Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Assorted Desktop Packages

Here is some desktop software that is either commonplace in the world of Linux or needs a bit more publicity, in my opinion anyway. The list is sort alphabetical in case you are left wondering at its first entry. As with everything in this place, it may grow or contract but change certainly is a feature of the world of Linux anyway. That’s never a bad thing even if it upsets folk from time to time.


This suite comes from the KDE project and includes office and graphical software. The latter includes Krita, which is described separately below so this is an interesting collection of software.


Linux does have a choice of Twitter clients and this is one of them. It’s a KDE application and supports (while it stays on Statusnet) too. Support for version 1.1 of Twitter’s API is due in version 1.4 so users of earlier versions need to look for patched versions of the software until that becomes available. 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the patched Choqok are available at Before adding these, it’s best to install the current stable version from your distro’s repositories in case extra KDE libraries are needed. That was what I found on my Ubuntu GNOME system and not everyone is a KDE fan. Once you get over the Twitter API issue, there is support for multiple accounts and all the features of Twitter or are supported too.


The name is a play on that of Adobe’s Lightroom and that gives you an idea of what it is about. This too allows non-destructive editing of images with the added information being kept in associated files with xmp extensions, one for each image. What the software does not have though is an image management interface like that of Lightroom or digiKam.


This is more than an organiser and may be the KDE project’s counterpart to Adobe’s closed source Lightroom. Its photo organising doesn’t mean automated folder creation from EXIF information like F-Spot, Shotwell or Rapid Photo Downloader. It is for that reason that I combine digiKam with the last entry on the preceding list since I jumped ship from Shotwell. The image processing part of the application is something that I have to explore.


It’s the PHP variant that I use but its roots are in Java development and there seems to more to the project than might be expected at first. If it seems sluggish on Linux, it might be worth checking out the JRE that is on you system because what comes as default with Debian certainly was suboptimal and changing the Sun JRE really did speed up things.


A long standing UNIX/Linux text editor that has been doing battle with Vi for longer than many can remember. Like the alternative, it has keyboard shortcuts that do anything but make concessions to Windows conventions, add needless steepening of any learning curve unless you find the appropriate option (CUA) that allows for some emulation of mainstream keyboard shortcuts. Nevertheless, there is a GUI variant too that makes life easier and I have to concede that it has a history that is longer than even Microsoft itself. As if that weren’t enough compensation, it is a powerful piece of software whose functionality goes much further than text editing whose surface I have only barely begun to scratch. The logic of the interface may be different to that to which many are accustomed but it is consistent and well thought out nonetheless.


For a while, this was my photo organiser of choice but it has not seen a new release since December 2010. Maybe that’s because it works well enough as it is but you cannot help thinking that a project with no new releases is a dead one, even if that sometime reflects how right they got things at the time.


This my FTP client of choice and its advent has made the need to buy such software extinct. That it works on both Windows and Linux is a bonus.


The ubiquitous Photoshop challenger is maturing nicely though its interface may not please some.


This is very like ImageMagick (see below) with its main selling point being that it’s faster than its parent for the purpose of command line image editing; my own testing seems to support this so far. The commands that you use are similar to ImageMagick too, apart mainly from adding the gm command before the likes of convert and others. Speaking of convert, the GraphicMagick version has yet to support the -annotate switch so -draw needs to be used in its place.


Using a command line tool for image processing may seem counter-intuitive but there are operations where you need not have much user intervention. Included among these is image resizing and conversion between file formats and yours truly has done both. Processing many files at a stroke comes naturally to this very useful and talented piece of software too.


For those with a more artistic bent, this is a digital drawing and illustration package that will work not only on Linux but also on Windows or OS X. The results can be striking so it looks as if your talent may be the only limitation with this tool.


Oracle’s takeover of Sun Microsystems meant that some feathers were ruffled in the open source and free software community and one example of a change coming from this is the forking of OpenOffice. It is that act that has brought LibreOffice into being and it then gained so much ground that it eclipsed its parent.

Mozilla Firefox

There’s no way that I could not what once was the de facto standard web browser for Linux though there’s competition from Chrome/Chromium now too. There also is a mobile version for phones running the Android OS.

Mozilla Lightning

Mozilla’s contribution to the personal organiser scene.

Mozilla Seamonkey

The original Mozilla suite still lives on and this is what it’s called nowadays.

Mozilla Thunderbird

An email client that I might have been using were it not for Evolution’s being more to my liking.


UNIX/Linux offers plenty of text editors so here’s another of the less well known ones that I have encountered. Syntax highlighting is part of the offer and some menu customisation is possible too. In essence, it is a straightforward text editor that works with Windows keyboard shortcuts but that can be no bad thing.


You cannot feature Eclipse in a software listing without having NetBeans too. In fact, it was NetBeans that I first encountered and that was many moons ago. There is a PHP variant available but that seemed very sluggish when I tried it and turned back to Eclipse, with which I have stuck ever since. That poor performance may have been caused by the variant of Java that was available to it so I may give it another ago when I have the time.


There was a time when Songbird had a Linux version to go with those for Windows and OS X. It is based on Firefox underpinnings and still looks good in the flesh with 7digital and integration too. That decision surprised me but the project has been forked to give us Linux users Nightingale instead and initial impressions are favourable, especially on the audio quality front. More usage will follow to get its full measure.

Is this the office suite of choice for Linux? It certainly felt that way before Oracle bought Sun Microsystems and upset a few open source developers. Now, the appearance of LibreOffice is going to make things look a little more interesting.


This is a far more user friendly way to run Windows software on Linux using the WINE libraries in the background. The name seems to originate from game playing though web browsers like Internet Explorer and Safari are available too along with a selection of other software. For the adventurous, there also is the possibility of installing something you have yourself. Most will have to look for it but it comes as part of Pinguy OS as standard.


Here’s the description from the website:

Privoxy is a non-caching web proxy with advanced filtering capabilities for enhancing privacy, modifying web page data and HTTP headers, controlling access, and removing ads and other obnoxious Internet junk.

It’s available for a number of platforms, including Linux and UNIX, and offers a way of blocking ads in Google Chrome, which is how I got to hear about it. Ubuntu users can snag a copy from the usual repositories too.

Configuration is by means of editing text files but the default settings have sufficient so far. Setting a browser to use it means searching through settings for the means of making it use IP address and port 8118 for ordinary and secure HTTP connections.

Rapid Photo Downloader

When Shotwell, started to fail to download photos from ever larger memory cards, it was time to look at something and this became the replacement. You can use it to copy images from any card reader into the directory structure of your choosing. It does nothing more than downloading and it does it so well that it merits a mention on here.


This was my photo library manager of choice until its limitations  when it came to handling large data volumes came to light. It is written for the GNOME desktop environment and worked well for a few years before technology overtook it. Still, it also offers limited photo editing capabilities to go with its organising skills.


This reader and manipulator of raw digital camera image formats acts either alone or as a plugin. It also can be used via the command line or using a GUI. That makes it flexible for those times when you need things to happen without much input from yourself.


Apart from the fact that 64-bit operating systems are not supported in the OSE version, this is an excellent piece of virtualisation software that makes you wonder why you’d pay for something like VMware Workstation. There is also a closed source variant but the open source equivalent has what you’d want for personal use anyway.

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