Friday, May 1, 2009

Open Clip Art Library

Yesterday I was looking for a photo to throw on one of my other blogs, but I did not want to get into trouble by taking just any picture I found off the net. After wasting some time googling for clip art I remembered to add the words "open source" and quickly found what I was looking for.

The Open Clip Art Library is just what it claims to be. It offers clip art that is free for any use. I was searching for a weight loss style graphic and quickly found this little clip of a bathroom scale. It suited my needs, it was quick to access and free to use. What more could I want.

To help this project you can submit clip art that you have made, report problems or contribute to the Wiki. People like me with little or no talent can simply spread the word and let others know this resource is out there. If you are looking for clip art and want to make sure you are using something that is not protected by a copyright try the Open Clip Art Library.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Beginner's Guide To Linux

I have just been so busy with homeschooling and other activities I have not had the time to toy around with Linux like I have wanted to. I have, however, found a great site that I wanted to share. I wish I had found this before I had installed Linux, but it definitely has information I think will be helpful to all of you. Maximum PC has done a series called The Complete Beginner's Guide to Linux.

This series is made up of 4 articles starting with Finding the Right Distribution which is nice because it shares some of the various possibilities out there, including my distro of choice, Ubuntu. Part 2 is Partition and Installation and it goes through the various stages of the install. These come with easy to follow instructions and it provides graphical illustrations throughout. The next one is titled The Linux GUI which stands for graphical user interface. That basically helps you choose and use a basic window manager focusing primarily on GNOME (what I currently use), KDE (one I have started looking at) and XFCE. It does touch on a few others as well. The final article is one I plan on looking at more closely soon and it is Introduction to the Terminal. I have really wanted to start learning how to get around in the terminal more, rather than having to rely on the windows manager. I am hoping this article will assist me with that. It really does seem to be a well written and thorough piece (otherwise I would not be recommending it to you).

So if you are thinking about installing Linux, this might be a another good resource for you. Remember I have other instructional sites I have shared including a video. I find it is good to read several things before delving into unfamiliar territory. I am certainly glad I found this guide at Maximum PC. It is a blog I will continue to follow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blender 3D Creation Suite

The project we are supporting this month is Blender, the open source, cross platform suite of tools for 3D creation. My husband has been using Blender for a while now. He has some personal projects he is working on, but many times he just plays around with it to learn how it works. On his blog Normal Vector he blogged about the first model that he made, which was a gun (more specifically a Colt 1911). You have to realize he is a gun collector and a gamer so if he ever does make a 3D game he is likely to need some guns for it. Anyway, here is a sample from his blog showing the gun in progress and the completed project. I think it is pretty true to life myself!

Since then he's learned more about making clean meshes and suggested this link for beginners from the Blender Artists Forum. He will probably tell you these were rather simple, and he is currently working on making human models now among various other things. While I think this was really cool there is so much more that you can do with Blender, It is an amazing piece of software if you ask me.

Blender is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) and it runs on many operating systems including Windows. They also offer plenty of documentation for you on their Education and Help page which will enable you to learn how to use it. We think that this particular project is definitely worthy of our financial support and that is why this month we are donating to the Blender Foundation. To see some of the depth of what all you can do with this free and open 3D creation suite, check out this video. It was made using Blender!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Open Source is not just for Linux

When I began this blog I had no intentions of making it all about Linux, but since I started using Linux at that time it has sort of dominated my posting. There are, however, many open source projects that are available for Windows as well as Linux.

You may wonder why you would want to bother withan open source product if you are already running Windows. Well the answer is easy, it is still about freedom. These products are as good, if not better than their counterparts, and they are absolutely free which means they cost you nothing and they allow you to use them however you want. Why pay for products with licensing that restricts you (and your budget) when you can have these great products for free? If you are running Windows but still interested in Open Source Software here are my top ten recommendations.

Top Ten Open Source Software Products for Windows and Linux: 3 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.

Firefox - The award-winning Firefox Web browser has security, speed and new features that will change the way you use the Web. Don’t settle for anything less

GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages.

Audacity® is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems.

Blender is the free open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License.

FileZilla Client is a fast and reliable cross-platform FTP, FTPS and SFTP client with lots of useful features and an intuitive graphical user interface.

VLC media player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multicast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network.

Pidgin is an easy to use and free chat client used by millions. Connect to AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and more chat networks all at once.

Dia is a GTK+ based diagram creation program for Linux, Unix and Windows released under the GPL license. Dia is roughly inspired by the commercial Windows program 'Visio', though more geared towards informal diagrams for casual use.

Thunderbird - Enjoy safe, fast and easy email, Mozilla-style. The Thunderbird email client includes intelligent spam filters, powerful search and customizable views

Friday, March 13, 2009

Creative Commons

The Open Source movement is about freedom and it relies on the willingness of creators to share their work so that others can build upon and improve it. Of course, not all content needs to be shared completely and the creator is and always should be in control of how much of their content is shared. Creative Commons is a way for creators to open up their work to the community under their own terms. On the Creative Commons licensing page we learn:

"The Creative Commons licenses enable people to easily change their copyright terms from the default of 'all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.'

