Friday, November 30, 2007

upgraded blog layout

so I stopped being lazy and upgraded the blog to use the new "layouts" instead of the old "templates" system on looks purty, or something.

Free + open-source software I use

After reading Lifehacker for a while, I started thinking about the software I use every day. I've been trying to better organize my files, downloads and apps, and it'd be handy to have a list of what I actually use and where to download it. I primarily use free or open-source software on Windows XP, both because it works well, and because it's freely available and I can download the apps anywhere, anytime I have Internet access.

I've organized the software by how often I use it - daily, frequently or infrequently. I've also included other standard programs like antivirus/security, office software and runtime libraries (.NET and Java).

Since it can take a lot of time to go through and google for an app, visit the site, find the download section and find the current version to download for thirty-some apps, I've included links to the download pages and the current version of the app, as of today, Friday November 30th 2007.

Linked downloads (second link) are EXE installers for Windows XP in English from North American servers. If that doesn't work for you, click on the download page (first link) and select what you do want.





Office software

Runtime libraries
I've listed older versions as well since some apps (specifically system admin or backup software) require a specific older version. If you're not sure what you need, get the most recent version.

Let me know if you find this useful or have suggestions for the list.

Internet Explorer for OS X

ies4osx is a convenient way to run Internet Explorer natively on Mac OS X, without having to pull up Parallels or reboot into Windows with Boot Camp. Lifehacker (which is now one of my favorite sites) posted it this morning at Run Internet Explorer on Your Mac with ies4osx.

I haven't used this package on the Mac, but it's derived from the latest version of the IEs4Linux package which lets you run Internet Explorer natively on Linux. I've used IEs4Linux on Ubuntu Linux 6.10 and 7.04 and it really works rather well.

It's particularly handy for accessing financial and corporate sites that require IE for their functionality. That's less of a problem now than it was 2 or 3 years ago, thanks to the continued growing popularity of Firefox and Safari.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


"The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield." - George Orwell, ''In Front of Your Nose", 1946

Wikipedia articles on the Congo

Jessica has been reading through The Poisonwood Bible, which touches upon Patrice Lumumba and the Congo Crisis at the end, so I tracked down these Wikipedia articles on the Congo and Leopold II and Congolese independence for her:

Leopold II of Belgium: 1835-1909, son of Leopold I of Belgium, who married Princess Charlotte and arranged then-Princess Victoria's marriage to Prince Albert.

Congo Free State: Leopold II's private state in the Congo, 1885-1908; now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

King Leopold's Soliloquy: 1905 satirical pamphlet by Mark Twain criticizing Leopold II's actions in the Congo, in which the King supposedly argues that bringing Christianity to the country outweighs a little starvation (text available from American Museum of Natural History).

Force Publique: private army used by Leopold II to govern the Congo Free State and enforce production quotas; evolved into local colonial army after Belgian takeover of the Congo in 1908; nationalized and Africanized by Patrice Lumumba in 1960, deeply involved in the Congo Crisis, which led to Joseph Mobutu seizing power in 1965; Mobuto's overthrow led to the First Congo War from 1996-1997 and the resulting tensions then led to the Second Congo War from 1998-2003.

update 1018h:

King Leopold's Ghost: book published in 1999 (made into a documentary in 2006) which details the history of the Congo Free State, and mentions the roles played by George Washington Williams, who coined the term "crimes against humanity", William Henry Sheppard, E. D. Morel, Sir Roger Casement and Joseph Conrad in reporting, documenting and publicizing the atrocities carried out by Leopold II in the Congo.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

not so zoho

You know the nice things I wrote yesterday about ZoHo? I take most of them back.

Their word processing app is fairly decent, but their wiki and creator products really aren't that good. The wiki support page is full of unanswered questions dating back nearly a year, the database creator is agonizingly frustrating to use if you trying to do anything non-drool-inducing (like add a formula to calculate someone's current age given their birthday), and the docs are double-plus-ungood.

Microsoft's got nothing to worry about there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

online + offline web apps

Lifehacker has an interesting bit about Zoho Writer adding full offline access with Google Gears. I hadn't looked at Zoho before, but they have an excellent suite of web apps, and if you take the minute or so required to install Gears, then you can take your word processing docs offline, edit them (can't add images offline, but text + formatting works fine) and then sync up the changes once you go back online.

This is really cool, for laptop-using humans, or if you have crappy 'net connectivity and still need to work on stuff.

One really interesting part of Zoho's suite is their Creator app for online databases. Imagine being able to set up MS Access-style database apps, online, in just a few minutes. This is the sort of thing that should make Microsoft really, really worried. You don't need MS Office, Windows Server, IIS, VB or ActiveX controls... just this online app that takes 30 seconds to sign up, and 5 minutes to build a basic address book app. Or a recipe catalog. Or an inventory system.