revelation: the gnome password manager
on 25.07.2007, 05:00
in packages-news
Debian Installer: Support for sparc32 dropped
on 21.07.2007, 13:10
in news
Debian Installer: Experimental support for Serial ATA RAID
on 19.07.2007, 23:00
in news, release
screen-message: use your screen to communicate
on 18.07.2007, 05:00
in packages-news
Hugin: create amazing panoramas from your photos
on 15.07.2007, 05:00
in packages-news
MOC: Music On Console, ncurses based console audio player
on 11.07.2007, 05:00
in packages-news
QEMU: easy and fast processor emulator
on 08.07.2007, 05:00
in packages-news
Debian Weekly News 2007/06
on 03.07.2007, 00:00
in weekly-news

knetworkmanager: the solution to WiFi-WLan-WEP-WPA1|2 nightmares

published on Sun Jul 29 05:00:26 2007 in packages-news

Article submitted by Ingo Wagener. We have run out of good articles! Please help DPOTD and submit good articles about software you like!

I used to roam around cafés, schools, hotels, etc, logging myself into this network, that network, any network using the command line. Open networks are a breeze, WEP was not too bad but WPA on the command line took a bit of fiddling first time round. I then moved onto scripts depend…

OK, you are bored and couldn’t be asked to read any further —or was it that I was bored and installed knetworkmanager instead?

Now I cruise into a café, open up my notebook and thank whatshisname that I can just click on the little knetworkmanager icon in the system tray to list all available networks. I select the one I am after and its wizard asks me for authorization if it is necessary or just logs me in. Doesn’t matter whether it is WEP, WPA1 or even WPA2! Well, I felt pretty cool :) Of course you can choose to have the codes saved —encrypted, naturally.

Now you might have other programs installed, kwifimanager, the new kwlan or Wireless Assistant to name but a few. Most of them do the job well enough, but none of them have the same click and run capability. kwifimanager for example still does not have WPA compatibility, kwlan’s interface is not nearly as neat and Wireless Assistant (the highest ranking on KDE apps, by the way) asks for some informed decisions and has, similar to kwlan, a number of interfaces you have to work your way through.

If you want to cruise networks the easiest possible way, there is no way round knetwormanager.

Even though it is a KDE programme (and me a KDE addict) it works just as well on Gnome and is available under the standard repositories, regardless whether you are running Debian or (K)Ubuntu.

To date I have yet to come across another network manager as complete and pain free, although the Gnome lot are working on it. If it is half as good as knetworkmanager one should applaud them!

The opensuse project has some nice screenshots of Knetworkmanager running in KDE, Gnome and FVWM.

revelation: the gnome password manager

published on Wed Jul 25 05:00:48 2007 in packages-news

Article submitted by Diego Martínez Castañeda. We have run out of good articles! Please help DPOTD and submit good articles about software you like!

Revelation is a powerful tool which lets you manage and store sensitive information, such as passwords or credit cards numbers, in a password protected file, so you only have to remember one password to access all.

Some of its features are:

  • Password protected file. All your data will be as secure as your master password is.
  • Simplicity: Revelation is easy to use.
  • GNOME. It’s completely integrated with GNOME, and it uses GTK.
  • Search tool. The Search button is very useful when you’re browsing into hundred of keys.

First steps

As you start Revelation, the main window is divided into two vertical panels. The left panel contains a tree hierarchy in which you can create folders or entries, and right panel displays information about entries.

revelation debaday.debian.net

Initially, revelation creates an empty file for you, ready to be populated. You can easily add new entries with your data using the Add Entry button. Depending on the data type you’ve selected, information fields may be different.

revelation debaday.debian.net

Adding information

There are several basic types of data you can store, such as email, ftp or database. Every type has its own configuration and its own fields because Shell requires a hostname and Creditcard don’t.

revelation debaday.debian.net

In this example, I’m going to add my Debian Package of the Day account under my Home folder (see the images below). Be careful when you write down your password because, by default, Revelation will show it while you’re writing.

