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!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Free Software Foundation - A Worthy Cause

Free software is not all about saving money. I certainly do not mind paying for the applications and games that I have purchased if they are good, but once I purchase them I believe they should actually be mine. I think it would be quite silly if I purchased a movie and was only allowed to use it on one DVD player, but no one seems to find it silly when I can only install a program or game on one computer or run it on only one operating system. Championing Open Source software is not just something I do to save money, rather it is a way to exercise my rights to use what belongs to me. If I pay good money for a product, I should be able to use it however I want. Open Source is about giving the user freedom to share, study, and modify what they own.

Since it is not all about the money my husband and I have decided to increase our financial support to more of the Open Source projects that we believe in. Once a month we will pick a project we think is worthy and give them our financial support. I will then highlight them here so that others can learn about what they are doing. Since I am just really beginning to seriously explore Open Source we thought we would start the year off by highlighting and donating to the Free Software Foundation. The main goal of the FSF to is fight for the freedoms of computer users like myself. Here are some excerpts from their website that explain exactly what they do.

"The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a 501(c)3 donor supported charity founded in 1985 and based in Boston, MA, USA. The FSF has a worldwide mission to promote computer user freedom and to defend the rights of all free software users.

"The FSF maintains the Free Software Definition - to show clearly what must be true about a particular software program for it to be considered free software."

"The FSF sponsors the GNU project the ongoing effort to provide a complete operating system licensed as free software. "

"The FSF holds copyright on a large proportion of the GNU operating system, and other free software. We hold these assets to defend free software from efforts to turn free software proprietary... We do this to ensure that free software distributors respect their obligations to pass on the freedom to all users..."

"The FSF publishes the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), the worlds most popular free software license, and the only license written with the express purpose of promoting and preserving software freedom."

There are several ways you can support the Free Software Foundation, and of course financial support is always a great way to start. The FSF receives the bulk of their income from individual donors just like you and me. You can make a donation online or in the mail, or even become a member. Your membership can be paid in full or split up into monthly installments.

At the FSF website you can see this video from Stephen Fry as he announces the birthday of the GNU project. In it he explains the concept of "free" software in a manner in which I think you will understand and enjoy. I hope this will at least explain to you why I am so passionate about the Open Source movement.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Installing and Removing Programs on Ubuntu Linux

Since this guide is geared towards average users like myself who are used to Windows, I will not be addressing command line applications or how to use the console just yet. Instead this is an explanation of how to install programs inside your Gnome desktop.

In the top panel bar under the heading "Applications" you will find a list of headings for various categories of applications.

Under each one you will see that many programs have already been installed for you. You might want to take some time to see just what you have. Under "Accessories" you will find a text editor, calculator and various helpful tools like that. There are also "Educational" apps as well as many "Games." Under "Graphics" you will find that Gimp has already been installed and under "Office" you will find that you Open Office is ready for use.

Once you are familiar with the programs you already have on Linux you will see at the bottom of that list is the Add/Remove option which is where you will need to go to install and remove programs.

When you click on the list you will find there are many applications available for you to install. The first one I suggest you get is Wine for it will help you install programs that require Windows compatibility. (Please note that while Wine is an excellent resource for helping you run your software on Linux it is not able to make every program work successfully. Thankfully there are programmers that are constantly at work and if something does not run now, chances are it will work in the future.)

So to install Wine, or any other application that you find available in the add/remove programs manager, you first need to find the program you wish to install. If you know the name of it, as with Wine, you can simply type that into the search bar and it will bring up all programs with that name in it. Each entry gives a brief description of what the program does. To select a program for installation click on the box beside it so that you see a check mark next to the name. (If the program already has a check mark it means that app is already installed on your computer.)

If you do not know the name or even what you wish to install, just browse through the various categories to see what is available.

You can check as many applications as you want and it will install them all at once. In fact it will install some while un-installing others if that is what you want it to do. When you are ready to install the programs you have selected, click the "apply changes" button at the bottom. (To remove a program simply uncheck the box and then click "apply changes") It will then begin installing your new programs (or uninstalling your old ones). You will be prompted to type in your user password first. Do not let that worry you, this is just to ensure you are authorizing the installation. Once it has finished it will have a window stating that the application (or applications) has been installed (or uninstalled) successfully. Simply click close and you are done.

