Review: Ubuntu 7.10

Curious to know about Gutsy Gibbon? A list of improvements of Ubuntu 7.10 is already available in its official website. So, I am not going to duplicate those stuff and will try to tell you about my personal experience with Gutsy Gibbon.

I gave the new Ubuntu a try. As usual, I installed it by using my VirtualBox virtual machine not only because I do not have enough space on my Dell Latitude D820 laptop (Intel Core 2 T5600, 1GB RAM) but also because this reveals the interoperability of Ubuntu and VirtualBox. I think it is important to be able to easily install Ubuntu on virtual machines. Indeed, many people would need to run their Ubuntu along with another OS. In my case, I have to keep Win XP on my laptop simply because this is the default OS of my University and most of specialized applications are available and supported only for XP. As I said, I am already running out of space and hence I used my 4GB USB flash to store the virtual hard drive of my virtual computer.

I didn’t have any difficulty downloading the iso file as there were many mirror sites and I selected a site just a couple of hundred meters away from my apartment (actually the download was from my university’s server). The download was completed with the maximum possible bit rate of my ADSL connection and there was my Ubuntu iso file ready to be mounted. After mounting the iso file as CD drive of the virtual disk, making a hard rive of 3.8GB, and allocating 512MB RAM, I booted my virtual machined and it smoothly booted up. The initializing part took a few minutes (more than 7.04) and live session started. The visual appearance was clearly better (than 7.04) from the beginning. I noticed a few of changes at the first instance: a Bluetooth Analyzer in accessories, Pidgin internet messenger in internet, and OpenOffice.org Drawing in Graphic. Some new places are also added (Pictures, Videos, Music, and Documents). Having a Calculator in accessories might seem not much of improvement to many people but to me it is a great blessing as I was missing my calculator a lot.

Installing took a damn long time (about 70 minutes) which I do not consider unusual as I was using my USB flash. But, I was curious to know how much space has been occupied by the virtual hard drive after completion of the installation. It was 2.3 GB. After the desktop appeared it took a few minutes until the desktop was fully initialized and computer was responding. I had no eye-candy visual effects because my hardware was not detected to be supportive of that. Trying it in System>Preferences>Appearance did not help and I could not get neither “Normal” nor “Extra” visual effects meaning that the eye-candy stuff probably should be expected to work only if you have got a high-end machine.

Then I checked the internet which was available right away and visited youtube. The flash plugin was missing but the missing plugin was detected and two options (including Gnash flash player) were automatically suggested. Trying the first option which was Adobe Flash Player I got an error message complaining that “could not download all repository indexes” probably because repository servers were not available or something. But then I still could continue downloading and installing which caused my screen to freeze. After getting rid of the frozen screen I tried again and could succeed in installing the plugin and youtube started to work.

Trying to play an mp3 file returned the expected error message but the player (Totem) could locate the necessary plugins for playing mp3 files and offered to install it (I do not need to play mp3 files and so skip it).

screenshot.png

It seemed to me that the memory is managed better than in 7.04 (maybe just a feeling) and I had less difficulty running the applications. Login window could be accessed from System>Administration>Login Window where the local administrator (root) login can be activated (not recommended). Installation of Firefox extensions was readily possible through Add/Remove and the references to repository packages seemed to have renewed. Although due to lack of enough resources I missed many graphical features of this Gitsy Gibbon, I still would prefer it to the previous version though I am using it through VirtualBox. This is becasue as I said before, the memory management seems to have improved or it is the effect of bug fixes that make my application flow smoother. Because of those new places (Music, Picture, Video, Documents) look and feel of this new version is even closer to what expected by former Windows users.

I will keep using it in place of my Feisty.

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Top 15 Open Source and/or free apps for scientists and students

1. Type-setting and office

- OpenOffice
Is a complete Office suite package including Writer, Presentation, Spreadsheet, Drawing, and Database applications. It is well suited to academic applications. The features of particular importance are built-in bibliography utility, possibility to export the Text files as LaTeX, BibTeX, MediaWiki, and XHtml, built-in pdf export capability, and good document formatting.
-LaTeX and MikTeX (for Windows)
LaTeX is a powerful mark-up language for writing papers, scientific reports, theses, and so on. It is based on the TeX system originally developed by Donald E. Knuth. LaTeX is super-powerful in writing and managing any sort of academic writing. As a mark-up language, it can be called a programming language for academic writing. Like many programming systems any LaTeX typesetting system should have a compiling component and an editor. Although normal plain text editors can be used for LaTeX typesetting, specialized LaTeX editors are also available. Most Linux distributions come with some sort of TeX system. MikTeX can be used for Windows. There is a huge ecosystem around LaTex and many things related o TeX can be freely downloaded from Comprehensive TeX Archive Network (CTAN).
Kile
Kile is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for development of LaTex documents in Linux. It is based on KDE desktop environment. For screenshots of Kile see here.
-TeXnixCenter
A feature-rich LaTeX editor for Windows freely available under GPL license.