revelation debaday.debian.net

After you have added your important information, you save it into a password protected file by pressing Save button (or Ctrl+S). Revelation will ask you for this password and, importantly, this will be the only password you’ll need to access the file. Of course, if you don’t remember it, you’ll lose all data stored in the file.

revelation debaday.debian.net

Showing information

One you have populated your Revelation file, you can see your email password by selecting the corresponding entry on the left panel. The information will be shown on the right.

revelation debaday.debian.net

You can also try the Revelation Account Search GNOME panel applet. It is the best and fastest option for accessing your passwords when you’re using lots of entries in a single file.

revelation debaday.debian.net

Alternatives

There are other alternatives in Debian which you can use to manage your passwords, for example, KWallet Manager (integrated with KDE), gpass, pwsafe. I have chosen Revelation because I need to manage lots of passwords, stored in different files and I do not want to use a command line program. Plus, I need folder organization and different entry types to define exactly what type of data I’m referring to. Finally, search option and GNOME applet are very important in case of forgotten password..

The package has been available in Debian since sarge and in Ubuntu since Edgy.

ingimp: improving the usability of the GIMP by collecting and analyzing usage data

published on Sun Jul 22 05:00:01 2007 in packages-news

Article submitted by Francois Marier. We are running out of articles ! Please help DPOTD and submit good articles about software you like !

ingimp is an instrumented version of the GNU Image Manipulation Program that collects real-time usability data, such as the commands used, the size of images worked on, and so on. This usability data is automatically transmitted to ingimp for anyone to download and analyze.

It is meant to be a snap-in replacement for the GIMP, so it can be used for normal, everyday image manipulation tasks. By using it, the user and developer communities can gain new insights into how the GIMP is actually used “in the wild.” This information, in turn, has the potential to feed into future design and development efforts. Thus, you have the chance of contributing to open usability efforts simply by using ingimp as you would the regular version of the GIMP.

ingimp is part of human-computer interaction (HCI) research at the University of Waterloo investigating new forms of sustainable open usability.

Pretty Pictures

Numerical summarizations of overall ingimp usage are provided, along with personalized mirrors of your own personal, usage. Each ingimp user has an online persona that grows to reflect how they use ingimp. For example, if you are an artist who makes heavy use of the pencil tool, your persona will be seen clutching a pencil. Just use ingimp as you would the normal version of the GIMP and use the “Website + Stats” button at start-up to view your own persona along with a summary of your own usage of ingimp.

Group shot
Snapshot of all current ingimp users.

Privacy

ingimp has been designed to collect data useful to usability analyses, without intentionally collecting any personal information. For example, ingimp does not record the actual keys pressed, just when they are pressed, along with any modifier keys used (i.e., Shift, Alt, and Control). Furthermore, ingimp does not record command parameters (for example, it doesn’t record the text you enter into the text tool) nor does it transmit the actual images on which you work.

Disabling logging
It is possible to disable logging at the start of the program.

ingimp is in Debian unstable and backported packages are available for Debian Etch and Ubuntu Feisty.

More Information

You can find out more about ingimp by visiting its homepage.

Debian Installer: Support for sparc32 dropped

contributed by Frans Pop, published on Sat Jul 21 13:10:00 2007 in news

In line with the recent announcement that the port has been retired, sparc32 is no longer supported in daily images of the Debian Installer for Lenny.

The sparc64 port remains fully supported.

Debian Installer: Experimental support for Serial ATA RAID

contributed by Frans Pop, published on Thu Jul 19 23:00:00 2007 in news, release

The Debian Installer team is happy to announce that daily built images of Debian Installer (for Lenny) now include experimental support for installing Debian on systems configured with Serial ATA RAID 1), as supported in Linux by using the dmraid utility.

The support is experimental because

  • it has not yet had very much testing;
  • only the GRUB bootloader installer supports it, which effectively limits support to i386 and amd64;
  • dmraid devices are currently not really supported by either libparted (partitioning) or any bootloaders; the current support in the installer works around this, but this results in some limitations in usability.

