Energy Crunching Granola

I recently installed the Granola energy management software to my netbook just to see if it would eek out some extended battery life time. Initial results  look good and battery time has indeed been increased with no apparent effect on perceived speed or response.

Granola is available for linux and Windows desktops. It can also be deployed on VMware ESXi. It is free for personal use but has a very small cost licence which makes available much more detailed energy controls and monitoring options when deployed across many computers at the same address. Power saving results can be tracked over time via an online account which records your power usage data.

Available desktop stats are displayed in a slightly generalised way with preferences available to show annual or cumulative energy savings.

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The Keyboardist’s Mini Toolkit

I’ve always loved the keyboard to get around my desktop rather than a mouse. For those of us who are not yet 100% consuming content via a touch screen (which has its place,don’t get me wrong) then the option to search and navigate by keyboard is a great boon to productivity I find.

My two current faves are synapse on my netbook (sorry open source systems only but there are plenty of  equivalents out there such as Alfred on Mac OS X and Launchy for almost all systems).

Synapse – a semantic launcher for Linux

I like Synapse because it makes use of the Zeitgeist engine  which logs and learns how you work together with common associations. Sounds geekier than it actually is. I find it a help anyway. Your own mileage may vary.

Gleebox web page navigation

The second software helper is a plugin for the Chrome /chromium browser or Chromebook/Chromium OS. It’s Gleebox. Once installed it enables a quick keyboard shortcut to activate an overlay that lets you navigate via the keyboard. It’s just as easy to type a url directly into gleebox, All in all it helps to move search and navigation to the keyboard rather than the mouse or trackpad.

I heartily recommend them both.

To add the Synapse ppa in linux just cut and paste these commands in the terminal window

  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:synapse-core/ppa
  • sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install synapse

This week I ‘ave been mostly


This week ,and for no other reason than that I was curious as to the outcome, I’ve restricted myself to using only a very low power consumption computer. I’ll be able to see quite what an impact on electricity consumption that’s made by early next week. I’ve had an interest in off-grid living for a while now.

That Certain Obsolete Niche

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There’s been a much reported view of late via Dr. Mark Dean, who had a hand in the design of the original IBM PC, that we’re moving into a post PC world where the desktop computer will join typewriters, incandescent lightbulbs and a handful of other consumer items that have passed the peak of their usefulness.

Some say that the desktop computer is suitable for creators of content but today many are either just consumers of content and mobile ones at that or are inputters of data. There are many who still use typewriters and listen to vinyl (which has even enjoyed a resurgence of late) and just this week a music group released their material on VHS tape (OK that’s just nostalgia for a past they never experienced similar to the rise in small music labels that release music on compact cassette only).

These items have moved from the mainstream to the niche.Few are ever truly dead. Maybe the desktop computer will move to a similar position. The home server for those that prefer not to trust the cloud? The dusty home of digital memories?

Surely it’s just evolving. Formats and form factors change and old habits die hard.

Vacuum tube image by jeua under this creative commons licence

Vinyl record image by SPazzø under this creative commons licence

Compact cassette image by Herr Popp under this creative commons licence

Typewriters image by donovanbeeson under this creative commons licence

Lightbulb image by Anton Fomkin under this creative commons licence

VHS tape image by Paul Mayne under this creative commons licence

‘Obsolete’ computer image by aliwest44 under this creative commons licence

Using Audacity To Record Audio Streams And System Audio

There are various bits of software out there for recording live Internet audio streams but many people often overlook the simple free solutions already available.

Audacity is a piece of free recording software that is cross-platform and can easily be set to record from your computer internal audio. Once recorded it will offer you the choice of saving as an mp3, AAC, ogg or various uncompressed formats.

Set To Record From The Built In Input

Just make sure that Audacity is set to record from the built-in input (Audacity -preferences-devices-recording: change to built-in input).

Audacity will now record anything playing on your computer so fire up that online audio stream via a web browser or your chosen piece of audio stream player (media player, iTunes,vlc etc), adjust your system volume level and the Audacity recording level and you’re ready to record.

Windows uses may have to make some extra adjustments.

Audacity Now Has A Timer

In fact the latest version (1.3.13) adds a timer recording capability (under the Transport menu or Shift+T from your keyboard once audacity is running).

Of course when using the timer facility will inevitably require that  you’ll have to pre-start the playback of your audio stream in advance or delve into the world of software scheduling on windows, automator on OS X or gui front ends for cron jobs in linux such as gnome-schedule (perhaps I can look at these additional options another time).

Bring Your Own Radio

Recording internal audio doesn’t mean that you have to record Internet streams. You could just as easily connect an ordinary FM/AM radio, Digital radio, standalone Internet radio or satellite radio to your system input via the proper cable and set these to come on at a chosen time.

Download a PDF of this article here

A Minty LXDE desktop at last

Linux Mint have issued a release candidate of their popular open source operating system based on the ultra lightweight LXDE desktop environment which is ideal for use on lower specification computers and netbooks. A quick test even from the live CD shows that the desktop is still fully featured though in common with the Xfce desktop it may not be fully compatible with running Adobe’s air platform. Otherwise everything else works very well.

I easily added the required Nvidia graphic card drivers and was able to add shortcuts to the desktop though found a familiar minor irritation in the shape of a missing Firefox shortcut icon which I have encountered before (some jigging about in the icons folder will fix that but it is a known bug).

The final release will be well worth downloading for extending the use of older computers (recycled or reused), together with laptops and netbooks. Linux Mint 8 ‘Helena’ LXDE is a free download.

Linux Mint 8 ‘Helena’ LXDE RC1

Netbook On The Starting Block


With Asus promising a £130 netbook sometime in 2009 the low cost netbook niche is joined by Maplin’s offering which receives a temporary price cut down to just below £140.

This gives you a 7 inch screened netbook with a debian sourced linux pre-installed on a 2GB nand flash inbuilt memory. Expansion via USB and SD cards is possible.


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