Some of my favorite kinds of freeware apps to find (and install) are the ones that build new functionality into the Windows operating system. I'm running Windows 7 right now, but even this latest version of Microsoft's OS has substantial room for third-party improvements.
It's not difficult to find free or open-source apps to boost the common interactions one has with one's operating system. The tough part is in the classification: I'm really not sure how to best lump this week's applications together, save for the fact that they're all awesome ways to enhance Windows with new and useful features. And I'm not talking about super-complex, command-line scripts or what-have-you. No, these apps are all super-easy to use-if you even see them at all, given that most will modify some form of your Windows OS without needing any further interaction past the installation screen.
Anyway, if you can think of a better way to classify this week's Freeware Files other than, "Apps that Make Windows Rock," I'm all ears. Otherwise, click the jump and get ready to take your operating system to new places!
It's hard to deny the power of Google Docs, especially if you don't have the cash (or the wherewithal) to shell out for Microsoft Office. Sure, you could grab OpenOffice.org, but you would trade away the ability to edit your documents from any Internet-equipped location-one of Google Doc's important, Cloud-based features... as well as its ability to allow multiple users to simultaneously edit a document. You just can't get this kind of stuff in an offline word processor!
Of course, that's not to say that you can't use Google Docs offline. Nor are applications like Microsoft Word completely removed from the Internet-there's Microsoft Office Live for that, if you're so inclined.
Anyway, the point of this Freeware Files is not to confuse you in feature-lists or semantics. I'm here to show you just how easy it is to set up your system to use both offline and online word processing tools. Provided you're ready to jump into the wide world of Google Docs, all of the freeware and open-source applications listed below will do much to help integrate online editing and storage into your traditional offline type-type-typing.
Don't be surprised if the next version of Drupal runs slower than what you're used to, that's by design. According to Drupal project founder Dries Buytaert, Drupal 7 will sacarifice a bit of speed in order to build on scalability.
"Unfortunately, Drupal 7 will be a little slower than Drupal 6, but it will be much more scalable," said Dries Buytaert.
While it will run slower out of the box, the open source CMS will be able to power bigger sites, Buytaert added. Version 7 will feature 70 modules, including an image API, and significantly more code. But despite all that's being added, Drupal 7 won't spend years in development.
"First of all, it's very important that we get it out as soon as possible," Buytaert said when stressing the importance of maintaining momentum.
Drupal, which began life without a "grand vision," has become a prominent fixture in website design and is used by a number of big name sites, including NASA, Ubuntu, Popular Science, WhiteHourse.gov, and right here at MaximumPC.com, among others.
Desktop virtualization specialist Citrix last week announced the release of Xen 4.0, the company's open source hypervisor software.
"The explosion of cloud computing in the industry and increasing demands from enterprise customers are the driving force behind the continued technology advancement of the Xen community. The Xen hypervisor already powers most of the world’s largest clouds and our customer base expects the Xen community to set the pace in virtualization infrastructure. Xen 4.0 delivers on these expectations," said Ian Pratt, found and chairman of Xen.org.
Citrix says more than 50 technology vendors, universities, and virtualization experts collaborated on Xen 4.0. The latest release purports to bring "substantial performance and scalability gains," tons of memory and security optimizations, and improvements to ease of management.
Can open-source overtake the iPhone? The iPad? Apple itself? That's the dominant position of Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. But is that an idea that's based on reality? He's been trying to paint a connection between Sun and its Solaris OS--a "legacy" operating system to Linux, he suggests--and Apple's various devices. While it's all well and good to somehow consider that just because one mighty empire toppled, the next is just as likely to crack... that's just wrong. Apple has nothing to fear from the open-source world.
Things are getting a little testy between the OpenSolaris governing board and Oracle, primarily because the latter has been tight lipped about the delay in releasing OpenSolaris.
