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We loaded and ran the 2009 (10th Anniversary) edition of Mandriva Linux One, which we reviewed earlier this week. It's pretty, it's smooth, and it had a few problems with the GUI software install/remove utility that would leave a new user scratching his head, but overall, it's a nice update to a distro that started out with the idea that ordinary, non-technical computer users should be able to install and run GNU/Linux without expert help -- and that still adheres to this principle.
For some reason, mouse gestures have never fully caught on with desktop users. Movements of the mouse that launch a command or simulate a combination of keys are ideal for those who prefer not to move their hands constantly between the mouse and the keyboard, or who have trouble typing because of some physical challenge. Yet many users have never heard of mouse gestures, and they are apparently so little in demand that, nine months after the KDE 4 releases began, KDE has yet to implement any of the software or settings that enabled mouse gestures in earlier versions of the desktop. Meanwhile, GNOME has never had more than a limited selection of gestures available in the Mouse Preferences -> Accessibility tab. Under these circumstances, the recent releases of Easystroke and Gestikk are welcome additions to the desktop. Similar to each other in operation and layout, either is a reasonably satisfactory way to set up and manage mouse gestures.
fsniper lets you monitor specified directories and execute scripts on any new files that are created in them. Because fsniper uses inotify to monitor its directories, the actions you define are executed as soon as filesystem changes happen. This makes fsniper both more immediate than an hourly cron job and more efficient.
Today's information systems give organizations and governments the ability to collect and access metaphorical mountains of information. But, this information is completely useless unless we are able to find and understand the relationships and trends hidden in these mountains. For projects involving complex research protocols, high-end statistical analysis tools such as SPSS and SAS are useful, but they come with high price tags and proprietary licenses. PSPP is an open-source clone of SPSS, one of the most commonly used proprietary statistical packages.
Although many Linux distributions can run on either a desktop or server platform, few provide by default a raft of applications aimed specifically at server usage. Server Optimized Linux is an exception -- a distribution aimed squarely at servers. That's an appealing prospect, but the reality is more underwhelming.
If you have ever found yourself in the position of having to reboot quickly or several times, you know that it's not a very quick process, particularly if you have SCSI devices or other initialization-intensive system devices. A package called kexec can speed up your reboots -- if you understand the rules.
Back when Mandriva was called Mandrake, the distribution had the reputation of being the most user-friendly Linux distribution. Financial difficulties, personnel changes, and the rise of Ubuntu changed that, and somehow Mandriva never quite regained its reputation. With this week's release of Mandriva 2009, Mandriva has continued to work on user-friendliness. Aside from a poorly organized installation program and a few scattered problems, Mandriva 2009 offers a desktop experience that is at least the equal of any other distribution for everyday use and that has a strong claim of being the most advanced available for system administration.
Typically, each new version of the Python programming language has been gentle on users, more or less maintaining backward compatibility with previous versions. But in 2000, when Python creator Guido van Rossum announced that he was embarking on a new version of Python, he did not sugar coat his plan: Version 3.0 would not be backward-compatible. Now that the first release candidate of Python 3.0 is out, with final release planned for later this month, developers must grapple with the issue of whether to maintain older code or modify it to use the new interpreter.
Web sites that run text squarely around images even when the images don't have even borders look a little lazy. pngslice slices an image into thin vertical images and generates a small chunk of HTML to align these slices so that the original image can be seen in a Web browser. This lets you place non-rectangular floating images on Web pages and align the surrounding text to the uneven borders of the image for a professional-looking layout.
A common charge against free and open source software (FOSS) is that it lacks the ability to innovate. To that charge, the lifelong research of Eric von Hippel, professor and head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management, offers a thorough and scholarly refutation. Having studied the sources of innovation for more than three decades, von Hippel has found in FOSS both a confirmation and an elaboration of his ideas.
I take a sort of sick joy in using a computer as long as possible, so I've become interested in lightweight Linux distributions like TinyMe 2008.0 that help prolong the life of a computer. TinyMe is based on PCLinuxOS, but at about 200MB, it's considerably smaller than that 700MB distribution. The software included, such as the Openbox window manager, is lightweight, which makes TinyMe old-hardware-friendly.
When they hear the word PAM, most people think of a certain blonde Canadian Playmate, but readers of this Web site surely will recognize the basic element of Linux security: the Pluggable Authentication Modules. So let's talk about how this PAM works, and look at some examples of how it is used.
Video and audio support will soon be built directly into Firefox, by way of the free Vorbis and Theora codecs, and Mozilla is using the opportunity to advance multimedia accessibility for hearing-impaired and seeing-impaired users. Although HTML 5 does not officially include Ogg Vorbis and Theora as baseline codecs for the new VIDEO and AUDIO tags, Mozilla has adopted them for its own implementation. Researcher Silvia Pfeiffer is leading a Mozilla Foundation-funded effort to integrate support for closed captioning and other multimedia accessibility features into the Ogg formats and their implementation in Firefox.
OpenOffice.org 3.0, which is being released today, is not the great leap forward in look and feel that version 2.0 represented, but it justifies its label as a major release with dozens of changes, some major, some minor, but in all more than can be easily summarized.
The Sun Report Builder extension adds powerful reporting capabilities to OpenOffice.org Base, and using it to create reports is easy, as we can see with a simple example. Suppose you're a freelance writer, and you want to keep track of your submissions using a simple OpenOffice.org Base database that stores article titles, publications, submission dates, current status, and payment rates. This is a useful solution, but adding reporting capabilities turns the database into a handy analytical tool. With Sun Report Builder you can generate a list of articles grouped by publication, shows the sum of article payments, and displays a chart of payments for each publication.
This week in the ongoing town-hall debate that is the Linux.com forums, the participants were asked about troubleshooting file permissions, testing Web pages on multiple browsers, and deciding what counts as a low-resource machine. All that, plus your chance at a one-on-one session with unanswered questions.
Reader Christian Nielsen wrote from Sweden to tell us he and his girlfriend have named their baby Linux, after the operating system, and attached this darling photo.
Google's Picasa is all about photos -- it helps you instantly find, edit, and share all the pictures on your computer. Although it isn't released as open source it is free to download and use from Google's Web site. The new version 3, which is currently in beta, is available for Windows as well as Linux.
Virtualization software can help you run programs that your native Linux distro wouldn't. While Linux users have many virtualization options, none comes close to the all-encompassing VMware Workstation 6.5. Introduced last month, VMware Workstation 6.5 continues the tradition of outshining and outpacing the competition with a host of useful new features, and boldly goes where no virtualization software has gone before -- into the realm of virtual machines with accelerated 3-D graphics. Despite the advances, some of the new features are still in beta, so Workstation 6.5 might not be the best virtualization option for everyone.
Yesterday, I looked at the major applications in the first beta for KOffice 2.0. Now it's the turn of the rest of the beta: The KPlato project manager, KChart, the vector graphics editor Karbon, and the raster graphics editor Krita.