Category: Open Source

Q&A: The ChRIS Project takes imaging analysis to the bedside, courtesy of the cloud

Q&A: The ChRIS Project takes imaging analysis to the bedside, courtesy of the cloud

Q&A: The ChRIS Project takes imaging analysis to the bedside, courtesy of the cloud 1
When a regulated industry looks to public cloud computing, the number of deal breakers can run high. For the ChRIS Project (Research Integration Service), the challenges are many to create an open-source platform that maintains patient scans for medical practitioners to access, compare and analyze images quickly and remotely. This type of project requires a […]

The post Q&A: The ChRIS Project takes imaging analysis to the bedside, courtesy of the cloud appeared first on SiliconANGLE.

Watch live: Red Hat Summit 2019 exclusive videos and analysis

Watch live: Red Hat Summit 2019 exclusive videos and analysis

Watch live: Red Hat Summit 2019 exclusive videos and analysis 2
Expected to be the final Red Hat Summit before its acquisition by IBM Corp. closes, the annual open-source conference will be a nostalgic mix of sharing work cultures while building new norms. Representing this transition will be the keynote speakers, spanning the leadership across both companies. Sharing the stage over the course of the summit […]

The post Watch live: Red Hat Summit 2019 exclusive videos and analysis appeared first on SiliconANGLE.

Best Free Web Hosting Panel / cPanel Alternative

Best Free Web Hosting Panel / cPanel Alternative

Web Hosting Panel

cPanel_X_-_Main_-_2014-04-17_13.02.19

If you have ever bought or used shared web hosting space, you are probably familiar with cPanel. The purpose of a Web Hosting panel, such as cPanel, is to create a graphical user interface for basic web server maintenance tasks such as creating websites, databases and FTP accounts. The idea is to take the messy linux config files out of web server maintenance and complete all our basic tasks with a nice human readable  interface that even less technically inclined end users can use.

Although cPanel is the, no-questions-asked, industry standard in web hosting, it is unfortunately not free. The license fee’s, around $15-$20 a month per server, is fair enough for corporations, web hosting providers, and other large site owners but for the casual website owner on a budget that can be a pretty big extra chunk of change.

Luckily for us there are a number of open source (or otherwise free) web hosting panels. Unfortunately none of them quite measure up to the depth of cPanel, but the options are solid and great for server owners on a budget.

Top cPanel Alternatives

In this guide I will cover what I believe to be the top alternatives to cPanel:

  • VestaCP
  • VirtualMin
  • AjentiV
  • Webuzo
  • Kloxo-MR

VestaCP – * Top Choice *

vesta_cp

Link: VestaCP Homepage

VestaCP is a free and open source web panel for Debian, Ubuntu, RHEL and CentOS Linux distributions. VestaCP is extremely fast and light weight and focuses on minimalism and simple usability.

VestaCP will install a “LNAMP stack” which means it uses both Apache and Nginx together. Nginx will act as our front end (“Proxy”) and it will serve all static content. Any Dynamic content will be passed down to Apache and handled there. The result is an ultra fast and low ram usage server taking advantage of both web server’s strengths.

Installation

Installation of the panel is extremely simple and quick. Simply download the script to a fresh linux installation and run it:

curl -O http://vestacp.com/pub/vst-install.sh
bash vst-install.sh

Usability

The panel itself is extremely lightweight and easy to navigate. It features all the basic necessities you would expect from a web panel such as adding domains, DNS, Mail, Databses, Users, etc etc. It also some very basic admin features such as log checking, statistics, performance graphs and automated backups.

Power

One area where the control panel lacks a bit is the depth of configuration. The panel focuses on simplicity and the cost of that is the ability to get into the nooks and cranny’s of server maintenance. Some examples I encountered were the lack of options for offsite backups, inability to relocate the physical path of a website as well as the inability to create a subdomain/subserver, requiring you to set it up as it’s own domain.

Security

VestaCP has a good track record for security. The panel does have a tendency however to email user credentials in plain-text. This can be disabled though by not providing an email address where it asks who to email credentials to.

Documentation & Support

What documentation is available is quite good, concise and to the point but I found myself looking for answers to lots of questions that were not there. The support forums are largely in Russian so if you are unable to speak Russian you may be left in the dust or depending on rough Google translations.

