Schedule Tasks in Linux with Ease – Kcron

When I first started using Linux, one of the most daunting tasks was creating crontabs to automate processes. For example, one might want to rotate apache logs (done automatically now by most distros) or perhaps pull info out of those logs, paste them to a file, and send said file to the webmaster. Now this wouldn’t be feasible to do by hand daily and that is where crontabs come in. Just like scheduled tasks in Windows, crontabs allow you to run a process at a given time. Unlike Windows though, you have ultimate control over the task. Nowadays, things are much easier by using a GUI such as Webmin, pycron, or Crontooie (if you’re a MAC user). The great thing is that KDE contains a handy tool to create and manage your Crontabs. You can disable or enable them straight from an easy to understand and control GUI. Today, we’re going to take a look at how to setup a simple crontab using Kcron.

Let’s start off by seeing if the cron daemon is even running on your system. Open up a Konsole or Shell and type the following:

ps aux | grep crond

If there is output similar to that in the screenshot, we’re in business because the cron daemon is running. If not, restart cron by typing: ./usr/sbin/crond (may vary by your distro…if you need help, let me know in comments section).

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Make Klipper Work FOR you

“Klipper is the KDE clipboard utility. It stores clipboard history, and allows you to link clipboard contents to application actions.” That’s the common explanation you get from most people and online manuals when seeking information about Klipper. But what else can Klipper do? Is that ALL it does? Can we empower it to be what cut and past is in Windows? (ducks the possible flames) Perhaps. Grab a pen and paper Klip…let’s see what this thing can do. Please note that this article is written with the assumption that you are using KDE 3.4 or higher.

In most KDE default KDE desktops on the major distros, you find this little icon:

That icon is Klipper, your clipboard tool. A clipboard is just what it sounds like…a place where you can clip text to be used at a later date. I wanted to take a look at where Klipper came from…so I went into the ‘about Klipper’ menu and emailed a couple of developers. A few actually responded quelling the myth that developers are unreachable by the general public. Carsten Pfeiffer, a previous developer, responded about the history of Klipper:

“It was started long time ago by Andrew Stanley-Jones, for storing a history of clipboard entries. I took over maintainership and added those annoying popups, that appeared, for example when you selected a URL in a terminal or somewhere else. The popup allowed you to do something with the URL, like opening it in Konqueror or Mozilla.

More generally speaking, the feature allowed you to configure custom “actions” to execute when something specific, described with a regular expression was put into the clipboard (see klipper’s Preferences dialog).

Later, I attempted to make klipper hide X11’s IMNSHO broken concept of “Selection” and “Clipboard”, but I didn’t really accomplish that.

Later, Lubos Lunak worked hard on fixing Qt’s clipboard implementation and making klipper play well with it and now I’m very happy that Esben is taking care of it.”

I contacted Esben in an attempt to get some inside information about where Klipper might go in the future (integration into KDE-core perhaps? or other such directions). He was able to provide a few possible directions Klipper may go:

“My vision of Klipper is mostly as a clipboard history application… the actions I merely maintain for those that uses them. Thus the features I have implemented so far has centered on the history: Expanding the history (really making the history scalable), support for images (this was sort of a test, I want to support abitrary mime types in history) and search-as-you type support.”

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Get in the mix, the Kmix…

What is all this K stuff? That’s often the question when people that have never used Linux and KDE ask when logging in to the environment for the first time. The K naming convention is often portrayed as confusing and cheesy, lacking professionalism. Despite these sentiments and harsh feelings, KDE still flexes its muscle as the desktop of choice for most Linux users. For those of you who have just gotten your start in Linux and perhaps for some of you that just haven’t had the time to investigate application Kxxx in KDE, Yet Another Linux Blog seeks to Ktantalize your KDE Ktastebuds and Ksupplement your Knowledge.

This week’s application is one that is often the first that shows itself when KDE initializes at login. A pop up window greets you with a bunch of adjustable sliders…that’s right, it’s Kmix.

NOTE: You can open up Kmix differently in each distribution. It is usually easy to find and is named ‘Sound Mixer’ or ‘Kmix’ by most distributions of Linux. In Kubuntu, it is located under the ‘Multimedia’ section of the Kmenu.

What is Kmix?

Kmix is pretty much what it sounds like. K for KDE and Mix for Mixer. Kmix is the default sound mixing program for KDE. It allows you to control your soundcard. It is used and supported by ALSA (The Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) driver, HP-UX, Solaris, Irix, and all BSD varieties of operating systems. So Kmix allows you to control the volumes, panning(moving sound to the right or left), and which sound card you’d like to have enabled. Y

Multiple Sound Cards? What For?

Many people have the need for two sound cards. For instance, they may want to save music or sound effects at a higher quality and one of their soundcards will do this. Kmix provides a quick and easy way to shift back and forth between the cards and allows access to settings for each. You can select sound cards by toggling the pull down menu under “Current Mixer”.

What are the Settings For?

You can access the settings for Kmix by pulling down the “settings” menu. After that, select “configure Kmix” and a window similar to this will popup:

As you can see, it’s a no brainer thus far to operate…but what do these settings actually tell us? Let’s go through some of the more common settings. We’ll start by explaining all those in the image to the left and then we’ll branch out into some that might be present for only certain types of soundcards.

  1. Dock to Panel – Very handy. This allows you to dock Kmix to the System Tray when using the close button
  2. Enable System tray volume control – Does exactly what it sounds like it does…it allows control of the volume when Kmix has been minimized to the system tray by the previous setting.
  3. Show Tickmarks – this setting displays hash marks on your slider for volume control and panning.
  4. Show Labels – This setting displays labels for each sound device when enabled.
  5. Restore Volumes on Login – This also does what it sounds like it does…your volumes remain constant through logoff and login. Very handy as well.
  6. Orientation – supposedly a setting for the applet to go horizontal or vertical but I’m not sure if this feature is enabled yet. Some mailing list traffic suggests that it hasn’t been enabled yet in KDE 3.4.2. If anyone has corrections to this, please post them in the forum and I’ll correct it and give you a nod here.

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BASH Prompt Fun

The Bourne Again Shell aka BASH has been around for a while. For those of us that also have been around for a while…this shell possibly could be the one you choose to use for your Linux distro. I first started using BASH when I was in college. We had Solaris 2.0 Servers that allowed me to mess around quite a bit back then.

But most new users fear the shell (or as windows likes to call it, command line) and venture there as little as possible. The prompt that greets most users that open a Linux shell is static and unyielding; yet, there are small adjustments that can make your Linux shell bend to the will of your force. Today, I’ll be going over some simple and fun ways to alter your .bashrc file, which is where your BASH “profile” is kept and read each time you login. Changes to this file can make your Linux shell a little bit friendly and less frightning.

Most shell’s look similar to this by default:

[devnet@lostgate root]$

This doesn’t do much for you other than tell you who you are, what your hostname is, and what directory you are in. If you are like me, you want some useful information to be there so that what is above, becomes what is below:


Why is this so different? For starters, after seeing how to add color to your prompt you’ll be able to add your own color scheme to things. You’ll also be able to check out various ways to display information you want such as dates, times, whether you have mail, and your directory path you are in. Do you need l33t programming skills to accomplish this? Not at all! If you’re ready, let’s give this thing a try…

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