I’m Back with Kubuntu Linux (and Happy as Ever)

It was an uneasy breakup.  Kubuntu and I had parted about two months ago rather abruptly after I had installed 9.02.   After a nearly four year love affair between us, I felt that I had been jaded.  The new KDE 4.1 Plasma desktop was awkward and things just didn’t seem right.

Numerous crashes.  Not knowing where things went.  Applications acting strange.  It was as though I had returned from a vacation to my home and all the rooms had been redecorated.  After much soul-searching and investigation, I decided not to leave the Ubuntu “family” just yet, but to forsake KDE (as I felt they had forsaken me with Plasma) and to move to Gnome with Ubuntu.

From the get-go, Ubuntu seemed familiar and easy to use.  All the elements were in the right place.   It was as though the stars had aligned.  I was happy again as a Linux user.  I was sold on Ubuntu.  I wrote off KDE and Kubuntu.  Sure, there were plenty of pleasant KDE implementations, many better than Kubuntu, like Mandriva and SUSE.  Even Mepis 8.0, with it’s KDE 3.5 was appealing.  But, I had decided to stay with Ubuntu.  It was inertia, and it felt fine.

After about a month of using Ubuntu on Gnome, the cracks in the foundation started appearing.  Where was Klipper!  Amarok didn’t work well.  The Gnome tools felt different than KDE.  The Alsa sound drivers were having problems all the time.  Come to think of it, I missed KDE…

So, after two months, I’m back with Kubuntu.  This time, I’ve installed KDE 4.2.  Many of the kinks of the original Plasma version have been worked out.  I’ve been reunited with all my favorite KDE apps in their native desktop environment.  Even the sound card is working again.  I’m happy to be back.  The only real holdover from my Gnome days is Evolution.  I’ve left Kmail, and for now have taken a real liking to Evolution as the best email app for my needs.

KDE is working on releasing v.4.3.  They are up to RC2, and there are details on the Kubuntu website on how to upgrade your existing KDE desktop within Kubuntu.   If you are still struggling with KDE 4.1, I strongly encourage you to check out at least v.4.2, and/or leapfrog to 4.3.

My next hill to conquer is whether to leap with KDE to another distro such as Mandriva or Open Suse.  There are so many choices out there for Linux users.  But the old adage still rings true – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Let us know about your KDE vs. Gnome vs. Xfce experiences.

Sabayon 4.2 Gnome Linux – Review and Screenshots

Sabayon 4.2 Gnome Linux is the newest release (June 30) from the popular Gentoo-based Linux distro.

Sabayon aims to be a beginner-friendly distribution.   Their motto -“as easy as an abacus, as fast as a segway” offers a lot of promise.    Sabayon is also available in a KDE 4.1 version.

The 1.8 GB file can be downloaded from their website or from approved mirrors, and a fast torrent.  I chose the 64 bit torrent and had completed the download in just over 1 hour.

What’s with the Rock Concert?

We booted the Live DVD and had Sabayon up and running in a couple minutes (the DVD drive did spin endlessly for another few minutes).  The desktop launched, and a rock song started playing.  I can assume the name was “Hall of Fame”, since that refrain was repeated over and over again.  I don’t mind rock music, in fact, I’m a big fan, but I don’t understand why a OS should start with a full song?  I’m assuming this is only for the Live DVD – maybe regular users can comment here with specifics.

The desktop is beautiful.  They employ user-friendly Entropy graphical interface.  You almost forget that you are in Gnome.  Put differently, this is not the Gnome that your father used to drive.

Desktop
Desktop

Sabayon is one of the most popular Linux distros, in 9th place at  http://distrowatch.com. Their 117,000 Alexa rating shows that they have decent traffic to their website.  You can see why when  you pop open the hood.  The website is gorgeous.

World of Goo Fiasco

I tried to run the Goo demo and evidently my graphics card didn’t support it.  After a minute of wobbly screens, I managed to ctrl-alt-bksp  and get to a prompt to return to the X desktop.   Of course, I had to do some sleuth work to figure out the the username was sabayonuser and the password is the same (small letters).    Meanwhile, the music of the Goo demo, reminiscent of the Spiderman movies, was still playing in the background.  I pulled up a status monitor and saw that the Goo demo was still taking over 50% cpu.  After killing that item, everything went back to normal.

Fabulous XBMC Media Center

The Sabayon folks really hit it on the nail with this one.  The media center, which figures prominently on your desktop, is simply wonderful.  XBMC Media Center gets a full thumbs up and reminds me a bit of the new Windows 7 Media Player.  Essentially, it puts all your media needs in one place.  It organizes and plays videos, music, pictures, and also displays weather for your location, and more.

XBMC Media Center Screen
XBMC Media Center Screen

Package Selection

The installed pacakges are more or less what you’d expect.  Open office, graphics, email, Firefox, etc…  They’ve included Bluefish in the programming section, and I think that’s a great selection.

