Posts Tagged ‘ Open Source ’

The Browser Wars: Firefox/Internet Explorer/Safari/Chrome/Opera


Browsers are a part of virtually every computer user’s life, whether to read up on news, check email, or do anything else. With the new arrival of what people are calling Web 2.0, which includes intricate online games and social networking sites like Facebook, browsers have become even more important than ever. A couple of years ago most people didn’t know what they even had a choice, and always used Internet Explorer, which was hard-coded into operating systems like Windows XP and Vista. As of late, a lot of people have been open to the idea of using other browsers, thanks to a lot of advertising for browsers like Firefox and Chrome as well as a fight between Microsoft and the European Union for antitrust issues. Ever since, people have been comparing their choices, sometimes with invalid statements. This post is all about to clear that it, although the final decision is still your own opinion.

Even though these “browser wars” started to be significant as of late, it has already been around for a very long time. In fact, there have been a lot of browsers most people don’t even remember. But memorable browser wars began with early versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape. As you have probably noticed, Internet Explorer grew in popularity, and Netscape eventually became extinct and is no longer supported. Internet Explorer then had a period where there were no major contenders. Then, in 2004, Firefox emerged, who has slowly and steady gained ground over Internet Explorer. In addition with Opera, the porting of Safari to Windows, and Google coming out with their Chrome browser, today’s browser market has become a big mixing pot with many high-quality, major contenders. Current standing show declining numbers for Internet Explorer, while virtually all other browsers are gaining users. The current top browser, Firefox, has toppled the crown that IE held for such a long time. Let’s see why these changes are happening.

Firefox, the current top browser, has gained it’s major popularity because of many different aspects that made it appealing to all users, especially IE users. Of all things, Firefox is a completely open source browser and is based on the Gecko engine, which gives way to a number of other opportunities. Since Firefox is open source, people can download it without any problems, completely free. Also, this points us to next perspective, security. Firefox has a reputation for being a secure browser. This is again thanks to it’s open source nature, where anyone can find security flaws and other bugs and report them so that they can be fixed, instead of a set of developers finding their own bugs without any public assistance. Firefox actually has to thank IE for part of its userbase as Firefox was a replacement option during times where extremely dangerous IE security flaws were found but not yet fixed. Firefox also as a mature extension system, which enables the use of popular add-ons such as Adblock Plus. Firefox is also appealing due to features such as Private Browsing, the Awesome Bar, and a very high Acid3 test score. Finally, Firefox is available on all major operating systems, and is automatically installed in almost all Linux distributions. There is also a variation of Firefox that is being made for mobile devices. It is definitely a great browser for anyone.

Internet Explorer has been a popular browser for a long time, based on the Trident engine. Back in the day, websites were made to appear the best in IE instead of staying with web standards. However, other than websites that work better on IE and a known user interface, the list of advantages for IE runs short. IE has turned into a big resource-hogging monster, flawed with security holes, and has been forced up in Windows up to and including Vista. Windows 7 has finally changed this, but it further promotes other browsers. IE has no built-in system for addons and scores poorly on the Acid3 test. IE is the only browser that supports ActiveX controls, which have been known to compromise system security, and is for Windows only.

Safari is a fairly good browser by Apple, and is automatically shipped with Mac OS X, although it has also been ported to Windows. It is based on the WebKit engine, which gets a perfect score on the Acid3 test. It offers a number of features, such as a panel with the most visited websites when Safari is opened. It also has Private Browsing and a few other features in browsers like Firefox. However, for whatever reasons, there have been a few features stripped in the Windows version of Safari, and therefore is less appealing to the Windows user.

Chrome, which is also based on the WebKit engine, is made by Google. Along with it’s large marketing push to create a browser, an operating system for mobile phones, and eventually an operating system for netbooks as well as a few other products and services, Chrome is supposed to be Google’s vision of what a browser should be. Some of it’s most characteristic features include it’s V8 JavaScript engine, which makes page loading very fast. It also has a security model that separates tabs into their own processes, so that if one tab crashes, the browser along with the rest of the tabs stay alive. As of the latest versions, Google is trying to incorporate an extension system into Chrome, although it isn’t very mature compared to the extension system in Firefox. One of Google’s main focuses is to keep the user interface as small as possible to give as much room as possible to the displaying of the website. Chrome, that is also open source, has received massive amounts of bug fixes and new features in a short time span, which shows great improvement, but also skepticism about what else may still need fixing. In the short amount of time it has existed, Chrome has gained a couple percent of users, and is still growing. Chrome is available for Windows and just recently for Mac, with development releases available for Linux.