2. Bibliography and reference management

- Bibus
Bibus is a bibliography and citation management software designed to be Open Source, free, and integrative to OpenOffice and MS Word. Bibus is available for Linux and Windows but Mac support is limited at the moment. It can be downloaded from here. Bibus can import and export from EndNote/Reference Manager and also RIS files. For screenshots of Bibus check this link.
Jabref
It has LaTeX bibliography files (BibTeX files) as its native file format and can be used for management, manipulation, and export of BibTex files. Jabref is maintained for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. It can directly search and download from some bibliographic databases. Screenshots can be accessed here.
Zotero
Zotero is a Firefox browser extension which can be used for storing bibliographic data while browsing. It can be used for managing and citing as well and can save a lot of time particularly the time spent for collection of data. It works with many websites. Read this nice article about how to use Zotero to manage OpenOffice bibliographies.
– There are more Open Source bibliographic management softwares than these three. Read this Wikipedia article about comparison of different proprietary and Open Source reference management softwares.

3. PDF and Postscript related apps

- PDFedit
PDFedit is a great free and Open Source pdf editor for Linux. Read my previous post about editing pdf files with Linux to find more about PDFedit.
Ghostscript
Ghostscript is an application written mainly in C for viewing ps and pdf files, converting ps files to pdf, and much more. This is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X.
PDFCreator
It is a free and Open Source pdf creation application based on Ghostscript. This is available only for MS Windows but Vista is not currently well supported. However, the Vista bug is being fixed. PDFCreator was selected by the OpenCD project for creation of pdf files in Windows.
– Wanna more pdf apps (Open Source and proprietary) ? Check this link.

4. Math and computing

- Scilab
Scilab is a free and Open Source technical computing language. It’s syntax and application is very similar to MATLAB and if you already know MATLAB you wouldn’t have much difficulty switching to Scilab. It comes with a number of toolboxes and new applications can be easily added as interfacing with Fortran, Tcl/Tk, C, C++, Java, LabVIEW is possible. Downloadable binaries are available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X.
SciPy
SciPy and NumPy are two scientific computing and numerical analysis packages based on Python. NumPy provides the basic computational capabilities and SciPy is built on top of NumPy to provide a wider range of capabilities. For screenshots of the package see this and this pages.
SAGE
SAGE is an Open Source mathematics application which is based on Python. Since SAGE is based on Python, the mathematical capabilities of SAGE can be combined by other general capabilities of Python to make more useful things. Interfacing with a number of non-free packages (such as Magma, Maple, Mathematica, MATLAB, and MuPAD) as well as free packages (such as Axiom, GAP, GP/PARI, Macaulay2, Maxima, Octave, and Singular) is possible. Here you can try SAGE online. SAGE can be integrated with some web browsers.
Octave
GNU Octave is a high-level computational language which is similar to and mostly compatible with MATLAB. It is licensed under GPL license and is available for different platforms.
– Many other technical and scientific computing languages are also available. For other free and non-free alternatives see here, here and here.

5. Graphics and illustration making

- The GIMP
The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is an application for photo retouching and manipulating which is similar to non-free software Photoshop. It is available for many platforms including Linux and Windows. In Ubuntu Linux, GIMP is installed by default.
Inkscape
Inkscape is a free and Open Source vector image editor. It is similar to non-free software Adobe Illustrator which is being widely used also by scholars to make scientific and educational illustrations. It has many advanced capabilities and is getting even better very rapidly.

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Open Source and Linux events in 2008

This is meant to be a reference post. You can always find this post in the left sidebar under the title “Reference Posts”. I will keep updating this post to cover as many Open Source events as possible. An RSS feed with possibility of importing the events as ICAL and VCAL is available. But, please check the calender as it is still in its alpha state.

January
Open Source Meets Business, January 22-24, Nuremberg, Germany
Australia’s Annual Linux Conference (linux.conf.au), January 28 to February 2, Melbourne, Australia

February
Australia’s Annual Linux Conference (linux.conf.au), January 28 to February 2, Melbourne, Australia
Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE), February 8-10, Los Angeles, California, United States
Florida Linux Show 2008, February 11, Jacksonville, Florida, United States
LinuxDays 2008, February 19-20, Luxembourg
Free and Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting (FOSDEM 08), February 23-24, Brussels, Belgium
The 6th Linux Audio Conference 2008, Feb 28 to March 2, Cologne, Germany