Virtualmin/Webmin – * Top Choice *

Virtualmin_4.06_on_agoni_(CentOS_Linux_5.8)_-_2014-04-17_14.56.36

Link: Virtualmin Homepage

Virtualmin / Webmin is a software suite with a free version licensed under GPL.  While it lacks the visual finesse of some of the other offerings, it is a power house of configurability. Not only is it the cadillac solution of free web panels, it is also has a nice feature allowing us to import websites from cPanel backups, allowing us to transfer our sites off a shared host to a VPS/Dedi with ease.

Installation

Installation is a breeze. Simply download the script and run it. It works on a large variety of linux distrubtions.

I have installed Virtualmin on 5-6 servers now and have noticed some trouble with some OpenVZ servers in which does not correctly detect the network connection to use, and it uses a local loopback device rather the external connection. It was however easily corrected once I found the right settings in the control panel.

On first run you will additionally go through a wizard to set some basic level of configuration which was a nice touch missing in other packages I tested.

Usability

Although Virtualmin has some really deep customizations, it also does a good job of hiding them under the hood and presenting the user with a simplified UI at first. Setting up my first website was straight forward and mostly automatic process.

Power

Yes, I’ll say it again, the customizations are deep. Between Virtualmin and Webmin you will find every nook and cranny that can be configured presented to you. I read a good post about Webmin suggesting that it teaches users how to use Linux and think in Linux terms, even though you are not editing configuration files directly. That is really spot on.

Security

Virtualmin has a good security track record.

Documentation & Support

Documentation was somewhat hit or miss, but the popularity on longevity of Webmin/Virtualmin means there is countless of support posts in the forums. I ran into some really specific issues and was able to find answers to my questions everytime.

AjentiV

AjentiV

Link: Ajenti Homepage

Ajenti is a free-for-personal-use server admin panel. It is plugin focused and therefore is able to support a number of different software stacks for web hosting, including what is being called the “Pro Stack” which is quickly gaining in popularity. A pro stack is an Nginx driven server using PHP5-FPM. This allows the server to run on a small memory footprint even with high concurrent users. The trade off is that it is known to place a heavier load onto the processor.

Installation

Installation was fairly straight-forward however I found I had to go outside the included documentation for information. The script installer did not seem to work directly on CentOS 6.5 and required EPEL repositories to be added first which was not covered in the documentation.

Not a huge deal as I was still able to get the software installed without much hassle and in a short period of time.

Usability

The interface is fairly minimal at first, but you quickly realize that the menu items can get pretty deep into customizations. Setting up a website was a couple step process and the interface froze up on me a few times while doing a “configuration check”. Configuration seems to requires some element of an understanding of web server maintenance and isn’t as intuitive as a process as in cPanel/WHM.

Power

Customizations are quite deep. If you take the time to learn the interface I believe you could accomplish almost all your server maintenance tasks from within the UI. Additionally the power of user built plugins really opens up your options.

Security

Ajenti has a good track record in security. They do however assign a default password to the root account of “admin” and do not force a password change on login. I believe there are likely hundreds of Ajenti driven servers out there that could easily be logged into as a result.

Documentation & Support

Some of the documentation during installation and initial configuration seemed incomplete and out of date. There are extensive forums however for support.

Webuzo

Webuzo_-_Powered_by_Softaculous_-_2014-04-17_16.03.32

Link: Webuzo Homepage

You may have already heard of Softaculous. Their primary software is a script deployment system that has hundreds of scripts in it (like blog software, forum software, online games, etc) and can be configured into cPanel. Webuzo is also their product. It is a free for personal use (single user) panel that has a remarkable likeness to cPanel.

The free software is offered and has a version of Softaculous included in that has a small portion of the available scripts. ie: Their goal here is to get people on their platform with the free software and then get them to upgrade to a full version of Softaculous after getting them hooked on the script deployer.

The panel is quite obviously focused on script deployment, but that can be overlooked and just use the web admin panel for what it is.

Installation

Another wonderfully simple installation. Download the script and run it. The rest is up to the script and first-run of the software.

Usability

Webuzo’s “End User” interface is essentially a pixel per pixel copy of cPanel. They did a great job of bringing the simple yet effective web maintenance solution to their panel. What is lacking however is the powerful backend you get with WHM, which there is certainly not really an equivalent of here. Webuzo is focused on the user front end and not much more.

I have to admit something. I was not able to get a website actually running on Webuzo. I may have missed something small and silly but my basic wordpress test install just goes to a 500 script error page. No search for support was able to help me get through the issue although I admit I was not looking to devote a full day to trying.