To try out your new program go back to the Applications list on your panel bar and look for that program in the appropriate category, unless it is configured to to be it's own category, as is the case with wine. Any programs that you install using Wine will be found under its heading.

Now you are ready to install and run your programs on Linux. I have found that some of the programs available were really great, and that others were not. You just have to give them a try to find out. The great part is that you are free to try as many of them as you like because you are now running an operating system that allows you the freedom to choose the applications you want.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Installing Ubuntu Linux Step by Step

Well, I did it! I installed Ubuntu onto a separate hard drive on my computer, so now I can either boot to my Windows drive, or my Linux drive. Right now, I am actually blogging from Linux for the first time ever!

I was actually amazed at how easy the installation process was. I installed the Cd and just followed the commands (though my husband did help me to insure that I chose to install it on the proper drive rather than accidentally losing all my data).

I had originally planned to post instructions on the actual process of installing, but it really was as easy as reading the commands and clicking the appropriate response. Besides, Ubuntu already has done an excellent job of documenting the step-by-step instructions for us. To see exactly what I did, go to their website and read their Graphic Walk-through Installation of Ubuntu.

So I will just take up where they left off. As with any installation of an OS, including Windows, the first things you should always do is update it. To do this you need to click on the updates icon (a red arrow) on your main panelbar. Now, unlike Windows, the main panel menubar in our Gnome desktop interface is at the top. On the right side of that top panel menubar you should see the updates icon. When you click on that it will install all the important updates you will need. This will take some time, but it is a very important step. Once you have completed your updates be sure to keep an eye out for that icon in the future, for just like in WIndows, it will appear anytime there are updates that you need.

Next to that arrow there might be another icon called "restricted drivers." Do not let this title scare you. All that means is that you have hardware that requires drivers that are not open source and therefore can not be supported by open source developers. It does not mean you are restricted from using the driver. To install restricted drivers just click on the icon and select the drivers you want installed and Ubuntu will take care of the rest. For more info on restricted drivers visit the Ubuntu Restriced Drivers page.

Now that we have the system installed and updated it is time to see what Linux can and can't do. That will hopefully be the topic of my next blog. In the meantime I am off to play around in Linux!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How To Install The Ubuntu Linux OS

I am about ready to install a Linux Operating System (OS) onto my machine. After much research I have decided to install Ubuntu. Not only is it the OS my husband prefers but in my research I have heard that it is one of the easiest to both use and install. It is very user friendly and their website has very easy step-by-step instructions on how to download and install it.

I found a pretty good video which instructs the average user on how to install and run Linux. In it you will notice that he mentions instructions on downloading and burning the Cd. For those who do do not have the ability or desire to burn a copy of Ubuntu (or any other distribution) they do offer to send you the Ubuntu CD free of charge, but it can take up to 10 weeks to receive it so make sure you are prepared to wait if you do that. The video also shows how to install Ubuntu but he then actually runs the Mepis distribution. I will be installing and running only Ubuntu.

I found out some great information for those of you who are still not sure you are ready or willing to commit to a full Linux OS. When you boot to the Ubuntu Cd for the first time it gives you an option to run the OS straight from the CD. This requires absolutely no installation onto your machine. You can play around in the Linux environment and get a feel for it without the risk of messing anything up and without any commitment to keep it. I did that last night and played around with it for awhile. It really did have a similar feel to Windows and it was not long before I was able to figure out how things worked. I really looked into everything on my menu and even read through some help files to learn about some aspects that were new to me. Do realize that it does run slower running it off the Cd than it would if you actually installed it though, so don't let that make you think running Ubuntu is slow. Just use it to get a feel for the environment.

Another option for those either unwilling to commit to full Linux or who simply want to run both Operating Systems is to install it inside Windows using Wubi. The Wubi installer is already part of the Cd you have either downloaded or ordered from Ubuntu. When you run the disk while in Windows it will give you an option to install inside Windows. If you do this you will be able to boot to either Windows or Linux on startup and if you decide you do not like it you can uninstall it inside Windows without having done any damage.

