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Linux Goes to the Head of the Class
March 21, 2014
A new book on open source education teaches school leaders and parents why kids need to see coding as more than cool. Energizing Education through Open Source: Using Open Source Software to Enhance Learning by Christopher Whittum makes a strong case for deploying the Linux OS and its academic software in schools. This book should be required reading for developing computer-driven curricula.
Android-x86 Just Might Make a Good Linux Desktop Alternative
March 20, 2014
Working with the Android OS on a desktop computer environment takes personal computing in a new direction. How many will follow it remains to be seen. The release of Android-x86 version 4.4-RC1 (KitKat-x86) by the Android-x86 Project brings the viability of an Android distro as an alternative desktop several steps closer, but it is still a work in progress.
Zorin OS 8 Makes Learning Linfastic
March 14, 2014
Zorin OS 8.0, released last month, is available in the free core and free education versions, as well as in a paid or ultimate version that provides support and a few other features. Though it is an interim upgrade, Zorin OS 8.0 has several very noteworthy changes and software improvements that make it worth using despite the shorter support period.
Makulu Makeover May Give Your Linux Life a Lift
March 10, 2014
MakuluLinux was already a solidly performing distro, but the latest version, released last month, takes Makulu to the next level of usability and maturity. Earlier versions offered a choice of Xfce, KDE and Enlightenment 17 desktops. So far, only the Xfce version is available in MakuluLinux 5. However, the tweaking Makulu developer Jacque Raymer built into this upgrade makes up for any loss.
Sobell Compiles Top-Notch Practical Linux Guide
March 05, 2014
Not everyone who dabbles in the realm of the Linux OS needs all the enterprise-specific tutelage this guidebook offers. However, it certainly has chapters to enlighten even casual readers interested in learning really useful stuff. Sobell assembles in one spot his accumulated experience as a Linux expert and his keen insights about succeeding with two enterprise workhorse distributions.
All Things Appy: 5 Cool Chrome Desktop Apps
February 28, 2014
Chrome apps are the newest form of extension and helper for the Chrome Desktop environment, and as of late last year, any computer, including Macs, could use them. Here are five recently updated free Chrome apps that are worth a look. All of them can be run offline, outside of the browser, on the desktop. In the top spot, Google's Keep app allows you to take notes in a Post-it note-like UI.
Old-School Event Management Approach Hampers ETM
February 20, 2014
Etm, an acronym for "Event and Task Manager," is a very useful calendar and planning tool. However, it is a bit cumbersome to learn and far less convenient to use than alternatives. It has an intuitive task-entry format, once you learn its plain text shorthand. Etm stores events, tasks and other user-generated notes and data in text files. You can create, modify and view entries using two primary methods.
Distro Astro Is a Stunning Star Voyager
February 13, 2014
The Linux desktop offers distributions for many diverse interests and specialties. Distro Astro is for astronomy enthusiasts. The latest version, Distro Astro 2.0, is dubbed "Pallas." It was released Nov. 20, 2013, at the South East Asian Young Astronomers Collaboration conference in Bandung, Indonesia. It is a major upgrade focusing on refinements for professional astronomers.
Aqua Mail Pro Beats Native Android Email Hands Down
February 07, 2014
If you've been thinking that there must be a better way to handle email than the email client supplied natively in Android, I bring good news: There is, and it's called "Aqua Mail." As things are right now, my on-device solutions are a bit of a mess. I have my Gmail-produced work emails appearing in the Gmail client, while my personal, custom-domain email is housed in the Android-native client.
Lightworks Video Editor Pulls Plenty of Weight
February 06, 2014
Lightworks is a professional-grade nonlinear video editor now available for Linux. It is a cross-platform editor from a well-known player in the media market, so this first-time Linux release could be a big thing. Lightworks version 11.5 for Linux was released late last month, following three years of development. Linux users now can download a free version or pay for a Pro version.
