End users

End users

Desktop Adapted For Dad

Sun, 2008-10-26 13:44 -- ajt

A long time ago I gave my retired father a computer. Having previously given my mother a computer with Windows 98 on and not being a success for my father I planned things differently and achieved a quite different result.

I wrote my story and ideas down in various places, giving a talk at my local LUG and even getting a short paper published in the British Human Computer Interactions Group "Interface" magazine.

Crossweavers Chromium: some wine to go with your chrome sir (and some bugs too)?

A few weeks ago I discussed the main features of the Chrome browser and Google's motives; at that point I was like the poor child, nose pressed against the window pane, looking inside at the sumptuous feast at the master's table. I, like all GNU/Linux users, hadn't been invited. Same as ever. Crossweavers decided to gate crash the party and bring their own drink too. In short, in just eleven days from the launch of Chrome they built a version running under Wine, and although their products are proprietary and they usually reciprocate by giving code back to free software like Wine, this time they gave it away for free. Thus did Chrome become Chromium and I had a chance to download and install it. Reader, I benchtested it.

Updating your system: GNU/Linux 5, Windows 0

The pace of software development -- regardless of the licence -- is pretty fast these days. The state of your systems need constant monitoring. New features, bug-fixes and (most important) security updates need to be properly managed. Here, in no particular order, are five ways that choosing a free operating system will make system maintenance a lot easier and simpler. In short they are ways that -- when it comes to system updates -- GNU/Linux beats Windows.

Krusader: one file manager to rule them all

I don't like KDE4. I don't like the Dolphin file manager either. There, I said it. I'm not trying to start a flame war. Really. But those dislikes are proportional to my concern about the future of Konqueror. For my money, it is just about one of the best things before and since sliced bread. I loved it enough to write about here at length and in depth. As a file manager it is packed to the gunnels with power features and as a browser it's not half bad either. The integration of both in this universal document viewer is the killer feature but it is getting rather left behind behind in the Web 2.0 goldrush. I worry that it might wither on the vine. Then, I discovered Krusader. It's a massively powerful and feature-packed twin panel file manager and if Dolphin isn't cutting the mustard Krusader might just be what you've been looking for.

OpenStreeMaps: free software's answer to Google and commercially-restricted geo-data

In a recent article on free software and the Large Hadron Collider I mentioned that here in the United Kingdom The Guardian, a national British newspaper, had founded a campaign called "free our data". They objected to the fact that the Ordnance Survey (and others), funded by the British taxpayer, was charging business and individuals for its cartographic data thus effectively making people pay for it twice. Their campaign is great but until such times as it succeeds an alternative is needed. A free software alternative. Enter OpenStreetMaps.

Google Earth and Google Maps are too well know to require iteration here, but the spectre of proprietary software haunts them. They are not free software. If you want to incorporate any of them into you budding business project and run your software under a relatively permissive licence for others to take up your ideas and improve them you will have to find something else.

Just like Wikipedia, on which it is loosely modelled, OpenStreetMaps is resolutely free software. It is an attempt, by community participation, to map the Earth.

Using Dia for diagrams

Everybody needs diagrams. Most users need to create one more often than they think: that flowchart for a presentation, that sketch of the bird feeder to build this weekend, or a time line. Getting more technical, there are always circuits and blueprints and the like. Stop wasting time with an office app, the GIMP, or a paint program: use Dia, an easy yet powerful made-for-diagrams editor.

Getting Dia

Google's Chrome, Mozilla, Explorer, rendering engines: let the war begin

Chrome is in fact a reference to the imminent release of Google's entry into the browser market. Apparently, the launch was accidentally "leaked" by a Google employee who was a little piggy fingered with the send button on his e-mail client. By the time you read this it may be available for download (probably Windows only in the first instance). I was intrigued by this because there have been "reviews" of Chrome already and the reason for this is the unique way Google has chosen to announce it. If you were launching a new browser, or anything else, would you do it through the medium of a comic?

