Category Archives: Reviews

Teamlab Office Main Page

Teamlab Office solves file formatting problems

Three weeks ago, I did an article comparing two very popular cloud based office suites that are cloud based: Office Online by Microsoft and Google Docs by Google. One of the issues that I discussed is that when switching from Google Docs to Microsoft Office, there are formatting issues. Due to Microsoft wanting to keep people locked into their Office suite, they have created a vendor lock, preventing other programs from creating quality documents for their program. This is an issue that has affected many open source products, and forces people to use Microsoft Office for their work.

Teamlab saw the problem here, and formed a solution in Teamlab Personal. For an example of their solution at work, Teamlab created a video comparing their office suite to Office Online and Google Docs by opening a heavily formatted file. The video can be seen below.

[youtube id=”0S0Op2MbLvw”]

As can be seen from the video, Teamlab does the best job at opening heavily formatted Office files. Though they are not perfect, they are constantly working to improve. Nina Gorbunova, Teamlab Office’s marketing manager, has been discussing with me the different features of Teamlab Office. When talking about Teamlab’s ability to open files so well, she said, “[This] is what we’ve been working on very hard and that’s our main technological advantage possible due to the Canvas element (this is our developers’ point of pride!)”

The Canvas element is the HTML coding that they have been working on that allows Teamlab Office to be able to display documents so well. It allows users to use Microsoft Office formatting while having the features and setup of another office program.

Teamlab is available in the Chrome Web Store here as an app, and is definitely something that you will want to look into. For more on the Chrome Web Store, and how to use it to improve your browsing experience, click here.

My First Impression with Teamlab Office

When I saw Teamlab Office for the first time, I instantly recognized how closely it resembled Open Office. Microsoft Office is well known for the tabs and tiles setup along the top of the program, whereas Google Docs and Open Office both use a button and menu setup instead. Teamlab Office is the same, using buttons along the top of the screen to format the file.

The second thing I noticed is that Teamlab tries to make everything universally accessible. They do this by adding support for four of the major cloud storage accounts: Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Onedrive. This was another shock for me, because it was not a feature I would have expected to see. However, I was immediately excited to see what else Teamlab had to offer, because I knew that this was not going to be like other cloud based office suites.

After working through my shock of the above features, I then had to deal with my excitement at seeing the number of formatting options available for files. Every one of their editors provides plenty of features to the average user. Office Online does not come close to what Teamlab has when it comes to features.

Since I am used to using the Office suite of programs, I had some difficulty orienting myself with the program. However, within a day of use I could easily find what I needed to. Google Docs and Open Office users would have no difficulty in using the program, because it is so familiarly setup.

Teamlab Office Document Editor
Teamlab Office Document Editor

Features

One of the ways Teamlab solves formatting issues is by providing users the ability to download in multiple file formats. Many office programs offer this, but neither Office Online nor Google Docs offer the ability to change a file type, other than converting it to their own proprietary file format (i.e. .docx for Word and .gdoc for Google Docs). When downloading a document for example, you have the choice of downloading it as a PDF, Text, Word Document, Open Office document, or an HTML file.

The program also comes with left and right sidebars, providing users with the ability to change settings. The left sidebar deals with changing the document settings or perform certain functions, and the right sidebar is used to change formatting settings, such as the paragraph and image settings.

One of the functions on the left sidebar is a search function, and it is very useful and simple to use. By clicking on the magnifying glass, then typing in any word or words in the box that pops up, the program highlights that word or words throughout the document. It is very useful when trying to find specific words or topics, and case sensitivity can be toggled on or off before every search.

Like Google Docs and Office Online, files can be edited on with others over the internet using the built in share function. One thing that Teamlab has that Office Online and Google Docs does not have is a chat window. This seems like an obvious feature to have when collaboratively editing a file. However, Teamlab is the first that I have seen to implement this feature into a cloud based office program.

Like other office suites, Teamlab has menus for formatting different elements of files. However, like the new Open Office, these features are placed in a sidebar on the side of the screen.  Clicking on one of the icons opens up a window docked into the side of the program showing formatting options.

The options available, I believe, are more numerous than either Office Online and Google Docs. Using the program, I am constantly reminded of Open Office, though Teamlab Personal is cleaner and online oriented, since it is a cloud based office suite.

Teamlab Office Spreadsheet Editor
Teamlab Office Spreadsheet Editor

Problems I had with the program

Since I first learned how to use an office suite as a child, I have used Microsoft Office for everything I do. I do prefer the setup of Microsoft Office, so for that reason I prefer Office Online. However, I do realize that Office Online is very limited in what it can do, and that the paid version is expensive at $100 a year, especially when the competition offers their programs for free.

Thus, I have used both Office Online and Google Docs up to now, depending on my needs. However, I am quickly starting to resent the limitations posed on me by Microsoft through their simple cloud based office suite. Thus, Teamlab is a solution I will consider using to solve my formatting issues, since they have a full team of developers working on the software. However, I do prefer the setup of Microsoft Office, since it is what I am used to.

Another issue I have with Teamlab is a lack of offline support. Google Docs offers offline support, which is one reason why I have been using them more often, because Office Online does not offer offline support either. Deciding between Teamlab and Google Docs will be tough, because they both offer strong reasons to be the preferred office suite. Teamlab has many features, and works better across platforms and solves formatting issues, whereas Google Docs provides offline usage, and is built into Chromebooks.

