Test Driving the new Thunderbird3 alpha2 (Shredder) on Linux

Feeling a little adventurous today? Want to get your hands dirty on something cool and really alpha. Here is something for you all.
The nice folks at mozilla spunoff Thunderbird into a separate project called Mozilla Messaging with a prime objective of developing Thunderbird3 (codenamed Shredder), the next generation open-source email/messaging client.

Some of the notable enhancements in Thunderbird 3 would be the integration of Lightening (a calendar extension), improved search and some configuration and user interface improvements.

A gentle warning, it is not meant for production environments. Let us start, shall we

1. Download the linux version of Shredder alpha2.

2. Extract the contents to a local folder (in my case Desktop).

3. Browse to the folder and Run the application by either from shell (as below) or by double clicking on a binary file called "thunderbird".

$ ~/Desktop/thunderbird/thunderbird

4. Thunderbird launches with a welcome screen, where you can configure your accounts (in my case, Gmail)

5. Like Thunderbird2, setting up Gmail accounts is a breeze. Enter your username and password, and you are done. Note: it sets up pop access.

6. You can specify all your account settings like before.

I wasn't expecting any new features as Shredder alpha2 is meant to test the transition to the latest gecko 1.9 engine, on which firefox3 is also based upon. Play around and if you do find bugs, report it back.
Well, that's it, happy alpha testing and keep supporting the mozilla foundation.

Opera 9.5 For Linux : Hits n Misses

I have always been a great fan of Opera. Ever since its first version, Opera has always been the dark horse in the browser wars. The first to introduce tabbed browsing, integrated e-mail and IRC client, customizable themes, the quick content toggle buttons etc., Opera led the innovation race but failed to garner market share.

Opera has released v9.5 of it's desktop browser with a host of new features aimed at faster browsing speeds, better synchronization and rendering of modern standards.Here we discuss installation, setup and the great and not-so-great features of the linux version of this release.

Installing it is a breeze. Opera.com autodetects the distro. If not, select your distro and download the installation file. For ubuntu/debian users, deb files are available. RedHat/Fedora users can get the rpms.

Double clicking on the debs in ubuntu would start GDebi that will start the installation process. Same works for other distros as well with their own package managers.

If you love the terminal, simply do this (Ubuntu)

$ sudo gdebi opera_9.50.etch-qt3_i386.deb

Great! Once you are done, let us try the new Opera9.5.

The interface has got a nice makeover with all the regular bells and whistles which opera users have already come to know and love. It's touted as twice as fast compared to it's previous release v9.2. It also sports Opera Link, offering integrated synchronization of bookmarks and other notes between multiple machines, as well as between the desktop version of the browser and Opera Mini, the edition scaled for mobile phones.
Here are the list of features in the current release.

Now for the big question, is it worth moving over to Opera from firefox?
Opera is definitely fast with the only browser coming close to it's speed being the new firefox 3.0 rc2. There is still no substitute in firefox for the image toggle buttons. They are a life saver when you have a slow bandwidth connection as you can skip loading heavy images.

Opera loses out when it comes to rendering complex websites. Blogger for instance, struggles in Opera. From the screenshot, it's clear some of the javascripts aren't compatible with opera.

Firefox has loads of useful addons which have become such an integral part of our browsing experience. Unfortunately, due to the lacklusture community support, the widgets and addons are still unpolished and underdeveloped. Firebug is something I really miss on Opera. Luckily Opera is working on Dragonfly,which will be the foundations of Opera's upcoming Developer Tools with an ability to debug JavaScript, inspect CSS and the DOM, and view any errors.

Bottomline is, Opera is still a really fast and light browser with some really innovative features. Its uncluttered and friendly interface will attract a lot of new users. In coming days, it will face some really stiff competition with firefox 3.0 which is optmised, faster and lighter than ever before. It's a tough path ahead but hopefully with a small but loyal community of opera enthusiasts, it will sail pass and make a mark for itself in this highly competitive browser segment.

Enjoy using Opera as I always have for the past so many years :)

Digsby on Linux: Revisited

This is a followup to an my older post: Digsby: No love shown for linux where I was trying to run Digsby's window's client on Linux.

