Sunday, August 5, 2007

Other Ubuntu Applications

I’ve spent the last week or so learning some other features of my new Ubuntu set-up. Here’s some of the highlights (full post is LONG):

: Ubuntu’s scanner application is incredibly easy to use. It found my 3-in-1 scanner/copier/printer with no difficulty. It previewed and scanned my test picture with only some resizing on my part. The x-sane program even allows for some editing immediately (without going to a photo editor program) to clean up scanned photos.

Password Manager
: As the name implies, this is a standard-installed application for managing your passwords. I’ve never actually used one of these before so I have nothing to compare it to. You have to create a master pswrd and then you get to add your passwords (& what they are for) to a list. Useful and easy.

Screensavers : This works in a very similar to Windows except you access the menu through System --> Preferences --> Screensaver. However, the out-of-the-box selection is much, much better. They have some absolutely gorgeous screensavers! My favorites are Lattice, Gleidescope, Sierpinski3D, LavaLite and SpirographX.

Continued after cut (Firewalls, Dictionaries, OpenOffice Drawing, Screenshots, Straw feed aggregator and More Games)

: A firewall program for Ubuntu. According to the book I bought, firewalls are pretty much the only must-have security feature for Ubuntu besides keeping up with your updates. It’s accessible through Synaptic (If you search “firestarter”, it’s the only result as of 08-03-2007). This application was very easy to set-up and I have yet to have it interfere with my desired on-line actions. I also liked how it logs unsolicited attempts to communicate with your computer. I used the McAfee Firewall program in Windows and it was annoying (McAfee in general is a deeply annoying program). This is much better and functional without being fussy.

Dictionary : Standard install dictionary with Internet look-up feature. Nice little program. Works with no problems as far as I can tell. I tested it using some old SAT-prep handouts. Not a feature I would have gotten on my own but nice to have.

OpenOffice Drawing
: Cool idea. Imagine the "Drawing" toolbar from MSOffice on major steroids and as a separate application. I made several diagrams and flowcharts with no more instruction than the help file.

Screenshot : Does what Alt+PrintScreen does for Windows but with some features. You can set the time delay, choose full screen or current window. The results are easy to manipulate in “gThumb Viewer”. Handy little application.

The following applications are things I added after installation. They are all available through the Applications --> Add/Remove... Menu. And there's tons more available there that I haven't had a chance to try yet.

: Really Cool! This application lets you roam about the Solar System or even local stars. Everything's to scale and the planets are mapped with best know images. I can definitely see myself spending hours just wandering around in here.

: This program provides updates to all your webfeeds in one easy to read location. Automatically provides subscription to several Ubuntu-linux feeds, some of which I will keep. Nice and a cinch to use.

More Games
: I got several more besides the standard install bunch. My favorite add-ons (and ones I'm keeping) are Anagramarama, Atomix, Chromium, Gweled, and Kasteroids.

Remove Orphaned Packages
: With all the adding & removing of applications, you sometimes have dependent files that are “Orphaned” (where used by programs since deleted). This is application hunts them down to help clean up your files. A good idea well executed.

In conclusion, I would like to say I LOVE the “Add/Remove…” and Synaptic applications. That almost everything available is free, I find very liberating. Since the cost of install in terms of time, money and frustration is so low, it is incredibly easy to compare different applications for the same task and decide on the exact program you like. This means that the final collection of applications is exactly what you want.

Now, Windows does allow you to modify menus, install programs, etc. However, it’s just not as stream-lined as Ubuntu. Also, you don’t have to deal with a TON of manufacturer installed software that you don’t like and that’s a major hassle to delete (Dell Jukebox I’m talking about YOU!).

So far, I incredibly pleased with Ubuntu and its applications. The only major hassle has been that I can’t play wma music files but that is neither Ubuntu’s fault nor is it insurmountable. I do also have a list of minor bugs but none of them impact my day-to-day use. They are likely a side effect of the temporary install I'm using.

As of now, I plan to switch from Wubi to a permanent install. Before that I must to:
-Clean up Windows file system some more and defragment hard drive
-Expand size of Ubuntu partition (need to find out if I should do before or after permanent install)
-Buy external hard drive & configure to back up my data and as practice for main hard drive partitioning

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