Useful websites and tools - 2/16 E-mail
Tuesday, 16 February 2010 16:05


  • ComparePSD - free software to compare two Photoshop PSD files layer-by-layer


  • Movski - a website that aggregates online sources to watch the latest movies


Tags: ComparePSD  Movski  
Adventures in Linux and VirtualBox E-mail
Saturday, 13 February 2010 10:55

Over the last two weeks I've been playing with VirtualBox and various distributions of Linux.  First of all, VirtualBox is pretty amazing, but there are a couple of things one should know when starting out with it, things I found weren't clearly apparent (at least to me):

  • Although VirtualBox imports images in ORF format, all the images I found were in the VDI format, which is how VirtualBox creates and stores virtual hard drives.  The only extra step involved with using these is you have to create a new virtual machine manually and specify the VDI file you downloaded.  Two sites that have various operating systems in VDI images are Virtualboximages.com and Virtualbox.wordpress.com.
  • To run a 64-bit guest operating system inside either a 32-bit or 64-bit host OS, your hardware needs to have virtualization support.  AMD calls it AMD-V and Intel's is Intel-VT.  The Wikipedia article has a nice overview of x86 virtualization.
  • In mounting shared folders, keep in mind that the root level of the mounted folder will only have read-only access.  Sub-folders will have read-and-write access, if read-only is not specified in the VirtualBox settings for the virtual machine.

I wanted to make a summary table of my experience with the various Linux distributions I tried.  All of these, except Xubuntu, were installed in 32-bit version on an Intel processor without Intel-VT.  Xubuntu was installed in 64-bit version on a machine with AMD-V.  Host operating system on both machines was 64-bit Windows 7.


Mandriva Fedora Xubuntu Arch Linux Zenwalk openSUSE
Installation Easy with graphical interface Easy. Specify enough memory for the Fedora VM so it uses the graphical interface. Otherwise the installer will revert to the text installer. Easy Easy but not as easy as the others. Easy Easy
Working out-of-box with GUI
Excellent Excellent Excellent No GUI by default Excellent Excellent
GUI installation I installed Xfce using instructions on the Wiki and it was straightforward.
VirtualBox Guest Additions installation Easy Buggy. First time it went well. Second time they refused to install due to kernel-related issues. Third time they installed fine. Somewhat easy. Follow instructions on VirtualBox forums to update kernel and install required libraries. Easy Somewhat easy Easy
Guest Additions out-of-box functionality Great Great Great Buggy. Shared folders mounted fine but the OS froze when trying to access them. Buggy. Seamless integration didn't work even though installation went fine. Great
Speed Good Good Very good Great Great Slow. My guess is because it's running KDE.
Ease-of-use for first-time user Great Very good Very good Not good for a first-time user. Very good Great
Ease in installing and removing applications Great. Installed Adobe Flash Player and AIR without issues.  N/A Good. Linux apps installed fine. Could not successfully install Adobe AIR on a 64-bit installation. N/A N/A Great. Installed Adobe Flash Player and AIR without issues.


  1. Virtual machine did not shut down properly when shared folders were mounted in the /home/user folder.  The problem disappeared when mounting to another folder (I used /mnt).


  1. For no apparent reason the GUI failed to load.  I installed Fedora three times - twice from a VDI image and once from the official ISO.  In the first two installations I didn't have this problem.


  1. Mounting to /home/user folder works fine.
  2. User privileges are annoying.  For example, I have to start NetBeans from the command line as root in order to have write access to a mounted folder.
  3. Both my machines have a Synaptics touchpad.  Xubuntu does not recognize mouse gestures set in Windows, whereas all other distributions, which are on the second machine, do.
  4. I was able to install and run Lighttpd, MySQL, and PHP without issues.

Arch Linux

  1. When I have more time and patience, I think Arch Linux would be a good base for a fully customized Linux installation.  It's light and fast, and I really like Pacman, the built-in package manager.


Overall my favorites are Mandriva and openSUSE, and they're the ones I use most, along with Xubuntu on the second machine.