Teamlab Office Presentation Editor
Teamlab Office Presentation Editor

Conclusion

Though I do not currently use Open Office, I have used it in the past, and Teamlab seems to be the online version of Open Office. This is something that consistent Open Office users would have to determine, but my experience with both programs has convinced me of this. Whether or not this is what Teamlab wanted, I do not know.

However, I believe that the similarities to Open Office are a good thing, because Open Office users have yet to find a online office program that is similar enough to make a switch. Google Docs was similar, but it still does not offer the experience that Open Office users are looking for like Teamlab does. For an example of how Teamlab works when using it, here is a demo video showing the different formatting options in Teamlab Office’s Document Editor.

[youtube id=”B293u4Vm6yI”]

Despite the number of features available, Microsoft Office users may find the switch more difficult, because the setup is very different from the tiles and tabs that Microsoft has taught us to enjoy. However, the features and cloud integration far outshine Office Online, and makes a convincing case to switch.

Google Docs users could switch much easier, since Teamlab is also fairly similar to Google Docs. However, the lack of offline use could hold many Google Docs users back, that is a sacrifice some could make.

In addition, if losing Open Office was holding you back from getting a Chromebook, take a look at Teamlab Personal and decide if you can make the switch with this office suite available.

LG Chromebase front and side view

Is Writer the Internet Typewriter?

So many options exist for writing on the Chromebook that it can make heads spin.  The best way to assess writing tools is to go over their pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses. In this article, let’s take a look at Writer from Big Huge Labs.

In the Chrome Store, they advertise it as “The Internet Typewriter,” but is it justified?  Is it unique or another me too product? Writer itself works inside the web browser.  Offline capability is advertised, and it appears to work even though it’s used as a perk for a pro account.  Speaking of which, a message advertising enhanced features appears when it’s opened in a new tab.

Writer's upgrade message on startup.
Upon startup, the user is offered an opportunity to learn more about pro accounts.

Before going into the proposed perks of a pro account, it’s important to look at the mainstay of this app.  As a text editor, is it unique or a me too product?

Writer's interface.
The interface is reminiscent of an old school computer from the 1980’s.

The default color scheme may remind computer enthusiasts of the 1980’s.  A black background and lime green text is most definitely a throwback to the era of personal computers before color monitors became available.  So what features are available?

Using cookies on your Chromebook or other computer, documents are saved automatically.  Users can create accounts through OpenID, so a Google account can be integrated.  By creating an account, documents can be saved and retrieved in the event said cookies are deleted.

Printing can be done as well as direct export to PDF, though Big Huge Labs will automatically place an advertisment for them in your document.  Said advertisement can be negated through a pro account.

Speaking of exporting, PDF is not the only option.

Exporting options for Writer.
From plain text to Tumblr, there are plenty of options for exporting a finished work.

Exporting to WordPress, Tumblr, Moveable Type, TypePad, and LiveJournal opens the door for distraction free writing for bloggers.  All of that is well and good, but what sets this apart from other online text editors?

Writer options
Text and background color can be changed. A typewriter sound can be enabled as well.

The text color and background can be changed. So can line spacing, font, and font size. The one thing that really sets Writer apart is the fact that sounds can be played as the user is typing.  Yes, I’m talking about typewriting sounds, whether it’s old fashioned or electronic.

The sounds work by the way, so yes, it is indeed an Internet typewriter.

Though it has the mainstay ability of editing text, it is a unique app that offers plenty of benefits for pro subscriptions:

  • Real time word count
  • Thesaurus
  • Revision history
  • Cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, and Evernote)
  • Offline mode (it appears to sort of work despite not having a pro account, though automatic syncing may be an extra feature)
  • Premium support
  • Custom print options (including removal of all Big Huge Labs branding)
  • Influence on future versions
  • Future updates
  • Guaranteed satisfaction with a refund policy of seven days

So is it suitable?  It depends on whether extra features are desired and/or needed.  Though they are enticing, if one is too used to having free of cost products all the time, it may be a turn off.  The typewriter sounds that are available make the product unique, but could be annoying depending on the situation.

At this point, it depends on personal preference, though the extras do make this text editor worthwhile.

webcam_toy_logo

Best webcam app for Chromebooks

Almost every consumer electronic comes with a built-in webcam for joining video chats and taking selfies, and Chromebooks are no different. However, usually devices with webcams come with webcam software already installed in order to use it. However, Google does not currently provide such software with their Chrome OS (the operating system installed on Chromebooks). Consumers must then search the Chrome Web Store for an app that will give them control over their Chromebooks webcam. Webcam Toy is one of those apps, and is my personal favorite.

With over 2 million users and 10,000 reviews giving it an average 4.5/5 stars, it is also the most popular webcam app for Chromebooks on the Chrome Web Store.

As with all other Chrome web apps, Webcam Toy is installed from the Chrome Web Store (for more on the Chrome Web Store, click here). After installing and opening the app, it quickly downloads all of the camera effects to the Chromebook and, after giving the app access to your webcam, is ready to be used.

The app looks very simple, and navigating it is very smooth. The window is mostly filled with a live view from the webcam, and a few buttons in a row along the bottom of the window. The first button is settings, allowing alteration of a few basic options, the middle buttons allow the user to change the camera effect, by clicking through using arrows, or switching to a grid view to view nine effects at a time, with over 80 camera effects. The last button is used to take the picture, and then allows you to save the picture to your computer or send it to Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.

