Microsoft Office: Can’t live with it, can’t live with… ok, so that’s not entirely true. A number of you likely live without the Microsoft Office suite and, for that, I commend you. That’s not because there’s anything wrong with Office per se; it’s a pricing thing. I don’t always have the money to fork out for a new Office license for whatever systems I acquire, especially when compelling freeware alternatives present themselves in an easy-to-use (and easy-to-download) kind of fashion. Same goes for you.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But Dave,” you ask, “why not just install OpenOffice.org and be done with it?” That is certainly a solution for your Office woes. However, that doesn’t mean that the OpenOffice.org suite is the end-all be-all alternative to Microsoft Office Insert-Year-Here. From Web apps to downloadable programs, it’s entirely possible to recreate some of the best parts of this paid-for hunk of apps without resorting to the tried-and-true OpenOffice.org open-source bundle.
And guess what? By going the piecemeal route, you’ll be able to find some new features that simply don’t exist in either aforementioned bundle! So, that said, click the jump to check out some of the best freeware and open-source Microsoft Office replacement apps for your system!
Put away the pitchforks, penguin fans, we're not hating on Linux or dropping a deuce on open-source software in general (you're welcome for the visual). What we're referring to is an actual distro called "Damn Vulnerable Linux," which is not like any other Linux distro you've seen before.
"Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) is everything a good Linux distribution isn't," the DVL website explains. "Its developers have spent hours stuffing it with broken, ill-configured, outdated, and exploitable software that makes it vulnerable to attacks. DVL isn't built to run on your desktop -- it's a learning tool for security students."
Like many Linux distros, DVL can be used as a Live CD or installed on your system, preferably a virtual machine. According to DVL's website, the distro contains "older, easily breakable versions of Apache, MySQL, PHP, and FTP and SSH daemons," as well as an assortment of tools to help you break apps running on these services.
"The main idea behind DVL was to build up a training system that I could use for my university lectures," explains Dr. Thorsten Schneider, who conceived the project. "My goal was to design a Linux system that was as vulnerable as possible, to teach topics such as reverse code engineering, bug overflows, shellcode development, Web exploitation, and SQL injection."
Google Voice. Situation: It's a pretty awesome competitor to good ol' Skype, especially when you use its crazy powers to forward calls from your magical number to physical locations all over the world. I, for one, use Google voice to get into my own apartment. Ringing me up on the ol' call box in front of my condo complex calls my Google Voice number (local calls only!), which in turn buzzes up my cell phone which, in turn, lets me go home.
That's just one interesting use of an otherwise awesome service. There are many more. Problem: There are not nearly as many apps--Web-based or downloadable--that allow you to interact with Google Voice in unique, cool ways. I've scrounged together five for your enjoyment but, honestly, we're scraping the barrel this week in terms of available software.
So, that said, go register a Google Voice number. And while you're doing that, start skimming this article for awesome new ways to use the service!
Are you ready to rock? I should hope so. I'm giving your hands a rest and your ears a workout this week, for none of the apps in the ol' "freeware roundup" this time around are actually downloadable. That's right. Zero. After you read this, you will spend the course of your week installing absolutely nothing.
So what, then, am I profiling in this roundup? Dust? Nope. Rock. Every single Web app in this collection is specifically geared toward an audio pursuit of some kind. I'll show you apps you can use--through the comfort of whatever browser you'd like--to both create music and find new music to jam to. If you want to go worldly, I'll show you how to find the latest music streams from all over the world.
That's not all, however, for not everything audio-related has to involve music. The other two cool Web apps in this week's roundup center on audio usability. One lets you edit files online as if you were rocking an offline audio editor, and the other lets you craft up a message to your friends that will be read by one of those lovely, synthetic computer voices we've all come to know and love.
So that's that. It's audio week in the Freeware Files--even though you won't have to download a single executable to reap the benefits of these awesome finds!
The first beta for Firefox 4 was released yesterday, and brought with it a host of new features. One thing we were hoping for was a significant speed boost that would bring the popular open source browser up to parity with the likes of Chrome and Safari 5. Well, keeping in mind that this is a beta, things aren't looking great in the speed department.
A benchmark of the browser with Dromaeo and Peacekeeper show that Firefox 4 is a modest improvement over Firefox 3.6, but it still can't touch Chrome or Safari. Both Safari and Chrome have been iterating their software very fast, and it's possible the Mozilla Foundation just can't keep up. Firefox has a notoriously long release cycle.
We hold out hope that the development team have some tricks up their sleeve for the final release. It would be nice to see Firefox come back after seeming to fall behind. Are you a Firefox user, or have you moved to Chrome/Safari?
