LJ Archive


Entertainment, Open-Source Style

Shawn Powers

Issue #193, May 2010

Anyone who ever has been to a Linux or open-source conference knows that Linux geeks know how to have fun. Whether it's a late-night Atari 2600 fragfest (Penguicon 2009) or the SourceForge parties at OSCON (pretty much every year, from what I can tell), Linux is not just for work. We figured Linux Journal shouldn't just be for work either, and with summer right around the corner, we decided to dedicate this month to entertainment. Oh, and if you are reading this in the southern hemisphere? Well, summer is right around the corner for you too—it's just a larger corner!

Reuven M. Lerner starts out the issue with an article on MongoDB. I suspect he chose the topic because MongoDB is an entertaining name, but whatever Reuven's motivation, MongoDB is an interesting non-relational database. This month, he shows us how to install and work with Mongo. Next month, we'll get down and dirty with it. Dave Taylor, on the other hand, gets down and dirty this month with HTML forms and shell scripts. If that sounds like an odd mix, be sure to check out his column, because Dave is doing some cool things with seemingly mundane HTML forms.

If you're like me, entertainment generally means either reading a book or watching TV. When you're a Linux user, watching TV probably is a bit more geeky than it is for the rest of the world, and this issue, we have a lot of toys to cover. We start with Dirk Elmendorf's Economy Size Geek column. I've talked about the Roku device several times in past issues, and although it's unlikely my pleading is what got the company to open up development for its product, for whatever reason, Roku decided it was time. Dirk shows us how to create custom channels for the Roku and explains how to install them for your Roku-riffic enjoyment. If the Roku isn't up your alley or, at the very least, isn't in your entertainment center, perhaps Michael J. Hammel's article comparing MythTV and XBMC is more your cup of tea. Both programs are designed for consuming multimedia, and both programs are amazingly awesome. Michael does the heavy lifting for us, and he shows the ins and outs of these highly functional, if not slightly different, programs.

In order to enjoy a video on your computer or living-room entertainment center, it's important to get that video in a format that is playable. Anthony Dean shows us Handbrake this month, which does a great job of converting DVDs into formats playable on pretty much every device on the planet. I use Handbrake to convert DVDs so I can watch them on my Nokia N900, which obviously doesn't have a DVD player of its own. Although Handbrake will convert videos for the N900, playing movies certainly is not all the little handheld computer is capable of doing. Kyle Rankin has a review this month of his N900, and you'll want to check it out.

It's possible television really isn't your idea of entertainment. We totally understand that. Whether you just want to play music, or you want an entire orchestra in your laptop, we've got you covered. Dave Phillips looks at L20rk, which is much more than a bunch of MIDI files playing together like an orchestra. Maybe that's more than you're up for, and you just want to listen to music on your computer. Sometimes the hardest part is choosing which program to use for the playing. Windows and Macintosh users generally choose between WMP and iTunes, but in Linux, we have a wide variety of players. This month, Bruce Byfield breaks down five of the more common ones for us. Even if you are a die-hard XMMS fan, you'll want to check out Bruce's article comparing Amarok, Banshee, Exaile, Rhythmbox and Songbird.

Finally, we realize many of you are cyborgs and have little interest in human entertainment. Or, perhaps you're just the type of person who prefers to secure your network for fun. Well, we care about you too, and Mick Bauer and Kyle Rankin will keep you entertained this month with the continuation of their articles on OpenVPN and network troubleshooting. When you add the product reviews, UpFront articles, New Products and Doc Searls' look at distribution models, we have an issue that is certain to please. Hopefully, it will even entertain. As for me, I'm getting ready for Penguicon 2010. Although I don't think we'll have another Atari 2600 battle, I'm sure it will be great. With a bunch of Linux geeks, it's hard not to have fun!

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for LinuxJournal.com, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at info@linuxjournal.com. Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on Freenode.net.

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