Archive for the 'Linux Compatible' Category

Nov 17 2011

Lest we forget

Do you remember this post by Martha? Of course you don’t. It was just about three years ago. If you’re a freshman here at UMW, you might have been 15 years old and probably not reading this blog – and let’s face it, who wades through the archives of blogs running back at least three years? The answer is: not me, and probably not you.

So we here at SfSS would just like to reaffirm everything Martha said about Mozilla Firefox back in 2008:

  1. Add-ons, Add-ons, Add-ons: Firefox was the first browser to support extensions (or add-ons – the terms are interchangeable) and to date it still has the largest library. If you’ve never tried extensions before, think of them as apps for your browser. They let you do something that you weren’t able to do before, just like an app. I know you go on YouTube a lot. So do I. Are you sick of ads before videos? Install AdBlock Plus and they’re history. It’s only on Firefox. (They try and tell you it’s on Chrome, but it’s never, ever worked for me.)
  2. Standards: Mozilla is all about the open web – where you have the freedom to do anything that you want or need to do without some government or corporation standing in your way and telling you what to do. Sometimes governments do this with misguided laws (see also: SOPA), and sometimes corporations do this with proprietary technology (see also: Apple, Microsoft, Google and on and on and on). Mozilla stands firmly in the way of that, and they do it with open technology: HTML 5, CSS, JavaScript and other open technologies that adhere to the recommended standards.
  3. Security: Okay, here’s the thing. Firefox is open source. That means that the code that defines how Firefox works and runs is freely available for anyone and everyone to look at, tweak and fix, and thousands and thousands of eyes are looking at every single change to the code. So not only are security holes patched as soon as they’re spotted, but if someone tries to add malicious code it gets kicked out immediately.
  4. 100% Organic: This ties in to what I said earlier about Firefox being open source. That means there’s no one at the top controlling everything. Firefox is built from the ground up by people just like you who are passionate about what they do. And they do it so that you can have the freest, best web experience at no cost.

If you’re not running Firefox – if you’ve lost faith – it’s time to jump back in. Mozilla needs you. The web needs you. And you owe it to yourself to give yourself the best browsing experience out there.

 

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Nov 10 2011

Unzip It ith 7-Zip!

If you’ve ever spent time on the Internet, you’ve undoubtedly encountered zip files. Zip files (.zip) are typically used as a means to send multiple files from one computer to the next in an easy fashion. However, unless you’re a computer science major, you may have had some trouble understanding how to easily open them. Some people turn to programs like WinZip, for which you have to pay, in order to handle the job. You, however, are a poor but savvy UMW student, and you want a better option!

The Express Zipper

"The Express Zipper" by Tam Nguyen Photography at Flickr

I offer you a free program that is just as easy to use: 7-Zip. It’s an open-source freeware for Windows and Linux that I’ve been using for years. In fact, I’ve been using it for so long that when I went to research this post, I desperately needed to update the program from the 4.65 incarnation I was using to its latest, 9.20. That’s how good 7-Zip is, and how useful. It’s a simple program–1mb in size–that never devalues.

7-zip also features an active forum for support and questions. Give it a try, and make your file transfers much easier–and cheaper!

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Nov 10 2011

Sage: because MATLAB is too expensive

Do you have anything to do with math, ever? Have you been assigned projects which require you to make use of some kind of mathematical software, like MAPLE, or MATLAB, or Mathematica? Chances are, if you take anything heavy in statistics or applied math, you have been or will be. Now, you have options. You could pay for a license ($99 for MAPLE, $139 for Mathematica and these are student prices), you could pirate them (risky, banned at UMW and illegal), you could trudge on over to Trinkle in the dark and the snow (winter is coming, after all), or you could go for the free, open-source alternative: Sage.

Pretty cunning, right?

Right.

Sage works on Windows, Mac (binaries are coming for Lion, but the Snow Leopard release should work) and Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora or source). It’s a hefty download (1.4 gigs for Windows), but after that you’re using your computer for what computers were built for: all that math stuff. Do you have any account online, ever? Google, Yahoo!, WordPress? (Myspace?) Try it free, online (i.e., no download), here. DO IT NOW.

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Nov 08 2011

(Wh)Y Write(r)?

A tool does not make the master, but it certainly make the master’s job easier. That’s why I’m bringing yWriter to the attention of our readers, particularly our creative writers. yWriter is a piece of freeware developed by a writer for writers.

