As most emulators are targeted at recreating old gaming systems, or home computers where gaming was a major component of their popularity, we often feature emulators in the gaming section of these pages. But emulation, of course, isn't just useful for playing old games, it's also an essential way of keeping old software alive long after the original hardware has melted under its own battery acid. Emulation also allows you to play with hardware that may have been completely inaccessible on its original release, which is the case for most of us and the mighty Sun-2, a brand of workstation built by Sun Microsystems in the early 1980s. The bottom-of-the-range Sun-2/120 could be purchased for a measly $30,000 at the time, which is about $70,000 in today's money. That would buy you 4MB of RAM, 100MB of storage and a Motorola 68010.

Which coincidentally is the exact default configuration you get from running emulator-sun-2, a software emulator of the venerable Sun-2/120. You do need to have access to the firmware, a SunOS disk image with NetBSD, and something for the emulated SCSI tape, but these are relatively easy to track down. You can then simply boot up the emulator with a command, and you'll soon be presented with the limited glory of SunOS. The easiest thing from this point is to boot into NetBSD (type b vmunix), and you can operate a computer like you're in WarGames, complete with Times Roman font rendering, monochrome monitor, and an emulation of the unique keyboard that came with the hardware. If you've not used the real hardware before, you need to read some contemporary instructions about how the system operates and works, but that itself is interesting and a reminder of what things were like before Bash, mice, and GUIs became ubiquitous.

Project Website

Emulating old proprietary hardware on a modern PC is a great way to appreciate how far we've come.

Image editor


Despite having Gimp, Glimpse, and the wonderful Krita, there aren't many image editors or drawing tools if you only need to make a quick edit or sketch. Pinta and MyPaint are good options, but there's definitely room for something different. Photoflare is something different. Like Krita, it's cross platform, which will hopefully help to give the project lots of momentum. Unusual for a Linux application, its development was inspired by a Windows application, PhotoFiltre, a proprietary image retouching tool that's been available for many years. What's great about Photoflare is that it's very much a WYSIWYG kind of application, with every editing function easily accessible and easy to understand. If you've used Microsoft Paint, you'll know what almost every function does.

Whether you're starting a fresh image or editing something that already exists, Photoflare quickly lets you make the changes you need to make. Rotation, crops, transparent backgrounds, selection fill, brightness, and contrast are all immediately selectable, and the application itself responds quickly even with large images. There are some more advanced features, such as drop-shadow generation, but there are no layers, filters, or complex palette interactions to worry about. However, these features are coming with the currently in-development version 2, and along with them a very Windows-like split between the open source "community" edition and a paid-for edition with proprietary plugins. This is initially being done to help fund development of those advanced features, including layers, but we hope that if it's successful, those proprietary plugins will eventually make their way into the community editions, or at least as open source code on the project's GitHub repository.

Project Website

Sometimes, all you need is a fast, easy-to-use image editor to get the job done. Photoflare is that editor.

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