Wednesday, November 11, 2009

GParted Live - A Bootable GParted CD

  When it comes to Linux based disk partitioning tools, GParted (Gnome Partition Editor) is hard to beat. It has a simple and straightforward user interface that reduces managing hard disk partitions to little more than a series of intuitive mouse clicks.

  As a self-confessed distro-whore, I download and install at least a couple of different Linux distributions a month, and being able to easily manage the task of deleting, creating, and modifying disk partitions is important. I keep one or two partitions available on my system just to try out different Linux distros, and use GParted to manage those partitions.

  I often use GParted while already booted into Linux to resize an existing partition, or add a new one. However, there are a number of circumstances where it is far easier to manage disk partitions without being booted into an OS. Some examples: When preparing a previously Windows-only system for dual boot, installing a second (or third or fourth) distro on an existing system, or when preparing a LiveCD based distro for a hard disk based install.

  Almost all modern distros contain some sort of partitioning tool as part of the installation process, but I often find these built in tools to be confusing to use. I am always afraid I am going to accidentally delete or overwrite an important existing partition while trying to set up a new partition during the install process.

  GParted Live gives me the ability to boot the computer completely outside of any OS already installed on the system and prepare any partitions I might need before doing any installation. That way I maintain complete control over the partitioning process and (hopefully!) avoid the possibility doing something stupid like deleting partitions I wanted to preserve.

  GParted Live is available as an ISO from the GParted Sourceforge site. After downloading the CD image and checking the MD5Sum, burning the image to a CD is a quick process, since the ISO is under 125MB. It easily fits on a 170MB mini CD as well.

  The GParted Live CD boots in less than two minutes directly into GParted, and you can immediately begin managing hard disk partitions. The Live CD uses the popular Debian distribution for booting, and Fluxbox as the windows manager. Also included are a simple terminal, an application to capture screen shots, and a tool for changing the screen resolution.

  I highly recommend GParted Live to anyone who has frequent need for a partition manager, or just wants to exercise a little more control over the partitioning process during an OS install.

One final note: It is recommended to do a whole disk or partition image backup before you use GParted (or any disk partitioning tool) to resize or move disk partitions.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wordle - A Java Based "Word Cloud" Generator

  "What is a word cloud?", you may ask. Simply put, a word cloud is a visualization of word frequency in a given text as a weighted list. The more often the word appears in the given text, the larger the word appears in the cloud.

  Wordle is a nifty tool that allows anyone to easily create word clouds. Available at, Wordle can be used to create custom word clouds that are limited only by your imagination!

  The Wordle website provides a variety of methods for providing the text to be "wordled". The text can be pasted from the clipboard, referenced as an Atom or RSS feed, or linked from a user tag list.

  The resulting Wordle is created completely client-side (on your browser) using an imbedded Java applet. A series of drop-down menus allow an amazing amount of customization to be applied to the word cloud. The font, color, layout, and even number of words displayed are all editable.

  One down side of Wordle is that there isn't an easy way to save a Wordle creation as an image. Java doesn't have any provision for saving images. Images can either be saved as screenshots, or saved as a PDF through the use of a PDF printer driver like CutePDF Writer (Windows) or cups-pdf (Linux).

  Head on over to the Wordle website and give it a try. I'm positive you will soon be addicted!