HQ real-time Earth wallpaper for Ubuntu: XPlanetFX

Forever a fan of quirky wallpapers that breaks the tradtion of static tedium we call desktop wallpaper, I was bowled over when tipped off to XplanetFX – a themeable real-time wallpaper that puts the Earth, Moon and Sun on your desktop in stunning high-quality.

xPlanetFX in Ubuntu 10.10

The default theme
XPlanetFX is incredibly customizable, coming with a sizeable array of options and settings sure to make even the most hard-to-please tweaker feel in- control.
Download extra themes; position the ‘Earth’ anywhere you like within the wallpaper frame; enable options for realistic cloud rendering or real-time lighting; set it to auto-run on login; the list could go on.
Setting your location for accurate real-time representation of light and Earth movment is a fantastic touch, and one made a breeze thanks to the simple ‘City Selection’ menu.
Alternatively you can also set your location by placing the green cross-hair marker as near to your desired/chosen/actual location on the (I want to say War Games style) world map.


This wonderful graphic made by the applications’ author shows off the HQ visual features present in XPlanetFX. The attention to detail present is superb; click the image below to view in better detail.
xplanetFX features
Back to the themes now and whatever your GTK+ style you’re sure to find something complimentary. Hit the ‘Search for themes online’ button to view available themes and to download in-app. Apply them by selecting them with your mouse from the main theme display window and pressing ‘Apply’.
XPlanetFX themes
Note: Since posting this earlier today the server containing the extra ‘themes’ has been taxed greatly by all you eager folks! If you are experiencing connection issues this is the likely reason.


So it looks good but how easy is it to install? ‘Very’ is the answer, thanks to a nicely pre-packaged .deb for Ubuntu users.
Hit the link below to grab it. Double click on it to install.
Download XplanetFX for Ubuntu
Once installed launch from the ‘Applications > Accessories’ sub-menu.
Setting it as your wallpaper
The first time you run XPlanetFX you may do what I did: frantically hit the ‘apply’ button exepcting instant results only to be left a few minutes later with nothing happening. This is actually a patience issue rather than an application issue; it can take a few minutes (depending on your CPU speed) for XPlanetFX to ‘render’ your desired wallpaper and set it on your desktop.
If you find that things are going too slow try disabling some of the rendering options (such as Clouds) located at the bottom of the ‘Display’ tab in XPlanetFX’s preferences.
Resource usage
Sadly such beauty doesn’t come without a cost; XPlanetFX likes to quaff CPU and hog a bit of RAM. Neither are to any drastic extent but low-powered device users (such as those on a netbook) may find that it’s not the ideal drape to have running when sans charger.
In all XPlanetFX is the most stunning, well designed ‘animated’ wallpaper I’ve so far come across. If you can withstand the ever-so slight resource hit running it costs then my advice is to do it: it’s exceptionally well made.

Clearloook Dark Themes Ubuntu


NodokaC - Metacity Theme


This theme is a small attempt to make one good (convenient) desktop instead of thousands beauty but... ugh,.. useless (sic! :( ) themes.

So I added colours to one of standard FC theme - Nodoka. It simply makes window buttons much MORE VISIBLE. Something alike was made in http://fedora-art.org/content/show.php/Saturglass?content=106292 and, for XFCE by me athttp://xfce-look.org/content/show.php/MicrodeckC?content=137469

Thus I present NodokaC.

I build it for myself using standard metacity xml. New button colours are given inside metacity-theme-1.xml in web-#HHHHHH format. Feel free to look in metacity-theme-1.xml and change it if you like. Search-and-replace should help you change it in every place where needed. Other colours are tuned via gtk-theme as usual.

Download file and unpack into ~/.themes folder. Archive contains also files from original Nodoka theme for convenience. Select theme NodokaC for metacity using standard measures of distro (smth. like gnome-appearance-properties->Modify->Window->Select from the list). 
Effect is immediate (for my F10).


v.0.0 Original version. TODO: edit icons bitmaps to increase icons contrast and visibility.

v.0.1. Added alternate colour for "unmaximize" button (see screenshot). I edit icon bitmaps for better visibility

source UbuntuArt

Get Caps / Num / Scroll Lock Keys NotifyOSD Notifications Using Compiz And A Script

lock keys notifications

Using this tweak you will get NotifyOSD notification bubbles when the caps lock, num lock or scroll lock status changes (you press a lock key).

One way of getting NotifyOSD notifications when you press the Caps Lock, Num Lock and Scroll Lock keys is using Indicator Keylock - which displays the lock keys status using both NotifyOSD and an appindicator.

But if you only want NotifyOSD notifications, you can do this without installing Indicator Keylock - by using a patched NotifyOSD provided by Leolik, a script and Compiz. This is a tweak Antoni "Pinguy" is using in his latest Pinguy OS 10.10 and he shared this tip with us so you can use it even if you don't want to install Pinguy OS.