Desktop Features

I clicked on the lock user button on the bottom toolbar and after a few tries, figured out that the password is the same as the user  (sabayonuser).

Lock Screen
Lock Screen

Gnome Do – this nifty tool helps you to select and open your installed apps very quickly.  I’ve noticed that most of the newer distros are including this app.  Strange that Ubuntu omitted it from 9.x.

Mounting a drive was never easier with the helpful drive mount buttons on the bottom of the screen.

Mount Drive
Mount Drive

Sabayon Shines on Graphics and Themes

One of the nice diffrentiating factors that Sabayon has Compix Fusion Icon integrated nicely to the desktop, which offers a whole boatload of screen and theme effects.

Compiz Fusion Icon
Compiz Fusion Icon

Screenshot Gallery

Continue reading “Sabayon 4.2 Gnome Linux – Review and Screenshots”

Ultimate Edition Linux 2.2 vs. Ubuntu – Quick Review and Screenshots

Ultimate Edition 2.2 was released on June 17. It’s the latest salvo from TheeMahn, creator of this popular distro of Linux. Ultimate Edition was originally released in late 2007 to be Ubuntu with a “better user experience and with improved usability.” In the releases since, they have broken from Ubuntu and actually have created their own repository .

Like Ubuntu, Ultimate Edition is Gnome based. TheeMahn also built Ubuntu Gamers Edition, and it shows in Ultimate Edition (UE). Ultimate Edition has software pre-installed and ready for use on a live DVD environment.

Slow to load, Gamer appearance
We reviewed the live DVD x64 version. The file was 1.1 GB and downloaded  quickly from one of their mirror sites.  They do recommend you seed this file as a torrent afterwards to help distribution and to enable UE to continue to be offered  for free.

The DVD loaded to the desltop environment after a couple minutes of considerable churning.
Here’s the default desktop

Ultimate Edition 2.2 Desktop
Ultimate Edition 2.2 Desktop

First impressions are that it’s a gamers distro.  I can’t imagine business users embracing a mouse cursor of a rotating fighter jet (at least that’s what I think it was).

Here’s a gallery of screenshots for all the menus and installed software

There is a healthy helping of installed programs.  There aren’t 2,500 programs as we saw in the “uber” linux version of ArtistX, but there is definitely a good mix, with emphasis on sound and video, and graphics.  UE also comes packaged with some non-licensed video tools,  such as Handbrake.  Although Ubuntu doesn’t offer some of these tools out of the box, and sometimes not in their official repositories, there is such a large Ubuntu user-community, that often you’re only a few clicks away from adding anything that you can’t find at first try.

UE comes with a large assortment of backgrounds and Gnome themes.  That may account for the bloat in the size of the file download, as the installed base of programs is not too different that what is available out of the box for Ubuntu.

UE backgrounds ultimate edition linux

Conclusion

Ultimate Edition has done a good job with deskop design, and offers a great number of themes and background to further tailor to your individual needs.  The initial default setup looks childish and is geared more towards a young adult gamer group.  The product set of installed programs was very good, but we didn’t see an amazing jump over what’s available out of the box from its mentor, Ubuntu.   The usability was good, but not a great diffrentiator to give up the comfort of the solid Ubuntu distro with the large installed user base.

For users looking for a “different distro”  than Ubuntu/Kubuntu, we recommend trying out Mandriva Dream Linux, ArtistX, and MintLinux (click for reviews).

5 Reasons Why the World Still Uses Windows – Can Linux Ever Catch Up?

The world still uses Windows.  Where did Linux go wrong?  Can it be corrected?

Let’s throw out the Linux evangelical hat for the moment.  The fact is, despite the growth in installed Linux OS on servers and some low end desktops,  most of the world still is still using Windows.  Where has the Linux failed so far?  If the Linux argument is so strong then why has the majority of the world stayed with Microsoft Windows?

Reasons why Windows still wins

1. Pain vs. Simplicity. The perceived value of Linux as a general desktop solution isn’t there yet.  The average computer user is still very non-computer literate.  They want to go with what they know.  A computer for most users is a means to an end.  A place to check email, browse the web, maybe work on some spreadsheets, and use whatever software their work installed and trained them to use.  Linux is perceived still as the painful solution.  The OS that requires guys with pocket protectors to stand next to you while you install and make sure everything turns out ok.

2. Linux has too many flavors, too many options. For most desktop users, there’s one Windows choice.  XP begat Vista, which will beget Windows 7.  That’s it.  Meanwhile, there are many dozens of Linux distro choices each with several desktop environment options, and a seemingly never-ending list of possible apps to install.  True, Ubuntu and Suse have done alot to dispel the Linux is a geek’s game only notion.  Top-shelf open source products like Open Office, Firefox, Gimp, and Thunderbird, to name a few, have made open source mainstream.  Still, there’s a lot of work to be done in bringing all the myriad of options to a more standardized package to select.

