Friday, November 30, 2007

gOS: OS on $300 Laptop and $200 PC

Finally, an idea to bring cheap computers and good operating systems to the world, an idea that might actually work. There have been other ideas to bring Linux and alternative operating systems to the main stream, but Everex may have just figured out the best way to do it.

Recently, Everex and gOS and Walmart have come out with the under $200 pc. I discussed this in another blog post, so please check it out.

Very soon, they are going to be coming out with the under $300 laptop as featured on their website.

I had the chance today to try out the new gOS, the operating system (OS) featured on the inexpensive laptop and pc that Walmart is marketing. I went to the gOS website, downloaded the new OS as what's called an iso file, then burned it to a cd.

As mentioned in other posts, I used this livecd and booted into it, starting my computer in the new OS rather than my usual Linux/Windows OS.

Very nice! Going with the overall "green" theme, the gOS system features a great many concepts that save it space and allow it to run very smoothly on minimal hardware. Based on Ubuntu Linux, 7.10, it used the Enlightenment window manager that makes it look good, gives it functionality, but allows it to run with very little computer memory space used.

Let's see some pictures of what it looked like:

Here is one of the general desktop with the menu format selected.




Here is one with the Firefox Web-browser being used.










Here is one showing if someone selected the option to install this OS onto their computer. It runs a simple installer that takes someone step by step through the process.

As you can see, this gOS is a very solid, good looking operating system that can allow someone to get online very quickly and inexpensively.

If you want to try out the operating system for yourself, you can download it for free and try it out without installing it via the livecd option that I mentioned. Other free/inexpensive operating systems are featured here.

Better yet, track down your own inexpensive PC or laptop and get on the internet! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How to Convert Cassette Tapes to CD or MP3

Most of my blog posts are about the internet and various things to be done on there. This post is a little different, but was just too useful for me not to post it. We are going to use the internet for some downloads, though.

Here is what happened: I found an old cassette tape (of music) that I really liked. Yes, I could have probably bought the cd, but I already had the tape, and this example is good for those items on cassette that can't be found anywhere else. For example, my father has a tape of my grandfather telling bed-time stories; that would be something you would want put in a digital format and saved.

So, I had the cassette tape. Now we need a cassette player. They are crazy cheap if you don't have one (check here or check a pawn shop, or check to see if one of your friends has one). You will also need a line-in cord to plug into the back of your computer; I used an audio cable that has two 1/8" connectors and looks like this. You can find it at the local electronics store for very cheap.

I then plugged the audio cable into the cassette player and into the back of the computer in the line-in plug (usually marked and right next to the speaker plug-in).

Now we need software to be able to do this. Don't worry, the one I used and the best one for the job is free: Audacity.

Audacity allows you to select what type of audio input you want. From a drop down box in the main screen, just select "line-in." You may have to adjust the various volume controls to get it to sound like you want.

Oops: first we have to download and install Audacity. Go to here, download it and install it; very easy.

Then, with the cassette player plugged in and ready to go, click the record button on Audacity, play the recorder and you should see the lines of your audio input start to appear. If you don't, check to see that you have the line-in selection picked, you have the cassette player plugged into the right place, like that.

Just record a little bit right now. Stop the recording (and your cassette player) and see what you've created. With Audacity you can adjust the volume of your creation, save it as a .wav file or as an mp3 (with some minor tweaks I'll discuss later) and a wide variety of other things. Amazing stuff.

Ok, now we want to convert the entire cassette tape. Start over again, get the recording going, and then just let it play. You can even listen to it on your computer speakers if you want while the recording is taking place.

Here is what you will end up with: once the cassette is done, you should have one giant audio file, ready for you to do what you want in Audacity. Here is what I did, once I had played the entire cassette and had it all on Audacity.

I went to the very beginning of the recording. I then high-lighted the area that consisted of the first song. After selecting it, I then went to File, then selected "Export Selection as Wave file." This allows me to save the first song as a .wav file (the type of file that is typically found on most regular audio cd's). I then did this for each and every song in my recording. When it was all done, I had about 10 or 12 new .wav files ready for me to do what I wanted to. I then proceeded to create a new cd.

