Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Proprietary Software Goes Open Source

As I have never before heard of Xara (I'm not big on the graphics scene...yet), I cannot speculate about the kind of impact this news will have. However, I was excited, and am eagerly anticipating the release of the GPL'd Xara Xtreme. To read about any company voluntarily GPL'ing proprietary software, especially software that had been developed exclusively for MS Windows, is warms your heart! This event is especially significant if Xara is truly as much of a force in computer graphics as it seems to think .

This news got me thinking: Just how much does the average Windows user know about open source software? The concept seems to have the largest following among computer hobbyists and professionals, as they would be the only ones able to glean anything from a look at the source code. Most of the more popular software available for operating systems such as Linux or FreeBSD is open source as well, but these OS's tend to draw the same crowd of hobbyists and professionals. However, a great deal of open source software is available for multiple platforms making it much easier to locate a port for your Windows box.

In future posts, I'm hoping to write a brief guide on using open source software to take care of common tasks in Windows. I think some of my imaginary readers might find it useful.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Woohoo! Gentoo!

I'm finally running a distribution of Linux I think I'll be happy with. After trying first Mandrake, then Fedora Core 2 and 3, I've settled on Gentoo. All of my favorite applications are now up and running smoothly, except for Winamp which is Windows only. Once things have settled in a little more, I'll post my experiences with Gentoo. For now, all I can say is Yipeeeee! If you're not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, and you want to take the Linux plunge, you owe Gentoo a look.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

There's a Vorbis in my Ogg!

When Fraunhofer IIS introduced the MP3 audio codec to the world, the world couldn't help but take an interest. By giving people the ability to store whatever audio they may have at near CD levels of quality in a fraction of the space, MP3 quickly became a boon to anyone wanting to have access to their entire music collection without the hassle of lugging around a stack of CDs. On the flip side, MP3 became the nemesis of the recording industry as people could now easily distribute music all over the internet without paying anything to the record companies.

After witnessing the MP3 explosion, it didn't take long for other companies to look for ways to make their own mark in the compressed audio arena. Microsoft introduced its WMA format, Apple came up with a proprietary version of AAC, and Sony has its ATRAC3. Unfortunately for the masses, most of the new codecs being introduced were owned by the corporations who introduced those codecs to the world. I'll not go into a discussion of why this could be a bad thing, but I will point out that generally, corporations exist to make money.

Luckily for people like me, introduced Ogg Vorbis. Ogg Vorbis is a free and open-source audio codec for I haven't done a side-by-side listening test, so I am unable to support any claims about quality, but the web site claims that the codec can acheive the same quality as MP3 with a smaller file size. Really though, that's not what prompted me to learn more. What moved me was the open-source nature of the project. Anyone with the necessary skills can contribute and feedback is always welcome. There's also a note on the website that Ogg Vorbis will never support digital rights Management (DRM). Needless to say, I was excited.

Unfortunately, the number of portable players which support Ogg Vorbis is relatively small when compared with those that support MP3. It is growing, and hopefully, by the time I'm ready to purchase a portable player, I won't be forced to choose a player based on Ogg Vorbis support. On the other hand, the format is more widely supported by various media players, most notably Winamp. One could argue that Winamp is one of the most popular, if not the single most popular, software audio player on the planet.

For my part, I'm going to choose Ogg Vorbis over other formats once I've finished ripping all my music to the lossless FLAC format (a discussion for another day). Others may want to read up on the format first. A good place to go are the Hydrogenaudio Forums. The members of these forums have a phenomenal amount of knowledge in this area and are well equiped to perform whatever tests are necessary to compare various formats. Some may find that Ogg Vorbis needs to mature a bit more before they switch, others may want to start playing around with the format first, and still others may decide they're fine with whatever format they use now. However, I encourage everyone to at least take a look at Ogg Vorbis.

Well, that's all for now. There are many, many more topics I could write about, but they'll have to wait for future posts. I'll be putting in a new motherboard and hard drive soon, and going back to a dual boot system between Linux and Windows XP, so I'm not sure when those future posts will appear. Hopefully, it won't be as long as the time between my last post and this one!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Good Science Fiction

I was going to write this long, in-depth post about a series of books I've been working my way through. However, it's late and I desperately desire sleep. So visit the link above, or to the side, or below, or wherever the darn thing happens to be (I'm not that familiar with the layout I chose for my blog).

Oh, I suppose I should describe where you'll be going when you do click the link (and you will click the link, or unsettling things may happen to you and your loved ones...). Briefly, there was this guy who happened to be an author. He wrote a handful of books about this planet called Arrakis. Well, that's not quite accurate because it was more than just Arrakis, but the planet did play a central role in the book. That is, if you just skim the surface and don't plunge deeper. Getting back on track, this guy wrote these books, then died. Following his death, this guy's son...did I tell you this guy's name? No? Well, it was Frank Herbert...Anyway, Frank's son, Brian, got together with this other guy, Kevin Anderson, and finished the last book from Frank's Notes (I capitalize the 'N' here because Frank was such a cool guy and we need to capitalize the nouns describing his stuff, though I guess I didn't capitalize the 's' in 'son'...).

Apparently, Brian and Kevin did such a good job, and Frank's Notes were so good, the two guys went out and wrote two prequel trilogies. So now there are a total of 12 (5 + 1 + 3 + 3 = 12) books in the Dune series. Oh, and that's the name of the series, and also the name of the first book in the original series, Dune. So now these two guys have a web site for the series, with plans to write a seventh book to the original series. This web site is where the link will take you.

If you're interested, and you should be after my wonderful introduction, run to your local library, ignoring all traffic laws, throwing caution to the wind, and check out these books! Don't worry about the police, once you tell them you're trying to get the books as quickly as possible, I'm absolutely sure they'll let you go with nothing more than a warning. Ladies, remember to pout and show a little cleavage, just in case.

Ok, to sum it all up (just like I learned in school, though any of my past instructors would refuse to agknowledge they had anything to do with this abomination): Frank wrote some books, Frank died, Frank's son Brian wrote more books with some dude named Kevin Anderson, the two got a web site. You're going to visit the web site, then you're going to read the books. THE END.

Wow, that wasn't so brief after all, was it?

Oh, and it turns out the link is the title of this post. Who knew? And one more plug: Dune series by Frank Herbert = great reading, More Dune books by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson = Not as good as ol' Frank, but still great reading. Ok that's it. No more plugs for Dune.

Except this one: Dune is good...

Oh, and this one: mmmm...Dune...

Ok, no more Dune. Really! You don't believe me do you? I can see it in your eyes. And they all began to dance...