As someone who regularly explores the back-roads of desert-adorned Southern California, I’m acutely aware of massive, gaping holes in wireless network coverage as soon as you leave blacktop in rural America. You can sometimes off-road all day out west with no mobile data coverage. Moments of connectivity might be the occasional hilltop-occurring set of phone handset signal bars.
Quirky is a very interesting Linux distro that is a developmental sideline of the main Puppy Linux family. I expected some quirks in Quirky’s design and performance, despite its mature growth to version 6.1 released on Jan. 1. However, the few quirks I found did not mar its performance. Quirky was easy to set up and fun to run. It is just as reliable and complete as the main Puppy Linux distro.
I’ve been looking forward to trying out Microsoft’s official email product for the Android platform. Device OS mismatches have, until now, prevented me from doing so. However, a totaled and smashed tablet and an arbitrarily rebooting smartphone have prompted me to get some new kit. I’m a power desktop Outlook user, and for about 10 years I have relied on the desktop version.
GnuCash version 2.6, released earlier this month, fixes many of the nagging problems in earlier versions and is more convenient to use. It tracks bank accounts, investments, income and expenses. You can use it just to handle your checking and savings accounts — but it is capable of much more. GnuCash is based on professional accounting principles to ensure balanced books and accurate reports.
Linux Mint 16, also known as “Petra,” is a very solid release that fixes a lot of annoying traits left behind in previous versions. The OS is based on Ubuntu 13.10, and that solid underpinning is made even better with the upgrade to Cinnamon 2.0 and new functionality in the Nemo file manager. Linux Mint 16 is one of the most well-rounded releases since the distro first adopted Cinnamon.
Here’s a simple way to refresh the look and functionality of your newer Android device without going to the trouble of rooting, bootloader-unlocking or installing a customized ROM. It’s by using a home screen replacement app called a launcher, which is essentially a super-customizable home screen with themes. The one I’m looking at this week — Nova Launcher Prime — is one of the most popular.
CrashPlan is an automated backup system that does the job, but it’s not without its pitfalls. The software offers a cross-platform backup solution that’s reliably easy to use once you configure the software. Installing it to your Linux system, however, is anything but user-friendly. More than a few Linux users will emerge looking for a less-finicky solution.
One lesson that’s easy to learn if you’ve been through any natural disaster is that you shouldn’t rely on classic means of communications like land lines, cellphones or Internet. Capacity gets challenged; infrastructure gets destroyed. Where I live, neighbors have developed ham radio-based communications plans geared solely towards communicating in a disaster.
I was banging my head against the wall the other day because the dialer on my aging Motorola Photon 4G stopped working. Normally what I’d do — and recommend doing — is upgrade the OS to a later version while at the same time doing a hard reset on the device. However, you need an unlocked bootloader to do that, and Motorola has locked the bootloader on that model.
For some inexplicable reason, probably related to egocentric human nature, software developers can’t seem to resist designing their programs as if they were default services: always on and ready. If you’re familiar with maintaining a PC and like tinkering with programs, you’ll know that you need to periodically disable or get rid of accumulating programs that automatically run processes.
Kazam is a screencasting and screenshot application that shows much potential, but it is not yet fully suitable for anything more than personal use. Screen-recording tools are a step or two beyond single-frame screen-capture applications. Kazam performs both functions and can record input from the computer’s microphone as well as from the speakers.
Systems Performance: Enterprise and the Cloud is a must-have reference guide for any IT manager or sysadmin whose job involves working with computer systems that are tethered to the cloud. Author Brendan Gregg is no newcomer to writing definitive books on computer networks and system performance, but his latest release could well be his best work so far.
As a smartphone app reviewer, I often like to include a bit of explanation for why I choose to review the apps that I do. It adds a bit of human interest, and can make for a more enjoyable read. This week, the story is especially exciting. This is a review of D-Link’s Mydlink+ remote security camera Android app add-on, and I can explain the reason for the review in one word: goats.
If you want a Linux distro that is different and almost always up to date, look no further than Manjaro. If you can get it to load on your computer, Manjaro has a few features that could interest a Linux user who likes tinkering with the OS. The latest release failed to impress me with its cantankerous loading, but once I got it running I was pleased.
I was intrigued when I came across Air Display, an Android app that lets you use your tablet as a second screen. Second PC displays definitely boost work productivity. I’ve been using two displays for years, keeping my email client open all the time on the left screen — a laptop display — and work-work on the right screen. I’m able to monitor incoming junk mail without having to stop working.
Terminator is not for casual Linux users who rarely stray from the menu-driven applications. If you ever venture into what some regard as the dark side of the Linux OS, however, Terminator can end your discomfort by using a single-session terminal window. Terminator is a powerful and useful terminal emulator built with many features not included in standard terminal applications.
If you’ve had any technical support dealings recently, you may have experienced the wonders of a tech agent taking over your PC remotely — with your permission — and running ghostly commands and installs using remote-access software. I saw this first-hand recently when a Microsoft support engineer had to repair a failed Office installation on a machine of mine.
Attention to detail is often the missing feature that separates really useful To-Do managers from the mundane list-tracking options. Task Coach goes out of its way to help you keep track of the details. The latest version of Task Coach — version 1.3.33-1 — does a good job of servicing two categories, in fact. It is both a personal task tracker and a To-Do manager.
If you’ve been trying to keep an aging all-in-one printer out of the graveyard, forget it. Move on. I’ve been banging my head against the wall with a bunch of space-hogging Dell printers. I had an 8-year-old, office-grey laser printer for manuscripts and an equally old and grumpy faded-white scanner-fax-printer inkjet combo for which the cartridge nozzles kept drying out, still half full of ink.
PCLinuxOS is as close as a distro can get to masking all the technical things that scare people away from the Linux OS. It makes installing and using the distro beginner-level easy. That says a lot for attracting both new and experienced users. PCLinuxOS offers several very good desktop options. It also makes a solid choice for more experienced Linux users.