Friday, December 17, 2010

The Grouch's Favorite Free/Open Source Software Programs

The Grouch is all about open source software. You won't find any Microsoft proprietary code on my computers. In an effort to show others the way to GPL or free software bliss, I've listed my favorite programs.

  1. Linux - any Debian derivative will do for me.  My current favorite is Linux Mint 10 because of its elegant look and it takes care of most of the configuration challenges for the user, followed by Ubuntu.  I could get by with Fedora in a pinch, but I don't care for OpenSuse.
  2. MythTV - a DVR application.  Used to record TV shows in HD off of the antennae or cable.
  3. PS3 Streaming Media Player - used to stream recorded TV shows, ripped movies, and mp3s from the PC through a PS3 onto the TV screen.
  4. XBMC - Media Center software.
  5. GNUCash - for those who don't want to put their financial info on the web, GNUCash is like MS Money and a sophisticated accounting program rolled into one.
  6. Dropbox - file synching with a hard drive in the cloud. 
  7. VLC (Video Lan Client) - All purpose multimedia application.
  8. Handbrake - DVD ripping.
  9. DVD::rip - DVD ripping
  10. Arista - DVD ripping, and file encoding.
  11. Google Chrome - web browsing.
  12. Firefox - web browsing.
  13. Opera - web browsing.
  14. Google Earth 
  15. Transmission - bit torrent
  16. Vuze - bit torrent.
  17. Open Office - MS Office replacement.
  18. Skype - VoIP.
  19. Google Voice - VoIP
  20. Ekiga - VoIP.
  21. Pandora - free music delivery.
  22. Filezilla - FTP Client
  23. Virtual Box - virtual machine hosting software.
  24. Audacity - audio recording and editing.
  25. Thunderbird - email client.
  26. Pidgin - IM client
  27. Eclipse - software IDE
  28. GIMP - image manipulation program similar to photoshop
  29. Inkscape - vector drawing program and book cover design
  30. LaTex - typesetting program I use to format books
  31. Texmaker - LaTex editor
  32. Lyx - WYSIWYG LaTex editor
  33. Scribus - Desktop publishing and book cover design
  34. MPlayer - All purpose multimedia application.
  35. Calibre - ebook reader.


  1. My views on GPL are mixed. I don't like the attitude of the guys who blame Linux's small market share on "dumb users" and tell everyone to "change the source code if you don't like it" or "RTFM". You can see some of this attitude in software like Pidgin, where you need to install a plugin to be notified of updates (like most users are really going to go through the trouble). Not everyone is a computer geek. I've seen this attitude slowly changing for the better, though.

    I originally hated Linux, but with Linux Mint 10 I am learning more and more about it. I did wish that the video support was better. Why is it when I install different video drivers that the system refuses to boot up (made the mistake of downloading drivers from or it works, but the boot screen becomes ugly? I know Linux is not specifically to blame, but it still hurts the system and results in a poorer experience.

    So far, Linux Mint 10 is the best experience that I have, and I'm starting to do more and more tasks in it. I am not a Microsoft hater and I enjoy Windows 7 overall, but for some tasks it is a lot slower than Linux, especially development-related tasks in Java.

    P.S. I tried out GnuCash, and while it was interesting, it was far more complicated than my excel sheet. I haven't found anything worth switching to, yet ;)

  2. GnuCash is a complicated, but powerful piece of software. It is much more than the average investor needs, and could easily handle running the books for a small business. I would agree that spreadsheets are easier to use.

    As far as video drivers go, if you are talking amd, I assume you must have ATI video on your motherboard or with your card. I only use Nvidia chips because the support is so much better. The ATI drivers for Linux are bugging and don't make for a great experience.

    I use Windows 7 at work. It's not bad. But I don't want to pay for it on my home computers along with office and anything else I need when I can get comparable software for free. Maybe that is just me being cheap, but I don't mind doing a little tweaking and research every now and then.

  3. That's what I've heard as well. Since I'm going to be getting a new video card soon, might go for an NVidia. If the video support is up there, I might find myself spending more and more time in linux, especially as I don't play as many games these days.

    I don't really understand why there are still so many windows-only games, what with the ubiquitousness of OpenGL, cross-platform network libraries, etc... there is really no excuse anymore, these days.

  4. I have one older PC with ATI video chips. The only distribution I've been able to get to work reliably on it is Mandriva--