Awesome Platform-Agnostic Apps

Free Software magazine has a list of their picks for some of the best platform-agnostic programs. There’s a lot of ones we use here (OpenOffice, Firefox, Azureas, Audacity), others we’ve messed with and liked (GAIM, GIMPShop, Thunderbird), and others we should probably check out (Blender, Sunbird, Scribus). It’s so amazing that there are so many truly outstanding free, open source, and cross-platform applications. The topic discussion following the article has some good reader-recommendeds too, such as the VLC Media Player and MoneyDance, a checkbook/finance program I just might have to…ah… check out.

BTW: If you’re on OS X and want to run OpenOffice, we recommend NeoOffice instead. It is built on OO but is native to the Mac (does not require an install of the X11 Window System) and has more of a Mac look n’ feel — of course, that sort of blows the whole platform agnostic concept, but if you’re only working on a single platform (Mac), it’s likely your best bet. And it’s been surprisingly stable, even at the Alpha dev stage.

JumpDrive that Points to Home if Lost

Here’s another cool script hack, this one for adding an “I’m Lost” to the AutoPlay window when you insert a USB JumpDrive. So, if somebody finds your drive and inserts it, they get a message asking them to send the drive back, your address, and a message like this (you can obviously write your own):

“You will receive a shiny new USB drive twice as big as this one for your trouble. Thanks for your honesty in advance.”


New Life for a Unloved Keyboard Key

On Jim Biancolo’s blog, he’s posted a little script he made for use with AutoHotKey (the free macro/automation app) that repurposes the Insert key (found on most PC keyboards). Here’s what he says:

Y’know how sometimes you go to hit the Home key and you accidentally catch the Insert key too, but you don’t realize it until you’ve typed over something, because suddenly you are in “overstrike” mode rather than “insert” mode? I wanted to kill the Insert key, and immediately thought of my favorite utility, AutoHotKey (upon which I built that Wikipedia AutoCorrect thing). But instead of just killing the Insert key, I thought perhaps I could make it do something useful. So I took the “append” script from here and just changed it to fire whenever I hit Insert.”

So you end up with an amendable clipboard. Now *that’s* useful.

[Via Lifehacker]


Top Ten Open Source Windows Apps

In this week’s “Geek to Live” on Lifehacker, Gina counts down her favorite open source apps for Windows. Many of them will be familiar and you may already be using them (Firefox, Thunderbird, Open Office), but a few might be new and worth checking out, like the free and open anti-virus app ClamWin, KeePass (password manager), and TrueCrypt (file encryption). And as always, Lh’s readers chime in with their own worthy candidates, such as FileZilla, 7-Zip, and Democracy.

We just finally made the switch to OpenOffice on all the PCs and Macs here at Street Tech Labs and we’re glad we did. Besides running XP, a neccessary evil of working in the tech/tech journalism biz, we have very view pieces of code left with Microsoft’s stink on ’em. And as Martha would say: “It’s a good thing.”


How-To: Score Better Booty at Trade Shows

No, not THAT kind of booty, we’re talking about swag, and not just the T-shirts, mugs, and mousepads, we’re talking Flash drives, power supplies, memory, and other electro goodness. Well, we’re not talking about it, this guy is. He offers his tips on getting the premium goodies and even has pics of his “hauls” from various shows this year. A little trailer trashy, when you get THIS into it, but hey, if you’re there and they’re willing to toss it into your Gimme Bag…


O’Reilly’s Code Search Tool

O’Reilly Labs (the white lab-coated arm of O’Reilly Media) has incubated a nifty little search tool, called Code Search, which allows you to drill through the more than 2.6 million lines of code from some 700 O’Reilly titles. You can search on a particular book title, a category of code (e.g. Perl, Java), a code phrase, a particular author, a date of publication range, and more. The database was built using the Mark Logic XQuery server.

I don’t know how this slipped under our radar before. Here’s Tim O’Reilly first announcing it back in late August, on HIS Radar. And here’s a link to the brief Code Search Page on the O’Reilly Labs wiki.


