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Open-source software is computer software whose source code is available under a copyright license that permits users to study, change, and improve the software, and to redistribute it in modified or unmodified form. It is the most prominent example of open source development.
One advantage of open source software is that it "provides a new forum for democratic action. As individuals and companies decide where to make improvements in the system, the collective desires of the community determine the overall direction of progress, and yet without compelling anyone. People with opinions about what direction is best can urge others to join in, request help, and in this way influence the overall direction of progress, but without any elections in which the majority overrule the minority." http://eu.conecta.it/paper/Advantages_open_source_soft.html
The greatest advantage of open source software is two-fold. The greatest advantage is that it creates a forum for dialog and democratic action, and closely behind that is the cooperative methods needed to insure the project's success. From a psychological point-of-view, with the production of open source softwar the world/group/individual is forced to step back from the lower root-stem (reticular activating system) competitive drives usually used to attain success within the competitive marketplace.Thus, with cooperative driven goals in place the individual uses the higher brain centers--the frontal lobes. This is not to say that Capitalism is a great evil, on the contrary, it is capitalism that has driven the current evolution of technology (remembering that the computer age started with the hippies in the Bay area,) but the synergistic effect of cooperative behavior is something the world culture could use a little more of. Furthermore, it was the competitive drive of corporate survival the led Apple Computers to introduce what is now a cultural icon, the iPod, and more recently the new Intel based Macs. The latter has given the consumer some very high powered computing power at some prices that the PC vendors are going to have to match now. Along with a cheaper and more powerful computer being available to the consumer, we are now able to make a real decesion on what type of operating system we want to drive the new Macs...will it be Mac OS or Windows? For the first time in computer history, we now have a hardware platform that can be driven by all of the major operating systems currently in the marketplace. Clearly the choice is now in the consumers hand and "technological democracy" is finally in place. Being able to choose between the big three operating systems: Mac OS, Windows, and Linux, it only seems appropriate that we as consumers be afforded the same oportunities regarding software selection. Only Linux is currently the only free one, and within the world of computer applications only open soure software is free.
Open source software is the "radical" of the group...placing the pragmatic whims of the users first, and the eye candy second. The corporate driven apps put a lot of emphasis on eye candy, with practicality following close behind. A prime example is the new Windows Vista. Windows added some new tools, but a lot of emphasis has been place on Aero--the eye candy of the OS. With our eye on practicality let us look at some of the open source applications that are available to the consumer.
Over the years I have used many open source applications and have been using MS Word and WordPerfect since both made their way into the market place. Granted, OpenOffice may not have all of the eye candy, but it does have more than what is needed by the typical word processing end-user. Really, we as computer users need to step back and ask ourselves what do we really use in these various Office Suites. A word processor is all I personally need, and I question how many other users actually use spreadsheets, presentations, databases, and some form of publisher for making brochures. A small business may find a use for most of these apps, but the common household? I doubt it. Regardless, we as consumers have been led to believe that we need a compete office suite and like it or not, our new computer will come bundled with it whether we pay $59 or $399 for it. The current American psyche is one that beleives that we get what we pay for, and if it is free then it is not worth getting. Hogwash. Open source software is not only fully fuctional, but it is free. Here is where our renegade stereotype comes in...for it will require an adjustment of the American psyche to convince the public that yes, open source software is a viable market alternative.
Notepad ++ is light years beyond any text editor found embedded in any current operating systems, and is particulary well designed for the developer. There are numerous tools available for audio, video, and digital photography. Audacity is a great entry level audio recording tool. There are several other audio tools available. There is also the well know browser Firefox, as well as Amaya. One of the more powerful apps is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program.)
