Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Google Earth Review

Building a software that can catalog an entire planet is not a feat for everyone, and if there is someone out there who is up for the task, then Google is surely the only company capable to do it.

Sure, many have tried to encompass the entire Earth in a single application in the past, but the sheer size of the software would have made this task almost impossible. More importantly, whatever software someone would use, such as an Encyclopedia, it would never cover places that had no special significance.

Many of us are now used with Google Earth, but we must keep in mind that back in 2005, when it was first launched, it made a big impact. Its arrival was made possible by the advent of high-speed Internet which permitted the fast streaming of images.

We have to give credit where it's due. Google did not built this from scratch, but bought a company in 2004, called Keyhole Inc., which at that time was developing a software called EarthViewer 3D. The company was funded by non-others than the CIA.

How they managed to buy it with the approval of the government is beyond me; maybe CIA needed to expand the software and Google had enough money and man power to do this.


Depending on your operating system, you might have the Google Earth package in your repository. If not, Google provides packages for everyone, including Debian-based operating systems and Red Hat based ones. Both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures are supported.

We've installed it in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin) by downloading the Debian package from the official website. You will need a lot of dependencies so just run the following commands in a terminal, one by one, and everything should be just fine:

sudo dpkg -i google-earth-stable_current_i386.deb
sudo apt-get -f install

You should now have Google Earth installed and available from Unity or from your Application menu.


The number of features crammed in this software is amazing. It would take dozens of pages to go through all of them and in the end no one would understand much of it.

Let's start with the basics. Google Earth is a software that renders the surface of the planet (and more) with the help of satellite imagery, from a myriad of sources.

The software can be used as a simple map, searching for locations, plotting routes, and even zooming in at street level. I actually used it a couple of times to find remote interesting ski resorts and even found accommodation with it. It's very versatile and it estimates arrival time with great accuracy.

On top of this fundamental function, there are a lot of implemented layers. You can activate all of them or one at a time. Some are quite basic such as country borders, roads, gallery, photos (including the Panoramio service and 360Cities), 3D buildings (an amazing feature that is beautifully integrated with StreetView), Global Awareness, and many more.

Besides the obvious use, there are a lot of functions that are almost never used, and the average user has no idea that they exist. First off, there's the flight simulator, where users define a starting point and start flying over the landscape in a simple, but relatively correct, flight simulator. A joystick is required for precise flying, of course.

Another important function is the Sky Mode, where users can switch from viewing the Earth in the exactly opposite position, and start looking at the stars. The star charts are amazing and actual images are used to render the sky, including nebulae, galaxies and even star systems.

The planet Mars and the Moon are also available in great detail. All the high-res images NASA has taken over the years have been implemented in Google Earth so everyone can enjoy the landscape of other heavenly bodies in the way they truly look.

The Good

The obvious teaching capabilities of the software cannot be expressed in words. There are so many things that can be done with Google Earth, that it's almost impossible not to find use for it.

The streaming of images has improved greatly over the years and the application has managed to keep low hardware requirements.

Google has dedicated a lot of time and effort to this project and it shows. 3D buildings are added all the time, new sources for images are implemented on a regular basis, and they even managed to help government authorities to control a crisis like the one in Haiti by refreshing their images just a few days after the calamity.

The Bad

I have only one reproach and I'm pretty sure that it's a problem only present on the Linux platform, most probably on Ubuntu. I can't say that other distributions have this particular problem as I did not test it. Google Earth uses proprietary Microsoft fonts, but even with the appropriate package installed, the fonts are hard to read and they look terrible.


Google Earth is one the first apps I install on a fresh system, even if I don't have an immediate use for it.

The development of Google Earth has slowed down in the last couple of years and I sincerely hope that Google will continue to pour money into it for further development. It's an amazing project that should continue to exist for many years to come.

15 Best Gnome Shell Themes For Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin

In this page we will introduce 15 amazing Gnome Shell themes that can be installed under a system running Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin). If you haven't enabled the user theme extension, you can find here a good tutorial explaining this.

You should know that most of these themes work only with Gnome Shell (3.4, 3.6 etc.), so don't confuse them with GTK2/3 themes because they are totally different.

