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No distractions: the best writing apps for Mac, Windows and Android

I spend a lot of time writing. My 9 to 5 job is for Mobile Fun, but I’m also writing mobile phone news and tutorials for giffgaff, StarCraft II / eSports news for Team Acer, PC hardware reviews for XSReviews and various bits and bobs for dozens of other tech-focused blogs.

All of this requires that I be fairly well organised, but more interestingly it also means that when I get down to actually writing I need to be very very efficient. A lot of that comes down to my writing environment, which in computer terms means the app that I’m using to write.

As I work on (and about) loads of different platforms, I’ve spent a lot of time searching for the perfect writing app on each one – I’ll find a new app on Mac, for instance, and try in vain to find alternatives on Windows and Android. Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it all figured out – and before that transient feeling vanishes, I thought I’d sit down and write about these apps. So here we go.Continue reading

Linux Distro Madness: Arch

I’m a computer science student, so it goes without saying that I know a lot of geeks. All are passionate about their geekery of choice, and none so than the Linux (ahem, GNU/Linux) geeks. Every one I’ve met has had a different favourite distribution they want me to try, but I never really had the setup to make it work. Enter VirtualBox, a nice virtualisation suite I first picked up working as an open source ambassador for Sun. With it installed and ready to go, there’s really no excuse not to have a go at some interesting Linux distros. So follow me as I enter the mad world of Linux Distributions. Each week, I’ll install a new one and use it as much as possible. Each week, I’ll report back on my experiences.

The first one I decided to try was Arch Linux. My housemate Josh, a hardcore Linux geek and fellow computer scientist, claimed it was the best Linux distribution available. It had a brilliant package manager (and a brilliant wrapper in yaourt), it was lightweight, it was cutting edge, and it would make me a man. I shouldn’t be calling myself a serious computer scientist and be using Ubuntu, oh no!

These seemed compelling reasons, so I embarked on my voyage beneath the marble reaches of Arch Linux.Continue reading

SaaS Threatens Open Source

[The following is the first draft of an essay assignment for my Law & IT class on the threat of SaaS (Software as a Service) and cloud computing to open source licensing models like the GPL. The given title was “The only major threat to open source software license models like the GPL is the spread of ‘cloud computing’ and Software as a Service (SaaS) business models.” Please criticise, and please let me know if I’ve missed a relevant example. You can also download the report as a PDF.]

Introduction

Cloud computing, the latest computing paradigm, is a topic of particular importance for advocates of open source software license models such as the Free Software Foundation’s GNU General Public License. As cloud computing continues to grow in popularity, the open source community must determine what risk, if any, the paradigm poses and how the movement should respond. As cloud computing may endanger the open source movement through a loophole found in almost all open source licenses, it is critical to estimate the possible damage this may cause and how best to close the loophole. If cloud computing truly encapsulates one of the largest changes to the computing industry for some time, then it will be critical for open source organisations to react accordingly.

In this paper, I will introduce both cloud computing and open source software, including the relevant caselaw, describe the proposed and actualised reactions of the open source community, namely the FSF’s Affero GPL license, and discuss what the continued uptake of cloud computing is likely to mean for the future of open source.Continue reading

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Cathode, a Vintage Terminal

Cathode is a vintage terminal emulator for Mac OS X. Sporting an extremely authentic retro look, the app echoes the old CRT terminals of the 70s and 80s whilst providing much of the same functionality as the terminal built into OS X. Cathode contains a wide range of classic themes in various shapes and colors, as well as a bevy of customization options. You can change the size, font and colors as you’d expect, but there are also unique options like changing the screen’s refresh rate (with options for both baud and kbs!), curvature, flicker and glass effects. Cathode is one of the most unique and well designed apps I’ve seen and is sure to turn heads when you boot it up with it full-screened in your local computer lab or coffee joint.

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How to update Firefox 4

If you’ve heard about the cool new features Firefox 4 Beta 9’s recent release, you might want to get that new update! Unfortunately, the update process isn’t as easy as you might think. I wanted to update Firefox 4 on my Mac today, and there didn’t seem to be any handy “update Firefox” menu item, and I didn’t want to download all of Firefox again to do it. Googling was no use, but I soon figured it out…

Firefox 4’s update command is hiding in the About Firefox menu! For Windows users, that’s under Help on the new Firefox menu, and for Mac OS X users it’s under Firefox on the menubar. Once you’ve got the About Firefox window open (as shown above), Firefox will automatically check for and download an update. Once it’s downloaded, a button will appear to let you restart Firefox and apply the update.

I hope this helps someone – it certainly confused me for a minute or two!

Fedora 14 Review

Fedora is a general purpose distribution on the leading edge of Linux development, second only to Ubuntu in popularity. The distribution is known for its dedication to using free and open source software and being a strong platform for developers. The latest release, version 14, is codenamed “Laughlin” and provides a bevy of changes for desktop users, developers and system administrators alike.

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Tiling Windows – Get a Windows 7 Snap on Windows XP and Vista, OS X, and Linux

Tiling windows can be really useful, allowing you to quickly and easily move and resize windows on your desktop into useful combinations. For example, if you wanted to read a webpage while typing in a document, you could resize the web browser to the left half of the screen and the document to the right. This way, you can just look from one to another instead of switching back and forth. This is particularly useful on widescreen monitors, where there’s a lot of screen space going to waste. Yet on many operating systems, like Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X this behavior isn’t available out of the box.  On Kubuntu Linux there is a tiling window mode but it tends to be overly complicated, and there are no useful shortcuts set up as on Windows 7. Let’s learn how to make things better.Continue reading

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Bean: Open Source Writing App for OS X

Bean is a utilitarian and elegant writing application for Mac OS X. It’s pretty cool, as it lets you write in a very clear and stable environment, unladen with many menus, ribbons, and other accoutrements sported by competing software packages like the more cumbersome Microsoft Word and OpenOffice. Bean is open source and a small download, clocking in at only 5MB, so try it out!Continue reading

TeamSpeak 3

TeamSpeak developers are close to releasing TeamSpeak 3, the latest version of the popular voice communication tool. While the two versions will be incompatible, due to a complete re-write of the software, version 3 brings a bevy of new features and improvements.Continue reading