2002 Editors' Choice Awards
As some web browsers have grown huge with features and others have gone the lean and fast route, we chose two winners. So ask yourself: do you like your web browser thick and juicy or simply as a thin component of your desktop? Either way, we don't cut the browser any slack when it comes to honoring the W3C's standards. Web standards are the only reason we can use the software of our choice to browse sites that webmasters create with the software of their choice—it's the social contract that underlies freedom. “No browser does a better job of standards compliance” is what the Web Standards Project says about Mozilla, and that's good for everyone. So pick Mozilla, the super-deluxe, super-themeable browser, and get mail, news, password management and other power features, or get Galeon, a light browser that doesn't duplicate your other GNOME applications.
Honorable Mention: Konqueror
If you're like most Linux users, you fire up The GIMP for miscellaneous image tasks such as converting and cropping photos for your web site. But The GIMP is much more than that. It's becoming one of those great platforms, like Perl and Apache, that becomes a natural starting point for a development and support community. The GIMP has a lot of functionality that takes awhile to learn, including not one but two built-in scripting languages. Check out manual.gimp.org for an on-line manual.
We've been watching our contributors' headers to see what mailers they use, and the unthinkable is happening. Linux gurus are dropping text-based mailers for a GUI mailer called Evolution (more on this disturbing situation as it develops). Besides mail, Evolution also offers a calendar and to-do list. We like the idea of being able to compose more than one message at once, but our vi-trained fingers wouldn't get very far without integrating Jason Hildebrand's gnome-vim.
With all the impressive development tools for Linux coming out of late, it's easy to ignore the extensive IDE capabilities of Emacs, as Charles Curley points out in his article on Emacs in the LJ June 2002 issue. Emacs' high level of support for customization makes it a favorite among hackers. Not only does it support many languages, but features such as Electric C (for automation of indentation and pretty printing), spell checking and the ability to act as a front end for GCC, GDB and CVS make it a sensible choice for a lot of programming needs. For those unaccustomed to the Free Software world, it's hard to believe it's free—and it's been there all along.
Honorable Mentions: KDevelop and Borland's Kylix
If you're one of the people who has been saying, “I can't use MySQL because it doesn't have [feature you need here]”, it's time to read up on MySQL 4.0 and try it out on a development system. Can you say, “full support for transactions and row-level locking”? “UNION”? “Full text search”?
The new MySQL is even available as a library you can compile into your application. Proprietary licenses are available if you can't use the GPL.
Honorable Mention: PostgreSQL
No matter what your backup plan is, and what hardware and software you use to handle the mundane details of copying your working files to off-line storage, you need to make a copy that's internally consistent. This is especially critical when you're backing up a database. (For a simple example, say that you keep your users' home directories by state, and Joe moves from /home/washington/joe to /home/alabama/joe while you're backing up missouri. Where's Joe's home directory on the tape? Nowhere!)
Expensive proprietary UNIX systems have had a solution for years: filesystems that support taking a “snapshot”, which looks like your working filesystem frozen in time. Instead of “shut down the database, dump it to tape, start up the database”, it's “shut down the database, snapshot, start up the database, dump the snapshot to tape”—quite a time-saver. Thanks to Sistina Software, Linux now has this essential feature for backing up busy servers.
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