Placing Firefox cache in RAM on Ubuntu

firefoxTo enhance Firefox performance on Ubuntu (or Linux), we can place the cache in RAM. This is especially helpful if you are used to hours of continuous browsing sessions.

I have mounted some directories with temporary files using the tmpfs, which is RAM based filesystem. These files will be discarded at reboot, which also helps to keep my system clean.

The entries in /etc/fstab are like:

tmpfs /tmp tmpfs noexec,defaults,noatime,nodiratime 0 0
tmpfs /var/log tmpfs noexec,defaults,noatime,nodiratime 0 0

Add the following line at the end of /etc/sysctl.conf file:

vm.swappiness = 0

Run:

# sudo sysctl -p

In Firefox, go to about:config page and search for the following entry:

browser.cache.disk.parent_directory

If it is not there, right click and create a new String value and name it as

browser.cache.disk.parent_directory

Set the value to /tmp (or tmpfs directory of your choice). Restart Firefox.

Run a http server from any directory on Linux

cool_penguin_smallMany a time we need to share files over the LAN. There is a very simple way of doing it when you are on Linux using python2. cd to the directory the contents of which you want to share and run:

//Python 2
$ python -m SimpleHTTPServer 8181

//Python 3
$ pyhton3 -m http.server 8181

Here, 8181 is the arbitrary port number you want to use for your HTTP server. The files can now be accessed from any system in the LAN using a browser at

http://YOUR_IP_ADDRESS:8181

Another interesting utility is nweb.

Tested it between my laptop and mobile over the wireless and worked fine. Happy sharing!

Audio Convert: convert audio on Linux

musicWeeks back I faced a problem with playing my WMA files on Android. Due to DRM related issues Android does not support WMA on the fly. The only app I could find to play them was PowerAmp. But I was reluctant to waste some MBs (~ 6MB) on my phone just to play WMA files. While searching for a good converter on Ubuntu I came across Audio Convert, a script which converts audio files using a GUI. I have tried converting only WMA to MP3 till now and it works like a charm. Uses lame in the background to convert to MP3. By default it converted at minimum 128 kbps bitrate which I tweaked to 64 kbps (modify the audio-convert file to add kbps as “quality” to pass to the lame converter. Open-source goodness!). Can be installed as a nautilus extension. Can convert a single file as well as a whole directory of audio files with the same options when used with a wildcard like “*” from the terminal. A great solution for my problem.

Audio Convert can handle convert wav, ogg, mp3, mpc, flac, ape or wma files into wav, ogg, mp3, mpc, flac or ape files.

Webpage: Audio Convert

Radio Tray: online radio streaming player

For online radio lovers, one choice on Ubuntu is Radio Tray – a tiny application that plays from the panel. It uses gstreamer for the plugins to support various streaming formats. Memory usage is low. Capable of showing desktop notifications on song change. Has a sleep timer as well. Audio quality is very good. But its dependencies are a huge issue. The second time I tried to install it on my laptop I had a real hard time finding out which library was missing. Won’t recommend it for newbies.

Comes with a few default radio stations. Some of the stations I added:

  • Washington Bangla: http://supratim.sanyal.org/washington_bangla_radio.m3u
  • Shoutcast Ghazals: http://yp.shoutcast.com/sbin/tunein-station.pls?id=966025
  • Ghazal Radio: http://www.ghazalradio.com:8196/listen.pls
  • My Bangla Gaan: http://yp.shoutcast.com/sbin/tunein-station.pls?id=5915
  • RadioNRI: http://yp.shoutcast.com/sbin/tunein-station.pls?id=1270366

To install Radio Tray on Ubuntu:

$ sudo apt-get install radiotray

Update: Found another exotic way to play online radio channels. Simply open the link in Firefox and open with “Enque in SMPlayer” action. No doubt, this is much better that Radio Tray which can be a pain in the rear if you do not have the correct gstreamer plugins installed already.

Webpage: Radio Tray

Firefox add-ons I use

firefoxHere are some of the Firefox extensions I use(d) regularly:

  • Adblock Plus: Blocks annoying ads.
  • AddThis: Post pages to various sites and services like Gmail, WordPress, Facebook from the context menu.
  • Auto Shutdown NG: Fine tune what to do after download is complete and you are not available.
  • ChmFox: View CHM files in Firefox.
  • Copy Plain Text: Copy text from a page as plain text without formatting.
  • FDV Speed Dial: Saves a lot of typing. Can create dial images from default site images instead of site previews.
  • Flashblock: Stops flash videos from streaming automatically.
  • InstantFox: Address bar shortcuts and suggestions.
  • New Old Menu: Return to the old menus of Firefox.
  • QuickDrag: Extremely useful. Drag and open an image or a link in a separate tab.
  • Resurrect Pages: Get server-cached pages when a site is down.
  • Side Tabs: Place tabs in a sidebar. Great for widescreen laptops.
  • United States English Spellchecker: Detects spelling mistakes in typing.