How to set up and use the Lock Keys script

1. Optional: install the patched NotifyOSD we've talked about a while back - this makes the notifications respect the timeout passed by the script. Without this package, the notifications will be displayed for 10 seconds which is annoying in some occasions.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:leolik/leolik
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install libnotify-bin
pkill notify-osd

2. Download the script from HERE and save it somewhere on your system (like a "scripts" folder in your home directory for example). Then right click the file, select "Properties" and on the "Permissions" tab, check the "Allow executing file as program" box.

3. Make sure you have CompizConfig Settings Manager installed:
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

compizconfig settings manager commands tab

Go to System > Preferences > CompizConfig Settings Manager, enable the "Commands" plugin (if not already enabled) and on the commands tab, for 3 empty command boxes, enter this:

/path/to/lock_keys caps
/path/to/lock_keys num
/path/to/lock_keys scrl

In the above commands, replace "/path/to/lock_keys" with the exact path to where you've save the lock_keys script (downloaded in step 1).

4. On the same CompizConfigSettings Manager Commands plugin, go to the "Key Bindings" tab and for the "Run command X" corresponding to each command enter under step 3 press the "disabled" button, then press "Grab key combination" and press the key corresponding to the command (caps, num or scroll lock). When assigning a key such as Caps Lock, Num Lock or Scoll Lock, after pressing the key, press ENTER or else Compiz will not assign the key and will wait to press some more keys!

Compizconfig settings manager key bindings

And you're done!

First Person Shooters Games For Ubuntu

There’s nothing like shooting up some bad guys, be they zombies, terrorists or aliens, everyone loves a good FPS.
Luckily for you, and thanks in part to the open-sourcing of a number of Quake engines, there happen to be a few high quality First Person Shooters available in Ubuntu’s Software Center – and they’re all native and completely free of charge.
With no wine configuration spaghetti and gorgeous graphics, these shoot-em-ups will work out of the box and may literally blow you away.


Tremulous is a free, open source game that blends a team based First Person Shooter game with elements of a Real Time Strategy game. Players can choose from two unique races, aliens and humans.
Players on both teams are able to build working structures in-game like a Real Time Strategy game. These structures provide many functions, the most important being spawning. The designated builders must ensure there are spawn structures or other players will not be able to rejoin the game after death.

Website: http://tremulous.net/


Nexuiz is a fast-paced 3D deathmatch game with high-end and complex graphics effects. It is intended to be played over the Internet or over a local network.
Several different game types, such as classic deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag are available. Nexuiz also supports a single-player mode and has AI bots so you can play against the computer.

Website: http://alientrap.org/nexuiz/


Warsow is a first person shooter consisting of cel-shaded cartoon-like graphics with dark, flashy and dirty textures. Warsow is based on the E-novel “Chasseur de bots” (“Bots hunter” in English) by Fabrice Demurger. Warsow’s codebase is built upon Qfusion, an advanced modification of the Quake II engine.

Website: http://www.warsow.net/

Alien Arena

One of the best looking games available for Ubuntu, Alien Arena is a standalone 3D first person online deathmatch shooter crafted from the original source code of Quake II and Quake III, released by id Software under the GPL license.
With features including 32 bit graphics, new particle engine and effects, light blooms, reflective water, high resolution textures and skins, high poly models, stain maps, Alien Arena pushes the envelope of graphical beauty rivaling today’s top games.

Website: http://icculus.org/alienarena/rpa/

Urban Terror

Urban Terror is a free multiplayer first person shooter developed by FrozenSand, that (thanks to the ioquake3-code) does not require Quake III Arena anymore. It is available for Windows, Linux and Macintosh. The current version is 4.1.
While it’s not available in the Software Center, it’s still fairly easy to install thanks to binaries for 32 bit and 64 bit being made available on their download page.

Website: http://www.urbanterror.info/news/home/

Download A Collection Of ~1000 Widescreen HD Wallpapers

1000 hd wallpaper collection
(A few random wallpapers from the ~1000 widescreen HD wallpaper collection)

On the Wallch (Wallpaper Changer) Launchpad page I've found a link to a collection of around 1000 widescreen HD wallpapers and thought I'd share the link with you.

The wallpapers are nicely organized into categories such as: Abstact, Animals, Black&White, Dragons, One Color, Music, Technology, Cars and so on (there's a total of 20 categories).

You can use these wallpapers to automatically set a random wallpaper every X minutes using an application such as Wallch, Wally, Webilder, CreBS and so on.

Download the ~1000 HD wallpaper pack (436.4 MB)

Zero Ballistics – a rather addictive native 3D tank shooter

Zero Ballistics is a 3D tank shooter, a mix of FPS and “tank” (if that’s a genre) that is actually rather addictive, although unrealistic.
The multiplayer-only (although it has support for bots), cross-platform game, which is free to download and open source, was originally developed by QuantiCode in Austria a few years ago.
It sports some pretty nice 3D graphics and a semi-destructible landscape (trees can be destroyed and they fall over rather dramatically, but buildings don’t take damange) and has a few interesting features such as upgrades to your tank, multiple views and weapons and different game modes.
Unfortunately it’s not particularly tactical – so if you were looking for a realistic tank simulator then you’ve come to the wrong place.
“Zero Ballistics is a unique blend of multiplayer first person shooter and tank combat game. Easy to learn, difficult to master was our mantra during the development of the game. Set in lush alpine environments covering all seasons, playing Zero Ballistics is as thrilling as it is relaxing.”

