Mandrake Move

By Pete | @kingpetey | 24 Feb 2004

The idea behind Mandrake Move (here) is simple, you have a bootable CD with Mandrake Move on and a USB flash drive to store your data then you can use any PC at your disposal to do your work. Its a nice idea but as I found out it doesn't always work how you expected.

Mandrake Move isn't the only or first CD running Linux distribution, many other companies and organisations produce them including (here)SuSE, Knoppix (here) and Slax (here) but Mandrakesoft (here) is the first to market it as an OS that you can simply take anywhere to get to a familiar desktop and common programs. Normall CD running Linux (here) distributions are advertised as ways to try the OS without having to alter your hard drive in any way. While Mandrake Move still does this it is designed so that if you wanted to you could use it in other computers and get a familiar interface.

Mandrake Move comes in two different versions, the first is a free to download from Mandrakesoft. The second is a boxed version which comes with a USB flash disk and is available for about 70 EUR for the 128mb flash disk and 129 EUR for the 256mb flash disk. The boxed version also allows you to save configuration files to the flash drive which in some ways only makes the free version useful for a trial. Being able to save configuration files to the flash drive is a handy feature for saving time on each boot. A whole range of items can be saved from network settings, to keyboard/mouse settings and desktop shortcuts.

Booting

The first computer I tried it on was a Pentium 500 with 256mbs of Ram. The boot loader worked fine as well as the first 2 stages of the boot process but shortly after I got a fatal error by something caused by my CD drive. I tried various things in the boot loader including turning off the auto detect but it didn't want too boot. After a while looking for help on the net I gave up.

The second computer had a bit more power, a Pentium 2ghz with 1024mbs of ram. When first booting the X server died because of my monitor, I rebooted and put the ?noauto? command into the boot loader. This time it got a bit further but the loader couldn't detect my USB mouse and whenever I tried to select the correct mouse it would tell me that it could not find the correct modules.

A quick mouse change later and I finally got to a desktop. With a resolution of 800*600 everything looked a bit big on my 17 inch Monitor though Mandrake or RedHat have never liked my monitor yet SuSE allows a full range of resolutions. Almost all of my hardware (apart from the USB mouse and the monitor) was detected fine including my TV card, Network card and my flash drive.

Configuration

As I was using the free version I couldn't save any of my configuration files to the flash drive. The network was very easy to set-up using the wizard and I was on the Internet in no time. If your looking for all the normal programs that come with Mandrake 9.2 you will be disappointed but in order to fit everything onto one CD Mandrake have selected a wide range of the most popular programs. The result is a selection of programs that load fast and covers 99% of the needs of a desktop user.

Mandrake Move uses KDE (here) as a desktop and has a nice selection of programs including OpenOffice (here) the office application suite, Kmail the mail client, Gaim (here) the instant messenger and Konqueror the web browser. There are also a number of games included including Frozen Bubble, Lbreakout2 and if you can get 3D working on your graphics card Tux Racer.

One of the nice features of Mandrake Move is being able to take the CD out of the drive once it is booted, this allows you to play audio CD's or load work files from a CD. If your looking to run a web server or similar in Mandrake Move then you may be disappointed but then again this this is not what Mandrake Move is designed for.

Final Thoughts

I can see Mandrake Move being used in cheap PC's without hard drives rather than for carrying around. I can also see Mandrake Move being used a lot in the home between 2-3 PC's that either don't have hard drives or the user does not want to modify them in any way.

In my view if I was going to be moving about different geographic locations I would rather buy a laptop then carry a CD around with me in the hope that I can find a PC to work on and that the hardware of that PC will be supported. Though Mandrake Move is considerably cheaper than a laptop I doubt it would get used as an alternative.

People are often worried that CD booting takes too long however I had my Mandrake desktop up in 1min 22 seconds which I thought was pretty fast. My hard drive installation of SuSE 9 takes longer at 1:33 but Windows XP only takes 53 seconds to boot.

Overall Mandrake Move is nice if you want to sample Mandrake or just do some hassle less work, the graphics look nice and the configuration is easy. The hardware support wasn't quite perfect though was better than a lot of Linux distributions I have used.