Screenshot of the Webcam Toy app
Screenshot of the Webcam Toy app

The Webcam Toy app also includes keyboard shortcuts for navigation of the app. Here is a list of these shortcuts from the Web Store description:

  • ← → Arrow keys – Go to previous/next effect.
  • ‘G’ – Show the Grid view, where you can see nine effects at once.
  • ‘I’ – Show the Info (settings) menu.
  • ‘S’ – Square the photo (good for avatar/profile pictures).
  • ‘F’ – Turn the camera flash on or off.
  • ‘C’ – Turn the photo Countdown on or off.
  • ‘M’ – Mirror the photo (good for when showing words to the camera).
Screenshot of the Grid view
Screenshot of the Grid view

Although webcam software and apps for other devices may be more polished and have more features, Webcam Toy is more than enough for the average Chromebook user. However, using this paired with an image editor on a Chromebook, such as Pixlr, offers every feature average users need, and most of the tools a demanding user would need. Over time, these tools will grow, and become as powerful as the software for other systems.

onedrive_vs_google_drive

Google Docs vs Office Online: Best office for Chromebooks

Chromebooks are well known for not being able to install software, so one of the first questions people ask me is, “How do you write papers on a Chromebook without Microsoft Office?” This is a question common amongst people who do not know a lot about Chromebooks. The answer is simple, though. There are two options to be able to write papers on a Chromebook: Google Docs or Office Online. Both of these services are included for free with any Google Drive or Microsoft Onedrive account. Actually, by using Office Online, you have access to the basic suite of Office programs for free, though with limited features. These cloud-based programs offer the possibility to not only write papers on Chromebooks and the Internet, but also offer programs to create presentations and spreadsheets, along with other programs.

So which is the best office for Chromebooks?

These are my thoughts about these two cloud-based office suites, from the perspective of using one full time on a Chromebook.

Google Docs

Leaving beta in 2009, Google’s office productivity suite has since grown in popularity, being a free, online alternative to Microsoft’s expensive Office suite. The ability to save work online then access it on any computer that you sign into and not have to download anything attracted many users and companies. Free alternatives to Microsoft Office have existed for a while, but Google was the first large company to challenge Microsoft with a free alternative. Apple also has their own office suite of apps, but do have to be paid for and only can be used on Apple devices.

Ad showing the different apps associated with Google Docs and Drive
Ad showing the different apps associated with Google Docs and Drive

Google Docs is part of Google Drive, which is Google’s cloud storage service. Anyone who has a Google account, as most people do, can go to the Google Drive website and use the Google Docs suite. In addition, Google Drive offers 15 GB of free storage to users, with more available at monthly or yearly payments. On the Google Drive website, to access the office apps, just click on the red “Create” button, then select what it is you want to create, like a Document, Presentation, or Spreadsheet. Google Docs includes the following apps by default:

  • Docs for writing documents
  • Slides for presentations
  • Sheets for spreadsheets
  • Forms for forms and surveys
  • Drawings for creating shapes and diagrams

In addition to the above apps, you can add hundreds of third-party apps that work with Google Drive, all of them online. For example, there are image and video editors, music players, online IDEs, and many more. In addition, if you do not like Google’s apps, there are dozens of other apps that can be added to replace Google’s own Docs apps inside of Google Drive.

Screenshot of the Google Docs document writer app
Screenshot of the Google Docs document writer app

Another reason why Google Docs has become so popular is easy collaboration on projects. It is easy to have multiple people with different Google accounts to work on one project together. After creating or opening a file, just click the “Share” button and send the created link through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or by email. The people can either view, comment, or edit the project, chosen by the person who is sharing it. If people are editing the project, their actions are highlighted by a color assigned to them at the beginning, along with a tag with their name inside. This easy collaboration is useful for teams working on projects, rather than everyone having to huddle around one computer or share the file.

Individually, each Google Docs app has many tools like Microsoft Office to change the font and add images or tables, along with other useful tools. However, Google Docs apps cannot edit files in the Microsoft Office format of .docx, .pptx, and .xslx. Instead, files must be converted to Google’s own file formats to be edited. It is easy to convert between file formats on Google Docs, but I have noticed that it can cause changes in files. If you do not mind not being able to save in these file formats, or having to deal with any issues that may arise from a different file format, then Google Drive may still work for you. However, if you need to use Microsoft’s file formats, then I would recommend using Office Online.

 

Office Online

As the name implies, Office Online is Microsoft’s suite of Office apps available online. Like how Google Docs connects to Google Drive, Office Online connects to Microsoft’s own cloud storage service, OneDrive. OneDrive is available to anyone who has a Microsoft Live account, and comes with 7 GB for free. This is less than Google’s 15 GB, but is still enough for basic files.

Office Online home page
Office Online home page

Office Online comes with many of Microsoft’s Office programs:

  • Word
  • Powerpoint
  • Excel
  • OneNote
  • Outlook.com is integrated with the service, also

It also comes with a calendar and address book for your personal use. The Office Online apps look like the current edition of Microsoft Office, with the tile look for the toolbar and tabs for different topics. Compared to the original Office suite, this version is very slimmed down, missing tools that you may be used to in the regular Office programs. However, people who pay for Office 365 will see many more features in Office Online, and it will be even closer to the downloadable version.

Screenshot of Office Online's Word app
Screenshot of Office Online’s Word app

Office Online does not support third-party apps like Google, but Microsoft’s offering is enough for anyone who wants to use it. There are not any image editors available, but images can be viewed in the browser; also music must be downloaded to be listened to. Plain text documents can be created in OneDrive, so that is helpful for basic code editing.

