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Skype for Linux Redesign Is Ugly but Functional
July 23, 2014
If you do not mind having a free non-open source Microsoft product on your Linux computer, the latest Skype for Linux release catches up to the Windows and Mac versions, providing most of the features they've had for some time. Microsoft rolled out Skype version 4.3.0.37 in mid June. The catch-up release has an updated user interface, some additional features, and lots of bug fixes.
Amazon Fire Phone Wins Respect, if Not Raves
July 23, 2014
Early reviews for Amazon's first foray into the smartphone market are mixed, with a general sense that the device is a good phone overlaid with some flashy features. Amazon announced the Fire Phone last month, trumpeting its 3D display, which uses facial recognition and front-facing cameras to shift perspective, depending on where the user's head is.
KaOS Calms Down KDE
July 15, 2014
KaOS is an interesting and very efficient Linux distribution built around a refined KDE desktop environment. The KDE integration is much more controlled in KaOS than in other Linux choices. The latest release for this 14-month young Linux distro came in late June. KaOS is a bit of a rarity. It is independent of other distros -- not a direct relative of other Linux offshoots.
Dell's Latitude 12 E7240 - in and Beyond the Office
July 03, 2014
A confluence of recent events has gotten me thinking about laptops. First, IDC and Gartner released PC market surveys that suggest a significant slowing in the declines plaguing PC sales for the past few years. Then last week, due to "stronger than expected demand for business PCs," Intel said it was raising Q2 and full-year revenue and gross margin expectations.
Linux Mint 17: Fresh and Long-Lasting
June 30, 2014
Linux Mint 17, dubbed "Qiana," is one of the best releases from this community since Linux Mint 13 arrived in 2012 with the Cinnamon desktop. Qiana is filled with extensive improvements and embellishments to all five desktop editions. It is available in Cinnamon, Xfce, KDE, Mate and LMDE. Regardless of which desktop you favor, the core improvements are well worth the upgrade.
All Things Appy: Top 5 iOS Utilities and Tools
June 24, 2014
While Apple's mobile operating system does hold users' hands when it comes to device management more so than competitor Android, there are additional steps you can take to optimize your iOS device. Free third-party utilities are available in app form to beef up battery management, cloud storage and camera backup, as well as to find lost phones, among other things.
LXQt Desktop Could Be a Real Beaut
June 19, 2014
If you like the economy of working in a lightweight desktop environment such as LXDE, you no doubt will love the tweaked performance of the LXQt desktop. It is a fusion of the LXDE and Razor-Qt desktop environments. The LXQt hybrid is the next generation of the popular Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment. The result is a lightweight, modular, very fast desktop environment that is user-friendly.
Pinguy OS Makes Gnome Desktop as Good as It Gets
June 13, 2014
The Pinguy OS is a solid Linux distro with a focus on simple and straightforward usability for the non-geek desktop user. This approach may disappoint those who favor newer user interfaces, but if you consider yourself a normal computer user who does not like to tinker with settings and various desktop environment options, Pinguy OS could be a good choice.
Instagram Adds Subtlety to Its Editing Repertoire
June 09, 2014
Instagram, Facebook's popular free mobile app for editing and sharing photos, has never had a reputation for subtlety. It's image-editing tools and filters have had more in common with a palette knife than a fine sable paint brush. That's changed, though, with the latest version of the app. Version 6.0 of Instagram, which has an estimated 200 million users, was released last week.
RoboLinux Smooths the Linux Migration Path
June 05, 2014
RoboLinux is an impressive traditional Linux desktop distro. It could be an ideal vehicle for both enterprises and SOHOs to make the migration to Linux. RoboLinux comes with a few extra features that solve some of the potential problems of leaving other desktop platforms. One of its more enticing migration tools is a preconfigured virtual machine add-on.
All Things Appy: Top 5 Android Launcher Apps
June 05, 2014
One easy way to refresh an aging Android smartphone phone is to replace the home screen with a Launcher. Launchers are skins with themes and unique behaviors, like transparency and scrolling styles. Our No. 1 pick is Nova launcher, an extremely customizable launcher app designed to speed up performance. Neat tricks include substituting KitKat-styled icons for the aging Ice Cream sandwich versions.
Deepin's Functionality Is a Bit Too Shallow
May 29, 2014
Deepin Linux is something totally new. It is an Ubuntu-based distribution built around its own desktop environment called "DDE" or "Deepin Desktop Environment." The Deepin desktop design is snazzy yet simple to use. It is one of the first Linux distros to take advantage of HTML 5 technology. The distro so far is available only in English and traditional or simplified Chinese.
