Popular Open Source 3D Printers

Popular Open Source 3D Printers

Just a decade ago, 3D printers were a novelty. Costing upwards of US$5,000 for a desktop edition that could convert some powder into plasticky objects. But not only have the prices fallen, More »

Open Source Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season

Open Source Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season

It is the holiday season and a time to share and exchange presents. And what better way to share some love this holiday season than by giving your loved ones an open More »

Wekan – Open Source Alternative to Trello

Wekan – Open Source Alternative to Trello

Wekan is an open source collaborative project management tool similar to Trello like boards. It offers some of the Kanban functionalities and features as well. On Wekan one can easily create boards, More »

The Zero Terminal – Pocket Computer that works!

The Zero Terminal – Pocket Computer that works!

The real joy of tinkering with Raspberry Pi is to build something nifty and fun. To hack a really whacky and crazy idea into a working prototype. That we all love and More »

OpenAg – Open Source Food Computer

OpenAg – Open Source Food Computer

MIT Open Agriculture (OpenAg) is a wonderful execution of an open source initiative for controlled-environment agriculture platform referred to as “Food Computer”. All hardware, software and even data is open sourced so More »


Tag Archives: OS

Ubuntu 9.04 Linux Beta Released

This week, Ubuntu 9.04 beta was released for general public. By the last week of April, the final release will be available for download for Ubuntu 9.04 Linux distribution.

Ubuntu is slowly gaining ground not only on the desktop but also beginning to flex its muscles on the server side as well. It is now taking on the SUSE and Red Hats of the world for its own pie in the sky. There are many great features unique to Ubuntu for corporations including:

  • It has a regular release cycle (April and October annually) and the product is supported for three years. This gives organizations the ability to install and maintain a release for almost the length of the PC/laptop that they are using without the need to reinstall.
  • It also supports easy upgrades from one version to the other, which some distributions struggle to do nicely. This once again gives users the ability to seamlessly move from one version to the other without needing to redo the whole install.
  • Numerous versions to whet ones apetite. There is the regular Ubuntu (with gnome desktop) and then Kubuntu (with KDE), then Xubuntu (for older systems) and Edubuntu (for educational purposes).
  • There are also numerous distributions based on Ubuntu, namely Mythbuntu (an open source Tivo to say the least). Even XenStreet’s favorite Linux, gOS relies on Ubuntu to function.
  • A huge repository (over 25,000 in default configuration) of applications which come pre-compiled and ready to use on Ubuntu through packages.
  • Available on Amazon EC2 cloud computing. But I guess many other Linux and Windows versions are too. But still, it is out there.
  • It is a Debian release!

The latest release 9.04 is packed with lots of new features that will further strengthen its hold in the Linux market. Some of the most interesting features that the new release will feature on the server includes the open source cloud technology, Eucalyptus. It will give us techies a chance to build a cloud in our office (there goes another weekend), and then we will try to find some application to use it. Maybe a gaming cloud for the office. Hmm.

It also includes out of the box and fully configured dovecot-postfix package. It provides an easy-to-deploy mail server stack, with support for SMTP, POP3, and IMAP with TLS and SASL.

There is also support for ext4 file system. Not sure we need this but it is supposed to help protect files when the system suffers from sudden outages. A nice feature for developing economies like India, Pakistan and China where electricity is as reliable as the weather in England.

The desktop edition will feature an updated Gnome for better desktop experience and updated Xorg library with (hopefully) better support for wide screen monitors, graphics drivers and S-video interfaces.

If you ask my opinion which Linux flavor will dominate the Linux distros for the next few years, then my vote is hands down for Ubuntu.

KDE or Windows 7

So this video is circulating on the internet where some blokes in Australia show off the latest KDE as if it is Windows 7.

Check it out and get a kick out of the responses of the ordinary people.

Damn Small Linux – An Amazingly Small Linux

An amazing Linux distribution. Just 50MB and you are in business. I got a taste of the wonderful Damn Small Linux (DSL) today as I installed it onto my 1GB flash drive. I followed the simple instructions as listed on their wiki.

I created a basic 75MB ext3 partition on my 1GB USB drive and installed the OS as per the given instructions. I rebooted my machine and through GRUB, was successfully able to boot my laptop from DSL. It detected the required hardware during boot process and launched without a hitch. Within moments of I was able to boot into DSL Linux an do anything and everything that I may require. It came with all the goodies that I might need including Firefox, TED word processor and SIAG spreadsheet. Even though the size is small, it had a nice GUI and a windowing toolkit. If we have a more space, we can also modularly grow the DSL Linux by installing other applications like OpenOffice etc.