So should I buy Mandrake Move?

The price is little more than what a flash drive costs anyway so if your thinking of buying one and want to give Mandrake a try its worth it. If your not sure if your hardware is going to work first you can always download it first and check everything works. (here)

here

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With over 90% of web pages viewed in Microsoft's Internet Explorer could Mozilla Firebird (here) be the best competition yet for the tech giants browser? Mozilla Firebird is a stand alone browser based on the Mozilla (here) application suite. It boasts to be fast, stylish and easy to use. Thunderbird (here) on the other hand is a mail client similar to Outlook, likewise with Firebird it is also derived from the Mozilla suite. Both Thunderbird and Firebird are ?Technology previews? so are not complete but are still mostly usable.

Firebird and Thunderbird are both open source software and are released under the Mozilla and Netscape Public Licenses (here). This means that you can freely download and install Firebird or Thunderbird as many times are you want.

Unlike some similar programs such as Internet Explorer and Outlook, Firebird and Thunderbird are available for a number of different operating systems including Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. Both programs were easy to install in Windows and Linux, both requiring the user to simply download the software, unzip it then double click on the executable file. This may be nothing new for Windows Users but not having to type in a complicated command into the console in Linux is a handy advantage.

Firebird

ImAFish in the Firebird Browser.


Large copyhere
One of the best features of Firebird is tabbed browsing which allows you to have a number of different web pages in the one window under different tabs. The tabs only appear when you have more than one window open which is good as there is little point in having a tab bar when you only have one tab open.The middle mouse button opens a link in a new tab which is especially useful when wanting to come back to a certain page later. Firebird certainly loads faster than the Mozilla suite which was always one of the downsides of Mozilla. As for its Internet Explorer counterpart on my machine loading times were roughly the same, there is certainly not a large noticeable difference.The improved download manager is another added bonus.

The layout of the browser is also good, the bars at the top are very small, unlike in the main Mozilla suite which has a bulky section at the top. This maximises the viewing space for a web page which in my view is one of Firebird's biggest strengths. This could be why I think that the ImAFish site looks better in Firebird than it does in other browsers.The pop-up blocking is also a nice feature but sometimes it blocks the windows that you want to pop-up, for instance the ImAFish Forums pops up a window when you have a new new message, which in Firebird is often blocked. Firebird also nicely imports any favourites from Internet Explorer making it easy for people to migrate to Firebird.The integrated searching is also useful meaning that a google search is easier than ever before.

ThunderbirdMy mail account in Thunderbird.

Large copyhere
Thunderbird also delivers some good features one being the reason I moved from using Outlook Express to Thunderbird. This is the junk mail filter, you tell it which mails are junk and which aren't then it uses its filter to take out any emails which are deemed as spam. In my case there are quite a few a day, mainly about Viagra or the size of my p***s. It can normally filter out about 50 ? 60% of my junk mail, a few more I can get through the message filters, this leaves me with a few a day which I have to mark physically by hand as junk. The filter definitely isn't perfect but goes a lot further than any other ?free? mail programs do.The latest version ? 0.4 updates the theme and fixes a few stability issues but I have never had any problems while running Thunderbird. The way accounts are displayed are also a lot better than some mail clients, its easy to edit settings or change smtp servers which is especially useful when moving my machine between home and University. Thunderbird also has good support for security features such as digital signing and message encryption.Conclusion

In a way its unfair to review ?unfinished? software but Firebird and Thunderbird are both good programs which work well in Windows and Linux. I would like to see Thunderbird's Junk mail filter improved slightly but this may happen in future releases. Do I think that Firebird can break Microsoft's dominance in the Browser world? Well maybe but unless it can get wide spread take up from either Linux distributions or being distributed by PC manufacturers selling Windows its will be a long and hard road.

Internet Explorers integration with Windows does make it hard for many rivals but I do think that Firebird is the best yet in the terms of a good alternative and I think it may be enough to woo people away from Internet Explorer.