Blue Pup Distro: Pride of the Puppy Linux Litter
May 21, 2014
It had to happen sooner or later. It turned out to be sooner. It is here. The Blue Pup Linux distro brings the Metro view to the Linux desktop. This arrangement is not a true Metro interface the likes of the much criticized Windows 8. Instead, it is a Puppy Linux derivative distro, or Pupplet, built around the Chromium Web browser with a Chrome extension.
All Things Appy: 5 Best Firefox Themes
May 21, 2014
If you're a daily Internet user, there's a good chance that you're also a daily Internet browser user. If your choice is Firefox, you may be tired of its look -- it hasn't changed much recently. However, Firefox allows you to customize its background look with more than 300,000 themes. Plus, with complete themes, you can separately personalize the address bar, buttons, menu, tabs and window frame.
Enlightenment Linux: It's Not What You Think
May 16, 2014
The Enlightenment desktop environment is not for everyone. Experienced Linux fans may delight in some new light bulbs switching on, but Linux newcomers may find themselves groping in the darkness. For the Linux-initiated, Enlightenment offers some powerful new flexibility in how to set up and use the operating system. Enlightenment is radically different from other lightweight interface shells.
For Safe, Private Mobile Browsing, Huddle Under F-Secure's Freedome
May 15, 2014
At a meeting with the press earlier this year, F-Secure Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen -- yes, the man who sparked the angry exodus of a small group of malware vendors from the RSA security conference -- mentioned the company would soon unveil Freedome, a cloud-based service that would be pretty much the bees' knees for protecting mobile devices.
Adobe Voice Can Make You a Better Storyteller
May 09, 2014
If you have a story to tell -- even a dull one -- Adobe Voice can improve your presentation. The free app can't make your story more compelling, but it can give you a better shot at getting it across. Adobe Voice is available for the iPad 2 and above running iOS 7. To kickstart your use of Voice, Adobe offers sample slideshows and a tutorial that provides the essentials for creating a short video.
AV Linux Dazzles Both Eyes and Ears
May 08, 2014
AV Linux can turn a new or old PC, or an Intel-powered Mac box, into a workstation for audio/graphics/video enthusiasts. AV Linux is a specialty distro much in the style of the CAELinux distro for engineers and scientists and the Musix distro for audio and music production that I reviewed in recent weeks. AV Linux is not your typical Linux desktop. It has a custom-designed Linux kernel.
All Things Appy: Top 5 New or Improved Android Apps
May 01, 2014
Five of the top free Android apps that either have been introduced for the first time or significantly updated this year are in the categories of password management, Web browser compression, lock screen functionality and media. Google's Android OS apps can be obtained in Google's Play Store. Browse to the Play Store -- you'll find it in your device's app drawer. Then search for the app.
Musix Linux: Sweet Strains Jarred by Sour Notes
April 30, 2014
The Musix Linux distro is a specialty OS with an impressive collection of tools for users with a passion mostly for audio and music production. That same collection of tools should be included for video, given the blending of music and video popular in distributing entertainment on the Internet today. Yet it is missing from Musix. Musix also lacks its own software repository.
Ubuntu Trusty Tahr: More Yawns, More Polish
April 24, 2014
A new Ubuntu Linux desktop line -- Ubuntu 14.04, known as "Trusty Tahr" -- lacks much in the way of new features or eye-popping special effects. You will find, however, a fresh batch of improvements in what is already a solid distro family of desktop and server implementations. Canonical continues its record of consistency with its latest version of Ubuntu, released this month.
Stealthy Assassin Series Hitman GO Makes a Luscious Board Game
April 23, 2014
I can safely say that I never would have imagined turning the Hitman video game series into a luscious dioramic board game for iOS. Lucky for us, that's what Square Enix did with last week's Hitman GO release. Apple featured the game in the App Store, and for good reason: The graphical representation of the boards you play on is a visual feast.
uGet Gives Great Downloads
April 17, 2014
The latest version of the uGet Download Manager rekindled my interest in grabbing files without relying on a Web browser. uGet version 1.10.4. was released last month. Written in C, it uses GTK+3 for its user interface, and it is packed full with improvements. It is very reliable and stable, with 11 years of growth behind it. The uGet website has received a makeover to better support users.
CAELinux Is the Ideal Distro for Designing Scientists
April 10, 2014
CAELinux is a perfect example of the power of open source to tailor the Linux OS to users' specialized needs. This computer-assisted engineering distro clearly is not for the vast majority of Linux users, but it certainly has all the features you would expect in any mature Linux OS -- and then some. The extra ingredients make CAELinux a unique Linux distro for engineers and scientists.

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