by bbadmin

Top 10 Alternative Operating Systems

January 19, 2014 in Computing by bbadmin

which operating system

If you’re reading this blog on a desktop or laptop then the chances are you will be using Windows. Currently 91% of computers use Microsoft’s OS. It’s gotten to the point where most people don’t even question it anymore. Consumers don’t ask which operating system their PC uses. They are far more likely to ask which version of Windows it is running.

So is Windows the best option for you? Probably not! The system is packed full of features, most of which you will never use. More features may sound great, but they slow your system down and waste energy. It is also VERY expensive, full of bugs and security problems. But is there an alternative? We have compiled our list of the top ten alternative operating systems available. Some are still in the early stages of development, but they are all working, can be installed on your PC. We have tried to come up with a variety of systems to cater for the widest range of needs.

GNU/HURD

GNU is not a new system. The project was started in 1984, but with no kernel, eventually it was paired with Linux to create GNU/Linux… Linux by itself was catchier, so the GNU has been ignored as part of the title. Mention Linux and most people will be able to tell you it is an alternative operating system, but GNU has been left behind in the shadows. However that doesn’t been the project was abandoned or had just stood still.

GNU/HURD is based on the Mach microkernel used in OS X. Its servers run on their own address space. There are services for hardware drivers, file systems, authentication and more. These are more isolated than in a typical operating system, so in theory HURD should be more reliable and easier to update.

JNode

Java was once the language of choice for most web games and apps. However its dominance in these markets has been almost completely eroded by Flash and HTML5. But the language has not yet been consigned to history and one project is here to show it can shine on the big stage of desktop computing.

JNode is almost completely written using Java. It has a very simple interface and plenty of online support, but the project is still very much in its infancy. At the moment JNode is not ready to complete with the big OS guns, but it is definitely one to keep an eye on for the future.

FreeVMS

VMS is one for the nostaglics among you. With its roots way back in the 1970’s where it was run on huge boxes called VAXes, which bear virtually no resemblance to modern computers. FreeVMS another project in the early stages of development, but progress is hampered somewhat by the lack of technical expertise on the original VMS OS.

DexOS

Operating systems have not changed a great deal from the early days of the Amiga Workbench. We have grown to expect those features and most developers start off with this type of layout in mind, simply because it is so ingrained in us. The advances in mobile technology and touch screens has changed that thinking, but There is another area of computing that has also come on leaps and bound over the last decade – Gaming consoles.

DexOS uses a more graphical front end, which makes it very easy and intuitive for users and should appeal to the gamers out there. DexOS is a real breath of fresh air in the operating system market and demonstrates how far hobbyists can go, even without much funding or the backing of a large commercial partner.

Inferno

Inferno has been around for a while now, but is still relatively unknown. The concept of this OS is based upon sharing resources across machines to maximise performance. It’s Styx protocol allows seamless sharing of hardware and networking devices to the point you wouldn’t even know they were running on a different machine.

KolibriOS

Back in the good old days an operating system would naturally be written in assembly language. However with more advanced compilers this trend has almost completely stopped. Programming with assembly languages is very hard work, but the results yielded can be worth the extra time and effort.

KolibriOS is written entirely in assembly, and the results are immediately noticeable. Firstly it is absolutely miniscule, less then 5MB for the ISO. This makes it ultra fast, booting up in a matter of seconds. All the excess fat has been trimmed, but you’re still left with OS includes everything you would expect including web browser, mail client, utilities and even games.

OpenBSD

OpenBSD has been designed with the security conscious in mind. Every line of code is meticulously checked to ensure it is completely free of security loop holes. It audits parts of the codebase for vulnerabilities, and have made modifications to the standard C libraries to prevent buffer overruns and other problems.

AROS

Like most people from my generation I was raised on the Amiga. Compared to other PCs of the time it was super fast, easy to use with stunning graphics and audio. Its OS set the foundations for the development of Windows – the most widely used operating system in history.

