Software come and go. We like some, despise some and are neutral to others. Most of the good and useful software obtain a huge following and userbase, and usually survive for a very long time until either a better software appears or the technology changes. There also are software that are based on innovative ideas, but do not get sufficient attention, due to the lack of which they perish sooner than others.
And finally, there are software that initially create waves, catch all the attention due to the wonderful concepts they are based upon, attain significant fan following, and then… disappear! In this article, I am going to talk about just these kind of software, err, that were. These are such software that I would have hoped to see flourish till, at least, a couple more years. And yes, all these softwares were free.
MS Reader was Microsoft’s noble attempt to change the way ebooks were read. Reader offered an actual book-like interface that was easy on eyes. It had two other advantages. First, the ebooks created in Reader format (.lit) were considerably smaller in size than an equivalent PDF. Second, it introduced text-to-speech in ebook reading (it would read the book word-by-word with adjustable voice speed).
In my opinion, MS Reader was a novell software. Many popular ebooks were published in “lit” format, but as time passed, such ebooks also disappeared. Today, the most ebooks we see are in PDF format.
Last Updated: May 2005
Just when Turbo C++, the most used C++ IDE in its time, was getting older, there came out an open source IDE that changed the way C++ development used to take place. The last known release boasted of features like C++ projects, tabbed interface, auto syntax completion, and a modern compiler (GCC). Coding in Dev-C++ was sheer pleasure, and its easy-to-use interface was very easy getting used-to. It was a brilliant alternative to the paid Microsoft Visual C++, and as useful as it at that time. And it surely gave most of us respite from that boring blue screen of Turbo C++.
Dev-C++’s last version was 5 beta (126.96.36.199) which came out in 2005, and it has remained in beta since then.
Last updated: February 2005
Short for Project Looking Glass 3D, this was an excellent attempt by some innovative guys at Sun Microsystems to bring a truly immersive 3D environment to the desktop. Built purely in Java, LG3D could act as a desktop environment, much like the popular KDE & GNOME, or could be run from within another desktop environment. It was rich with 3D effects, and the environment also gave 3D illusions (for example, the wallpaper could be scrolled in all 4 directions to get a better view of the surroundings). It came with a host of built-in 3D applications – a media player, a CD rack, an application dock, 3D menus, games, educational software, and more. Another notable feature was the ability to take notes on the back of an open window! Now that was true 3D. One could also arrange windows in tilled fashion on either left or right side.
According to Wikipedia, LG3D was initially written by a Sun programmer in his spare time, but later Sun decided to assign a dedicated team to the project realizing its potential. Being platform independent (due to Java), LG3D was made available for Windows, Linux and Solaris in binary format for downloading.
All-in-all, it was a beautiful desktop environment which could have grown into a serious DE had it been given more attention by media and the developers. The last stable release was made on 19th December 2006, but the daily builds kept coming out 3-4 months after that.
Last updated: February 2007
This was one software, for the Linux platform, that helped developers and packagers easily prepare the binary packages of their own software in distributable forms – RPM, DEB, etc. Say, one wanted to create a RPM of a corresponding source package, checkinstall would help create the spec file for that RPM and compile the source package to generate a RPM. So in a way, it was a beginner packager’s best friend, but unfortunately, like many other great software, it has not been updated since long. Even then, the version available for download is good enough to generate basic RPMs from source packages.
Last updated: November 2006
Macromedia or Adobe have never released a native Linux edition of the very popular Flash MX/Studio which is used to create flash animations and objects.This is similar to the case of Photoshop, which is available for Windows and Mac, but not for Linux. To run these applications, one either needs to have Windows installed, or has to try to run them under Wine in Linux. f4l was a free and open-souce, light-weight alternative to Flash MX, to create flash animations natively in Linux. Although it was deprived of many heavy-weight features found in the original Flash MX, it had all the basic tools to create flash objects.
Last updated: December 2005
This was yet another software for Linux to create Live ISO images out of installed Linux systems. Originally created for use with Mandriva, it was later ported over to PCLinuxOS too, in whose community it became immensly popular. PCLinuxOS (a very popular Linux distro) and all it’s derivatives started using mklivecd to create Live ISO images of their distros fastly, neatly, and efficiently. Later, PCLOS developers themselves started maintaining it and development in the original team almost ceased. But mklivecd it still out there, though in an old version, and does its job very well.
Last updated: December 2007
I wind up my article with the mention of Duke 4. Now, this is the only non-free thing I am talking about here. And for a reason. This is supposed to be the next iteration in the popular Duke Nukem game series, which was very popular in its days. The most interesting part of this game is that it has been under-development since 1997! That is about 12 years. The developers themselves say that it will be release “when it is ready”. Huh?
Whatever be the behind-the-scenes story, looking at the development progress, it sure seems like a good game. And it is one of the most awaited game in the gamers community too.