You know how it goes. There are times when you just need access to one of your favorite apps, but you haven’t got the time or ability to install them on whatever computer you happen to be sitting at. The Portable Apps suite has saved the day on those instances for many. Just today, Portable Apps has announced two welcome additions. You can now get portable versions of Skype and Google Chrome.
This is notable because these apps aren’t technically open-source, as previous additions to Portable Apps have been. The decision to include freeware software may not seem like a big deal, and to most it isn’t, but some open-source supporters may take issue. The new freeware apps aren’t included by default in the package, though. Like it or not, it’s nice to have choices.
Surprise, surprise - Acer, the same company who not too long ago bemoaned Google's open-source Android platform as not being suitable to run netbooks, has gone ahead with just such a device anyway, even though most other vendors are content to wait for Pine Trail before releasing more netbook models.
Acer did, however, play it safe by pairing Android with Windows in a sort of dual-boot environment (Android has to be booted first and acts like a sort of instant-on SplashTop replacement), but that's more than the other top tier OEMs have done. According to news and rumor site DigiTimes, that's because other OEMs are taking a more conservative wait-and-see approach and will re-evaluate things once the final quarter of 2009 shakes out.
After seeing sequential growth to the of tune of 20 percent in the last two quarters, DigiTimes notes that netbook shipments from Taiwan notebook vendors is on target to backslide 8 percent in Q4. Part of the reason, analysts surmise, is waning demand as customers eagerly await the arrival of Windows 7, but vendors are also trying to keep inventory levels down on the verge of Intel's upcoming Pine Trail platform, due to arrive in early 2010.
It still remains to be seen how many OEMs will embrace Android on netbooks, whether as a standalone OS or in conjunction with Windows. So far, Acer's dual-booting Aspire One AOD250, which was only recently announced in the U.S., is the only one consumers have to choose from here in the States. Other markets will also see the AOD250, but not until after the launch of Windows 7, DigiTimes reports.
The recent release of Stardock's Fences tool (version 1.0) got me thinking about desktop organization. While Fences is certainly neat--the program lets you divide your desktop real estate into individual sections, surrounded by "fences," amongst other space-saving features--this freeware app isn't the only game in town by far. In fact, some of you expressed disgust at Stardock's latest release. Be it the fact that one needs to install Stardock's Impulse client just to access Fences, or your simple dislike of an application whose functionality is mirrored by other freeware apps, Fences was hardly a shot hit out of the park.
So, here we are. After the jump, I'll show you five different alternative desktop managers that will help you bring increased tidiness, prettier looks, and funer... er... more fun functionality to your typical workspace. Auto-arrange your icons one last time for nostalgia's sake, because I'm about to mix up your desktop crazy-style.
The e-book reader market is fast becoming a crowded niche, so in order to stand out from the competition, some manufacturers are taking liberties with the basic design. Take Spring Design, for example, who on Monday announced a dual-screen e-book reader built around Google's Android platform.
"This is the start of a whole new experience of reading content on e-books, potentially igniting a whole new industry in multimedia e-book publishing for secondary authors to create supplementary content that is hyper linked to the text," said Dr. Priscilla Lu, CEO of Spring Design. "We are bringing life to books with audio, video, and annotations. This gives readers the ability to fully leverage the resources on the Web, and the tools available in search engines to augment the reading experience."
Called 'Alex,' the new e-book readers sport a 6-inch e-ink EPD display on the top portion and a 3.5-inch color LCD on the bottom. Spring Design says Android has been optimized to support integration between the two displays to prolong battery life. But what exactly is the point of the color display?
Apparently Alex owners are able to capture and cache Web content on the color display and toggle to view it on the EPD screen without taxing the battery. Users can also create their own images and notes to augment the original text.
Spring Design says it is still talking with "major content partners" and hopes to release Alex into the wild by the end of the year.
The new version has added native Exchange, Youtube, and Facebook support. With Facebook integration, users can import contact data from their friends list. The Browser has reportedly been much improved; rivaling the iPhone 3GS in rendering speed. Google has even added a unified email inbox. Google Maps has been totally updated, adding support for Layers. Finally, there’s a new “Car Home” with big buttons for things you might want to use when driving.
This is still an early build, but it gives us a real sense where the OS is going. If there’s one way to describe what Google has done in this revision, it would be “more polish”. From the browser to the contact list, everything looks more well thought out and functional. The firmware appears to be running on the mysterious Motorola Droid. The phone has been reported as being a Google Experience phone, so everyone seems ready to believe this is stock Android 2.0. So, how do the screens strike you?
One could argue that this has been almost a banner year for Linux, what with Vista failing to attract the kind of fanfare that continues to follow XP. And the maturity of Linux distributions is undeniable, particularly Ubuntu, which has managed to attract mainstream users like never before. But is the Linux community not putting forth enough effort?
That's essentially the argument Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols makes, the self-proclaimed "Cyber Cynic" over at ComputerWorld. Vaughn-Nichols on Wednesday posted an article detailing five ways in which Linux for the desktop shoots itself in the foot.