Getting started

Weighing in just under 60mb, the download was a breeze from Sourceforge.
After installation I ran Zero Ballistics, greeted by a nice menu I quickly found a hosted game with 5 other players – this isn’t Call of Duty: Black Ops so don’t expect millions of other players, but luckily it appears at least a dozen people are online at any one time for you to destroy and the multiplayer implementation is flawless.


Playing the game is easy, simply moving the tank around with the W, A, S and D keys and then controlling the turret view with the mouse seemed second nature. The graphics are nice for a 4 year old GPL game, and the resolution support is decent.
Gameplay is rather arcade-like with the tanks moving pretty quickly (everyone seemed to have six-wheeled LAV’s rather than full on tanks like the Abrams). Shooting the main turret is done with the left mouse button, machine gun with the right. It’s not entirely clear why a machine gun is necessary as it appears to have no effect on your opponents and there is a lack of infantry to gun down.
After a few kills I was presented with an upgrade screen which allowed me to choose to spend my points on my weapon, armor or speed, a nice touch.
“Explore 81 different tank setups to be ready for any given combat situation. If you want to be sneaky, use mines and the heal skill to wreak havoc among your unsuspecting enemys. You are more the frontal assault type? Combine the ram bucket and the flamethrower to eliminate your enemies up close and personal.”


Overall the game is pretty damn fun for a quick thrill, everything comes together rather nicely and presuming you can find others to play with, I’m sure some strategies would emerge.
However I’d love to see more work done on making the game a bit more realistic. All too often the battles would simply end in a cluster of tanks circling around trying to destroy each other at close range which felt like a waste when the levels are wide, open expansive spaces.
I suggest you give it a try and let us know how your thoughts in the comments!

How To Install Microsoft Office 2007 In Ubuntu (Under Wine)

Microsoft Office 2007 Ubuntu

Today I had to install Microsoft Office 2007 at work. I don't like it but I had to install it because I work with storyboards (created in MS PowerPoint) and apparently these look differently in OpenOffice/LibreOffice and Microsoft Office 2007+. Since some of you are probably in the same situation as me (one way or another) and have to use Microsoft Office, I though I'd let you know how to install and get it to work in Ubuntu - the process is fairly easy but it involves a little "trick" to get PowerPoint to work.

Install and get Microsoft Office 2007 to work in Ubuntu

1. Firstly make sure you're running the latest WINE:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-wine/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install wine1.3

2. Go to Applications > Wine > Configure Wine and on the "Applications tab" select "Windows XP" under "Windows Version" and click "Apply".

3. Now install Microsoft Office 2007 - to be able to run the "setup.exe" installer, right click it, select "Properties" and on the "Permissions" tab check the "Allow executing file as program" box. Now double clicking setup.exe should open it using WINE. If it doesn't, right click it and select "Open with Wine Windows Program Loader". Now you can easily install Microsoft Office 2007.

4. At this point, PowerPoint will fail to start. To fix it, go to Applications > Wine > Configure Wine and on the "Libraries" tab, under "New override for library" type: "riched20.dll", then click "Add". Now click the newly added "riched20" file, click "Edit" and select "Native (Windows)".

Wine configuration

Microsoft Office 2007 PowerPoint should now work

Create A Gnome Panel Icon For Triggering The Compiz Expo Plugin (Like In Unity)

Expo Compiz

If you've tried (or seen some video) Unity, you've surely noticed the Compiz Expo icon on the Unity dock (launcher). There is no Gnome panel applet to do this but you can do this thanks to xautomation. Here is how to replicate this behavior in any Ubuntu version, using the normal Gnome desktop.

1. Install xautomation and CCSM:
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager xautomation

2. Set a Compiz Expo plugin key binding:

Compiz expo plugin key binding

Go to System > Preferences > CompizConfig Settings Manager and enable the "Expo" plugin. Then click it and on the "Bindings" tab, set a keyboard shortcut for the "Expo key" (first item on the list) - I've set "e" so that's what I am going to use for the commands in this post.

3. Optional: multiple desktop rows:

Compiz expo multiple desktop rows

By default, expo displays one big wall, but if you want multiple rows (like in Unity - and in my screenshot), go to CompizConfig Settings Manager, click on "General options" and on the "Desktop Size" tab, set the "Vertical Virtual Size" to some number larger then 1. I've used "2" for both "Horizontal Vertical Size" and "Vertical Virtual Size".

4. Create a new custom application launcher:

Custom application launcher

Right click on a Gnome panel, select "Add to panel" and add a "Custom Application Launcher". Set the following image as its icon (this is the icon used in Unity, you can however use whatever icon you want):

Compiz expo
(save it to your computer)

For your custom launcher name enter whatever you want and under "Command", enter this:
xte 'keydown Super_L' 'key e' 'keyup Super_L'
(This assumes you've used "e" as the Expo key binding under step 2, if not, modify it to whatever custom keybinding you've used). 

That's it! Save the custom application launcher and try it out.

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