Collaboration is supported in Office Online, and will email the link for the project for you. However, Office Online will not post the link to the project on Facebook or Twitter for you, you must share the link on those services yourself.

In my opinion, Google Docs and Office Online offer an equal number of tools for formatting projects. I have found that Google Docs has more fonts to choose from, but Office Online matches, if not surpasses, Google Docs in other areas of usage. In addition, Office Online works in Microsoft’s own file formats, so there is no need to worry about something not transferring correctly, unlike Google Docs.

Conclusion

Both services offer Chrome Web Store apps, since Microsoft added their’s to the Web Store a couple of weeks ago. This means easy access to both services from your Chromebook or other device. I personally prefer Microsoft’s Office Online due to its’ familiarity and since I need my projects to be in Microsoft’s file formats. However, Google Docs does offer some advantages to Office Online, so my recommendation is to have access to both service. I primarily use Office Online on my Chromebook for writing articles, drafting spreadsheets, and creating powerpoints. When I need to edit photos or videos, or need access to an IDE to write in code, then I usually use Google Docs. However, if you do not want to use both services, either one can satisfy most of your needs, and the decision is ultimately up to you.

Continue the conversation in the comments below, and discuss which office suite you use or will use, and why. Or, if there is another cloud-based office suite that I did not cover, talk about it in the comments below, too.

hp_chromebook_14

HP Chromebook 14 Review – New Chromebook adds style and size

The HP Chromebook 14 has been my companion for the last few weeks and has surprised me in its functionality and ease of use. At the beginning of the week, I went to Walmart and picked this Chromebook up, having made my decision to purchase it a couple of days before. I expected it to be tablet like and slow, yet it has surprised me in its power. There are limitations to Chrome OS, the operating system that runs on all Chromebooks. However, I have learned to accept them and hope that over the next year or two my Chromebook will be as capable as my Windows PC.

Like Windows, Chrome OS is the operating system that runs on all Chromebooks. Each Chromebook is exactly alike in the sense that they run the same OS (operating system), but differences are made by manufacturers choices about hardware. If you are looking to purchase a Chromebook, personal preferences about hardware is what will guide your buying decision, as it did mine.

I had purchased the Snow White HP Chromebook 14, which looks great on the outside with a smooth rubber feel on the hood of the laptop and the same rubber on the bottom, but with a slight texture. This Chromebook also comes in Peach Coral and Turquoise. The edges of the Chromebook are not smoothed and rounded like most cheap laptops, but instead have a definitive edge that looks and feels great. Once the laptop is opened, HP surprises you with an aluminum look for the trackpad and around the keyboard, though it is plastic. The trackpad is very large, which is a surprise on a budget laptop. Obviously, HP tried their best to keep a budget price, while giving a premium look and feel. I really do enjoy the look and feel of the laptop, which does not look as cheap as most Chromebooks to date.

The different colors of the HP Chromebook 14
The different colors of the HP Chromebook 14

The HP Chromebook 14 comes as an update to the previous HP Pavilion Chromebook 14. The biggest change was the processor, updated from an older Intel Celeron processor to Intel’s new Bay Trail Celeron processor. These new processors promise better battery life and performance than previous ones, and so far have succeeded in doing so. Besides that, the Pavilion Chromebook 14 had a familiar look that resembled other budget and plastic laptops HP has released, not like the new look of the current HP Chromebook 14.

Weight and Size

With a 14-inch screen, this is the largest Chromebook available (not counting the HP Pavilion Chromebook 14 previously mentioned), so is also one of the heaviest. Coming in at a little over four pounds, when choosing to purchase this Chromebook, you are choosing screen size over weight. However, I do not find this Chromebook too heavy. HP distributed the weight throughout the Chromebook so well that the four pounds is not that big of a deal to me. I find it to be the perfect balance between size and weight. In addition, the 14-inch screen is the reason I purchased this Chromebook, because I like to watch Netflix and YouTube videos on a large screen, not the tiny 11-inch size common among Chromebooks.

The screen has a 1366×768 resolution, which I find is enough to enjoy watching Netflix on. The blacks on certain shows are not as dark as on other laptops, and it may look pixelated compared to higher resolutions, but do keep in mind that this is a $299 laptop. Knowing that you paid so little for it reminds you that you should not be expecting a high-definition display. If that is what you are wanting, you would best wait for the new 13.3-inch Samsung Chromebook to come out, which has a 1920×1080 display, though it does cost more at $399.

Right side of the HP Chromebook 14
Right side of the HP Chromebook 14

Ports and Battery

I find that this Chromebook comes with plenty of ports to satisfy my needs: 2 USB 3.0 ports, a full HDMI port, headphone/microphone combo jack, and a Kensington lock on the left side, and an SD card slot and USB 2.0 port on the right side, along with the charging port. The Chromebook has a 720p camera above the screen, and the speakers are on the bottom edges near the front of the laptop. I was actually surprised at how loud and clear they were, and I almost never use them at full volume. Battery life is great, as promised, though I do not get HP’s nine hours. However, it is rare that any laptop actually lasts as long as the manufacturer says it does. I do get a healthy seven hours of good use, changing depending on screen brightness and what I am doing at the time, such as watching Netflix versus writing an article.

