TeX and Other Selected Windows Freeware:
disks and files,
and controlling programs,
22 Aug '08
Disks and Files
- Most computer data, including computer software, has a great
deal of redundant information when it is arranged in directly usable form;
the files can be compressed into considerably smaller
files for storage. The most common compression or archive format
is that of a ZIP file. One or more files of varying types can be packed into
a single zip file. It can also include other information -- e.g.,
subdirectories in which the files should be stored, relative to each other or
relative to the root folder.
Windows XP is packaged with a zip manager already
built in -- i.e., you can zip or unzip files without adding any special
programs. However, if you download a file that is in some archive format
other than zip, you might need to also download an archive manager
program. For instance,
GZIP, TAR, TGZ are used by many Unix programs;
SIT, HQX, BIN, SEA are used by many Macintosh programs;
UUE is used by some old email programs.
I don't know the origins of ARC, ARJ, ZOO, RAR files, but they
seem to be widely used too. Fortunately, you don't have to
know separate procedures for dealing with these different
filetypes; one good archive manager program can handle them
all. -- After installing any of the following programs, you'll
want to set its "options" and/or "preferences".
Other noteworthy formats: The 7-zip format apparently has the highest
compression (or did, last time I checked). And you can also create
"self-extracting executables" -- these are programs containing compressed files, which
get extracted when you run the program.
- IZArc. Supports many formats, including
7-ZIP, A, ACE, ARC, ARJ, B64, BH, BIN, BZ2, BZA, C2D, CAB, CDI, CPIO, DEB, ENC, GCA, GZ, GZA, HA, IMG, ISO, JAR, LHA, LIB, LZH, MDF, MBF, MIM, NRG, PAK, PDI, PK3, RAR, RPM, TAR, TAZ, TBZ, TGZ, TZ, UUE, WAR, XXE, YZ1, Z, ZIP, ZOO.
With IZArc you can also open CD image files like ISO, BIN, CDI and NRG. It is also possible to convert such files from one type to another (BIN to ISO, NRG to ISO).
- 7-Zip. This is an open-source program -- i.e., you can alter the program itself if you're into that kind of thing.
- Macintosh compression formats. The filetypes HQX and SIT are commonly used on Apple computers. If you're downloading a program, forget it -- even if you get it decompressed, an Apple program won't run on a Windows computer. But if you're downloading a document (e.g., a textfile or a picture) that someone has stored in an Apple compression format, you may still be able to make use of it.
For HQX files, I think that ICEOWS looks like a good choice, though I haven't tried it yet. (That stands for "Interface de Compression Ergonomique pour windOWS.")
For an SIT (Stuffit) file, the only thing that I've found is Stuffit Expander.
- TreeSize free
[1 mb, version 2.2.1]
shows the size of folders and subfolders, a piece of information not available
directly in Windows Explorer. (True, you can get Windows Explorer to show
that information, one folder at a time, by right-clicking on a folder and
then clicking on "Properties"; but sometimes you want to get this information
for many folders at once.)
- CD burners. These are programs for copying data from your hard drive onto CD's. If your CD-drive is capable of burning CD's, your computer probably came with some program for doing this -- but it might be a "free trial" program that expires after a few uses; then they expect you to buy a fancier version. But you can download a version that will work just fine. If you're not sure whether your CD drive can burn CD's, try inserting a blank CD into your CD drive and see what happens.
[2.67 MB, ver. 1.9] (free for personal use)
Other free burner programs (I haven't tried these yet):
- Daemon Tools Lite.
This little program, using some space on your hard disk, enables you to run a virtual CD drive.
You can load into it any ISO file;
that's the file format often used for storing an image of a CD-rom. Useful for a variety of purposes -- e.g., if you
want to have access to two different CD's at the same time, or if you want to test a CD arrangent before burning it onto
an actual CD.
- Data recovery programs. (I can't review these
in depth because I haven't experimented much with these.) If you've
merely deleted a document that you need, you can recover it from the
"recycle bin", But if you've deleted a document you need and then
emptied the recyle bin, ordinary measures won't help, but one
of these programs might. Also, some of these programs
are helpful if a disk (hard disk, floppy disk, CD, whatever)
has become damaged and is partly unreadable by ordinary means.
