Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
-Steve Jobs 

A very useful cross-platform calendar application

Moving along to something a-political today; I’ve been using a groovy little calendar application for a couple of months that I thought I’d share with you. It’s cross-platform (works on Linux, Mac and Windows) and I’ve found it to be the perfect calendar/to-do application that sits on my computer desktop. It’s called ‘Rainlendar‘, and I discovered it on one of my Linux forums.

You can drag it around and put it anywhere on your desktop, and keep abreast of appointments and such at a glance. Rainlendar has many features and is highly configurable to show monthly, weekly or daily activities. It’s very intuitive and easy to use. But check out the website, where you’ll find everything you need to know.

There is a completely free version to download, or a more advanced paid version for a minimal price. I, of course, am using the free version of Rainlendar and it does everything I need at the moment. I’ve quickly become quite fond of this app. I hope you’ll find it useful as well.

That’s all for now.

Categories: Computers Tags:

WebMail Notifier fix for Firefox 6.02

September 9, 2011 1 comment

Just a quick note for all Firefox users.

I use the ‘WebMail Notifier’ extension in Firefox to automatically inform me of new emails in my Gmail and Yahoo mail accounts when I open the Firefox browser.  Yesterday, I noticed the Gmail notification stopped working, and it was driving me nuts! I checked in Firefox’s Tools>Add-Ons>Extensions from the menu bar and went to the WebMail Notifier website, where I found lots of other people were having the same problem since Firefox upgraded to the 6.02 release. HERE is a quick way to fix the problem, by installing an update to WebMail Notifier from the website.

Now everything works again when auto-checking Gmail accounts. Yay!

Another Linux distro that I love: Zorin OS 5

Here I am back to talk about Linux again. I admit it; I’m addicted to Linux. I just can’t help myself!

But all you Windows users reading this; please continue reading!

Lately I’ve been talking to a friend of mine about trying out some Linux Live CDs on his new computer, trying to figure out what would be the best distro for someone completely unfamiliar with the world of Linux, or any alternative to Microsoft Windows for that matter; and I stumbled upon Zorin OS. I’d heard of Zorin a while back at version 3; and while it seemed like another nice alternative Ubuntu-based distro, I didn’t recall anything that made it stand out to me. But just recently I’ve started hearing more about Zorin OS on Linux blogs and articles. Zorin OS 5 came out on DistroWatch last week, and then I saw some youtube video reviews about it which peaked my interest (see links below).

So I downloaded an ISO from their newly-remodeled website and tried out the Live CD (DVD, actually; it’s 1.1 Gb.) of Zorin OS 5 Core. There are several different versions geared toward different users, but this is the basic, generic version. I was immediately quite impressed! Even running from the DVD, Zorin OS was fast and responsive, almost as if it was installed on my hard drive. Compiz effects were enabled out of the box and looked beautiful on my 5-year-old HP Compaq Pentium 4 computer. Everything about this operating system feels very polished and professional. And even the core edition comes with a comprehensive array of software pre-installed. Most of the applications are ones I normally use, with the exception of the Google Chrome web browser, which I replaced with Firefox 5. Other software includes Brasero Disk Burner, Libre Office, Banshee Music Player, GIMP, Shotwell Photo Editor, Evince for Email and it also has WINE and Play-On-Linux software so you can run Windows programs and games in Zorin OS. All the multimedia codecs also come pre-installed. The Zorin developers have done a great job making this OS a very simple way for Windows users to get acquainted with Linux. Even the Start Menu is set up similar to Windows 7 (though since I’ve rarely used Windows myself, it reminded me of the KDE Start Menu). System sound effects are also enabled by default, which gave a slightly KDE feel to the OS. But all based on good ‘ole highly configurable Gnome 2.32.

There are so many groovy little details that differentiate Zorin OS from Ubuntu here I can’t go over every one.  But for instance, when you minimize a running application to the panel, it gives a lovely thumbnail preview of the app on mouse-over. And the default Start Menu (upper left corner in my screenshot below) is also highly configurable. I think there are about ten different menu styles you can use besides the Windows-like default. (Again, see screenshot below). I totally love the Linux Mint Menu, but after getting used to the different variations in Zorin OS I’ve come to like theirs almost as much. There are many similarities between Zorin OS and Linux Mint; the attention to detail and ease of use make either of them excellent choices for Windows or Mac users to cross over to the Linux side!

My Zorin OS desktop after a little tweaking with my own desktop picture, moving the panel/taskbar to the top and using the Ubuntu Dust theme.

One of many possible Start Menu themes.

So, needless to say, after playing with Zorin OS for an hour or more I decided to install it alongside my Bodhi Linux installation that was already on this computer. And the installation went beautifully so I can now choose to dual-boot Bodhi or Zorin OS on start-up. This should work just as well with dual-booting on a machine running Windows, too. Of course Zorin OS comes with the Ubuntu Software Center and Synaptic Package Manager to easily install or remove whatever software you desire. I think the only thing I don’t love about Zorin OS (I’m sorry, developers) is the Zorin logo. It just doesn’t convey the sophistication and polish of the rest of the OS, in my opinion. But the distro itself is a thing of beauty to use. A light, fast and powerfully good alternative to Ubuntu or Windows.