Coghead: Online Application Builder

Coghead, a much-anticipated tool for creating your own online applications, has finally gone live. TechCrunch explains its import in this growing market of online application-building services:

“What is special about CogHead is that users building applications with the product require less technical skills because the process is all drag-and-drop and visual. CogHead is unique because of just how easy it is to create forms, views and apps – the design view allows users to create fields by dragging and dropping them onto a form. The user can lay the fields out and place them on the page, making the application they build more user friendly and easier on the eyes. Building the logic behind the forms is also a graphical process, the user takes objects and actions and drags them into a flow chart that is similar to a data-flow or logic diagram (see their screenshots). CogHead has a large set of user actions and events available meaning that a very broad range of custom apps can be built. Data can also be processed without a user making a direct action as there are events such as when data is imported etc.”

Read the entire TC piece here, and don’t pass up the Comments, where programmers, Web designers, and others discuss the relative merits of this emerging technology.


Review of Firefox 2 RC2

Ars Technica has a fairly in-depth review of Firefox 2.0 RC2 (as in “Release Candidate 2”). They like it well enough, but see it more as an incremental improvement over 1.5x. That led them to ask:

“Is the 2.0 designation deserved?”

To which they replied:

“I suppose that depends on your perspective. At the risk of veering into a largely irrelevant philosophical rumination on the ontological significance of version numbers, I feel inclined to point out that the implications of version numbers vary greatly between various open source projects. In some cases, there is a well-established nomenclature and version numbers can be used to infer all sorts of useful things about the nature and status of a build. In other cases, it may simply be an arbitrary value selected for the sole purpose of making it possible to distinguish between builds. For Firefox, it doesn’t seem like there is a fully consistent version numbering model yet. Rather than expressing disappointment about the lack of new features in the upcoming 2.0 release, users should remember that Firefox release numbers aren’t always going to be a helpful medium for establishing expectations.”

Read the full review here.

BTW, they also think, after banging on it quite a bit, that RC2 is stable enough for regular use. Release Notes and downloading here.


Cory’s Keynote at ToorCon 8

This video of Street Tech pal Cory Doctorow’s keynote address at Toorcon 8 is definitely worth checking out. Entitled “Owned: Hollywood’s War on Security,” it is a very well delivered talk on the evolution of the user’s relationship with the computer/network, the content on it, and ownership thereof, from the mainframe/special purpose network to the homebrewed & personal computer/general purpose network to the ubiquitous computing, and increasingly over-regulated, user-licensed technologies, of today — the drift back to specialty purpose networks. Here’s a snippet:

“The worst practices of the technology industry are now being exported to other industries. Software is kind of the birthplace of a terrible Frankensteinian monster called the EULA, the End-User Licensing Agreement. It was the first time that anybody thought you could do this terrible violence to the legitimate and noble agreement — that thing that happens when you and I sit down at a table and start with what we want and walk away with what we need — when you can take that and violate it and turn it into something so trivial that you can form an agreement merely by looking at a sticker or having a screen of text flashed in front of you, and that that agreement somehow constitutes something binding, a waiver of the rights that were set out by statute and practice and custom, in the service of enhancing someone else’s business model, at your expense.”

[Via hackAday]


Day Against DRM

Today is the International Day Against DRM. Boing Boing has a post that summarizes some of the various activities going on. Cory’s intro reads:

“Today is October 3, the International Day Against DRM — the first global day where people rise up and say no to anti-copying technology that treats you like a crook. Remember, DRM doesn’t stop “piracy” — the only people who get DRM infections are people who don’t pirate their media. You get DRM by buying your movies, music, games and books through authorized channels — the stuff you download from P2P or buy off of a blanket at a flea-market has already had the DRM cracked off of it. They say that DRM “keeps honest people honest” — but all it does is keep honest people in chains.”

Fight the power, man. Free the pixels! Freedom for our 1s and 0s. We shall overcome (their overreaching rights management technologies), etc., etc.