Another option is to export the files as mp3's. Very easy, just select "Export Selection as Mp3." But the first time you do this it will as for a file called something like lame.dll (can't remember exactly). You can download the file from here. Once you get this file, save it somewhere (remember where) open the .zip file, then extract the contents (in this case, the lame file you want) and save it somewhere.

Now, when Audacity asks for this file you can simply browse for where you saved it, then select it and let Audacity take over. Once you do this one time you can save mp3 files and manipulate them as you want.

I use Audacity for this cassette tape conversion process, for converting mp3 to .wav files and vice versa, to make audio files louder, things like that. Very useful software. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Follow Up on the Pentium II PC

This is just a follow up of the last post.

I was having issues with the fact that the computer would start off great with my internet connection, but then it would lose it after about five minutes. I tried a variety of adjustments, software, etc. but just couldn't keep the connection.

So, another Linux freedom kicked in and I applied it: the ability to start over with a different version/distribution (distro).

I finally got smart and picked PCFluxboxOS's TinyMe distro. Still fluxbox, but this had the core of PCLinuxOS in it. So, reinstalled, opened the PCLinuxOS Control Center (PCC), under setup and followed the prompts to set up a new network connection. Still picked ndiswrapper (the Linux driver doesn't seem to work as well with this Belkin device) but it was very easy to do. After picking ndiswrapper, it (PCC) told me to put in the cd, which I did, then it set it up for me. Very easy.

So, the final choice in Linux for this Belkin device was PCFluxboxOS. Check it out.

Oh, and special prop's to the forum: the most helpful Linux forum I have encountered. Very helpful, very friendly.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How to bring a Pentium II Computer to Life

I found that I was taking apart my own personal computer whenever I wanted to work on someone else's hard drive for them.

To save myself having to do this, I needed an alternative computer.

Someone had donated an old Pentium II computer with Win95 on it that had issues to me. They said, as many do, if you can do something with it, it's yours.

This is what that computer looks like now:

Oh, here are some more screenshots: here is one (with internet going), here is another (shredding a hard drive), and here is a third (with a gparted disk partitioner going).

Of course, it didn't start out looking like this, but it wasn't hard to get it there.

First, I cleaned it using a Linux command called shred. This isn't necessary, but I think it a good precaution. I was using a Linux livecd...any should be able to do shred, but I was using Feather Linux.

Then I had to put an operating system (OS) on there that wouldn't take up a lot of space but that I could do what I wanted with it. Linux was a great choice, and I picked Ubuntu Linux for this. But I needed a desktop/window manager that also didn't take up much hard disk space.

That lead me to a version of Ubuntu called Fluxbuntu, which uses the fluxbox windows manager/desktop. Fluxbox looks a little different, but takes up very little space, and has some cool features with it. To use the menu at any time, you just right click anywhere on the screen and the menu comes up. To customize it, you just need to find the file you want and edit it. Fluxbox is amazing powerful and effective for as little space as it takes up. Oh, of course, Fluxbuntu is completely free.

So, I installed it, then needed to get internet going. That took a little work, 'cause I wanted wireless. I first had it plugged into the wall to download what I needed. I wanted to use Synaptic package manager as it is a little more user friendly, so I installed it.

Let me back up: in Windows, when you want to install something, you just run the .exe file. This then installs the program on top of Windows (this is essentially the truth...there are of course more specifics, but that is the gist of it).

With Linux, you have to install something and then it is recompiled, so you now have essentially a whole new system after you install something. In other words, the program is now integrated. (Again, speaking in generalities). No .exe file works, for the most part, with Linux, you have to go a different route.

So, it is easy to install things via a package manager like Synaptic. With Synaptic, you search for the program you want (via name or description or whatever), find it, tell it to install, and you are good to go.

So, I ran Synaptic and installed ndiswrapper-utils and ndiswrapper and a graphical interface called ndisgtk. (Clarifying again: most commands run via the command line, which is like typing in on a black screen. But to run a program like ndiswrapper without having to use the command line, you need a graphical interface, which it the pretty point and click interface like ndisgtk provided.)

