Saturday, 27 August 2011

A Windows Migrants Quick Guide to Linux

Picture the scene, you have some interest in IT and you have heard about this Linux thing that people are talking about. So you start to think, 'I want to know more about this. Can it really be free and as good as Windows?' Well people, I can tell you that the answer to both is yes! Linux is fast becoming an excellent Operating System that many Windows users can have literally hundreds of pounds on and do all the things you are used to, so, because of this, I thought I would right a quick guide to Linux for anyone who is thinking about moving over from Windows...or even a Mac.

Just in case any of you don't know and you have stumbled upon this article by accident, Linux Operating Systems are Open Source. This means that the creators of Linux have released the code that makes to software to the world. This means that instead of the hundreds or even thousands of Windows developers that maintain Windows on a daily basis, Linux has millions. This means that Linux is more stable and more actively developed than Windows...a good thing I'm sure you will agree.

Linux also doesn't require any Anti-Virus software. Virus' are written for Windows, not Linux because it is far more secure that Windows and therefore harder to infect. So on top of our hundreds of pounds for Windows, we have just saved another £30 or so pound per year (not to mention any costs incurred in putting your virus infected computer into the local computer guy to clean)....this Linux 'thingy' is starting to look good isn't it!

So, you now have the background on Linux and understand a little more what it's about. Let start looking at moving over to Linux...

Unlike Windows (and Mac), Linux comes in literally hundreds of different versions. These versions are called distributions, each having their own advantages and dis-advantages and also their own look and feel. As a Windows convert, you should be looking at something that isn't too different from what you are used too. The best of these are PinguyOS or Linux Mint (PinguyOS being my top choice). There are many other popular distributions out there, they are very different from Windows but if you are feeling brave why not check them out. Here are a list of some of the more popular ones:

Community Support
As I said at the start of this post, Linux is managed by a huge online community and a positive bi-product of this is that you always have someone on hand to help you. Each one of the distributions above have a forum where you can get help any pretty much any problem you are having - from changing your wallpaper to re-installing and updating. This is a great thing for new Linux users because it means you can get help and return the favour to new users as you become more proficient. I recommended PinguyOS above, I am actually a moderator on the PinguyOS forums, if you decide to give PinguyOS a try then why not come to the forums to say hi!

How Do I Know If I Will Like It?
Linux has many advantages over Windows, one huge one is a thing called LiveCD's. With most Linux distributions (all of the above included) can be burnt to a CD and you can then boot from the CD and try the actual Operating System exactly how it will be when it is installed (albeit a little slower because it is on a CD) so you can have a play around, surf the internet, send some emails etc without touching your hard drive.

Once you have played around with a few distro's and you find one you like, you can then install it either on it's own or side by side with Windows. If you do the latter, when you turn your computer on you will be asked if you want to boot to your chosen Linux Distro or Windows...pretty clever hey!

NOTE: Please ensure that you backup your machine before installing anything. I cannot be held responsible for any loss of data from installing a fresh Operating System.

I Now Have Linux, What Next?
You needs some apps! Before you had Outlook, Word, Excel, Internet Explorer etc etc etc....the former 3 all costing a lot of money (around £150-250 depending on the version). You guessed it, in Linux, it's all free! In Windows you have MS Office, in Linux you have LibreOffice (also available in Windows). In Windows you have Internet Explorer, in Linux you have Firefox or Chrome (these are also available in Windows). In Windows you have Outlook or Live Mail, in Linux you have Thunderbird (again, available in Windows for free) get the point.

A lot off the applications in Linux have different names that what you are used to but they will do the same or even a better job that their Windows counterparts. To find Linux alternative to Windows software, check out the alternatives to project.

So there you go people, this was a quick look at Linux and what you can expect to get from it. To re-cap, some of things are, saving money, stability, regular updates and a virus free life :). Why not come on board and join our fantastic Linux community, we're a friendly bunch.

