Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Windows 7 and Microsoft Security Essentials

October 22, 2009 Comments off

It isn’t a Windows 7 launch party, but it’ll do for now.  I picked up a copy of 7 from the University tech store and ordered a new computer online for MrsDoF to put it on.  She’ll have an Intel Dual-Core, 2gb, 500gb, and Win7 for total cost about $290 including shipping and tax. 

She’s got XP now – we skipped Vista.  If she doesn’t like 7 then she’ll be learning Ubuntu. 

But assume she’ll like 7; anybody have any thoughts on Microsoft’s new “Security Essentials” suite?

Categories: Geeky, Software

A major disagreement with F-Spot

July 11, 2009 Comments off

Sometimes I’m a little (or a lot) slow-witted but there’s something I just don’t get: Why the hell can’t I rename photos in F-Spot? 

Could anyone explain it to me?  Is there some reason why I shouldn’t want to rename photos in F-Spot?  It’s the best-known photo management software for Linux, and yet it lacks what seems to me an extremely basic function.

I seem to remember a similar disagreement with Picasa. 

Categories: Geeky, Software

Software installation in Linux is difficult

July 2, 2009 Comments off

Suppose you want to play the game “Hearts” on your computer.  And suppose, like me, you were cheap and wanted to get it for free.  Lucas sent me a screenshot-by-screenshot comparison of the installation on a Linux machine vs. a Windows machine.  It’s a joke written by a popular operating system.  (Hint: Linux plays the straight man.)

And that’s congruent with my experience too.  At work I’m building four Windows platforms that we’ll Ghost out to hundreds of machines.  It’s time-consuming to ferret out all the Windows ‘annoyances’ and create a build anyone would want to use.

But this evening, I came home and decided to rebuild my Linux machine.  I booted off the CD, made a few choices, and went upstairs for dinner.  After the meal, I made a few more choices and wound up with a ready-to-use machine.  My total keyboard time investment?  About twenty minutes.  Try building a Windows machine in twenty minutes.

Categories: Geeky, Software

Open Office saves the day

March 16, 2009 5 comments

Y’know, jump drives aren’t totally reliable.  Their little bits go bad sometimes and the document you were working on becomes corrupted.*  This happened to a professor today, and several hours of his work was at stake.

Trying to retrace your steps from memory on a complex document that you are producing under deadline is no fun at all, and we have all been there.  I quickly copied the document to the desktop and tried opening it again.  Nope, Microsoft Word 2007 wanted nothing to do with it, not even with the “Repair” and “Recover” functions.  I opened it in Notepad++ and recovered at least most of the text, but the formatting was gone.

But I had one other trick up my sleeve.  Copying it to a network drive, I went back downstairs to the desktop computer in my office and opened it up in the Open Office word processor.  Almost all of the formatting was intact. I saved it again with a new filename and a .doc extension and emailed it back to the professor.

Not that it would work every time, but it’s worth a try. 

* (A couple strategies here.  First, “Save As” multiple versions of your documents as you go, like this: Mar09report_ver1.doc, mar09report_ver2.doc, and so on.  If the document is really important, copy to more than one drive – perhaps a jump drive and a network drive.  If it’s really, really important, burn it on a CD and take it offsite.  Also, every once in a while, burn the contents of your jump drive to a DVD, check that the copy is good, then reformat your jump drive and copy your files back onto it.  Keep the DVD as a backup.  And don’t use a jump drive for more than a year or so.)

Categories: Geeky, Software

Ubuntu 8.1 impressions

December 9, 2008 4 comments

I just installed Ubuntu 8.1 on my laptop, a Lenovo X40 with a P4 processor and 1.5 gigs of ram.  Short version: “Wow!”  It is smokin’ fast and kitchen-clean.  No hardware problems at all and it picked up wireless networks right away.  And Gimp 2.6 is quite an improvement, if for no other reason than they got rid of the dopey dog.  (Well, it’s faster too).

My home desktop machine is going to be upgraded, pronto.

Categories: Geeky, Software

Coming soon: Google’s shiny new Chrome browser

September 1, 2008 3 comments

Google is coming out with a new, open-source browser optimized for web applications.  Check out the introductory comic book.  I found that it loaded very slowly – you might try downloading the .pdf.

The semi-technical ‘comic book’ is drawn by Scott McCloud – I have a couple of his books on comic art.  I actually recognized his drawing style right away; how geeky is that?

This is actually big news.  Funny thing is, it would even benefit Microsoft if they know enough to take advantage of it.

Categories: Geeky, Software

First look: Ubuntu 8.04

August 23, 2008 3 comments

Previously I’d been using Xubuntu because Ubuntu didn’t seem to work very well for me.  But though it was amazingly fast, Xubuntu had problems.  Yesterday I downloaded Ubuntu 8.04 and installed it on my home machine.  After switching off the fancy gingerbread and trying it, I have a few observations below the fold.

Short version:  this one is a keeper.  If Microsoft could keep up steady improvement like this, they would be a celebrated global treasure instead of the icon of junk software that they are.  But they can’t, so here we are using Ubuntu.  And so far very favorably impressed.

The good:

  • Seems to patch itself to stable versions.  Much appreciated.