In the case of accidental deletions from your hard disk,
try not to use your computer for anything else (including the installation
of a data recovery program) between the time of your accidental
deletion and the time when you attempt recovery; any such
intervening uses of the computer reduce the possibility of
recovering the lost file. (Thus, it's
best if you've installed these recovery programs
before you need them.)
Disk Investigator ver. 1.31 [356 kb]
which searches for recoverable data, not by file, but by physical sector
on the hard disk.
Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier ver. 3.51 ---
"This program is designed for copying files from disks which have sustained physical damage such as
scratched CD's or faulty floppies/hard disk. In the case the program can not read part of a file it will fill that
section of the target file with blanks and continue on copying."
PC Inspector File Recovery 5.8 mb, ver 4.0]
-- "does an impressive job recovering accidentally deleted files or files lost through corruption of the file system. It has some nice features, like the ability to recover files with lost headers, and to recover partitions even when the boot sector has been lost or damaged. It works with the FAT16/FAT32 and NTFS file systems. This is no home written utility - it is a serious product from a reputable German company with a long history in commercial data recovery." (from a review by
- The "search for files on your computer" program in Windows XP seems to be a bit buggy -- it sometimes
doesn't find files that are there. It probably can be repaired, but an easier workaround is to search
for your files using Agent Ransack
[792 kb , ver. 1.7.3].
- Most programs require the support of additional files sometimes not included in order to run properly. Dependency Viewer (406 kb, ver 1.0.0) will tell you which files those are. (And if you're missing any of them, perhaps Google can tell you where to find them.)
[456 kb, version 1.4.2]
-- keeps not only the time, but also the date in the lower
right corner of your screen. Actually, that capability is already built into Windows XP, as you'll discover if you increase the width or height of your taskbar.
- The US government maintains several atomic
are accurate to extremely small fractions of a second. They also have
those clocks connected to computers that are connected to the internet,
and as a free service, they'll let you connect to them and have your
computer set its clock to the exact time. Your computer won't be as
accurate as the atomic clocks, but your computer will be accurate
to within about a tenth of a second right after it performs this
synchronization. Unfortunately, the clocks in computers aren't
very accurate; you may be off by a few minutes just a day later --
so you may want to perform this synchronization every day.
Windows XP has a feature built in for automatically synchronizing
once a week. To turn it on, go to the "Adjust date/time" dialogue,
either by right-clicking on the clock in the lower right corner of
your screen, or by going through "Start" "Settings" "Control Panel"
"Date and Time". Then go to the "Internet Time" tab, and
check the "Automatically synchronize" box. Then click "okay". You can also
manually click on the "Update now" button to adjust things any time you like. However,
if your computer is not kept constantly turned on and connected to the internet,
I'm not sure if the automatica update will works.
If you have some Windows other than XP,
or if you don't like the way
Microsoft does things in Windows XP,
you can get some other program to sychronize your clock. My favorite program for
this purpose is
[206 kb, ver. 18.104.22.168]. It can be set to automatically
synchronize whenever you start your computer.
(You may have to tell the Windows Firewall not to block this program.)
by Ng KimFatt [183kb, version 2.2.1]
-- use this program to specify that, whenever some running program is
minimized, it should go to a tiny icon instead of a big space on the bottom row of the
screen. Useful for programs that you keep running all the time -- e.g., a printer
spooler. This version is freeware; some later versions are shareware.
- Power Center
[145 kb, ver. 2.12] -- I find this helpful on my laptop computer.
It's a laptop battery monitor -- i.e., it keeps track of how your battery is
doing. The Microsoft Windows operating system already includes a laptop
battery monitor program, but it only tells you how much of your battery
is left when you ask it -- e.g., when you hold your mouse cursor over its
icon. I'm neurotic enough about my battery so that I like to know at a glance,
without even moving my mouse away from my current work, so I use
Power Center. Admittedly, it takes up a little space on my screen.
