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Needful things

First of all: consider using a reasonable OS. There is a whole zoo of nice, nifty, mighty alternatives to Redmond's toaster firmware, they are fast, stable, network capable, secure - and many of them don't cost a buck. Did I mention that you can have a look at the sources and find out if there's someone spying on you?
  • Want to learn how your machine works? Have a look at MINIX, a simple Unix-like (and POSIX - compliant) OS implemented using a microkernel).
  • Linux), monolithic. If you need one, have a look here.
  • The main BSD flavours (in alphabetical order):
    • FreeBSD - secure and stable.
    • NetBSD - runs on almost every piece of hardware.
    • OpenBSD - the most secure of the three.
  • Then, of course, there is Solaris which is now Oracle Solaris and no longer free for x86 - however, there are two forks of the original OpenSolaris Project, Illumos and OpenIndiana
I have been running a very old SNI/Siemens SINIX server - here is some of the rather special stuff

Use your brain (f***book-kids read: pray for brain) - protect your privacy and keep the kids from nuking china by accident...

  • Tor (The Onion Router) helps to protect your privacy via a distributed network of anonymous nodes.
  • privoxy is a simple but powerful filtering proxy able to zap some of those annoying ads
  • dansguardian: this is a real contentfilter (as opposed to a content blocker). This nifty piece of software combined with a reasonable proxy filters webpages based on content, not origin. Add ip rules to create a transparent proxy and china will probably be safe until the kids learn how to boot your main proxy from floppy/CD/USB/[add option here].

Crunching numbers

How to visualize data:
  • Ever banged your head into a keyboard while trying to create a simple bargraph of some statistical data? If so, gri, a language for scientific graphics programming might be your tool. The site states that, like latex, gri 'provide[s] extensive power in exchange for patience in learning syntax.' - very nice!
  • use originwhich is ≈ 600 €, is scriptable and runs on Windows, or
  • use grace, which is free, scriptable and runs on Windows, Linux, MacOS, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, AIX, HP-UX, OS/2 SINIX, Solaris, ...
  • Scigraphica, quite close to Origin.
  • Scilab - an open source package for numerical computation that can do very nice graphics.
  • Gnuplot - a classic.
Image processing:
  • ImageJ, written by W. S. Rasband at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA: this thing has only one disatvantage - it's java, literally stopping my machine.
  • Quite often the gimp (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) comes handy.
Data analysis, numerical computing
  • Fityk, a program for nonlinear fitting of analytical functions (especially peak-shaped) to data. Very nice for fitting peaks to XRD measurements or analyzing spectroscopic data.
  • again, Gnuplot - a classic.
Calculating things
  • Tabellen: xspread (caution -this is for purists only) [src], gnumeric (the gnome spreadsheet - powerful and stable),
  • mathomatic is a highly portable, general purpose Computer Algebra System, which can solve, simplify, and compare algebraic equations, perform calculus transformations and generate efficient C or Java code from equations.
  • maxima is a computer algebra system with an emphasis on symbolic computation
  • gnu octave - similar to matlab (often even compatible)
Writing (esp. texts with mathematic expressions)
  • Universal: TeX/LaTeX, on a real OS people tend to use teTeX. This is the text processing system (Word? That's something a human being articulates to communicate, right?).
  • What to do if somebody sends a MS-Word-'document' (and, for some reason, you are not able to beat the person with his own leg)?
    • If you like colorful graphics and lots of little buttons: openoffice or libreoffice, capable of reading many MS-Office formats.
    • Antiword converts binary MS-Word-Files (2, 6, 7, 97, 2000, 2002 and 2003) to Plaintext or Postscript on many (really!) older platforms.
    • Abiword, a WYSIWYG text editor, able to read Word97-files and some other formats if you want to use plugins
    • word2x - let me just cite the description used in the FreeBSD port:
      "Despite the fact that open formats like RTF are good and widely avialable, far too many idiots seem to insist on using Word .doc format. This program is an attempt to limit the damage this causes users of non-Microsoft systems and text processing systems, for example LaTeX."
      No more questions.