While often associated with Linux, Windows XP is a great Open Source platform. Open source applications run in the native Windows GUI, and when you need commercial applications or specialized (like radio) applications they are available for Windows. We have successfully ran these applications under Windows Vista Ultimate with no problems.
As the name implies, Open Source Software has the source code available, if you would ever want it. It is alsoFree Sofware. The legal difference usually only matters if you want to resell the software. For example, Apple OS X is based on Free BSD, an open source operating system. The Open Source Initiative has useful information.
There are thousands of open source applications. You are encouraged to download this software, install it on all your computers, computers at work, give it to everyone and tell them to do the same thing! Here are some of the best open source and other free software for Windows, plus a free other platforms too.
Firefox is the best browser and it’s free, open source. I always download Firefox first and then proceed to download the following applications. Download at www.mozilla.com/firefox. It’s fast and there are many free 3rd party add-ons.
Thunderbird is a great e-mail reader. Also from the folks at Mozilla. It’s atwww.mozillamessaging.com/thunderbird. All E-mail readers are somewhat complex and need to be setup with your account information.
Filezilla is a really cool FTP (File Transfer) program. If you don’t maintain a web site you probably don’t need a FTP application. Filezilla is easy to use and I use it often – but I have lots of web sites I maintain. Download at www.filezilla-project.org.
Open Office is a full featured office suite that can read and write Microsoft and other file formats. I have been using Open Office for several years and it works great. If includes Writer (a word processor), Calc (a spreadsheet), Impress (a Power Point like presentation application), Draw (a simple vector graphics program), and Base (a fairly complex database). Download at openoffice.org. I use Open Office every day and it has never failed! Why use M$ Office when this is free and works great?
AbiWord is an Open Source word processor. If you only need word processing and not a complete suite, try AbiWord. It’s easy to use but powerful. Download from www.abisource.com. I tend to use Open Office, but AbiWord worth having.
Sunbird is an calendar and scheduling application. Get organized! Download from www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/sunbird. A little rough, put works fine.
It’s hard to beat the Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign applications for power and popularity with graphics professionals. But they are expensive and like most powerful graphics applications, complex. Here are some free alternatives.
There are two main types of graphics applications – bit-map and vector. Bit-map or raster grapahics use an array of pixels (picture elements). All digital cameras are bit-map devices. If enlarged to extremes you get aliasing or jagged lines, sometimes called jaggies.
Vector software uses geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes to represent images. Since vector does not suffer from jaggies. These images are often drawn with a mouse or on a graphics tablet.
Gimp is the classic open source bit-map application. It’s very powerful and very complex. Download at www.gimp.org. You might take a look at Gimp Shop, below.
Gimp Shop is a Gimp hack that makes Gimp easier to use and much more like Photoshop. It’s pretty cool. www.gimpshop.com.
Paint.Net is another easier to use bit-map editor. Highly rated. www.getpaint.net. Available for Windows only.
Dia is a fun diagram creation program. It has a wide variety of built-in symbols, scientific, business and even jig saw puzzles. www.live.gnome.org/Dia.
Inkscape is a full featured vector graphics creation program. The web site has tutorials and documentation. www.inkscape.org.
Audio and Video Applications
VLC Media Player will play back virtually any audio or video file format plus CD’s and DVD’s too. Super easy to use, it is a must have application. Get it at www.videolan.org/vlc. I use it a lot.
Audacity will let you record audio. It’s fairly easy to use but powerful. If you are not into recording or editing audio, you don’t need it. Download at www.audacity.sourceforge.net.
iTunes is not open source but it is free. It does use open MP3 and AAC coding standards, has a great user interface and obviously works well with iPods. There are many 3rd party add-ons that get around some of the Applie limitations. Download at www.apple.com/itunes. Not open source, available for Windows and Mac only (not Linux).
Utility and Other Applications
7-Zip creates (packs) and extracts (unpacks) compressed, archived files. Some of the files you download from the Internet are archived and this program will easily open them. Download at www.7-zip.org. For Windows only.
Notepad++ is a text editor, a specialized word processor. I use it to write web sites and programing source code. Easy to use and handy to have. Download at www.notepad-plus.sourceforge.net. I use it a lot!
Bart PE creates a simple Windows XP boot CD with some useful utilities. It steps you through creating your own disk and is somewhat complex. Just follow the directions! You can boot on BartPE to backup your boot disk, attempt data recovery and other useful tasks. Download at www.nu2.nu/pebuilder. For Windows XP only, requires the original XP install CD and a CD burner. Not for casual users.
OS WIN CD is from the Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society. It’s an .ISO image full of the best open source Windows software. It has a great user interface that makes it easy to install applications. www.ttcsweb.org/osswin-cd. It’s large download!
BurnCDC can be used to burn the above and other ISO images to a CD. The free, but not open source download is terabyteunlimited.com/utilities.
Project Gutenberg is an impressive collection of over 30,000 free books in text form. Download them at www.gutenberg.net. Very cool!
University of PA has over 35,000 books at digital.library.upenn.edu/books.
Wikipedia is the free on-line encyclopedia at www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki.
Perl – and other open source languages are available free from ActiveState Software.
SmallBASIC – is a nice port of the BASIC language. There are lots of examples, good documentation and it also runs on Palm and Linux systems.
Ch – This C / C++ interpreter is not open source, but it’s free. Very comprehensive manual it’s good for learning and small to medium applications. It’s a great product!
MIT Open Courseware – Over 1800 courses!
Online College Classes – Search Schools and Further Your Education Online
Free Code Momma – Download free technical books.
In Pictures – Tutorials for Open Office as well as M$ Office. Funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education. Not open source.
Open Source Collections
OSS WIN – List of Open Source applications for Windows from Sourceforge. Old but useful.
Sourceforge – Largest Open Source directory on the web! All platforms.
UBUNTU – If you want try Linux, this is one of the best releases. Easy and many great features! Install it on an old PC.
Free OS – Resources and Linux comparisons.
Linux for Ham Radio
Hamshack Hack – Knoppix live Linux loaded with ham applications.
radio.linux.org.au – Radio applications for Linux