Requires Visual Basic 6 runtime file, which is also available for free.
... This program requires the file MSCOMCTL.OCX to be present in
the C:\windows\system directory. It's already there, for some
versions of Windows; for some later versions (e.g., XP) you will
need to copy that file into that directory to get this program
- RefreshEm [79 kb, ver.1.0]
-- Some versions of Windows crash often, but some of the crashes are minor,
not quite enough to make you want to bother with a full restart of the
computer. For instance, in one common type of crash, all the icons on your
desktop get messed up, so that they are displaying the wrong pictures (though
they still display the right captions and clicking on them still works
correctly). If this happens often enough to bother you, install "RefreshEm".
Then, anytime your icons get messed up, run the RefreshEm program. It will fix
the icons in just a few seconds, much quicker than restarting the computer.
Then RefreshEm will close itself; it does not remain resident in RAM.
Starting, running, and controlling programs
- Startup Control
Panel [58 kb, version 2.8]
-- to control which programs are started each time you
start your computer.
Startup Delayer (996 kb, v2.3.130)
can be programmed to delay the startup of some programs, so that you
don't have all the programs trying to load simultaneously (which
supposedly can cause
even bigger delays).
Easy Cleaner [2.81 mb, ver 22.214.171.1240] appears to be the best free registry cleaner. One of Microsoft's web pages says:
"The longer you run a PC without a clean reinstall, the more your Registry files grow. This is just a fact of Windows [nb: do they think that the flaws of their software can be excused, like laws of physics?] and over time it can cause your PC to slowdown. While Windows is good at adding and tracking changes in your Registry, tasks such as uninstalling software do not always cause the Registry entries to be removed." So junk accumulates in your registry (a part of your operating system) and slows down the computer. If you use a registry cleaner program, it will look for registry entries that aren't being used (e.g., pointers that don't point anywhere), and remove them.
- Java Runtime Environment (JRE)[15.2 mb -- version 6 update 7] -- needed by some other programs, such as Open Office. This is the environment in which some programs must run. Don't confuse the JRE with the SDK (software developers kit), which you only need if you're writing Java software.
Gizmo Richard says:
Most folks have Sun Java installed on their PC but many have never updated it. This is a concern as several serious security flaws have been found in the product during 2005 and earlier. If you have not already done so, it is extremely important that you update your version of Java now. Doing this is quite easy: Go to your Windows Control Panel now and select "Java" or "Java Plugin" from the list then select Update to download and install the latest version. If you don't see "Java" or "Java Plugin" in your Control Panel then turn on "Classic view" from the left hand panel.
- Vbrun 3 [225kb],
6 [0.99 mb] --
Visual Basic Runtime Files. These are the files you need, in order to run programs
that are written in the language Visual Basic. Most recent VB programs require either
Vbrun 5 or 6, but you might occasionally want to use some older VB program that requires
Vbrun 3 or 4. (On the CD, I've stored these under
is a program from the old Windows 3.1 operating system. It
could save strings of keystrokes and play them back at your
request later. The program sometimes works under Windows 9x,
too, though it has been omitted from those operating
systems. For best results, record only the keystrokes, not
the mouse motions; play back fast (not at recorded speed);
play back on the same application program.
- All sorts of free programs to augment Windows are available
from the Microsoft Download Center.
New things get added to this collection fairly often.
Some of the programs listed below work in more than one operating system.
For instance, the versions of EXPLORE.INF (for "explore from here") for Windows
95 and Windows 2000 are actually identical, and they seem to work okay
under Windows XP as well (even though the program was not included
in the Windows XP powertoys). That's one of my favorite powertoys;
I use it often.
Windows 95 Powertoys [204 kb] is an "unofficial" collection
of around a dozen different tiny little utility programs,
made by some programmers at Microsoft but not by the
Microsoft company itself. Personally, I use only a few of these programs; I've
marked them in RED below.
For most of these programs, you
can install the program by right-clicking on the associated
".inf" file; or you can install all of them by
right-clicking on the file "INSTALL.INF". For uninstall, go
to "Control Panel" "Add/Remove Programs".
