In Open Source I trust: Top 5 projects for daily use

There are days when I marvel at how far I’ve come since 2001 when the extent of my web experience was Front Page and basic html. In 2001 I met my boyfriend and he introduced me to the wonders of Open Source. Need a word processor or spreadsheet prograqm? Try OpenOffice. How about a graphic manipulation program, Gimp is just as good as Photoshop he’d say. I was sceptical and it took me a long time to “get it” but today as I open up VirtualBox once more to work on a client site with my favorite text editor Kate it dawned on me that the utilization of Open Source on a daily basis has crept into my routine and I’m loving it.  Excuse me while I fire up Amarok here and I’ll tell you about my top 5.

Although I use more than 5 Open Source projects in my daily routine the following are the ones that get the most use and the most attention.

VirtualBox – In February 2008 I wrote this post about my foray into desktop virtualization. Since then VirtualBox has become a mainstay on all my computers and laptops. I use VirtualBox everyday for the following tasks:

  • A sandbox for trying out Linux Distros before I install. Satisfies my curiousity about up&coming distros without having to wait around for hardware resources to be available. See DistroWatch for Linux/FreeBSD Distros to try
  • Testing out new versions of Operating Systems. I tested out Windows 7 last week in a VirtualBox on my laptop without having to build a new machine to install the OS.
  • Trying out new Open Source projects before we dedicate hardware resources (especially content management systems).
  • Installing a commercial application (closed source) like QuickBooks on a VirtualBox for testing (test compatibility with your OS on a test instance without breaking your base OS)
  • Installing and testing bug trackers, server maintenance and SaaS ready applications. Examples of applications we have tested in VirtualBox include Mantis, vtiger and Nagios.

I tried all the desktop virtualization options available and I found VirtualBox to be the easiest to use and I’m still using it a year later.

Plone – Plone is a Content Management System built on the Zope Application Framework. Written primarily in Python (with a little C thrown in for good measure) this project has grown in value as the community has grown in strength. Plone was my first real involvement with an Open Source project and the Plone community is what keeps me involved. It’s open, helpful, charitable idealogy keeps me hooked. I spent 70% of my day working on client sites developed with Plone.

Firefox – As a web developer whose primary focus is look&feel the web developer toolbar in Firefox has become invaluable to me. Firebug is essential to my daily tasks, I just couldn’t imagine trying to track down a css issue or a javascript issue without Firebug. Firefox has become my primary browser and the only time I open IE is to check a client site for cross browser issues. Although Google’s Chrome browser is much lighter I only use Chrome for non-work browsing because Firefox has so many great third-party tools that help me do my job everyday.

TweetDeck – I have used TweetDeck on both Windows and my Ubuntu box. I’ve tried quite a few of the Twitter clients and Tweet Deck is the easiest and has the prettiest interface. I find it extremely intuitive and it helps me to organize tweets. I’m looking forward to even more features and functionality as TweetDeck matures.

Ubuntu – Although we have been using Debian for years on our client servers (as well as virtualization) I wanted something on my desktop that was easy to use. Ubuntu with KDE (I install kde from source, but you can get KDE on Ubuntu by downloading Kubuntu) is a great combination.  You can make your desktop OS your own through customization. Ubuntu doesn’t use as many hardware resources as Windows and it’s free.  I’m not going to lie to you, I ran into some issues with the video card and some audio/speaker issues but there are forums and tons of tons of tutorials on troubleshooting Ubuntu. I work with Ubuntu everyday in some capacity and find it’s a quality distribution and easier to pick up than most of the other distributions.

So there you have it, my top 5 Open Source projects, VirtualBox, Plone, Firefox, TweetDeck and Ubuntu. Other projects that I use on a weekly basis, Gimp, Amarok and Open Office.

If you haven’t tried Linux yet, download VirtualBox onto your Windows (or Mac), grab an iso from DistroWatch and you should be only minutes away from experiencing the joys of Open Source!

Ubuntu, baby

So I know I’m not the first and I most definitely won’t be the last to jump inside the Ubuntu “circle of love”.

My boyfriend warns me that Ubuntu may go the way of some other long-gone Linux Distro’s but I say, “pah, you pessimist!” and he just grunts and gives me that “you question my wisdom?” look over the top of his glasses. I on the other hand am very much a girlie (even at 44 years old) and I love pretty wallpapers and sexy themes and neato plasmoids that “do things”, like rotate pics of my kids or keep me updated on my twitter stream.

I don’t have enough experience to say one way or the other if Ubuntu has the staying power to outlast anything thrown at it. As a virtual noob, It looks like it to me. I’ve had a hell of a time letting go of Windows (I still have Windows on my office desktop and my hp tablet pc) I’m starting to lean more and more towards an all Ubuntu lifestyle (almost all, I like the ability to play a PC game on occasion). If *nix starts distributing PC Games for the mainstream you bet I’m dropping Windows.

I started the move to Ubuntu because after discovering Virtual Box over a year ago and installing Debian and Ubuntu on virtual machines on my system I started to use my *nix based virtual box more than my Windows host. I love to work on websites through sftp and using Kate Text Editor to work on css files (and Plone templates). Now I have Windows Vista in a virtual box on my Ubuntu Intrepid 8.10 machine, my Ubuntu machine is a week old. I haven’t needed my Windows Vista VM for a few days.
I’m getting really weird about it. Boyfriend calls it being “geeky” but last night I was up until 2am installing OpenOffice.org 3.0 and Amarok. I had broken the sound on my Ubuntu box, the boyfriend says it’s because I didn’t have any speakers connected (silly man, you weren’t there when I was on the floor plugging in one of many speaker sets I have hanging around, but ok, yes I didn’t have any speakers connected) I have sound on Ubuntu that’s all that matters. Next challenge is getting Flash working right, I can see stuff, but no sound on flash yet.

My goal here is to bring my Ubuntu install as close as possible to what I am used to but with the added stability and reduction in overall cost of a *nix based machine. My kids machines are next.

I’m a little disappointed in the “look” of OpenOffice. Shallow and selfish of me I’m sure but I can’t help but love the Mac “look” and the Windows Office “ribbon”. It appeals to my highly visual nature. I don’t like grey, partly because it reminds me of all the times my dad (a C programmer and database administrator for over 30 years) tried to get me interested in computers and programming. “hah, no way dad, I’m going to be an aaaactrrrress” (not a misspell there, that’s how you say it, with emphasis)

Flash forward 30 years, guess what I’m not 😛 I’m not a programmer and I’m not an actress 🙂 I’m a designer with a penchant for templating cms systems. Just shoot me now.

I’m “scribing” from my “Ubuntu” firefox

how geeky am I?

Firefox add-ons make me happy. I know it’s silly and it makes my boyfriend crazy. Why do you need yet another “blog” tool? Are you twittering your blog post or blogging your twitter?

ScribeFire is a blog editor in Firefox that lets me click on a small icon on the bottom of my Firefox as I work and/or surf and post to my Word Press blog. As a heavy duty user of Firebug it just came naturally. So will I post more often now that I’ve got this little reminder and a quicker way to post? mmm maybe.