Raspberry Pi gets its own Appstore

The tiny Raspberry Pi computer is the latest device to get its own app store. The Pi Store opened for custom on 17th December contains a range of apps from games to developers’ tools. Currently there are twenty five apps available to download in the Pi Store, but this number is expected to grow significantly in the coming months.

The Pi Store is a collaboration between the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Indie City – operators of an online marketplace for independent game developers – and Velocix. The foundation launched the store with the aim to enable “young people to share their creations with a wider audience, and maybe to make a little pocket money”. Currently all apps are free to download except Storm in a Teacup. Storm in a Teacup features 50 levels of physics based puzzles and is priced at £1.99.

The range of apps on the Pi Store is already diverse. There are five games on offer including Freeciv which is an open source empire-building strategy game. OpenTTD, the popular open source transport simulation game can also be found in the store. Despotify is a Spotify client for the Raspberry Pi and is free to download, however users need a Spotify Premium account to use the app. LibreOffice brings an extensive suite of office applications to the Raspberry Pi and is compatible with Microsoft Office files. There are also several apps intended to assist Raspberry Pi developers. The Pi Store is also intended to be the hope of “Pi-related” media including the MagPi e-magazine and tutorials produced from the community.

The Raspberry Pi has widely been regarded as a success since its launch earlier in the year. Amateur and professional developers alike have written and ported a wide range of applications to run on the system but until now there has been no obvious place to find or distribute these applications. The Pi Store changes this and will greatly simplify the experience for developers and users.

A blog post on the Raspberry Pi foundation website encourages the community of Raspberry Pi users to embrace the store. The community has been asked to submit their own projects to populate the store and to review and rate the apps already on offer. The store features a clever recommendation engine which will learn about you and your preferences as you rate, review and download apps. These recommendations will improve as you interact more and more with the store.

The Pi store itself is easily browsed and well constructed. Apps can be found through their category or through their tags. There is also useful search and sort functions in the store. All apps on the store have a content rating so users know whether the content is appropriate for the recipient. Given that the Raspberry Pi is based upon an open source platform all apps also detail their associated licences so users are aware if they can modify or redistribute the app.

To download apps from the store, Raspberry Pi users must first download the Raspberry Pi Store application. Users can download the application from Raspberry Pi’s official download page.

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Blender – Fully integrated 3D graphics creation suite

You can get an idea of Blender’s capabilities by listing some of the projects that have used it. For example, the makers of ‘Spiderman 2’ used Blender for 3D and character animation; it was used for the special effects in the film ‘Vendredi ou un autre Jour’, movies ‘Elephants Dream’, ‘Big Buck Bunny’, ‘Sintel’ and ‘Plumiferos’ a 3D CG feature film were made in Blender; as was the 3D game ‘Yo Frankie!’

Blender comes from the not-for-profit Blender Foundation. It is open-source, free to download and use but requires a considerable investment of time and effort from the serious user and rewards her with the flexible software and skills to model in 2 and 3D, animate, render and process images and videos to an award-winning professional standard. It includes related functionality: a game engine, fonts, motion capture and many, many more.

A good place to start is to become familiar with the interface which has been reworked in the recent version. Support comes in the way of texts, models and tutorials from the official website. A CMS gathers background information and lists many websites and groups maintained by Blender followers, (Blender Art Magazine, Blender Nation, and so on). If that is not enough a shelf of specialist commercial books offers guidance through the Blender product.

Read full review | Download Blender

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Create mind maps with CmapTools

Cmap Tools is a powerful software package that allows you to create “mind maps” or concept maps — graphical representations of interrelated data, items or abstract concepts. A concept map consists of “bubbles”, each containing a specific item, with each bubble connected to related concepts by a line. Concept maps can be very useful for teaching; they also make an excellent planning strategy. They’re ideal for many different situations — great for groups and organizations and also perfect for individual planning, project development and decision making. Whether you’re introducing a subject to a class of young children, coming up with a new product, organizing lecture notes, deciding on the decor for your home or writing a novel, concept maps offer a way of structuring information so as to aid comprehension and inspire new ideas.

Cmap Tools gives you everything you need to translate your idea, approach or topic into a graphical format that’s easy to understand. The software comes with pre-made graphics templates, tools for drawing, editing, linking and adding concepts. This versatile software is suitable for virtually any organization — schools, universities, large and small businesses, and charities. Cmap tools has powerful sharing and collaborative features. You can synchronize maps, allowing a group of maps to be edited at the same time. You can link maps together and share maps you’ve made with others. Cmap Tools lets you export your completed maps in web format, ready to upload onto the Internet. You can also distribute maps made with Cmap Tools via Cmap Servers.

read full review | download CmapTools

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JPCSP – The Java PSP Emulator

Programming a console emulator is a tricky proposition, especially for a relatively more recent console such as the Playstation Portable. The Java-based open-source JPSCP emulator is however a strong piece of software, suitable for both playing existing games and testing out your own projects.