Note that some of these powertoys add capabilities to Windows 95 that
were also added directly to some later versions of Windows; you don't
really need to duplicate the capabilities that you already have.
Here are descriptions of the
- CabView (CABVIEW.INF, CABVIEW.DLL) -- treat .CAB
files like ordinary folders
- CDAutoPlay (APLAYEXT.INF, APLAYEXT.DLL) -- make
autoplay work on any non-audio CD
- Command Prompt (DOSHERE.INF) -- start a command
prompt in the folder of your choice with the click of a
button. I have discussed this program in my introductory text about
right-clicking on files.
- Contents Menu (CONTENT.INF, CONTENT.DLL,
SHELLFIX.INF, SHELLFIX.DLL) -- get to your files without
having to open their folders
- Desktop Menu (DESKMENU.INF, DESKMENU.EXE) -- open
items on your desktop from a convenient menu on the Taskbar
- Explore From Here (EXPLORE.INF) -- open Windows
Explorer no matter where you are on the network or on your
own computer's file system. This is one of the programs I use often.
- FindX 1.2 (FINDX.DLL, FINDX.INF) -- add
drag-and-drop capabilities to your Find Menu
- FlexiCD (FLEXICD.INF, FLEXICD.EXE) -- play an
audio CD from the Taskbar
Quick Res (QUICKRES.INF, QUICKRES.EXE) -- change
the screen resolution of your Windows desktop quickly and easily.
Admittedly, you already have that capability without a new program --
you can right-click on a blank space on
the desktop, then click on "Properties", then on the "Settings" tab, then
move the "Screen Area" marker. But that's a rather long and tedious
process. If you have some reasons for doing it often (e.g., if you
feel most comfortable with some programs at high res and other
programs at lo res), then Quick Res is a big convenience.
After you install it, just right-click on the little icon,
and up pops a list of screen resolutions.
(Note: This is only useful for Windows 95, because Windows 98
already has a version of Quick Res
built in. Just go to the "Settings" display as described above,
and then go to "Advanced..." and check "Show settings icon
on task bar.")
- Round Clock (CLOCK.EXE) -- create a round analog
clock without a square window
- Send To X 1.2-- (SENDTOX.DLL, SENDTOX.INF) --
an updated version of Send To Any Folder
- Shortcut Target Menu (TARGET.INF, TARGET.DLL) --
find out the properties for the file to which a shortcut is
- Telephony Location Selector (TAPITNA.EXE) --
mobile computer users can change their dialing location from
- Tweak UI 1.1 Update (TWEAKUI.CNT, TWEAKUI.INF,
TWEAKUI.CPL. TWEAK_README.TXT, TWEAKUI.HLP) -- adjust your
Windows User Interface, including menu speed, window
animation, and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
- Xmouse 1.2 (XMOUSE.EXE)
-- make the focus follow your mouse without clicking in the same way X
TweakUI is the best tweak program,
though there are others (a few are mentioned below). Here are a couple
of features that I use regularly from TWEAKUI:
There are actually several different versions of TweakUI. As far as I have
been able to determine, version 1.33 is supposed to work with these versions of Windows:
95, 98, NT, 2000, and m.e.
The internet service provider that I use at home
requires the use of "Client for Microsoft Networks", which requires a
logon with password (possibly a blank password) each time I restart the
computer. The password doesn't actually provide any protection -- you
can get past it by pressing the Escape key -- it is simply there to
distinguish one family member's preferences from another's. I don't
bother with it. I use Tweakui to automatically login for me, so that I
can be reading a book or drinking a cup of coffee or something, possibly
in some other room, while Windows does this and a dozen other things
during its startup procedure.
I use many "shortcuts" on my Windows system, but
I don't care to have them all begin with the words "Shortcut to."
Tweakui removes that prefix.