Key Links

Mozilla (here)
Firebird (here)
Thunderbird (here)

Related ImAFish Articles

The End of Netscape Navigator (here)

Reviews PC Spec:

Pentium 4 ? 2gig
1024 DDR
ATI Radeon 9600.
Windows XP Home and SuSE 9 Professional.

Winamp 5

By Pete | @kingpetey | 17 Dec 2003

Its been a tough year for the AOL owned Nullsoft, with the release of Winamp 3 (here) a year ago then the abandoning of it has set back the media player quite some way. Nullsoft then took on the task of putting together the best parts of Winamp (here) 2 and 3 into what has become Winamp 5. The player features an updated look along with being able to support a large range of skins. An updated media library allows you much more freedom in browsing and ordering music.


Large Verion:here.

The launch of Winamp 5 also brings a Pro Player which costs $14:95 (?11) which gives you faster ripping speeds, MP3 music encoding and CD burning up to 48x. While this may not be enough to tempt you there are rumours that more will be available on the Pro Player in the future.

Winamp 5 includes better support for video and makes good use of Nullsoft's Streaming Video (NSV), this works well for Internet TV which is found in the media library. Currently there are only a few channels available (mostly either music or porn) however I'm certain there will be more in the coming months.

"Winamp continues to be a popular player for digital media enthusiasts who want a lot of flexibility and control over their media experience," AOL said in a statement. Over the past years Winamp has become less popular against its rivals such as Microsofts Windows Media Player and Real One Player.

In May 2003, Winamp reached 5.5 million users, lagging far behind Microsoft Windows Media's 43.1 million, RealNetworks' 26 million and Apple QuickTime's 13.5 million, according to online measurement firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

Winamp 5 may be a step forwards to undo some of the damage caused in the last year but it is unlikely if Winamp will ever become as popular as it once was. However I still find it to be the fastest, nicest and easiest media player to use and there is no doubt that I will continue to use Winamp.

Winamp download: here

SuSE Linux 9 Review

By Pete | @kingpetey | 14 Nov 2003

ImAFish.com's pwhite writes: SuSE Linux 9, the latest release from Nuremberg, Germany-based SuSE Linux, was released at the end of last month. I put SuSE Linux Professional through its paces, and found it to be the most user-friendly Linux distribution on the market. It's not a "must" update for users of previous versions, but it does have some nice perks.

Read more at:

here

(Article featured on newsforge on 13th November 2003.)

OpenOffice 1.1

By Pete | @kingpetey | 10 Oct 2003


Version 1.1 is the latest release from OpenOffice.org - a free open source office suite which rivals other similar software such as Microsoft Office. The project has been going from strength to strength and so far in August 2003 over 18 million copies of the software have been downloaded, this excludes copies which have been distributed through Linux distributions such as SuSE and RedHat.

OpenOffice is available for all the major operating systems including Microsoft Windows, Linux and Mac which makes it a good choice for companies or individuals which use more than one OS. The office suite, which is around 70mbs to download is easily available from the projects website and comes bundled with many other packages.

Version 1.1 adds a number of new features such as saving documents in the PDF format and in the Macromedia Flash format, however only presentations and drawings can be saved in the flash format. 1.1 also adds better support for Microsoft Office documents and improved international support in a range of languages. While 1.1 adds some new features I still think they need to go further, I would have liked to have seen more templates for presentations and maybe some wizards in the writer.

To me it seems that OpenOffice 1.1 is more a fix and update of things we already saw in 1.0 rather then an abundance of new features. I have used OpenOffice for almost a year now to write the majority of the ImAFish articles but when it comes to something bigger (for college/university) I still revert back to MS Office, simply because while OpenOffice does have very good support for MS Office documents it still just isn't quite the same starting a project in MS Office (as most colleges/universities do not use OpenOffice) then finishing it off in OpenOffice.

I will continue to use OpenOffice as in my view it is the better product (and its free) but until it has a wider acceptance as a standard it will be an up hill struggle for users to be able to get the full potential out of OpenOffice.

Screen Shots: here Links here

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