Open Source News Design
Finding good design in open source can be hard, but it’s almost impossible to find in open source news sites. These sites take “reader hostile” to a new level. Take example “A”, Phoronix:
Go2 and Paragraphs Are Now Open Source
I see no reason to keep the code for Go2 and Paragraphs to myself. I have no plans to continue developing them, have received no requests for support, and have seen very, very, few sales over the past few months. So, as of now, both Go2 and Paragraphs are released as open source, under the MIT license, available on GitHub.
For The Public Good
I just finished another article for OStatic where I imagine what web services would be good candidates for public, non-profit organizations. The two services I came up with are search and email, both I consider essential Internet tools. I’ve wondered about the democratization of the Internet before. One thought I had was wondering about the possibility of each household owning their own “server”, or server type device that connected them to the Internet, but also became part of the Internet.
Mozilla Turns 15
Mozilla has been one of my favorite open source projects since I first learned of them back in 2002. I remember downloading the Mozilla browser, and thinking that it was just like Netscape Navigator (no surprise there), an all-in-one browser that threw in the kitchen sink, just in case you needed it. You can still download it’s descendant, SeaMonkey. Not long after, I heard about another browser they were calling Phoenix, that, as it was explained to me, pulled out just the web browser from Mozilla, and left everything else alone. I downloaded it, and it was fantastic. Incredibly fast, lean, and simple. It became my favorite right away. There was only one release of Phoenix, after that the browser was renamed briefly to Firebird, and finally, Firefox.
ArcDown - My First Open Source Project
Part of a Farmdog project I’m working on needs nice syntax highlighting for markdown. After searching around for a bit I found Ali Rantakari’s PEG Markdown Highlight project, and knew that it would be a perfect fit. Unfortunately, the code was not written for ARC, or Automatic Reference Counting, and my project was. Rantakari’s code worked fantastic outside of ARC, but inside it needed a few days worth of love and attention.
Songbird Media Player
Songbird is a very young product with a very bright future. The Mozilla based media player has come a long way since first releasing a beta, unfortunately to unseat the ruling titan iTunes, Songbird still has a very long ways to go. Songbird is open source, packed with features, and seemingly infinitely expandable through various add-ons and web integration. Also, like the rest of the Mozilla suite, Songbird is cross-platform, a point that becomes glaringly obvious the moment the app is launched.
Remember the early days of networking… before TCP/IP became the standard protocol? Well, neither do I, but I’ve read about it. That’s years ago now, but back then, each computer manufacturer developed their own method of networking their machines together, and each method, or protocol, was incompatible with the other. Apple had AppleTalk, Novell had IPX/SPX, Xerox had XNS, and on and on it went. TCP/IP was born out of the desire to create a vendor independent network, which became known as ARPAnet, and later, the Internet.
This little history lesson is meant to illustrate the tremendous advantages there are to open standards. Would the Internet exist if it belonged to a single corporation? Not as it is today, no. These same ideas can be applied to several other forms of data on the computer; images, documents, music, etc… We now have the capability to keep almost all of our data in a format that is guaranteed to provide greater flexibility, so why isn’t Apple taking advantage of it?
For example, Mail, the venerable email client that comes with the Mac, provides suitable email functionality for most Mac users. Now that I’ve got several years of email stored on my Mac, I’d like to be able to keep those files in a format that is not subject to any corporation’s whims. I’d also like to be able to drop my mail folder on another platform and be able to open it up in a different client… interoperability. Another example is iPhoto, one of my favorites. Would it really be that difficult for Apple to design iPhoto so it stores its database in a reliable, documented format that is readable (and writable) outside the application?
This goes back to a central belief I have about data, and applications. While the application may belong to its author, the data it processes belongs to me, and it should be available to me in a well documented, open format. Open formats make sharing files easier, as they are capable of being supported on more platforms
How about giving Quicktime the ability to natively export to Ogg-Theora? Or allowing iTunes to use Ogg-Vorbis as its default media format? (DRM not considered here…) Pages? Keynote? How about some Open Document Format support? I really don’t think the move to open formats would be that big of a leap. Apple already includes several open source applications inside its server offering, and has built its core data framework around XML and SQLite, so why not open the rest of it up?
The other note worth mentioning is the high profile “switch to linux” news that has been making the rounds lately. With several long time Mac supporters moving to Linux citing problems with formats and a lack of openness from Apple, it seems to me that this is a problem that could be easily fixed. I’m not calling on Apple to open source OS X, I’m not even implying that, although open sourcing a few of the bundled apps might be a good thing in the long term
The world is becoming more aware, and times they are a changin. The world is knocking, dear Apple, its time to open up.
Writing and Word Processing
A friend of mine is having a heck of a time with his new MacBook. He’s a recent convert to Macs, and as a philosophy student he spends a lot of time in Word. When he first bought his shiny new MacBook, he was surprised to find out there was no word processor in it. I pointed out TextEdit, which he quickly dismissed as not nearly powerful enough for what he needed to do. So, back to the store he went to pick up a copy of iWork ‘08, and started working with Pages.