March
The 6th Linux Audio Conference 2008, Feb 28 to March 2, Cologne, Germany
Eclipse Technical and User Conference (EclipseCon), March 17-20, Santa Clara, California
Open Source Business Conference (OSBC)-InfoWorld Events, March 25-26, Palace Hotel, San Francisco, California, United States
The UK’s Unix & Open Systems User Group (UKUUG) Spring Conference, March 31 to April 2, Birmingham, United Kingdom

April
The UK’s Unix & Open Systems User Group (UKUUG) Spring Conference, March 31 to April 2, Birmingham, United Kingdom
ApacheCon Europe 2008
, April 7-11, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
MySQL Conference and Expo 2008, April 15-18, Santa Clara, California, United States

May
The Open Source Strategy Conference, May 20-22, Sydney, Australia
LinuxTag, May 28-31, Berlin, Germany

July
Ubuntu Live, July 20-22, Portland, Oregon, United States
O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON), July 21-25, Portland, Oregon, United States

August
LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, August 4(5)-7, San Francisco, California, United States
DebConf8, August 10-16, Mar del Plata, Argentina

September
The 4th International Conference on Open Source Systems, September 7-10, Milan, Italy
The Linux Plumbers Conference, September 17-19, Portland, Oregon, United States

First Linux infringement lawsuit just filed

An infringement lawsuit was just filed against Red Hat and Novell. As far as I know, this is the first ever infringement lawsuit invloving Linux. This is happening just after Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) blamed FOSS community for violation of IP laws. Read the full story here.

Open Source acounting package: GnuCash

GnuCash is a free and open source package for small business and personal financial accounting. It is developed by a team of developers and is distributed under GNU GPL license. GnuCash is available for several platforms including GNU/Linux, Windows, Solaris, BSD, and Mac OS X.

GnuCash allows tracking the income, expenses, stocks, and bank accounts. Some important features of Gnucash include:
1. Double entry accounting: each transaction should equally debit one account and credit another meaning that the transaction balance is always preserved.
2. Different account types: for example income and expense accounts.
3. Multiple currencies can be used.
4. Stock/Mutual Funds
5. Small business accounting features such as payment, invoice, billing, and tax.
6. QIF and OFX import: GnuCash supports Intuit Quicken QIF files and Open Financial Exchange format.
7. HBCI support: GnuCash also supports German Home Banking Computer Information protocol
8. Reports and Graphs
9. Transaction finder
10. On-line Stock & Mutual Fund Quotes
11. Scheduled Transactions
12. Mortgage & Loan Repayment Druid
13. etc

For screen-shots of the program see here and here. The binary version is available for Windows. The source codes have to be compiled for other platforms.

How to edit “pdf” files with Linux

The portable document format abbreviated as “pdf” is the dominant format being very widely used to digitalize the documents. In Windows, Adobe Acrobat Reader can be used to view the pdf files and in Linux applications like Xpdf and a couple of other applications are available for that purpose. But what about editing the pdf documents. Imagine you have received a pdf form to fill in and send back, a paper to review and comment on, or a contract to review, fill out and sign. How all these editing tasks can be done? Apart from adding text to the files for which appropriate form fields are created, it is not possible to use free Adobe Acrobat Reader to edit the pdf documents and you have to pay and buy non-free Adobe Acrobat product in order to be able to manipulate the pdf files. You can also use Adobe Photoshop for that purpose but it is not convenient to edit pdf files with Photoshop as it is with Adobe Acrobat.

In Linux, there are a couple of other (of course free) ways to edit a pdf file. The first way is to use PDFEdit package which is built specifically for this purpose. You can download the package from here free of charge. Here you can see some screenshots of the program. The editing can be done by using GUI and/or scripts. Many of the properties of most object within the pdf files can be edited by this package. For some purposes, I found PDFEdit even more powerful than Adobe Acrobat.

Another less-powerful package for simple editing of pdf files is pdftk. Simple tasks such as splitting and merging of pdf files (and a couple of other tasks) can be done by using this package.

The other way of editing pdf files is to use graphical softwares such as Xfig and flpsed. These softwares are not primarily designed for editing of pdf files but still can be used for pdf editing. See this article about how to edit pdf files in Linux using these two packages.

There are other approaches to pdf editing in Linux. For example, see this writing about how to edit pdf files in Linux. Other methods are out there as well. Give it a Google try!

Just Released: Mandriva Linux 2008

The latest version of Mandriva linux called Mnadriva Linux 2008 is just released. The new version is available both as combined LiveCD/installation CD and traditional installation DVD. The newest version uses Linux kernel 2.6.22.9. The other important updates are improved hardware detection and integration of new version of default packages. Some of the default packages used in the new release are:
GNOME 2.20 , Mozilla Firefox 2.0, Mozilla Thunderbird 2.0., KDE 3.5.7, OpenOffice.org 2.2.1, Compiz Fusion 0.5.2
For the detailed description of the new features see the release announcement and Release Tour
To download Mandriva Linux 2008 check this link.

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