OpenSolaris OS version 2010.03 was supposed to be released on March 26, but nearly a month later, there's no sight of the operating system nor any word on when it might ship. As a result, some members of the board have suggested forking the code base from the Oracle version.
"It is sad to watch people asking about some OpenSolaris...release called 2010.03 when we are well into April now," wrote board member Dennis Clarke in an email. Added board member Joerg Schilling, "We [should] not ignore the current situation and thus be prepared to fork in case this is needed."
The idea has been well received by several other members of the list who are not board members, though not everyone agrees.
"The time to fork hasn't arrived yet," said board member Simon Phipps. "Given Oracle's style, I have seen no concrete triggers for concern yet."
Alright, Adobe Creative Suite 5, here's the deal: I really, really want to put my hands on all the neat features and general awesomeness you offer. That's not an admission of a fanboy, it's a gentle acknowledgment that this is the industry-leading suite of software for those that dabble with multimedia across a variety of formats.
That said, not all of us have a stock portfolio to dump off in an effort to raise the funds to purchase said Creative Suite. And this is the weekly Freeware Files column after all. Which leads us to a grand proposition: Can one recreate the best of Adobe's CS5 with freeware and open-source applications?
The long development of Firefox has left many a crashed browser in its wake. But a recent study undertaken by the Mozilla Metrics team shows that the relatively new Firefox 3.6 is much more stable than Firefox 3.5. As each release matures, the rate of crashes goes down with each update. Version 3.6 has already surpassed 3.5 in overall stability, having gotten about 40% more stable since release.
Another interesting statistic uncovered by the study was that Firefox 3.5 started out significantly less stable than version 3.0. Firefox product lead Mike Beltzner explained that the cause was 3rd party applications. The 3.0 build was what took Firefox into the mainstream and developers began building on top of it in larger numbers. When the code was altered in version 3.5, many API calls that worked fine before caused crashes.
Whatever the cause, we're certainly happy to see Firefox improving over time. Now that we've got these numbers, you've got another reason to update if you're still on 3.5.
With the launch of Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) slated for release later this month, the programming team felt the time was right to release a few teaser details for version which will carry the codename Maverick Meerkat. Founder Mark Shuttleworth revealed in a blog entry today that since 10.04 was a long-term support release, the primary focus was on stability and refinement, not new features. 10.10 by comparison will be all about experimentation, and could include some "potentially radical changes".
Specifically Shuttleworth hints at a new UI for netbooks, along with improving the web experience, reducing boot times, and extending social networking integration on the desktop. It sounds to us like Shuttleworth covered off all the buzz words to peak our interest, and if he delivers on all these items, he well indeed might have a much more compelling netbook offering in the future.
"This is a time of change, and we're not afraid to surprise people with a bold move if the opportunity for dramatic improvement presents itself. We want to put Ubuntu and free software on every single consumer PC that ships from a major manufacturer, the ultimate maverick move," Shuttleworth wrote in the announcement. "Meerkats are, of course, light, fast and social-everything we want in a Perfect 10."
Ubuntu 10.10 is scheduled for release in October, but with 10.04 just around the corner I'm sure Ubuntu fans will have plenty to play with between now and then.
With the acquisition of Nextel, Sprint knows a thing or two about push-to-talk phones, and in a joint press release with Motorola, the two companies have announced the Motorola i1, the world's first push-to-talk Android-powered smartphone.
"Motorola remains focused on delivering differentiated Android experiences within our product portfolio," said Mark Shockley, senior vice president, Motorola Mobile Devices. "With the Motorola i1, we're excited to offer iDEN users the opportunity to enjoy a feature-rich smartphone with push-to-talk, whether its for work or play."
The Motorola i1 shows who is calling no matter what application you're in, whether you're checking email or viewing media. It's also pretty rugged, and according to Motorola, meets military specifications for dust, shock, vibration, and blowing rain.
Other features include a 3.1-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi, Opera Mini 5 browser, and a 5MP camera with flash, geo-tagging, and panoramic capabilities.