Inboxer 1.0

Those of us who have foolishly allowed Google to pervade most aspects of our online lives often feel we're missing out when it comes to desktop or standalone applications. This is why you see third-party Drive utilities, for example, or communication clients including Hangout support. This is a little ironic considering Google likely wouldn't have had the same success without its foundation of Linux and open source, but Google still does plenty of proactive things for Linux and open source in other areas, such as the wonderful Summer of Code, so it perhaps equals out. Although developers don't have official Google apps, they have plenty of motivation to create their own versions.

Inboxer is fundamentally a web wrapper around Google's very useful Inbox, which is itself an advanced version of Gmail that attempts to do clever things to the endless stream of email you typically get. It will prioritize messages it thinks are important, automatically bundle groups of related messages together, allow you to set reminders with ease, or delay your attention on an incoming email until later. When you first start to use Google Inbox, it can feel like magic, as bundles are automatically created to list your trips, finance messages, or purchases. It can make a real difference to chaotic inboxes (and you can still access your old version via Gmail). If you're happy giving up manual obsessive control over your inbox, Inbox actually works very well, and so does Inboxer. Inboxer uses Electron to pull the web application out of the web to better integrate Inbox with your desktop. It looks more like your typical Linux application, it runs as a separate process, and it embeds desktop notifications, unread badges, and a system tray. If you find yourself using Inbox more and more, you should definitely check out Inboxer.

Project Website

Google's Inbox is great, but Inboxer is better; it turns a tab in your browser into a desktop application.

3D renderer


The point of entry for this discovery is actually the excellent GitHub repository of its author, Benedikt Bitterli, which contains some wonderfully small projects that simulate various aspects of two-dimensional and three-dimensional fluid dynamics. These tools use your GPU to generate, mostly in real time, simulations of how fluid moves, from turbulent storms to explosive mushrooms of rising heat. You can watch the eddies of particles move for hours; even when rendered in grayscale, the output is fascinating. The C++ and GPU shader code that accompanies these projects, some of which are more than five years old, provides a wonderful set of examples and starting frameworks for your own experiments. If you don't understand the code, clone the repository; building each project is usually no more difficult than typing make after grabbing a few OpenGL dependencies (e.g., libgl-mesa-dev).

The real gem in this collection, though, is the Tungsten Renderer. This more ambitious project is written in C++ 11 to exploit Intel's Embree ray-tracing library and multithreading. It's a 3D renderer that supports many different geometric shapes and material models (e.g., hair, plastic, and coat surfaces), photon mapping, light tracing, path tracing, and atmospheric effects. The output is hyper-realistic, and there are some excellent JSON-formatted example files to play with. Its offline rendering and beautiful light models are reminiscent of earlier Amiga versions of an application called Real3D. But Tungsten is more academic than this (indeed Blender, the graphical editor, is much more primitive by comparison), but the whole project is also easier to understand and will help anyone interested in the computer science of light and material composition within a three-dimensional scene, especially if they've some experience with OpenGL and graphical primitives.

Project Website

The Tungsten renderer includes an editor, command-line rendering tools, and even a server to send and monitor jobs.

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