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Happy New Year!

The way the ‘Net oughta be. I finally broke down and bought a VCR yesterday. It’s hard to do video work without one, and you want to give people drafts on VHS. When it comes to consumer video, there are two companies I trust: Hitachi and Hitachi. So I went looking for a Hitachi VCR. Their low-end model, a no-frills stereo 4-head model, ran $70 at Circuit City. I ordered it online, along with 5 tapes. Total cost: 80 bucks. For “delivery,” you’ve got two options: delivery, or local pickup. I did local pickup at the store five miles from where I live. You avoid the extended warranty pitch and trying to convince someone in the store to help you, and you just walk into the store, hand the paperwork to customer service, sign for it, then go pick it up. Suddenly consumer electronics shopping is like Chinese or pizza take-out. I love it.
The VCR’s not much to look at and the $149 models are more rugged-looking and have more metal in them, but this model is made in Korea so it ought to be OK, and the playback’s great on my 17-year-old Commodore 1702 (relabeled JVC) composite monitor. For what I’ll be asking it to do, it’s fine. In my stash of Amiga cables I found an RCA y-adapter that mixes two audio outputs, which I used to connect to the monitor’s mono input.

Desktop Linux. Here are my current recommendations for people trying to replace Windows with Linux.

Web browser: Galeon. Very lightweight. Fabulous tabbed interface. I hate browsing in Windows now.
Minimalist browser: Dillo. Well under a meg in size, and if it’ll render a site, it’ll render it faster than anything else you’ll find.
FTP client: GFTP. Graphical FTP client, saves hosts and username/password combinations for you.
PDF viewer: XPDF. Smaller and faster than Acrobat Reader, though that’s available for Linux too.
Mail client/PIM: Evolution. What Outlook should have been.
Lightweight mail client: Sylpheed. Super-fast and small, reasonably featured.
File manager: Nautilus. Gorgeous and easy to use, though slow on old PCs. Since I use the command line 90% of the time, it’s fine.
Graphics viewer: GTK-See. A convincing clone of ACDSee. Easy-to-use graphics viewer with a great interface.
News reader: Pan. Automatically threads subject headers for you, and it’ll automatically decode and display uuencoded picture attachments as part of the body. Invaluable for browsing the graphics newsgroups.
File compression/decompression: I use the command-line tools. If you want something like WinZip, there’s a program out there called LnxZip. It’s available in RPM or source form; I couldn’t find a Debian package for it.
Desktop publishing: Yes, desktop publishing on Linux! Scribus isn’t as powerful as QuarkXPress, but it gives a powerful enough subset of what QuarkXPress 3.x offered that I think I would be able to duplicate everything I did in my magazine design class way back when, in 1996. It’s more than powerful enough already to serve a small business’ DTP needs. Keep a close eye on this one. I’ll be using it to meet my professional DTP needs at work, because I’m already convinced I can do more with it than with Microsoft Publisher, and more quickly.
Window manager: IceWM. Fast, lightweight, integrates nicely with GNOME, Windows-like interface.
Office suite: Tough call. KOffice is absolutely good enough for casual use. StarOffice 6/OpenOffice looks to be good enough for professional use when released next year. WordPerfect Office 2000 is more than adequate for professional use if you’re looking for a commercial package.

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6 thoughts on “Happy New Year!”

  1. One thing about Scribus: The only measurements it seems to currently support are millimeters and points. A point is 1/72 of an inch, the same measurement used to measure font size. Theoretically, a 72-point font ought to be one inch tall, measured from the top of the capital T to the bottom of a lowercase g.

    Many professionals–in the States at least–measure elements and positioning in picas. I never got that hardcore. Text-oriented guys like me prefer to think in points. But I remember when I had to work with people in the ad department and in the print room, they measured in picas and got annoyed with my talk about points.

  2. Hang on Luke; it’s like a roller coaster.

    …and here’s another one for the champ: How about ‘agates’?

    Man, I can’t see you leaving that one out, Dave *g*.

  3. Ummm, Dave. This being HTML and all, do you think you could use some hyper text links to sources for all the great software you are recommending? Just a thought…

    Aloha – Dan

  4. Dan S.: It’s a bit redundant. Debian has retrievable packages for all of them (just type apt-get install scribus) and I suspect SuSE, RedHat and Mandrake provide RPMs in their distros. And whenever I want to find a Linux package that my distro doesn’t provide, I go to and search for it. If it’s not listed there, it probably doesn’t exist.

    Dan B: Best I can tell, that’s a Webshots workalike. No thanks! To people who think they need Webshots, I say, "Yo mama dresses you funny and you need a mouse to delete files."

    Speaking of which, did you know that if you chang permissions on HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun to read-only for the All Users group, then Webshots won’t install? Suh-weet!

  5. Hmmm. Redundant eh? Most of the software mentioned are found at None, I repeat none, are available in a SuSe specific RPM. Your readers should also be told that many, if not all of the program run under GNOME, but not necessarily KDE. This is important to note since, as far as I know, most people run KDE.

    Flippant response aside, keep up the good work.

    Aloha – Dan

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