The idea that Linux is to be an alternative to Windows for the desktop is mentioned every so often. It is said that an average user can cut ties with Microsoft for good and plunge into the world of Linux at home. This has been the subject of 1000s of articles and tutorials. Times have changed and it is of course much easier to get (download) Linux iso files, burn them to a CD and try or install one of many Linux distributions. The old geeky days of command line installs and indecipherable screens are mostly behind us. Once installed there are also many good software that are very good alternatives to Windows equivalents, the exception being Microsoft Office alternatives that are often headaches in the opinion of yours truly. The biggest or most important reasons the title of this article has “Not” and “Never” in it is that there are two important failures when it comes to daily Linux use. These two deeply effect a so called newbie and even an above average user.
The first is wireless internet performance. This post is not delving into that issue – hint: maybe your laptop happens to have a ‘good’ chipset, may be not – and it is suffice to say that Google queries like “linux wireless not working” return millions of results.
The second is the issue of updates. In this case for Linux Mint or Ubuntu. It is important to note that the latter is often cited as the most user friendly of Linux distributions. To get software and other applicable updates the Update Manager monitors the computer and presents a list of available updates. The user sees notifications and can proceed anytime, when the Update Manger is opened a list is either fetched or just there. Let’s say users are updating Mint 13 LTS and decide to refresh the list in the Update Manager, they notice that the list is taking a long time to load. After they do load they are accompanied by a number of errors similar to:
‘Failed to fetch http://packages.medibuntu.org/dists/precise/Release.gpg Something wicked happened resolving ‘packages.medibuntu.org:http’ (-5 – No address associated with hostname)
After searching, try it it is not very easy to find the explanation, one arrives at posts like http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=2469 that announce that the update repository (packages.medibuntu.org in this case) is no longer maintained and show how to avoid the errors in the future. The announcement doesn’t even offer a clear alternative so users are entitled to wonder if they can get the updates previously offered via medibuntu without further action after removing it from the software sources list. Other user to user support forums answer with lines like:
What this means? That you should remove the repositories from your sources.list to prevent errors and look for the packages you needed somewhere else or stick with the old ones that you have installed.
Of course this is just a single user replying to a question but to be in this state long after Windows 8 and years and more than a decade after fiascos like Windows Vista and ME is a failure in providing an alternative. Linux is a good thing, a very good thing, but it is not ready for mass home adaption and if it isn’t now it is perhaps never going to be.
Marble is an atlas and virtual globe desktop program. It provides views of Earth – and a few other planets – with a lot of useful information.
Use the left hand side sliding menu to zoom and pan and navigate to locations by searching for them. Have a look at the Legend to see how the maps present their information. Population density, capitals, terrains, places of interest, boundaries, water bodies, elevation and others are indicated. Different Map Views are available and are not restricted to Earth – Moon, Mercury and Venus are some of other available – and others can be downloaded as well. Other maps views include the flat and Mercator views and others like Earth at night and average temperature and precipitation for July and December.
When a location is found it can be assigned to home and a placemark placed on it. The Current Location menu has options to save, track and zoom on home or current locations. The Routing menu will attempt to give directions to navigate between two locations and draw the path on the map too.
Use the File menu to create an image of a map or export the visible globe or map to an image file. Edit menu has two options to copy an image of a map – to paste elsewhere – and to copy the coordinates of a location to the clipboard.
The View menu adds additional layers of info over a map. Enable any of photos, weather or earthquake modes to see more info on any location. Bookmark a home location or any other via the Bookmarks menu. Right click on a location to see its Wikipedia entry using Marble’s internal browser.
The program’s Settings has configuration options for distance unit, map quality, navigation type, proxy and cache settings for connections Marble requires to the internet and routing methods. The latter attempts to draw directions between two locations with car, bicycle or pedestrian routes. Other routing methods can be added.
Marble is an educational tool that is also fun to use and discover. It is available for multiple platforms.
nomacs image lounge (all lowercase? ) (Version: 0.3.2.5828 beta tested) is an open source image viewer for Windows, Linux, and Mac machines. It supports the most common image formats from jpg to gif (no animations however) and xmp to pgm and others including the raw format. It is capable of reading and displaying exif metadata. It offers faster than most thumbnail view of images in a folder and a player to view a folder ala a slideshow.
The program can also be viewed in full screen or various levels of transparency and in frameless mode where the image only is shown, floating over the background. The toggle between frameless and normal view is not exactly obvious but a quick search revealed it to be F10.
On the image editing side there is crop, resize and a ‘pseudo color function’ where one can play with hue, saturation and RGB color values using a slider.
nomacs also features a synchronization feature that will work on computers on the same network or LAN.
nomacs does indeed seem faster than most. It can be found in various Linux repositories and there is a Mac port as well. Its Windows version runs on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7 and is available in both portable and installer versions.
Métamorphose (Version: 2 (0.8.2 beta) as of this post. That is a beta of version 2) is a powerful, some may say somewhat complicated, renamer program. It works well whether working with few or thousands of files.
The first step is to pick the files and/or folders to be renamed using the Picker tab. Here filters on file types (dropdown immediately below the browse dropdown), case sensitivity and unicode file names (right of the aforementioned file type drowdown) can be picked. Also the recursive option checked to work on subfolders to any number of depths.
The Renamer tab can support any number of operations. Available renaming operations include putting the directory path into the file name, inserting text in any position in the files, replacing text, swapping text, modifying text (to upper case, removing certain characters, etc.) and more. Each time the operation can occur based on regular expressions, for example if a file name includes upper case it can be ignored.
All operations can be sorted to occur in different sequences and also ‘destroyed’ to be deleted. There are options for incremental numbering and date based renaming as well (see image below). A preview is immediately shown when at least one operation is chosen.
The Sorting panel or tab lets files be sorted manually or automatically, this basically lets the user choose to do the renaming operations in different order, for example in descending or ascending file name.
The Help menu has examples, a help file and a page on regular expressions that may be used with the program. Métamorphose is cross platform, works on Windows 2000 and newer and is available via Ubuntu’s Update Manager among other places.
Keepboard (Version: 2.1 as of this post) is a simple, light weight clipboard manager. It supports both text and images. Unzip the 1.5MB download and double click on the Start.vbs file to run the program.
Using the default Ctrl + C keys Keepboard collects items and keeps them in Clipboard History, clicking on an item presents a preview which is most useful in the case of image items. To further ease of use Keepboard can save items to groups and keep up to 2000 items in each group. Right click on any item to send it to a group, existing or create a new group on the fly, then using the Saved Items tab view those permanently organized. Within the saved items each item can be named as well. Right click, choose Open selected item, type a name and click OK. Later you can narrow down or filter all saved items by choosing a group and typing in the Name field to find items as you type (see images).
Keepboard can be paused to not collect any clipboard content via its Clipboard menu. It is cross platform (runs on Linux and Windows machines) and requires Java.