I wanted to use a usb wireless adapter. I picked an inexpensive Belkin wireless adapter for about $25-30. But it only had a Windows cd. This isn't a problem with ndiswrapper.

I put in the disk, and copied and saved it on my system. I then ran ndisgtk which very simply said, hey, you want to install what driver? I looked for the driver that I had saved from the disk, then specified it. Ndisgtk then ran ndiswrapper for me and set it all up.

Then, of course, I had to customize the desktop and make it look how I wanted it too. I downloaded some themes from here and I found the wallpaper I wanted from here.

It should be pointed out that I got a lot of the ideas for the wireless set up from here.

Now I had my "work" computer all set up and the Pentium II was clicking along nicely.

So, for the price of wireless (which I already had) and the Belkin, the donated PII computer, and a little bit of learning and work (always good) I had another computer up and running. Not bad.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Free Bookmarking Ideas

Ok, you travel from computer to computer, and you are more and more trying to store all of your information online.

But the problem is you find a link you like so you bookmark it. But if you are on one computer, you can't access that bookmark on a different computer.

Unless you use one of these free tools.

Of course, my favorite is http://del.icio.us . First of all, you register for free, then you can save all your bookmarks there. Many, many people already use del.icio.us for almost all of their bookmarking needs. In fact, if you already use del.icio.us, please feel free to tag us by using the tag button in the top part of the left hand column. ;-)

But one of the things that I like most about del.icio.us is that you can see what others are posting, especially the most popular posts. So, not only can you check your favorite bookmarks, but you can see what others consider cool, check out the link yourself, then save it also if you want. Very helpful to find all sorts of things. You can search for various tags and find a much more specific list of websites than just the normal search on the search engine can produce.

But there are other ways to bookmark your stuff and take it with you.

Check out the bookmarking freeware on snapfiles. Snapfiles is great for all sorts of free and shareware, but I came across this list of freeware just today when looking for bookmarking utilities. Using a flash-drive/pen-drive, you can use any one of these helpful tools to set up your bookmarks on the drive. Then, when you are ready to use another computer, take the drive with you and you are good to go on the computer of your choice. If you need to, search for a flash drive using the amazon link to the left.

Probably some combination of web service bookmarking (like del.icio.us) and the flash drive bookmarking may be best for most people that are migrating their lives towards the web. In using the search tools in del.icio.us, the bookmarking and adding a flash drive for additional bookmarks pretty much all of your useful links can follow you around where ever you need to go.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Inexpensive PC's

This is somewhat of an impromptu blog today started because I wanted to notify everyone about some of the very inexpensive items that I've seen on the market today.

First of all, these pc's have good operating systems. They may not be the more commercial products that you are used to, but they also aren't the expensive resource hog operating systems that you've used in the past either. I've already spoken about alternative operating systems, so check out other posts, but don't let the different OS's hinder you from purchasing one of these great PC deals.

1. Walmart is coming out with a PC for just under $200. You can find it here or you can go to your nearest Walmart and check it out. It is running the gOS operating system, one that there isn't much information about on the market, but it looks just fine, especially for most of us that do a little surfing the internet and use there computers for that.

As mentioned in other posts, almost anything can be done via the internet, more ideas to come later. The key is to be able to get on the internet in the least expensive most logical way possible. This may be a great choice for you.

Here is another alternative...

2. Found on the Amazon site, it features a Linspire system which is a great OS to use for virtually any of your surfing/internet tasks and ideas. Also use the Amazon search bar in the left hand column to find other Linux PC ideas...I also saw a laptop there for under $500 just briefly looking around.

Check out these deals and they may the key to getting you on the internet in the most effective way possible. More ideas on what to do with your documents, games, files and etc. to come in future blog posts.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Top 3 Alternative Operating Systems (and a handful of others)

I find it fascinating that most people don't know what an operating system (OS) is. This is because Microsoft's Windows has so cornered the market that it is generally thought to be what is on a computer as a given.

