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May 18, 2009

Welcome to Software in Review

Filed under: Archive 2008 — admin @ 3:06 pm

FreeBSD 7.0 review

Here we are at the moment of truth for the FreeBSD operating system — the 7.0 release. This is what FreeBSD users and developers have been waiting for ever since the dark days of the 5.X series when the promises of superior performance, threading, and stability fell flat. Though each release in the FreeBSD 6.X series improved markedly in quality and performance, 7.0 has been widely anticipated as the release that FreeBSD fans can have confidence in. I wish I could say that FreeBSD 7.0 lived up to the hype.

NewNovelist 2.0 review

As an experienced writer, I can say with certainty that it is difficult to keep track of all of the various aspects of a fiction novel. I’ve known other writers who use various gimmicks and techniques to remind them of events, story elements, and character progression. I’ve used index cards pinned to a corkboard above my desk, and a notes file open in a separate tab of my word processor window to keep track of odds and ends in a story. When I first reviewed NewNovelist several years ago when it was in its 1.1 release (the review is no longer online), I said that it was a valuable tool for fiction authors, but wasn’t all that it could be. Now in version 2.0, NewNovelist has seen a gigantic overhaul, now including nearly all of the suggestions I’d originally made. Can there be a more useful software tool for fiction writers?

Roxio Easy Media Creator 10 Suite review

Veteran Windows users are certainly familiar with the ubiquitous CD/DVD writing program, Easy CD Creator. Before Windows had native CD writing capabilities, Easy CD Creator was the application of choice for a large portion of the Windows-using population. In this day and age, people don’t usually give much thought to the software they use for creating physical media. Though it’s still available as a standalone program, the most full-featured edition of what is now known as Easy Media Creator is actually a suite of programs. Version 10 offers a number of interesting new tools and functions, but it seems to over-promise and under-deliver when it comes to expected and desired functionality.

Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 review

Dreamweaver is the world’s best-known and most technologically advanced WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) Web design and development tool. Unfortunately for Adobe, the Web development market has exploded in two different directions, neither of which require a tool like Dreamweaver. On the low end, people use blogging software and content management systems; and on the high end, Web developers are working with complex logic in non-traditional Web languages to create dynamic sites. Though Dreamweaver can be made to work with either approach on a limited basis, there are other, cheaper, more task-appropriate tools on the market, leaving Dreamweaver as a relic of the static site era. With a market challenge of this proportion, Dreamweaver CS3 had to be an impressive new release with innovative, must-have features. For the most part, it has not met that requirement.

OpenBSD 4.2 review

As usual, OpenBSD 4.2 offers a large collection of intelligent changes to an already great operating environment.

Using OpenBSD 4.2

If you’re a software enthusiast who has never used OpenBSD before, you might enjoy installing it by yourself and figuring it out as you go. If, however, you’re looking for a more practical approach to using OpenBSD 4.2 on a desktop or server machine, here’s a quick guide to get you started in this spectacular operating system.

Mandriva Linux PowerPack 2008.0 review

Mandriva Linux has a history of inconsistency; one release will be superb, and the next one will be so bug-ridden and feature-weak that it’s unusable. The only commonality among all releases are the excellent system configuration tools, which have continued to evolve over the years to match an increasing level of complexity in the desktop software stack. True to form, Mandriva 2008.0 is an excellent release, following the terrible 2007.1, and the just as excellent 2007.0. Some of the important things that were dropped from the previous release (Cedega, LinDVD) are back, and some of the problems (huge K menu button, cluttered menus) have been mitigated.

Adobe Illustrator CS3 review

Among vector drawing programs, Illustrator has traditionally had a dominant market position, in no small part because of its Adobe brand name. Unfortunately for Adobe, vector drawing programs are easy to create, and the market now offers several Illustrator competitors on a variety of different platforms. In an effort to focus sales on Illustrator, Adobe killed off its recently acquired (and popular) FreeHand product, but to FreeHand fanatics, Illustrator is no replacement. Being under attack from all sides from free and inexpensive alternatives and FreeHand non-defectors, Illustrator CS3 really needed to be an amazing new release with important features and outstanding FreeHand-replacement functionality. It still is no replacement for FreeHand for Web graphics, but unlike the majority of its Creative Suite 3 counterparts, Illustrator has succeeded in adding important new features and making itself a must-have upgrade for graphic designers.

Hacking openSUSE 10.3

Novell’s openSUSE 10.3 is an exciting desktop operating environment that includes or supports nearly every program you need for work and play. But there are those last few programs and issues that make openSUSE just short of perfect. Web browser plugins for some kinds of online content; Windows Media and DVD movie playback support; and drivers for Atheros wireless devices and Nvidia and ATI video cards are the chief things holding openSUSE back for some users. This guide will help you remove as many of those barriers as possible.

Adobe Fireworks CS3 review

The good news about Fireworks CS3 is, it’s still the best tool for designing Web graphics and for rapid site prototyping. But like nearly every other Adobe product in the Creative Suite 3 series, it just doesn’t offer enough new features to justify the high cost of upgrading.

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