As an open-source project there is a strong community behind the software, so any problems can be brought to the attention of the project’s forum for swift advice and help. However, more documentation with the download would be helpful, as it can take time to trawl through forum posts to find the information you are looking for.

The download is compact and the emulator is easy to install and set up, with controls and compatibility features easy to tweak, even for those without technical knowledge. The interface itself is basic but functional, with a graphical control allocation feature making assigning controls basically idiot-proof. You just click on the PSP graphic to assign controls.

The major downside is that the list of compatible games is small, however the range is growing. Some games may run a bit slowly, especially on older hardware.

JPCSP is certainly worth having if you want to play one of the games on its compatibility list or test your own projects. While it is relatively easy to use, more documentation would be helpful.

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Mozilla Thunderbird – a modern email client that is flexible and powerful

Mozilla Thunderbird is an open source, multiplatform and extensible email client. It has been around under free license and stable since 2004 and now at versions 10 and 11 is a fully featured and mature product.

All the features that you would expect from a modern email client are present: HTML support, multiple account support, whereby you can keep accounts separate or merge them together, Web mail, POP, IMAP and Microsoft Exchange server support, calendar, address book.

Thunderbird was designed to stop junk mail and prevent viruses, and includes intelligent spam filtering, suggesting when it thinks a message might be spam, S/MIME, data signing and message encryption and a phishing detector.

We found the trickiest part was setting up an email account, and especially if you hail from a webmail environment. There is a wizard to help you through this part.

Download and installation is swift. The client product and the user interface are clean, easy to use. The product can easily be customised through Add-Ons, available via the Tools Menu. Mail is presented in a tabbed format, so it looks a little like Outlook.

It is a good idea to save customisation until well into the process, that way you can get an idea of Thunderbird’s speed, before burdening it with additional software.

Thunderbird has been praised for the search facility. In Version 10 this includes the ability search the web. Email searches can be saved as virtual folders. There is an activity manager which records email activity. This can be used if you need to check whether a mail was sent or received. Emails can be archived in a stroke.

We have high expectations of our email clients to provide extensive functionality and Thunderbird will not disappoint. Since email is such a fundamental part of our lives, we think the security features of this product are excellent. It should not be overlooked for those considering a new email client.

Read full review | Download Mozilla Thunderbird

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VirtualBox the open-source solution for desktop virtualization

VirtualBox is an impressive, open-source, desktop virtualization software. Available for Linux, OS X and Windows, VirtualBox allows you to run a different operating system on your machine, within a virtual environment. So for example, you could have Linux running on your Windows machine.

When you get something for free, you expect it to be lacking in some way, compared to commercial products which tend to have more features or more support. VirtualBox is surprising in that it is gives far more than you would expect, and is a real contender in the virtualization arena. Some of the VirtualBox features include the ability to move VMs between host systems dynamically, branched snapshots, and 32 way virtual SMP support.

What started out as a small virtualization project for individual users, has developed into a competitor in the enterprise sector. It still has some issues to sort out to make it as intuitive as it´s competitors, but remains one of the most comprehensive free apps available. Enterprises may still prefer to go with a commercial solution, but VirtualBox is an excellent option for users who do not want to pay commercial fees.

read full review | download VirtualBox

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HP & WebOS – What does its Loss mean, really?

In a mobile world currently dominated by iOS and Android, does the loss and then open sourcing of WebOS really matter?

I’ve been in mobile devices most of my career. I cut my teeth on them. I’ve watched some devices and operating systems grow up, grow old and die. PalmOS, WindowsCE and Windows Mobile are a few. WinMo was killed for Windows Phone, and its totally different.

WebOS with its cards motif was a big step forward and a huge step away from Palm’s traditional PalmOS. The hardware was ok, the OS was pretty good; but Palm lost their momentum and wasn’t able to turn it around.

Palm mothballed the OS and sold it to HP. HP promised to do something with it, but they couldn’t get it together either. They initially decided to let the OS die, but later decided to revive it and open source it. Its been a number of weeks since that announcement. I can’t help but wonder what the impact of that development means at this time.

In a word or two…not much.

HP’s official development and work with WebOS has ended. They’ve given the software to the development community to tweak and use as they like. Right now, there aren’t any CURRENT devices using the open sourced (or any) version of WebOS. Unless a major hardware manufacturer or OEM decides to go that way, you likely won’t see it, either.