I just worry a little about what the future will bring with Gnome 2.32 falling to the wayside to be replaced by Gnome 3. If the Zorin developers can continue with Gnome 3 without Gnome Shell, that may be great. Or I’m hoping Gnome Shell will eventually evolve all the features and configurability of Gnome 2.32 for future versions of Zorin OS. Whatever happens, I think Zorin OS has a bright future ahead of it!

Following is the video that got me intrigued with Zorin OS 5: Windows vs. Linux: the Desktop Comparison

And a couple more reviews:

Zorin 5 Ultimate Review – Ultimately The Best

Zorin OS 5 Core – Windows Styled Linux Distro Review

And to finish; something completely unrelated to Linux. This is such an insightful and humorous movie review that I must share it immediately:

Transformers 3 is a movie about how wrong you were to hate Transformers 2


Update March 17, 2012: I’ve decided to create a new blog here on WordPress strictly dealing with Linux and Open Source Software for the average desktop computer user. Please check it out at: TheFearlessPenguin. Thanks!

Categories: Computers, Linux Tags:

Backing up your data in Debian/Ubuntu derived distros

Today I want to discuss backing up your computer in case of major problems or when your hard drive conks out. Because ALL hard drives will eventually fail, often without much warning. Backing up your computer data (photos, music files, documents), system settings and software preferences is something we should all do on a regular basis so your information and precious memories aren’t lost. And if you like to install different operating systems from time to time like I do, or just to do a clean install of a newer version of your operating system, having a recent back-up is indispensable.

When I started using Linux-based operating systems a few years ago (Ubuntu and Linux Mint) I looked around for easy to use back-up software with a graphical user interface (GUI). I’d had a Mac up until that time and was using a great application called Super Duper for OS 10.4. Silly name, but it worked beautifully! It Had a very easy to use GUI and explained everything that would happen depending on the options selected. With Super Duper I could clone my entire operating system to an external hard drive, including all my personal files. Then I could set it to do automatic incremental back-ups (only copying files to the back-up that had changed since the last back-up) at a certain time and day each week. It was really simple! And when my hard drive began making scarey noises after about seven years, I bought and installed a new hard drive and in less than an hour I had my entire system copied over to the shiny new HD and running like nothing had happened.

So I searched around for back-up software for Linux, and as usual I found many different options for saving my data. Too many, in fact. Because in the world of open source software there are a tremendous variety of methods for doing most anything, including back-ups! Some were a bit confusing; some were very geeky and involved lots of command line configuration. But there were also (and more so today) several point-and-click user-friendlier applications for running back-ups. So here’s a run-down of a few of the many options available for Ubuntu and it’s derivative distros, plus a couple for Windows and the Mac:

For doing a complete clone of your system there’s the ever-popular Clonezilla, a Live CD you can run to make a bootable copy of your OS. There’s also Remastersys, a command line utility that also has a GUI version for backing up your entire system, or even to create a bootable Live CD from your own system that allows you to save all your system settings and installed software to share with others (without your /home user data). The link is for a tutorial on using the GUI for Remastersys that includes another link for installing it. Last week I used the latter ‘Dist’ option in Remastersys to copy all the software I’d installed and tweaks I’d made to Bodhi Linux on a desktop computer. I then installed it onto my old laptop from the CD I made. It worked beautifully, saving a lot of time not having to reinstall all the packages from my original Bodhi installation. Many people use it to create their own Linux remix distros to share, or just to have a portable, bootable copy of your OS.

Another free and open source backup utility that works with Ubuntu and Windows is RedoBackup. I have not used this, but it looks really good. And I think I need to add something FREE that works for you Windows users, too. If there are any Windows users reading this, that is! Another popular option is Back in Time, a Linux snapshot tool that is similar to Apple’s Time Machine backup software.

But when it comes to the tried and true backup and data syncing utility for GNU/Linux, Mac OS and Windows, and one that comes with all Linux distros, it is Rsync. It seems from my readings that rsync is probably the most popular and longest used utility for this purpose, whether it’s for synchronizing files on multiple computers or creating a full backup. Originally I used rsync for backing up Ubuntu, after much research on the internet and in user forums. But now I use the much easier (’cause that’s what I’m about) Graphical User Interface for rsync called Grsync.

The interface is pretty simple to use. Here’s a sample of mine:

It works quite well, only copies what has changed (after the initial backup) and deletes files on the destination that have been deleted on the source. Plus you can create a document telling it what folders or directories to exclude from the backup, like my giant music folder that I already sync to another external partition. It also backs up to an external on-line source (gotta love ‘the cloud’) or using SSH shares, though I’ve never used that option. I just copy files to an external USB hard drive. So when I install a new OS, or newer version of my preferred distro, getting up and running again is very quick and easy.

So that’s my spiel (shpeel?) on what I’ve learned about back-ups with Linux. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s available. Just do it often! You never know what disasters might befall your computer. I guess that’s why backing up on-line or to removable media that’s kept off-site is the best insurance against losing your valuable digital stuff!

Here’s a few more useful links:

10 outstanding Linux backup utilities

It’s World Backup Day: Here’s How to Avoid Inevitable Disasters



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