A Grab Bag of Goodies!

Dennis Faas's picture

The posting today is more of a 'grab bag' than anything else. Mainly because I have had many little things come across my desk that deserve to be passed on but not enough information to make up a full post.

First off, Open Office. There is a new release of the Open Office office suite, Version 2, and it is a corker. If you want or need an office suite for Windows, Linux (any distribution), UNIX (almost any flavor), or the Mac, this is the one to download. There are many goodies in the package and it works like a dream! Database, word processing that also does web pages, spreadsheet, presentation tools, and a lot more.

Open Office 2

I received an eMail from a person that wanted us to look at a program that surprised me. WaxMail is an interesting little add-on for Outlook and Outlook Express that enables you to attach an audio file to an eMail message. Normally that is not so impressive until you hear the rest of the story! WaxMail allows you to record the message in Real-Time, that is, when you write the eMail you are sending you record the audio message. It requires a microphone to be connected to your sound port. All you need to do is install the software and click the big button when you want to record. There are very few controls involved and best of all, the software is free. When the attachment opened, the recording is played. Think of it! Being able to send your friends and family a message in your voice! Now how cool is that, I ask you!

Wax Mail

The last item I want to tell you about is a 'new' Linux distribution called Ubuntu. The package is really quite nice in that, first, it is totally free and secondly, very easy to install. You can down load the single installation CD (around 645 MB) as an ISO image and burn it to CD. There is also a Live CD (about the same size) that will run on your system without installing if you want to see it in action that is also an ISO image.

Installing Ubuntu is so easy you will be able to have a fully functioning system in a matter of minutes with minimal input from the keyboard. Everything is clearly described as far as what is going on and, after telling it where to install and your login identification and password you want to use, all you need to do is sit back and drink your favorite libation. The basic core system installs and then sets up a network connection. When it has the networking setup running, it then downloads and installs a very nice selection of programs to make the system a proper workstation. Takes a bit of time (there is a LOT of software to download and install) but the end result is really quite nice. For those of us in the know, the distro is based on Debian Linux, which is one of several popular versions of Linux.

I not only like Ubuntu from a technical point of view, I also like their philosophy - "Ubuntu Linux is a complete desktop Linux operating system, freely available with both community and professional support. The Ubuntu community is built on the ideas enshrined in the Ubuntu Manifesto: that software should be available free of charge, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities, and that people should have the freedom to customize and alter their software in whatever way they see fit. "Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". The Ubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world."

Their choice of a name says a lot about how these folks think. You can order copies of Ubuntu (one or more for sharing) from them and in 4 to 6 weeks, you will have your set of CD's. I have seen the artwork they impress on the CD's and they look very nice. I will not repeat their verbiage here because I think they do a better job of getting their point across so surf over to their web site and read their descriptions.

For years, Linux has been viewed nervously because of the hoops you have to jump through to get a working system. Ubuntu does away with all of that with their build process. Adding software to the mix is easy and updates are a mouse click away. They say that they do a major release of Ubuntu every 6 months so it will be as current as can be expected. The package also supports a large multitude of languages spanning the world.

One last note on Ubuntu. Ubuntu Linux (or any Linux release) is NOT Windows. You can do most of the things you can do in Windows, but it takes a bit more to use it. Fortunately, there are tons of books and tutorial web sites around to take you by the hand and guide you through the 'maze'. Nevertheless, once you get into it and use it for every day tasks, you will find it just as powerful, if not more powerful than Windows.

Ubuntu Linux

Ok! That is it! During this holiday season, we want to wish all of our readers an joyous and profitable year. I hope we are adding to your enjoyment of your system. We have a great time so you do too.


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