Powertoys for Windows XP [4.64 mb, version 2.10]. Created by
Microsoft and presumably availabe from their website, but I found it easier to
download this from Major Geeks; at that page you'll also find more detailed descriptions of these programs that are included in the
Open Command Window Here (I use this one),
Tweak UI (I use this one),
CD Slide Show Generator,
Virtual Desktop Manager,
HTML Slide Show Wizard,
An important (to me, anyway) omission from the XP Powertoys is the
Quickres tool for quickly switching screen resolutions. But you can get such
a tool, free, that works quite well for XP or NT. It is
[36 kb]. This works fine on Windows XP and is very easy to install.
For Windows NT there are some complications in the installation;
see the program's home web page for details. -- Actually, this program may give you
too many choices of screen resolutions; you may want to keep on hand a list of the ones you like.
- Other tweak programs. I've stopped using these; most of them seem to be made
unnecessary by the Windows XP version of TweakUI. But I may as well keep them in my listing, just in case
anyone finds a use for them.
Configurator [313kb, version 0.6]
[4.6 mb, version 6.3]. Versions after 6.3 are not free.
[649 kb, ver 1.4], adds to each files context (right-click) menu, a submenu titled "Open With",
containing whatever programs you wish to associate with that filetype. This program
is easier to use than the filetype associations manager that is built into some versions of Windows.
Fairly self-explanatory, except here is one tip:
Under the program's "options," be sure to check the
box next to "Disable Windows2000/ME default 'Open with'
menu." Otherwise, you'll have two "Open with" options
showing each time you right-click on a file.
- PlacesBar Constructor
[539 kb, ver 1.2] to easily adjust the list of special places that appears in the left pane of
the "save as" dialogue.
Running Unix on a Wintel computer
By a "Wintel computer" we generally
mean a computer equipped
with an Intel processor, designed to run Microsoft Windows --
or a similar computer. (For instance, you could use a chip
made by AMD, compatible with the Intel chips; and you don't
necessarily need to have Windows on the computer.)
The term "Wintel" may help to avoid confusion, since
the term "Windows" could be confused with "X Window" -- the
common graphics interface for Unix systems. There are
variants on this terminology, but I won't go into those here.
Unix used to be more difficult to use (and in fact,
Unix users were proud of the difficulty).
But in recent years, several GUIs
(graphics user interfaces) have come into use
in Unix, making it much easier and more intuitive
(in the opinion of most people).
The GUI, invented by Xerox PARC and copied
by Macintosh and Windows, has now been copied
in several Unix forms; I think the most popular
for Wintel boxes are
There are many kinds of Unix in the world today.
Particularly noteworthy is the Apple Macintosh operating system,
which in its recent versions is some sort of Unix with a very
smooth GUI. (Thus, Apple Macintosh users are now able
to install a wide variety of free programs that were developed
for Unix computers.) Various kinds of Unix are used
on many instititutional servers. However, the rest
of this page is concerned only with installing Unix
on a personal Wintel computer.
The Linux versions of Unix seem to
be growing in popularity and displacing other versions of Unix
(with the possible exception of Apples). Linux is an open-source
version of Unix, and thus it gives individual
programmers more control over their own lives. There are now
many versions of Linux, distributed by many valued-added
resellers who add packaging, manuals, support, etc.;
but there are many versions available for free too
(often suported by donations). Most of the versions of Unix
that I've been looking at are actually Linux.
In recent years, downloading and installing Unix has gotten
easier. It used to require downloading dozens or hundreds of files
and then following complicated arcane instructions.
The procedure nowadays is this: You download a few
"iso" files. Each of these is an enormous files; typically one such file is around
600 megabytes. Each of these files is a CD-image. You
use a CD-burner program (such as
DeepBurner Free ,
mentioned earlier on this web page) to burn each iso file onto a
CD-rom. (Alternatively, you can just order some CD's and have them
mailed to you.) Then you just follow a few simple instructions, and
wait a long time for the installation program to carry out all of its
Nevertheless, downloading and installing Unix on your
Wintel computer is an adventure which may involve some complications
and risks, and that may remain the case for a while. Here is why:
No two computer models are identical. Different computers use
different kinds of hard drives, keyboards, RAM, mice, displays, etc.
These devices do not always follow standards.
