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Arch Linux

June 25, 2009
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Arch Linux is a GNU/Linux distribution that started in 2002 with the goal of being simple. Unlike distributions such as Ubuntu, Arch takes the position that the complexities of setting up a GNU/Linux box, such as adding a new service to run at boot time, configuring servers, etc., should be left out in the open rather then adding complexity by hiding these activities under configuration tools.

Getting Arch and Following up the Install

The install process is nicely written up in the official wiki. When the install is complete, you are left with a minimal installation of Arch Linux. And it is up to the user to install the needed packages. From this point, you could go for a pure command line environment and save all the resources that a fancy GUI uses or you could install Gnome, KDE, *Box, etc., and enjoy a nice desktop environment. The aforementioned wiki also contains many how-to’s on various customizations and third party software for usage in Arch.

Package Management

Arch Linux packages a tool called Pacman. For those familiar to Ubuntu/Debian’s apt-get or Gentoo’s emerge, Pacman will not take long to learn. Similar to other package manager tools, the local repository of package information needs to be refreshed occasionally via “pacman –Sy.” After updating the repository, a user can issue “pacman –Su” to see if any installed packages have any updates available. Other common commands are:

To install new packages: pacman –S <packageName>
To remove a package: pacman –D <packageName>
To search for a package: pacman –Ss <search expression>

Final Opinion

Arch Linux is definitely not built for GNU/Linux beginners. Packages that require configuration after install lack the pretty setup helpers and safe defaults that Ubuntu provides. However, for those that have worked with a command line and have some knowledge of how Linux works, terminology, etc., will find an easily customizable GNU/Linux distribution.

Coolest Freebie on the Internet

June 23, 2009
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There are lots of freebies you can download these days. What you want depends on what your need is. I like to play with my photographs, such as add some effects or text. There are lots of image editing software applications that are available for free. Picasa, Photoshop Basic, and Photoscape are just three of the many choices available. However, the one I have found to be most effective is Irfanview.

Why is IrfanView my favorite software image editing software?

I am not a professional photographer and don’t need all the capabilities that expensive software like Adobe Photoshop offers. However, I do like to add some special effects or create a collage or slideshow and Irfanview does the job perfectly.

Irfanview is really fast for an image editing application. As more functionality is added over a period of time, software tends to get slower. Irfanview has proved itself an exception. Irfanview also supports a wide range of image formats unlike Microsoft Paint. It is a one-stop solution for editing all kinds of images.

It is also very easy to create a slideshow with IrfanView. It supports a wide range of audio formats and you can also add video, which is pretty impressive for a freeware. This function also makes it more of a multimedia viewer than just an image editing software.

One of the best features I like about IrfanView is batch processing, such as changing the resolution of images in a batch or converting a large group of images from one format to other. The batch processing saves a lot of images.

IrfanView has all the qualities that good software should have. It is easy to learn, very efficient, and is free. Download it for free from CNET and enjoy spicing up your photographs!

OpenPandora Application Review

May 26, 2009
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In my everyday work, I listen to Pandora, a free personalized Internet radio service, almost all day. I listen so much that I’ve even become a paid subscriber. It gets me through my day.

It may seem nit picky, but sometimes it is cumbersome having my browser open all the time. Sometimes I accidentally close a browser tab which closes Pandora or sometimes I don’t even use a browser all day but still have to keep one open so I can have Pandora going. Is there a solution for people like me? Yes!

The Solution: OpenPandora

OpenPandora is “an open source Windows desktop application that exposes Pandora music discovery service.” Basically, OpenPandora extracts the Pandora web application to your operating system and eliminates the need to have a browser open. It does other nifty things such as:

  • Updates your instant messenger status to reflect the song you’re currently listening to
  • Submits tracks listened to your last.fm account
  • Allows you to use the media features on your keyboard to control Pandora or even assign your own global shortcuts if you don’t have media keys
  • Allows you to setup balloon popups to notify you of song changes so you know what song is currently playing without having to sift through your wild abundance of open windows

Sounds great in theory, but how well does it actually work?

It works quite well, actually. Upon first launching the application, I was already logged in. I assume it steals my browser cookies or something similar. Most of the playlist management features are contained within the base application of Pandora, so most of the features that you have on the website you still have in OpenPandora.

Some things you might miss from Pandora are artist info, album info, lyrics, and the ability to create genre-specific playlists. Whenever I want to use these features, I’ll typically go to the Pandora website and use them from there. Hopefully, these features will be somehow built into future versions of OpenPandora.

Another feature I find useful in OpenPandora is the ability to start the service when Windows boots. Since I am always listening to Pandora, enabling this feature was obvious for me.

Lastly, there is one small bug I have found that may or may not bother some of you as much as it bothered me. Every so often OpenPandora seems to lose my application settings. These are the settings that aren’t built into Pandora but are added features as a part of OpenPandora. Because global media keys are disabled by default, I occasionally will try to use them and find OpenPandora fails to recognize them. Upon investigating, I noticed all my custom settings were somehow reverted. I’m not sure if this is caused by shutting down incorrectly, or what, but it happens once every few weeks. While it’s not that big of a deal, it can become a pain having to setup all my settings every time it happens.

Overall, OpenPandora is a great product, and I would recommend it to anyone who is almost always listening to it like I am. Also, if you use it as much as I do, you should subscribe to their paid service and help out the Pandora team because the service they provide is really spectacular.