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Cool Open Source Packages

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  • Cool Open Source Packages

    Here's one for the 3-D animation geeks among you. Man, I just wish Peter were here so he could ask me, "You didn't already know about this?" Or maybe he probably told me and I just forgot.

    But just in case any of you were thinking of becoming an animator for Pixar, you may want to know about an open-source tool that's out there called Blender.
    Last edited by Kathy Li; May 14, 2009, 09:22:06 PM. Reason: modified thread title
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  • #2
    Blender is in fact interesting .
    If you're mentioning Peter, we do need to mention POV-Ray. For people who don't know about that, Persistance of Vision Raytracer. It is a raytracing program and can produce some very impressive pictures. It does involve coding images, but it is interesting to look at even if that doesn't immediately appeal to you, and either way it is worth looking at the Hall of Fame. Peter used to get people into POV-Ray.

    On a non-graphics side, the program Calibre has proven itself very useful for ebook things (even if for me personally irritating). It has the ability to turn rss feeds into ebooks, convert between different ebook versions including pdf, and can view many major ebook formats. For people who either want to work with an ebook reader, or who want to read ebooks on their computer, it is useful, and is cross-platform.

    I'm sure I could come up with more cool open source packages, but I can't think of what there is to talk about, as there is exactly one non-open source program on my laptop.
    We will remember you PM. And your little GingerBear.


    • #3
      My current favorite open source tool is GNU LilyPond, a music typesetting program. It requires "coding", rather than just plonking notes on a staff, but the basic coding is simple enough to work with, and the advanced stuff can do just about anything you want.

      My current "when the bleeding heck are you going to get around to finishing this" project is re-typesetting a 1908 public-domain edition of John Phillip Sousa's "Fairest of the Fair" and posting the results to The Mutopia Project, a repository for public domain/free license works with LilyPond source. That way, if someone doesn't like my 8.5x11 pages, they can change the settings and print off marching band-sized parts instead -- and if they find an error, they can fix it and print off a clean copy, instead of multiple photocopies of a correction.

      Some typical LilyPond source looks like this:
      fluteInC = \relative c''' {
        \clef treble
        \key ees \major
        \time 2/4
        \grace { bes16[( c d] } ees8.)-> bes16 c8 aes | bes8.-> g16 c8 aes8 | 
        g16 f ees f g8 f | ees8 r r \times 2/3 {bes16(\f c d)} | \bar "||"
        ees8 f g bes | ees8.-> d16 ees8 c | bes8. a16 bes8 g | bes4. ees,16 g |
        c8 c16 c c8 ees,16 g | c8 c16 c c8 ees,16 g | 
        c8 c c d | bes4. 
      The musically-inclined among us could probably transcribe that fairly-accurately without even checking the documentation. :-) I've also been typesetting excerpts from classical pieces and old popular songs for Wikipedia - easy and fun. :-)
      "...and that's how Snuggles the hamster learned that yes, things COULD always get worse."

      "You are the most insolent child I have ever had the misfortune to teach." "Thank you."


      • #4
        XAMPP, Eclipse, WordPress, Hugin, the Gimp. Mathmap

        Occurred to me, some of the "obvious" candidates haven't been mentioned. This would be my list.

        XAMPP is everything you need for a LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) install to run a webserver with PHP and a MySQL database. The fact that there's a portable version you can load onto a thumbdrive and run from there just makes it that much more fun.

        Since I learned to program with a terminal window and a command line, the whole concept of IDEs like Eclipse is new to me. So forgive me if I'm getting into this and it's all yesterday's news to you. I just love that version control is integrated in with everything else, and that I never have to leave the one app to get everything done. And finally, they've got all the PHP/web development/XML/XSLT stuff wrapped up in one package, and you don't have to download and install a bunch of modules that lead you into dependency hell. Eclipse for PHP Development rocks.

        Thirdly, WordPress for blogs. It rocks. You know it.

        For those among you who want PhotoShop and can't afford it, there's the Gimp.

        As a math/graphics geek, Mathmap. You need to know about Mathmap. Also Hugin, but mostly Mathmap, 'cause you can Droste with Mathmap.

        And I love OpenOffice. It won't hold you a hostage to your binary file format. This is a good good thing, when you try to look back at your writing twenty years later, and you've swapped hardware, OS, and applications in the meantime. files will still be readable even if is long gone. 'cause the files are just zipped up XML.

        You say you want to secure files on your memory stick? TrueCrypt is the app for you. It was the only cross-platform solution for encrypting files that I could find, and it works great.
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        • #5
          Ubuntu Studio; Ubuntu Sugar Remix

          I just found two Ubuntu thingies that I quite like.

          The first is Ubuntu Studio. I don't know about you, but I get frustrated at all the graphics/video/sound packages I like to have. Ubuntu Studio has nearly every one I want loaded in by default. Granted it's a lot bigger and bloatier, and needs a bigger faster box than most Ubuntu distros, but the fact that it has Blender, the Gimp, and Hugin by default charmed me, as did the fact that they included nearly every video/audio authoring tool out there, and FontForge and DTP packages, too. If you like to create media, this is the Ubuntu build for you.

          The second was more of a toy for me, but a fun one. The OLPC's XO is a really cool machine (and is what started the whole netbook thang), but one of the coolest things about it is the operating system: Sugar. It's Fedora/Linux-based, and it's kind of a Playskool Linux. Made for kids and educational purposes. And it's just plain fun to mess about with. My problem is that I didn't want to load YA OS on to my box, and the live-CD/USB stick version (Sugar on a Stick) doesn't work very well on the machine I have (the trackpad and wi-fi don't work). So, I ended up loading up the Ubuntu Sugar Remix on top of Lucid Lynx. Works like a dream.
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          • #6
            music engraving

            Originally posted by Garrett Fitzgerald View Post
            My current favorite open source tool is GNU LilyPond, a music typesetting program. It requires "coding",
            In the area of open source music engraving software NOT requiring "coding", there's the WYSIWIG MuseScore (


            • #7

              Have I mentioned git? I really really like git. Then again, I haven't played with Mercurial.

              Back in the '80s, I thought RCS was cool. But it eventually got in my way more than it helped me, and so I went to cvs, which seemed incredibly cool because it was distributed and took care of some of the worst hoops that rcs locking made me jump through. But cvs came with hoops of its own, so I thought about subversion, but then Liinus Torvald came along and said, "look, svn says they're cvs done right. There's NO WAY to do cvs right. You have to start over."

              And so there's git. Which is where the Linux kernel code development now lives. And github is also incredibly cool as a place to host your git projects. I read the O'Reilly book on git, and it blew my mind about every ten pages at how radically different the design is from the previous rcs-based systems, and how it takes the new model of "everything's distributed over the internet" these days to new levels of uber-coolness.

              A very useful tool.
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