Power

Depth of configuration is not a key focus of this software. It performs all the basic tasks, similar to cPanel, without any of the real under the hood customizeability.

Security

I have not heard of any major exploits with Webuzo.

Documentation & Support

The documentation is obviously more focused on their script installer then anything else. I found it lacking, however they have a decent forum. I was not able to work through my website configuration issues using their online documentation or forums.

Kloxo-MR

Kloxo6.1.0-high

Link: Kloxo-MR GitHub

Kloxo-MR is a fork of a popular, but not particularly active control panel Kloxo (previously called lxAdmin). Kloxo-MR is a free and open source control panel and is one of the top and most full featured control panels I have tried. On top of all the regular web control panel features for DNS, Mail, etc, it also comes with a script installer similar to Softaculous/Fantastico supporting over 100 web applications and has a sister application HyperVM allowing you to turn a dedicated server into an OpenVZ/KVM virtualization environment.

Kloxo only supports CentOS.

Installation

Installation went fairly smoothly. The steps for installation were a bit more involved then it’s competitors which are purely script based, but the instructions from the Kloxo-MR website were concise enough to get through the process with little trouble. I did have one issue following installation where Hiawatha web server loaded and Apache didn’t and it left me unable to run any websites. However, the issue looked common enough that I was easily able to find a resolution through Google.

Usability

Kloxo is a fairly powerful control panel. The interface will leave you a bit lost at first glance, as you need a bit of time to adjust to the differing terminology, but from there configuration flowed quite nicely. The interface is similar to a WindowsXP era OS control window with a treeview down one side that drills into where you need to go.

The interace also lends itself quite well to a multi user environment, allowing you to create new users who have a subset of controls similar to a cPanel reseller environment.

Power

Kloxo is a pretty powerful and full featured control panel. It’s easy to get lost in the menu’s and I believe there isn’t many necessary tasks that can’t be completed from the UI.

Security

Unfortunately this is an area that leaves me questioning use of Kloxo-MR for a production environment. The software has had very recent and severe SQL injection exploits. Although the author acted quickly to address and patch the security holes it has left some people in doubt as to what other security flaws may be present but not publicly known. Not scrubbing form post data against injection attacks is pretty beginner level security, so what other holes are potentially existing in the software?

Documentation & Support

Online documentation is pretty nil at the moment. However, the main Kloxo website is in a transition period so I don’t want to make any absolute judgements here. The software is popular enough that support issues are discussed frequently in forums.

 

Coming Soon…

I have a few more panels to trial still! Stay tuned for more reviews of the following:

  • ZPanel
  • ISPConfig

The post Best Free Web Hosting Panel / cPanel Alternative appeared first on GNU Tomorrow.

How to Configure an Ultra Low Budget ($5/yr) 128mb VPS Web Server

How to Configure an Ultra Low Budget ($5/yr) 128mb VPS Web Server

LowEndBox

Low_End_Box_-_Cheap_VPS_Hosting_Providers_Listing_&_Reviews_-_2014-04-01_14.51.46

A few months back I moved my sites off a shared hosting plan and into a self-managed VPS environment, hoping to give a bit more performance and reliability to my network. During my travels I came across an awesome little site, www.lowendbox.com, dedicated to un-managed, low budget VPS sales and reviews. This site, which is updated a few times a week, features a fairly wide range of VPS offers ranging from fairly good quality servers all the way down to dirt cheap, jam-packed, low ram VPS that you can have for less then a $1 a month!

I am thrifty, and I am a person who loves to explore what you can do with minimal hardware, so… challenge accepted.

My $5/yr BlueVM 128mb VPS Node

bluevmlogoI ended up grabbing a sale from BlueVM. The node is 128mb/128mb swap with 5GB storage and 100GB bandwidth. Pretty teeny tiny server, but after the 20% discount the node comes to a measly $5.63 a year.

Signing up was quite painless and my node was activated almost immediately after payment.

I went with a Debian 7 Minimal installation as my OS to limit the amount of extra applications that will need to be removed before getting started.

First steps with any new server is to update your repositories and do a full upgrade on the system. The following steps will of course need root to run:

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

Let’s check the server’s memory to see how minimal it really is…

free -m

Outputs:

             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:           128         14        113          0          0         8
-/+ buffers/cache:          5        122
Swap:          128          0        128

Great! Only a few mb actually being used by the OS. That leaves us almost the full 128mb to work with.

