LJ Archive


Robotic Sharks with Laser Eyes

Shawn Powers

Issue #253, May 2015

I love the Cool Projects issue. Don't get me wrong, most issues of Linux Journal are full of cool things to do, but this month, we do it just because of the cool factor. As you can imagine, no Cool Projects issue is complete without a Raspberry Pi article, and this one is particularly awesome. But let me start off with a bit about our columns.

Reuven M. Lerner continues his series on Django, and this month, he covers migrations and updating databases. If you're a developer looking for a framework to start with, or if you're already using Django and want to learn more, Reuven's series is a great way to begin. Dave Taylor follows Reuven with a new topic this month (you might remember Dave was working on a word search project in his last column). In this issue, he takes on the topic of how to make your shell scripts send text messages. It's a great way to get instant notifications to users, which isn't usually possible from inside a script.

I describe a couple cool programs in this month's upfront section, starting with Budgie. If you like the simplicity of the Chrome desktop interface, but prefer a full-blown Linux system underneath, Budgie is perfect. I also talk about the intricacies of the Linux permissions system and even a few Bitcoin clients. It's hard to beat the cool factor of Kyle Rankin's column this month, however, as he continues his series on Libreboot. People have been installing open source on hard drives for years, but with Kyle's assistance, you will learn to install the open-source BIOS replacement as well!

Be sure to check out Bharath Bhushan Lohray's article for an incredible home automation project. Starting from scratch with a Raspberry Pi, some relays and some wiring, Bharath walks through the steps of using the GPIO pins to manage multiple systems. Although it's certainly possible to buy one of the many embedded home automation kits available, starting from scratch allows for some serious customization and infinite programability. If you've been struggling to choose a brand of home automation systems to try, perhaps after reading this article, that question will become moot!

Rick Brown describes another awesome project, but this time it integrates with existing systems. Specifically, he explains how he connected a Linux system to a vehicle to get real-time operation data. Rick also shows how to design a display for the information, so that you're not grepping log files while driving!

In past issues, you have learned how to do basic encryption with Linux tools in order to keep your sensitive data safe. This month, Adam Kosmin goes much further and describes his complete system for keeping data secure. Using freely available tools and a handful of scripts and methods, he shows how to integrate secure encryption into your daily routine. If you want to encrypt your data, but find it complex and frustrating, be sure to read Adam's article.

The Cool Projects issue is a favorite of mine year after year. Not only is it a chance to start working on those ideas you've been putting off for months, but it's also a great way to learn while playing. I learned more about how keyboards function while making my MAME cabinet than ever before or since. As a kid who took apart everything I got my hands on, the Cool Projects issue is an awesome way to learn how to put a few things back together! Whether you love projects or just want some tech tips, product announcements and programming lessons, this issue of Linux Journal should provide lots of entertainment and education.

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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