Simon Haynes (author of the Hal Spacejock series) created yWriter after struggling to write his first novel in an organized and efficient manner. “I really struggled with my first novel because I wrote slabs of text into a big word processor file and I just couldn’t make sense of the whole thing at once. No real overview, no easy jumping from scene to scene, nothing,” he states on his website.  As an experienced computer programmer, he possessed the know-how to create a piece of software that would work with him, and then kindly shared it with the world for free (and with regular updates).

yWriter5 Main Screen

The yWriter5 Main Screen

yWriter’s keynote feature is its usage of “scenes” inside chapter files.  As a creative writer myself, I found that thinking about my story in such terms helped me as well, and although I have a plethora of other programs I could write on, I’ve been a satisfied user of yWriter for the past three years.  I first discovered it while participating in NaNoWriMo (which is going on now).

Give it a try.  You might discover that yWriter is the tool that will revolutionize the way your approach and complete your stories. It’s compatible on all system. If you find it useful, consider making a donation of support and thanks.

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Oct 20 2011

Play In Mines

Minecraft.

Creeper

The Face of Minecraft

I feel guilty posting about a game that costs money to purchase (though there is a free version), but the hours you put into playing it will make it feel like you got a deal. Also, this isn’t a typical video game, in that it doesn’t cost $300+ for the console and $60+ for the actual game.  If you are reading this post, you can play this game. It’s available in Pocket Edition, playable on your Android, for $6.99  as well as its original format on the PC for $21.99 (Windows, Mac & Linux).  If don’t mind missing out on the fancier features, you can always play it for free in your browser!

What makes Minecraft great? Well, while the game itself is fun and frankly addictive, the community that has sprung up around the game is fun and impressive.  Even the de facto official Wiki is run by volunteers.  There are also thriving forums all over the internet full of active members who create their own mods for the game and share them with others.  You can get everything from a mini-map to new skins for your world and yourself.

However, what I feel makes Minecraft truly fun is its multi-player aspect.  There are many open servers available to the public (though care must be taken to avoid griefers and unsuitable mining mates), though I’ve found it far more rewarding to play on a  private server with friends.  In fact, my favorite place to mine is on a server that a summer class put together.

Besides, who doesn’t get a sense of satisfaction out of building something like this:

Minecraft Creation: Falling Water

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

Or this:

NES Sprites

NES Sprites

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Nov 11 2010

Dropbox it like it’s Hot

Dropbox is one of those great tools that I can’t believe we haven’t talked about yet. If you aren’t familiar with Dropbox the name should give you a hint as to what they do. Dropbox not only acts as an online storage space but provides an easy interface to share files with people. The free account gets you up to 2GB of online storage (with up to 100GB of storage for a paid account). Sign-up and you’ll be able to download a desktop dropbox folder that syncs with your online account automatically when you add new files. With Dropbox you can upload any type of file and it is available the Mac, Window and Linux Operating Systems.

Like I said before besides being a place to back up your stuff, Dropbox gives you a public folder (that allows you to control access) that makes it easy to share files, like those old family photos you have been so diligently scanning, with other people. So rather than large e-mail files that you know will bounce because of the size, just stick it in Dropbox and share the link with friends and family.

Besides software and web access Dropbox has free applications for your mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry) allowing you to access your files on the go and I know how you young kids are always on the go.

So go ahead and sign-up so you can finally back-up those important files (like your senior thesis) I know you have been letting sit on your hard drive unprotected. Don’t forget to tell your friends about it so you can share files (legally of course) back and forth.

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Oct 15 2010

Anki Flash!

Slang flash cards (i want!)

I’ve always noticed students taking science or language classes running around campus with a stack of cards in front of their faces. Flash cards are awesome for studying terms, but when you are broke buying cards is just not an option. Sure, you could spend that few dollars, just use some notebook paper, or even still your roommate’s printer paper, yet wouldn’t it be better just to skip the whole process and move away from paper and ink? Let’s not forget that after a while the cards that you write get to such a high volume that you can easily get overwhelmed and no rubber band is strong enough to contain your flash card might. So let me tell you what I use to get around all that.

I’ve been using a sweet free tool called Anki. Anki is an easy to use flash card program that tracks your progress and times when you need to look at cards given how well you remember them. The snazzy buzz word for this process is called “space repetition flash card program.” I used it while studying Chinese in Harbin. The program comes with some great features including easy to make cards, reminders to study, progression tracker, and oh wait…it is open source and shareable. From plug-ins to other people’s uploaded decks.