Google rolled the dice when it gambled it could compete in the mobile OS market, and as it turns out, they were right. Speaking in an interview with a CNBC television network, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said the number of Android devices shipping each day now tops 160,000.
"Everybody is gong to be on mobile devices all the time, every day, unless they're asleep," Schmidt said. "Everything is moving to mobile and we're participating in it. We have more than 160,000 of these things shipping globally every day. The momentum is phenomenal."
Phenomenal is right. It was only a month ago that Schmidt told investors some 65,000 Android-powered smartphones were shipping each day, though he said the actual number might be even higher.
If Schmidt's figures are correct, then Android handset shipments now outnumber those of Apple's mighty iPhone, which was pegged at 8.75 million for the last quarter.
Google has been tight-lipped about just when users would see a final version of the much anticipated Android 2.2 Froyo update. But the OS maker has today released the source code for Froyo to the open source community. Many users are speculating this means Froyo's code is finalized and a real update is on the way. Google has previously just said the update would be available 'soon'.
Google showed off the new version of the operating system at Google I/O late last month. Several test builds have leaked to users, and have given many a sneak peek at Froyo. Android 2.2 will bring features like Adobe Flash support, a redesigned home screen, storage of apps on the SD card, and a respectable speed boost. There has been some speculation that Google was waiting on Adobe to finalize Flash before putting the finishing touches on the OS. Adobe managed to get Flash out the door only yesterday.
We expect ROM hackers to begin assembling updated versions of their wares now that the entirety of the code is out there legitimately. Nexus One users could be seeing an official over-the-air update any day now.
The Khronos Group on Monday announced it has officially ratified OpenCL 1.1, the open source programming standard for the parallel execution of tasks across multiple processors. So what's different with the new spec? According to Khronos, all of the following:
New data types including 3-component vectors and additional image formats
Handling commands from multiple hosts and processing buffers across multiple devices
Operations on regions of a buffer including read, write, and copy of 1D, 2D, or 3D rectangular regions
Enhanced use of events to drivea nd control command execution
Additional OpenCL C built-in functions such as integer clamp, shuffle, and asynchronous strided copies
Improved OpenGL interoperability through efficient sharing of images and buffers by linking OpenCL and OpenGL events
If that all sounds like Greek to you, the gist of what they're saying is that like most updates, OpenCL 1.1 brings improved performance to the table. Perhaps equally important, Khronos pointed out that the spec is fully backwards compatible with OpenCL 1.0.
OpenCL competes with Microsoft's DirectCompute API, which is part of the DirectX family. One of OpenCL's biggest assets is support from a range of heavy-hitting industry giants, including AMD, Apple, ARM, IBM, Intel, Nvidia, and several others. Coinciding with the announcement, Nvidia said it already has an OpenCL 1.1 driver available to show that their "full weight is behind" the spec.
According to a bulletin from Adobe Labs, Adobe Systems has decided to halt the development of the Labs program of Flash Player 10 software for 64-bit flavors of Linux. Adobe insists this is only temporary, as well as necessary in order to making significant architectural changes and beef up security.
"We are fully committed to bringing native 64-bit Flash Player for the desktop by providing native support for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux 64-bit platforms in an upcoming major release of Flash Player," Adobe added. "We intend to provide more regular update information on our progress as we continue our work on 64-bit versions of Flash Player. Thank you for your continued help and support."
According to InfoWorld, an Adobe representative expressed the same sentiment, saying that the company is not killing development, and instead working to improve the underlying code for this version of the runtime.
The tech media has gone into full "told you so" mode after it was discovered that hackers managed to plant a Trojan in the popular Unreal IRC server, proving that Linux users need to worry about malware too.
"This is very embarrassing... We found that the Unreal22.214.171.124.tar.gz file on our mirrors has been replaced quite a while ago with a version with a backdoor (Trojan) in it," an announcement on the Unreal IRC forum states. "This backdoor allows a person to execute ANY command with the privileges of the user running the ircd. The backdoor can be executed regardless of any user restrictions (so even if you have passworded server or hub that doesn't allow any users in)."
While a single outbreak doesn't constitute an insecure OS platform by any stretch of the imagination, perhaps the media has a point. The announcement goes on to state that the "replacement of the.tar.gz occurred in November 2009 (at least on some mirrors," which means it took nearly a year for it to be noticed. What most of the write-ups are insinuating -- and we'll just come out and say it -- is that perhaps this was left unnoticed in the Linux community because of an arrogance that suggests the open source OS is impenetrable. Obviously that isn't the case, but despite reports you may read elsewhere, the opposite isn't true either -- Linux users needn't worry that the sky is falling because of one high profile outbreak.