Next, let’s benchmark the server using this FreeVPS script:

wget freevps.us/downloads/bench.sh
chmod 700 bench.sh
./bench.sh

Outputs:

CPU model :  Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E3-1270 v3 @ 3.50GHz
Number of cores : 1
CPU frequency :  3491.996 MHz
Total amount of ram : 128 MB
Total amount of swap : 128 MB
System uptime :   28 min,
Download speed from CacheFly: 63.0MB/s
Download speed from Coloat, Atlanta GA: 11.1MB/s
Download speed from Softlayer, Dallas, TX: 14.4MB/s
Download speed from Linode, Tokyo, JP: 3.74MB/s
Download speed from i3d.net, Rotterdam, NL: 2.76MB/s
Download speed from Leaseweb, Haarlem, NL: 363KB/s
Download speed from Softlayer, Singapore: 2.48MB/s
Download speed from Softlayer, Seattle, WA: 8.88MB/s
Download speed from Softlayer, San Jose, CA: 73.2MB/s
Download speed from Softlayer, Washington, DC: 7.28MB/s
I/O speed :  203 MB/s

Although I wouldn’t rush off to host my network here, it’s certainly a a very strong bench for a 128mb node. 203MB/s IO will allow us to do some web hosting as long as we don’t go crazy installing wordpress and 1000 plugins to overload the server. And of course, more then enough bandwidth here to do whatever we need to.

Installing Nginx

nginx-logo

Although I wouldn’t necessarily call Apache “heavy”, it is not really well optimized for running in extremely low ram environments. It would be fine @256mb to just do a generic LAMP stack install, but in this case we’re going to want to go as light as possible to leave RAM to PHP and SQL processes.

Although lighttpd is a great alternative, I have decided to use Nginx for a few reasons. It is extremely light, it is easy to install and one of the easiest web servers to manage configuration wise, and lastly it comes with some mail handling built in which will allow us to skip some unnecessary installs later on.

Nginx is available for install through apt-get. There are multiple packages you can choose from, nginx-light, nginx-full or nginx-extras. These obviously range from the lightest installs with only the barebones to the heaviest installs. Despite what you might be thinking, we’re actually going to use  the “nginx-full” package as this will have some mail functionality built in which the light package is missing.

apt-get install nginx-full
service nginx start

To test that that Nginx installed properly, visit your site by IP or by FQDN if you have setup a domain or subdomain for your VPS already. We should a basic “Welcome to Nginx!” message here.

Welcome_to_nginx!_-_2014-04-01_13.55.59

Installing PHP5-FPM

Next we will install PHP via the PHP5-FPM module. This is an alternative PHP5 Fast CGI implementation with some tweaks to improve performance under high load. This means that are already limited server won’t be even more pinned to the ground by concurrent requests. While we are at it we will also install some modules for PHP5 to interface with MySQL and some commonly needed modules. You can of course edit the modules list as required if you know what you are doing.

apt-get install php5-fpm
apt-get install php5-mysql php5-curl php5-gd php5-mcrypt

Easy to install, next we’ll need to configure it. Of course, use your preferred text editor in place of nano if you wish.

nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

There are 2 sections we are going to need to make changes on initially. First lets enable ipv4 and ipv6 listening ports. Although the server will listen to port 80 by default it’s always a best practice to be discrete and save ourselves some debuggin headaches later on.

Look for code like this and remove the comments to enable both “listen” lines. We’ll additionally want index.php files to be defaulted to by the server, so we add index.php onto our “index” line.

server {
    listen   80; ## listen for ipv4; this line is default and implied
    listen   [::]:80 default_server ipv6only=on; ## listen for ipv6

    root /usr/share/nginx/www;
    index index.php index.html index.htm;

Next we want to enable .php files and have them processed by PHP5-FPM. Scroll down in the file and uncomment the appropriate lines to enable PHP5-FPM:

location ~ .php$ {
        fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+.php)(/.+)$;
#       # NOTE: You should have "cgi.fix_pathinfo = 0;" in php.ini
#
#       # With php5-cgi alone:
#       fastcgi_pass 127.0.0.1:9000;
#       # With php5-fpm:
        fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock;
        fastcgi_index index.php;
        include fastcgi_params;
}

Save the file and close it. Next let’s restart the services and create a PHP test file.