Opera, last but not least, is a very innovative browser. Based on the Presto engine, it has continually kept a small amount of users compared to other browsers. However, it has invented a number of innovative features, such as mouse gestures and Opera Turbo, which compresses images and other objects to speed up load time. However, it has a somewhat bulky user interface, and is not exactly as easy to use and configure and IE and Firefox. Opera is available for all major operating systems, as well as on certain mobile platforms.

So, in conclusion, each browser has its own set of features and focuses to please a wide range of people. These competitions between browsers give users choice, something that will never go away. For the average Internet user, I would recommend Firefox because of it’s ease of use and customization. Also, it is extremely secure, and will always be up-to-date. Or better yet, rethink the browser that you’re using and come to your own decisions.

I’d like to hear what browser you use! Leave me a comment saying what browser you use, and why you support it!

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Windows vs. Mac OS X vs. Linux: The Operating System Battle


Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux? That has been the age-old dilemma that is now gaining more and more attention as each operating system is progressing at a record pace. This summary will give you a comprehensive and thorough examination of each operating system, their advantages, disadvantages, and a final summary of which one is better. Please note that all conclusions are self-drawn opinions that are supported by facts. However, it does not guarantee that these thoughts are truths.

Windows, the pride of the Microsoft Corporation, has had a long and rough history since its beginnings. It is currently being used by 80-90% of all computers, which is mainly composed of desktop computers. These figures, like those of another Microsoft product, Internet Explorer, are starting to decline as other products and systems are getting more attention. It is still, however, very popular and used by most home users and companies. Beginning it’s story in 1981, it has now gotten close to completely monopolizing the computer operating system field. To some who are less computer-savvy, it appears to be the only operating system in the world. Over the years, it’s developed into an operating system that has become feature-filled and simply huge, especially with Windows Vista and Windows 7.

With our introduction out of the way, let’s get on to what Windows is, can do, and can’t do. Windows is know for it’s user friendliness, large hardware support, and the large amount of software available for it. However, it is also closed-source and is very well know for some of the greatest computer headaches in existance: viruses, spyware, malware, gradual performance decay, and the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). This means that as long as the user doesn’t want to see their system go down in fairly short time, they need to install security and maintenance software. Even then, the system isn’t 100% covered. Overall though, you can run the most programs, games, and devices on Windows, and with enough effort to maintain it, is a very effective operating system.

On a completely different side, Mac OS X is another operating system that should be reckoned with. It includes a very appealing interface with many programs that integrate tightly into the system. There are also a handful of programs that work just in Mac OS X that have received very well reviews. Mac OS X is based on Darwin, and is therefore correctly titled as a Unix operating system, complete with Unix certification. Because it’s built differently than Windows, programs made for Windows won’t work under Mac OS X, unless the application is made cross-platform to make it work over several operating systems. It doesn’t get Windows viruses because of its design (Unix), which automatically makes it numerous times safer than Windows. It also supports many peripherals attached to it, providing ease of use with cameras, printers, etc. In this sea of advantages it has, especially over Windows, there are two huge obstacles that keep it from being an ultimate contender: Both due to hardware support in specific areas and usage restrictions in its license, Mac OS X can only be run on systems built by Apple, such as the Mac mini, iMac, etc. This means that if you want to run Mac OS X without hacking it and then running it illegally, you will have to buy an Apple computer, which are more expensive than normal PCs, and may break your bank. Also, Mac OS X is, like Windows, mainly closed-source.

Last but not least we have Linux in our comparison. Linux is the general term that is used for the large collection of Linux distributions (distros for short), where all distros use the Linux kernel. Linux has a large number of advantages that can benefit everyone, no matter what they use their computer for. One of the most important points is that Linux is open-source. This means that anyone in the whole world can look through the source code of Linux and any other part of the distribution and find any bugs, security holes, or any other problems within the source code, and either fix it themselves, or give their findings to someone who can fix the problem. Open source, which is most characterized by the GNU GPL (GNU General Public License), which lets you create, modify, and redistribute any software freely that is using the GNU GPL, is very advantageous in that everything is free, both price-wise and freedom to do anything you want with the program. This can help individuals and companies with a small or even nonexistent budge create a robust system (and network). Second, Linux is classified as Unix-like, so you get the great flexibility and power of Unix (with tweaks). However, it contains no Unix code, but is a Unix-like replica made of open-source code. Third, there are also many great applications that work on Linux, such as OpenOffice.org, Pidgin, and GIMP. In fact, Pidgin and GIMP were first made for Linux and were eventually ported to other operating systems like Windows because of their popularity. Linux also has very good hardware support, and unique features/programs, such as GNOME, KDE, XFCE, and Compiz. Applications that work for Windows and Mac OS X are most likely also ported to Linux, and some Windows-only programs even work in Linux without any modifications through the use of Windows Compatibility Layer programs, such as the popular WINE program. Finally, Linux is also a fairly universal language (depending on the distribution), and can have a number of different languages installed and active. Linux is also most popular when used in servers, which is runs the famous LAMP application stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP), as well as many other server applications and services.

