4 Powerful Free Open Source Applications

What do you get when you take a million tech nerds and put’em together…give up?…The most epic game of Dungeons and Dragons in the history of mankind…RIMSHOT!!!! I kid…I kid…everybody knows we’d build a Death-ray…geez…Now what do you get when you take these tech pros and put them in an environment where the free exchange of ideas and the sharing of knowledge is encouraged? You get Open Source…a Death-ray…and a crap load of free software!

OSS accomplishes a lot of different things, one of which is making virtually any type of program you could ever need or want readily available to you for little to nothing – usually nothing. If there isn’t simply head over to SourceForge.net and submit a project request for it, or better yet, if you’re so inclined or just feelin’ particularly saucy, SourceForge.net also has a massive database of fully stocked source code that you can freely download for yourself to design, improve on an existing, or utterly butcher any program however you please. Why…because it’s “open”…remember up in the first paragraph when we talked about Open Source…you were still thinking about how cool a death-ray would be wasn’t you?…oh..Umm…so it’s the D & D that rolls your 12 sided dice huh? …ookaayyy…moving on…

In addition to providing us with copious amounts of free software, OSS also provides us bloggers equally copious amounts of content to write about. In fact, you may remember a couple of weeks ago Bo posted what he considers the 5 best Open Source programs out there. If you missed it, or if you are new to TC – Welcome- be sure to check that out. He hit it pretty spot on; which is the very reason I decided not to post my top 5. I would basically just be rehashing most of what Bo already had on his list. There are only a couple programs in my top 5 that would’ve been different. Instead I’ve compiled the powerhouses of Open Source; software that graduated from the OSS Chuck Norris Academy. Yes Open Source just doesn’t give out free software; they give quality software that just tends to be free as well. There is a grossly inaccurate viewpoint circulating among several people that believe OSS is nothing more than “toy” software. Don’t buy into that horse pucky, the people who believe that are more mistaken than a jury at an OJ Simpson murder trial. OSS has become staple software in the business world, and is making a very legitimate entry into enterprise network security. Before you buy into the “toy” software myth, consider the OSS we’re about to take a look at. The list that follows is Open Source tools and utilities that I use every day, so trust me when I tell you these are the real deal.

FileZilla

I transfer files to and from an ftp (File Transfer Protocol) server daily. Those of you that transfer large amount of files to a remote ftp server understand the importance of having an easy to use client available – enter FileZilla. There isn’t a single ftp client out there that sports a flatter learning curve than FileZilla does. It features a dead simple drag and drop user interface, making it extremely easy for inexperienced users to use, and is blazing fast and secure (supports FTP, FTPS, and SFTP); which in turn, makes it very popular amongst experienced users as well. FileZilla, like most all OSS, is cross-platform – meaning it will work regardless of the platform it’s on (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.). FileZilla is a seriously powerful FTP program, oh and did I mention it is free; you can go here to download it. FileZilla makes FTP simple, and it is a workhorse. This software, as far as I’m concerned, is the standard by whack any other FTP program is measured against. Does this sound like toy software to you? No, I didn’t think it would.

Blender

I’ll admit, back when I first heard there was a FREE open source 3D animation program, called Blender that was supposed to be a legitimate alternative to Maya and 3Dmax, I thought to myself, “you have to be nuttier than a squirrel turd to believe something like that!” Maya and 3Dmax are the real deal animation suites that the big boys (e.g. James Cameron for one) use to produce full length films, and design video games. I mean we’re talking about programs that run no less than $3,500 per license. While I agreed that Blender may be solid, but to compare a free version of something that costs people thousands to own – I would simply have to see it for myself . Well…I’ve seen it, and even though it still baffles me, I believe it. While Blender is not a replacement for Maya or 3Dmax, it is definitely a legit alternative to the $3,500 3D Animation Suite.

Blender is an extremely powerful 3D graphics and animation OSS. It is so powerful, in fact, that it has been used to produce full length movies. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a “toy” to me. If you’ve always said you would like to create 3D graphics and animation, but couldn’t afford the expensive software; Blender just gave you the chance to stop thinking and start doing – it don’t get much cheaper than free….just sayin’. The only caveat you need to be aware of is Blender wasn’t designed to emulate the big boys; it was designed to do things different. This makes the learning curve to learn it pretty steep. However, there is literally tons of tutorials on the web that provide all the info you will need. The only thing it will cost you is time…

XAMPP

XAMPP is an extremely powerful open source solution that makes web development readily available to even the newest of beginners. It is a web development server stack the bundles all of the most powerful open source web tools(Apache, MySQL, PHP , and many more) that are required to develop a web site or blog, and bundles them all together in one powerful centrally managed powerhouse. When it comes to web development Linux is by far the top dog…..err…I mean penguin…sorry about that Tux…; nonetheless Linux is a completely different animal, and having these services installed with one click makes life easier. To be clear, XAMPP was never designed to host a production website on the live Internet. Its original intention was to be a “sandbox for developers to test code on a local site contained on their PC before moving there code to a production environment. Actually, this is what I am using currently as my sandbox, while designing the new TC site, debuts Jan. 2nd 2012….plug over…anyway…. So, to be clear do not run out and install XAMPP with the thoughts of publishing a live site; the security settings are designed to be minimal for code testing verses site protection – a very powerful and free testing environment….but testing nonetheless.

Audacity

There are those who love music, then there are those who LOVE music. What do I mean by that? I mean there are 2 types of music lover; the listener and the creator. If you are reading this and you create music, you need to go get Audacity as soon as you’re done here. Audacity is a free open source multi-track music recording tool that allows you to mix, edit, and master your music or audio. It allows you to add sound effects, has an extensive mixer, and more. It also works with several different file formats; including .mp3 and .wav files. The download file is small and it is easy to use.

While these are but a few of the many apps with some muscle, they are a good place to start. Go get’em free of charge and if you don’t like’em then download the code and change them to suit you, because that is the beauty of Open Source. Have some other OSS applications you like to use? Drop them in the comments section and tell us all about them.

The countdown continues to the unveiling of the new Tech Corner. January 2nd Tech Corner will become Tek-Corner and have an entirely new site. You can go and check out the future home of Tek-Corner now at http://tek-corner.com. While you’re there be sure to sign up for the TC News Letter to receive special updates, tips and information that you won’t find on the site

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