3. There’s no CTO of Linux. Linux has many chiefs, but no executive chiefs.  There’s no single person, or even body, that’s taking the responsiblity of charting the strategic course of Linux as an OS.  Yes, there are major organizations like KDE that do have standards, and of course many will argue that’s the whole point of Linux, no corporate body to man-handle the direction.  But maybe that’s what Linux needs.  We are all off in so many neat directions, but there’s not a cohesive mainstream.  Even within Ubuntu, the challenger for ‘head distro’, there is Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu, etc…  Each of these sub-distros act like separate bodies.  They even have their own websites.

4. Quality vetting of programs on Windows vs. Linux  – I’m not kidding.  Yes, Microsoft is the major abuser of releasing beta code as a finished product.  But so does the Linux crowd.  Let’s face it, there are many programs in Linux that simply don’t work with all the appliances or hardware that you have installed.  Windows, with it’s closed-source  SDK gives developers one framework with which to develop on.  The level of quality from one app on a distro to another can vary greatly.  Whereas on Windows, they all more or less are at the same level of quality.

5. OEM Software – Why does the iPhone kick every other smartphone on the market?  Because they have 50,000 (and counting) software apps developed to work on it.   When you buy a scanner, camera, printer, or any other peripheral, what are the chances that included with the device will be a Linux version of their proprietary software?  When a consumer buys a Nikon Camera, or a Canon Scanner, they want to use Nikon’s or Canon’s software that came with the box.  It’s part of the cognitive dissonance of afirming that the right product was purchased.  You and I know that Linux can most-likely handle everything that these OEM apps do, and sometimes better (Kooka rocks),  still 90% of the computer users out there don’t want to hassle.

What can be done?  In my next instalment, I’ll offer some suggestions.  Please share your thoughts and comments as well.

24 Linux Graphics Tools – Review & Screenshots

Linux Graphics Tools

One of the great features of Linux, (truth be told there are too many to mention),  is the vast wealth of graphics programs available, all of course free and open source.  It’s nearly impossible to say that something can’t be done in Linux.   Here, we present some of the more popular graphics programs that are included with many distros.  Any app that you see here and wish to add, simply go to your package manager and search for the name of the program and request for it to be installed.

If you are a graphics professional, or looking to create a media work environment, then you may wish to have a look at the ArtistX Distro (see our review), which includes over 2,500 media applications (that’s two thousand five hundred!).

Review & Screenshots of popular graphics tools

Most of the apps here are managed in the KDE repository, however many of them work in Gnome and other desktop environments, or there is a Gnome equivalent.

Xsane – Scanning  http://www.sane-project.org/

xsane

xsane (Scanner Access Now Easy) is a flatbed scanner application.  You can preview and save individual scans as images as a standalone command line program, or combined with GIMP, the popular image program (reviewed below).   We recommend using Xsane with Gimp.  You invoke the scanner from Gimp and manage the entire scanning process and export through Gimp.   There’s a list of scanners supported on the Sane website.  Many (most) of the big names are there.    Here’s one more reason to toss Windows and the clunky proprietary software that came with your scanner.

XDVI – KDVI – GDVI   DVI Viewers

kdvi

KDVI is the KDE version of  a DVI preview tool. This program displays DVI files which are produced by the TeX typesetting system.   If you have no idea what the TeX typesetting system is (this author didn’t…), then go to the homepage of the TeX users group for a nice introduction.

KFaxView  (using kviewshell)

kfaxview

View your saved faxes here.

kfax

kfax

or here…

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)  http://www.gimp.org

gimp1

Not enough can be written on the greatness of GIMP.   Here’s one of the great Open Source programs of all time.  Gimp is everything a graphics editing tool should be.  It rivals Adobe’s Photoshop in many regards, and surpasses it in speed and ease of use in others.  (By the way, there is a Windows version of Gimp as well – if you are still on Windows, give it a try).

There is a large number of plugins and tools that work well with Gimp and add to its feature set.  There is also a seemlingly unending number of effects that can be applied to your image.   One element that may take time for you to get used to is the way the program opens and how it is managed on your desktop.  The side panels, toolbars, and the image(s) itself each open in independent windows that float on your desktop.  That is a departure from what you’re probably used to from Photoshop and other Windows stanards.   Once you’ve gotten used to this interface, you may find it even better!  (Quick tip – With the image displaying on your desktop, hit the tab bar to make the other floating elements visible).

Kuickshow

kquickshow

Quick access to your images.  Nothing fancy here.

Kpdf

kpdf

View your PDF files here.

xpdf

xpdf

or here…

Kghostview

kghostview

This tool lets you view PDF and  Postscript files

Kolourpaint – Paint Program

kolourpaint

A Nice KDE paint program.  The screenshot shows that it’s simple by useful for those quick paint jobs.

Krita – paint and image editing

krita

Krita is similar to GIMP, but not as popular.  I enjoyed using this tool as well, and the interface is quite simple and intuitive.  I like that the panels and image are bound together, like in Photoshop, and unlike GIMP where each element is floating freely on the desktop.  If you are looking for a simple and powerful graphics and image editing tool, Krita is a great choice.