When you buy a computer that is already equipped with an operating
system (e.g., Microsoft Windows) from a major manufacturer (e.g.,
Dell or Gateway), generally the operating system has been fitted
to the hardware --- i.e., the software includes drivers which can deal
with that particular hardware.
But if you download or purchase a new operating system (e.g., Unix)
for an old computer, you have no guarantee that the two will fit together.
Generally the new operating system is equipped with drivers for the
most common configurations of hardware, but if you have anything
out of the ordinary, it may not work. This is especially true for notebook
computers, which tend to stray considerably from standards.
If your new operating system does not recognize your screen or
your modem or your keyboard, clearly your computer is going
to work badly or perhaps not at all. ... Since the makers of operating
systems add new drivers whenever they can and subtract drivers
only if they're extremely old, your chances for compatibility are
slightly better if your hardware is a few years old and if you use
the very newest version of the operating system. (This is one
some people choose to convert their old Wintel computer
to Unix when they buy a new Wintel computer.)
Unless you're very very sure that you know what you're doing,
you should only install Unix on a computer in some fashion that
is reversible -- i.e., so you can go back to your previous configuration
if either (i) the new configuration doesn't work or (ii) it does work
but you don't like it. (The latter case may happen for some
people who are already used to Microsoft Windows and
are trying *nix for their first time.)
There are a number of different ways to run Unix on a
Here are some related links that may be helpful:
- Completely replacing the operating system.
This commits you fully to using Unix. Going back (if you decide to) may be difficult.
This is the "classical" installation. If you look at some web page that
describges a Unix distribution without mentioning partitioning or any of the other techniques listed
below, then you're probably looking at a distribution of this complete replacement type.
- Partitioned, dual-boot systems.
You partition the hard disk into two parts, one for Windows and one for *nix.
Then you can decide which part to use, each time you restart the computer.
At first glance, this would appear to be using the best of both worlds. But
there are a couple of drawbacks: (i) Sometimes it is hard to get the
two partitions to communicate with one another, so you may be unable to
pass documents back and forth between the two personalities.
[Ext2 Installable File System for Windows is a free
program which partly remedies that problem.]
are sometimes made in partitioning, and they may be difficult to
repair. A really bad partitioning can destroy everything on your hard disk.
- Running Linux inside Windows.
A number of programs are available which can do this. No partitioning
needed; the Linux system looks just like a large Windows application file.
No real risk to your Windows system -- if you don't like what you get,
just uninstall/delete it.
Drawbacks: (i) Generally the Linux runs a bit slower when used in
this fashion, because it has an extra layer between it and you.
(ii) Again, you may have some difficulties communicating between
Linux and Windows.
Here is DistroWatch's list of Linux distributions of this type. However, DistroWatch says
"These distributions are normally designed for evaluation purposes, they suffer
from bad performance and package information is hard to come by."
I recently used this approach with the
"Embedded" version of
Damn Small Linux,
and was moderately successful. Here's the procedure:
Download the file
dsl-embedded-1.2.zip, which is
only 53.5 megabytes. Unzip it, saving the contents in
some convenient directory on your hard disk; that
will take up about 120 megabytes. One of the files
in that directory is
dsl-windows.bat; you can either use that file directly
or put a shortcut to it in some more convenient location.
When you start up that bat file, it will load and run DSL.
I tried this on my Dell Inspiron 5150, and the loading
took slightly over a minute. The most important
features -- screen, keyboard, mouse, etc. -- all seemed
to work properly, though perhaps a bit slowly.
My network capabilities (web browser, etc.) worked
just fine, without any tweaking on my part. But I couldn't
figure out any way to make DSL communicate with
my hard disk or my CD-drive or my
USB flash drive, so I had no way of passing documents
between DSL and Windows (except perhaps via
the internet, which would be a little inconvenient).
If you figure out how to make it communicate, let me know.
Of course, what parts of DSL work will vary from
one computer to another, since different hardware
configurations require different drivers. By the way,
I was also uncomfortable with another aspect of DSL:
All the icons and programs looked very unfamiliar.