/etc/init.d/nginx restart
/etc/init.d/php5-fpm restart

Create test file:

nano usr/share/nginx/www/test.php

Add the following line to our test file:

Test it out by visiting our server in your browser with test.php, we should see the php configuration output as so:

phpinfo()_-_2014-04-01_14.29.07

Install MySQL

Lastly we’ll probably want a database if we plan to host dynamic content. Although there are some MySQL alternatives which are certainly lighter (like SQLite), they also come with some costs/tradeoffs. I would prefer to just install a proper version of MySQL which we’ll then tweak for our low ram VPS environment.

apt-get install mysql-server mysql-client

You will be prompted for a password during the install. Go and ahead and enter a strong password for your root account here.

             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:           128         72         55          0          0         21
-/+ buffers/cache:         50         77
Swap:          128          0        128

How are we doing on ram now? Still quite a bit free, 77mb to spare. Of course, as we start using the system this will get sucked up and we’ll need to be smart about what we run, but we have a successful web server so far!

Let’s do some tweaks to MySQL to ensure that it doesn’t go resource heavy on us…

Visit this site for a great config for 128mb vps:
http://keithscode.com/blog/23-running-mysql-on-a-small-128mb-vps.html

Grab this config and place that into your /etc/mysql/my.cnf file. Make sure to backup your existing file incase we need to revert! ie:

mv /etc/mysql/my.cnf /etc/mysql/my.cnf.backup
nano /etc/mysql/my.cnf
/etc/init.d/mysql restart

That free’d us up some more memory:

             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:           128         42         85          0          0         20
-/+ buffers/cache:         21        106
Swap:          128          0        128

Now let’s install phpmyadmin to manage our MySQL instance and install it to /phpmyadmin on our server.

apt-get install phpmyadmin
cp -R /usr/share/phpmyadmin /usr/share/nginx/www

We can now access phpMyAdmin on our server:
phpMyAdmin_-_2014-04-01_16.04.31

Test The Server

I’m going to do a base wordpress install to test my server functionality out and run a wordpress benchmark. After creating a new database and user with priveleges to that database I can go ahead with my WordPress install.

cd /usr/share/nginx/www
wget http://en-ca.wordpress.org/wordpress-3.8.1-en_CA.tar.gz
tar xvf wordpress-3.8.1-en_CA.tar.gz
chown -R www-data:www-data wordpress

And then visit our site and see if it can install!

How to Configure an Ultra Low Budget ($5/yr) 128mb VPS Web Server 5
How to Configure an Ultra Low Budget ($5/yr) 128mb VPS Web Server 6
How to Configure an Ultra Low Budget ($5/yr) 128mb VPS Web Server 7
How to Configure an Ultra Low Budget ($5/yr) 128mb VPS Web Server 8

Great benchmarks! I am quite surprised to be honest. This would make for a great little server to host 1 or 2 wordpress sites on with low to medium traffic, and limited plugins.

The post How to Configure an Ultra Low Budget ($5/yr) 128mb VPS Web Server appeared first on GNU Tomorrow.

The Best Free Comic Readers for PC Tablets and Smartphones

The Best Free Comic Readers for PC Tablets and Smartphones

Electronic Comic Books

tumblr_ml3fubL3FV1s6ssgmo1_1280

Comic Books in electronic format have taken off in popularity over the past few years. Tablets, color eBook readers and large smart phones screens have played a large role in this, making it a very natural transition from paperback format into electronic device. Holding a tablet and flipping through a comic book or magazine almost feels as natural as the real thing.

In case you missed it, we just ran an article featuring a number of sources of Free Comic Books online. It only seems appropriate to follow this up with the best CBR/PDF comic readers so that anyone wanting to get into comics and nut sure where to start knows what to do next.

Rather then going for an exhaustive list I am going to attempt to identify the best (or my favorite, at least) and most up to date and active readers for each platform you may be reading on.

ComicRack – Win/Android/iOS CBR Reader

comicrack

ComicRack is the best eComic reader and manager for Windows computers. It is an all-in-one solution to read and manage your eComic library. It is actively maintained, has a strong user base and is FREE.

If you are looking for an alternative, well polished comic book reader then ComicRack is it! ComicRack is not open source but it is offered as a free download. Although the software is not crippled it is pretty heavy on the nagging for donations. But really, that is a small price to pay to get such quality software for free.

ComicRack is as full featured as CDisplayEx and also receives fairly active updates.

ComicRack is also available for both iOS and Android platforms making it one of the most widely known application names in the comic book scene.

Available here: http://comicrack.cyolito.com/

 

Comix – Top Linux CBR Reader

comix

Comix is a user-friendly, customizable image viewer. It is specifically designed to handle comic books, but also serves as a generic viewer. It reads images in ZIP, RAR or tar archives (also gzip or bzip2 compressed) as well as plain image files. It is written in Python and uses GTK+ through the PyGTK bindings.