For those of us who still love the Amiga, we have AROS – the Amiga Research Operating System. AROS uses the Amiga design and is lightning quick. Okay so it’s never going to be a main stream OS, but would be perfect on a small notebook or tablet as a fast and fun alternative.

ReactOS

ReactOS could be a real threat to Windows as the operating system of choice for most businesses. It is essentially an open source alternative to Microsofts flagship OS, but without the huge price tag. The revolution could well start with the lower end of the computing market. A laptop manufacture competing as entry level will pay almost as much for a Windows license as they do for the hardware.

Switching to ReactOS would instantly drop their retail price and potentially increase profit margins. The big problem will be to overcome customer’s preconception that they need Windows to run major software packages. Once this is overcome it won’t take much for businesses to catch on. The development of ReactOS has been slow and there are still compatibility issues to iron out, but it could one day be the new Windows.

Haiku

Haiku was born from the BeOS, taking it into an open source environment. The result is a simple modern graphical desktop OS, which is fast, elegant and enjoyable to use.

BeOS was developed in the late 90s. Back then its performance was unrivalled, however like many other pretenders, if could not break Microsofts dominance in the PC market. The culmination was a lawsuit, which was eventually settled out of court, which enabled Microsoft to continue as the number 1 OS without admitting any wrongdoing, and virtually consigned BeOS to the history books.

The project was not completely killed off though. It has been gradually revived, starting in 2001 when a small open source project – OpenBeOS entered the fray. This was eventually renamed as Haiku.

The Bear Bottom

As you can see from this list there is an alternative operating system out there that has been virtually tailor made to your needs. Whether that’s speed, simplicity or security you can find something to compete with Windows, while saving you some of your hard earned cash. However the big problem of compatibility remains. There are lots of great projects out there, but Microsoft’s control over the market is still almost impossible to break. Perhaps the only way we will see a real break-through is when governments use competition rules to force a change.

by bbadmin

Raspberry Pi Project Ideas

January 15, 2014 in Computing, Gadgets by bbadmin

Raspberry Pi (RPi), the stripped down micro computer has been around for over 2 years now and has surpassed the 2 million sales mark. Despite its huge success it could be argued the RPi is a failure. It was originally designed to encourage young children to learn how to code. This hasn’t happened. Instead it may have inspired the next generation of engineers. So where should you start with a Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi Case

Build a pi case

This is probably the easiest thing you can do and usually where most people start. The RPi arrives as a credit card sized circuit board. To keep it safe you’re going want to put it into some sort of casing. There are plenty available to buy online, but if you’re creative you can build a custom case from almost any old junk you have lying around the house.

Wireless Raspberry Pi Server

Raspberry Pi Server

With little more than some open source software, a little coding and a wifi dongle, you can transform the RPi into a neat little home server. The RPi isn’t going to be able to handle a high volume site, but is perfect for hosting a small portfolio site, intranet or perhaps as a test server for budding web developers.

On the other hand take a look at this project by , which proves that you can actually host a reasonable high traffic site with Raspberry Pi… but you may need more than one! In reality it would be a lot easier and cheaper to convert an old desktop or buy a second hand server, but where’s the fun in that?

Raspberry Pi Media Centre

The Raspberry Pi is perfectly suited to life as a media centre. This project takes a little bit more work and a few more components than the server, but it is well within the capabilities of the complete beginners. With a little bit of time and effort you could be streaming content from your favourite online service direct to your television.

Raspberry Pi Arcade Machines

Pi Arcade Project

For those 80’s kids, yearning for the good old days of arcade gaming, the Raspberry Pi may be the answer to your prayers. The versatile little device can be installed into an old or custom built cabinet, hooked up to a TFT screen and with some nifty software you can be taken back to the good old days of your youth. This project can be quite complicated, but if you’re not confident enough to take on the challenge, there may be a solution. The Porta-Pi is a Kickstarter project that does much of the hard work for you.