The industry leader in image processing is, and has been, Adobe Photoshop. The only real competitor of Photoshop was Jasc Paint Shop Pro, which is now owned by Corel and has been simply renamed Paint Shop Pro. Photoshop sells from $300 (students) to about $700. Besides its lofty price tag, Photoshop is also hoggish with system memory and the menu system seems infinite. Accordingly, the learning curve of Photoshop is horrendous and it is not really geared for the novice. There is a significantly watered down version of Photoshop called Photoshop Elements and its lowest price as of this writing is about $30. For $59, an individual can purchase Corel's Paint Shop Pro XI. Using both applications for my digital photography needs I have found PSP XI to be more intuitive and easier to use in general. I have not found myself not being able to do anyting in PSP that I could not do in Photoshop. The primary advantage of Photoshop is in creating Web graphics. Though when it comes to optimizing images for the Web, then nothing comes close to Macromedia's Fireworks. If one must spend money on a graphics editor with the ability to create images for the Web, then I would highly suggest Paint Shop Pro XI and Fireworks. Both apps would come in cheaper at the education discount level than an educational edition of Photoshop. But, not everyone feels the need to spend hundreds of dollars our even a couple hundred in the case of the PSP XI/Fireworks educational level. For those who need some high powered graphic editing needs there is the open source graphics workhorse: GIMP. Before making the decesion to plunk out some big cash you may want to consider GIMP. Here is an excerpt form www.gimpshop.net
"GIMP includes a full suite of painting tools including brushes, pencils, airbrush, clone, and support for custom brushes and patterns. It offers sub-pixel sampling for all paint tools for high quality anti-aliasing. It offers an extremely powerful gradient editor and blend tool.
The image size, number of images, and number of remembered undos and redos are limited only by available disk space.
GIMP offers full alpha channel support, controls for layers and channels, editable text layers, transformation tools including rotate, scale, shear and flip. GIMP can make just about any kind of graphics file format there is. Supported formats include: bmp, gif, jpeg, pdf, png, ps, psd, svg, tiff, tga, xpm, and so many others I just got tired of typing. The GIMP has a number of selection tools including rectangle, ellipse, free, fuzzy and intelligent. And it has an advanced path tool doing bezier and polygonal selections, so its easy to draw straight lines, rectangles, or even twisty curves.
The GIMP is massively extensible. It has over 100 readily-available plug-ins which allow for the easy addition of new file formats and new effect filters. And the number of available brushes, gradients, and other add-ons make the GIMP extremely customizable. Even most of the popular Adobe Photoshop brushes and add-ons also work with GIMP, (see the documentation for more details).
For users who need Photoshop quality without Adobe prices, the GIMP is hard to beat. That's not to say it is perfect. There are a few drawbacks to going with GIMP. It doesn't have nearly the documentation (books) or education (classes) available that Photoshop has.
Another is its clumsy use of windowing. Unlike Photoshop - and most other programs on Windows - the program isn't contained inside of one big "nesting" window with other little windows inside. It is simply a collection of any number of windows open at one time. It's easy to loose toolbars and even graphics by simply putting a window or two over them. That does take some getting used to. And - like Photoshop - its shear number of options and depth of control can be overwhelming to simple users who just want to paint a simple picture.
With free unlimited upgrades and community-based support, over the life of the user, thousands of dollars could be saved. But, even without that, it is just about as powerful as Photoshop, and has much more flexibility."
To run GIMP and a couple of other open source apps on Windows you will need to run this driver: GTK http://www.gtk.org/
GTK+ is a multi-platform toolkit for creating graphical user interfaces. Offering a complete set of widgets, GTK+ is suitable for projects ranging from small one-off projects to complete application suites.
GTK+ is free software and part of the GNU Project. However, the licensing terms for GTK+, the GNU LGPL, allow it to be used by all developers, including those developing proprietary software, without any license fees or royalties.
GTK+ is based on three libraries developed by the GTK+ team:
- GLib is the low-level core library that forms the basis of GTK+ and GNOME. It provides data structure handling for C, portability wrappers, and interfaces for such runtime functionality as an event loop, threads, dynamic loading, and an object system.
- Pango is a library for layout and rendering of text, with an emphasis on internationalization. It forms the core of text and font handling for GTK+-2.0.
- The ATK library provides a set of interfaces for accessibility. By supporting the ATK interfaces, an application or toolkit can be used with such tools as screen readers, magnifiers, and alternative input devices.
GTK+ has been designed from the ground up to support a range of languages, not only C/C++. Using GTK+ from languages such as Perl and Python (especially in combination with the Glade GUI builder) provides an effective method of rapid application development.
Make sure you record the names of any renamed files in case you decide to uninstall the apps. The prgram MAY rename some files, but it will not return them to their original name upon uninstalling.
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