Users are invited to test this new feature of the installer.
Installation instructions and an overview of limitations can be found on the Debian Installer Wiki. Please read that page carefully. Installer and CD images are available from the Debian Installer website; you will need one of the "daily built" images.
Please report any issues by filing an installation report.

The support for Serial ATA RAID is scheduled to be included in the first Beta release of the installer for Lenny.

On behalf of the Debian Installer team,
Frans Pop

Notes

  1. To confuse the general public, this is also referred to as ATA RAID, BIOS RAID, fake RAID and software RAID, as well as a number of vendor specific terms such as Intel Matrix Storage.

screen-message: use your screen to communicate

published on Wed Jul 18 05:00:48 2007 in packages-news

Article submitted by Joachim Breitner (with a special contribution of the editors ;) ). We are running out of articles! Please help DPOTD and submit good articles about software you like!

Have you ever used a text processor write just to display some text full-screen and found it too tedious? Were you sitting in some audience and tried to make a comment to those behind your? Needed to take mugshots?

Then you might want to install sm, short for screen-message. Once you start sm, you can type your text and it will be displayed as large as possible. The text can also be specified on the command line, when starting sm or piped from another program. For real convenient and fast usage, it is recommended to bind a key combination to starting sm.

Screen-shot

Alternatives are any web browser and word processors with a full screen mode.

The package is available in Debian unstable and it’ll be soon in testing and merged in Ubuntu.

Finally, with the goal of enlighten our readers of how cool screen-message is and do some aggressive marketing:

We need your article!
Ana Guerrero and Martín Ferrari (aka Tincho), debaday editors.

Hugin: create amazing panoramas from your photos

published on Sun Jul 15 05:00:04 2007 in packages-news

Having been to DebConf7, I took advantage to visit a few beautiful places around the venue. Some of them are very hard to photograph with a common camera, specially when you’re trying to capture the full landscape from a hill or the complete sensation from a room in a castle —with all the walls covered with paintings and complicated ornaments—. So you have to resort to taking many pictures, but that’s not like the real thing.

Coincidentally, some time ago I’ve been researching some image processing topics, and found some amazing algorithms for automatic blending of multiple pictures to create mosaics of them. But I’d yet to see some ready to use implementation. Then, somebody from the table at the hacklab in DebConf7 enlightened me: hugin was the solution!

I have to admit it: the first attempts were really frustrating. A good time lost trying to adjust the images and the result was a nonsensical patchwork of images. So, take this in mind, and do what I didn’t: read the fine manual (and the tutorials). The manual is not very useful, but there are plenty of tutorials in the website.

So, the process is more or less like this: load the images, indicate where they overlap (setting control points), optimise, preview, adjust the control points, repeat until done. Setting the control points is what will determine how the images blend; but the most critical task is remember to run the optimiser before previewing or you won’t see your changes correctly! Here you can find a small tutorial that summarises the basic operation.

File list Control point setting Preview
File list and basic controls Setting the control points Preview of the final image

There are some optional tools that you’d like to have installed along with hugin:

autopano-sift
A tool that automates the most tedious part of creating a panorama: setting the control points. Note: you will have to change the default executable name in the hugin preferences to “autopanog”, as the default is wrong. Sometimes it works perfectly, sometimes it need to be helped by manually adding control points or horizontal/vertical lines, some other times is of no use at all. Your mileage may vary.
binfmt-support
Since autopano-sift runs in the mono environment, you would need this to execute it as a normal binary.
enblend
Replacement for the tool provided with hugin for blending images, with much better results.

A big problem I had was that hugin asked me some “crop factor” which is proportional to the size of the camera sensor, but nowhere is documented what that means. So, if you bump into this, you need to get the diagonal size of the camera CCD in mm and calculate 43.3 / diagonal. To get information about that, in this page you have a nice explanation about CCD’s sensors sizes. In the same site, you will find information for most digital cameras. If you don’t put correctly this value, most probably you won’t get any good result.