Left side of the HP Chromebook 14
Left side of the HP Chromebook 14

Specifications

The base model for the HP Chromebook 14 costs $299 and comes with an Intel Celeron 2955U processor clocked at 1.4 GHz, the standard 16 GB SSD found among Chromebooks, and two GB of memory. The more expensive model at $349 comes with four GB of memory and T-Mobile HSPA+ mobile Internet built in. This is 4G Internet, but not LTE. I did run a speedtest, and recorded 5.6 Mbps download speed and 1.63 Mbps upload speed in my home. However, places like New York will get much higher speeds than mine, and people who live in less densely populated areas will get either poorer speeds or no reception at all.

In addition, this Chromebook comes with 200 Mb of free mobile data a month for the life of the device (as long as you register every year with T-Mobile for the free Internet). That is not a lot of data, but enough if you need to just send a paper to your teacher or boss, or do a little bit of surfing. However, you can add more data through T-Mobile.

T-Mobile offers two ways to add data: a one time pass, or a monthly plan.

On Demand Pass

  • Day Pass- 500 MB for $10
  • Week Pass- 1 GB for $15
  • Month Pass- 3 GB for $30

Monthly Plan

  • 1 GB for $20
  • 3 GB for $30
  • 5 GB for $40
  • and so on up to 13 GB

Conclusion

I chose the HP Chromebook 14 because I wanted a laptop that I could use for watching movies and doing my work on. I personally prefer larger screens, so I compromised the light weight of the smaller Chromebooks for the larger screen of the HP Chromebook 14. In addition, I like having the T-Mobile Internet for emergencies and the option to add more data if I want to. However, this Chromebook is not for everyone. If you need something that can fit in a bag, or can be easily carried around all day, then I would recommend one of the smaller 11-inch Chromebooks, such as the HP Chromebook 11 or the Acer C720. Over the past week, I have found ways to do the things that I would normally do on a Windows PC, on my Chromebook, such as writing papers and editing photos, and I even found some great games on the Chrome Web Store.

In addition, I have not noticed any performance issues in this Chromebook, such as having so many tabs open that it slows down. In fact, this Chromebook is one of the fastest computers that I have used. One piece of software that I was especially afraid of losing was Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone, a language-learning software, is a resource hungry program, whether using the online or the offline program. I already knew that I could not use the offline program, since traditional software can not be installed on a Chromebook, but I was not sure if the Chromebook could run the online version. To my surprise, it loaded quickly and easily, never missing a beat. Another problem that I was expecting to have was not being able to create webpages or write in code on the Chromebook. However, I have found a few apps from the Web Store that do a great job for writing in code.

Front and back of the HP Chromebook 14
Front and back of the HP Chromebook 14

The only issue that I have had on this Chromebook is the lack of support for Unity. Currently, any games running in Unity will not work on a Chromebook. This does cause limitations currently, however Google is constantly working to provide solutions for issues such as these, so I am expecting this problem to be solved within the next year.

Whether or not this Chromebook, or any Chromebook, is an option for purchase is entirely up to you. However, the presence of Chromebooks is rising, and the gap between them and traditional PCs continues to narrow with every Chrome OS release.

Emmabuntus Linux distribution LXDE desktop

Emmabuntüs: A philanthropist’s GNU/Linux

Emmabuntüs is a desktop GNU/Linux distribution which originated in France with a humanitarian mission. It was designed with 4 primary objectives – refurbishing of computers given to humanitarian organizations like the Emmaüs communities, promoting GNU/Linux among beginners, extending the life of older equipments and reducing waste by over-consumption of raw materials.

The latest version, Emmabuntüs 2 is based on Xubuntu 12.04 LTS and is very user-friendly. Though it is designed to work on older computers it includes many modern features like a large number of pre-configured programs, dockbar to launch applications, easy installation of non-free software and multimedia codecs and quick setup through automated scripts. It also supports 6 languages. Feature details:

  • Provides a non-profit ISO to quickly transform a computer using Windows XP, Vista or Seven. Size of the ISO is around 3.5 GB.
  • Distributions based on variants of Ubuntu LTS (10.04, 12.04)
  • XFCE desktop environment with Cairo dock by default. LXDE is also included and installable.
  • Quick Setup Mode through automated scripts (like username, password predefined). Allows you to choose whether to uninstall unused languages to reduce updates, location of dock etc.
  • Live Mode on DVD, USB (Multisystem, UNetbootin, USB-Creator)
  • Install standalone without Internet, everything is in the distribution.
  • Installation at user’s discretion of proprietary software included in the ISO (Flash, Codecs, Skype)
  • More than 60 additional applications like OOo4kids (Open Office for children), Kiwix offline wiki reader etc.
  • Dock allowing access to all applications. There are three docks to choose from to simplify access to the software and are defined by the type of user (children, beginners and “all”).
  • Emmabuntüs 2 includes browser plug-ins for parental control
  • Currently supports 6 languages ​​- English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German

Hardware requirements:

  • Processor : Intel or AMD (from 1.4 GHz)
  • RAM : 512 MB minimum, 1 GB recommended (1 GB min in Live mode for Emmabuntüs 2)
  • Hard disk : 20 GB minimum, more to install other software and data
  • Video Card : nVidia, ATI, Intel, SiS, Matrox
  • Sound Card : Sound Blaster, AC97 or HDA compatible
  • Other : DVD drive or PC can boot from the USB port

Emmabuntüs is a great choice for older hardware in schools and communities and is definitely worth a look to find some relatively unknown software.

