: Look up “$” in Wikipedia. The $ character acts as a placeholder which is replaced with the word you select in the Web page; for example, if you select the word “monkey”, the command in the context menu will be Look up “monkey” in Wikipedia. Next, you have to specify the query URL in the URL field. The easiest way to figure out the exact query URL for the particular Web reference is to perform a search and note the resulting URL. For example, if you search for “monkey” in Wikipedia, you’ll notice that the query URL is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey. Replace “Monkey” with the $ placeholder and enter the resulting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/$ query URL in the URL field. Press thes OK button to save the settings and close the window. Now select a word in a Web page, right-click on the selected text, and you should see the new Look up in Wikipedia command. That’s all there is to it.

Appnr: Easy Web Installer for Ubuntu and Its Derivatives

Although Ubuntu and its derivatives sport powerful command-line and graphical tools for installing software, they can be slightly confusing for Linux newcomers. Enter Appnr, a sleek and user-friendly Web-based service that allows you to easily find the applications you need and install them with a single mouse click.

Appnr

All applications and utilities listed on Appnr are organized in sections, and you can sort the list of the available software by name or by popularity. Obviously, you can also search for a specific package using the search field. While Appnr provides an easy way to find and install software, you need to tweak your Ubuntu system to make it work. First of all, install the apturl package. To do this, run the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt-get install apturl

Then you have to add the AptURL protocol in your browser. If you are using Firefox, enter about:config in the Location bar. Right-click somewhere on the page and select New –> String.
Enter network.protocol-handler.app.apt as the name of the string, press OK and enter /usr/bin/apturl as the string’s value. In a similar manner, create another string and use network.protocol-handler.app.apt+http and /usr/bin/apturl as the string’s name and value respectively. If you are using another browser, check Appnr’s help page for configuration instructions. That’s all there is to it. You can now browse and install software without leaving the convenience of your browser.

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