The whole OS runs off the memory and the DSL website claims that it supports as old hardwares as 486 boxes with 16MB of RAM. Well, I don’t have one lying around that old, but I am sure someone out there must have tested them on those museum pieces and got a kick out of it.

Now, what could be some of the uses of having such a small Linux in my flash drive. Here are a few that I have thought of:

  • For security paranoid people, they can carry their own OS in a small flash drive partition for use in public places like Cyber Cafe’s
  • For techies who want to carry a running demo version of their software application can take it along in a small flash drive. This demo application can then be run off any computer.
  • For those who are still using older computers (especially in rural communities) can use this basic OS to power their old hardware.
  • For those who get a kick out of showing the world how wonderful Linux is as compared to say Microsoft Windows 🙂

In short, good things do come in small packages. So try it and you will enjoy the power of DSL.

Essential Linux Desktop Applications

The following is a list of essential Linux applications that any desktop must have. Many of these applications are in the open source domain and are definitely all free. They can be obtained easily online and installed on your system. In fact, quite a few of them might come as standard applications when you install your new Linux desktop. There are literally thousands of other products out there, but the following are some of my favorite.

Web Browsers

This comes pre-installed with almost all Linux distribution. It is now an extremely popular browser and is slowing gaining strength as compared to Microsoft Internet Explorer. One of the advantages of Firefox is the addons available for the browser by Mozilla community. There are literally thousands of such little plugins that make Firefox extremely popular and productive.

Opera Browser
We also recommend that users should try out Opera. This browser has many cool features which have made their way into Google’s Chrome (Speed Dial among others).

Mail Client

A lot of users out there still prefer to pop their emails to their desktop. Evolution is one such application that is very easy to use and in fact, is eerily similar to Microsoft Outlook. It includes the usual features like reading your Mail, Calendar, Address book, To Do list, Sharing of Vcards etc.

An extremely light and popular email client and a great companion for your Firefox browser. It is reminiscent of Netscape email client and has many great improvements including a addons/ plugins, spam filtering, tagging of messages among others.

Instant Messaging

This software application is probably one of the best IM clients availabe in the opensource world. It supports almost all major messengers including, MSN, Yahoo IM, Google Talk, AOL, ICQ, MySpaceIM through one common interface. Many Linux distributions provide it as a standard install.

Skype is not yet supported through Pidgin. However, Skype itself offers a Linux version which can be downloaded from their website. The software has all popular features (audio & video chat, webcam support, chat etc) like its Windows equivalent.

Office Application Suite

Open Office

This is a great Office Product in the open source domain. It not only imports all MS-Word/ Excel/ Powerpoint documents but is even able to read their new docX extensions. It is highly configurable and you can even set it up so that it can by save files automatically in any format including MS-Word.

Open office contains a suite of applications including word, spreadsheet, presentation, database, drawing and mathematics formula. The first three are quite popular with typical Ms-Office users. Database is a small database software quite similar to MS-Access for organizations to quickly build desktop based databases for their everyday use. Drawing will attract those who want to quickly sketch something without needing to buy expensive MS-Visio or equivalent. Math is the final application in the suite that lets users create and manipulate mathematical equations.

Checkout the plugins on the website to further customize the software suite. It is most likely to come pre-installed with your Linux distribution.

Music Application

Inspired by iTunes, it is one of the best music management application that I have come across on Linux platform. It will let you organize, play, rip, and burn audio CDs; import music from any device including USB and even supports internet radio.

Another important feature standard with Rhythmbox is that each time you start this application, it scans your specified directories to find music and updates your music library accordingly. Thus freeing me from specifically importing each music file into my library.

Movie Player

Totem Movie Player
We all want to watch our favorite movie on our computer or hook it up through S-video to our TV. Totem Movie Player is the right tool for you.

VLC Media Player
VLC media player, as mentioned on its website, is a highly portable multimedia player for almost all popular audio and video formats. It also supports DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.

Photo Manager

There are a bunch of open source applications for photo management, but I prefer my Picasa. Picasa allows its users to seamlessly upload all their desktop albums onto Picasaweb and share with friends. The web albums also support a cool new face recognition feature.

Picasa for Linux currently does not support videos and maybe not standard with your distribution.