Well, only if you want to pay for it and don't know any better.

If you want to find an inexpensive copy of Windows XP, use the Amazon search box found in the left-hand column of this page; Amazon kicks butt on prices. But this article is not about Windows.

Believe it or not, there are alternatives OS's that are frequently better choices. I know this article has been written before on the internet, but all the ones I found are out of date and don't cover what I want to cover.

So, here are some other operating systems that are great, frequently (if not always) better for your needs, and free. Yes: free.

How can they be free when Windows isn't? Windows is a commercial product and an excellent tool. It is not the tool I usually use, however...Commercial products are what most consumers are used to: they are a certain product for a certain price. If what you get for that price is acceptable to you, then it is a good product.

Free OS's (frequently are Open Source, but the explanation of that is a whole other article) can be seen as created like this: Hey, I came up with this software, what do you think? Oh, that's cool, but you might add this. Yeah, that's even better, but what about this? And thus the creation of an Open Source project, or new, Free Operating System, is born. Lot's of community support, lot's of people working for free to make things better.

Oh, and it should be mentioned that all of these listed out here are impervious to Window's viruses, have almost no spyware problems and are basically free of worry in that regard. Yes, they can be corrupted, but their basic design allows them to avoid all the usual virus problems associated with Windows. So, you don't have to run an anti-virus, spyware cleaner and all that; it just isn't necessary in almost all cases.

Ok, now on to the lists.

First of all, you can pick what you want in an OS's. Yes, you can choose from a few hundred that are constantly improving, updating and changing. So, even though this article will give you some ideas now, half a year from now you'll have to research on your own and start over because things will have changed.

So, do you want an OS's that is minimal effort and requires very little tweaking or changing and is quite polished "out of the box?" Then try these:

Minimal Effort:
1. PCLinuxOS
2. Ubuntu
3. Slax

What if you want something that is very customizable and can really be a new adventure and an optimal system for you?

Customizable:
1. Gentoo
2. Ubuntu (yes, I said it again)
3. Mandriva

Then there a few hundred that match any other kind of OS need that you might have.

For example, got really old hardware that won't take a big OS? Try these:

Old hardware:
1. Damn Small Linux (DSL)
2. Feather Linux

Or do you like a certain kind of desktop look and you want the best one for it? There are many different desktop, so you can research even more if you want. But, for the sake of more specific lists:

For Gnome:
Gnoppix
Ubuntu (again, yes)

For KDE:
PCLinuxOS (yet again also)
Knoppix (click on the flag for the appropriate language)

For Fluxbox:
PCFluxboxOS
Feather Linux
DSL

Like I said, the choices can sometimes be over-whelming. But isn't that better than under-whelming? Pick and choose! Download one, install it, try it for a week, then get rid of it and install another one! Or install a dual/multiple boot system and have a different one try out whenever you want. Many are very easy to install (especially those in the first list) so go nuts!

Since what you spend the most money in a new computer purchase is typically the OS (yes, it is) then using one of these alternative OS's may be just the thing for you.

Oh, and so as not to leave those non-linux OS's out, here are even more that aren't on the list above. In fact, the first one is one of my favorites, but is not always for a new person transitioning from Windows.

Other alternative OS's:
1. FreeBSD (Unix)
2. Apple OS X (not free, but definitely a great alternative)
3. Menuet (not Linux, not Unix, completely independent; something new to try)
4. FreesBIE (Unix livecd)

So enjoy the choices, enjoy learning, and pick one according to your needs. Do you just surf the internet and send email, like my kids? Then PCLinuxOS may be a great choice. Want to learn Linux like I did, thrust into the cauldron, learn quick or die? Then Gentoo may be a better choice. Try them all, if you want. Enjoy!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cheapest Way to Track free Surfing

What is the cheapest way to get on the internet? Why, mooch off of someone else, of course!

So, let's use a friend's computer. But you don't want to leave all your tracks on their computer, do you? One of the easiest ways to use another computer without leaving a trace is to use a livecd.

