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Silent Text: Basic Anonymity at a Hefty Price
November 08, 2013
The Tibetan government, law firms in Thailand and human rights groups in Sudan are all using a relatively new encrypted communications tool -- one that fits easily, if not cheaply, onto your smartphone. Silent Circle is an encrypted voice, video, text and file-transfer protocol that's available in app forms for Android devices, among others.
Ubuntu's Saucy Salamander is a Slick but Spiritless Upgrade
November 07, 2013
Ubuntu's latest desktop OS release, Ubuntu 13.10, is more of a plain-Jane release than its "Saucy Salamander" nickname might otherwise suggest. This release comes six months after the Raring Ringtail version, which was also a bit of a yawner in terms of offering any must-have-the-upgrade enthusiasm. Like the last release, Ubuntu 13.10 also does not deliver much "wow."
Yuilop: Free-to-Mobile Calling and SMS - With a Catch
November 01, 2013
I know, from correspondence that I receive, that readers of this column are pretty global, spread all over the world and in some pretty distant places. That's why I was intrigued when I came across VoIP Android app Yuilop. Here's an app that promises to provide the hitherto unknown Holy Grail of international voice and text calling: free calls to overseas cellphones.
Tomahawk Music Player Takes Listening to a New High
October 31, 2013
The trick to designing an all-purpose music player is to make it work the way you want. The Tomahawk Music Player performs that trick very well. It could well be a better listening choice than any other cross-platform music player application. It runs on a variety of Linux distros, Microsoft Windows and the Apple OS platforms. This flexibility is important to me as a user because I work on all three.
Scanner Radio Pro Helps Keep You in the Know
October 25, 2013
Fire season is upon us here in Southern California, and due to the lack of rain earlier in the year, we're seeing critically low live fuel moisture. The amount of residual moisture in grasses and brush is at levels lower than we've seen in years. This means that those inhabiting the wildland-urban interface are on tenterhooks. That unease has many looking for tools to mitigate the danger.
Linux Lite Is Heavy on Features and Usability
October 24, 2013
In a computing world distracted by distro overload, Linux Lite is a lightweight Linux OS that has no trouble handling a heavy workload. Long gone are the days when it took hours to install and set up Linux on a computer, but most Linux distros still need a bit of configuration to adjust the massive desktop options to your liking.
'Makers at Work' Offers Inspiring Journey Through the Creative Process
October 22, 2013
People have always honed their creative skills to make things, and societies have always had visionaries who turned their garage hobbies and kitchen table inventiveness into industrial breakthroughs. Makers at Work offers an insightful look at 21 unheralded makers who helped to change the way we think and interact with the world through the products they created.
Test Your Phone's Mettle With Benchmark & Tuning
October 18, 2013
Here's a novel way to find out if you do indeed need a new phone. It's a benchmarking app that will test components and provide a comparison with crowdsourced benchmarks from other common devices out there. If your 2-year-old, or so, phone or tablet seems a bit sluggish compared with the speed at which your colleagues and friends whizz through their smartphone-related tasks, it probably is.
Xnoise Makes Sweet Music - Once You Get It Installed
October 17, 2013
Xnoise is a new Linux Media Player for GTK+ environments that just keeps getting better. Perhaps the last thing that the Linux world needs is yet another media player, but Xnoise bridges the gap in this overcrowded software category. It has an intuitive user interface, speed and essential features. The latest version, 0.2.19, was released Sept. 17, 2013, and is not yet well-circulated.
Brave Blustery Climes With WeatherPro in Tow
October 11, 2013
I recently took a look at MeteoEarth, a rather spectacular Google Earth-like animated weather app. This visual, 3D globe-spinning weather app for Android provides zoom-in weather visualizations of the kind seen on TV -- and indeed, the publisher is a provider of weather-in-motion graphics to broadcasters. Well, MeteoEarth's visually stimulating show-off app has an all-rounder cousin, WeatherPro.
Chromium OS Vanilla Is a Plain-Jane Browser-Based Distro
October 10, 2013
The Chromium OS Vanilla Build by Hexxeh is a no-frills approach to trying out the concept of a browser-based Linux operating system without buying a branded Google Chromebook. It boots from a USB drive on any compatible computer. Unlike CR OS, Chromium OS boots into the Chrome browser environment. It does not have a full Linux desktop under it to run other Linux applications.