I’ll recommend you to also read this article, which explains how to use autopano-sift and the replacement blending tool, and gives some very good tips. Experiment and you will be amazed of the results!

To put an end to all this chatter, here is an example of a 360° panorama I’ve created from 23 pictures taken from the top of the Arthur’s Seat hill in Edinburgh. The control points were created with autopano-sift, and later added manually some horizontal lines to put the horizon into place, and some vertical lines in the monolith. The final blending was done with enblend, and the finishing touch is to crop it and convert to JPEG with gimp and copy the EXIF headers with jhead.
Arthur's Seat Hill panorama

Hugin is available in Debian since Etch, and in Ubuntu since Edgy

MOC: Music On Console, ncurses based console audio player

published on Wed Jul 11 05:00:41 2007 in packages-news

Article submitted by Matías Teplitzky. We are running out of articles! Please help DPOTD and submit good articles about software you like!

MOC stands for Music On Console.

MOC is a powerful and easy to use console audio player. It does support OGG Vorbis, FLAC, WAV, WMA and MP3, among other audio formats. In addition, both playlists and URLs are supported. Moreover, JACK, OSS and ALSA output types are supported.

Screenshot

Its interface is based on ncurses, which consist in two columns (it will probably remind you “Midnight Commander”, mc package in Debian). The first column allows you to browse the filesystem so you can search and find the files you want to play. The second column can be used not only to create your custom playlist, you can also indicate MOC a certain directory where your audio files are, and they will be automatically reproduced.

To see MOC in action, just type mocp on a console. In this way, the server and the client (the interface, actually) will be started automatically for you. It takes some time to get used to the interface, but once you get comfortable with it, you will find it easy and quick to manage. Some tips to start: with the TAB key, you can switch between the playlist and the load list; by pressing a, you will add a file to the playlist; the ENTER key is used to start playing a file or browse the filesystem; with < and > you can increase and decrease the volume. In addition, note that by just pressing q, the client will quit, but the server will still be running. To kill both the server and the client, press Q instead. Complete help can be found by pressing h or at the man page of the program (type man moc).

One thing to remark about MOC is the fact that it is very low resource consumin, so it will run smoothly, even on old hardware. Take advantage of it!.

Want to have some extra fun? Just try some of the themes available for MOC (yes, themes are supported!).

MOC has been available in Debian and Ubuntu since a long time ago. It is licensed under the GPL and you can find its homepage at http://moc.daper.net.

QEMU: easy and fast processor emulator

published on Sun Jul 8 05:00:01 2007 in packages-news

Article submitted by Michael Williamson. We are running out of articles! Please help DPOTD and submit good articles about software you like!

QEMU lets you emulate a machine —in other words, you can run a virtual computer on top of your real computer. This makes it perfect for trying and testing the latest release of a distribution, running older operating systems, or just testing.

So, let’s say you wanted to run a LiveCD, which you have stored on your hard drive. Easy enough! We just type:

qemu -cdrom path/to/livecd.iso -boot d

The -cdrom option tells QEMU the path to the CD you want to use, while -boot dictates what device we’re booting from —in this case, we want to boot from the CD, which is always device d.

You might get a message about kqemu —you can safely ignore this for now.

Alternatively, you may want to boot from a real CD in your computer —so, you simply use the path to your CD drive in /dev. For instance, if your CD drive is /dev/hdc, then we would use:

qemu -cdrom /dev/hdc -boot d

Of course, we don’t just want to use CDs all the time —we might want to actually install something! So, we’ve got to make a hard drive image first. This is achieved by using qemu-img, like so:

qemu-img create virtualharddrive.qcow 5G -f qcow

This creates an image called virtualharddrive.qcow, which is 5 gigabytes big. If you wanted it to be 5 megabytes, you could type 5M instead, for ten gigabytes, type 10G, and so on.
Finally, the -f option tells qemu-img what format you want to use. While there are a few to choose from, qcow is the norm - it works well enough, and only takes up the space on the hard drive that it needs. If the virtual hard drive had a capacity of 5 gigabytes, but only contained 2 gigabytes of data, then it would only take up about 2 gigabytes on your real hard disk.

