7 Cool Things to Do With Linux
So you’ve taken the plunge and installed Linux. You’ve followed all the HOWTOs all over the net. You’ve got your wireless card working flawlessly. You’ve got your video card working (and you’ve begun to loathe that spinning cube). You’ve installed all the “restricted” software like Adobe Flash, Sun Java and Google Earth. You’ve got all the patent restricted codecs and even DVD playback working just like you want. Now what? You want to know what you can do with Linux outside of the surfing, emailing, chatting and media consumption you normally do? Well, here are a few things to keep you busy.
- Use Your computer as a Home Theater PC. I personally use XBMC for this, but there are many other options including MythTV, Elisa, Entertainer, Freevo, GeeXboX and LinuxMCE.
- Set up a media server. There are many, many ways to go about doing this. There is the old tried and true file server approach, using either NFS or Samba.
However, if it’s only music you’re sharing, you probably want something more like Firefly or Tangerine, which can share all of your music with the other computers and devices on your network with DAAP (this is the same music sharing technology iTunes uses). Most Linux music players provide this capability as well. If you want to access your music from anywhere in the world, you could set up Jinzora, which is a web based music server.
If you have an Xbox 360 or PS3 that you’re using to consume music and videos, you’ll want to use a UPnP/DLNA server like uShare (which is based on GMediaServer) or MediaTomb. Many of the aforementioned HTPC programs (XBMC, MythTV) provide this functionality as well.
- Set up a download server. Centralize all your downloads to one Linux powered server. Get your Usenet downloads with HellaNZB or SABnzbd+. Get your torrents with Transmission, Vuze (formerly Azureus), TorrentFlux, Deluge or MonoTorrent. All of the software mentioned in this section has a web interface of some kind.
- Have an enterprise class VoIP phone system in your house. Asterisk gives you the ability to have all kinds of crazy phone system features, probably surpassing whatever you have at work, for free (not counting the hardware, obviously). If you want a smaller project, you could always just play with Ekiga.
- Set up your own surveillance system. Both ZoneMinder and Gspy will monitor your video cameras and optionally perform some action (playing a sound, emailing you, text messaging you, etc) when they detect motion. You could also use something like Motion to roll your own.
- Be really, really paranoid (Act like a spy!). With Linux, you have so many security and privacy options it’s not even funny.
Encryption capabilities are already integrated into most desktop oriented distributions that allow you to encrypt certain files. You can encrypt your home directory or your entire hard drive with dm-crypt.
- Poke into other people’s business (Act like a spy some more!). Wireshark will let you look at all the network traffic happening around your computer. This is especially cool because most instant messages and emails are unencrypted, meaning you can read them as they go by. You can also see what web pages people are visiting.
You could also use Ophcrack to get into a physical computer for which you don’t have the password…