Automate Your Home

This project is a lot more involved and expensive, but it is possible to convert your house into a smart home using the humble RPi. It’s possible to control virtually everything in your home, including the heating, lighting, security systems, etc all from your smart phone; Or if you really want that futuristic feel, why not go all out and install a voice controlled system.

Raspberry Pi Robotics

Pi rpbotic arm

The RPi lends itself perfectly to amateur robotics. There are lots of RPi robotics kits available online or for the engineers out there you could try to build your own machine with the RPi at its heart. Whether you want a flying drone to or a voice controlled robotic arm to it’s all possible with the RPi.

The Bear Bottom

Priced at around £30 the RPi is often an impulse buy, bought on a whim with thoughts of becoming a master coder. Unfortunately most of these devices spend most of their lives sat on a shelf gathering dust (as mine has). If you’re guilty of this perhaps it is time to dust it off and get creative. Take inspiration from this list or the thousands of other projects described on the web!

by bbadmin

2014s Technology Predictions

January 14, 2014 in Computing, Gadgets, Science by bbadmin

With the stresses of Christmas firmly behind us for another year, and the winter freeze setting in, January can be a very long and bleak month. So to help with those mid winter blues we’re taking a look at the year ahead, and there are plenty of reasons to get excited.

3D Printing Reaches the Masses

3D Printing

Okay so perhaps this may be slightly overstated, but 3D printing is definitely becoming more affordable. It is not too great a leap of the imagination to visualise every home having a 3D printer. 3D printing could revolutionise the world. It could be possible to download physical objects in the same way that we currently stream music and movies.

So far 3D printing has mainly been limited to plastic objects and components, but that is going to change in 2014. US based bio-printers Organovo have predicted that they will be able to print transplant ready livers this year. The technology can even be used to print food!

Perhaps the biggest issue for 3D printing in 2014 could be how to adapt intellectual property and copyright laws. Regulators have struggled to cope with the effects of online sharing for digital media. How are they going to manage when you can quite literally download anything?

Electricity to go Wireless

wireless electricity

Just about everyone these days has a mobile phone – many have more than one. These days for most of us one portable gadget is just not enough with smart phones, tablets, laptops, MP3 players… And for each of these devices we have a plethora of chargers, to the point where there just aren’t enough power sockets to go around. This could be about to change.

Wireless charging has been around for a while, but as yet the technology has not been widely adopted. This could well change in 2014. There are a huge amount of wireless chargers already on the market this could be the year when manufacturers finally begin phasing out plug-in power supplies.

Cloud Computing to Become the Norm

The Cloud

Until very recently most data was purchased on a physical storage device (vinyl records, tapes, VHS, CD, DVD, BluRay). Then as internet speeds increased and storage devices become more compact and efficient, most media was purchased online, downloaded and saved on a hard drive. In 2014 as internet speeds continue to increase and 3G is replaced with 4G, we could see a new shift to cloud storage.

As the internet becomes faster and more reliable we may no longer need to store any data at all. Films, documents, music, photos, etc. Could all be stored in the Cloud and streamed when needed. Large software firms have already started to move to cloud based services, where customers no longer purchase software, but pay a monthly or annual fee.

A move to total cloud storage would see a massive change in computer design. The biggest component within a computer is usually the hard drive. Removing the need for a large storage device would allow the creation of very lightweight and energy efficient devices.

The Bear Bottom

On these drab and dreary winter days life can get a little depressing, but in the world of technology there is always something to look forward to. The next advancement is always just around the corner. 2014 is no different, and while the tech predictions above may not be fully realised this year, we should be a lot closer to a wireless, cloud based world, where just about anything you can imagine can be downloaded in an instant.

by bbadmin

Making a Simple .gif Animation

January 12, 2014 in Computing by bbadmin

In this article I am going to show quickly show you how to make an animation using GIMP. GIMP is an Open Source design tool, similar to Photoshop.

