Working in the Open-Source World

I bet many of you picture woodworkers as gray-haired, mustache-sporting, flannel-wearing codgers.

Well, in large part, you are absolutely correct. But even though many of us came from a generation or two back, even those special few that REALLY enjoy jointing and smoothing boards by hand are unlikely to be living so far in the past that they have no use for a computer.

The rest of us, like most of the developed world, depend on computers, smart phones, and digital cameras as much as the typical teenager. Especially those of us that produce multimedia content for YouTube, etc… We all need a set software tools nearly as big as our shop tools, to get the job done.

Unfortunately, those software tools can come with a hefty price tag. I mean, Microsoft basically subsidizes most new PCs by bundling a bunch of “bloat-ware” on them, but they are limited utility applications that usually require one to make another purchase to get any use from them. Then, there is a cost for any add-on programs you might use for your shop activities, and yet more if you produce multimedia content to share, like videos, podcasts, or blog posts..

Fortunately, there is an alternative. There is an entire world of software available at little or no cost. The Open-Source software community is vary much like the woodworking community, in that it is full of people who enjoy sharing the things they love to make. And while much of this Open-Source software is absolutely free to use, and available to develop as you would like, there are rules governing how you may do so. Documents like the GPL (GNU General Public License), the Creative Commons License, or the Apache 2.0 License describe the rules under which one may use the software to which they are applied. If you want to really get into the nitty-gritty of Open-Source licensing, take a side trip to The OpenSource.org license page.

Go ahead, I’ll wait here.

OK, now that you are back, here is a list of the applications I typically use:

  • Operating System: Linux, currently Ubuntu Linux 16.04. Ubuntu is one of the easiest Linux distributions to install, uses an excellent package management system for installing software, and includes a good selection of technical and multimedia applications. It also supports a variety of desktop environments that can be tailored to a specific type of use. “MediaBuntu” is an example, as it is pre-configured with a host of software tools for producing and consuming video and audio content. At the time of this writing, I am using the “Kubuntu” distribution.
  • Inkscape: This is a Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) drawing application, excellent for artistic drawings and lettering. Functionally similar to Adobe Illustrator. I use it for things like inlay patterns and signs.
  • LibreCAD: A 2D Computer-Aided Drafting application, functionally similar to AutoDeks’s AutoCAD product. I use this to produce “measured drawings”, also known as project plans.
  • the GIMP: An excellent photo editing application. Capabilities similar to Adobe PhotoShop. Very useful for retouching or modifying bitmapped images, like digital photographs. Many of the images posted to this blog were processed through the Gimp in some fashion.
  • KdenLive: A complete video editing tool, capable of producing high resolution, feature length videos on very minimal hardware. Comparable to iMovie or CyberLink PowerDirector.
  • Audacity: A powerful sound file editor. Contains many tools for manipulating, editing, or converting various audio file formats.
  • LibreOffice: A general office suite, functionally similar to, and compatible with, Microsoft Office.

If you want to try Linux without installing it over your current OS, many distributions are available as “live” DVD images that will boot and run from an optical disk or USB memory stick. If you would like to buy a new machine with Linux pre-installed, visit LinuxPreloaded.com for a list of suppliers.

 

The programs listed above are just a small sample of the powerful tools available. The wonder of Open Source is that the entire Internet is its development group. New features, bug fixes, and security updates are produced continually. If you really want the security of a support contract, there are multitudes of companies that provide them.

Just as you might take advantage of the knowledge shared on YouTube or blogs like this one, feel free to avail yourself of the Open Source community. The advantages are many, and it doesn’t cost a thing to try (or to use!)

Until next time,

Ross

2 comments on “Working in the Open-Source World”

  1. Missy Frazier Reply

    Very informative article. Thank you for sharing your experiences with open source products.

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