Contrast that with Ubuntu Linux, discussed a
few paragraphs below.
If you want to experiment with DSL, here's a tip:
Have at least one program -- perhaps a small one,
like Notepad -- already running, when you start DSL.
Then ALT-TAB will still work to switch applications, so
you can get out of DSL temporarily and do something
with your Windows system. Before I discovered this
trick, the only way I could get back to Windows was by
shutting down DSL altogether.
- Running Windows inside Linux. Convert a
computer entirely to Linux (or start with a computer that was originally
configured with Linux) and then run a program that emulates Windows
inside Linux. This can be done using
(which is free), or using
a commercial implementation of Wine, such as
I haven't experimented with this yet.
- Using a "Live CD" installation. The idea of a "Live CD"
is that nothing needs to be installed on the hard disk of your computer.
You load the CD, and it just uses the RAM (temporary memory space)
in your computer. Thus, there is no risk of bad installation -- if you
don't like what you get, just remove the CD and restart the computer,
and you'll have your familiar old Windows computer again.
Drawbacks: It may take a bit of extra time to load, since
your CD-drive is slower than your hard drive. Also, there are extra
complications if you want to save any additions or alterations
that you want to make in the Linux configuration. And, as usual, there
are difficulties about communication between Linux and Windows.
I tried this approach with a Live CD version of
Ubuntu Linx, and was moderately successful.
I burned the 674 megabyte iso file onto a CD-rom, and then rebooted from that
drive. The system took around 4 minutes to start up, but after that all the basics
(keyboard, screen, mouse) worked properly. Moreover, the
desktop looked not too different from what I'm used to with
Windows (but that may be just personal taste).
My internet connection
did not work, and I couldn't access the hard disk,
but my USB flash drive did work. Thus, I do have
a method for passing files back and forth -- i.e., I can work on a document
in one operating system, copy it to my flash drive, and switch
to the other operating system. Let me know if you
figure out how to make Ubuntu Linux communicate with the internet
or the hard drive.
Of course, what parts of Ubuntu Linux work will vary from
one computer to another, since different hardware
configurations require different drivers. Also with version of Ubuntu --
that experiment was some time ago; perhaps I'll have better luck with a
You may be wondering, how do you boot from a CD-drive?
The details will vary from one computer to another, but it will
probably be something similar to what I found on my Dell Inspiron 5150:
At the beginning of the bootup process, there is a moment when the
words "F2 for setup, F12 for boot menu" flash on the screen. At that
moment, if I press either the F2 key or the F12 key, I get several options.
If I press neither key, then the computer simply goes into its default boot
procedure. The F12 key lets me override the default -- i.e., it
lets me choose whether to boot from the hard disk, the CD-drive,
the USB flash drive, or some other device. The F2 key lets me change
the default. The original default was to always boot from the hard
drive, but I've changed it so that my computer will first look to see
whether there is a bootable CD in the CD-drive. If there is, the computer
will boot from there. If there isn't, the computer will boot from the
hard drive (i.e., Windows).
- Using a partial Linux emulator under Windows.
That's apparently the approach used by Uwin, available free from AT&T Research. It enables some Unix programs to run under Windows.
- Using Cygwin.
is "a Linux-like environment for Windows."
These tools do not enable native
Linux apps to run under Windows. But these tools
do make it easier for a programmer to rewrite a
Linux application so that it will run under Windows;
the resulting applications are called "packages."
Here is the list of packages.
And here are some packages that may be of particular
interest to mathematicians:
To use the Cygwin system, first install its basic setup
from its web page at
You can install some of its packages from there too.
whenever you want to install a Windows program whose
installation instructions say "requires Cygwin", you can
just go ahead and install the program as though
it were an ordinary Windows program.
a scalable vector graphics (SVG) program compatible with tex
a computer algebra system for
singularity theory and algebraic geometry
a software system devoted to supporting research in algebraic geometry and
a clone of Visual Basic
- Octave, a high-level language, primarily intended for
numerical computations, mostly compatible with Matlab.
- Using a Windows shell that looks like Unix.
That's all some people really want, and it's provided by