Self-signed certificates and Firefox 3 - a possible solution

Some websites need to handle data securely and assure the end-user they are a) secure and b) who they say they are. The traditional way to achieve these is via Secure Socket Layer. Firefox 3 changed what happens when a self-signed SSL certificate is encountered. It's a change which has caused some concern and much discussion.

Should we only trust certificates signed by third parties? Are there cases where using a self-signed certificate is valid? Should users be informed or warned and how strong should the language of that notification be? Is it possible a simple solution is already available but has been overlooked in all the flan-flinging? I think so.

SliTaz live CD: small but beautifully marked

When I came across the oddly named SliTaz I really didn't know what to expect. Yet another predictable fork of some better known distro which would blaze briefly in the free software firmament, burn out and fall to Earth, spent? Boy, was I ever wrong. If you want to know why Switzerland may be about to become better known for more than chocolate and Cuckoo clocks, read on and be prepared to be impressed and delighted by a live distro of exceptional speed and size.

Inkscape tutorial: creating a simple ribbon

Inkscape is one of the most popular free software vector drawing applications. With minimal effort you can achieve some excellent results. However, for the inexperienced it can be a bit hard to find out how to get those results. In this tutorial I'll look at creating a simple ribbon effect which will hopefully introduce some of the key Inkscape features along the way.

GNU/Linux free software tools to preserve your online privacy, anonymity and security

Whether you are online or offline, freedom matters. Like good health you never think about it or miss it until it is under threat or actually gone. If you love freedom, you probably love free software and it has given us some terrific tools with which to defend freedom. In this article I will give an overview of some of the available resources (Freenet, Wikileaks and Tor) to protect dissident opinion, facilitate whistle blowing and promote the safe and anonymous development of free software.

Tale of a codec optimisation: doing things the GNU/Linux way

Encoding is a CPU-intensive operation. Whilst encoding, using optimised code is crucial. In this short article I will explain how I gained a 300% speed boost when encoding DVDs and will show how having the program's sources and being able to talk to the maintainers sometimes really, really helps. Welcome to doing things "the GNU/Linux way".

Workrave : combating RSI the free software way

Thanks to FSDaily, I recently came across an excellent post regarding useful exercises for geeks. What surprised me about it was that Workrave was not mentioned at all. Here I take a brief look at this great piece of free software designed with one purpose: combating repetitive strain injury (RSI).

ODF in MS Office? No, really!

Microsoft declared yesterday (May 21st, 2008) that Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 would include (among others such as PDF 1.5, PDF/A and some more) built-in support for OASIS OpenDocument Format version 1.1 (finalized, submitted to ISO, supported by OpenOffice.org, Kofffice, GNOME office apps and their forks) while ISO-submitted OOXML support would wait for Office 14.

Dillo the lean browser

Using browsers which are Web 2.0 enabled whenever you just what to Google something is like calling out the Fire Brigade when you have just burned the toast. Definitive overkill. If you are just surfing for information, then you want the little browser on the low fat, low body-mass index, skinny latte diet with a low carbon footprint. If Dillo were a catwalk model, it would be size zero. Think of it as the Victoria Beckham of browsers-- but better looking; where the big hitters like Firefox, Flock and Opera sometimes move like a Sloth on Mogadon, Dillo tears down the track like a Whippet on speed.

If you can program in C/GTK+, you can also get involved with this worthy project: see the bottom of the article for more information.

A quick look at the spring GNU/Linux distributions: Mandriva, Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE

It's really the most wonderful time of the year. Out of the top 6 GNU/Linux distributions (according to DistroWatch.com), four are releasing or have released builds between April and June. What's new in them?

Composer, a potential HTML based word processor

Rosalyn Hunter writes about using Composer as a stand-in word processor. I too, have used it in this fashion on OS X. I like it for various reasons. For instance, I'm quite familiar with it, as I've used it for website authoring numerous times. It creates HTML files. I've come to the conclusion that HTML is not a bad “language” to use for a word processor, considering that it already allows for basic editing features--and then some. If it isn't obvious, Composer is an HTML editor that was part of the old Mozilla suite.

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