So again, what does that mean? Will it make a difference in an iOS and Android dominated market?

I don’t think so. The iPhone is the iPhone and will continue to grow in popularity all over the world. Android will continue in current and new devices, and be as diverse as the day is long. Windows Phone will continue to chip away at both; and RIM will likely disappear,  regardless of what WebOS does or doesn’t do.

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10 top rated open source applications

We have to admit that the open source community brings a big contribution to the software market through its useful and original projects. Many free applications have been strong opponents to similar paid-for products for years, forcing the competitor companies to rise the quality of their products. So I’m bound to present to you a couple of these products that are still remarkable and can make the difference in their category. In randomly order:

CDex

A CD-Ripper, which can extract digital audio data from an Audio CD. Started as a project in 2001, CDex became a very reliable and simple to use CD-ripper with its latest stable version released in 2003. Since then, many are still using this old version, although the project has been restarted in 2006 and several new beta versions have been released. The application supports many Audio encoders, like MPEG (MP2,MP3), VQF, AAC encoders. CDex is supported by all 32-bit MS Windows operating systems.

 

 

Audacity

A very powerful multi-track audio editor and recorder for Linux, BSD, Mac OS, and Windows. Supports WAV, AIFF, Ogg, and MP3 formats. Features include envelope editing, mixing, built-in effects and plug-ins, all with unlimited undo. The only drawback is that many opened tracks will force your PC to the limits making Audacity a real mastodon when it comes to hardware requirements. Of course, you will need to download the lame encoder first, if you want to export your work in mp3 format.

 

 

VirtualDub

VirtualDub is a video capture/processing utility for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows platforms. It lacks the editing power of a general-purpose editor such as Adobe Premiere, but is streamlined for fast linear operations over video.  It has batch-processing capabilities for processing large numbers of files and can be extended with third-party video filters.  VirtualDub is mainly geared toward processing AVI files, although it can read (not write) MPEG-1 and also handle sets of BMP images.

 

PDFCreator
PDFCreator easily creates PDFs from any Windows program. Use it like a printer in Word, OpenOffice or any other Windows application that supports a printer. Every pdf file that you create with PDFCreator can be encrypted and digitally signed. You can even merge multiple files into one PDF. Besides its main objective of converting any photo or document file into pdf format, PDFCreator can also convert files into PNG, JPG, TIFF, BMP, PCX, PS, EPS formats.

 

FreeMind

FreeMind is a free mind-mapping software written in Java. The recent development has  turned it into high productivity tool. It is said that the operation and navigation of FreeMind is faster than that of MindManager because of one-click “fold / unfold” and “follow link” operations. Do you want to prioritize, know where you are, where you’ve been and where you are heading, then use FreeMind.

 

 

 

BitTorrent

A very popular upload/download manager among that allows you to publish or share your data with the P2P community. It’s easy to install and set-up on your home network because it uses standard UPnP and NAT-PMP networking technologies to prepare your router for torrent access. It can auto-adjusts bandwidth usage based upon your network and the Internet, so that you can play games, stream videos and use instant messaging services without having downtime moments.

 

 

FileZilla

FileZilla is a cross-platform graphical FTP, FTPS and SFTP client a lot of features, supporting Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and more. It features an intuitive interface in order to ease the send/receive data operations. Supports resume and transfer of large files over 4GB, features drag & drop support, configurable transfer speed limits, synchronized directory browsing, and remote file search.

 

 

 

NotePad++

A source code editor and MS Windows Notepad replacement. It comes with an optimized code that results in reducing CPU usage while running. It also supports external plugins which can perform several text editing tasks such as XHTML, XML, and brace auto close, the text to HEX converter, the C++ code re-indent, the trailing space trimmer, FTP support and the case converter. You can set the colors which are used for code highlighting and even record key-presses in order to play them back later.

 

 

KeePass Password Safe

KeePass Password Safe is a free, open source, portable and easy-to-use password manager for Windows. You can store your passwords in a highly-encrypted database, which is locked with one master password or key file. So you only have to remember one single master password or select the key file to unlock the whole database. The databases are encrypted using the best and most secure encryption algorithms currently known (AES and Twofish).

 

 

 

Eraser

Eraser is a secure data removal tool for Windows. It completely removes sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns. It’s important to know that Eraser works with any drive that works with Windows. There is no need to customize the application because all the important secure drive erasure methods are supported out of the box. In order to obtain a definitive deletion, the application not only erases files and folders but also their previously deleted counterparts.

 

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