Eadon: Open Source Your Life part 2

There are thousands of free open source software (FOSS) programs for just about anything, so the below list contains highlights (See Open Source Your Life). I have focussed on desktop open source software. Some of the programs might not run on all platforms (Windows / Mac / Linux etc.), but there are usually alternatives for each platform. Add your fave FOSS goodies I missed in the comments.
I have added links to some of the FOSS below. A search engine will locate all products but, as with all software, there are dangerous parasite sites out there offering “installers” for some products – avoid these dodgy sites! Ensure you are definitely at the official host website of the FOSS project. Disclaimer: As always, use the information below at your own risk as we can accept no responsibility.

Every day examples

  • LibreOffice, Open Office – professional-level Office Suits, including word processor, spreadsheet, presentation package, drawing tools, etc. You can also enhance them with extensions: Libre Office Extensions, Open Office Extensions.
  • Firefox and Chrome Internet Browsers
  • Music player Qmmp
  • VLC – movie player
  • Pidgin – messenger
  • Freemind, XMind – for mind mapping
  • 7-zip (files compression, like the closed source WinZip)
  • Calibre Ebook creator.
  • TrueCrypt: encryption – stop them spying on you.
  • There are also FOSS clip board managers for better copy and paste, video editors, mobile “apps” etc. etc.

Professional level products that might have a bit of a learning curve but only because they are so powerful. Thier non-open-source equivalents have a steep learning curve also.

File Sharing (These programs are completely legitimate and are used (by users and by industry) for sharing and distributing legitimate files. If you download commercial stuff such as, say, Hollywood movies that you do not already possess then you may be breaking the law. Despite what the anti-piracy ads say, this is not “theft” because the owner has not been deprived of the product: but it is still copyright-violation).

Operating Systems

  • Linux, which comes in different flavours, called “distributions” that have different specialisations. Possibly the most user-friendly is Linux Mint. Most famous is Ubuntu Linux). The beauty of Linux is that a Linux distribution comes with a raft of superb software pre-installed (including many applications mentioned in this post). All for free. And you can install much more too, naturally. Also, Linux is secure by design (though there’s no such thing as a 100% secure operating system, of course), so Linux doesn’t need a virus checker. Another advantage of it is that it runs extremely fast and runs well on older hardware.

Where as with something like Windows you need a licence and, if you install it on a new machine, you need to perform a task called “Product Activation” – Linux is different. Being Free Open Source Software (FOSS), you are free to use it on as many machines (and “virtual machines”) as you like, for no cost. This can save your family or business a fortune and prevent you from being “audited” by the Windows copyright cops. Non-FOSS licensing is often incredibly complicated and can be open to different interpretations.

The caveat is that different operating systems (Linux, Apple OS X, Windows, etc) may be incompatible in terms of which software runs on them, but many programs are available for all (e.g. Firefox, LibreOffice).

  • Another FOSS operating system is Android (which itself is based on Linux).

Open source hardware projects

  • Raspberry Pi – dirt cheap tiny computer, prefect for education.
  • Arduino open source hardware for sensors etc.

Open information
There are many open information sites such as Wikipedia, creative commons etc, but one worth mentioning is OpenStreetmap the open equivalent of Google Maps. Skobbler is an open source iPhone satnav app that uses it. Also other free but NOT-open-source satellite navigation apps use it, such as NavFree for iPhone and Android.

Software Programming

  • Integrated Development Environment: Eclipse.
  • Text editors: Notepad++ and for the advanced user: Vi, ViM, Emacs,
  • Languages such as Java, Python, C++, Scala, Lisp, PHP, Javascript, Ruby, Lua, SmallTalk etc.
  • Nginx, Apache Web Server
  • Advanced Websites, Content Management Systems (CMS) and Blogs: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal (Drupal, for example, can host online newspapers)
  • Databases MariaDB (based on MySQL), PostgreSQL
  • FileZilla (FTP)
  • Enterprise: Linux: Redhat, SuSE Linux Enterprise, CentOS. Java stack / “LAMP” stack / Hadoop for “big data”, OpenStack for building “Clouds”.

FOSS and Openness in education is crucial. This site has the info.