KPovmodeler – Povray modeler
kpovemodeler

Don’t ask me what this does, I have no idea!

Kooka – scan and OCR http://kooka.kde.org/

kooka

Kooka is the nickname for our daughter, and it’s also an easy to use  and very powerful OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and Scanning program.  This standalone tool will enable you to scan an image and convert it to a text file.  I like the interface to this app.

Knapshot

ksnapshot

The venerable KDE version of snapshot.  This is a very useful tool, especially to blog writers (hey, that’s me) who like to take snapshots of their desktop all day.   The KDE version is great.  It also remains active even after the snapshot has been saved – the Gnome version annoyingly closes after each use.

KColorchooser

kcolorchooser

Sure, you can choose colors in Gimp, but why have a big bulky program open if you all you need to find a color?  This tool is a great go-tool utility to have available in your arsenal of desktop goodies.

Kcoloredit

kcoloredit

Kcoloredit is a KDE Color Palette Editor. It can be used for editing color palettes (which can also be used in GIMP) and for color choosing – similar to KColorChooser above.

kiconedit

kiconedit

Here’s a nice icon editing tool.  As seen in the screenshot, you can work pixel by pixel on creating and editing program icons.

kruler – screen ruler

kruler

Simple and handy ruler tool for measuring pixels on your screen.  This is a nice “pocket app” to have at your disposal.

Ksvg

KSVG screenshot

Ksvg is a KDE plugin to enable viewing SVG (Scalable vector graphics) files on your computer.  In the example above, you can see an SVG file opened in Konquerer.

Kview

kview

Here’s KDE’s simple file viewer.  It should be preinstalled on your Linux distro.

Cheese (as in “smile”, not the curding of milk)

cheese screenshot

Take photos using your webcam.  I had this guy snapping dozens of photos of the kids with my HP Laptop.  It’s a lot of fun.  You get to see yourself in the preview window before hitting the – Take a photo – button.

Gwenview http://gwenview.sourceforge.net/

gwenview1

Gwenview is a sleeper. This is a great KDE image viewing tool that everyone loves, but noone talks about.  The preview screen is great.

Inkscape http://www.inkscape.org/

Inkscape

Inkscape is a great SVG compliant vector graphics drawing tool.   It’s light and works well.  It seems to have just the right amount of tools to allow you to do your work freely.  Yet, it’s not weighted down with add-ons and bulky plugins.  Who needs Adobe Illustrator?  Here’s another amazing open source tool.  Viva la difference!


20 Linux Games Cards, Strategy & Toys – Review Screenshots

Linux Free Games Quick Review – Card Games, Strategy & Tactics, and Toys
Here’s another instalment in our  huge list of great free games broken out by category that you can install and enjoy on your Linux desktop.  We tested these on Slackware on a KDE desktop, but they should work on Gnome and other distros as well.  To install them, simply go to your package manager and add any or all of them to your desktop.

Card Games

Lskat – Lieutenant Skat

lskat screenshot

Lieutenant Skat is a two player card game (real opponent or vs. computer) which follows the rules for the German game Offiziers Skat.  I have no idea how to play it, but if you like card games and have the time, it has many options, and card decks to choose from.  You can practice on this live demo.

Kpat (Kpatience)

linux-game-patience screenshot

KPatience is a collection of many popular card games. Klondike, Freecell, Yukon,  Canfield, and many others.  There are language packs, and card options to keep you busy for a while.  This is perfect play-on-your-laptop-game while waiting for a flight.

Kpoker

kpoker screenshot

Here’s KDE’s version of Poker.  There’s many game variations, such as 5 card draw, 7 card stud, etc… You can bet on your hand, and watch your earnings grow – go bankrupt.  The game has many other features.  How about getting yourself ready for Vegas?  Here’s your free tool to help you prepare…

Kiriki
kiriki screenshot
This game is not about cards, it’s about dice.  From one to six players collect points by rolling five dice for up to three times per single turn.  Kiriki reminds me of something I’ve played before, but I can’t put my finger on it…

Tactics & Strategy

knetwalk

knetwalk

This is where things start to get tough!   Knetwalk is a single player strategy game where you get to construct the network, and try to connect all the terminals to the server in the fewest turns possible.For those of us who do this for a living, this is plain cruelty to make a game out of it :).  Seriously though, this a good game to give to your high-school aged children who are considering a career in systems.

kbattleship

kde4 kbattleship screenshot

You sunk my battleship!  Certainly one of the more memorable commercials of the 80s.  If you missed it then, you can play it now, for free on Linux.  This Battleship, like the original, lets two players try to locate and sink their opponent’s ships.  You can play against the computer as well – but how do you know he isn’t peeking?

klickety
linux-game-klickety

Klickety is like Tetris, but you also have to match colors and click on them.