So, now we want to get installing. Simply type:

qemu virtualharddrive.qcow -cdrom path/to/installcd.iso -boot d

Then, you can simply follow the instructions just as with an ordinary installation.

Now, not all distributions come on one CD —in some cases, you’ll need to swap CDs. To achieve this, we need to do two things. First of all, we make the QEMU monitor appear on the command line by adding the option -monitor stdio, so we end up with something like:

qemu virtualharddrive.qcow -cdrom path/to/installcd.iso -boot d -monitor stdio

When you run this command, QEMU should let you enter commands. To change CDs, simply type in the commands:

eject cdrom

change cdrom path/to/newcd.iso

Voila! The virtual machine should now have changed CDs so you can continue the installation. Naturally, you can change CDs at any time, not just during installation.

Once the installation has finished, you’ll want to boot from the hard drive. Since QEMU does this by default, simply remove the -boot d part of the command:

qemu virtualharddrive.qcow -cdrom path/to/installcd.iso -monitor stdio

If you have no intention of using the CD after the installation, then you can cut that out as well:

qemu virtualharddrive.qcow -monitor stdio

This should let you play around with your newly installed system at your heart’s content without endangering your own PC. If you want to fiddle with something, but don’t want the changes written to the image, then add the option -snapshot. If, after using this option, you decide that you actually want to save the changes made to the hard drive, then simply type commit into the QEMU monitor, and the changes will be written.

While these commands work, unless you’re using lightweight distributions, you might find things going a little slowly. This is due to QEMU, by default, only taking up 128MB of RAM. You can increase the amount available by using the -m option, followed by the amount of RAM in megabytes. For instance, if I wanted to allocate 256MB to QEMU for running a LiveCD, then I would type:

qemu -cdrom path/to/livecd.iso -boot d -m 256

That should speed things up nicely! But don’t give QEMU too much memory —you want some left for your other applications. Unfortunately, things are probably still fairly slow— to speed things up even more, you’ll probably want to use kqemu, otherwise known as the QEMU accelerator.

Installing kqemu from the repositories is reasonably straightforward. First of, grab the kqemu-source package —if you apt-get is your package manager of choice, then the command used is:

apt-get install kqemu-source

If you don’t have module assistant already, you’ll need that installed as well:

apt-get install module-assistant

Then, type in the following commands (as root):

m-a prepare

m-a auto-install kqemu

That should be it! Now, every time you want to use the kqemu module, you first need to become root, and then type:

modprobe kqemu major=0

Then, as an ordinary user, QEMU will automatically use kqemu, which should help speed things up. If QEMU complains that it still cannot use kqemu, then you might not have the necessary permissions —try typing the following as root:

chmod 666 /dev/kqemu

Hopefully, kqemu should now be usable by QEMU.

There is one final option: -kernel-kqemu. This, in theory, speeds up the emulation even further. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as that. Firstly, the version of QEMU in the Debian repositories cannot use -kernel-kqemu. Secondly, even if it could, not all guest operating systems would work with this enabled —for instance, a recent distribution of GNU/Linux would probably work faster with this option (if it worked!), but Windows 98 just crashes.

QEMU is available from Debian Sarge and Ubuntu Warty.

gnu units: units converts quantities between different scales

published on Wed Jul 4 05:00:18 2007 in packages-news

Article submitted by Geoffroy Youri Berret. We are running out of articles ! Please help DPOTD and submit good articles about software you like !

units is a command-line tool which performs units conversion between various scales. units is the perfect tool for engineer or scientific workstation, you can call it either interactively from the prompt or within command line. It already handles more than two thousand units and this can be enhanced with your own units in a separate data file.

units handles multiplicative scales factor as well as non-linear conversions units such as Celsius Fahrenheit. Compound units are also allowed in order to deal with quantities such as speed, volume, energy, etc.