Trick was to get gdiplus.dll. Here's the link to gdiplus.dll
http://www.dll-files.com/dllindex/dll-f … ml?gdiplus

$ cp gdiplus.dll ~/.wine/drive_c/windows/system32

Now install digsby using wine
$ wine ~/.wine/drive_c/Program\ Files/Digsby/digsby.exe

It still doesn't run that smoothly but it should sustain your interest till their native linux client comes out.

Src: Digsby forums
The Linux Blog

Autodesk Draw: a nice online Vector app

So I was looking for a free alternative to MS Visio. I stumbled upon Gliffy, which seemed to satisfy all my needs in a neat little package but the major drawback of the free account was that you could only save 5 public diagrams.

So I kept on looking and I finally found Autodesk's Project Draw. Draw is a new feature-rich web-based vector drawing application which can be used to create simple floor plans, electronic-circuit diagrams, network diagrams, user interface mock-ups etc.

Though not as feature rich as Gliffy, there is no limit on the number of diagrams you can save. The diagram can also be exported out in a variety of formats.

Try it today and leave your comments behind. Personally, I liked the Gliffy interface better. It also lacks UML/ software engineering components. But it is just a test product and new features and shapes are expected to be added soon.

Gliffy : An online visio killer?

Since the time I shifted to linux, I have always missed Visio. There are some nice linux alternatives like Kivio and Draw but I still find them buggy and a little painful to use. I just need some tools to draw simple ER or UML diagrams for school software engineering projects.

Enter Gliffy, an online visio.. alternative that is not rich on features but enough shapes and diagrams for all your software engineering and basic designing needs. It also has nice collaborative and sharing functionalities and an easy html embed/publish option. I also like the revision history tracking function.

Is it a visio replacement?
Unfortunately no. It still has a lot of quirks. For instance, the keyboard shortcuts didn't work as expected and the Shape templates are quite limited
Overall it is really good start. The basic version serves all my needs and I plan to stick to it for a while.

Do leave your comments on other visio alternatives that you use. Maybe I can review them together.

Brainstorming Tools

Ever felt the need to have a software that can help you draw mind maps, flow charts etc. when you and your team are brainstorming for the next big thing for your group project, when ideas are flowing faster than speed of light and you have been handed the challenging task of compiling all these ideas to review and critic later.
My prof used to say, never shoot down any idea during a brainstorming session. Accumulate and store whatever you can come up as one great idea is all you need to make a project a big success.

Welcome to the world of Mindmaps and brainstorming tools.

Here, I introduce you to 2 such wonderful tools, thanks to the web 2.0 innovations - Bubbl.us and Mindomo.

After using it for the last few weeks, I am just hooked on to them and not sure how I had survived without them for so long. Nice thing is that the mind maps can be exported as image files or objects that can be embedded in blogs.

Below is a demonstration of their usefulness.

1) Mindomo: Highly robust and feature rich. It seems as if you are working on a stripped down Visio 2007. Nice interface, tonnes of sharing and collaborative options and nice themes and layouts.
Highly recommended

2.Bubbl.us: Amazingly intuitive and fun to use. Look at the nice flash blog insert. I used it to create one of my marketing and product management module's new concept idea. Do check out the site and try the actual thing to see how good it works. Though not that feature rich as Mindomo, bubbl packs a punch in ease to use and speed. It loads and seems faster to work with.

For those who are still wondering what the hell these Mind maps and Brain storming tools are,..do try one of these and experience the joys of productivity and creative exploration.

Should I change to Vista part 1?

Microsoft is actively promoting Vista. They proudly claim that they have a package catered to every users need, be it a corporate client or a home user.
But is it really a necessary upgrades ? Let's find out.

1. Security issues: Vista is all about security. Anti phishing enabled in Outlook, ie7 etc., built in spyware filter,UAC etc.

User Account Control (UAC) is all about a great concept gone wrong. UAC prompts you for necessary action whenever the state of the system is about to change, things like switching off firewall, add/remove new user etc. Its a nice idea but repetitive prompts for passwords can be really frustrating.

How secure Vista really is, only time will tell.

2. Packaging and pricing : In order to cater to the needs of everyone, Microsoft has numerous licenses and packages. You got Home, Home Premium, Ultimate, Full, upgrade..... and so on. A normal user will have to go through all the feature lists to find which one suits his work. As the price difference is a lot, package selection is crucial and cumbersome.