Overall, each operating system has its own perks. After doing my own calculations and weighting my own opinions of each, Linux seems to me like the best operating system of choice. Call me a Linux fanboy or whatever you want, but Linux has so many areas that are already having amazing effects on users and others that show major promise, I see Linux eventually getting a major market share, just like how Firefox is starting to topple Internet Explorer. Even though Linux has less than 2% of the market, it’s mainly because Linux isn’t well known to all users, plus it is hard for some to migrate to Linux because they try to use their Windows mindset on Linux, which just doesn’t work well. That, in effect, also shows that Microsoft has closed the minds of users with their monopolizing, closed-source Windows to other ideas.

Since this is only my opinion in the battle of the operating systems, what do you have to say about the three operating systems? Leave a comment! Tell us your favorite, and why!

Note: This blog post has been written with major but short-term inspiration. Therefore, please excuse the lack of pictures, links, and other eye candy for the time being until edited in.

Preview: The major wave of battles has just begun with the fundamental software inside computers, the operating systems. As the internet becomes more and more a part of every computer user’s life, we also need to take a major look at the major internet browsers out there. So, soon to come: The Battle of the Browsers! The list of browsers compared will include Firefox, Internet Explorer (7 and 8), Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera.

Ubuntu Alternatives: Kubuntu and Fedora


Don’t get me wrong, Ubuntu is a great operating system that shouldn’t really need an alternative. However, some people just don’t exactly like Ubuntu, or prefer to have some alternatives to their alternatives. This time we will be talking about two popular Ubuntu alternatives, Kubuntu and Fedora.

Kubuntu isn’t necessarily a complete alternative to Ubuntu. In fact, the main system is based on Ubuntu. So what’s different? If you’re Linux-savvy, you’ll recognize that the K in Kubuntu will represent KDE, which is the desktop environment of Kubuntu. Ubuntu uses GNOME, which has a different look. Kubuntu has two advantages over Ubuntu: It has a more appealing appearance and it is closer to the Windows desktop than GNOME is. Sadly thou, advantages come with disadvantages. A more appealing desktop requires a higher amount of resources, so it’s not meant for low-resource systems. If this is your case, you might want to try Xubuntu, which uses the very-low resource Xfce desktop environment. Also, if you’re acquainted with some GNOME applications, there is a good change that it won’t be installed in a KDE desktop. Instead it’ll have a KDE counterpart, which, in most cases, isn’t exactly the same.

With the pros and cons out of the way, it’s definitely something that you should at least try out if you have a spare blank CD lying around. At least for testing purposes it seems to be a very solid OS with a lot of nice features. Especially in the latest Kubuntu version (9.10 Karmic Koala), you’ll notice the magic that is presented to you with KDE 4.3. If your computer can handle the demands of KDE, you’ll be happy to experience the blend of blues, along with very smooth transitions of menus, just to say the least.

Now if you just can’t stand Ubuntu in general as the underlying system, but GNOME and KDE are fine, then there are options. Of all the possibilities, my personal choice would be Fedora. A RPM-based free desktop distribution from Red Hat, it packs enough power to do virtually anything. Fedora is available with GNOME or with KDE. There are a handful of differences between Ubuntu and Fedora, with some of the most obvious ones that you will notice during use is that Fedora installs applications using .rpm files, whereas Ubuntu (and Debian) use .deb files. Another difference is that Ubuntu uses apt for it’s package manager; Fedora uses yum. Something that you may not notice is that (last time I checked) Fedora uses slightly newer versions of applications than Ubuntu, but these differences appear to be very minor.

Overall, Linux distributions are all unique in their own way. Personally Ubuntu is my favorite, due to its ease of use and the fact that I learned Linux using Ubuntu. Whether your favorite is Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, Mandriva, or any other distribution, use whatever you feel comfortable with. And even if you only know Ubuntu and are extremely comfortable with it, it’s still well worth to look at what other Linux possibilities are available.

If you’ve been reading this, why don’t you tell us what distribution YOU use? Why do you like it?