Useful websites and tools - 2/12 E-mail
Friday, 12 February 2010 09:59


  • SRWare Iron - a less-intrusive alternative to Google Chrome that's based on the same open-source Chromium.  It even works with Chrome extensions.

Dropbox and Live Mesh: A comparsion E-mail
Wednesday, 03 February 2010 14:42

Now that I've been using Dropbox and Live Mesh for a while, I can offer a brief comparison between the two.  They are both great and I've found a good use for them both, but they each have their strengths and their weaknesses.

My overall assessment is that I like Live Mesh for all its features and flexibility in folder structure, and I like Dropbox for its simplicity, speed, and reliability - it just works.


Dropbox (free version)

Live Mesh

 It's free!  It's free!
 Quick to synchronize files between local and online version  Slow to synchronize files between local and online version
 2 GB storage free - plenty but less than Live Mesh  5 GB storage free
 Works on Windows, Mac, and Linux  Doesn't work on Linux (yet)
 Doesn't let you specify folders other than "My Dropbox"  Flexible in the folders you can synchronize
 Synchronizes all folders locally on all computers  Lets you choose which folders to synchronize locally, and where
 Lets you connect through a proxy

Uses Internet Explorer's connectivity settings, so if you specify a proxy there Live Mesh will use it

 No option to connect through a proxy

 Free extra storage for referring new users  No referral program for extra storage
 No remote control feature

 Lets you control other connected computers remotely

 No drag-and-drop between online and local storage

 Drag-and-drop between online and local storage (not yet functional)

How to browse securely for free using SSH E-mail
Wednesday, 27 January 2010 16:09

I am now the proud owner of a secure browsing environment wherever I go, even over unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, thanks to a simple SSH tunnel that took less than 10 minutes (in my case) to set up.  As usual, I found all the information I needed on other developers' and bloggers' sites, and I thought instead of rewriting what they'e already written, I would link to their pages instead.  Before doing that though, I want to offer a brief explanation of how this works, and what you need.


An SSH tunnel exists between your machine (the client) and another machine (the server).  On your machine you run a client like PuTTY, and on the server you run one of several servers like CopSSH or OpenSSHIf you own or manage a hosted domain, you should check whether your hosting provider offers SSH access.  If so, you can avoid having to set up your own SSH server by using theirs, which is already always on.


Once your SSH server is up and running, you connect to it from your machine via PuTTY.  You then configure Firefox or whatever browser you want to use to route its traffic through the SSH tunnel, and voila, all the data you transmit will be encrypted as long as you're connected to the SSH server.  You can also use this for other applications that allow you to configure a proxy server, like Mozilla's Thunderbird e-mail program and DropboxRemember to configure your proxy as SOCKS and not HTTP.


The connection you make with the SSH server is authenticated via a private/public key pair.  If you're running on a hosted SSH server, you can create these via cPanel.  Otherwise, if you're setting up your own SSH server, you can create them manually using PuTTYgen.


Below are websites that will help you get going, from setting up the SSH server to configuring your client-end machine.  (Don't forget the links to the software mentioned above!)




  • MyEnTunnel - this little utility reconnects you automatically when you get booted off your SSH session.  Not sure if it works with Windows 7.
  • Tunnelier - alternative to PuTTY with more features (and a bigger footprint).  It is free for under 5 users, and is available in portable versions.
  • WinSSHD - commercial SSH software that's free for personal use

Useful websites and tools - 1/24 E-mail
Sunday, 24 January 2010 21:08
  • ManyBooks.net - there are a lot of free e-book sites out there, but this one has one of the better interfaces I've come across
  • BatteryCare - easy way to get information about your laptop's battery.  It even works with Windows 7.


Useful websites and tools - 1/23 E-mail
Saturday, 23 January 2010 11:52
  • Posterous - pretty interesting site that lets you blog by e-mail.  You don't even need to sign up, and you can send pictures, music files, videos, and even DOC and PDF documents.

Tags: Posterous  

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