LiveHive Offers Plenty of Pros for Collaborators on the Go
October 04, 2013
If you've ever been involved with any kind of work-related group project, you'll know what a nightmare it is to collaborate via email. The management of file versions alone is enough to introduce ambiguity and quickly hiccup the whole thing. Plus, if you're not careful, it's possible to start an entire email thread questioning what file version you're supposed to be looking at.
Kdenlive Delivers Near-Pro Video Editing - If You Have the Right Stuff
October 03, 2013
Kdenlive is a multitrack, nonlinear video-editing suite packed with some of the most recent video technologies. This application can be a great tool if you have serious video work to do, but you need to fully test it before attempting any mission-critical editing tasks. Kdenlive takes some effort to learn. That's especially the case if you have little experience with other video-editing software.
MeteoEarth: Enjoy the Graphics, If Not the Weather
September 27, 2013
You know those fancy, animated weather visualizations that you get on the local television news broadcasts -- the ones with the 3D drill-down dynamic graphics that make it appear as if the meteorologist is directing the clouds? Well, you can now get something similar on your Android device. MeteoGroup is a European producer of weather-in-motion graphics that it supplies to broadcasters.
ZevenOS' Neptune Distro: Linux the Way You Want It
September 25, 2013
If you are looking for a really decent, snappy and lightweight KDE distro that installs easily onto a flash drive, check out ZevenOS' Neptune. Our Picks and Pans column has been devoting considerable time lately to playing with countless Linux distros. Rarely have I found truly bad distros -- after all, Linux is Linux.
Google Keep: Note-Taking and Checklists, Done Well
September 20, 2013
Some years ago I decided to eschew paper. It was part of an effort, with which I was obsessed at the time, to become more nomadic. I felt then, and still do to a certain extent, that accumulations of paper were restrictive, because they forced you to always return to the place where the paper was in order to refer to things -- and live your life. One reason we have offices.
OpenPGP Studio Keeps Prying Eyes Off Your Personal Data
September 18, 2013
GoAnywhere OpenPGP Studio is an easy-to-use, cross-platform desktop tool by Linoma Software that protects files using the OpenPGP encryption standard. Why opt for this relative newcomer instead of other, more mature open standards-based encryption solutions? If for no other reason, OpenPGP Studio is "pretty good protection," which is the basis of the OpenPGP standard.
PanicGuard: Nice Idea but Not Ready for Prime Time
September 13, 2013
Here's an app that should bring peace of mind to any late-night solo worker, exerciser or neighborhood watch patroller. It's an ingenious combination of personal alarm, tracker and alert creator that uses sensor and other components included in the average smartphone, such as the speaker, to sound an alarm. The GPS and other location services are used for tracking.
Wireless Aside, Cr OS Linux Delivers the Best of Two Worlds
September 11, 2013
The Cr OS Linux distribution is an interesting blend of the Cinnamon desktop with a special edition of the Chromium Web browser. The approach Cr OS Linux takes gives you a taste of Linux Mint with a chaser of a not-quick pure Google Chrome OS. Cr OS is a fully functional Linux distro. It has its own repository and package manager to provide software updates.
Lost Droid Takes Stealth Seriously to Secure Your Phone
September 06, 2013
Having recently had my bicycle stolen -- after having a set of wheels pilfered in a previous year -- I was getting mad and, to quote the 1976 movie Network, I was not going to be taking it anymore. I decided to beef up my security both in general and on the replacement bike in particular. I was going to invest in some security tech.
CherryTree Takes the Pits Out of Pruning Your Notes
September 04, 2013
Keeping track of my bits and pieces of information across several computers running Linux and Microsoft Windows has long been a problem. CherryTree is a sweet solution that keeps my information local and cloud-free. CherryTree is an outliner-style hierarchical note-taking application that features rich text and syntax highlighting. It stores data in a single XML or SQLite file.
Light Flow Lets You Pimp Your Notifications
August 30, 2013
For years, manners have been defined and documented in easy-to-learn rules classed by geography and culture. For example, in some countries it's acceptable to make abundant noises when eating, whereas in others, eating is a matter to be taken with the utmost seriousness and is performed in stony silence. Then along came the jangling cellphone.

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