Oh, one final thing. Some people may tell you that they have tried linux and it was a hard to use and ugly environment to work in. Just to prove them wrong, here are some screenshots of my desktop (like all good geeks I have more than one computer, hence the different looks):

If this post inspires just one person to try Linux then I will be a happy camper. Thanks for reading :)

Monday, 15 August 2011

How To Have Your Own Email Address

Hi Guys,

Do any of you still have the email address you setup back when you where in school? Some thing like or these kind of email addresses are outdated and look really unprofessional on your CV - not to mention the embarrasment of having to spell them out to people when you give out your address.

Have you thought about creating a new address with Gmail but is taken. Well, I'm going to show you how you can have your own email address, like yet have it go through google for free. This guide will take you through registering your own domain and setting up the email address so it goes through the Gmail servers so that it has all the Google spam filtering and features (like contacts and calendars) but it won't cost you a penny.

Step One - Register A Domain
The first step (and possibly the most important) is to register a domain name. For the purposes of this article we will be using as our host (they are very good and very cheap) and our domain will be

So, head over to and enter the domain you want to register and click the continue button.


Now, you should see that the domain is available - sometimes the domain will be registered, especially if you have a common name like John Smith. Of course you don't need to register the domain as your name. You could register or etc this way you could have and also setup accounts for your friends in the same way! At the time of writing this post is actually available if anyone wants it :)

So, 1&1 now tells us that our domain is available (beware - some domains like .com, .net & .eu cost more than others like & If your domain isn't available 1&1 will recommend some domains that have a similar name and are available. If none of the recommended ones float your boat then click the back button on your browser and try to search for something else. Once you've picked a domain, select it by putting a tick in the box and click continue.

Next, select 1&1 Instant Domain package (£0 per month - this way you will only pay for your domain) by clicking the Sign Up button. Now 1&1 will usually offer you some more domains of a similar name. Make sure you de-select them and click Continue. Check your basket for the charged involved. For a domain its £2.99 per year, you will need to pay for 2 years initially after which you will only pay £2.99 per year (.com are £8.99 and all prices are correct at the time of this article being published). If everything is correct, click continue...again.

Enter all of your personal details, then your payment details and click finish. Make sure you make a note of the password you have chosen (you will need this to manage you email addresses). Once you have ordered the domain, it takes around 24 hours for the order to complete so whilst your waiting, register for a free Gmail account (by going to and clicking the Create Account button). This address can be anything you want as it won't get used except for logging in to your gmail account.

Step Two - Setup Google Mail
Ok, so we now have our new domain and free gmail account. We need to login to 1&1 admin to create an email forward. An email forward is an email address that seamlessly forwards from one email address to another. Here will forward to Go to and log in to your 1&1 account using your domain name and password.

Click on the arrow next to the start button and select email administration:


Once in, click on the New button and select forward. You then need to fill in the email address and forwarding address as below:

That is our new forward setup, so anytime anyone emails I will get it into my free gmail inbox. What we need to do now is set it up so that we can send from in gmail. So head over to and log in with your free gmail account settings (you will always need to log in with these details). Once in, click on the cog in the very top right hand corner then click mail settings.

Now click on the Accounts and Import button and click on the Send mail from another address button. Now fill in your name and email address and click next step.

Next you will need to select Send through SMTP server (or whatever your domain is called) Then set the settings EXACTLY the same as below, replacing the username with your free gmail account details and the password with your account password. Then click finish.

Finally you will need to authorise the account. Gmail will send you a verification code, because of your forward, this will come into your gmail inbox. Copy the code and paste it into the verification window. Now you will see your address listed in your send from addresses. To the right of your new address, click on the make default link - this will make this address the address all new mail is set from.

That's it! You now have you very own, customised email account that benefits from all the spam filtering and tools that Google have. As I said earlier, you can even set emails up for your friends. Here is my new account in action:

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Ubuntu 11.10 Orneic Ocelot Development Update

Hi Guys,

The Alpha 3 version of the new Ubuntu cycle (11.10) has been released and the beta is due on 01st September. I thought I would write a quick article on how the Ubuntu team are getting along and what they have changed so far from the Natty (11.04) release. Please bear in mind that 11.10 is still under heavy development by the Ubuntu team so although these changes are currently in the daily builds, some or all of these features may not make it to the final release.

