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More Than Webbed Feet

The Internet, Linux style

Downloading and Installing the Forecastfox Extension
To get started with the process of installing any Firefox extension, you have to first, quite logically, find and download one. To do this, go to the Firefox Tools menu, and select Extensions. The Extensions window will then appear (see Figure 4), showing you the extensions you already have installed, which at this point should be only one. To add more, click the Get More Extensions link at the bottom-right corner of the window, which will bring your browser to the Firefox Add-ons site.

At this point, you would normally browse for things that seem of interest to you; check to make sure they don't have any special requirements (such as Microsoft Windows - a few do), and then download and install the extension that has struck your fancy. In this case, we already know what we are going to install, so I'll just tell you where to find it.

To find the Forecastfox extension, first try having a look at the Top Downloads section of the page, as it is often there. Otherwise do a search for it in the search box on the Extensions page. You might also just type the URL where it is currently residing: https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/398. Once you've found it, click the Install Now link for that item and then wait. Sometimes the download will take a bit of time, sometimes less. Either way, just be patient, and don't keep clicking the link. The extension will be in the process of downloading even if seems as if nothing is happening, and when it is done, a window will appear telling you so (see Figure 5).

Once the window appears, all you have to do is click the Install Now button. The Extensions window (previously seen in Figure 4) will then pop to the front of the currently open Firefox window and indicate the progress of the download. When the download is done, the new extension will be added to the list of extensions with a message telling you that Forecastfox will actually be installed once you restart Firefox. The implicit command thus being: restart Firefox.

Setting Up the Forecastfox Extension
When Firefox first starts up after you've installed the Forecastfox extension, you will see the Forecastfox Options window (see Figure 6). In that window, type your zip or postal code (or that of any other area for which you want weather information) in the text box next to the word Code. If you're not sure what the zip or postal code for your desired locale is, click the Find Code button to select that location by name.

In the Forecastfox Options window, you can also choose whether you want the temperatures shown in Fahrenheit or Celsius and where you want the information to appear in your browser window. The Status bar at the bottom of the browser window seems to be the least intrusive location, so that is what I've chosen. Of course, you are free to place it where you like. When you're done, click the Apply button and then the OK button, and you'll be on your way to intense meteorological entertainment.

E-mail with Evolution
Evolution is the default e-mail program in Ubuntu, and it could probably best be described as a better-groomed, spunkier clone of Microsoft Outlook (see Figure 7). It allows you to send and receive mail, make appointments, and keep a list of tasks. It can also filter junk mail, which is a necessity these days, and even synchronize with your PalmPilot, if you still have one of those. Also, if such things are important to you, it is a much more handsome program to look at than Outlook.

To use Evolution, just click the e-mail launcher on the top panel or go to the Applications menu and select Internet Evolution Mail. When you first run Evolution, you will be greeted by a setup wizard, so have the account details you received from your Internet service provider handy. These should consist of your POP host address for receiving mail, your SMTP host address for sending mail, and your mail password, which is very often different from your Internet logon password. Your mail password is not actually entered during the various wizard steps, so check the Remember this password checkbox when filling in the POP details. When you first connect to your mail server, you will be prompted for your mail password, so you can type it at that time, and you won't have to deal with it again.

An E-mail Alternative: Thunderbird
Evolution is, without a doubt, the most popular e-mail software in the Linux world, but despite its obvious attractions and popularity, I have to say that I don't much like it, though I can't quite put a finger on the reason why. I just prefer the more straightforward Thunderbird for my e-mail chores. In contrast to the multifunctional Evolution, Thunderbird (see Figure 8) is a more mail-oriented program that is very straightforward to use, yet includes most of the most important e-mail functions you've come to expect, such as junk mail filters. In fact, it is remarkably similar to Outlook Express in terms of appearance and handling. It also lacks the quirkiness that always seems to squirrel its way into Evolution in some form or another. The fact that Thunderbird is also available in both Mac and Windows versions means that you may already be familiar with it, or prepared to deal with it if you find it in use on another system you happen to be using.

Thunderbird does not come bundled with Ubuntu, so if you would like to try it out, you will have to download it and install it yourself. Now that you have set up your machine to connect to the Internet, however, you can easily do this after going over the contents of Chapter 5 (okay, so I'm jumping the gun a bit again). Just do a Synaptic search for thunderbird, and then mark mozilla-thunderbird for installation. Once it is installed, you can then run it from the Applications menu by selecting Internet Thunderbird Mail Client. As I mentioned, both Evolution and Thunderbird are equally capable and possess essentially the same features in terms of mail handling. The difference is primarily a look-and-feel matter. Why not try both Evolution and Thunderbird and see which you like better?

By the way, if you find that you prefer Thunderbird to Evolution, you can add a panel launcher for it so as to make things easier on yourself when you want to run the program. Just go to Applications Internet Thunderbird Mail Client, right-click that entry, and then in the popup menu that appears, select Add this launcher to the panel. You can then remove the Evolution launcher, if you are so inclined.

Other Internet Applications
What I've covered thus far in terms of Internet applications is just the tip of the iceberg (might as well use that worn-out phrase before there aren't any icebergs left, right?). Ubuntu also comes with a couple of other Internet applications that you might want to consider. These include the Instant Messenger client called Gaim (Applications Internet Gaim Internet Messenger), which allows you to use any one of your MSN/Windows Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), ICQ, Gadu-Gadu, Napster, GroupWise, IRC, or Jabber accounts . . . or all of them simultaneously. If you want to give Internet telephony a try, Ekiga Softphone (Applications Internet Ekiga Softphone) also comes bundled with your distribution, so you need not despair.

There are still more Internet applications that you might want to consider downloading and installing, such as WiFi Radar and Thunderbird, but there are a host of others. If this all sounds pretty enticing to you, get those fingers of yours flipping and move on to the next chapter-the mother lode awaits!

Reprinted from Ubuntu Linux for Non-Geeks with permission from No Starch Press (http://www.nostarch.com/frameset.php?startat=ubuntu).

More Stories By Rickford Grant

Rickford Grant, author of Linux for Non-Geeks and Linux Made Easy (both No Starch Press), has been a computer operating system maniac for more than 20 years. From the Atari XL600 to today's Linux machines, he has been the guy behind the help desk for family, friends, and colleagues. Rickford currently resides in Raritan, New Jersey, where he spends his working hours as a teacher and his free time cycling along the Delaware and Raritan Canal or annoying his neighbors with his Nyckelharpa (a Swedish key fiddle).

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