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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Have an old PC lying around -- say, a Pentium or PII? You can make it do some pretty amazing tricks. All you need is Red Hat Linux and Linux Toys.
The Red Hat Linux part is easy; if you choose not to buy it retail, download it from Red Hat. Or get it with a book, like Chris Negus’s Red Hat Linux Bible, Fedora and Enterprise Edition.) Then, crack open this nifty project book, and get rolling.
The aforementioned Chris Negus walks you through 13 different projects in this book. Home entertainment projects. Home management projects. Two small-business projects. And three projects intended purely for fun.
First, you’ll build a music jukebox that automatically rips and compresses music CDs to your hard disk, then plays them continuously, at random, or from one of your personal playlists. Next, you’ll transform your Linux PC into a home video archive, making digital backup copies of your home videos, then compressing them, and burning them to CD or DVD. (No more worrying about losing your old videos as your old camcorder tapes degrade!)
One of the book’s neatest projects: building a TiVo-style PVR device that automatically records, organizes, and plays back your favorite television shows, all through an easy web interface.
The Linux community is developing several full-fledged, open-source PVR systems. But, say Negus and project contributor Chuck Wolber, these systems aren’t quite ready for primetime yet. So this project pieces together several more mature packages.
You’ll use nvrec and avifile to grab and encode your TV programs. You’ll retrieve television listings delivered in XML formats through the XmlTV project. Your front end: the WebVCRplus interface. And you’ll use xawtv, bundled with Red Hat, for opening a window to view live programs. Negus and Wolber have integrated these packages for you, providing startup scripts and whatever else is necessary to make sure they work together. (You will need a relatively inexpensive TV card; the authors help you choose the right one.)
What else is in this book? How about a home broadcast center that lets you send streaming video to other computers on your network, or even across the Internet? Or a home/small-business network without the expense of, say, Windows Server 2003? Or an emulator that’ll let you play ancient arcade games? Or a temperature monitor that’ll gather, store, chart, and Web-publish temperatures? Or an answering machine with multiple voice mail boxes -- one that even lets you email recorded messages? Or a remote control system for toy cars?
Got an old laptop gathering dust? Why not transform it into a digital picture frame that’ll display family photos at Grandma’s?
Your Red Hat disks much of the software you’ll need to do all this; Linux Toys provides the rest on CD-ROM, along with scrupulously detailed directions.
Along the way, you’ll pick up Linux skills you’d never learn by puttering around GNOME or KDE. You’ll also imbibe the spirit of exploration that has always informed the Linux community. You might even find new ways to extend these projects...ideas you’ll want to share -- for everyone’s benefit. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.