Hooked on Linux.

It’s been months since I installed Bodhi Linux on my laptop to replace the faltering Windows XP and I have not since looked back. Even on my laptop’s old hardware and limited memory, it boots up quickly and runs great. I’ve never been happier using something besides Windows and still get stuff done, such as browsing the web, checking my e-mail and updating my resume. Recently I installed the Bluetooth manager and use it to transfer pictures and videos to and from my phone. This is without a doubt the farthest I have ever ventured into Linux territory.
I’m also getting more familiar with the concept of open sources and its advantages over commercial, closed-source software. I am under the impression that commercial programmers are constantly getting crunched by deadlines and competition, and are not always able to catch security flaws and other bugs until they show up on the computers of end users all over the world.
Open source programmers on the other hand aren’t so much pressured by deadlines. I am sure there are way more programmers participating in open source projects working in teams to fine-tune their programs to perfection. Take programs like OpenOffice, AbiWord or the VLC media player and the rave reviews that accompany them and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
I recently installed the KDE Desktop Environment and was really impressed with the quality of the programs that came with it, programs for doing word processing, checking e-mail, viewing graphics files, listening to music and of course playing games. All of them were highly polished and ran with true class. KPatience remains far and away the coolest solitaire card game I have ever seen. I can’t imagine anything like KDE coming from the commercial software industry.
As much as I enjoy using Linux nowadays, I also develop a renewed appreciation for open source and the tireless efforts of the programming community that go into the fine programs they create.

Managing your clipboard with ClipCube.

ClipCube is a free, open-source clipboard tool that sits in your system tray and records everything you copy to the clipboard for easy pasting later. The interface is very simple and so easy to use that you’ll have this program all figured out within minutes. It’s small, does not require installation and saves all its settings and clipboard data to the application folder. If you do a lot of repetitive cutting and pasting, ClipCube will definitely come in handy.

Open source virus scanner.

ClamWin is a free open-source virus scanner that may or may not be the anti-virus solution you’re looking for but it’s still worth checking out.
The most striking feature of ClamWin is its lack of an on-access real-time scanner, which can be a good thing. Even though its icon is present in your system tray, it doesn’t use very much of your precious system resources. Because of no real-time monitoring, you will have to manually scan your system for viruses. Its integration into Windows Explorer makes this part easy. Or if you’d rather scan your whole system, you can easily schedule a full scan to run at a time when you’re away from your computer.
I briefly got ClamWin confused with Clam Antivirus which utilizes Cloud-based technology to keep you protected without you having to worry about keeping your virus definitions up to date. It’s all in the server cloud. It does sounds promising but when I tried it, I was disappointed to see how much slower my computer ran. It claims not to drain your computer’s memory and processing speed but I have seen plenty of evidence to the contrary. After uninstalling it, my computer resumed computing at normal speed. I’d still like to give it another try sometime.

The return of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Open Sonic is a free open-source game featuring characters from the classic “Sonic the Hedgehog” games that so rocked the Sega Genesis gaming consoles many years ago. The gameplay is a bit different here as you not only control Sonic himself, but also his friends Tails and Knuckles. Each character has different abilities that contributes to the teamwork needed to finish each level. Add the delightful graphics and smooth gameplay and you have a great game sure to delight Sonic fans everywhere.

Sing a song of Songbird.

Songbird is very, very close to becoming my favorite media player. It sports a very slick, modern interface for playing your music, able to pull up the album cover and even the lyrics to the song that’s playing. It can rip your CD’s, sync your music files to your phone or MP3 player and let you browse the web from within the player. It can even let you know when the artists featured in your library are touring in your city.
The only problem with Songbird is there are no options to set it as your default media player. I’m sure there are some hacks for Windows that let you do this manually but I’d feel better having the setup program make the needed changes for me. Then I’ll truly be in music heaven.

Sketch it with Inkscape.

Inkscape is a free, open-source vector graphics editor similar to expensive software titles such as Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw. It takes full advantage of the scalable vector graphics format, allowing you to change the size of your drawing without losing any detail. I’ve only started using this program and really see its potential for helping me digitize my creativity. It’s really easy to use and works well with my Wacom Bamboo tablet but only after unchecking the “Use pressure-sensitive tablet” option in the Mouse tab under Preferences. Odd.

Awesome sound recorder.

Audacity is a free, open source sound recorder that’s easy to use yet well-suited for power users. You can use it to record live audio and implement various effects such as echo and pitch change. For the advanced user, Audacity can record multiple tracks of music and allows for easy editing on each track. This is a very neat program that’s fun to experiment with for exploring the creative side you never knew you had.

Tux Racer.

Tux Racer is a free, cross-platform racing game starring a cute penguin on a quest for some tasty herring. To find the herring, the penguin must navigate its way down a snowy hill with icy slopes, rock formations and other obstacles. The object is simply to make it to the finish line in the shortest time possible while grabbing as much herring as you can. I first saw this game when I tried Red Hat Linux and got hooked. It’s a little hard to download the Windows version of Tux Racer from the dead links at its web site, but you can easily grab it here. This is good clean fun for all ages.

Voxelstein 3-D.

Voxelstein 3-D is an awesome first-person shooter unlike anything I’ve seen. It’s based on the classic Wolfenstein 3-D and uses the some of the game’s enemies except they are now rendered in full 3-D. Needless to say, this is a pretty bloody and violent game.
At first I was set back by the game’s low-resolution graphics but what really struck me was that these graphics are really small blocks called voxels. There are over 37 million of these blocks in the first level alone.
I like how the game’s world is fully destructible. You can stab through walls and doors, shoot down chandeliers, and knock over tables. This is your chance to show no mercy.
Aside from the violent action, I think the really fun part is just exploring the voxel-rendered world. Some rooms have some clever references to some classic video game characters such as Duke Nukem and even the Dopefish. I especially like how there’s more to this game than meets the eye…