With all that in mind I wanted to share the videos I found. The Videos below are part of a four part series from DottoTech on installing Linux fully onto a machine. No matter which option you choose, he does a pretty good job at explaining all that is involved in a way that is easy for any user to understand. If you find them helpful and want more info you can check out his Youtube page and look for the other videos in the series. I think these two cover most of the basics. If you have any doubt about it at all I really suggest playing around in the demo first and then using the Wubi to install it (although I will not be nor have I used Wubi, I have heard it works pretty reliably). This is the safest way to get some experience with Linux.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

You Don't Have To Be a Techie

I want to start this blog by specifying what my goal actually is. I am not a computer programmer, techie or even interested in the field. I am a work at home mother who uses the computer regularly, mostly to surf the net, do office work, play games, make photos and cards, and try organize my life. I am the type of person who is targeted in marketing by both Microsoft and Apple to use their products. If it were not for being married to a computer programmer I would probably have gone broke buying all the products I felt I needed to have in order to perform all the functions necessary on my computer. I would have Windows Vista on my PC, or even gotten a more expensive Mac thinking those were my best options. I would have purchased Microsoft Office not knowing that there was a free and compatible alternative program available. I would have also had to buy Adobe Photoshop (or other such product) to make my graphics and I would be using a slower, more vulnerable browser to surf the web. I am amazed at how much free software is out there and even more amazed that so few people know about it.

My goal is simply to help the average user begin to understand that "Open Source Software" is available to them and why it is in their best interest to use it. One very appealing reason to use it is the amount of money it will save you. Why would anyone want to pay $100+ for an office suite when you get one just as good (or even better) for FREE? It makes no sense to me. Yet still people either are not aware that they have the option or they are too afraid to try something new. If a person already knows how to use MSOffice they generally want to stick with what they know (that was my initial response), yet for the most part the Open Source products are not generally all that different from their expensive counterparts. They may appear to be different at first, but once you get used to the new product you often find that it is not only as good as what you were used to, but it is often superior in many ways.

Of course, my goal is not simply to save people money, I do have some ulterior motives as well. It is my personal desire to leave Windows all together. I wish I never had to use it, yet at this time it is all I have ever used. Not because it is the best system for my needs and not because it is the best value for my money or even because I just like it. I only use Windows because it is the only systems that some of my favorite games and programs will run on. The sad part is, it does not have to be that way. It really is not all that difficult for them to make games compatible with Linux or certain browser functions to work in Firefox. Companies simply choose not to do so. Since not very many people are using the Open Source projects they just do not bother taking the time to market to that small segment of the population. For the most part they know that most people will give in and did like I do and fork over the extra money for Windows because we really want that game, or service bad enough. Well, I am done giving in.

There are actually some positive changes going on. The market shares are starting to shift. Just last Month Microsoft's Internet Explorer dropped to 68% of the market while Firefox climbed to over 21%. If that trend keeps up more websites will be forced to make all of their applications compatible with Firefox. The trend for a change in Operating Systems is moving much slower. While Linux is the third leading operating system, it still has less than 1% of the market share. Remember, that is not because Linux is not as good as Windows, but because it requires the user to have more skill and knowledge (which can be easily obtained) and because most programs are not currently made to be compatible in it. These are obstacles that can be overcome, in time, and you can help us do it.

So that is why I am here. To prove to you that you can and should support the Open Source movement. Not only will Open Source save you money, but it will give you power too. See, Open Source is not just free in terms of money, but in terms of knowledge as well. With Open Source products you actually have control of your own computer in how it runs and operates. Once you experience that freedom you will never want to turn to back to anything else. I am here to prove to you that you have what it takes to do it. You do not have to be a techie, a geek or even go to class to learn how to use this stuff. With the sources of these products being open to the public, that also means that you can generally find help, advice and support for them too. You just have to know where and how to look.

That is what I plan to do, help you find and discover Open Source Software. I will share info about each program I use and either write my own or share other user guides for these products. I also plan on installing and running Linux, all by myself and I will be keeping you posted about my experience along the way. So please join me as I venture off into the world of Open Source Software and share with you just how literally free and easy it can be for all of us!