An article on Opensource.com caught my attention today. The article focused on developing and using open source solutions in libraries. Libraries are one of the places where openness and sharing go hand-in-hand. Why more open source software solutions aren’t found there I don’t really understand.
Take my library for instance. There are ten computers there for the public to use. These computers are running old versions of Microsoft Windows and old versions of Internet Explorer. The software is so old and antiquated that I’ve actually had problems using some web applications on these computers. The library also uses the SirsiDynix software for its ILS solution. This software offers one of the worst search I’ve ever experienced. Even if I know the title of the resource I’m looking for it doesn’t generally help in locating the resource in the database. The system also lacks a history feature so you can obtain a list of items you’ve checked out. It would also be nice if their system integrated with the state’s electronic library so that a single search would show books (and media) available locally as well as electronic versions available from the state.
I want to take a closer look at Koha and see if their ILS solution is any better. If it is I may approach my library management people with this solution. I will propose they use Linux (Fedora?) for their public computers as it will yield a more secure and better web-browsing environment at less cost. Libraries support sharing and learning and should take advantage of the sharing and learning that comes with open source software.
Cross post with Radio W4OTN blog
In the past I’ve been frustrated by a lack of Linux-supported software for programming my amateur radios. Sure, the Kenwood software that they gave you to use would kinda work under Wine but it’s Wine and who wants to operate under that? Last year I discovered a project that aimed to solve my problem. CHIRP is an open source alternative to other pieces of software that allow you to program your radios. Supporting many of the current radio models, this software allows you to create your channel list and then use that on every radio you own.
Last year when I tried the software it wouldn’t program frequencies in the 70-cm band correctly. That bug has been fixed and many features added as well. There are even static lists of frequencies one might want to include on their radio including the FRS channels, 60m channels, NOAA weather radio channels, and others. The software even interfaces with online frequency repositories making it easy to program repeaters into your radio when you are traveling to a new area.
The software is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows and is currently available in the Fedora software repositories (sudo yum install chirp).
After poking around the Indie Bound (independent book sellers) website looking for a book I noticed a button for e-books. Curious as to how that works with small bookstores I selected the link and started reading up on their eReader, the Kobo eReader.
I did a quick read on the Kobo and discovered it uses the open standard ePub file format for its books. Sure, there are other eReaders on the market that do that but how many also publish their source code repository? At least some of their code is licensed under the Apache 2.0 license! That’s fantastic, in my opinion, and makes me forget about the Kindles and other eReaders out there that beg for my money.
I’ll be doing more research on this product as my local bookstore, The Annapolis Bookstore, sells the devices and the eBooks. As I do more research I’ll report back on what I find.
I had a very difficult question get asked of me tonight on IRC. Someone I’ve never met before asked how they could get involved in open source. At that exact time I was actually writing about open source cartography which really opened my mind to the question of how one gets involved in open source. What is open source, exactly? Perhaps to many, open source is software. It’s Linux or it’s LibreOffice or it’s Firefox. Or maybe open source is much bigger than that. It’s data, it’s books, and yes, it’s code. Is it also a mindset?
So I ask my readers: what is open source and how can I become a part of it? Please leave your answers as a comment.
Earlier this morning I took a quick look on identi.ca to see what I had been missing. I was a bit surprised to see that someone had started a petition on the Whitehouse.gov website asking for more open source, specifically GPL-licensed, software to be included in our public schools. I had not seen this petition and it appears that it won’t be active for too much longer. I encourage everyone to sign the petition as this is an easy way to get the Whitehouse to recognize the goodness that is open source software.