Firewall and Desktop Security

Firestarter is probably the easiest firewall configuration tool that I have found on Linux platform. It works well for desktops as well as servers and it will take you less than 5 minutes to configure it and get the basic services going. Since it is based on iptables, it is probably the most powerful desktop firewall available in the opensource world.

Chances are that your Linux distribution might have iptables installed as default but not Firestarter. Therefore, you can download it from their website and follow the online guide to configure it.

Money Management

GNU Cash
For all those MS-Money or Quicken fans out there, here is an open source implementation of the money management application. It has all the great features of any major accounting package (for home as well as small business). A must have addition.

Notes tool

Tomboy Notes
Tomboy is a simple desktop note-taking application designed for Linux. Since Google notes is shutting down, this is an ideal tool to use for quick notes.

Windows Support
At times, there is a need to run applications that are not native to linux. Say, a utility that was designed for MS-Windows but not yet ported for Linux.

Wine is a translation layer and a program loader capable of running Windows applications on Linux. Windows programs running in Wine act as native programs would, running without the performance or memory usage penalties of an emulator, with a similar look and feel to other applications on your desktop.

It too might come standard with some distributions of Linux.

Linux OS use on the Rise

Now, this may not be the most scientific reports out there, but it still points to an interesting trend. Linux/FreeBSD based desktop systems are on the rise with almost a commanding 1% market share. What is interesting to note is that Microsoft Windows is slowly losing ground and its market share has fallen to less than 89%. Yes, it is still huge but not as huge as it was say 10 years ago when it controlled almost 95% of the market.

The report also points to an interesting trend that hand held devices like PSP and iPhone are increasingly being used to browse the internet. In the coming years, as Android and SymbianOS make better internet centered smart phones, the Microsoft share will further fall.

At the same time, computers powered by Linux like netbooks and linux powered smart phones will also increase its share beyond 1%.

Mac has also gained ground to reach a market share of almost 9.5%. This share will definitely grow beyond 10% as Apple continues to churn out cool and attractive products that woo new customers.

Overall, this is a healthy trend showing that the internet is slowly making the desktop irrelevant. People are using any device with a decent browser to surf the net and do their work.

ReactOS – Open Source Windows

Now here is a wacky idea! Would that not make Bill Gates have sleepless nights, even though he no longer runs Microsoft. One such company and a set of brilliant entrepreneurs are doing just that at ReactOS. They might risk getting sued by Microsoft or some Unix folks in the coming months for mimicking some proprietary features or patent infringement, but if everyone keeps their cool then it is as wacky as it is brilliant. Here is why.

The operating system under consideration, ReactOS, is based on the earlier versions of Windows. Hence, it is not really directly competi
ng with Vista or even XP. Hence, we wont be seeing it running on modern PCs anytime soon.

The PC world still has hundreds of millions of old PCs being used around the world dating back to the original Pentium machines when Microsoft’s Windows 95 actually came out. Such PCs rely on Windows 2000 or earlier versions to run smoothly as they lack the processing power and memory among other limitations to run anything newer. However, Microsoft does not officially support any versions older than XP and even XP will become unsupported within a couple of years. Now, those PCs that were manufactured for XP and earlier hardware will suddenly be without a supported OS unless they do an expensive upgrade to run newer OS like Vista. Hence, many of these old boxes end up running one of the Open source Linux distributions, like Fedora, Ubuntu or SUSE. Since Microsoft does not want to support its older OS versions, ReactOS would be an ideal choice for folks to switch to rather than migrating to Linux.

Another important aspect of supporting ReactOS is for legacy software applications. The moment Microsoft stops supporting an older version, the software applications written for them are also lost and slowly die out with time. But letting companies like ReactOS grow, the legacy applications will enjoy a new life and a new set of users worldwide.

A third important factor is the developing economies around the world. Most of these economies do not purchase any licensed software as it is way too expensive to buy Microsoft products which at times can cost many months salary of an average individual. Once again ReactOS could easily be used in such markets and introduced to users as a viable alternative for MS-Windows. Once they are affluent enough to purchase a license they can easily switch to Microsoft. Till then, MS can hope to keep them loyal to one of Windows clones rather than losing them to Linux or worse to pirated Windows.

In hindsight, Microsoft should support such operating systems as it will only create a healthy competition for Linux based distributions. Besides, there is a good chance, Microsoft team might learn a thing or two about making their OS more reliable and scalable.

So keep an eye out for ReactOS and other such wacky startups as they might change the way windows is used in the coming years.