Download the ISO from its SourceForge page to try it out. Visit the official website here.

Android_cloud_storage_services

Top 6 cloud storage services for Android

There is no shortage of cloud storage services with new ones appearing every other day. While cloud storage is the common factor, these services vary widely in their features. This brings us to the obvious question – which one to use? To select the top 6 cloud storage services having Android clients we have taken a use-case based approach – we picked up the services based on the needs of the user. We have also added a comparison of features at the end of the article. Suit yourself!

1. Dropbox: Probably the guy next door uses it!

Dropbox is undoubtedly the leader in cloud storage if we are to go by the number of users. This makes it a good candidate if you want to have shared folders with your friends. Many of them are Dropbox users already and you can maintain shared data with them effortlessly.

Dropbox_android_app

Native clients: Linux, Windows, Mac OS X (10.4+), iOS, Android, Symbian, BlackBerry OS, MeeGo Harmattan
Dropbox on Google Play

2. Copy: Need space?

It’s simple enough with Copy – it rains in GBs! You get 5 GB extra space for each completed referral and a balanced shared storage. If you share a folder having 2 GB data with your friend, only 1 GB usage is accounted for each of you.

Copy_android_app

Native clients: Linux, Windows, Mac OS X (10.7+), iOS, Android, Raspberry Pi, Windows Phone
Copy on Google Play

3. Google Drive: Document management in the cloud

With Google Drive you can store all your documents in the cloud and access them from your Android device. Google has acquired Quickoffice using which you create, view or edit your documents on Google Drive.

Google_drive_android_app

Native clients: Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Chrome OS, Android, iOS
Google Drive on Google Play
Quickffice on Google Play

4. pCloud: Download to the cloud, share space with non-users

pCloud is not much in terms of free storage space. The maximum you can reach for free through simple tasks and completed referrals is 20 GB. However, it has 2 features which give it an edge:

  • Upload links to pCloud. In other words, download to pCloud instead of the locally on your device.
  • Share folders with non pCloud users to upload or download files.

 

Pcloud_android_app

Native clients: Linux, Windows, MAC OS X (10.6+), iOS, Android
pCloud on Google Play

5. Symform: Massively distributed highly secure cloud storage

Symform offers just 10 GB for free. However, you can grow your cloud storage as much as you want in exchange of local storage that you can share. Symform uses the patented RAID-96™ technology for distributed storage. When you share your local storage with Symform it uses the storage to store data from other users. And speaking of security Symform breaks each file into encrypted (military-grade 256 AES encryption) blocks and then shreds each block into 64 fragments, adding 32 parity fragments to each 64 for redundancy. It also adds 50% redundancy to all blocks before they are distributed globally throughout the network.

Symform_Android_app

Native clients: Linux, Windows, MAC OS X (10.6+), NAS Devices, iOS, Android
Symform on Google Play

6. Seafile: Open source goodness

While all of the above are proprietary cloud storage services, Seafile is our pick for open source purists. Seafile comes with Team Collaboration which means you can edit and comment files online along with messaging, group discussion, activity notification and file versions. The Seafile cloud service is hosted on Amazon Web Service. It offers 1 GB for free and unlimited groups. Seafile can also work in self-hosted mode if you have space to set up a server. Supported server platforms are Linux, Windows and Raspberry Pi.

Seafile_android_app

Native clients: Linux, Windows, MAC OS X (10.6+), NAS Devices, iOS, Android
Seafile on Google Play

Comparison Chart

Dropbox Copy Google Drive pCloud Symform Seafile
Initial Free Storage 2 GB 15 GB 15 GB 10 GB 10 GB 1 GB
Referral Bonus 500 MB 5 GB NA 1 GB NA NA
Free Storage Limit 16 GB Unlimited 15 GB 20 GB Unlimited 1 GB
Document Management Framework No No Yes No No No
Download To Cloud No No No Yes No No
Share Space With Non-Users No No No Yes No No
Distributed Storage No No No No Yes No
Source Availability Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Open
Ubuntu 14.04 is quite a decent release.

Ubuntu 14.04 review: comparison with Mac OSX and KDE’s Plasma

Ubuntu 14.04 was released today and I am revising it after couple of years. KDE’s Plasma desktop has become my primary desktop along with Mac OSX which I use on MacBook so I am in the position to compare Ubuntu/Unity with these two most polished and mature desktops.

There are not a lot of new features that we can talk about in Ubuntu 14.04 and there is a reason for it. It’s an LTS release and I don’t think Canonical would like to ‘surprise’ those users who want familiar interface as they upgrade from 12.04 and 14.04 does a great job at taking care of such users. They have many many changes which accommodate such users and return of application menus to windows is one such example. Another reason, as I guess, is that the company is focussing more on its mobile platform so desktop has taken the back seat for now. The company is bringing a lot of cool features from its mobile space to Ubuntu desktop. Overall, it’s a good release though.

It’s a very polished release which has taken care of a lot of things that would help a users – such as showing keyboard shortcuts when you start Ubuntu for the first time. I won’t call it a revolutionary release, I would definitely call it an improvement release. I still find a lot of areas where Canonical can improve even more and most of these issues affect a lot of users.

[section label=”Cloud integration”]

No cloud integration

Ubuntu comes with core apps which take care of most of our businesses including a browser, office suite and movie/music player. Since Ubuntu One file sharing has been discontinued there is no fully integrated cloud storage services. While you can install ownCloud or Dropbox it doesn’t offer the same level of integration that Mac OSX does. I would love if Ubuntu collaborates with ownCloud, another open source project, and offer tight integration with it.