So then, what's changed? Well, a lot by the looks of things! The very first thing you notice when booting the OS up is that it seems to run quicker than 11.04. I am running the 11.10 Alpha in a Virtual Machine and I have given it 512MB RAM. Even with this small amount of RAM the machine boots quickly and is very responsive - it will be interesting to see how the OS performs on a 'full powered' machine (I'd wait for at least the Beta before doing that though). The boot process (from power up to logon screen) is around 15 seconds in my Virtual Machine.

Speaking of the logon screen, the guys at Ubuntu have done wonders with this. The old Gnome logon screen is looking dated now so they have replaced it with a shiney new LightDM logon screen - it looks really cool and modern. Here is the logon screen from my VM:


New 11.10 Logon Screen

Once I entered my password, it took about another 10 seconds for me to have a working desktop - so thats around 25 seconds from turning on to having a workable desktop. Thats pretty impressive considering it is a modern OS with all the eye candy and only running on 512MB RAM. Now that I have my desktop there are some more changes that I have noticed. First and foremost, the Ubuntu button 'thingy' has gone from the top panel and has been replaced with a pretty cool looking Dash button on the left panel.

New Ubuntu Dock Button11.10 Desktop

The next change on the list so far are the lenses. Again, the Ubuntu guys have been working really hard to make this a more intuitive desktop environment. Unity in 11.04 felt kind of thrown together and not finished (in my humble opinion anyway) they are now starting to fix this. Anyway, back to lenses. When you click on the new Dash button, you are confronted with a new Lense, most of it still looks the same except for the 4 little icons at the bottom. The applications and files icons from the Unity panel in 11.04 have been removed and have been replaced with 'Shortcuts' in the main lense - great idea is you ask me. You have Home, Applications, Files & Folder and Music - in eaqch lense the search bar changes to search for the file types for the lense you are in. For example, if you're in the Application lense then Unity will search for Applications, in Music, it will search for MP3's etc. Here is a look at the new Lense:

11.10 Lense

Those with a keener eye amongst you will also notice that there is a link for Thunderbird to check emails. I didn't install that - the only thing I have done to this OS is to install Virtualbox Guest Additions. So that means, yes your right, Evolution has been replaced by Thunderbird as the default mail application for Ubuntu. Again, I think this is a great move by the guys at Ubuntu, Evolutions development cycle has all but stopped whereas Mozilla are still going strong and actively developing Thunderbird (amongst other things) and this can only spur them on to develop more for us Linux users. For those of you that still love Evolution though, don't worry, it's still available in the software centre.

For now, I think thats enough, if you want to download a daily release yourself and have a play around you can get it from HERE. Please be careful though - as I said earlier 11.10 is still under heavy development so no one can guarantee if this development release will work with your machine. Bottom line is that it could compeltely mess us your system so I would recommend using a VM like I did.

Overall, Ubuntu are going in the right direction with this build. Will it mean I change to Ubuntu 11.10 from my current OS (Pinguy OS and Xubuntu), I seriously doubt it as I prefer the old gnome 2  type interface - althought I may run it on my laptop as the main OS. Will other people grow to love this interface and maybe even get a few Windows, Mac converts - I really hope so. Well done Canonical!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Hunt For The Perfect Netbook OS Continues...This Time, Xubuntu

Hi Guys,

As some of you will know, I have been hunting high and low all over the internet for the perfect Operating System for my netbook. I REALLY want a Chromebook but can't justify spending £350 when I have a perfectly good netbook (even though I'm still struggling to find the right OS).

So far I've tried quite a few, Meego, Peppermint, Joli OS, Ping Eee, Ubuntu 11.04, Elementary OS, even Windows 7! The next OS in my rather long list is Xubuntu, for me, the perfect netbook OS will be light, which means a fast machine even on the low powered hardware of a netbook - but I still want some eye candy. My netbook is my work horse, so I don't want to be looking at a machine all day that looks like something from the Windows 3.11 era!