GOS 3 is Still the Best Linux OS

A few months back I wrote a review about gOS on one of my blogs which received some raving reviews. I did not just review it, but decided to start using it as my default Linux desktop. So here is what I think after a month of using it as a default desktop.

I am currently running gOS Gadgets 3.x on my system with 2GB (corrected)  of memory on a 1.8GHz Core2Duo Intel Processor. The laptop has 250GB of hard disk space partitioned into three separate drives.

gOS is not just another Linux distribution, but probably one of the best available in the market. It is so simple to use that I have had requests by lots of my non-geeky friends to get it installed on their systems as an alternative to Windows. And yes, I have complied.

gOS is a Debian Linux powered by Ubuntu. Which in simple English means that it is supported by one of the leading vendors of Linux, namely Ubuntu. Hence, the OS under the hood is supported by Ubuntu’s LTS 8.4.x as of today. Since Ubuntu will support this version till 2011, therefore, users can expect to get automatic updates to not only applications but the OS itself without any worries or hassles. Therefore, all gOS users are in safe hands.

gOS has so far had no issues in running any of my DVDs and Music CDs. I did have to download some codecs to make it work smoothly. Which in gOS is pretty easy. The codecs are easy to select and download through ADD REMOVE APPLICATIONS service in the main menu. In fact, I used this simple utility to get many fun and wonderful games, office and internet apps installed without needing to go to any website. Best of all, if we use this feature, then the system will automatically track updates and new releases and will install it on the system on a regular basis.

I have installed my usual set of applications with this release and so far all of them work very well. The Ubuntu synaptic package manager has been really helpful in finding some obscure applications. I have always found what I am looking for through that thus never needing to go online and downloading any package manually. Ubuntu supports over 18,000 applications through its Synaptic Package Manager (by default) thus giving its users easy access to a host of wonderful applications.

Another critical support provided by default is Google gadgets. This feature is standard on Windows platform but gOS has now made it possible for its users to get access to hundred of thousands of widgets and gadgets written for the desktop environment. This is an important feature for me as it not only helps me personalize Linux and makes it extremely user friendly.

Another pleasant surprise was the ease with which I was able to hookup my iPod to the machine. It shows up as an external hard disk, whereby I have to manually move my files back and forth, but in short it lets me sync my machine without any hassles. Which is great.

Another wonderful feature supported by default is Wine. This little application allows windows applications to run smoothly in Linux. Applications like Google Earth, Picasa use Wine to run smoothly on the system. Hence, if you have a peculiar application that only runs on Windows, try running it here using Wine. You might be surprised at its ease and success.

The WiFi support is also standard as is with most Linux distributions today. I have been able to easily and quickly connect to any network out there without any hassles or issues. Thus making it extremely easy and portable to take around.

Another little feature to which I am now hooked is Prism. This little utility lets web applications run on the system as if they were desktop applications. I am now so hooked onto it that I use it as standard for my mail, calendar and online documents among other applications. I now no need to open browsers, type in my password to check my emails. I just click on an icon on my desktop, and viola, I am automatically taken to my webmail in an instant. gOS has built in Prism application for all Google products including Blogger, Youtube, Gmail, Google docs and calendar among others. Hence, one can start enjoying the web world from their desktop instantly.

gOS is an easy system to install. In fact, even a non-techie can do it as most of the tasks (including disk partitions) is automatic. Therefore, a home user can install it too. It will take no more than half hour to go through the whole process. And another half hour (depending on your internet speed) for the system to update itself automatically from the server.

Since gOS like other Linux offerings is extremely light and fast. I have tested it on systems with 1GHz processor speed and 256MB of memory. So far the results are stunning. While MS-Vista will probably choke on such configuration and Windows XP will limp along, gOS runs like a maverick. It has great support for legacy hardware as well, therefore, I did not need to find drivers for various devices. At most I needed to poke into Synaptic Package Manager to install any missing driver.

Another big surprise to me was the printer support. It was literally plug and play. As soon as I plugged in my HP laser printer and HP 4 in one officejet and viola, it was automatically installed within moments,I was able to start printing without needing to install any drivers or any custom software application. I was not sure if it would do scanning, but Xane Scanning utility that comes standard with gOS had no issues scanning my documents.

Since gOS looks like a MacOS-X desktop, I get lots of my friends to inquire if I found a way to run Mac on my Toshiba laptop. I always smile back saying, I am running something better. Give it a try and you will know what I am talking about. For more information, please visit gOS official website at http://www.thinkgos.com.