Konquest

konquest screenshot

This KDE version is based on the original Gnome version by the same name.  The object of the game is to  conquer other planets by sending ships to them. As you progress, you try to build an interstellar empire and ultimately conquer all other player’s planets.  Sounds a bit like life…

Ksquares

ksquares screenshot

Who needs a piece of paper and a pen?  When I was a kid and was bored, all I needed was to jot down some dots and start connecting.  KSquares is the KDE version of that great kids game.

Kmines

KMines_2.1.10

Unless you have been on Mars for the past twenty years, you should be familiar with Mine Sweeper. Here’s the KDE Linux version.

KSudoku

ksudoku screenshot

KDE version of the the classic and popular puzzle / number game sudoku.

Ksokoban

ksokoban

In this KDE version of the Japanese classic game Sokoban, you are a warehouse keeper trying to push crates to their proper locations in a warehouse while being stopped by obstacles and met with prizes.

Katomic

KAtomicScreenShot

Katomic is both fun and educational. If I told you that the topic of the game is molecular geometry, would you keep reading? You get to look at 2D chemical elements and mix them up, or something like that. I was having fun just looking at all the graphics. Try out the online demo version of this game.

kjumpingcube
kjumpingcube

This game is sure to keep you busy for hours. The squares on the board contain points. Players move by clicking on either a vacant square, or on their own square. Try to conquer all the squares on the board.  Simple to play, but deep in tactics and strategy.

klines (kolor lines)

klines screenshot
KLines is one of those games that you can’t put down.  It’s a one player game where you move the colored balls around the game board, gathering them into the lines of the same color by five.  Sounds easy enough?  Give it a try, you’ll be addicted!

Toys

kodo

kodo

Ever wonder how far your mouse travels each day?  Are you paying your mouse (or hand) per meter travelled?  This nifty mouse odometer may just be what you are looking for.  (Kodo means drum in Japanese.  What that has to do with kodo, I’m not sure? )  I had to download this from the Debian packages  http://packages.ubuntu.com/dapper/kodo

Amor  (Amusing Misuse of Resources)

amor screenshot

Amor is not so much a game, but a cultural phenomenon.  Enjoy…

kteatime

kteatime-events

This isn’t really a game, but it’s a novelty and a heck of a lot fun.  Ever wished you could be prompted when your tea was fully steeped?  Did you know how long Earl Gray should steep vs. English Breakfast?  Well finally the KDE world has come up with the answer in KteaTime.  I’m sure this will be a big hit in the United Kingdom.  Don’t forget the milk!

kworldclock

kworldclock

This very pleasing graphical app is KDE’s world clock.  You can see what parts of the world are currently in daylight, and have all kinds of fun with setting up your favorite timezones to track.

Potato Guy  (Politically correct version – we used to call him Mr. Potato Head)

kpotato screenshot

Not so much a toy as a kids game, but I still have fun with this guy, and I have fun watching my kids play with it too.  Potato Guy is loads of fun for the younger ones.  The screenshot says it all.

20 Free KDE Linux Arcade & Board Games Reviews

Linux Games Quick Reviews

Here’s another instalment in our huge list of great free games broken out by category that you can install and enjoy on your Linux desktop.  We tested these on Slackware on a KDE desktop, but they should work on Gnome and other distros as well.  To install them, simply go to your package manager and add any or all of them to your desktop.  There’s so much free stuff out there for us to enjoy!  No bloodshed or violence here…

Arcade Games

KGoldrunner
kgoldrunner screenshot

KGoldrunner is a great maze game. It has hundreds of levels where pieces of gold must be collected, with enemies in hot pursuit.   This is the type of game we used to plunk a hunk of quarters next to the coin slot and play all day.

Kbounce
kbounce02

KBounce is a single player arcade game. It reminds me of Breakout, in a more intelligent form.  The field is surrounded by a wall, with balls that move about in the field bouncing off of the walls. The player can build new walls, etc…  I was a bit frustrated while playing, that’s probably a good thing.

Kfouleggs
kfouleggs screenshot

Kfouleggs is a Tetris type adaptation of the Japanese game Puyo-Puyo.  It includes multi-player action too.  Simple and fun.

Kolf
kolf screenshot
Kolf is a miniature golf game with top down view with a large number of golf courses.

ksnakerace | ksnake
Snakerace screenshot

Your snake eats apples and tries to avoid the obstacles.  Comes with 25 levels.

kspaceduel

kspaceduel screenshot

kspaceduel is one of those ‘shoot em up in outer space’ type of games.  Simple but effective.

kasteroids

KAsteroids_2.3

The name says it all.  How much money did you spend as a kid playing asteroids at the arcade?  This is fun and nostalgic too.

ksirtet

ksirtet
How do you avoid copyright issues when you want to make a game like Tetris? You spell Tetris backwards.  Seriously though, ksirtet is a great implementation of Tetris with multiple players, world-wide scores, etc…

ksmiletris

ksmiletris

Another adaptation of Tetris.  It works on Debian/Slackware with KDE3. We haven’t tested this on KDE4.

ktron

ktron

Remember when Tron was sci-fi?  We used to wonder what the future would be like and Tron was our vision?  The 1980s movie helped hype the game, or was it the other way around?  Either way, it’s nostalgic.

