Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Watched File Never Downloads

In anticipation of my new computer arriving next week, I've been downloading programs ahead of time. I plan on using the downgrade option to XP Professional, and also adding a Linux partition. Here's what I've got collected so far:

Ubuntu and Kubuntu (I'll try both from the Live CD before choosing which one to install)
Bibble Pro for both Windows and Linux (already have it on Mac, they set up the licensing so you only pay once per user for Pro)
Adobe Reader for both Windows and Linux
AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition
iTunes 8 (my Mac running 10.3.9 is stuck at iTunes 7)
Mpix publishing software
Flickr Uploadr
Lego Digital Designer
TI-89 Titanium applications (NERD!)

I tried to download the Google Pack, but was repeatedly thwarted because I am using my Mac. Google kicks you out of the Windows download area and into a "here's what works on YOUR computer, loser" area if you aren't on a Windows computer. I sent a "suggestion" but if you know somebody who knows somebody who works there, could you point this out? Other sites that auto-detected that I'm using a Mac did let me download the Windows software once I clicked through to a special page. Unless there is some really good reason why the computer the software will be used on is the one that does the downloading, this is an aggravating limitation.

Enough ranting. The main reasons I wrote this post are to document the download links and to ask for more ideas. I use Windows at work (got the MS Office 2007 Enterprise suite through the Home Use Program for $19.95) but just for work-related tasks. (Sure, ProE or Zemax would be fun to have at home, but I'm not rich.) Which Windows applications do you like having and using at home? Which Linux applications should I be sure to install from the Ubuntu CD? Did anything in my list above kick your dog and throw up on your hard drive?

Exciting times. My iBook G4 has given me five good years, but it is time to move on.


  1. I thought Zemax software was free to download, but you pay the license fee for the dongle to run it. If you are allowed to take it from your office, anyway. Maybe I'm thinking about CodeV.

  2. You're correct about the fee being attached to having the dongle to run the software. We don't have enough Zemax dongles to go around at work, so I can only request on when I've got real optics work to do. Even if I had a dongle, I wouldn't take it home. That little piece of hardware includes the entire value of the license. If I lost it - ugh $$$ - no thanks.

  3. You should grab Hugin for Linux. It's a Panorama sticher that is a lot of fun. It's fairly flexible so I've also used it to stich together pictures of buildings that I was too close to get a full picture of. (Hollywood theater and too much zoom, damn digital crop)

  4. Linux is definitely worth a shot. Windows is stuck in 2001 with XP. 64 bit windows is a joke (the last time I checked), but 64 bit linux works great. The ONLY issue that I currently have with 64 bit linux (vs 32 bit linux) is Java because Sun never released a 64 bit netscape plugin for linux. The open source option is IcedTea, which sort of works some of the time if you are lucky. (Flash *finally* released a 64 bit plugin for linux).

    I am not sure how familiar with Linux you are. Most of the stuff you want will be on the CD and the rest is easy to get. Definitely install, firefox, open office, and gimp (it will complement Bibble nicely). With firefox you want adblock plus and flashblock (and that goes for any platform).

    Open office works quite well for office 2003 files. I can open and edit word, excel, and powerpoint files at home with it. Open office has a fairly nice drawing program, but it cannot open or save to visio files. Open office can publish to nicely formatted PDF files as well.

    I would skip adobe reader for linux. It is bloatware that allows makers of pdfs to execute arbitrary javascript on you computer (same vulnerability exists on windows, I think you can disable this, but it is enabled by default). I recommend something based on the poppler library for viewing, such as the gnome evince viewer. For creating pdfs, many applications such as open office and inkscape can write directly to pdf. For all others, print to file using ghostcript to create pdfs. Editing pdfs is not well supported under linux at the moment, but I rarely do this. Converting pdfs to rasters can be done with the gimp, which supports conversion at arbitrary resolution.

    For vector based images, I prefer inkscape, but it doesn't support animation. It can do transparency and gradients. Its native format is SVG which is a standard growing in popularity, but good svg support is still hard to find.

    For 3D you cannot beat Blender. It is capable of rendering full length movies with realistic effects.

    Rhythmbox is a decent music player, but there are tons, so pick one you like. I don't know anything about ITunes.

    Xine, mplayer, and VLC all play movies and can decrypt DVD's. I prefer Xine. Definitely install mplayer even if you don't use it for DVDs because it has all the firefox audio and video plugins. Bluray support is still in development under linux.

    cups is the defacto printer software and sane if the defacto scanner software. ghostscript lets you convert postscript to pdfs and I think it is what has the "print to file" option that allows generating pdfs from any application.

    You are going to want ssh for remote access. I believe this is a default install.

    I haven't selected color management/icc profile software yet. Mostly because I don't have calibration hardware yet.

    I generally prefer the gnome tools over kde and qt, but don't run gnome as my "desktop". Gnome includes evince as the pdf, postscript view and nautilus as the file browser. nautilus is going through a transition now and has trouble doing more complex things like composing data CDs. This should be fixed in less than a year. I have been using xfburn in the mean time.

    I am currently using compiz-fusion as my window manager and advent window manager as my task bar. This is the cool effects/high glitz option. This requires a video card with opengl support under linux. My onboard nVidia video chips with binary drivers work fine. This is one piece of software that has caused a lot of people trouble.

    I still use window maker style docapps, but I think that makes me a rarity. I use the wmdock part of xfce4-panel to allow my docapps to work with compiz-fusion.

    I am currently windows free, so I don't know much about cross system compatibility. Grub is a good bootloader. You might try Ext2 Installable File System for Windows. I would recommend staying away from the new ext4 filesystem if you want to view and edit your files under windows. Linux can view and edit files on your windows filesystem just fine.

    If you decide you like linux and want to make it your primary operating system, I hear virtualbox is very good, but have never used it. This allows you to boot linux and use linux for most things, but you can start a virtual windows PC in a safe sandbox that prevents windows from crashing your entire computer or putting your hardware in bizarre states. Since you are planing to purchase and install windows XP this is a good option. Wine is another option, but doesn't work on all windows programs.

    Ted: Thanks for the Hugin tip. I just installed it.

    Sorry for being so long winded.


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