Interactive use

Calling units without any option will run it interactively. Here is an example showing how to convert cm3 to gallons:

%units
2438 units, 71 prefixes, 32 nonlinear units

You have: cm^3
You want: gallons
        * 0.00026417205
        / 3785.4118

units returns two conversion rates. The first one is the convertion factor you asked for, the second is its inverse or the conversion in the oposite direction. Sometimes the inverse factor could be more convenient because it would be the exact value.

units also provides the definition of units of you leave ‘You want:’ field empty:

You have: ohm
You want:
        Definition: V/A = 1 kg m^2 / A^2 s^3

Or you may want to compute sums of conformable units:

You have: 2 hours + 46 minutes + 40 seconds
You want: seconds
        * 10000
        / 0.0001
You have:  20 inches + 15 cm - 1 foot
You want: cm
        * 35.32
        / 0.028312571

And finally, not a minor feature when you have to deal with so many units, the completion with the tab key. It will complete unitname if there is a unique way to do so or provide a list of possibility with the second hit of the tab key :

     You have: metr
     metre             metriccup         metrichorsepower  metrictenth
     metretes          metricfifth       metricounce       metricton
     metriccarat       metricgrain       metricquart       metricyarncount
     You have: metr

units non-interactively

units [options] [from-unit [to-unit]]

Invoking units with options will turn off the interactive mode and return conversion to stdout :

%units '2 liters' 'pints'
        * 4.2267528
        / 0.23658824

Availability

gnu units has been available in Debian since Sarge and in Ubuntu since Warty.

Links

Debian Weekly News 2007/06

published on Tue Jul 3 00:00:00 2007 in weekly-news

Welcome to this year's 6th issue of DWN, the newsletter for the Debian community. Ulrich Hansen created a set of nice looking CD and DVD covers for the just released Debian GNU/Linux 4.0. Roland Mas announced that Alioth has been upgrade to etch. Kurt Gramlich announced a Skolelinux Youngster Meeting on July 20th to 26th in Chemnitz, Germany.

Call for Papers for LVEE-2007

Vlad Shakhov called for papers and speakers for the upcoming Linux Vacation/Eastern Europe (LVEE) meeting. The event takes place from June, 14th to 17th near Hrodna, Belarus. The conference goal is to provide open exchange of ideas and experience between developers and users, give them ability to establish personal contacts. Participants and speakers are asked to apply not later than 1st of June.

Interviews with Sam Hocevar

The new Debian project leader was interviewed by itwire and linux.com. Sam expressed that he wants to focus on social aspects like improving the internal communication, teamwork and motivating Ubuntu developers to contribute to Debian. About the GPLv3 discussion he said that most GPLv2 software in Debian is already GPLv3 compatible and that using the GPLv3 in Debian would cause even more license incompatibilities.

Collection of Debian Art

André Luiz Rodrigues Ferreira announced the Debian Art website. It aims to create an archive for high quality artwork like wallpaper, splash screens, icons, logos, screenshots and system sounds which can be freely used for KDE, GNOME, Xfce or t-shirts and labels. This user contributed artwork can be included in upcoming Debian releases.

Removing PHP4

Sean Finney announced that PHP4 will be removed from unstable and thus testing. Sean has setup a Wiki page to give detailed information for packages depending on PHP4 and to track the progress. He asked the respective maintainers to fix their packages to avoid mass bug filing.

Release Team Meeting Results

Andreas Barth summarised the release team meeting that took place in Jülich, Germany. A review of the etch release process lead to simplifying the use of release goals for the upcoming release of lenny. Architecture qualification status notes are due to be published every two months and release updates should be sent out more regularly. The report also contains a rough release schedule which aims at the next release in the second half of 2008.

Boosting the Release Team

Luk Claes called for new release assistants for the lenny release cycle in order to distribute the workload better among them. Assistants need to have done Quality Assurance for Debian already, have loads of spare time to use for release work, have a good understanding of several scripting languages and acknowledge that they will be doing merely basic work without authority over the release.