Next week I’ll show you the antagonistic Open Source Wars and why the Government must move faster to fully Open Source systems: for security and to save the tax payer a fortune.

10 comments on “Eadon: Open Source Your Life part 2

  1. daz
    August 17, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    Lightzone 4 is now open source too http://lightzoneproject.org

    • James Eadon
      August 18, 2013 at 9:24 am #

      Hi Daz, I must confess I hadn’t hard of this Lightzone (which, for readers who haven’t clicked the link, is image editing software that emulates dark room photo processing), which just goes to show there are always amazing discoveries. From the site. “LightZone is professional-level digital darkroom software for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, that includes RAW processing and editing. Rather than using layers in the way that other photo editors do, LightZone lets the user build up a stack of tools which can be rearranged, readjusted, turned off and on, and removed from the stack”

  2. Bit Twiddler
    August 17, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

    That’s a good selection of software. Eclipse, GIMP, TortoiseSVN and Notepad++ are indispensible on my Windows machine at work (N++ has tons of useful plugins for programmers, including version control, syntax highlighting for hundreds of languages, FTP, a hex editor… the list goes on), while at home I’ve got a Linux box which I use for email, music, web browsing and my version of fun (little software projects, image editing and web design – yes, I know, I need to get a life).

    • James Eadon
      August 18, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      Nice one. I too am a Linux user who is sometimes forced to use Windows. I forgot to mention source control. (For the layman, “source control” allows software developers to save their code in a way that preserves all the changes they make between saves, which can be a life saver, and to collaborate on the same shared source code base). There’s subversion / TortoiseSVN (as you say) but these days people seem to be moving to Git – written by none other than Linus Torvalds, Linux creator). Subversion is probably more user friendly and Git more powerful for some kinds of project.

      • Bit Twiddler
        August 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

        Another top-notch open source project is Bugzilla. It was designed as a bug tracking system for software projects, but at my workplace (where we design and manufacture consumer electronic equipment) we’ve adapted it to function as a general-purpose issue tracking system which can be used throughout our organisation. That’s another nice thing about open source software, if you’re a coder – you can tweak it however you want.

  3. Simon Roberts
    August 18, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    Don’t know if this helps, but my (recent) experience is that Linux Mint (which I am using right now) is a bit slow on older hardware.

    On my old laptop (six years old Dell Dimension) I use Linux Lite, a cut-down version of Ubuntu with a better interface. It flyes.

    I’d also suggest Cherokee as a web server. It’s faster than Apache and comes with a GUI for configuration.

    • James Eadon
      August 18, 2013 at 9:40 am #

      Simon, I’d agree that Mint isn’t optmised for older hardware, though it’s still faster than Windows in my experience. For older Hardware one can use Lubuntu (http://lubuntu.net/) or Puppy Linux (http://puppylinux.org/). Usually the trade off is more speed at the cost of the sophistication of the UI (especially eye candy). Though may actually prefer the UI’s of these light weight distros, which get the job done nicely.

    • James Eadon
      August 18, 2013 at 10:00 am #

      @Simon, many thanks for the excellent comment by the way. Linux Lite looks good.
      Cherokee web server is great too. For non-techies, a “web server” is a software program that receives page requests from your web browser and serves fully formed web pages to them. There are many open source web servers. A popular webserver for the Java language is Tomcat. However many websites use the PHP programming language. PHP is the default language supported by most Internet Service Provders (ISP’s).

  4. concretebunker
    August 18, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Excellent article. We use a lot of the above on our Ubuntu server and pcs. We run the business on OpenErp [ find on openerp.com]
    This is a complete and sophisticated suite of software that has Accounting, Manaufacturing, CRM package, to name but a few all totally integrated. You can even link into your ZenCart website [again opensource]
    These are two cracking bit of software. OpenErp is used by some big corps in Europe – it can be scaled up to thousands of users. Highly recommended!

    • James Eadon
      August 18, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

      @concretebunker – many thanks. This OpenErp software is indeed an example of how organisations can run IT systems without needing Microsoft or other expensive, closed-source proprietary systems. It’s also an example an open source solution that the public sector should be using. I’ll provide an analysis of government (over)spending on proprietary IT systems next week 🙂

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