Songbird is my new favorite music management software. Why? Because with it I can organize songs on my desktop and explore music throughout the web.
Using the Mozilla platform, Songbird allows me to browse the web searching for songs while keeping track of my music collection on my computer. I can easily find music tracks available on a site to play them, download them, or dig deeper through different web pages to find more stuff on the bands and artists I like.
It is still considered a young project, as of today it is on its version 0.4. On my machine it is a pretty stable program but with a few missing features such as ripping and burning a CD, syncing with external devices (like the iPod), and integrating well with Last.fm.
To compensate these shortcomings, you can add more power to Songbird by selecting from a long list of add-ons to install. You may also change its looks by installing different skins (which Songbird calls feathers).
Right now it is my default Windows music management software. If you want, you can install it on your MacOS X or also on your Linux machine.
If you’ve also been using this software, I’d be curious to know about your experiences. Do you think it is already stable enough to be your main music management software?
Meanwhile, here is a short video to show you some of the cools things you can do with Songbird:
A desktop publishing (DTP) software is mainly used to produce documents such as brochures, newsletters, newspapers, and even books. If you’ve heard or worked with Adobe’s PageMaker you’ll probably be happy to know there is an open source “alternative” project called Scribus.
Although Scribus doesn’t work with the file formats created by the other proprietary programs (ie. Adobe’s InDesign), it can work between these softwares through svg, eps, or pdf file formats.
To be quite honest, I haven’t had the need to use a DTP software for a long long time so I haven’t tested this software to give tips for it. However, the project seems mature enough to deserve a nice amount of attention if the need ever arises. Scribus seems pretty easy to use and effective for the job.
Another great advantage of Scribus is that it works on Linux, MacOS X, and Windows. I’ve also found out that there is a portable version of Scribus you can run from your pen drive.
I’ve recently had to tweak two Windows computers because they were acting too sluggish. When I checked the processes running, I found several MS Live apps running and also when searching on the list of programs installed, there were several more MS programs installed. Microsoft really tries to push their products. Which is why I really don’t like to use their tools, even freewares.
aMSN is a MSN instant messaging client (aka Live Messenger) that you can install and run without noticing a difference from the proprietary original software. It works on Linux, Windows, and MacOS X. Although I use Pidgin for IM, I have aMSN installed in case I need to use a webcam or audio with someone on MSN.
You can see through the visuals that the program is really quite simple to use. Take a look first at the log on window:
Once you’re logged in, the main contact window is quite clean and straight to the point.
Finally, through its chat window you can see all the main and important functions are present such as webcam, audio, file sharing, and more.
aMSN also rocks from its plugins architecture allowing you to go beyond the standard functionalities such as: an inline translator, spell check, games, auto-replace, and lots more.
Best of all, no annoying Microsoft intrusion to download more applications.
Like I mentioned previously, Pidgin meets my needs 99% of the time. What about you? Do you use voice and/or video with your IM clients often?
Currently on version 0.92, ClamWin is a good open source antivirus program for Windows (the Unix version is called Clam AV, the engine behind Clam Win).
From my tests it has a nice detection rate. It has automatic downloads, shell integration (where you can use its functions through right-click). It also has plug ins for email verification.
The bad thing about ClamWin is that it doesn’t have (yet) a real-time scanner so you’re left at manually run system checks. But, this should be solved soon with version 1.0.
I have ClamWin and Clam AV installed on my Linux distro and Windows respectively. But… since some functionalities of the program aren’t stable yet, I’m left with no option but to use a freeware proprietary application as well as ClamWin.
If you have important document files you want to keep safe on your computer the best way to go is with TrueCrypt. This program allows you to create an encrypted volume where you can store files, programs, or even an entire operating system.
This program is very simple to use. You first create the volume you want with its size, mount the volume (where it will appear as a real disk), and start packing it with files. Whenever you’re done using these files just unmount the volume and everything is tightly encrypted again. You can even encrypt an entire partition, including your Windows partition. The whole mounting and unmounting process takes just a few seconds.
Another cool feature on TrueCrypt are the hidden volumes. This is where you’ll have a secretive volume inside an encrypted volume. Basically what this means is that you mount a volume with one password and it’ll show you one set of files but if you mount the same volume with another password it’ll show the hidden volume you’ve created. So, there’s actually no way of telling whether you have a hidden volume or not.
Since I try to be as paperless as I can, I scan all my personal documents and keep it all safely stored in an encrypted volume.
Nowadays you can find several really good open source or freeware BitTorrent clients. Why choose Deluge? Because…
it is open source: you’ll be much safer against having a sneaky hidden process running on your computer;
it is multiplatform: if you use (or you’re planning to use) more then one operating system, you can install Deluge wherever you want: on Linux, MacOS X, or Windows. Choosing multiplatform apps you’re more likely to remove yourself from the claws of proprietary operating systems.
it has plugins: use just the features you want by activating the plugins you’ll need.
it is fast: Deluge is pretty fast with libtorrent.
I used Azureus a lot but it was too sluggish with its Java, after that I used uTorrent which I really liked but when I moved to Linux I couldn’t use it anymore. So, I was left with the option to use Transmission or Deluge. Only the latter worked on Windows, MacOS X, and Linux so I was happy to be able to use the same application on any OS I chose.
With its plugin structure, Deluge has a bunch of extra features, such as:
BitTorrent Protocol Encryption
Global and per-torrent speed limits
Configurable bandwidth scheduler
RSS, and much more!
One plugin I use often is the “Torrent Search” to find the file I want through several different sites.
Last and best of all is its “Web User Interface”. I can now manage my torrents remotely through any web browser. Just activate the plugin, go to your web browser and type http://localhost:8112/ .
Now, thats what I call complete freedom. Free of charge, free from OS, and free even from your desktop! Download it and if you like it, support the project with a donation.