Ubuntu offers a feature called “Online Accounts” which allows a user to get some level of integrating with social networks and online services like Google yet it still lacks any cloud integration. You can easily connect online accounts from the System Settings > Online Accounts option.

[section label=”Slow”]

Animations make Ubuntu 14.04 slow

I must admit that being a Plasma user I did find Ubuntu 14.04 to be a bit sluggish, mostly due to the enabled animations. People wrongly say Plasma Desktop is slow, which is pure false – it’s very fast. Unfortunately, there is no way that you can disable the animations from the default settings the way you can do in Plasma. But, it’s not a dead end – thanks to the great community Ubuntu has build around it. And I will give credit to folks like Jono Bacon so know the art of community building. There is an awesome tool called “Unity Tweak Tool” which allows you to customize your Ubuntu. In order to disable animation go to ‘General Settings’ in ‘Windows Manager’ and disable the animation. Once disabled the Unity desktop is extremely responsive and fast. You would love it after that. I wish Tweak Tool did show a ‘bread-comb’ on top or in title bar so a uses knows where he/she is. Anyway it’s a nice tool which makes Ubuntu a bit more customizable, though it doesn’t come close to the customization of Gnome 3 Shell of Plasma Desktop.

Unity Tweak Tool does allow you to customize your Ubuntu desktop.
Unity Tweak Tool does allow you to customize your Ubuntu desktop.
[section label=”Customization”]

Customization

Ubuntu is not known for same kind of customzation that a typical GNU/Linux distro or desktop like Plasma would offer. You can’t customize Ubuntu the way Counting Cars customize cars. Ubuntu is not your Harley Davidson – that’s what Plasma Desktop is.

Ubuntu isn't Harley Davidson
Ubuntu isn’t Harley Davidson

You can get some flexibility on Ubuntu with 3rd party plugins like Unity Tweak Tools or MyUninty which allow you to do a lot of things such as sizing the launcher icons or . Still there is not a lot you can do such as moving the position of launcher or to disable autohiding of menus. Even Apple allows a user to change the location of dock.

Ubuntu needs some 'Counting Cars' touch
Ubuntu needs some ‘Counting Cars’ touch

Then it also depends on whether you want to customize or not. Most GNU/Linux users are ‘tinkers’ (that’s why most of these use CM instead of stock Android) so not being able to personalize your system is not cool for them. I am one of them ;-)

So I really don’t see myself using an OS where the core components like menus hide. It’s more like driving a car where brake, accelerator and clutch paddles auto hide and you have to look every-time where they are.

Canonical, you have been doing a great job with Unity, can you please stop hiding things. Or give an option so users can disable autohiding the menus.

[section label=”Menus are back”]

Return of menus

Ubuntu distanced a lot of user when they imitated Apple’s Mac OS X and moved menus from windows to top panel. Unlike Mac, there the menus would hide leaving a lot of ‘grey space’ on the top bar – such a waste of empty space which could be used to show menus so a user doesn’t have to guess. Though I am not a huge fan of Global menus, but I found Apple’s implementation better. Another visual glitch with Ubuntu menu is that when you take your mouse to menu the menu items over lap the title.

Menu items overlap title
Menu items overlap title

With 14.04 Ubuntu is kind of fixing that problem and bringing the menus back to Windows. Now a user can choose to show menus in Windows. All you have to do is open Appearance from System Settings and chose where you want to show menu from ‘Behaviour’ tab. However the core problem remains as menus are still auto hiding. I really don’t know why Canoniocal is so obsessed with hiding menus. The problem I see it is as counter productive as instead of training your muscles and eyes where to go so it becomes automatic (they way your fingers are trained when you type as they know where the keys are). In case of Unity, the autohiding features require me to ‘focus’ on finding the menu so no muscle memory which takes attention away from what I am doing and have to focus on menu. Even Mac doesn’t have the issue despite using the global menu as the items are always there and I know where to go.

[section label=”Great upgrade”]

Great upgrade

One of the greatest advantages of Ubuntu, thanks to Debian, is flawless upgrades from one release to another. So if you are recommending GNU/Linux to Windows XP or less savvy user and want her to stay updated all the time I would heavily recommend a ‘buntu’ as it will be very easy for them to upgrade. Though I did the fresh install on my machine to see what’s new, I also tried ‘typical’ distribution upgrade and it worked fine.

Some annoyances

There are no thumbnails for videos in Ubuntu and there is no easy way to enable them. This is something that works out of the box in Mac OSX and can be very easily configured in Plasma Desktop. If Canonical is targeting average users I think they should consider what adds value for a users. Another huge issue is lack of inbuilt tools to get more customizations. Tech Savvy users may be able to hunt the web and manage fixes, average users can’t (and I can’t even disable autohiding of menus). So I think System Setting can be improved to add more useful features. One of the most annoying elements of Ubuntu is notification – it just won’t go away. If you are doing some work it will just stick there. Both Mac OSX and Plasma allows a user to take action, I can cancel the notification or open the app right from it. So, Unity leaves a lot of annoyance when compared with both Mac OS X and Plasma – two most polished desktops.

ubuntu-1404-notifications

Will I go back to Ubuntu?