Board Games

These board games are all great uses of ‘unused’ time.  If you are at the airport waiting for your next flight, sink into these guys and the time will fly by.

kenolaba

kenolaba

This game requires two players.  This is the Linux version of Abalone.   The object is to push 6 of your opposing player’s marbles off the board.  Abalone was voted the most popular board game in Europe.   Get yuor neighbor on a long haul flight to be your opponent, and before you know it you’ll be landing in London…

kbackgammon

kbackgammon

Backgammon on Linux.  Forever fun.

kblackbox

kblackbox

This is a hide and seek shoot em up game.  Kind of mixes up the metaphors, looks like strategy but with an arcade element.

xboard

xboard

Chess anyone?  This version comes with a timer, so you can pretend you are on a park bench in some inner city playing against your opponent for money and hitting the time box each time you move.  Play against a human or the computer.

eboard

eboard

Chess with an extensible board and designer kit.  Very pretty too.

kmahjongg

KMahjongg

Mahjongg is one of those games that once you get started you can’t stop.  I go through phases where it’s the only game i’ll play for a few weeks.  This is a nice version with all the extras you’d expect to pay for, only on Linux it’s free 🙂

Atlantik

Atlantik
Monopoly anyone? This game comes with a separate designer pack in case you fancy making your own version.  I am simply amazed at how great Linux is and the developing community that produces wonderful fun and entertainment.  Atlantik is a great game to show your kids and get them interested in the ‘programming’ process of creating their Monopoly environment, or just to play with the preset board.

shisen-sho

shisensho
You think it’s going to be another mahjongg game, bit it isn’t. Hey, when non-English speakers look at Western board games, they must think Risk and Stratego are the same thing too?  I really don’t get this game, but I’m sure that Linux users in the East are having lots of fun with it.

KFourInLine

kfourinline screenshot

Here’s the kids favorite Connect 4.  Actually this version is simply gorgeous.  It has the eye-candy and it’s a great game too.

Kreversi

kreversi-kde3

Othello for the rest of us.  Here’s another great game to play when you have time on your hands. Why fuss with setting up the pieces when you can play on the computer and restart just like that?

These games are all a lot of fun and sure to keep you and your kids busy, but wait, there’s more…

Next instalment of game reviews –  Card Games, Tactics, and strategy.


18 KDE Edutainment Programs – Great free Linux kids Tutors & learning tools

Free Babysitter and Tutor rolled up into one

Linux is just one of the great things that everyone should know about.  If you ever experienced one of your kids saying “Daddy, what should I do next, I’m bored”, then you’ll appreciate the great number of free and wonderful educational programs available on Linux.  The apps shown here are KDE based but should work in most if not all Linux distros and desktop environments.  My recommendation – You can install Edubuntu and get many of these apps, or if you’re just looking to add a kids ‘section’ install Kubuntu or your favorite KDE desktop (Debian, Mandriva are excellent choices, see our reviews in the Linux tools section).  Then jump over to your package manager and select these games to install.

KDE Edutainment Tools

Khangman

khangman-screenshot

Simple to use hangman program for kids.  Comes with a hint prompt to make it easier for the youngsters to get the correct answer.

KLatin

klatin screenshot

Klatin has three parts – vocabulary, grammar and verb testing sections.   The purpose is to revise latin through translation and grammar checking.  Development has been stopped as of KDE 3.5, however we tested it to work on Gnome as well.

Klettres

klettres alphabet learning snapshot

This nifty learning tool teaches you alphabet and phrases in English and these other languages as well – Czech, Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Kannada, Hindi Romanized, Low Saxon, Luganda, Spanish, Slovak and Telugu.

kanagram

kanagram screenshot

This tool mixes up the letters of a word (creating an anagram), and you have to solve what was the word.  It’s a lot of fun.

kverbos

kverbos screenshot

Learn Spanish and have fun at the same time.  This tool has several different options, and with over 9,000 verbs in the language database, your kids will surely be kept busy.

