The Open Source Discourse

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; in this economy if you see a penny you’re going to pick it up regardless if it’s on heads or tails; and that’s a shame. Everything just costs way too much nowadays and it just keeps getting more and more expensive. What’s worse, YOU don’t get much say in how your new product or software works. So much for the old saying, “I may have to take a little crap to make my money, but I damned sure don’t have to take none to spend it” huh? When we have to pay $120 for an office program that we really wanted a few different options on; that we didn’t get with the previous version, we find ourselves pursuing different avenues. Software developers charge astronomical numbers for us to use their products. Occasionally, we will get something free, but usually runs incredibly slow and/or crashes more than a bunch of guys chasing each other around an oval, continually making left turns at 200 MPH; and to beat it all, we don’t even get to ask for certain changes. Wouldn’t it be nice to get something for free that we could put our two cents in on? Enter: Open Source! Now you see, Bo knows positive too, I’ll bet you thought I was about to drop another “end of the world” post didn’t you? You should be ashamed of yourself…ASHAMED…anyway…

If you don’t like the way your $700 photo editor and image creator performs, then there just may be a solution. It’s called Open Source Software (OSS). The easiest way to define OSS is simply, “it’s open to any and all who wish to use it and help improve it.” With OSS you have the ability to download and use it freely, and if you’re so inclined, even help rewrite the code. Maybe add the Dr. Evil laugh when you place the pig snout on your “better half’s” picture after getting reamed, because you left ONE dirty dish in the sink; thus, giving them a trump card for every argument, to be brought up from here to eternity. You know if you do that kind of thing… But by all means, don’t feel like you have to provide input just because you use OSS. It is there for you to use however you wish. With that, I’m going to give you my top 5 OSS downloads.


VLC stands for VideoLAN Client, and its sole purpose is to playback darn near anything that has picture, sound or both. Are you having trouble playing that video in QuickTime? Of course you are, nobody uses that junky excuse for a player; hell even Apple hates it. Have you tried it in Windows Media Player? If you have, I’ll bet you a double cheeseburger you’ve received one of those aggravating codec errors. All that, and you’re saying it still won’t play in either one of them? Well, what other option is there? No worries, Bo knows video as well, just drag and drop that video like it’s hotinto VLC and watch that sucker go! You can also use it to watch DVDs, Blu-Ray, stream videos, or watch that snuff film you bought from Japan that says, “This will not play in your region”. Side note: On December 18th the VLC logo – an orange cone – puts on a Santa hat and doesn’t take it off until January 1st. Now if that doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit then nothing will – except for maybe too much eggnog and an awkward moment in some fat dude’s lap at the Wal-Mart.


Do the photos of Aunt Sally – or “Big Sal” as we affectionately call her – which you took at the family reunion need about 50 pounds of Sal’s golf ball dimpled rear end airbrushed off them, before you upload that much beef to Facebook? However, spending $100-$700 for a version of Photoshop isn’t in the budget? No worries, Uncle Bo has great news! You can download a free image editing program called GNU Image Manipulation Program or “GIMP”. GIMP is a program that has many of the same features as Photoshop plus some of its own, it’s not, however, Zed’s vinyl and leather clad friend from Pulp Fiction.

NUMBER 3: Ubuntu

Your computer has crashed and you need to reinstall the Windows Operating System, but come to find out, your buddy- you know the one that thinks they are an “IT Rockstar”, because they took an “intro to computers/AA” night class at the “Y”, installed a pirated copy of Windows. You have looked everywhere and you can’t seem to find the original Operating System (OS) disk that came with the computer and the Windows product key is no longer on your machine. Don’t panic, you have a few options here; you could buy another copy of Windows, but that’s going to be expensive, or you could get a free copy of the Ubuntu Operating System. “Wait, wait, and wait! Did you say a “free OS?” I did, because unlike your “Tech Buddy”, Bo knows what he’s doing. Ubuntu is a Linux based OS and will run on just about anything that meets the minimum requirements. However, the one drawback withUbuntu is that it isn’t what the typical Windows user is accustomed to. The user interface is completely different and will take some getting used to. If you run into problems, doyou know where to find the answers? That’s right, first check Tech Corner, then go to Google if needed. If your ultimate goal is to just get online without spending a lot of money or any money, then you go with Ubuntu.


Is this You? “I’m a new college student and I have to have Microsoft Office for assignments. I know I get a studentdiscount, but it still isn’t in my budget. I mean, come on, my idea of nutrition is Ramen noodles and Natty Ice.” Don’t worry your little borderline alcoholic head there College Student, open source is here to help! (OOo) is anopen source office suite that is comparable to Microsoft Office. The biggest difference; other than the price tag, is what each program is called and a few functionality differences. For example, Microsoft Office (MSO) has Word,whereas OOo has Writer. MSO has PowerPoint and OOo uses Presentation. MSO has Excel and OOo has Calc; which is where a significant functionality difference arises. Not a show stopper, by any means, but something you need to account for; where Excel has all of those nice mathematical formulas pre-installed; Calc requires the download of add-ons to obtain this functionality. Again, not a huge deal, but knowing that bit of info, will save you a lot of confusion and headache…You’re Welcome. One of the best features of OOo, however, is you can save your documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc, in the file format associated with MSO, OOo, Google Docs and PDF. This makes it incredibly simple and versatile for other people who use MSO to open your files in their MSO.

NUMBER 1: Firefox

Internet Explorer is the number one browser… to download other browsers…RIMSHOT!!! That was, Ray not me, he loves the RIMSHOT. “That’s what she said….” Damn’it Ray this is my post go get back on your own. “Easy Pop Tart, I can take a hint….geez…I’m out!” Sorry, about that I have come to the conclusion that Ray was born without manners. Anyway, where were we? Ah, yes Firefox! When it comes to surfing the internet I prefer Mozilla Firefox. It is a fully customizable browser and there are thousands of add-ons that people like you and I create. There are so many options and add-ons for Firefox that you could write a book talking about them. They range from being able to change the appearance, to browsing more securely, to just about anything else you can think of. If you do think of it and can’t find it, then you are completely free to make and share it! Ray and I have mentioned Firefox several times, because it is just that…well…awesome. Compared to Internet Explorer, which runs like a three legged turtle with gout in two ankles, Firefox is faster than a mouse population explosion in a granary! Especially, if you take a look at Ray’s blog post about making it even faster. Do what that post says, and that pony will flat gallop.

So, there you have it. My picks for the top 5 best Open Source downloads available. Every one is 100% free to use without any kind of obligation, and with the exception of Ubuntu, you can download all these and more from


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