Jott outta beta, and SliTaz is the boss

The Jott service that Gibbs reviewed a few weeks ago has come out of beta, and a reader points out a really cool Linux distro.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Jott, a Web service that translates speech via cell phones to text lists, e-mail and reminders (each translated message is called a "jott." Jott has done something rare amongst online start-ups … it has exited beta and announced it is in production!

Allow me to digress for a second … I wonder how many companies have graduated from beta status to full release over the last year. It's an interesting question because it would appear to be an indicator of the maturation of the online industry. I really should start keeping a scorecard. Unless there's already one out there.

Anyway, Jott has, along with its graduation from beta, announced pricing, and it is pretty good. There are three service tiers: Jott Basic (free), Jott ($3.95 per month) and Jott Pro ($12.95 per month).

All levels allow for unlimited voice to text and reminders and access to all Jott RSS feeds. Jott Basic and Jott provide 15 seconds of recording per jott, while Jott Pro allows for up to 30 seconds. All but Jott Basic provide hands-free e-mail and text messaging, and each levels provides access to different applications for interacting with Jott (all support the iPhone while only the paid subscription support Outlook, and only Jott Pro supports BlackBerries.

I've been getting interesting input from you fine people recently. Reader Ben Scott (Atlanta) recently got in touch to recommend a Linux distro I hadn't come across before: Slitaz. Ben wrote "I know you love cool items. Here is one of the smallest, fastest X capable nix out there. It is a multi language project - French and English. It is wafer thin and way cool. Great for older hardware or [kiosks]." Thanks Ben.

Despite its horrible name SliTaz (an acronym for "Simple Light Incredible Temporary Autonomous Zone" … yechhh.) isn't just cool, it's way cool. The Slitaz site describes the project as "a free micro GNU/Linux distro using BusyBox, a Linux kernel, and GNU free software." They explain that the intention of SliTaz was to get a distro that could run completely in memory and supported hard disk installation. (They also note that they wanted good support for French, which seems an oddly restricted goal compared to full internationalization.)

SliTaz boots with Syslinux, a lightweight bootloader, and "provides more than 200 Linux commands, [including] the LightTPD web server, SQLite database, rescue tools, IRC client, SSH client/server powered by Dropbear, X window system, JWM (Joe's Window Manager), gFTP, Geany IDE, Mozilla Firefox, Alsaplayer, Gparted, a sound file editor and much more." SliTaz also comes with a hard disk installer, a CD image remastering program, and a utility that installs SliTaz onto a USB drive. And all of this is designed to fit in an ISO image of less than 30 MB that expands to around 80MB on installation!

I installed SliTaz from the ISO in a virtual machine under VMware Workstation 6.0.4 and, wow, talk about fast and small. SliTaz will easily run in 128MB and can be shoehorned into running in as little as 16MB of RAM! And it boots really fast.

Now, try this. Go to and download the QEMU PC hardware emulator installer. This executable is actually a self-extracting archive. When you run it you just need to tell the installer where to unzip the contents. The result will be a folder named QPU804.

Copy everything from this folder to your USB drive and then add to that the SliTaz ISO. Voilà! You now have a portable virtualized SliTaz installation that can run alongside Windows in a concurrent virtual machine session. In fact the QEMU set up can execute any ISO that you put on the drive (you can also install the QPU804 files and the SliTaz ISO in a hard disk subdirectory and run the virtual machine from that location).

SliTaz is a great solution for a portable operating system, a tremendous way to extend the life of older machines, and terrific as tool set for recovering sick systems. It is, as my son and his friends would say, "the boss."

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