Editors' Choice Awards

And the winners are....
+Graphics Application:(tie) gif2png, pngcrush

Neither of our two choices for best graphics application even has a GUI interface. Sometimes you need to script something, and converting any unlicensed GIFs you may have lying around to the legal PNG format is one of those times.

gif2png includes a script to grovel through your entire site and expunge the GIFs once and for all. And, some software creates oversized PNGs when you “save as PNG”, and pngcrush can go back and do it right.

+Backup Utility: Amanda

There is a large selection of backup tools for Linux, and we're glad, because it makes it easier to back up your new Linux box where the Powers that Be have already chosen the backup software to be used.

At Linux Journal though, we run Amanda. We can get whatever software we want at no charge because software companies give us copies to butter us up. But our sysadmin team chose Amanda, which stands for “Advanced Maryland Automatic Network Disk Archiver”. There's an unrelated project called Amanda at Berkeley, so be sure not to install the wrong software—the Berkeley Amanda is the Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array, and you don't want to find yourself with a bunch of muon-tracking data instead of backups of your files.

Amanda is classic, old-school free software—infinitely configurable, not fancy, but reliable. It takes a while to learn and set up, but once you've got it configured the way you want, it should be trouble-free.

+Communication Tool: Jabber

In an earlier article we wrote, “Jabber is built so wide open that it's hard to see the limits of what can be done with it.” And we like the “explosive combination” of XML and instant messaging. With Jabber, any two identities, whether human or machine, can send and receive real-time messages that contain pretty much anything and can do so in a structured way, independent, if necessary, of intermediating protocols. Jabber is going to be the basis of some fun applications.

+3-D Application: Blender

Think of Blender as the planter for the render farm—it's the application that lets you design 3-D scenes. But fire it up and you'll quickly realize that Blender is no Xpaint. This is some heavy software and takes a real-time investment to learn. But we judge a tree by its fruits, and digital art produced with Blender is pretty impressive.

+Database: PostgreSQL

Tim Perdue, a well-known PHP wizard, explained the benefits of using PostgreSQL as a back-end database for his web projects: “To start, we will make use of Postgres' SELECT...FOR UPDATE syntax, which effectively locks selected rows so you can update them and commit your changes within a transaction.”

And, he adds, “With some databases, like MySQL, you can't easily lock specific rows of data to prevent other processes from decrementing the inventory while you are also trying to decrement the inventory. What you wind up with is inaccurate numbers and a useless inventory count.” Now, we can't have that. If your e-commerce site sells the last Furby twice, you're in big trouble.

For “big-database” features and the configurability and administration advantages of open source, we give PostgreSQL a big thumbs-up.

+Game: Soldier of Fortune

If you invest your time and money in a computer game, you want to see people suffer when you shoot them, right? Anatomically correct gunshot wounds. Screams of agony. Simplistic plot. Put it all together and what do you get? Hours of fun, that's what.

Weak stomach? Try GNOME Freecell.

+Development Tool: Python

Hell is other people's Perl. Enough said.

Office Application/Suite: StarOffice

We must confess something right now. Here at Linux Journal, we're just not big office suite users. We basically get by with vi until we send articles to layout, and when someone sends us a proprietary-format document, we just trash it and add them to the bozo list. But every once in a while, in our personal lives, we have to do up a batch of anti-DMCA flyers or something. For that, there's StarOffice. A bit on the hoggish side, but it gets the job done. And we'll buy beers for Sun people at the next Linux show—thank you for putting the new version under the GPL.

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