To enable these themes under Ubuntu, you need to install GNOME Tweak Tool with this command:

sudo apt-get install -y gnome-tweak-tool

Next, add the PPA to install themes from:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:upubuntu-com/shell

sudo apt-get update

1. Switch (Gnome Shell 3.4)

sudo apt-get install switch-theme

2. Gela (Gnome Shell 3.4)

sudo apt-get install gela-theme

3. Mountain Shell (3.4)

sudo apt-get install mountain-shell

4. LM-Club (Gnome Shell 3.4 & GTK3)

sudo apt-get install lm-club-theme

5. Elegance Colors (Gnome Shell 3.6)

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:satyajit-happy/themes
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gnome-shell-theme-elegance-colors

6. Metal X (Gnome 3.4)

sudo apt-get install gs-metalx

7. Helios (Gnome shell 3.4.2  and Cinnamon 1.4)

sudo apt-get install gs-helios

8. Energreen (Gnome 3.4 & GTK3)

sudo apt-get install energreen-theme

9. ACID ( GNOME-Shell 3.4)

sudo apt-get install gs-acid

10. Contrail

sudo apt-get install gs-contrail

11. Nocturnal (Gnome 3.4 & Cinnamon 1.4)

sudo apt-get install gs-nocturnal

12. GrayRevenge

sudo apt-get install gs-grayrevenge

13. Mictlan (Gnome 3.4 & Cinnamon 1.4)

sudo apt-get install gs-mictlan

14. Light Dark Balance (gnome shell - Cinnamon - GTK2/3)

sudo apt-get install light-dark-balance-theme

15. Majestic Reloaded (Gnome Shell - Cinnamon - GTK2/3)

sudo apt-get install majestic-reloaded-theme

RemoteBox 1.4 Adds Support To VirtualBox 4.2.X, Installation From PPA Available For 12.10/12.04/Linux Mint 13/12

RemoteBox is an application with GUI written in Perl that allows users to manage VMs (virtual machines) created with VirtualBox either remotely or locally. You can manage from a remote server your VirtulBox OS's as if they were installed locally.

 Here are some of the features for RemoteBox:

  • VirtualBox client with GTK interface
  • Manage VirtulBox Guests remotely with the possibility to create / edit guests
  • Installation of RemoteBox doesn't require Apache / IIS
  • Start/stop/pause/save VMs
  • View/interact with VMs using RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol)
  • Configure system/display settings (processor, video display, shared folders, input devices, audio, I/O ports, etc.)
  • Configure network settings, etc.
For full features, click here. The latest version of RemoteBox is 1.4, which supports the latest version of VirtualBox 4.2.0. If you haven't yet installed VirtualBox 4.2.0 On Ubuntu, you can do with the following commands:

echo "deb $(lsb_release -sc) contrib" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/virtualbox.list

wget -q -O- | sudo apt-key add -

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install virtualbox-4.2

RemoteBox 1.4 Installation

To install RemoteBox 1.4 from PPA on Ubuntu 12.10/12.04/11.10 or Linux Mint 13/12, open the terminal and issue these commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:upubuntu-com/virtual
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install remotebox

To start the application, you can search it in the Unity Dash:

Or start it from the terminal with this command:


For other distributions, you can download RemoteBox from here.

Mandriva Linux 2012 Alpha

Per √ėyvind Karlsen has announced the availability of the first alpha release of Mandriva Linux 2012: "As many of you might already be aware of, our first Mandriva Linux 2012 alpha has been ready for release for almost a week now, yet it only made its way to the public mirrors today, so with that I declare it as officially released! Some of the highlights since 2012 Tech Preview include: faster, smaller and much improved installer; installer text-mode is now working again; a slimmer, much-improved and fixed rescue mode; dual architecture CD image has been improved with a more complete set of packages filling it and also LXDE now shipped with it and installed by default; switch to Linaro's GCC 4.7 branch has been completed; HAL has finally been put to rest for good...." For more details please read the release announcement and release notes. Download the installation DVD images from here: mandriva-2012-i586-DVD.iso (4,165MB, MD5), mandriva-2012-x86_64-DVD.iso (4,201MB, MD5).

Fedora 18 Alpha

The delayed alpha build of Fedora 18 has been released: "The Fedora 18 'Spherical Cow' alpha release is plumping up! This release offers a preview of some of the best free and open-source technology currently under development. Features: NetworkManager hotspots improve the ability to use a computer's WiFi adapter to create a network hot spot; the redesigned installation system adds flexibility to the installation process while simplifying the user interface; desktop updates galore - GNOME 3.6, KDE Plasma Workspace 4.9, Xfce 4.10, Sugar 0.98, and the introduction of the MATE Desktop in Fedora." Read the release announcement and release notes for more information. Download (torrents): Fedora-18-Alpha-i686-Live-Desktop.iso (747MB, SHA256, torrent), Fedora-18-Alpha-x86_64-Live-Desktop.iso (775MB, SHA256, torrent). Live images featuring KDE, LXDE, Xfce and SoaS (Sugar on a Stick), as well as installation DVDs, are also available.