  • A seriously nice interface. Just about as fast as Xubuntu when you switch off the gingerbread features.  (Do you get the idea I really don’t care about transparent title bars and rotating cube screen switchers?
  • Install takes about 40 minutes including applications and patching.  Contrast that with 4 hours to get a Windows build anywhere near ready to use at all.
  • It detected my scanner instantly, and the Xsane scanning utility is the best one I’ve seen (as measured in the fine control it gives the user).
  • Drawing masks in Gimp is much more precise – and easier – than in Photoshop
  • OpenOffice is much more straightforward in use than Microsoft Office.
  • So far I have not had any of the ‘FlashCrash’ problems that plagued my Xubuntu installation, and even using Adobe’s Flash player plugin.  (I hate the Adobe corporation even more than Microsoft)
  • Very easy to burn CD’s.
  • Very grateful for restricted drivers’ option, since proprietary companies dont’ seem to want to cooperate fully.  This unit is running on a restricted Nvidia driver, and Broadcom network wireless chipsets can now be used without an NDIS envelope.
  • Super-easy to patch the machine.

The bad:

  • It’s annoying to have to use restricted drivers. C’mon, chipset manufacturers, what are you afraid of? (I’m guessing they are violating their competitors’ patents and don’t want anyone to know)

  • Suspend worked perfectly in Xubuntu, but hangs in Ubuntu.  At least on this machine.  Until I figure it out.
  • Windows hotkeys don’t seem to be working.  Maybe there’s a way to enable them.

The Ugly:

  • Monitor detection is very spotty in Ubuntu; it finds a “generic monitor” and you can’t get past 1024×768.  This is a fairly big problem.

I’ll have more to say after using it for a while.

Categories: Geeky, Software

Flashblock important in Xubuntu

June 8, 2008 1 comment

I have not used Flashblock on Windows or Macintosh computers because Flash content seems to work well enough not to interfere with the browsing experience.  But – I don’t know why – it doesn’t seem to work well in Xubuntu, and particularly not on machines with 512 mb RAM.  (which could be a proxy for “older machines whose xfce video drivers ain’t so good) 

When you install Flash in the first place, use the “Flash plugin nonfree” in Synaptics package manager, then open Firefox and install the “Flashblock” plugin in the usual way.  Presto! Computer doesn’t slow to a crawl every time you visit ScienceBlogs or BBC.  And you can still click through to see YouTube content just fine.

Categories: Geeky, Software

A Linux example

May 29, 2008 2 comments

Thinking about Linux?  Here’s a real-world example.  Keep in mind I am NOT an expert with Linux, I’m a Windows guy.

I just installed Xubuntu 8.04 on my Thinkpad X40 laptop.  This is a high-durability, small-format laptop with P4 Centrino processor and 512 Ram, so from a system perspective it’s nothing special.  It has no CD-rom drive (too tiny), so I hooked up an external.

The configuration had been dual-boot Ubuntu/WindowsXP, and since Xubuntu is a bit leaner (faster) I wanted to change it.  I have three Linux partitions; /, /home, and /swap, plus one NTFS partition for Windows.  I plugged in a network cable for installation, though the laptop us generally used wireless afterward.

Rather than install over the top of Ubuntu (I wanted fresh pastry, not day-old) I replaced the existing / partition and ran the install using defaults.  In 15 minutes it was asking me a startling question that I have never seen before during a Linux install: would I like to import Windows accounts? 

It had looked in the NTFS partition and correctly identified all the Win accounts there, and offered to import them so the files and settings would be available in Linux.  Astounding.  No more “never the twain shall meet.”  I declined Windows file imports because, well, I fear change; but it’s a neat feature that I will try out on a test machine.

Xubuntu correctly identified all the hardware and set up the wireless, detecting my home network.  I used Update Manager to get all new security updates, which installed in 15 minutes with no attention from me.

Then I needed to pack in my favorite apps. Using the Synaptic package manager I marked Open Office (a full office suite comparable to Microsoft office), Open Office Draw (similar to Microsoft Publisher), Quanta Plus (an HTML editor), Flash Plugin, and XMMS player for installation.  Clicked “Apply” and went back to doing other stuff on my desktop computer for another 15 minutes until a little window popped up saying “Changes applied.” 

There. Now it’s ready to use again. Total investment of my attention, about a half-hour.  Total installation time, about an hour.

It takes about four hours to reinstall Windows on this same laptop, because all the drivers have to be set up manually, and the applications require swapping CD’s or installation from network drives. You have to watch for “stopper’ dialog boxes so you can’t really do other stuff during installs.  So I don’t reinstall Windows on a whim. 

Other than speed (considerably faster in Xubuntu than in Windows XP) both operating systems do pretty much the same things and work in similar ways.  Not identical. 

Categories: Geeky, Software

More on Linux HTML editors

May 27, 2008 5 comments

I’ve been playing with Bluefish for a while, just long enough to be irritated by a couple of its shortcomings.  It persists in using deprecated tags like i and b instead of em and strong.  It’s a bit difficult to customize, and the manual is HTML only.  If the program is going to be non-intuitive, I want a manual I can print and study.

Today I started playing with Quanta Plus.  Right off the bat it’s easier to customize and the workflow is a bit smoother.  It uses WW3C standard tags.  Very promising.  Except Bluefish had a friendlier icon to click on; it reminded me of one of the characters in Finding Nemo.  Otherwise, so far I like Q+ better.

Categories: Geeky, Software