Open Source? Is It Free Software to You?

Presenter: Brian Carlson, from Chetopa USD 505.

Going over what open source is. Nothing new here (although didn’t hear “free kittens/free beer” analogy, for once). Only at the presentation to hear what OS tools schools are using.

Good point: typically a lack of high-quality support in commercial products: when you’re talking to someone overseas who reads a script and only stays on script.

with Open Source: can typically get quick help thanks to forums, user communities.

Cross-platform: usually means available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems. A lot of Open Source programs are cross-platform. 

Software mentioned:

  • Firefox: web browser, cross-platform
    • IETab extension; runs IE only sites in FF (I think). Will have to check that out for sure, for libraries!
  • Thunderbird: email client, cross-platform

  • Sunbird: Calendar client, cross-platform

  • Lightning: extension to Thunderbird that integrates Sunbird into it

  • SeaMonkey: all-in-one browser app; much like original Netscape. Includes Web-browser, advanced e-mail and newsgroup client, IRC chat client, and HTML editing. 

  • Camino: Mac-only web browser

  • OpenOffice: Office suite, cross-platform.
    • St. Paul has one-to-one laptop initiative and uses open office there, to save on licensing fees. Opens all kinds of different file extensions, including both Microsoft Office 2003 & 2007 formats; Word Perfect
    • Has extension available that allows you to import PDFs and make changes to them (not as powerful as Adobe, but still…)
    • Impress: can export to Flash in version 3
  • GIMP: powerful photo editing software, cross-platform.
  • GimpShop: GIMP modified, so the menus emulate Photoshop, cross-platform. 
  • Scribus- page layout program (desktop publishing): interactive PDF forms. Cross-platform.

  • Inkscape: similar to Illustrator and CorelDraw; cross-platform. 

  • GNU Cash: Personal and small-business financial accounting software; cross-platform.

  • Audacity: audio editor and recorder (could compose music): not as big as GarageBand, but still works great; cross-platform. 
  • Sourceforge: Includes a huge selection of open source projects that are at different levels of development.
  • Synfig: 2d animation software; cross-platform. Project hasn’t been updated in a year, it looks like. 
  • PDF edit: Free editor for PDF documents; cross-platform (but not Mac.) 
  • Wink: tutorial and presentation creation software; cross-platform (but not Mac). 
    • primary focus is on creating tutorials on how to use software. Definitely checking this one out.
  • Kompozer: Web authoring system. Uses WYSIWYG web page editing; great alternative to Dreamweaver for basic editing needs; cross-platform.
  • VLC media player: reads various formats of media files; is also a media converter; cross-platform
  • Orange HRM (Open Source Human Resource Management): commercial strength program: no charge for program, but can pay support costs
  • Moodle: course management system: similar to blackboard
  • VirtualBox: virtualisation product for enterprise or home use (LOVE THIS ONE!!!!). You must still pay for the OS license (if it’s Windows you’re installing); cross-platform
  • Linux: Computer OS; over 100 versions (see some of the popular ones below); very stable, robust and is not as susceptible to viruses as Windows. 
    • Mandriva
    • Fedora
    • RedHat
    • SUSE
    • Ubuntu: this one has become one of the most popular distros for desktop use. It has been customized for specific uses; most popular are listed below. 
      • Edubuntu: lots of education programs come pre-installed
      • Xubuntu: stripped down version: works better with older hardware
      • Easy-Peasy: customized for netbooks (my addition)
    • ClarkConnect: can be set up as server: to be Internet filter, content manager, samba server (file sharing), email server
  • I also brought up WordPress (plugged the KLOW project!), Koha/NExpress & Evergreen

Someone made a good point during the presentation: people/students have to understand basic principles before learning automated procedure/software. Therefore, does the version of software that is taught in the classroom really matter?




About the Author

Heather Braum Heather Braum is the NExpress Coordinator and Resource Sharing Librarian at NEKLS. She can be reached by phone, by email (hbraum (at), or through several online chat services (look Heather up by her email address). Visit the Staff page to learn more about when to contact Heather.