Creators choose a set of conditions they wish to apply to their work.

Attribution. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way you request.

Noncommercial. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for noncommercial purposes only.

No Derivative Works. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.

Share Alike. You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work."

So when you see these symbols, know what they mean.

To learn more visit the Creative Commons Website and watch the video below.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wine - Runnning Windows Apps Without Windows

There are so many great Open Source projects that it makes it difficult for us to contribute to them all on a regular basis. So for now, we are picking a different project each month to highlight and support. This month it is Wine.

Wine helps you run Windows Applications without having to run Windows. It works on Linux, Mac, BSD, Solaris and other platforms. For those of us who want to run Linux but would still like to use software and programs that require Windows, Wine is an essential tool.

I have already shared how Wine has helped me to install programs that would not initially run on Linux. From games for my kid such as Veggie Tales Dance, Dance, Dance, Bible Champions and Jumpstart Kindergarten, to desktop apps such as Clicktray Calendar, without the help of Wine these would not be up and running on my Linux OS right now.

Wine is also very simple to use. Most programs have an autorun script that pops up automatically when you place your cd in the drive. Since you are not running Windows this is usually not going to work. Do not worry, this does not mean the program will not run. You just have to start it manually. Go to your Home Folder (found under the Places heading in Gnome) and you will see a listing for the program that is in the drive. Click on it and then right click either on "autorun.exe" or "setup.exe" and then click on "Open with the Wine Windows Program Loader."

At this point it should start to install. Now some apps would install if I used the "setup.exe" and do nothing if I used the "autorun.exe" but in this case where I was installing Clifford Phonics, it was the opposite. Just try the other if one does not work. Once you click that the installation process continues just as it would on Windows. It really is that simple!

There is also a great program that we found after a comment was left on my last post by Dan Kegel, called winetricks. I will warn you that this is something I did not implement myself but my husband was able to use this to get a program to run that did not originally work after our initial installation with Wine! However, I did watch him and I am confident it is something that I can do as I learn to use the console more. What winetricks does is help you install some of the libraries that are required to run that particular program. It will find what library you are missing that is causing the program not to run and help you get it and install it. Then your program works.

As always, we must keep in mind that Wine is always in development so while it may not help you with all your needs, there are tools in place for you to report errors and submit your own findings. Hopefully that information will be grabbed by programmers who will fix those problems and get that app working one day. I will be addressing in my next post some of the programs that we have to live without or switch to Windows to use. Do note that I have an account at Wine and will be posting all the bugs that I come across and information on each app I try but fail to install with Wine. That is a great way to support the Wine project.

Of course another way is to financially support the work they do. Why not visit Wine at and click on Donate and give to a project that is working hard to make Linux work best for you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Linux - It just works!

I have really been enjoying getting around in Linux and I am getting used to the Gnome desktop environment. I find it very simple and easy to use and I am learning my way around rather quickly I think. I was not only amazed at how easy the installation process was, I have been really impressed at how intuitive it is. I was also surprised to find how things just seemed to work when I needed them.

The first time I needed to print something I had my husband on standby. I was so afraid I was going to have to install drivers or figure out how to point Linux to my printer, however, I never needed my husband's help. When I went to print something my printer was already listed in the printer options. I selected my printer and clicked print and away it went!

I also tend to like to edit my printing options to save on ink. If the document I am printing is not very important I will often use the Draft option. While the menu is set up a bit differently than in Windows I was still able to find that option available when I clicked on the Advanced tab. From there I just clicked on the Printer Mode was given several options. I chose the Draft option I preferred and it printed my page for me! There was nothing to it!

Well, then I needed some photos off my camera and sure enough, when I plugged my camera in the same thing happened! It just worked! I did not need to install anything, it came with software that worked for me. When I plugged in my camera that following menu popped up!

I was really expecting Linux to be a bit more difficult, but so far it has not been. It works just great. I found that it also worked well for reading CDs and DVDs. When you insert the disk the menu pops up to choose what program you want to use to open it with. (For DVDs my install came with Totem by default but I would recommend you using the app Add/Remove programs and look for VLC Media and use it instead because I did have trouble getting Totem to work.)

I also had great success with many of the games that we had purchased for my daughter. For Christmas we had bought The Veggie Tales Dance, Dance, Dance game which also came with a dance pad. I know that many games that require Windows do not always work in Linux, and I figured that this game would be one of them. Well, it was not, it installed and worked flawlessly (thanks to Wine of course)! Other games that worked were Bible Champions, Jumpstart Kindergarten, and Jumpstart Animal Field Trip. I will be trying to install a few more in the weeks ahead and will let you know how that goes.

Getting familiar with Linux hasn't been that different from learning how to use a new version of Windows. I remember having to get used to XP when I left Win98 and I would have to learn Vista or Windows 7 if I chose to go to either of those. So if you decide that you are not interested in paying for the latest version of Windows or simply want a version that gives you more privacy and control, try Linux. If you are going to have upgrade and have to learn something new anyway, why not make it a "free" version? That is what I am doing, and so far I am extremely happy with my choice!