So far, about the best I've tried are Joli OS and Ping Eee, Joli is great, but not enough customisation for me. Ping Eee is a little too heavy and my netbook slows down after a while (although it looks amazing, if I have a dual core atom CPU then this would be my choice). Peppermint is based on LXDE, it's lightning fast but looks like crap.

So, I've been hunting for somthing in the middle...along came Xubuntu.

I've been running Xubuntu now on my netbook for around a week or so and I'm pretty impressed. It boots quickly and has just enough eye candy too keep me interested. It can run most of the same themes as Gnome but the more advanced gubbins like desktop cube etc aren't possible (which is fine). I boot up in around 15 seconds (thats from turning on to having a usable desktop). There is very little lag when opening apps. I am currently creating this post in Chrome, I have dropbox syncing away and some music playing via Clementime and using only 11% of my 2GB RAM is quite impressive (oh and shutter is running in the background as well).

After some tweaking and playing around, here is a look at my desktop, with a panel acting as a dock and some other bits and bobs:

My Xubuntu Desktop

A window and my dock

As you can see, it looks a lot like Gnome, only faster. So far so good with Xubuntu I think I might be sticking with this for the time being. Is it the perfect Netbook OS? No, but it's very close. The only thing I don't like at the moment is the Menu, it's too basic. I know there is a way to install the Mint Menu in XFCE so I'm looking into that at the moment. According to the guys at Mint, adding th Mint Menu will add an extra 30MB of RAM to your usage - this isn't a problem as I currently have loads of RAM in reserve.

If any of you guys have been using Xubuntu (or any XFCE based OS) then let me know what you think as I would love to hear from you. On the other hand, if you are in a similar position to me, why not try downloading Xubuntu from HERE too see what you think.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Are Your Emails Backed Up?

Have you ever deleted an email from your mailbox and thought "damn, I wish I hadn't done that...I actually need that email". A lot of people use free email systems like Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo. In this post I will show you how to backup all of your emails for free!

For this to work you will need the following:

  1. An email account with POP access (you may need to know the POP server for your email supplier)
  2. Register for a free Gmail account
  3. 10 minutes of free time

This is how I back up my emails and it works a treat, so I thought I would share it with you all!

Step One - Register for a free Gmail account

To do this you need to go to and click on the 'Create an account' button to the right of the screen. Pick an email that is descriptive, something like (this way you won't confuse it with your main email account) and fill in all of the registration form.

Step Two - Setup Your Back Up Account

Right then, we now have our free Gmail account, sign into it. Click on the cog icon in the top right hand corner of the screen and click on 'Mail Settings'. In here you will need to setup a couple of labels (one for inbox and one for sent items), some filters and POP collection from your actual mailbox.

Ok, lets start by setting up the POP collection from another account. In the settings window, click on the Accounts button. Then you are looking for 'Get Mail From Other Accounts' and click 'Add a mail account you own'. You will now be asked for your email address - enter your mail email address. For the purposes of this example we will use

Click 'Next Step' and change your user name to your email address and enter your password (this is the password you use to check your emails). Finally click no when it asks you if you want to send from this address and click finish.

Right, that's the hard bit done. We now need to setup our labels and filters. Back in our settings screen, click on to the labels tab and create 2 new labels. One called something like 'Inbox Backup' and the other 'Sent Items Backup' (these labels can be anything you want to be, this is what I call mine).

Now click on the filters tab, again, we need to create 2 filters. One for our inbox and one for sent items. Click 'Create New Filter' and put your main email address in the To field and click 'Next Step'.

Now select to following settings, Skip Inbox, Mark as Read & Apply the Following Label (select the inbox label you just made). Finally click, Create Label

Now create another filter in the exact same way apart from 2 differences. Firstly, instead of putting your main email address in the to field, this time put it in the from field. Click next step and select all the same settings again but pick your Sent Backup label as the target (see below).

THAT'S IT! Your done, the only thing left to do now is test it. Send yourself an email and see it replicated to your backup email account. Note: In my experience the sent items tend to delay by around 10 minutes before they come through. Don't worry though, they will come in.

You can even set this up to backup multiple email accounts to one place, just add another account you own then create another set of labels and filters.