I just picked up a new netbook the other day. And you know what that netbook had? A lot of things, but "optical drive" wasn't on the list. So there I sat, staring at a stack of CDs all full of my most critical applications, games, and movies. Then I had a brainstorm: Rather than run down to the local electronics store to buy a lame external optical drive, I figured I would convert all of my optical media and slap it onto one of the external hard drives I have sitting around.
To do that, I turned to a suite of applications to rip, burn, encode, convert, and create all sorts of image files. It was a daunting task at first, but it sure beat shelling out for more hardware. Based on my troubles, I've come up with a list of five of the must-have applications for your CD manipulation needs. And these aren't just a list of applications for new netbook enthusiasts. These free apps have a universal appeal for anyone who's ever had to interact with their optical drive at any point. I would assume that this would make up 99% of all computer users--the one percent being anyone who just bought a new netbook without any kind of secondary system in their house. Whoops!
Click on the link and check out the five free apps for CD manipulation mayhem. Trust me, it's just that exciting.
So you've just downloaded that hip new open-source replacement for your favorite paid-for application and you're ready to crack it open and unleash all the awesome community-driven features contained inside. Well, if this application is Songbird, you might want to hold off for a moment. A recent blog post by the application's developers has revealed that the media player's iPod add-on does more than just transfer music to your device. It also has the potential to corrupt or otherwise delete music straight from your hardware device. Yikes!
Bugs are the bane of any software, but they can especially affect the open-source world in unpleasant ways. Read on to find out what we mean -- but first, unplug your iPod!
The competition between open-source projects and retail applications is a never-ending struggle. Even when two products aren't in direct competition -- like Adobe's Photoshop versus the GNU Manipulation Program -- there's still an underlying push and pull for your attention and resources. The struggle only deepens when the retail version of the two programs approaches an inexpensive or free pricing model. Open-source is an alternative, but when is it the better alternative?
Open-source software developer Patrick McKenzie wrote a post recently about the various ways retail software developers can out-develop open-source alternatives to their products. While it was geared toward the perspective of an open-source creator, he nevertheless gave some good insight as to what differentiates quality open-source projects from the muck. And a number of his points apply to some of the very applications we've recommended in our weekly freeware/open-source roundups.
Click the jump to find out how the best open-source applications get their crowns!
The beauty of a Live CD is that it gives you a chance to access your computer or a batch of alternate applications without actually having to load up your operating system. You only need to pop the CD into your optical drive and boot it up from your BIOS -- this self-contained environment runs independent of anything that's located on your drive partitions, even though you can still perform a variety of tasks that manipulate the data on your drives.
For example, you can test our new Linux distributions using a Live CD, saving you the time and hassle of blanking an entire partition just to see if it's the right distribution for you. You can also manipulate the partitions of your drives using a Live CD, expanding and creating volumes to create alternate locations for new operating systems, files, or whatever it is you'd use a separate volume for. Live CDs are great for troubleshooting your system (or saving your data) when your primary operating system won't boot, and they can also be used to break through Windows installations that you've lost the password for.
All that functionality... and you don't even have to install a single program on your machine! Click the link to check out some of the best Live CDs that you should have sitting on your desk.
It's hard to find good freeware games that are original, but not overly wacky. A lot of the more unique titles can tend to be a little esoteric--they don't offer your traditional platform gaming or simulated RPG, instead opting for a crazy mix of minimalist design and weird gameplay. It sometimes works, but more often than not, these games fall to freeware's version of the bargain bin.
That's not the case today, however! We've scoured the Web to find some awesome free hits that represent a good mix of zany and traditional gameplay elements. In this roundup, you'll become a historian, play a card game, recreate your favorite Steam experiences in 2D, and shoot down enemy planes. It's a tall order, but we think that you're up for the task. Click the jump and check out the unique titles we're showcasing in this five-game freeware roundup!
Open-source software and hardware are common elements of the technological world. And now the ancient counterparts to these modern products, written books, have finally jumped the gap into open waters as well. Virginia's currently accepting public comments for its first-ever open-source school textbook, "21st Century Physics FlexBook: A Compilation of Contemporary and Emerging Technologies."
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike, the project ran from concept to creation in a little under four months. That's an impressive amount of time for the creation of a full textbook. Thirteen teachers from Virginia's K-12 physics community joined up with university and industry volunteers across a number of states to develop the book's eleven chapters. And each chapter was given no less than three peer reviews from college professors, related authors, and high school and college students.
In part one of our guide, we walked you through the process of finding a distro that is right for you. By now, you hopefully have become more familiar with the distros that are out there and have at least one that you would like to try. This chapter is going to walk you through downloading and burning a CD image of your chosen distro(s), the traditional way of partitioning and setting up a dual-boot system, and another way to dual-boot without repartitioning. Instead of providing a step-by-step tutorial for a specific installation process, our goal is to educate you on the underlying concepts in a more generalized way that you will be able to apply towards many different Linux distros. You should also read our previous guide to installing Ubuntu for further instructions.
How do we usually receive our data? In boring textual updates, be it the current time, the contents of an RSS feed, or a ton of 140-character Twitter updates. And when this information turns graphical, like an icon of a folder on our desktop to signify a grouping or combined storage location, there's no way to edit this representation with any kind of updated contextual information. How do you assign relevance or urgency to a desktop icon? You can rename it, or drag it to a different, "I remember that this corner of my Desktop is urgent" part of your screen, but that's it.
In short, there are limitations on the news feeds and data organization that we encounter on a daily basis. And that's why we turn to third-party developers to help us visualize this data and add context to our actions. More than that, data visualizations are just downright cool -- why scan an RSS feed for CNN, for example, when you can have the news drop down onto a map based on its source? Why use Google calendar when you can pretty up your desktop with a slick, visualized clock/scheduling utility?
While finding downloadable data visualizations can be tough, we've scrounged up a batch of five freeware tools to help you add more relevance, functionality, and beauty to your desktop environment. Click the link to get started!
It almost seems like common sense, but 37signals' Jason Fried had some specific words for those in attendance at this year's Future of Web Apps conference in Miami, Florida: the future is not free.
Continuing on, his point is that companies need to turn away from the business model of pump-and-dumping free applications to a gleeful audience. Open-source and free software might be an excellent means for attracting attention and eyeballs to a product, but now is not the time to pack alternate revenue strategies around these concepts. Advertising and other extraneous revenue add-ons are a distraction, argues Fried. It's time to shift back to a meat-and-potatoes business model, and that involves selling a product that contains enough quality to make an audience want to pay for it, even given the current economic difficulties.
That said, there's still room for free in some capacity--read on to find out where Fried thinks free applications can exist!
When we heard today that Apple was releasing a beta version of Safari 4, which they boast is up to 4 times faster than the previous version, it got us thinking about the new browser wars. More than ever, it seems like every new release from each of the contenders brings with it a bevy of new features and performance upgrades. Although we're excited to put Safari 4 through the paces, right now we're more excited about the next version of Firefox.
Here at Maximum PC, we like Firefox an awful lot. Its mix of stability, speed, expandability and open source warm-fuzzies easily earned it a spot on our recent list of the 32 essential Windows apps. And right now, because we like Firefox an awful lot, it should come as no suprise that we’re excited about Firefox 3.1, the upcoming update from Mozilla. Many of our readers have tried the 3.1 beta, but for those who haven’t, we’re going to take a minute to explain the changes that will impact your browsing experience when the update lands.
We'll cover both the new frontend features, like private browsing, as well as the under-the-hood stuff that'll make a difference to you. Read on to find out all about what you can expect!