Kvoctrain (KDE 3.5)  KWordQuiz  (KDE 4)

kwordquiz screenshot

These tools are pretty straightforward flash card games that teach your kids spelling, verb conjugation, and vocabulary in English, French, or German. This game is also a great learning tool for businessmen and travellers who need to brush up on popular phrases before and during a vacation/business trip.

kbruch

kbruch screenshot

Practice your math!  Practice calculations, fractions, algebraic formulas, conversion, and more.  This little program kept my 8th grader busy for hours.

kpercentage

kpercentage screenshot

Kpercentage is a nice simple tool for kids to practice their skills in calculating percentages.

kig

kig snapshot

This program is for more advanced math students, high school (even college!) and for math teachers.  You can practice geometry, sine curves, and other things that we’ve all forgotten after passing the last test for that subject.

kmplot

kmplot screenshot

For the advanced students, this math plotter has a built-in parser too with a function library too!   Plots can be printed in scale with a great degree of precision.  There are some very smart people out there…

kgeography

kgeography_screenshot

This new geography learning tool is a great way to brush up on country capitals, political borders, flags, etc…

kturtle

kturtle screenshot kturtle 2 screenshot

Kturtle is a teaching & learning environment with several modules.  Your older kids can learn how to program, math, language skills, and more, all in a fun educational interface.  The programming language skills are a great way to start your kids off on a career of programming.  The application was ported to KDE4, but some have commented that it works better in KDE 3.5.    We had no problem running it in Ubuntu/Gnome.

blinken

blinken screenshot

Let’s have some real fun!  Simon-Says…  This memory learning tool is great for the younger and older kids.

keduca

keduca screenshot

This educational tool enables teachers and parents to create tests and questionnaires with a whole assortment of helper modules.   This project was abandoned when KDE moved to 4.x, but it still works on my KDE 3.5 and on Gnome.  Get it while it’s hot.  Hey, maybe you want to continue development for this tool?

ktouch

kktouch screenshot

Learn touch typing the fun way.  I wish we had (free) programs like this when I was learning how to type.  By the way, I hit 70 words on my practice test.  I think programmers generally type faster.   Well anyways, this program will help you get ahead.

kstars

kstars screenshot

Kstars is easily my favorite application from those listed on this page.  Explore the universe.  This app is best viewed in a dark room with the lights out, and a Pink Floyd tune (preferably Shine on you crazy diamond) playing in the background.  This app is billed as a KDE planeterium, and it certainly lives up to its calling.   If you look closely, you can see up 100’s of millions of stars, planets, asteroids, etc…  There are also tools for amateur astronomers such as a sky calendar, observation plans, etc…  Not to be missed!

kalzium

kalzium_screenshot

Periodic table of elements, right on your desktop.  Very cool as a learning tool and as a reference.  How many times a day do you need to know the mass of barium and just get to the numbers fast enough!?  I also wish I had this tool while studying science in high school.

More in depth notes, screenshots, and reviews for all of these tools can be found at http://edu.kde.org


Next – we’ll review about 35 free arcade, card, and board games for your KDE desktop.

Linux KDE Web Development Tools – Reviews and Screenshots

All apps listed here, unless otherwise noted, refer to the KDE Specifc version, but have been tested in Gnome as well.

KImage Map Editor

Screenshot-KImageMapEditor

Here’s a simple to use and very useful image map editor.  Drop an image or existing HTML file into the app window and draw the part of the image you want to map.  You can even define map parts of the image using a polygonal area tool.

Even more impressive is that you can define all the javascript functions that should occur when the selected part of the image is effected.  Onclick, OnMouseOver, etc… Tested and works well in KDE and Gnome.

How to Install

From a terminal window type   sudo apt-get install kimagemapeditor

Klinkstatus

Screenshot-KLinkStatus

URL checker.  Straightforward utility.  Enter a URL and this tool will recursively check all links on that page, and optionally check parent folders as well.   You can then sort the results by good and bad links, etc…  Tested in KDE and Gnome.

How to Install

From a terminal window type   sudo apt-get install klinkstatus

Kdevelop

http://www.kdevelop.org/

kdeveloper screenshot

Provides an easy to use Integrated Development Environment for Linux with support for KDE related development.  The KDevelop-Project was founded in 1998 to build up an easy to use IDE for KDE.  This is the tool to use to create more great KDE apps.

How to Install

From a terminal window type   sudo apt-get install kdevelop

Quanta+ 3.5

http://quanta.kdewebdev.org/

Screenshot-Quanta

Quanta Plus is a highly stable and feature rich web development environment. This app was built for the KDE Desktop.

How to Install

From a terminal window type sudo apt-get install quanta

Kxsldbg

http://docs.kde.org/kde3/en/kdewebdev/kxsldbg/index.html

kxsldbg

KXSLDbg is a debugger for XSLT scripts written for the KDE environment, and works in Gnome too. It includes a graphical user interface as well as a text-based debugger.

How to Install

From a terminal window type sudo apt-get install kxsldbg

Kompare

screenshot - Kompare

Kompare is a great tool to use for comparing files.  This is especially useful in development when comparing two versions of a file or application set.

How to Install

From a terminal window type sudo apt-get install Kompare

Kommander

http://kommander.kdewebdev.org/

Kommander snapshot

Kommander 1.3 includes an editor where you visually build dialogs and applications and edit the scripted elements. It also has an executor which processes the generated XML file.

How to Install

From a terminal window type sudo apt-get install Kommander

Kjscmd

kjscmd is a tool for launching KJSEmbed scripts from the command line.  kjscmd is a script interpreter that uses the KDE JavaScript library and runs on the command line only.  It can be run without KDE support as well.

