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You could not fit in the drivers seat and roll out with this prototype model on the highway quite yet, but I love the fact that there is a crew of engineers working their butts off to build an actual working transformer system! Looking at their progress to date, I guesstimate something in the 10 to 20 years range to have working versions you could actually use to commute to work. Thanks to Tech Crunch for the heads up on this one!

Knoppix 7.4.2 is a security and bug-fix update which corrects the Shellshock vulnerability in Bash among a number of other vulnerabilities according to the good folks over at Distrowatch. Plus it has the latest and greatest versions of Firefox, Chromium, GIMP, LibreOffice, and a lot more. And since it is a Live Disk, you don’t have to install it on your computer; just pop it in your DVD drive, reboot your computer, and watch it load and run. Enjoy all the software, and when you are done and shut it down it ejects the disc; if you take it out of the DVD tray, the next time you boot your computer you go back to whatever operating system you have on your hard drive. It defaults to the KDE desktop, but you can select others during the boot process, including GNOME. I am going to download the .ISO file tonight and burn that image to disc so I can check it out!

Portable Apps has updated themselves to version 12.0.5, which has some minor bug fixes, but Portable Apps 12 has a huge array of new features and functionality. This program suite is a lot like the Live Disc Linux builds I love, which allow you to launch a full OS from a disc with a huge range of software. If you don’t already use it, Portable Apps is a platform that runs like a program in any Windows computer off of a thumb drive, external hard drive, cloud drive, smart phone, iPod, or anything else the computer recognizes as a storage device. I actually installed it to a MicroSD chip which I use in my camera to save photos and video to, and when I plug the camera into the computer I can run it off of that. It doesn’t have its own OS like the Live Discs do, but it certainly has the huge range of software. Also like a Live Disc, you never install any software on the computer you are using, it all runs straight from the media source.

When you launch Portable Apps, it opens a menu with whatever collection of software you installed on the device, ready to run on the computer you plugged it into. All the software has your settings included, so Firefox (or Chrome, or Lynx, or Opera, or SeaMonkey; I am not going to go through the list for each kind of program mentioned, but you get the idea) remembers your homepage and has all your bookmarks, Thunderbird has your mail server config and downloaded messages for offline reading/responding, Filezilla has all the connectivity info for uploading to your web servers or downloading from file repositories you like to visit, and so forth. They have over 300 programs organized in 10 categories, each of which has 5 to 10 subcategories covering anything from graphics/audio/video creation and processing to a portable web server with Apache, PHP, MySQL, and CGI-BIN, and a lot more besides. And yes, you can install WordPress to that server, or anything else you would want to have as part of a XAMP/LAMP installation. And the list of apps goes on.

The other way it resembles a Live Disc is that when you are through using your software on whatever computer you walked up to, you shut the computer down, unplug your media source, and when the computer is rebooted it has no trace of your personal settings or information, everything was saved to the Portable Apps media source. That means whatever new bookmarks you saved, files you downloaded, etc, all goes with you; you never lose it. If you are not already a major fan, download it and install it on something and try it out. I am betting you become a big fan of the project once you have seen just how powerful it is. All of the software is free, legal, and open source, and if you enjoy the freedom of never having to leave your favorite software behind, you might consider offering them a donation.

There is a brand new version of Gentoo Linux as a live DVD with multiple desktops and a ton of free software available. Gentoo Linux 20140826 features a collection of powerful updated software packages including Firefox 31.0, LibreOffice 4.2.5, GIMP 2.8.10, Blender 2.71, Amarok 2.8.0, Chromium 37.0.2062.35 and more. The desktops include KDE 4.13.3, GNOME 3.12.2, Xfce 4.10, Fluxbox 1.3.5, LXQt desktop 0.7.0, and i3 desktop 2.8. Plus, being a Live Disc, you don’t even have to risk your computer installation to run it. Just download the appropriate *.ISO file for your system and burn it to disc as an image, and you are ready to play with it. To use it, make sure your BIOS recognizes the CD/DVD hardware in your computer as a boot drive that it checks before the hard drive (that is the default on most computers made in the last 10 years or so). Then just drop the optical disc into your CD/DVD drive and power cycle your computer. When it wakes back up, it will be running an amazing collection of software on an OS you have not seen before; go play and explore! When you are done, shut down Gentoo, eject the disc, and reboot again. Your original system OS, be it Windows, Mac, or other, will be running just fine, without even any new files stored to your hard drive, pristine and unchanged. Live Discs are a great way to try new software and OS’s risk free on the hardware you own without having to worry about losing what you already had working. In a lot of cases, it is the software you never even knew to look for that ends up being the most worthwhile, and then you can check for instances of it built to run on the base system you have.

Wonder what the technology you are going to be able to buy and use 3 to 5 years from now might look like? Visiting the SIGGRAPH Emerging Technologies exhibit each year should give you a pretty good idea, and this year there are a few particularly interesting ones collected on this video out of the 26 on the floor. The annual event ends today, and I wish I could have been there; perhaps next year. The other SIGGRAPH paths I enjoy are the Art Gallery and the Studio, so I am also including their trailers for this year.