We are going to take this static image:

Make a gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And turn it into this:

Gimp Gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step One: Firstly you will need to save the above image (right click then Save image as…) You then need to locate the image, right click and select edit with GIMP.

gif animation step 1

 

 

 

 

 

To make the animation we are going to create 10 layers, each layer will be a frame of the animation. Creating the layers is very simple. on the right hand side of your screen is the Layers palette. Simply right click on the Hypno Disk Layer and select duplicate layer. The next step is to rotate this layer.

create a new layer in GIMP

The rotate tool can be found in the Toolbox, which should be open on the left of your screen

make a rotating gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

Select the Rotate tool, then click the image. This will bring up the rotate dialogue box.Change the Angle to 36 degrees, then hit enter and confirm by clicking the Rotate button in the dialogue box.

5

Then just repeat these steps until you have 10 layers, each offset by 36 degrees. You can test the animation by selecting Filters, Animation and Playback. This will open a small window to view the gif animation.

7

Once your happy you need to export the gig (File then Export). Change the file extension from .png to .gif. Then when you save another dialogue box will open. Tick the As animation check box and adjust the frame speed if required. You now have your animated gif!

8

Now you know how it’s done, take a look at this gif gallery to give you some inspiration!

by bbadmin

Amazing Gifs

January 12, 2014 in Computing by bbadmin

by bbadmin

Google Glass: All You Need To Know And More

November 21, 2013 in Computing, Gadgets, Mobile by bbadmin

We all know Google as a company that loves to innovate. From its humble days as a search engine company, Google has expanded its services manifold to include Gmail, Google Plus, maps and satellite services, scholarly databases and more. With all this internet real-estate under its belt and a load of cash to spend, it’s little wonder that Google would quickly expand into the world of portable gadgets. Google’s transition to technology development has seen the emergence of the Android mobile phone, and more recently the incredibly interesting Google Glass. Read on to find out more about these amazing, interactive glasses.

Appearance

To start things off it’s worth discussing the aesthetic elements of Google Glass. The most striking and attractive feature of the apparatus is the long, curving titanium frame that comprises its sides and rims. Expertly crafted, the long metal strip is thick and then thins out into a slender hook that nestles behind both the users’ ears. Augmenting this shape are the silicone nose pads, simple and pleasant in design, and capable of keeping the glasses in one place for hours. Adorning this wonderful and stylish metal assortment is a plastic extension that hangs over the right glass-frame, and it is in here that all the essential circuitry and wires, which allow the Google Glass to function, are kept.

Connectivity

The really great thing about the Google Glass is that it is able to connect to wireless Internet sources without the need for a third-party device. What this means in real terms is that you can go for a walk down the road or to anywhere that has wireless, with just your Google Glass in tow. You don’t need any sort of Android or iPhone backup with you, meaning that you can be totally hands-free and connected to the Internet all at the same time.

Viewing Screen

With a clear, reasonably crisp display screen that fills your vision in real-time the Google Glass really is a modern technological wonder. The panel that projects images is located at the right side of the Glass, and it uses a light-refraction process to provide you with images that literally hover in the air in front of you. Coming equipped with a full range of colour contrast and saturation adjustment settings, and with the definition quality of an LCD TV, the Glass certainly packs a punch in the visuals department.

Videos and Voice Commands

In keeping with any Smartphone on the market right now, Google Glass is also configured to enable you to take pictures and capture video footage with the click of a button- or the use of a voice command! Simply follow voice command procedures and you can snap an image of whatever you happen to be looking at. You can also manually take a picture by tapping the shutter release button on the top of the Glass’ frame, and afterwards you can upload your images to Google plus or other online areas. The voice commands are also great for searching for content online, and you can also rely on verbal dictation to send quick responses to emails and messages, all of which can be accessed via the glasses of course!

So all in all the Google Glass is an amazing product that ushers in a new era of innovation and technological development in the gadget world. While the units are currently quite expensive, the amazing array of novel technological features they offer just begs trying and odds are you’ll be hooked the instant you try Google Glass.

