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Posts published in “Reviews”

Freeware: Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Just because software is free doesn’t mean it’s free software.

This may confuse those who only know the Windows world, where the software animal known as “freeware” is readily available but truly free software is a bit more scarce. They may be excused for thinking, when we Linux users talk about “free software,” that they use free software too. After all, doesn’t a free antivirus program qualify as free software? Or what about that gee-whiz free password manager that’ll generate and store five or six passwords–more if the “pro” version is purchased?

Linux users will also be excused for rolling their eyes before answering, “Nope. Neither of those examples is what we mean by ‘free software.'”

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Linux Achieves Bodhi Enlightenment


Until recently, most desktop Linux distros were about the same on the surface. What differentiated them were things like configurability. Some distros, those preferred by Linux purists or designed primarily to be used as servers, required users to open a terminal and change settings with a text editor. Others sought to be newbie friendly, and had devised schemes so that most systems settings could be done point and click, just like with that evil operating system from Redmond.

On the surface, though, whether newbie friendly or designed for geeks, the user was mainly offered an out-of-the-box desktop, usually KDE or GNOME, that was maybe dressed-up a bit with the distro’s logo but otherwise seemingly added almost as an afterthought.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Create a Bootable Live USB Thumb Drive or Rescue Drive Using UNetbootin

A few weeks ago when two ISO images I burned to CDs failed to produce a working live CD intended for a laptop, someone on a distro forum figured the problem was with the CDs. This was a good guess, as the MD5 checksum on the download had matched the source. He suggested I make a bootable USB drive using UNetbootin.

Unetbootin screen shot
Unetbootin screen shot
I’d never heard of UNetbootin before, but I immediately found it at Sourceforge and downloaded it to the Windows desktop I was using. After studying the simple GUI for a moment, I inserted a thumb drive into a USB port. A few clicks of the mouse later, UNetbootin was extracting and copying files to the thumb drive. A couple of minutes later, I removed the drive from the Windows box, made sure the laptop was set up to boot from USB, crossed my fingers and booted. Less than a minute later I was looking at the desktop for the distro I was testing. It was that simple.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Occupy Diaspora

The first and last time I visited Diaspora was back in 2010, when the social destination was still in it’s Alpha release. Although it had a reputation, as alpha releases do, of being buggy, I was surprised at how well it worked. It was impressive, a lot like Facebook but also quite different in its design. The problem was, there was nobody there. It was like entering an eighteen story highrise apartment building in which all the tenents had been evicted, hollow and filled with virtual echoes. So I ran back to the noise of the crowd on the virtual party that is Facebook.

I stay on Facebook for the same reason everybody else stays on Facebook – because all my friends are there. We’re not talking about the folks I hang with in Winston-Salem, who I can see anytime I like over at Washington Perks or Krankies. Nah, we’re talking about people that go way back, people I knew back in the 1970s when we were trying to ignore the coming of disco and, worse, Kiss, and pretend that we could keep the spirit of the 60s alive, like forever man. We’re talking about brothers and sisters who were gone forever from my life, who I was sure I’d never see again and who were already planted in the ground or turned into ashes as far as I knew.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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