Mozilla Sunbird + Google Calendar = Harmony


There are many times during the year where you may be under a lot of stress because you suddenly get hammered with family meetings, work projects, and anything else you may need to do, such as grocery shopping or paying bills. During these times you have a high need to stay organized, and there are some great free tools to help you achieve that, no matter where you go.

Sunbird is a great, free, and open source application developed by Mozilla, aimed to help you organized. It’s based on the Lightning add-on project, and made into a standalone. However, although that might sound simple, it’s a great tool to have, and I’ll tell you why.

Calendars seem to be very boring ways to keep track of your time. At least, most of the time it is. Having to write all your daily activities into that tiny, little box isn’t very fun, and neither is looking at the calendar every few hours to see what’s going on. Thankfully, technology can make this process a lot easier. Sunbird does an excellent job because it has a number of features that may attract you to it. It can include:

  • A number of views, such as Day, Week, Multiweek, and Month.
  • Supports multiple calendars, which can also be shown together at the same time in one “combined” calendar.
  • Supports network and online calendars that use the iCalendar format, CalDAV, WCAP, and Google Calendar (more information below).
  • Differentiating colors to keep track of what events are on what calendar.
  • Timely reminders so you don’t have to worry about missing an event.
  • Useful repeat functions allow a “set-it-and-forget-it” environment for events that continuously repeat.
  • Available on all major platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Solaris.
  • It’s open source.

If all of the things in the list didn’t make any sense to you, it basically means this: More power and flexibility means less work for you to manage your time. Sunbird is definitely a program worth trying out no matter how you plan to use it.

However, this blog isn’t about all the great features of Sunbird. Yeah, it’s a great and useful program, and we’ve already given an overview of Sunbird, but that’s all we’ll do. This is about Sunbird working hand in hand with Google Calendar. So let’s meet our other half of this friendship.

Google Calendars is a service provided by Google that is supposed to keep your life organized in an easy-to-use system that also incorporated your Gmail and Google Contacts, as well as other Google services. It also has a lot of stunning features, and is just as worthy to be tried out as Sunbird is. You can do virtually the same things. The only problem with it is that things will be a bit slower as every part of it is made up of web pages. Also, the interface of both Google Calendar and Sunbird are well made, but Sunbird has an advantage. However, this doesn’t mean that Sunbird should be used completely over Google Calendar, in fact, let’s put them together.

First of all, you may be asking, why put Sunbird and Google Calendar together? Well, to put it simply, it offers even more flexibility than what even Sunbird and Google Calendars offer by themselves. To put these two together, we’ll be using Sunbird mainly as our interface and Google Calendar as our “database”, or storage of where the events are actually saved. Note that the only requirement for this is to have an internet connection whenever you wish to access your calendar, but that would not place any new limits if you were using Google Calendar by itself. This combined setup is extremely useful for a number of reasons. If you have more than one computer, such as a desktop and a laptop, and have your Google Calendar configured in Sunbird on both machines, you’ll have completely synced events on both computers without even touching any sort of button with a “Sync” label on it. Another example would be when you are traveling and happen to be away from your computer. You can get on another computer, such as at an internet cafe, and look through your calendar using Google Calendar, where you can edit, add, delete, and do other things with events. When you are finished, and come back home to your computer, those changes made at the internet cafe will automatically update itself in Sunbird, saving you lots of time trying to keep the different copies synchronized.

Now that we know why we want to put Sunbird and Google Calendar together, it’s time to actually take the few seconds time to make it happen. First, be sure and have a Google account where you can then access your personal calendar.

Go ahead and fire up Sunbird on your machine. Once loaded, be sure to choose the Calendars tab on the left side, then click into the white space and click on New Calendar. Next, you will be asked where the calendar is located. Click on “On the network”, then click on Next. In order to configure Sunbird to use your Google Calendar, we will be using CalDAV, so go ahead and choose that. In the location box, type in the following: https://www.google.com/calendar/dav/%5Byour email address here]/events and replace [your email address here] with your actual email address. An example would look like https://www.google.com/calendar/dav/somebody@gmail.com/events. When it asks for a username and password, type in your complete email address into the username box and your Google password into the password box, then click OK. Now, choose a name for the calendar, a color (or leave the color how it is), then click Next and Finish. If you typed everything correctly, you should now have access to your Google Calendar!

You can repeat this process with other calendars or on other machines. You can even add custom calendars, such as separately made calendars or Google’s “Interesting Calendars”. However, I’ll leave that to be added later or for a different tutorial.