Comix is on the list as we are lacking a Linux mention so far! Even the open source CDisplayEx is only released for Windows OS. Comix is one of the top reader options for your other OS of choice, operating on Python which makes it quite portable across platforms.

Comix is not the prettiest GUI to look at it but it has the functionality required of a Comic Book viewer down to a tee.

Available Here: http://comix.sourceforge.net/download.html

 

Perfect Viewer – Top Android CBR Reader

PerfectViewerAPKv2.0.1_andro_apps

Perfect Viewer gets a special mention for me as I believe it fills a certain niche extremely well and better then the top level premium viewers.

I use Perfect Viewer on my Samsung Galaxy S4 and I believe it is the perfect smart phone / small screen Comic Book reader. I had issues with most other readers I tried which are based heavily around the expectation that a single page fills your screen. On a phone, you generally need to go horizontal and read only a portion of a page at a time.

Perfect Viewer may not be the best app to look at but it controls extremely fluidly, allowing me to drag the screen around as I view the page, or simply click on the left and right of the screen to jump up and down the page.

It also has a feature to colorize black and white comics into a hue of your choice if you so prefer.

Available here (android only): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rookiestudio.perfectviewer&hl=en

CDisplayEx – Removed!

cdisplayex_windows

Update 09/02/2014 – A number of users have reported some extremely invasive malware in the CDisplayEx installer! Although CDisplay was once the top viewer, I can certainly not give it that mark now that the project has gone to the greedy side. Please avoid!

The post The Best Free Comic Readers for PC Tablets and Smartphones appeared first on GNU Tomorrow.

XBMC – Free, Full-Featured Media Center

XBMC – Free, Full-Featured Media Center

Media Centers

Recently with the release of Windows 8, Microsoft has made some changes to the monetization of their Media Center software. It is now considered an “Addon” that needs to be purchased, and requires users to be on at least “Professional” level of the OS. This puts the Media Center software out of reach for most casual consumers and has left lots of customers scrambling about where to go.

While there are plenty of options out there, I think a lot of people would be surprised to find that the (arguably) best and most full featured media center software available is open-source under the GPL license and available completely free to all users.

Xbox Media Center (XBMC)

xbmc-gotham-teaser-purple-600x336

I am of course referring to XBMC, or “XBox Media Center”. XBMC is a media front end designed to turn your PC into the ultimate “Smart TV” box. It has features for managing movies, tv shows, music, launching programs, and can tie into all sorts of streaming services.

The name may be a bit confusing to those who don’t know the history… what does this have to do with the Xbox? …

XBMC actually started out as a homebrew project for hacked versions of the original Xbox console. The project was so popular and so well built however, that even as we strayed past the days of hacked Xbox 1’s, the developers continued the project moving to Linux, Windows and MacOS instead. Now adays, this media center software is available for virtually any OS and even has started releasing it’s own stand-alone OS variants.

Media Front End

So what does it do?

Basically it acts as a front end for your media library, allowing you to use your PC as a PVR/Blu-Ray/DVD/Jukebox/etc device. The focus of the software is on usability at 10-feet, and is made to be visually appealing as a front end, and controllable by simple devices like remote controls, mouse-less mini keyboards or touchscreens.

Your media is managed automatically by the system. You just organize your Movies and TV Shows into a nice folder structure, and tell XBMC where to look. It uses a technology called “scraping” to retrieve titles and information from the files and then automatically downloads meta data such as cover art and synopsis from 3rd party websites.

mstream2

Although a touch of intervention is sometimes required to get XBMC to play nicely with your files, it is generally a very smooth and hands off process.

Plugins

One of the best features of XBMC that I believe distinguishes itself from the competition is the support for user developed plugins, and the huge developer support behind these plugins. There are essentially plugins for everything you can think of ranging from launching emulators, netflix, straight down to the totally illegal, use at your own risk plugins for illegal streaming sites.

Some examples of great plugins:

These are really just the tip of the ice berg. There are hundreds of plugin options to tailor the experience to exactly what you want to do with XBMC.

