Thursday, January 04, 2007

Primo software

Interesting website that tracks alternatives:

The following pieces of software are worth downloading and using (mostly Windows stuff):
  • Alternatives To Enterprise Apps, Cisco VPN hints for Ubuntu, and Pidgin plugin for MS Office Communications Server
  • PrimoPDF works fine for .pdf generation - there are probably others
  • Speaking of PDF, what viewer is the best? That seems to be a toughie. Lots of people seem to like Sumatra for a light-weight reader, but the stinking thing doesn't even have a text search? HELLO?! Copy and paste out of a .pdf seems like pretty minimal functionality as well. There looks to be a fair amount of support for kpdf, but this article points out some features that it is missing compared to xpdf. Others complain about the rendering in Evince not looking so good compared to Acroreader (others make the same complaint about fox-it). Here is a list/discussion of readers. There are a few articles on the net about optimizing acrobat so you don't feel its bloat so much. PDF-XChange viewer doesn't look bad so far... except that ctrl-wheel mouse doesn't zoom.
  • PDF editors are another 'nother ball of wax. Almost seems Linux is ahead in that area: scribus pdfedit flpsed
  • Excalibur 32-bit is a pretty neat RPN calculator with LOTS of built in conversions (although I need to memorize some short-cut keys and find a way to turn off the automaticly-enable-the-num-lock "feature"). But don't forget the good-alternative, calc98
  • IZARC supports every compression method under the sun. WinRar and 7-zip included.
  • Teraterm continues at Sourceforge, with support forum even.
  • Remote access: dtach instead of screen (here's hints on screen command line options), and nomachine's NX rather than VNC. NX may require their own ssh client? Some people insist ssh + vnc is easier and more secure. NX wasn't too hard to install though. It's a little more picky than VNC: color depth has to be the same on any machine you wish to re-open an existing session on. It also chews up a surprising amount of CPU on the client machine. Then there are alternatives like Microsoft Remote desktop, crossloopTeamViewer,, zolved, gitso, netviewer, and LogMeIn. Other methods include VNC based stuff: reverse VNC or UltraVNC SingleClick,, possibly with OpenVPN. /.
  • Office-like suites like Scalix (formerly HP Openmail), Open-Xchange, and Zimbra (among many others). KOrganiser for KDE. /. Distributed offices pose unique challenges.
  • Use TeXmacs for perfect document (and math) rendering. Wikipedia's LaTeX page lists other packages also. Check out Kile, TeXShop (MacOS), and TeXnicCenter for an integrated TeX environment. WYSIWYG editing can be performed with vi & Evince, TexMakerX > TeXmaker > LyX (and its variant KLyX) > Kile. gedit+latex > Emacs+AUCTeX | Emacs+pdflatex | vim-latex (about in order, according to the comments on a ubuntu forum thread). More complete list is on the Tug site.
  • IGES viewers (mechanical engineering related): Rhino and Powershape (from Delcam)
  • Synergy: Screen/computer sharing freeware
  • Alternative to Visio: DIA
  • To back up my kids DVD's before she scratches them all up: Anydvd & dvdclone or DVDcloner.
  • DVD backup tools are discussed here, including mention of dvdfab which I decided to purchase since they provide a free version. DVDFab works well. Not the most intutitve GUI, but functional and works under WINE. Check out gnomebaker, x264enc, and/or k3b for Linux.
  • HD-DVD and Blu-Ray tools like BackupBluRay are listed on doom9 There was also an article in Wired.
  • Other software is listed here.
  • I've used SilentNight DVD burner. Very barebones, but appears to work. What is up with these pieces of software that are so non-intuitive? Maybe InfraRecorder would be better?
  • looks like there is an mpeg4 converter (transcoder?) called handbrake and maybe another called AutoGK
  • K-Lite Mega Codec Pack appears to be recommended as well, although Standard edition appears to be all that is really needed. K-Lite products may have a number of ads.
  • VLC media player seems to play just about anything... is mplayer or Media Player Classic (MPC) any better? And then there's GOM and smplayer. smplayer may play ripped DVDs better, but seems more buggy.
  • For DRM infested files, check out these removal tools.
  • OST2PST or libpst for converting offline Outlook folders to mail-line. Microsoft is saying that they will open the .pst format spec.
  • Speaking of mail and folders, Pegasus Mail has a mind-boggling following and supposedly blows Thunderbird away.
  • scanpst.exe for repairing Outlook .pst files
  • gnucash instead of Quicken? Or KmyMoney? Or perhaps some other alternatives to Intuit who seems to think they rule the world now. Or do I just work around their ignorant behavior?
  • LedgerSMB appears to be quite popular for general ledger software
  • Pidgin (formerly gaim) or Miranda for a multi-format instant messenger client. Pidgin is more polished, while Miranda seems more compact. Feature level seems comparable. Empathy might be there someday, but the version included in Ubuntu 9.10 is so lacking in usability and features, it is downright shameful.
  • Now that Yahoo has discontinued Musicmatch (no wonder... after making it unusable), alternatives include MediaMonkey, amarok (Linux only for now, win32 coming soon), Songbird, now Banshee, ... others? Update: Wife says MediaMonkey is ok, but not super.
  • Recovery programs: I'm sure there are other image repair programs than pixrecovery, and probably lots of good undelete programs other than Pandora Recovery, Undelete Plus, or EASEUS - but these get fairly decent marks in my survey. PC Inspector File Recovery also? Snapfiles has the best (seems reasonably objective) list I've found so far.
  • Virus software. Oh virus software. It's more difficult choosing one of these than finding an elephant that was born purple. And then you have to wonder how honest the reviews are. This needs a whole list by itself.
  • Bit torrent software: Many consider Azureus to be a java bloated system log, so uTorrent seems to be a favorite for both Windows and Linux, but requires Wine on Linux. For some reason I'm resisting using it because of the Wine requirement... so next on the list include qBittorrent, kTorrent (1.x didn't support DHT), and deluge. Multi-user (especially one that allows remote web-based access via http): TorrentFlux-b4rt, TorrentVolve (which uses Azureus), maybe qBittorrent. I installed qBittorrent and am reasonably happy with it. It has a web-interface as well now.
  • USB sniffing: SniffUSB - and it seems to be the most recent one, at least when
    compared to usbsnoop and SnoopyPro.
  • Circuit Simulation: 5spice, LTspice, Circuitlogix
  • Tools for teaching programming, especially for kids: Scratch (awesome), Kodu (/.)
  • Software for switches/routers: MLDonkey, Tomato, etc.
  • Allan swears by Total Commander. I have to admit it isn't bad, although I haven't used it to the extent he has.
  • One of the features of Total Commander is a decent utility to produce file differences. A mythtv developer swears by Araxis Merge. I noticed there are open source alternatives.
  • Hex editors... probably quite a few. Xvi32 was suggested. I installed Bless on Ubuntu and it is pretty cool.
  • Document/Content management systems... good: Alfresco, OpenText, Knowledge Tree, bad: Documentum
  • IDE's: (I think I had a list somewhere else, but can't find it) kdevelop with ctags integration is supposedly quite good for tracking down where code is, but may require more mouse interaction than emacs or egrep(?)
  • Check out puppet (wikimedia uses it).
Example prescription from here:

ComboFix is amazing. It's simple, but it automates a lot of tools that are a bit of a pain to use on their own. Ten minutes, and most malware is somewhat neutered.
MalwareBytes is amazing. ComboFix always misses stuff, but it lets us install MalwareBytes (also free) which finishes the job. I haven't seen any virus MB couldn't remove.

Startup manager/Hijack this
Firefox w/ adblock
NOD32 w/ latest signatures
Windows updates daily

Another (free) list:
ZoneAlarm (free) - Firewall
AVG Free 7.5 (free) or NOD32 (pay) or Avira Antivir (semi-free) - Virus Scanner
Ad-aware Personal SE (free) - Adware scanner
SpywareBlaster 3.5.1 (free) - Adware/ site blocker
Windows Firewall w/ NAT Hardware firewall

Other lists for both virus/firewall:

And then there are general Microsoft stuff that isn't well known or documented:
Then we have the best of free online resources, including one that I'd never heard of at all: looks great too

Here are other another combination (Unix / Windows) of "best free software" list

Last but not least, Linux software:
  • Mercurial and Git (version 1.5 or newer to pull down new branches automatically)
  • Apache's free Lucene engine - powerful indexing engine that handles all kinds of docs
  • Horde - Everything, including the kitchen sink
  • Valgrind and other Ubuntu debugging procedures (valgrind --leak-check=full --show-reachable=yes ). Don't forget Variants/options on Valgrind
  • Coverity has a static analysis tool called Prevent that looks neat. There is also krazy2.
  • Auto/smoke-test builds:
  • Linux artist software (besides what comes with Ubuntu Studio) discussion on /. includes Lightroom ($200?). dvgrab
  • And of course, who can forget gimp, although some people complain about its size and complexity (/.), blender, Picasa, Irfanview, and f-spot (is that a real image editor?? People talk about its UI being poor as well... someone suggests digikam, Gthumb, GQview, or Gwenview instead),
  • IPtables firewall, WebMin, Asterisk 1.4, FreePBX, phpMyAdmin
  • Zoneminder (appears to be the best, according to /. discussion)

(this list will likely be updated as needed in the future)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gun control, or fear control?

Just because an argument is very persuasive, doesn't mean that the point being made is correct. Kinda like how a good salesman can make almost anything seem worth almost any price. So when people talk about gun control, are they right, or are they making persuasive arguments that are not backed up by the data? It is worth it to make sure you are looking at the big picture, and not just one piece of select data.

People make the point that gun-related deaths goes down when gun-control policies are put in place. Of course they do! But does the overall death rate go down, or do people just switch to different methods (looking at both suicides and murders)?

Here's an interesting study on the history of gun control in the UK. It provides but one small picture into this huge debate.

Lighting the way

/. has an interesting discussion on CF blubs. They use less energy to make and use, and last considerably longer, so obviously they are worth it. Here's a quote:

I use Philips and Osram lamps. Never used cheap lamps. I also use "color 84" lamps, 83 is the regular "warm white" while 86 is the "daylight" bluish regular lamp. 84 is something in between, IIRC it was also called "natural" color. Is not as yellow as the warm whites.
Another interesting quote:
Interestingly, Mythbusters checked this out just a few weeks ago, and their methodology seemed pretty sensible. IIRC, their conclusion was that the start-up current spike for a CFL bulb was equal to about .25 sec. of running time.
Many CF blubs appear to have a problem with high humidity, like in bathrooms. Someone in that thread claims that it's the reason natural (or daylight) CF bulbs (from places like or look better is because cheap CF bulbs put out lots of green light, and the "warm" ones put out yellow light. He suggests finding high-temperature (CCT) "Daylight" fluorescents(5000K) . Someone else points out there are 6500K bulbs available - but most people are going to consider them too harsh.

A good compromise appears to be 3500 to 4000K, S/P: 1.65, and ideally a CRI greater than 85. Looks like a common part numbering scheme is 930 or 950, where the 9 means 90% and the 30 or 50 is temperature.


Lastly, someone provides an analysis on the current state of LED bulbs (result: less efficient and more costly).