Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Inkscape - A Free Vector Graphics Editor

If you need something capable of drawing vector graphics diagrams and can't afford the likes of Adobe Illustrator, Freehand or CorelDraw, then take a look at this open-source solution…

InkscapeInkscape Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible - This is a vector graphics editor using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Supported SVG features include shapes, paths, text, markers, clones, alpha blending, transforms, gradients, patterns, and grouping. Inkscape also supports Creative Commons meta-data, node editing, layers, complex path operations, bitmap tracing, text-on-path, flowed text, direct XML editing, and more. It imports formats such as JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and others and exports PNG as well as multiple vector-based formats.

Like a lot of other open-source applications, the Mac OS X version requires the X11 windowing system so it won't win any prizes for interface usability but it does work. The developer's main goal was to create a powerful and convenient drawing tool fully compliant with XML, SVG, and CSS standards and it does that pretty well. On top of that, the web site has a pretty good set of documentation, galleries and tools.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Windows Defender Ships

Microsoft have finally shipped a release version of their anti-spyware utility, Windows Defender, their free antispyware solution.

The user interface has been tweaked to be more in line with the upcoming Microsoft Vista and automatic updates for both the software and spyware definitions are issued via Microsoft Update. The warning system has been updated to adapt the alert level depending on the severity of threat and a new engine promises to provide better detection and removal.

Windows Defender is based on the well-established Giant Antispyware, which was acquired by Microsoft back in December 2004. Windows Defender replaces the Microsoft Anti-Spyware, which was an earlier incarnation of the product so, if you are upgrading, then please make sure you install any beta versions first.

While corporates will either have an anti-spyware solution built into their security suite or will use something stronger, if you don't currently have any anti-spyware protection on your home PC, then this is well worth installing. Mind you I still also use the excellent (and also free) Spywareblaster and Spybot Search & Destroy to keep my system free of bother.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

End Of The Road For The Hard Disk Drive?

Given the way the price of flash memory has been dropping lately with capacities increasing, a couple of us in the office were thinking that the logical way forward would be to start using it for more main-stream purposes like backup storage or even active storage.

So, when I spotted the fact that Samsung are planning to release a couple of laptops next year that have no hard drives at all and use NAND flash memory instead, we knew our prediction wasn't so far away at all.

The Samsung laptops will have 32GB of embedded NAND flash-based, memory disks and the benefits of replacing traditional hard disk drives are many indeed and they're ideal for portable systems…
  • Solid state flash memory is less prone to external shocks, being able to withstand double the impact that would clobber a disk drive.
  • Liquid spillage damage shouldn't be a terminal condition and you're much more likely to be able to retrieve data in such cases.
  • Systems will be quieter - no hard drive whirring or clicking ever again.
  • Systems should be lighter as solid state memory weighs less than traditional hard drives.
  • Data access will be faster - the devices Samsung plan to use can read data 300% faster and write data 150% faster than normal hard drives.
  • Flash memory uses less power so we should see increased battery performance.
These systems will be released in Korea next Summer but if they're successful, then I don't think it'll be too long before solid state drives become much more widespread.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Firefox 2.0 Released

Firefox 2.0 Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible has finally been released and I've installed it to see what the benefits are.

Tabbed browsing has been improved - new web pages are opened in tabs by default; each tab has its own close button and a button on the right side will always show you a list of all your open tabs. When you have too many tabs open to fit on screen, scroll arrows appear on either side and if you accidentally close a tab, just go to the History menu to bring it back from the list of “Recently Closed Tabs.”

There's loads more enhancements like spell checking, search suggestions, Live Titles, Live Bookmarks, RSS feeds, phishing protection, stronger security, session restore, better accessibility support and an improved interface.

The only downside I can see is that a couple of the extensions I use are incompatible with the new version and have been disabled. This is a pity as one of them adds some seriously useful functionality for my del.icio.us bookmarks so I'm hoping they update it soon as I miss it already.

Given the release last Friday of Microsoft Internet Explorer 7, it was inevitable that Mozilla would pull out all the stops to get their browser update out too so I'm hoping that this release hasn't been rushed and there aren't any major flaws lingering for us to trip over.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Writely and Google Spreadsheets Merged

I'm just back from a couple of weeks leave and have just tried to log in to Writely, Google's online word processor, only to find that it's all changed.

Writely and Google Spreadsheets have merged to become Google Docs and Spreadsheets Online  Service so both services are presented from the same front end. Makes sense I suppose as a move to providing a more integrated online office applications suite and it brings Writely into the Google camp as far as presentation is concerned.

The main interface now presents you with a list of both documents and spreadsheets and you can now tag and star items for later searching and management. The document and spreadsheet editors have also been homogenised so each shares a similar user interface and the sharing facilities work in the same way too.

Wonder how long it'll be before we get another element added in such as a database or presentation application?