A general view of Sunbird

Adding an event to Sunbird

Adding a New Network/Google Calendar

Main view of Google Calendar

Accessing the calendar settings menu

Finding the Calendar ID

If you have any questions concerning this blog, don’t hesitate to leave a comment! I’ll be happy to answer you.

Why You Should Use Open Source Software


Today’s computer users are very accustomed to the fact that a lot of good software costs money. Sometimes it costs a reasonable sum, other times it’s about ten times as much. Two of the most popular examples of expensive software are Windows and Photoshop. Windows for home users can cost anywhere between $100 and $300, and Photoshop can cost even more. Of course, these pieces of software have their well deserved reasons for being so pricey, but your wallet doesn’t care about the money to quality ratio. It just cares about the money. Thankfully, there are some very kind-hearted people on this planet, who believe that quality software should exist without carrying a price tag. However, some people came up with an idea to go even further, and let other people modify their own programs to fit the needs of everyone. Here is where “Open Source Software” comes into play.

To give a small history background, the idea of open source software began with the GNU General Public License, created by Richard Stallman. The GNU General Public License allows everyone to modify, change or distribute software under the license without any restrictions. The only requirement is that all software under the license be free. This gives way to many advantages, which we will discuss later.

Now, if you are interested in open source software, you’ll be glad to know that obtaining open source software is easier than you think. Here are some of the most popular open source apps that you can easily obtain:

1. Mozilla Firefox

Firefox, in my opinion, is one of the greatest, most supported open source applications in existence. It is the most popular open source browser, and is currently used by approximately 35% of all internet users, placing it in 2nd place. It is extremely stable, and is offered on many operating systems, including the major ones such as Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Firefox has many areas that you can configure to personalize it to your needs and taste, such as themes, skins, and add-ons. On top of all this, it is supported by the benefits of the program being open source (see below).

2. Mozilla Thunderbird

Yes, it’s true that Mozilla makes some pretty great programs. Firefox isn’t the only one, and instead has an e-mail counterpart know as Thunderbird. Thunderbird is a nice little Outlook substitute that still packs a lot of muscle. It has great organization methods, a calendar, and supports all e-mail protocols such as POP3, IMAP, and SMTP. It even has an easy wizard to set up Gmail in Thunderbird, which gives you more control over your mail. Like Firefox, it’s available on multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

3. Ubuntu Linux

Here’s something different that is still fully open source. Ubuntu Linux is not an application, but instead an entire operating system. If you think that all operating systems cost loads of money, I’m happy to announce that you’re wrong. Ubuntu is completely free, so you won’t have to go out and spend at least $100 for Windows. It can do almost everything Windows can, such as go onto the Internet (thanks to Firefox), read PDF and Word files, edit pictures, watch movies, and much more that you are able to do in Windows. In fact, the only downside is that not all Windows applications work on Linux, but for most applications there are open source alternatives. Something that Linux can offer that Windows can’t is the fact that Linux is virtually virus-proof. Except for the ultra-rare Linux viruses that have a hard time getting activated via user interaction, it is not affected by the horrendous streams of Windows viruses. Because of this, there is no need for an anti-virus program, although a firewall is still recommended (Ubuntu comes automatically with a firewall). This makes Linux in general a great choice for server administrators who wish to provide productive services or host intensive websites on a robust system. Ubuntu also plays friendly with Windows in case you decide to keep it and install a “dual-boot” setup.

4. GIMP

GIMP is a life-saver for your wallet in case you were ever once interested in Photoshop. Although not an exact replica, GIMP is definitely a good recommendation for anyone with a tight budget. This handy program contains all the features you could possibly need to edit photos or create amazing graphical art. You can add custom brushes, add amazing effects, and much more.

5. WordPress

Although it’s not an actual application that is used directly on your computer, WordPress is an open source blogging platform where you can blog about your daily life and do a number of other things. It is available as a directly-hosted product, or as a downloadable platform that can be installed and used on your own web server. It allows many different forms of media to be inserted into your blog, and is easy to use in general. It offers a variety of other features that can spice up your blog, no matter what it’s about. It is definitely something worthwhile to check out. Even this very blog runs on WordPress.

Using open source software can be a great thing, especially for you. Since open source applications offer their program code publicly, any programmer or other expert can look through the code and find any mistakes, whether pertaining to performance, security, or other factors that can improve quality, and point them out. Those mistakes, or “bugs”, in the code get fixed, and these fixes get released in an update that makes the software better, and your computing experience safer. So why not do something good for your computer and your wallet, and use open source software.