Every once in a while, I get low on disk space, and hunting for large directories or files to delete can be difficult manually. Tree Map visualization tools make the job easier. There’s WinDirStat for Windows, KDirStat for KDE, and Disk Usage Analyzer (baobab) for Gnome.
Timothy B. Lee of the Cato Institute wrote A Patent Lie, in which he explains why copyright is better for the software industry than patents:
Don’t software companies need patent protection? In fact, companies, especially those that are focused on innovation, don’t: software is already protected by copyright law, and there’s no reason any industry needs both types of protection. The rules of copyright are simpler and protection is available to everyone at very low cost. In contrast, the patent system is cumbersome and expensive. Applying for patents and conducting patent searches can cost tens of thousands of dollars. That is not a huge burden for large companies like Microsoft, but it can be a serious burden for the small start-up firms that produce some of the most important software innovations.
The good news about software patents is that they’ve been weakened so that patent troll companies can’t wreak quite as much havoc as they have in the past. Now there’s not as much money in it. Apparently, patent troll companies are getting smarter about working with open source — most recently with RedHat:
Trolls need to collect money to survive, and open source vendors can’t give it to them. The good news from this settlement [with RedHat], and Blackboard’s, is that trolls are realizing that hitting an open source company is like robbing a store where the safe is on a time lock. They can do damage and hurt people, but the money isn’t available to them.
The settlement was also documented by Groklaw.
The nice thing about mass-market commercial software is that I can purchase it at a small fraction of the cost to develop it myself, which I would never do because I don’t have the time. Unfortunately, home-user mass-market software seems to lack quality. Here are some that I recommend against.
- Greeting Card Factory. When I opened the package, I discovered that the software shipped on about six separate CDs! I purchased the software in 2007 — an enlightened age where most people have DVD drives. I’m impatient, and disliked having to play disk jockey to install the software. Once installed, I discovered that it’s cumbersome to use — too much clicking with the mouse required to get the job done. There’s no good preview of card greeting messages in the template browser, so I have to load each one in, click through the buttons to see the message, and then start all over again to find an appropriate card. It sure is a waste of time. The best greeting card software I’ve used was American Greetings, but that version was designed years ago and required inserting CDs to load some of the cards. Hallmark’s software was the most polished, robust, and least annoying, but I liked the quality of cards from American Greetings better.
UPDATE: There is a good way to preview greeting card messages in the template browser — you have to increase the zoom level to the maximum, and additional preview controls become visible.
- Symantec and McAffe AntiVirus. They slow down a computer too much (by 20% or more!). Anything that annoys my grandmother about activation is too much of a hassle. Switch to AVG Free. I run Vista with an unprivileged account, and so far, I haven’t needed AV. I ran AVG Free on Windows XP for several years, and never got a virus — because I didn’t download and install random software — and because my user account didn’t have administrative privileges.
There’s hardware to avoid as well:
- Kodak printers. I decided to give a Kodak printer a try because of the promise of cheaper ink. The printer has been a constant hassle ever since we purchased it. Just tonight, even after selecting the best print quality, it still printed every other line as faded and smudgy. My wife seems to know the ritual to make it print better, but she’s not here at the moment. Avoid Kodak printers at all costs. Go with an Epson or an HP — they provide quality results. If a laser printer fits your needs, they’re usually more reliable than an inkjet printer.
I’ve upgraded four systems to Fedora 9 in the past couple of weeks. For those that have NVidia cards, it was a bumpy ride until NVidia released a new driver. To install it as a pre-built RPM package, see this blog post.
For the system that runs VMWare Server, it was necessary to upgrade to version 1.0.6, which supports the 2.6.25 kernel shipped with Fedora 9.