Sekolah Kebangsaan Sena

Commanding Power At SK Sena

TechNewsThe Command Line Interface. Unix geeks know it, probably even love it. The common computer users fear it. Yet, none can deny the powerful advantage available to those who are capable of using it, particularly in environments where the interface provides a usable alternative to the Graphical User Interface (GUI). For one, the Command Line Interface, or more amicably known as CLI typically runs on less computer resources compared to its graphical counterpart. For another, in many cases, A screenshot showing the Command Line Interface in use at SK Senaonce a user has mastered the usage of the command line, certain tasks can be completed in a lot less time. There is also a third advantage to being able to use the command line, that is, sometimes there are options compiled into a software that cannot be exploited through the graphical interface. A study in the advanced use of VirtualBox would reveal such a case.

At SK Sena, the employment of the command line happens on working and learning bases. At work, part of our staff use the command line for batch processing, remote operation and computer maintenance. It is no surprise that those very same people use GNU/Linux in one way or another, either as a backup system due to its excellent security and stability records, or as the main system on which they perform their everyday tasks. For example, we recently took photos of all staff members for human resource management purposes. The original photos were captured using a digital camera producing 7-Megapixel images. Considering that those photos (all 60 plus of them) will have to be uploaded onto an online system one by one, such a size would be impractical. Another issue that emerged was that the photos were captured with the camera in the 90 degrees tilted position. In other words, all of them will have to be rotated back to the upright position prior to uploading. Apart from that, the photographer also wanted to add a white border around the photos, making them look like they were shot and developed by a professional in a studio. The graphical way to do all that is to open up the pictures one by one in an image editor (GIMP being the best choice available at SK Sena), rotate, resize and paste the border onto each one. With over 60 images to edit, the entire process would probably take at least 15 minutes if one is quick enough with the mouse and keyboard. Some might argue that batch processing is also available for some GUI-based image editors, but that would mean writing up custom scripts for the image editor in question, not to mention the strain on CPU resources that will entail.

In the command line world, all of those issues were solved in the blink of an eye using a program called ImageMagick. A Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) used to edit images in more ways than you can imagine. For each of the above issues, there is already a command available to process all of the photos simultaneously.

Rotate all photos:
mogrify -rotate 90 *

Resize all photos:
mogrify -resize 500x375 *

Add a border to all photos:
mogrify -border 10 -bordercolor '#ffffff' *

In fact, there is no need to type in the commands separately. Just put them all in one line, separated by semicolons, and let the magic unfurl:

mogrify -rotate 90 *; mogrify -resize 500x375 *; mogrify -border 10 -bordercolor '#ffffff' *

That probably took less than 30 seconds to produce the desired results on our Ubuntu boxes. Just make sure you have a backup copy of all the images, in case of a typo somewhere.

Aside from staff members, the convenience and power provided by the command line have also piqued the interests of some of our fledgling students. At SK Sena, kids of ages ranging from 10 through 12 find themselves using the command line to produce speech using the program eSpeak. Part of the attraction stems from their curiosity on how Malay words would sound like on a computer trained (sort of) to speak in English. They might giggle and laugh their way through the session, but the awareness of an alternative interface and the finger skills developed in such activities are priceless. If that's not enough to justify using the powerful command line, it should be known then, that the same children also learn to log onto another computer remotely (normally that of a friend sitting next to them) and use various commands to wreak havoc on each other. A sample scenario can be outlined as follows.

Log onto a friend's computer:
ssh This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Find out the process ID of the Firefox on which he/she is viewing his/her Facebook account:
ps -ef | grep firefox

Shut down Firefox (just for the fun of watching the agony on the friend's face):
kill firefox_process_ID

In retaliation, the victimized friend would then either carry out a similar attack, or simply cut off the connection from the original computer.

ssh This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ps -ef | grep terminal
kill terminal_process_ID

These cyberwars are all fought in a friendly manner. The point here is that while the students are having fun, they are also learning to master some of the more advanced aspects of computing than the mundane point-and-click.

One of the complaints that emerge from the technical community is that the younger generations of today have very little exposure toward programming and software/system development. Part of the blame may rest on our culture of complacency in being end users, happy to pay up to the next proprietor offering the most interesting bid. Our dependency on a single system for everyone, particularly one that doesn't encourage tinkering may also be at fault. One of the ways that might help to overcome this problem is to promote the use of command line among students, so that they will be able to understand better the concept of computer instructions. At SK Sena, we have shown that the command line doesn't have to be boring, or worse, feared. While some of us may be happy with using our computers to write a letter on a word processor ( Writer is highly recommended), analyze the latest exam results on a spreadsheet ( Calc will do excellently), or create a slideshow for next week's meeting (where else but on Presentation), the Command Line Interface presents a more powerful side of computing that can serve as an avenue toward building a sustainable computing environment in the future.


UPSR 2018

24.09.2018 08:00


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This work by Erik Steinmann is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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