LJ Archive


All That Glimmers Isn't Hydrogen

Shawn Powers

Issue #207, July 2011

When I was younger, my friend Pete and I would do cool projects pretty much every weekend. One of the most memorable was when we had a fish tank, a car battery, some carbon rods and a desire to create giant exploding balloons. The best we managed to accomplish was to fill Pete's basement with chlorine gas. His mom was not thrilled. This issue of Linux Journal is dedicated to cool projects. Every single one of them is cooler than anything Pete or I ever created—except for maybe that vacuum-cleaner-powered hoverboard...that was actually pretty cool.

Reuven M. Lerner starts us out describing how to combine two different MVC frameworks, Backbone.js and Rails. Having both client-side and server-side frameworks can make some powerful applications. Dave Taylor also has a cool column this month, as he shows how to determine the day of any historical date. Was I born on a Wednesday? I'm not sure, but after reading Dave's column, I can figure it out.

Kyle Rankin licks his wounds a bit this month and lets us all learn from his mistakes. Kyle's forensics articles and presentations are known far and wide in Linux Journal circles as “the guide” to examining compromised servers. He had to make an unexpected addendum to his procedure when it came to ext4 though, and we get the first-hand version of why. My suggestion for Kyle is that he just use good passwords, and he'd never have to worry about system compromises (tee-hee!).

Mike Diehl starts off the projects with the Blender Game Engine. Not to be confused with the “Will It Blend” guy, Mike shows how to create a 3-D game using all open-source tools. Blender might just be the Swiss Army knife of the Linux world, as it can do everything from 3-D rendering to video editing to game creation. Check out Mike's article if you want to blend yourself up a fancy game cocktail.

The office in my new home is pretty cool, but it's not nearly as cool as Hani Saigh's idea of a cloud-based office. Granted, he doesn't mean an actual office in the clouds, but having your office software accessible everywhere is still a nifty idea. Hani introduces OpenGoo, a Web-based workspace that allows for collaboration and calendar sharing. If you prefer your computing to be more down to earth, PJ Radcliffe's article on controlling real-world hardware might tickle your fancy. There's nothing more down to earth than soldering on a circuit board, and with Open-USB-IO, you can control those circuits with Linux—pretty cool stuff.

Many of us are system administrators, at least on some level, so monitoring systems is something we think about constantly. Jamie Popkin describes how to use Mojolicious, which allows you to monitor processes remotely with your smartphone. If that's not cool enough, perhaps you could combine his ideas with Rick Rogers' article on using the Microsoft Kinect with Linux. Granted, you might look silly waving your hands around in a restaurant just to check on a remote rendering project, but if you're willing to bring a Microsoft Kinect with you to a restaurant, I'm guessing “looking silly” isn't really a concern.

On top of all that, we have Petros Koutoupis' demonstration of data deduplication with Linux. Granted, storage is cheap, but efficiency is priceless. At my local school district, just this morning someone sent a 6MB photo to all 1,000 of my users. That one e-mail is taking up more than 6GB of space on my e-mail server! Data deduplication is an awesome concept, and it's one that I will be exploring this afternoon. To automate such processes, or any configuration process for that matter, Jes Fraser's article on Puppet is a must-read. Although I can manage individual configuration files for my dozen or so servers here at work, it's starting to become overwhelming. Up that number by an order of magnitude, and it's impossible to manage. That's where Puppet comes in. Jes explains how it works and walks through the process of setting it up.

And, of course, if you're just looking for some recreation this month, we have that for you too. If you want to browse YouTube without a browser, John Knight has you covered with his monthly dose of project announcements. If writing a book is more up your alley, but you need help with formatting for e-readers, check out Dan Sawyer's article on e-publishing. He'll walk you through creating and converting for e-readers.

The only example I recommend you don't follow this month is mine. Although creating hydrogen gas might sound like fun, it was about as smart as the time Pete and I tried to loosen the bolts on his truck's gas tank—with a blowtorch. I wish I were kidding. Enjoy the cool projects issue!

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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