Installing Software from the KDE System Settings Menu

Think "installing software in distros like Debian and Ubuntu", and you think automatically of Synaptic, apt-get on the command line or the new kid on the block, Unbuntu Software Centre. Sometimes, you just overlook the obvious. Did you know that you can also install and remove software using the KDE System Settings Menu? Thought not. Me neither, until I accidentally stumbled upon it--and I wasn't even in the KDE desktop at the time. I was using the LXDE desktop when I spotted it in the Preferences section of the Start menu. Curious? Me too. Let's take a look.

Can the Terms of the GPL Prevent GNU/Linux being used for War?

There's been a lot of noise on the internet recently about the fact that the Windows-based software being used in the remote control system of drones use by the American military has been hit by a virus and this has caused the Department of Defense (DOD) to use GNU/Linux which is a more secure option. This has, predictably, caused raised eyebrows and demands by some that any military organisation should be prevented from using GNU/Linux in offensive weapons systems.

The Research Works Act (RWA): why Scientific Publishing needs FOSS Methods

I'm sure I don't need to explain SOPA or ACTA to regular readers of Free Software Magazine. They're toxic. End of. But RWA? It stands for Research Works Act. It's not the big sexy beast of the other two but it is, in its way, just as insidious and as harmful to the freedom of scientific publishing as SOPA and ACTA are to internet freedom and it's all interconnected. Here's why.

Spark: A Tablet Running Open hardware and KDE Plasma Active Pre-installed

A tablet has been on my to do list since forever. Two things held me back: the priority to replace my terminally ill eight-year old laptop and the unhappily well known fact that the current crop of tablets are tied down more securely that a latter-day Gulliver in Jonathan Swift's tale.

Ubuntu's Unity Desktop: A Free Republic or Paternalistic Democracy?

If your computer is so old that it was last spotted in the wild roaming with the dinosaurs before they were flamed by an extinction-level event, then (like me) you just might just be grateful for Unity (2D) to extend the lifetime of your machine. Since the doctors switched off the life support on my best, though ageing laptop (private funeral only, no flowers, donations in lieu) I've had to switch the hard drive into my second best machine. The problem is that it's even older, at seven or eight years (probably about sixty eight in dog years).

Checking Out Ubuntu Studio 11.04

Well, it's not exactly brand new, but I am taking my first real look at Ubuntu Studio 11.04 (based on Ubuntu "Natty Narwhal"). This is what we decided to put on our "guest" computer when Debian "Wheezy" proved not to be so easy, and it gives us an opportunity to step out of our rut and look at a new GNU/Linux distribution.

UEFI and Windows 8: is this bad news for GNU/Linux?

There are times when I think that there is a special, darkened room at Microsoft peopled by a bunch of guys who seem to have nothing better to do than sit and think up some new wheeze to nobble the opposition. The rap sheet is an inditment in itself: trusted computing, internet driving licenses, DRM, bullying hardware vendors and attempting to strong arm sovereign nation states. You wouldn't think the list could get any bigger. It just has; but then, recidivism in incurable.

The OpenPC project: Ready-made GNU/Linux Machines

The Open Desktop communities Open-PC project is now offering three different models of open computers with turn-key GNU/Linux and KDE installations based on OpenSUSE (or Ubuntu). These systems could provide real competition with pre-installed Windows or Mac computers, overcoming some of the most frequently-cited problems with GNU/Linux on the desktop. The systems are now available from vendors in Europe and the USA.

Post-Christmas Review: Tech Toys and GNU/Linux Compatibility

Well, Christmas 2010 is over, and all the little tech toy devices have been connected, installed, and played with (or returned to the store from whence they came if they didn't clear those hurdles). This year was an amazing success. Three major computer-linked devices worked on the first try without a hiccup. And I have to at least say a word or two about Mattel's new Computer Engineer Barbie -- a purchase I must admit was a little silly, but my daughter does play with it.

Installing a Debian GNU/Linux test server with VirtualBox

There are a number of good reasons for installing a virtual machine on your computer -- as a way to run software that isn't compatible with your primary operating system, as a sandbox for development, or as a place to test package installations, new distributions, or new server configurations. Setting one up with VirtualBox OSE is quite easy.

Net Neutrality: what does the Google Verizon proposal mean for GNU Linux?