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Jun 16 2010

Get Some Chrome For Your Internet Ride

Google Chrome RideA long long time ago, in a blog post far far away we discussed the virtues of the Firefox browsing experience. We still stand by Firefox as a great browser (especially when put up against something like Internet Explorer) but recently Firefox has come against some good competition from Google Chrome. Chrome is fairly similar to Firefox in terms of features it provides. It has add-ons for extending the capabilities of your browser and while it may not have as many as Firefox, the library of add-ons is growing at an increasing rate and many of the popular ones can easily be found. Right now Chrome’s claim to fame (besides looking pretty slick) is that it is fast and from my intensive research (read: me using Chrome) I have found that it does move quicker than Firefox for most things. YouTube seems to load faster but, of course Google does own YouTube so who knows what crazy tricks they can pull.

For some people what browser they are using doesn’t matter much but, if you are open to the possibility that there may be something better out there then Google Chrome may be your answer. Test it, try it, love it (?) and let us know about your experience if you give Google Chrome a go!

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Mar 09 2010

Free(Your)Mind

"Free your mind, Neo." (Use FreeMind!)

When Morpheus from The Matrix instructs his pupil Neo to “free [his] mind”, it’s doubtful he was referring to FreeMind–the  online Java program that allows users to form easily editable mindmaps–but I bet Neo would have benefited from using the software, and maybe even figured out he was The One before Switch, Dozer, Apoc, and Mouse had to died.

Alas, Neo chose to do it the hard way.

FreeMind makes it easy to organize your thoughts, letting you construct something reminiscent of the brainstorms your primary school teachers introduced to you.  With FreeMind, however, you’re upgrading from pen and pencil to a digital format that doesn’t require your erasers to shed when you run out of room on carbon paper. And if you haven’t used the brainstorm format since those elementary

FreeMind Screenshot

FreeMind's Digital Method of Brainstorming

school days, it’s a disarmingly simple exercise that’s worth returning to for a try, especially when you’re juggling multiple ideas for that essay due tomorrow.  After all, an overabundance of ideas can crowd the smartest head until a new idea is impossible to generate.

The freeware (yup, free) is a fantastically light addition to your hard drive–4mb for the MS Windows lite version, and 9mb for the all-inclusive package (SVG and PDF export capabilities); and if you’re running a Mac or Linux OS, they’ve got you covered, too.

Stand-out features include the ability to “drag’n drop” nodes (information concepts), the fold- and unfolding of node trees, smart copying & pasting, and a plethora of means to highlight node importance or change its design (icons, background color, bubbles, clouds).  Check out an excellent introduction to FreeMind on YouTube here: FreeMind Tutorial.

So if you’re finding your brain overloaded by your university courses, try freeing up some mental space by dumping it onto your computer’s–and get it all organized at the same time!

Trust me and maybe you’ll find yourself bending some intellectual spoons of your own someday, too.

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Feb 12 2010

You Are What You Annotate

Now that the semester is moving forward you are probably trying to focus on being a productive student. So you came here to find some help in, right? Of course right. If you spend a lot of time researching on the internet there is a site called Diigo that you should check out.

To put it briefly Diigo is a highlighting, bookmarking and site sharing tool.

One of the reasons I started using Diigo was, it gave me the ability to highlight and place sticky notes on webpages. When I have to read a long online text for class a tool like Diigo gives me the option to directly annotate (take notes) on those pieces. So instead of printing out a bunch of pages I just bring my laptop to class and read my (searchable) notes. Plus, I am saving the environment, right? The notations have different setting: private, public, or shared with group. So depending on your need there are different settings. A fun little bonus to using Diigo is if anyone else has it installed on their computer and they place a sticky note on a webpage and make it a public note then anyone else who also has diigo can see it too.

Another great feature of Diigo is the ability to archive webpages in html and image formats. This is more than just being able to bookmark a page for later use, it gives you the ability to capture a site at a moment in time. This can come in handy for websites that have an ever changing face, like Wikipedia. Once you have saved a page in this format through Diigo they become searchable within your personal archive. So, if you can’t remember what words you used to tag a bookmark (or didn’t tag at all, shame on you!) you can find the page by remembering words that appeared on the page itself.

Whether it is strictly for your own personal use or for building a list of resources in a community, Diigo is a powerful way to organize and annotate the content on the web.

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