OpenELEC

openelec_logo

XBMC has recently been taken a step further and has been turned into a mini, linux based OS designed to run on low end hardware. There is even a Raspberry Pi ARM branch of this new OS allowing people to get started in the HTPC world for as little as $35 (although every Raspberry Pi owner knows that cost always spirals a bit :P)

OpenELEC is very, very barebones and is not intended for people who are wanting other uses of their hardware then XBMC itself. If you are wanting a minimized OS that puts the focus on XBMC but is also capable of the other typical OS tasks you might want to check out XBMCbuntu a branch of the popular Ubuntu linux OS.

The post XBMC – Free, Full-Featured Media Center appeared first on GNU Tomorrow.

Free Daily Android Apps and Games

Free Daily Android Apps and Games

Isn’t everything on the Android app store free already?? Not quite. It seems like on mobile markets these days everything is marked as free, but really what you get is a minefield of invasive ad-ware and pay walls / pay-to-win content. Of course, developers need to get paid and this is understandable, but… is there any no strings attached, free content out there? And how do you find it?

Below you will find 3 great sources for “Free Daily App” applications and games. Essentially you will not quite have control over what you get for free, but each day a new offering of free, no-ad, no IAP content will be up for grabs if it suits your fancy.

Amazon App Store

Amazon App Store

Undoubtedly the best source of free apps and the one with the richest in gaming content. In order to access these free apps you will however need to install the Amazon App Store which is not offered on the Play website. Doing so means installing a .APK file to your phone which you will need to provide permissions to and may potentially be locked out by some providers.

To install the app store you will need to visit the Amazon site and download the APK:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/mas/get/android

If you are not great at the technical bits of your phone, you may need some guided instructions which are available here:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000626391

Once installed you will be able to setup a notification letting you know when a new app of the day is available, or you can just choose to visit the site at your leisure and check for new content. Apps will be downloaded in .apk format meaning you will not get the benefit of automatic updates through the Play store… but hey, it’s free.

App of the Day – 100% Free

appoftheday

This source is an application available on the Google Play store which will send you a notification (can be disabled) when a new free application is available. My experience with this app is that it’s generally more utility apps and not so much games, but you may find some useful content here none the less.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.appturbo.appturboUK&hl=en

Just install the app and then use the app to find links to your free downloads!

Note that this application has Country restrictions. You can search the Google Play store for an appropriate link for your country (if available).

Droid of the Day

dotd

While the 2 previous services mentioned give you a normally paid app for free each day, Droid of the Day (DOTD) is a bit different. This app catalogs the best no strings attached free apps on Play store and lets you browse through the apps. While the app will make a daily “suggestion”, it doesn’t limit you from looking at all the options available and downloading as you please.

Available here:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.wolfsoft.dotd&hl=en

 

The post Free Daily Android Apps and Games appeared first on GNU Tomorrow.

Building a Free Web Server at Home

Building a Free Web Server at Home

Servers

Building a Free Web Server

Ever wanted to build your own blog or websites, but didn’t like the idea of forking out monthly fee’s to keep it running? Well, there is no such thing as truly free, but in this article series we will cover how to build a low cost web server which you can run from your home, and how to tackle a lot of the issues commonly associated with home run servers.

I say no web server is truly free because while we can tackle all the software installs and services required at no cost, there isn’t any easy way to circumvent the need for hardware, as well as the monthly electricity costs of running the server.

In the first article in the web server & development series we will cover:

  1. Hardware Options
  2. Choosing and installing an OS
  3. Installing LAMP on our selected OS
  4. Installing a control panel

Hardware Options

Choosing what hardware to use for your web server is one of the trickiest decisions to make. You’ll first want to identify your needs and get a rough idea of what kind of traffic and content you’ll be serving. For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on ultra cheap solutions, since the original goal is to build a server for “free”. These solutions will be perfect for a low traffic blog, or for medium traffic sites serving static content.

EEEPC Netbook

The first question to ask is whether you have any hardware already available to use? When I set out to build my free web server, I happened to have a eeepc netbook collecting dust on a shelf. This was an attractive option because netbooks are by nature, low power consumption, and that means my monthly electricity costs will be quite low. When considering using existing hardware, remember that the old PC in your closet that was a beast in it’s time is probably a huge resource hog and going to give you a very poor performance to power consumption ratio.

No hardware to use? Well we may need to look at buying some hardware then. I’m a big fan of the netbook solution because they are cheap, use very low power, often come with SSD’s and the battery backup acts as a UPS if you were to have some short power outs in your area. SSD is a big selling point here, as it will be a big factor in our response times and MySQL performance. If you’re buying new you should seek this out unless you really need size > speed for the HDD.