Net neutrality has been a hot and persistent topic on the internet for some time, so I'm not even going to attempt to summarize the debate here. Anyone who values their personal and online freedom knows it's a crucial issue. Regardless of your operating system or the software we use it will affect each and every one of us. However, if you use GNU/Linux you're already tech savvy and familiar with the politics and philosophy of free and open software, so you'll be particularly sensitized to the impact of threats to net neutrality on free software.

Tales From the Front: in Search of APT-GET UNDO

I am currently in that level of hell reserved for people who upgrade their GNU/Linux system too quickly. I have for some time now been happily using KDE 4 with the plasma desktop enjoying the cute little animations and eye candy, and learning to use the task-bar and widgets. Then my bliss was interrupted by a simple mistake. I decided to upgrade. I forgot that my /etc/apt/sources.list was set to load experimental versions of the software, and now my X-server system is broken. It is only now that I am discovering that there is no apt-get undo.

10 years on: free software wins, but you have nowhere to install it

I am typing this as I am finally connected in shell to my Android phone. The prompt reminds me that it's based on the Linux kernel (it's free), the Dalvik virtual machine (it's free), and free libraries. Millions of Android devices are shipped every day, each one is a Linux system. Today, it's phone. Soon, it will be tablets: Android 3.0 (coming out at the end of the year) will finally be very suitable for tablets. Apple alone will have to face fierce competition on pretty much every front. Microsoft... who? They are more irrelevant every day. I should be happy, right? Well, sort of. Looking back at how long it took me to get this shell prompt makes me worried. Very worried. We are heading towards a world where we no longer own the hardware we buy -- and there is no point in having free software if you can't own your hardware.

Apollo Project and Contact Management

Drowning in your TODO list? Need some todo list software? Trouble organizing project and contacts? Try Apollo, project and contact management done right.

A single-page Ajax application that finally looks and feels like an application.

OpenSolaris and its killer features. Coming to a GNU/Linux near you?

When we think of free operating systems we tend to think overwhelmingly of the big hitters (all GNU/Linux) like Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and Mandriva and then of those niche distros that have been designed for low end systems or for specialist purposes like security and forensics. But Oranges are not the only fruit. There is a hinterland out there called Unixland, populated by other less well known systems whose roots are firmly Unix too. BSD for example, famed for its rock-like security. OpenSolaris is another one, perhaps less well known, but it has features that are well worth a punt.

GNU/Linux and freedom: non-free software hidden in your GNU/Linux distribution

Most people with an interest in software freedom will turn to GNU/Linux as their operating system of choice. Few realize however, that the vast majority of GNU/Linux distros are not entirely free. Imagine migrating away from Windows, only to find that by installing GNU/Linux you are accepting a restrictive Microsoft license!

Many distros promote the use of proprietary software, knowingly show incorrect licenses, and attempt to hide the problem under the guise of an 'option of freedom'. When the majority of developers of a collection of software don't care about freedom, neither will their users. Non-free distros make almost no attempts to inform their userbases of the importance of freedom, even though they wouldn't exist without it. I will discuss how the option of freedom is an unacceptable solution, and propose some real fixes.

Can free software drive the fourth paradigm?

The biggest science story to hit the mainstream media in the last year was of course the big switch on at CERN. What made it such a great story for me was not just the sheer and audacious enormity of the enterprise or the humbling nobility of the colossal experiment but the story behind the story. That story was the absolutely central role of free software philosophy at the heart of everything CERN was (and is) doing. Despite the false start, CERN's search for the Higgs Boson has got into its stride. The same cannot be said for the car crash that is climate science, which may have inflicted terminal damage on the reputation of science. I believe the rigorous application of free software methodology in conjunction with the Fourth Paradigm may save it.

Special 301: FOSS users. Now we're all Communists and Criminals

There seems to be no respite from the predations of Microsoft FUD and the machinations of Big Business. Just when it seemed safe to come out of the closet and admit to being a user of free and open source software without being accused of being a Communist, it appears that we are now criminals too--even if we are not using pirated versions of proprietary software. The culprit this time is something called "Special 301", an annual review of the status of foreign intellectual property laws carried out under the auspices of the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) which is an Executive Office of the President. It's definition of criminal would make criminals of every single user of FOSS.


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