Serious Problem Reminder

Lucas Nussbaum announced that he's going to send mails to maintainers of packages with serious problems once a month. When a release-critical bug is open for more than 30 days, or when the package has not yet migrated into testing the maintainer will be informed about the problems.

FrOSCon Debian Sub-Conference

Martin Zobel-Helas called for papers for a Debian sub-conference at this years' FrOSCon that takes place on August 25th and 26th in St. Augustin, Germany. In addition to the developer room the project will also run a booth in the exhibition area.

Format String Vulnerabilities in Debian

Karl Chen and David Wagner presented an analysis on format string vulnerabilities in the sarge distribution for the ACM SIGPLAN Workshop on Programming Languages and Analysis for Security that took place on June 14th in San Diego, U.S.A. Tools have marked more than 1,500 packages potentially insecure of which 87 were determined with true format string bugs.

Backports for Debian Etch

Alexander Wirt announced the availability of backports for etch. Backported packages should be available in the testing distribution, contain new and important features and there has to be user demand for them. Backports for sarge are still supported and may need to be removed before the system is upgraded to etch.

Transition to GCC 4.2

Martin Michlmayr called for developers interested in helping with the transition to GCC 4.2 by uploading packages and inspecting build failures. Throughout the development of GCC 4.2, the entire Debian archive has been recompiled regularly with development snapshots of GCC to ensure a reliable compiler.

Package Build Status

Sergei Golovan wondered about the meaning of state uploaded. Goswin von Brederlow explained that it means the build daemon has received a signed changes file and has uploaded the package into the incoming queue. When this status does not change for a while something went wrong. The buildd admin has to upload the package again or return it for a rebuild.

Frets on Fire: Play the guitar with your keyboard, Rock ‘em!

published on Sun Jul 1 05:00:17 2007 in packages-news

Did you ever wanted to emulate your favorite guitar idol? With Frets on Fire you can try it from your very own keyboard. All you have to do is to pick it up as if it was a guitar, with one hand pressing the fret buttons (F1 to F5) and another pressing the pick button (Enter). Frets on Fire, or FoF for short, a clone of the Guitar Hero video games. As joysticks are also supported, you can even use the Guitar Hero controller with a PS2/USB adapter instead of the keyboard to increase the feeling of being a rock star. Frets on Fire was the winner of the Assembly demo party 2006 game development competition.

The keys keep appearing in the screen as the song is being played. All you have to do is to press in the correct keys (frets), and then mark them with Enter (pick button) in the very exact moment. It seems easy, doesn’t it? If you keep plucking the notes properly the coefficient by which your points are multiplied keeps increasing (x2, x3, even x4), but just a single note badly played and it will fall back to x1 again. Since version 1.2.438, the game features “hammer-on and pull-off” (commonly abbreviated to “HOPO”) notes. A HOPO note allows you to only press its fret button to play it if the previous note was played correctly. There purpose of the game is just to play the virtual guitar the best you can, and to obtain the highest score you’re up to. It’s even possible to compare your results with other players on the official web page of the game. There are 4 levels of difficulty in the game: Supaeasy, Easy, Medium, and Amazing. Suit yourself.

Written in Python, and released under the GNU General Public License, the game also includes a tutorial and a built-in song editor. The game has become quite popular in the last year, and songs can be found just everywhere in the Internet, with many devoted fan web pages all around.

The original tarball of the game included some non-DFSG-free song files and some internal fonts which needed to be replaced in order for the game to enter Debian repositories, but a new pack of new songs made by Carlos Viola Iborra, and released under a free license, has been added to the repositories (Thanks, Carlos! ). The original songs that came along with the game, which were made Tommi Inkilä, will probably be included in the non-free repositories soon, too.

Screenshots and Video

Screenshots of the main menu and a game: (click to enlarge)

There is a video in YouTube with a player playing the famous “Smoke On The Water” of Deep Purple.