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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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The yearly show at Olympia in London on the 20th and 21st April allows all the big Linux backers to show off all their latest Linux products and services. The show had over 100 participants including companies such as IBM, Sun, Red Hat and SuSe. I visited on the Tuesday afternoon after travelling from the Midlands on the trains.
The following are some of the photos I took from the day of the various exhibitors:
Over all it was a good day out, it only took a couple of hours to look round the show and I will say I was expecting a bit more. It was worth the travel (even if the trains were delayed both ways) and I hope to go again next year.
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Junk e-mail costs UK business millions of pounds a week in wasted time yet the government seems to be making little or no progress towards making it illegal. Both the EU and US have drafted up laws but experts say none go far enough to prosecuting the sources of spam.
Spam e-mails can be anything from saying you have a free university diploma, an approved loan or cheap viagra. E-mails like this are very cheap to send and normally cost the receiver more in time then the sender.
Similar annoyances through mail and telemarketing have strict guidelines as to what can or cannot be marketed and in what quantities but there are no laws or guidelines for e-mails. This is why your 12 year old child can be getting emails about extending body parts. There is currently no law against this which for many organisations and people is outrageous.
One organisation against fighting spam is CAUCE - The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (here). They are primarily based in the US but have ties around the world to help stop spam. While they recognise that a large proportion of spam comes from the US but not all, is why legislation around the world needs to be put into place to stop spam.
Some corporations have taken an active role in trying to stop junk e-mail, one being Microsoft who have pledged to fight spammers. Microsoft have come up with various ideas, one being reported by ImAFish's Jonnie Ashley which suggests emails use a similar system to normal mail.
Until governments take an active role in fighting spam by making it illegal the option left to users involve filtering out junk mail. There are various programs about some are dedicated mail filters and some are built into mail clients.
One program is Mozilla Thunderbird (here) which has a built in junk mail filter which normally gets about 90% of spam. For the emails the Junk mail filter does not get you can set-up separate filters for words such as [email protected] and phrases such as ?approved credit card?.
Microsoft Outlook users can also configure their program to filter out junk email. Microsoft also provide a list of commonly used words in spam messages, these can be seen at here.
Programs such as Mail Washer (here) are also good at stopping junk email from reaching your in-box. However they are not always free and you often have to pay for the best features. .
Virus's are also a big program for e-mails, one of the fastest ways that virus's spread are through e-mail which is why a good e-mail client is useful for filtering out virus's.
Last week Roxio's Napster(here) launched in the UK for the first time as a legal music distribution service. Napster is one of many legitimate music site entering into the increasingly crowded market.
The most popular legal on-line music company currently is called On Demand Distribution (OD2) (here). This service is behind some of the big on-line music brands including My Coke Music, Ministry of Sound digital downloads, Virgin downloads, MSN music and HMV downloads.
I subscribed to the HMV (here) download site just over a month ago to check out the content and quality of service available. I choose HMV over the others at the time mainly because the site layout was the best, for instance the Ministry of sound site uses an awkward frame and the My Coke Music site seemed to cluttered. Other than they they all follow a similar design and serve the same content.
There are two different ways to purchase music through HMV, the first is through buying individual tracks similar to the way Apples iTunes (here) works, tracks start at about 99p and increase in price depending on the song. The second way to purchase tunes is through a subscription which is what I chose. The subscription offered is ?4.99 a month which entitles you to 500 credits per month.
The credits then let you do various things for instance to ? stream ? a song (listen to it once) normally costs 1 credit (roughly equivalent to 1p), to download a song costs 10 credits and to be able to permanently download a song so that you can burn it to a CD costs about 100 credits. Songs that are downloaded for 10 credits can only be listened to while you are subscribed to the service.
In my view the payment model is not very flexible, its certainly not over priced but say I wanted to purchase some extra credits one month I would have to order a second ?4.99 monthly package. There is no way to purchase an extra number of credits or choose my own monthly number of credits.
Some people may be more than happy just to pay for extra credits when needed (in blocks of say 500) when they ran out instead of the monthly charge. Currently only credit cards are accepted (Visa and Mastercard etc), no debit cards (Switch Solo etc) are accepted which does limit the audience to only people with access to credit cards.
For a music site to be successful clearly what is important is the content rather then the pricing model. I have looked quite carefully into various different on-line download sites including E-music (here) and Napster for the music I'm interested - dance/trance.
E-music does the annoying thing of classing dance under the more American title of ?Electronic? music while Napster classes Usher and Beyonce as their most important dance artists which probably also shows the lack of research for the European market.
The HMV site does a bit better here by having a ?Dance? section but doesn't go as far as splitting this category down more into its sub sections. Napster does split the categories down into more detail but still seems confused as to what should go where. It almost seems as more of an attempt to fill an empty category then to insert good content.
To test the content on the HMV site and Napster I took this weeks top 10 (from the BBC's website here) and searched for these tunes on both sites. From the HMV site (OD2) I found 6 out of the top 10 songs of the week while on Napster I found 8 out of 10.
Napster certainly seemed better for HipHop and other more American music while the content provided by OD2 did have a lot more dance but had a certain amount of the content Napster had. In a way deciding which service to use goes hand in hand with the type of music you enjoy. When searching for music I found that the HMV site came with better results for what I was searching for than Napster, though both services have to go a long way to get better library's of music.
Napster had a better way of cataloguing their content then OD2 and searching was significantly faster, both services I didn't think were good at helping you discover new artists. Something simple that showed you what new content had been added in the various sections that week would be more than enough to help you discover new music.
iTunes is the only service to offer a client for an alternative operating system to Windows, Napster installs its own client and the HMV site will only work in Microsoft's Internet Explorer which is restricting for people who use alternative browsers.
Personally I found the HMV site to be better overall for what I wanted, its not as polished and sleek as Napster and isn't a big a brand as iTunes for on-line music but for content it was the best in my opinion. The service is far from perfect and until you can find any chart song, whether it be from the pop chart or dance chart then people will still use the illegal downloading sites.