If you want something with a bit more beef you could look at building a low cost mini or micro atx PC. The newer Celeron processors give quite a bit of a bang for the $ and are quite low energy consumption. Consider checking the use markets to keep your costs down on things like a case, memory, motherboards, etc that don’t need to be as bleeding edge. Put your money into the processor and an SSD to get the best performance out of your server.

Raspberry PiSome other, even cheaper but slower options would be to look at the new influx of tiny small form factor computers such as Raspberry Pi or a solution from Plug Computer. Note that these will require some technical skills to implement into a web server and may in some cases require the addition of a storage unit to operate.

Choosing an OS

Now that we have our hardware set, we are going to install our OS. Luckily when it comes to a server OS, the free and open source solution is also the industry standard. Obviously, yes, that means we are going to be installing a Linux distro of some sort.

Ubuntu

The distro you want to use is really up to you, but keep in mind that the more popular distro’s are going to be much easier to get support and software for down the line. My recommendation? If you are completely new to Linux I would suggest using Ubuntu. It has one of the best and biggest community’s and with that, is one of the easiest to get support on. It is also built with security in mind, and built in a way to protect new users from themselves, and make upgrading and patching your server as simple as possible.

CentOS

CentOS is another extremely popular free linux distro (based on Red Hat) used for web server management. On most professional web hosts / VPS / Dedicated servers you will find CentOS because of it’s support of WHM/CPanel software.

Installing LAMP

What is LAMP? LAMP stands for Linux – Apache – MySQL – PHP (or Perl/Python). A LAMP server is a web server running a collection of open source software to serve dynamic content to the user. While not the only platform for serving dynamic web content, it is definitely the industry leader and as close to a standard as it’s going to get.

Once a LAMP stack is installed on our server it’s going to allow us to run all sorts of pre-built website software, such as our CMS, Blog or Forum. Most software such as WordPress, Joomla, PhpBB are designed to run on a lamp stack and we are going to have a huge choice of software to use for our sites.

If you need help installing the LAMP stack I recommend searching for and reading some tutorials. There is a plethora of information on this out there and it’s quite easy to do.

LAMP can be installed from TaskSel quite easily.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tasksel
sudo tasksel

If you need more assistance with LAMP installations, here are some tutorials I found useful:

Installing a Control Panel

If you’ve ever used a professional web host, I am sure you are familiar with the software “cPanel” . Well unfortunately that is where our “industry standard” web server is going to end. cPanel has licensing fee’s and is not open source.

For those unfamiliar with cPanel, it is basically a GUI for your web server, greatly simplifying the execution of server configuration tasks. As an example, you can add website domains to your account, create mysql databases and users, create ftp accounts and much more.

This is an area where there are a handful of open source alternatives, but no product has quite stepped up to take the reigns as the go to / standard open source control panel solution. In this article we will look at 2 pieces of open source software which combine to form a very powerful alternative to cpanel. Those are Webmin and ZPanel.

ZPanel

ZPanel

Zpanel is a free and open source alternative which closely resembles the functionality of cPanel.

*UPDATE MAR 25 2014*

I’ve decided to remove ZPanel as a recommendation due to continued, high severity security issues. The programmers behind this otherwise amazing cPanel alternative just can’t seem to get it all together despite the community giving them more and more chances to do so. There has also been some hostility from developers to the community in the past to some people who were helping to report bugs and that has left a bit of a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.

VirtualMin / WebMin

WebMin

Instead, I strongly recommend installing VirtualMin which is what I personally use to manage my web servers on my unmanaged VPS. VirtualMin / WebMin is extremely easy to install on a variety of Linux distro’s and quite easy to use. It is essentially just as powerful as WHM/cPanel even if it lacks a bit of the visual prowess. Transferring a website from cPanel backups to VirtualMin was also quite pain-free which is a plus.

To install Virtualmin:

  1. Go to the site: http://www.virtualmin.com/
  2. Go the Download page http://www.virtualmin.com/download.html
  3. At the bottom you will “Virtualmin GPL Downloads” which is the GNU license free version of the software. The software comes with an installation script for most Linux distro’s so all you will need to do is a basic wget of the files to your server, chmod the script to execute and then run the script. Instructions are detailed on the site if you need the specifics for these commands.

 

What’s Next?

Your web server is ready to use!

Check out the next articles in the web master series in which I will start to discuss solutions for some of the common pitfalls of running a home server.

 

The post Building a Free Web Server at Home appeared first on GNU Tomorrow.

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