There are a variety of livecd's out there, and I've tried a great many of them. A livecd is an entire operating system (OS) on a cd. So, instead of running the Windows (or whatever) OS on your buddies computer, you would simply put in a livecd as the computer boots-up and allow it to boot to the cd rather than the hard drive. Then all of your work would be done via the cd without the computer's hard-drive knowing anything about it. Nothing installed, nothing left behind.

What type of livecd is best? Well, I'm going to say for the average user that is just getting off of the Windows OS train, try the PCLinuxOS 2007 livecd. Go to their website, find out how to burn a cd iso file, download it, burn it to a cd, then you are ready to go. Completely free, except for the cost of having a cd to burn it on.

PCLinuxOS is great 'cause it is about the most Windows-ish of Linux versions out there. By that I mean it finds almost any hardware, has a long list of drivers, has a great forum/community that will work for you, all for free. Very tough to beat. Of course, the geek-ier you become the more you can pick a livecd that is closer to the specifics you want and/or you can re-master your own livecd. Recently I've enjoyed the PCFluxboxOS (an off-shoot of PCLinuxOS) that I configured to my own spec's.

Now that you've got your livecd, you are ready to get started. Find a cooperative friend, make sure their computer's bios are ready to boot to cd (most are already set to that) and get that cd going. Now you can surf, nothing is stored, the friend's computer is essentially untouched!

But what about data storage? As mentioned in the past (and in the future) there is a great deal of data storage for free online. But I have been very impressed with external hard-drive prices these days. I saw this one on Amazon at 500 Gigs for $120, an amazingly good price. This could be easily taken with you, boot the livecd, put all your data on the external hard drive, no computer of your own necessary!

Of course, you have to make sure you have a friend that is willing to help you out. Or, at the very least, a computer that you can play with. With someone else's computer, a livecd and an external hard drive there is very little that you can't do in the internet world.

TV 2 Internet

What does the future hold for us and computers? Well, that remains to be seen, but more and more items are being accessed on the internet and stored on the internet instead of the home computer. By storing data and forms online one can create a virtual world that can be accessed not only from one's home computer, but from anywhere that the internet is available.

For example, let's set up a take off point by creating a home page. From my home page I can access my email, check out my bookmarks and do a wide variety of things without even opening another website. This can be done freely and easily from a variety of websites. My favorite is www.pageflakes.com. Start there and get organized.

But what if we want to store larger amounts of data. Various websites offer storage data on the internet. Want a free account that allows you to store 25 Gigs worth of data? Then go check out http://www.mediamax.com/. There are other sites that offer ways to store data entirely online but this is one of the best.

But what if you really just have to have an operating system? Well, you can find those on the web as well. Windows is the classic Operating System (OS) but there are many others (Linux and Unix come to mind). In fact, the latest trend has been WebOS's. One of my favorite of these is eyeOS. Using eyeOS you can create an entire operating system, files, documents and more all on the web to be accessed from anywhere. This wasn't my choice over a homepage but it is an alternative that many are enjoying.

What about those bookmarks? Like a website, then store it on your home computer's browser, right? Well, by accessing and using http://del.icio.us.com you can set up your bookmarks to be checked anywhere you can get on the internet. In fact, you can check out the most popular websites and see what others think are helpful as well.

What about documents? Using Google Docs you can create a variety of document types, store them under your account then access them from anywhere.

So, do we even need computers? This will be a question asked over and over again by the web4everyone blog. So far, computers are the main way for everyone to get online. But not the only way.

Do you have a TV that has picture within picture display capabilities? Then this may be for you: the RCA/MSN TV 2 Internet and Media Player. Using this device you can get on the internet without a computer. Hook it up to your television and within just a few minutes you can be searching the internet and taking care of all your computing needs without a hard drive and without a computer at all. And for around $100 the price is much more affordable than the few hundred that is typically spent on the average computing system.

The web4everyone blog will continue to cover more specifics with review on a variety of different devices and trends that we continue to show that the internet is here to stay, but computers may be on the way out. Stay tuned for more.