Number one on his list is a lack of vendor support. He points out that, outside of of Novell, no other Linux vendor has made any real attempt to make a business out of its desktop distro, including Canonical, who he argues is focused on making profits in the cloud and in the server market.
Other ways in which Vaughan-Nichols says Linux comes up short in promoting itself on the desktop is in a lack of advertising and marketing, creating an unfriendly atmosphere for new users because of "too much bad techie attitude," too much infighting, and still not enough developer support.
Catch the full article here, then hit the jump and tell us if you agree with his assessment.
I'll admit, I was a little bit excited when I read earlier this week that Netgear was launching a quote-unquote open-source router. It's not very often--well, hardly ever--that one sees a larger corporate manufacturer of computer hardware so brazenly embrace the ideals (and code) of the open-source enthusiasts. If anything, it seems that companies in the networking space tend to go a little out of their way to ensure that one can't add or tweak a store-bought device with unofficial firmware. I think they'd much prefer to up-sell you additional features than watch you unlock them yourself, but that's just me.
And yet, here we are! An open-source router! Just the kind of thing you want to bring home, install into your network, and begin updating with the best DD-WRT, OpenWRT, or Tomato firmware you can get your hands on. Imagine the possibilities! Imagine the new features you might be able to play around with! Imagine the joy in your family's eyes when you tell 'em how you've transformed your Jekyll of a local area network into an beastly, unrestrained Hyde. They'll talk about this day for the next five family gatherings at least!
I exaggerate, but only because it seems that the marketing team for Netgear's WNR3500L gigabit router is probably benefiting the most from this "switch" to open-source. I can't see average consumers using this device to its fullest potential, if that's even possible to begin with. The WNR3500L isn't actually open-source all the way. By incorporating closed-source drivers into the product--and triumphing third-party firmware that may or may not run afoul of the GPL itself--Netgear could actually be costing consumers valuable security and functionality.
That being the case, why would one ever want to switch to open-source?
With the imminent launch of Windows 7 and its much-hyped Windows XP mode, the word "virtualization" is going to be everyone's lips throughout the month of October. Never one to let a fad slide on by, I'm jumping on the bandwagon in this week's freeware and open-source application roundup. I'll be taking a look at five different programs that enrich your computing experience with some kind of virtual add-on.
What does that even mean? A number of things. Windows XP mode is a great example of the common definition of virtualization--running a second operating system inside your primary operating system in a way that typically allows you to quickly switch between the two and access the contents of your primary machine's hard drives from the virtualized environment. Virtual desktops are a lesser derivative of this concept. Instead of running a separate operating system, you're merely extending the size of your workspace by stacking on additional desktop layers that you can swap back-and-forth. You can also install a virtual keyboard that sits overtop your programs--analogous to what Windows offers for tablet PCs--if you're concerned about keyloggers somehow getting their hands on your mission-critical information.
I won't go on, as that might spoil some of the fun applications you'll find after the jump. The virtual world, er, world of virtualized software is vast and interesting, featuring many applications that can expand your computer's functionality without adding a crazy amount of complexity. The coolness of these apps is only rivaled by their ability to save you precious time and headaches from doing things the old-fashioned way.
Industry sources presumably in the know say that Acer, who is still developing Windows Mobile-based smartphones, has decided to shift its attention to the Android platform. The sources say that half, if not more, of Acer's new handsets launched in 2010 will be built around the open-source OS.
This won't have much effect on Acer's production partners, the sources added, saying the company will continue to outsource both Windows Mobile and Android smartphones to Compal Communications and Inventec Appliances.
Not wasting any time, Acer is expected to release its first Android-based smartphone, the A1, sometime next month. According to pre-order info at eXpansys (France and Germany), the A1 will sport a 3.5-inch touchscreen display, Qualcomm 8250 processor clocked at 768MHz, an internal GPS antenna, a 5MP color camera with auto-focus, and a 1350mAh battery.
A KVM switch sounds like it has the potential to be a complicated piece of hardware. It's not. Without this most charitable of devices, you wouldn't be able to make use of more than one computer with a single keyboard and mouse. Your desk would be cluttered with input devices of all shapes and sizes, your ambitions of multi-boxing your own 40-man World of Warcraft raid would be dashed, and you wouldn't be able to slack off at your place of business nearly as discretely. After all, the entire point of a KVM switch is that it requires some kind of physical response--like whacking a button on the device--to switch a set of input devices between different desktops connected to the switch.
Why does this matter? Well, I don't have a KVM switch, but I do use a piece of software that's just as good: Synergy. This little open-source app has been my virtual KVM switch of choice for awhile now, but its time is just as quickly fading into the limelight. A new sheriff is in town, and he goes by the name of Input Director. Both programs allow you to control multiple, independent desktops (or laptops) using a single keyboard and mouse sans any "switching over" whatsoever--it's as if you just have a giant, spanned desktop across your systems.
Since Synergy has been at the top of everyone's must-have lists for some time (including Will's!), I thought it might be prudent to walk through the additional benefits and heartwarming fixes that Input Director brings to the party. Click the jump and find out how this free application will transform your multi-computer life for the better.