Minuum Keyboard Takes the Tedium Out of Typing
February 05, 2014
The holy grail of Android apps has got to be the one that best compensates for botched typing. The smaller the device I use, the more my typing deteriorates. I'm reasonably quick and accurate on a desktop PC; I slow down on a laptop; I get by on a tablet; and I am virtually incapacitated on most smartphones, though my thick peasant fingers work better on an iPhone than an Android.
LXLE Gives New Zest to Old Machines
January 31, 2014
Just when you think you have found the sweet spot with an ideal Linux desktop distro, along comes yet another version to tug at your computing heart strings. In this case, it is LXLE. Lubuntu eXtra Life Extension, aka LXLE, is based on Lubuntu, a version of Ubuntu running LXDE. If you have yet to experience the LXDE desktop, prepare yourself for a wonderfully smooth computing experience.
Viber's a Worthy Alternative to Outgoing GrooveIP
January 30, 2014
Google has been clamping down on third-party apps that ride piggyback on its Google Voice telephony service. A merger between Google Voice and Hangouts this year will result in the shuttering of an open protocol exploited by apps that used the Google Voice service for free SMS texting and VoIP calling. The days of free Internet-based in-U.S. smartphone calls over Google's network are numbered.
With B1 Archiver, No Need to RTFM
January 28, 2014
B1 Archiver is one of only a few archiver managers for the Linux platform that is reliably simple to use. Simplicity is a key trait that distinguishes the B1 Archiver from other Linux compression tools. In the category of smart-looking and simple archivers, one of my favorites is PeaZip. B1's GUI adds a new dimension that redefines ease of use on the Linux desktop, though.
Be-Bound Offers a Sip of Web in Data-Dry Deserts
January 24, 2014
As someone who regularly explores the back-roads of desert-adorned Southern California, I'm acutely aware of massive, gaping holes in wireless network coverage as soon as you leave blacktop in rural America. You can sometimes off-road all day out west with no mobile data coverage. Moments of connectivity might be the occasional hilltop-occurring set of phone handset signal bars.
Quirky Linux Gets More Pep Out of Puppy
January 23, 2014
Quirky is a very interesting Linux distro that is a developmental sideline of the main Puppy Linux family. I expected some quirks in Quirky's design and performance, despite its mature growth to version 6.1 released on Jan. 1. However, the few quirks I found did not mar its performance. Quirky was easy to set up and fun to run. It is just as reliable and complete as the main Puppy Linux distro.
Outlook for Android Coulda Been a Contender
January 17, 2014
I've been looking forward to trying out Microsoft's official email product for the Android platform. Device OS mismatches have, until now, prevented me from doing so. However, a totaled and smashed tablet and an arbitrarily rebooting smartphone have prompted me to get some new kit. I'm a power desktop Outlook user, and for about 10 years I have relied on the desktop version.
GnuCash Makes Money Management a Snap
January 16, 2014
GnuCash version 2.6, released earlier this month, fixes many of the nagging problems in earlier versions and is more convenient to use. It tracks bank accounts, investments, income and expenses. You can use it just to handle your checking and savings accounts -- but it is capable of much more. GnuCash is based on professional accounting principles to ensure balanced books and accurate reports.
Linux Mint 16: No Surprises, but Plenty of Solid Improvements
January 14, 2014
Linux Mint 16, also known as "Petra," is a very solid release that fixes a lot of annoying traits left behind in previous versions. The OS is based on Ubuntu 13.10, and that solid underpinning is made even better with the upgrade to Cinnamon 2.0 and new functionality in the Nemo file manager. Linux Mint 16 is one of the most well-rounded releases since the distro first adopted Cinnamon.
With Nova Launcher Prime, the Problem Is Too Many Options
January 10, 2014
Here's a simple way to refresh the look and functionality of your newer Android device without going to the trouble of rooting, bootloader-unlocking or installing a customized ROM. It's by using a home screen replacement app called a launcher, which is essentially a super-customizable home screen with themes. The one I'm looking at this week -- Nova Launcher Prime -- is one of the most popular.

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