I switched away from Ubuntu due to extremely inflexible Unity. I must admit that Uubuntu has come a long way since 11.04 when I moved away to Plasma and openSUSE, however as I mentioned core issues like autohide menu are still there which are huge distraction for someone like me. Still, I am thoroughly enjoying this release and appreciating the fact that Canonical continues to polish its desktop offering even when there is no money in the desktop space.

[section label=”Conclusion”]

A very good release

All said and done, Ubuntu 14.04 is really a good release which has been tweaked (return of menus) to make it easier for previous LTS users to upgrade to it. Though Canonical’s focus is moving away from desktop to mobile and we will see more mobile centric UI on desktop with the arrival of Unity 8, I do see Canonical to be opening up to feedback and community and are now seem to be listening to what people want. Though I may not return to Ubuntu as I am kind of addicted to Plasma’s flexibility, but I do see it as a promising operating system for average users.

With Unity 8 one of the biggest complaints of Ubuntu – online search integrations – will go away which will make it more acceptable for privacy concerned users – which should be almost everyone in this NSA age. I think Canonical has done a great job with 14.04 and if you are an Ubuntu user, you will certainly enjoy this release.

Microweber_open_source_CMS

Microweber pumps some ‘life’ into otherwise routine CMS

Traditional CMS has never been a very engaging experience for users, developers and designers alike, at least till now. Open source CMS solution Microweber bridges the gap. Microweber is a ‘Drag and Drop’ CMS solution with real-time text writing and editing feature. In other words, it supports on the fly preview without switching to the preview mode, resulting in a ‘live’ experience. This addresses two common issues CMS users face while creating their websites – slow, uneasy management and lack of intuitiveness.

Microweber is a brand new service in CMS which came live from Beta stage this year. It was so popular during the Betas that it was translated voluntarily into 6 languages – English, German, Spanish, Russian, Slovenian, and Greek. Microweber was created in Bulgaria and found Nicholas Gerber as a sponsor from the USA.

Liteness, its new default template, is rich in color and image customization and is up-to-date with the latest design trends. It is a responsive template too, presenting you the same experience across devices. A picture says a thousand words and here’s how awesome CMS can get with Liteness!

Microweber_Liteness_theme_demoA quick peek into the excellent features of Microweber:

  • Drag and Drop CMS
  • Real-time text writing and editing. So designers and developers are not stuck in the Admin panel previewing changes.
  • Extensible through modules like Picture, Video, Button, Contact Form, Comments etc. to design block by block
  • Supports seven languages
  • Built-in e-commerce
  • Suitable for end-users as well as designers or developers to create modules and templates
  • A complete solution – upload, customize, set the price and specify shipping settings for your products
  • Track your products
  • Visualized traffic and online user statistics
  • Powerful image and picture gallery management
  • Simple and fast content creation
  • A blogging platform for users! Currently work is ongoing to import user content from other blogging platforms/websites.
  • Open source solution licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0

Don’t forget to visit Microweber for a new experience in CMS gone live!

pixlr-editor-1

Pixlr Image Editor – Photoshop for Chromebooks?

There’s been a lot of talk about the cloud as of late.  Nowadays it seems that everybody’s getting in the game of cloud computing.  Even Adobe has cloud offerings of its own and they’re going more towards software as a service as opposed to selling a pricey license every few years.

Even then, the price of a subscription is out of reach, and for most users, Photoshop is too powerful for their needs.  Furthermore, it’s a pain to get working on Linux-based systems.  One option is to use a cross platform program for image editing and creation.

Then there’s Pixlr.

Pixlr is an online image editing tool that can be run from any web browser on any platform, including Chrome OS.  The utility was started by Ola Sevandersson in 2008 and was aimed at non-professionals. AutoDesk bought it out in 2011.  So what does it look like?

pixlr-editor-1
In addition to touching up photos, there’s also some painting tools. Layers are supported for more advanced options.

 

Like most image editing tools that have some power to them, touching up tools are available, such as red eye removal.  There’s also the painting tools as well.  Layers are also supported.

Since Pixlr is designed to work in the cloud, images can be saved and obtained from the cloud.  This convenience makes it easy to edit and share changes quickly.  Want to edit an image from a specific URL?

Pixlr can import it.

[epiclink link = ‘https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/pixlr-editor/icmaknaampgiegkcjlimdiidlhopknpk’ color = ‘btn btn-info’ target = ‘_blank’ shorticon = ‘left’ itype = ‘ icon-download-alt’ icol = ‘black’ ]Get Pixlr Image Eitor[/epiclink]
opening dialog
Images can be opened from a computer, social networking/photo sharing site, or a separate URL.

In order to load images from a library, one must have an account with Pixlr.  It’s simple to connect your Google account.  From there, connecting your Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa web albums allows access to images that can be saved directly to those services.

Pixlr Library Options
Images can be obtained from Facebook and image sharing sites such as Flickr.

File format support includes PNG, JPEG, BMP, TIFF, and PXD (Pixlr’s native format).  For Chromebooks, Pixlr is a huge plus, because the save to computer option can access Google Drive directly.  As an image editor, it’s excellent, but there are a couple of caveats.

For starters, it relies on Adobe Flash, which is cross platform but a resource hog.  Avoid having too many tabs open.

The other issue is that GIF support is lacking, so creating animations is currently not possible.

Thomas drinking coffee
Some blurring and old photo effect was applied to this image.

Still, it is an excellent image editing and creation tool that’s easy to use and powerful enough for cool effects.