More specialty Linuxes to the rescue

Whether your focus is security, storage, music, or religion, there's a flavor of Linux that fits the bill

Ubuntu CE sits atop the rock-solid Ubuntu base, so there's little fear of misbehavior on the OS' part. And if you're not satisfied with the mixture of applications provided, you can always connect to the vast Ubuntu and Debian repositories.

Ubuntu Muslim Edition

Ubuntu Muslim Edition is the Islamic faith's counterpart to Ubuntu CE. Where Ubuntu CE provides Bible study software, Ubuntu ME offers applications that aid in reading the Quran, as well as assisting in the daily religious duties of a practicing Muslim.

Ubuntu ME's Quranic study package is Zekr, which presents a two-paned window: navigation on the left, and text on the right. Select a sura (chapter), and a drop-down list is populated with the aya (sections) in the sura. Select the aya and the right-hand pane navigates to the proper verses. Below the navigation pane, you're shown details of the sura. For example, the Muslim faith teaches that each sura was originally given to Mohamed at one of two locations, Mecca or Medina. The detail pane shows the "descent" (or location) of the sura. Zekr also provides audio recitation of the Quran. Select a phrase, choose from a list of over a dozen qari (reciters) -- most well-known imams -- and Zekr will play the associated audio of the recitation.

Ubuntu ME also includes a pair of prayer-time reminder programs. One is Minbar, a stand-alone application that lets you select from a long list of world cities (pick the one nearest to your location) and from your choice will determine your latitude and longitude, the direction to Mecca, and the time until the next prayer. A similar program -- called simply Prayer Times -- is also provided as a Firefox plug-in. Meanwhile, Monajat is a small application that sits on the taskbar and pops up a window a predetermined times to display Islamic azkar (supplications).

Like Ubuntu CE, Ubuntu Muslim Edition uses DansGuardian as its content control system. The creators of Ubuntu ME have built a Java-based user front end to DansGuardian. Called WebStrict, the front end provides easy access -- in the form of pop-up editing windows -- to DansGuardian's configuration files. You'll need to know a bit about the structure of those files before you wade into modifying them; they are more or less structured text files, and WebStrict's editors are basic text editors. Nothing stops you from entering mal-formatted data.

Unlike Ubuntu CE, Ubuntu Muslim Edition pre-installs numerous educational packages. These include a selection of KDE-based applications such as Kalzium (a periodic table), KBrunch (which teaches calculating with fractions), Kig (an interactive geometry application), and others.

As with any Ubuntu-based distribution, Ubuntu ME is easy to install and dependable, and it enjoys access to enough free software to overflow even the biggest hard drives.

As you like it

These distributions are outstanding examples of flexibility of the Linux OS; it sits at the heart of systems as small as a firewall running on an embedded PC, or as large as a multigigabyte musical performance workstation running virtual analog synthesizers and drum machines. No less important is the abundance of open source applications whose quality rivals most commercial counterparts.

Finally, hats off to the designers and developers who build these specialized distributions and make the fruits of their enthusiasm available to all.

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Rick Grehan

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