SliTaz: a tiny Linux distro to run from USB

slitazI am using SliTaz for a while now. It is a tiny Linux distro which you can run from the USB. It is possible to save the changes, downloaded files as well as to preserve the rootfs (root filesystem) once you are done with installing your regular apps. The modified rootfs is a snapshot to go back to if something goes wrong. It supports all the regular apps like firefox, pidgin, smplayer, flash, gcc etc. Has its own package manager. The distro is extremely fast as it runs off the RAM and has a very small footprint. Can be run on low-end systems without a glitch. Easy to use for end-users (who are advised to used the released version) and a hacker’s delight (who are bound to use the cooking version). Various releases and flavours are available here.

Webpage: SliTaz

Wonderpage: a single place for all your bookmarks

Bookmarks are an indispensable part of our web browsing. While bookmarking links in your browser helps, how about organizing them better in an online service which you can access from anywhere? Wonderpage is an excellent place to save, organize and search bookmarks.

I was using Wonderpage for a while and then I found Historious which is a better alternative because it can also index the contents of the bookmarked page.

Webpage: Wonderpage

How to set up Compose Key on Ubuntu

Ever tried typing the characters like: ™ or ® or ½? Can be done very easily in Ubuntu using the compose key. Check this link to find out how. A list of supported sequences on Linux can be found here.

Compose key covers a subset of the Unicode characters you can type. For more Unicode characters, check this link. List of some common Unicode symbols.

Update: To enable compose key in Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise), 12.10 (Quantal) and 13.04 (Raring) go to System Settings ▸ Keyboard ▸ Layout Settings (at bottom left) ▸ Options ▸ Compose key position. As I seldom use the menu key, I am using it as my compose key now.

Random Ubuntu tips

ubuntu_logo_81x81Here’s a list of common tweaks I apply on Ubuntu to handle brightness, save power, disable ipv6 etc.

  1. To save power add the following in a script and add at startup:
    $ sudo echo 1500 > /proc/sys/vm/dirty_writeback_centisecs
    $ sudo echo 5 > /proc/sys/vm/laptop_mode
    $ sudo hal-disable-polling --device /dev/scd0
    $ gconftool-2 --set --type boolean /desktop/gnome/peripherals/touchpad/touchpad_enabled true
    $ xmodmap -e "clear Lock"
  2. To set brightness in Ubuntu at login:
    $ sudo setpci -s 00:02.0 F4.B=50
  3. To enable brightness key in Acer laptops add in GRUB params*:
    acpi_osi=Linux
  4. To enable Touchpad lock in Acer laptops add in GRUB params*:
    i8042.nomux
  5. To disable ipv6 at boot:
    ipv6.disable=1
  6. To re-enable Touchpad after sleep in laptop:
    $ gconftool-2 --set --type boolean \
    /desktop/gnome/peripherals/touchpad/touchpad_enabled true

* To modify GRUB boot params, open the file /etc/default/grub as sudoer and change the list of params in the line starting with

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT

My favourite Android apps

android_compHere’s a list of some good Android apps which I have used:

  • Color Wallpaper: Saves battery by setting just a colour as wallpaper. Numerous colours to choose from. [337 KB]
  • Droidfish: Extremely powerful chess engine with a beautiful interface. [2.0 MB]
  • FeedMe (Google Reader / RSS): Google Reader client. [265 KB]
  • Flipboard: Amazing news reader. Details here. [2.2 MB]
  • Floating Image: Aesthetic live wallpaper. Not a big fan of live wallpapers but this one is amazing. [948 KB]
  • Fo File Manager: A minimal file manager with the essential functionalities. [87 KB]
  • FTPServer: Ever need to exchange files between laptop and mobile? [76 KB]
    To connect use: # ftp IPADDRESS PORT
  • Gmail: The regular Gmail client from Google. [2.1 MB]
  • Google Gesture Search: Type in to search your mobile. [4.5 MB]
  • Hacker’s Keyboard: Can’t live without the regular keyboard! [1.7 MB]
  • JustReader: Great for reading Google Reader on tablets. [1.3 MB]
  • Kingsoft Office: Open/edit documents. Supports PDF viewing. [7.1 MB]
  • LauncherPro: Alternative for the stock launcher. [2.1 MB]
  • Maxthon Internet Browser: Powerful and fast browser. I use it for my tablet. [2.2 MB]
  • Mobialia Chess: Great app for FICS chess players. Only paid app in this list and worth the price. [3.8 MB]
  • MX Video Player: Plays most video formats. [4.6 MB]
  • NoLED: Missed notifications on screen. Didn’t want to touch my LEDs. [1.1 MB]
  • Page Turner: Excellent e-book reader for tablets. Ads are off on full-screen reading mode once you start reading. [2.2 MB]
  • Screen Filter: Lessen the minimum brightness supported by your device. [53 KB]
  • Share contacts via SMS: Send contact information via SMS or email. [21 KB]
  • Smooth Calendar: A widget showing Google calendar entries. [214 KB]
  • Wallpaper Wizardrii: Has numerous options to set an wallpaper like stretch, scale, resize etc. [601 KB]
  • Xabber: Gtalk client. [1.6 MB]