Author Bio:

Simon Stevens is an Engineering student obsessed with new and upcoming technology. He recently arranged a loan through Flexirent to help him afford the amazing Google Glass device!

by bbadmin

Open Source Design Software

October 15, 2013 in Computing by bbadmin

Working as a designer these days you need to be able to work as well digitally as you can with more traditional mediums. This means investing in a decent computer, and some pretty expensive software. This software will need to be upgraded every 2-3 years at least, which can take a sizeable chunk out of your profits. However this doesn’t have to be the case. Could open source software be a viable alternative?

What is Open Source Software?

Open source software is usually free. This may be enough to sway many people, alternatively some people may not even consider it; after all how can a free software package compete with one that costs hundreds or possible even thousands of pounds? Open source software relies on its users to develop the programs. Even to write the code. Often the software can be upgraded with scripts or plugins to add specific features, tailoring it to your needs. The main developer may publish a new release every year, but the users continue to develop that release so the software is constantly evolving and defects are fixed fairly quickly. Established open source software packages usually have huge communities willing to help out with any problems you encounter, or listen to any improvements you can think of. There is an open source software package out there to rival any of the main design tools, so with that in mind I’ve put together this list which includes some of my favourites.

It doesn’t matter which field of design you work in there are two basic types of software you need. The first is a vector graphics editor and the second is a bitmap editor. Most designers will not look beyond Adobe Illustrator (Vectors) and Photoshop (Bitmap). Here are my open source alternatives.

Inkscape

Inkscape is a vector graphics program which boasts the same features as it’s paid rivals including Illustrator and CorelDraw. The basics are very easy to learn and for more advanced users you have a huge array of online tutorials to guide you. I cannot see why you would choose Illutrator over Inkscape.

GIMP

GIMP is one of my favourite design tools. It is incredibly easy to use and infinitely customisable. There are even hacks out there to make it look just like Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop may have more features out of the box, but there are so many plugins and scripts freely available for GIMP, if what you need isn’t included I’m sure you could find it elsewhere. There are other packages out there to consider (I would also recommend checking out Paint.NET). Personally I prefer GIMP, but try them out and see what suits you.

Sketchup

As an architectural designer I absolutely love Sketchup. There is a pro version, but for most people the free package is more than adequate. Sketchup allows you to model in 3D you have some pretty basic tools, which are very easy to learn. With these tools you can create pretty much any shape you can imagine. The styles tool then allows you to create some very nice sketchy renders, but if you are looking to create something more realistic then you can add your favourite render engine (I use Vray).

Blender

Sticking with 3D design, Blender is the free open source 3D content creation suite to rival Autodesks 3DS Max (which for the standalone 2014 version will set you back £3,795.00). Blender includes all the usual polygonal modelling tools you would expect from a 3D designer and even has tools to allow the simulation of fluids and hair. There is nothing you cannot create with this software. Blender has integrated render engines, but it also supports most external renders so you can change your software while sticking to the rendering engine your used to.

Jahshaka

A great alternative to Adobe After Effects Jahshaka lets you edit your movies and add a huge range of effects. The tools are quite intuitive, but if you do have trouble getting to grips with it then there are plenty of free tutorial videos out there.

Amaya

Adobe Dreamweaver is the web editor of choice for most professionals, but before you upgrade you should at least considerAmaya. The built in browser integrates seamlessly and combined with the remote access features it transforms the web into what it was always meant to be, a place for collaboration.

Pencil

If you are looking to create a more traditional hand-drawn animation, then most people would advise you to go straight to Toon Boom Studio. But before you do that, take a look at Pencil. Pencil is not going to match the professional animation tools out there, but if you’re just looking to create a simple hand drawn animation then there is nothing better.

The Bear Bottom

This list covers some of my favourite open source design tools, but there are lots more out there for you to experiment with. If you do find anything you can use, try to take an active interest in the community. Remember open source projects only work if the users are willing to contribute.

If you already use open source, have I missed something out that should be included on this list?