3. Interface : Microsoft has finally taken a leaf off Mac Os in terms of interface and usability. The Aero looks stunning and makes it fun to play around and explore the Os. The new sidebar and live thumbnails with previews look amazing.

Vista is definitely not for older PCs. Aero is resource hungry and a dedicated gfx card (128 Mb) is highly recommended. Check the vista site for the minimum requirements. If your PC is couple of years old, an upgrade is a must.

4. Improved Networking support and UI
Vista Network setup interface looks more polished and effecient. The wireless network interface no longer connects to networks automatically. You can set up rules, add your networks, configure which network to be autoconfigured and connected etc.
The new network-sharing wizard lets you connect PC's on the fly.

To be continued....

Software of the Day - Photoshop CS3 Beta

Adobe recently released its new Photoshop CS3 beta, and I'll give you a sneak preview of some of the improvements.

This is the first product photoshop edition, released after Adobe-Macromedia merge up and we are yet to see if Fireworks will be released.

Lets start off.

1. UI makeover

Changing a well established interface for a flagship product could be a risky move but adobe had pulled it off well. The new interface looks simpler, slicker and more effecient. There are n no. of ways of arranging your workspace to suit your needs.
For a change, they have a single column toolbar, which can be changed back to the old one. The nicest improvement is the new palette scheme. Your can now dock palettes together and drag and dock palettes to the edge of other palettes. Overall, everything fits and resizes properly and makes your workspace look more organised.

2. Smart Filters

I like playing around with filters in order to decide which works well. This new feature lets you to apply filters and selective remove certain filters, in order to get the best effect rather than doing and redoing everytime, you aren't satisfied.

3. The new and improved Bridge

New ways to filter images, add tags, compare multiple images , a better looking interface etc.
Bridge works and feels better, with tonnes of useful updates

Another cool thing is the inclusion of getting photos from camera directly. You can add labels, define the folder, chose to save a copy of each image, save as DNG etc. Lots n lots of updates.

4. Quick Select

Every new version of photoshop brings a newer and easier way to select things. The quick select is the best so far. Earlier, we had to use the laso tool to select an image as below, but quick select can do the selection smarly. Give it a try or see Terry white's video to see.

5. Automatic layer alignment and blending

This feature easily combines the best parts of multiple images of the same scene into one "best" image. All we do is place multiple, related images on separate layers in one document, and Photoshop will analyze the contents, moving and rotating the layers so they overlap as precisely as possible. Then using the masking tools to reveal the areas you need from different layers to finalize the elements of the composite image. Automatic layer blending seamlessly blends the color and shading into the final image.

6.Vanishing Point with multiple, adjustable angle perspective planes

This feature which was introduced in Photoshop CS2 is now even more flexible. Vanishing Point adjusts brush strokes, healing and cloning as you paint over its perspective planes. In CS3, we are no longer restricted to adding planes at 90-degree angles. We can now quickly and easily create multiple planes in any image, connected at any angle.

In addition, artwork (for example, a product label pasted from the clipboard) can be wrapped around multiple planes simultaneously.

Conclusion : Overall a nice upgrade to the already powerful CS2. Adobe has listened to their fans and users and added features which will satisfy everyone.

Other links :

A cool video preview by Terry white : ( a must watch)

Download the beta from : Adobe Site

Software of the Day - Mozilla Sunbird & KOrganizer

This is a section, where I describe free software that you can't live without.
Today's theme - Calendar and Organizer programs.

Contenders : Mozilla Sunbird & KOrganizer

My Take : Being a student, organizing time is very important. Scheduling time for projects, lectures and meetings is hell of a task. Both these programs look and feel similar. Give them a try today and see how great they are. Alarms, sending auto-email notifications, organizing in different timelines etc. KOrganizer is exclusive for Linux only. Sunbird's available for all platforms.

Conclusion : If you are a Linux user, use KOrganizer, small, fast and lite. It may be outdated, but still packs a punch.If you are windows user, use Mozilla sunbird. It's a little buggy, and one may need to get used to its interface, but nevertheless, has all the features that Outlook or any other commercial softwares offer.
For people like me, who use both Windows and Linux, use both. Both of them can save in the iCalendar (ics) format. Writing and reading 1 single file on both the platforms help me to maintain a consistent schedule.
If anyone needs some help in using any of them, do message me. I'll try writing a small primer.