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!

Why the Plone community is #1

Plone will always have a special place in my little geekette heart. As things change and my company starts to explore even more avenues for providing services to clients I’m reminded just how supportive the Plone community has been for the last 8 years.

As an example, last night I was on IRC struggling with customizing a search viewlet for a client skin product. I needed to add an additional drop down to the search section of the site. My python is weak to non-existent (though I’m learning little by little). Joel Burton, Veda Williams and David Glick all provided hand holding without derision or ye old RTFM. As a result I now have a custom search viewlet and a much better understanding of “subclasses” and how really works.

To be fair I’ve been in other channels where I’ve gotten help. So I’m not saying other communities aren’t supportive, but I have to say after 8  years in the Open Source realm that the Plone community is most definitely #1.