KbugBuster

KBugBuster is a GUI front end for the KDE bug tracking system that includes many reports and user options.

KCacheGrind

http://kcachegrind.sourceforge.net/

CallGrind KcacheGrind screenshot

Open Source Profiling and visualization tool that includes CallGrind.

KUIViewer

KUIViewer is a utility to display and check user interface (.ui) files created in Qt Designer.

Umbrello

http://uml.sourceforge.net/

umbrello-elcuco1

An UML modeling tool for the KDE environment.  It supports Java, C++, reverse engineering, and more.  I am always amazed at the wealth of tools available in open source, and this tool is such a rich example. It’s availabe in many languages and works on a bunch of platforms, including Windows.

Windows 7 Ultimate Screenshots Review – A lot like Linux

Is it Windows or Linux?

Let’s take a look at the latest Windows 7 Ultimate RC.  After spending some time with it, the bells started ringing.  It became quite evident that they were recreating the best elements of Linux while reversing some of the confusion created in Vista.  As a matter of fact, the widgets look like direct copies of KDE 4.x plasma desktop.

What’s new in Windows 7

Windows 7 does a much better job of presenting video and images than any previous version of Windows, and it’s centrally designed and fully upgraded Windows Media Player organizes all your various media into one location.  The aggregation of media is surely Windows 7’s finest feature and is far superior to any competing product in that space.

The installation was painless, so let’s get right to the desktop and sees what’s cooking…

Nice clean desktop with many options

There is a large assortment of desktop images and eye-popping screen saver themes to choose from.  You do not have to download ‘extras’ as in the past.  You simply go to the desktop configuration applet (similar to Gnome or KDE on Linux) and choose the elements of the theme that you want to replace.

Windows 7 Desktop
Windows 7 Desktop

I downloaded and installed Irfan, the great freeware graphics program.  Windows 7 popped up with a warning notification that this application I was about to install wanted to modify registry information.  The rest of the screen went dark to draw attention to this Yes/No decision of going forward or not.  That’s a good security feature.

Windows 7 Security in action
Windows 7 Security in action

Sticky Notes – borrowed from Linux

Usually I’ll get a phone call and will need to jot something down. I’m always looking for a pen on my real desktop.  Now, with sticky notes you’ll never have to jostle again.  Thanks to Sticky Notes, you just type something on to your Windows Desktop, and there it will stay until you make it go away.  This is a great feature for Windows enthusiasts.  Linux users will be less impressed since we’ve had Tomboy Notes and the like for many years.

Sticky Notes (A nice Linux feature import)
Sticky Notes (A nice Linux feature import)

Calculator, Screen Capture

windows7-4

The calculator got a bit of a face lift.  Notice that scientific looking Zero…  Then of course Windows 7 adds the extremely useful (and baked into Linux for many generations) Screen Capture utility.  It works well, and I am glad they finally added it into the basic toolset.

Windows 7 ships (so far) with IE8.  Since you are already probably using IE8, there’s not much new to report there.  IE8 does give a good preview of the design and centralization of Windows 7.

The Newly Revamped Windows Media Player

It’s gorgeous eye candy, and it’s functional too.  This is the crown in the jewels of the new Windows OS.  Microsoft has captured all the media related elements of the OS into a cohesive entertainment center that is both aesthetically pleasing and useful too.  The thumbnails barely do justice to the beauty and ease with which you glide from TV to Videos to images to music to live entertainment guides and more.

windows7-5 windows7-6 windows7-7

windows7-8 windows7-9 windows7-11

Mirosoft Widgets Look like KDE 4.2 Plasma

Microsoft lets you widgetize your desktop and pull elements from the Media Player on to a separate and smaller widget.  Look at the TV listings widget below.  Does this not cry KDE 4.2 Plasma?  I wonder who dreamed up the plasma look first?  The folks at KDE or Microsoft.  I also wonder if there isn’t a patent infringement somewhere in the offing?

windows7-10

Windows Libraries (aka Explorer)

Nicely organized, slightly updated look, still Vista-looking, and essentially the same functionality as from XP.

windows7-12

KDE or Windows?

Is it just me, or does this new tab menu interface borrow a lot from Linux KDE?

windows7-13

windows7-15

Windows Power Shell

Finally we have something to sink our programming teeth into.  The power shell combines many of the best shell and terminal commands from Linux into the Windows command line utility.  Notice the ls and dir work here.

windows7-14

Conclusion

This is still an early review and Microsoft is still tweaking elements before the actual release of Windows 7 scheduled for next year.  Clearly they are on the right track.  By combining many of the best of Linux, side-stepping the potholes of Vista, and fusing the Media Player as a central ‘meeting spot’ on the desktop, Microsoft will reclaim its glory with Windows 7.

Note – we have mostly focused on the visual and functional elements for this review.  There are many enhanced security features, that we have not reviewed, which Microsoft touts as a major reason to move to the new OS.