Four Linux Apps Worth Downloading

Tuesday May 26th 2009 by Carla Schroder
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Linux downloads for audio, document creation, video security and Web site building.

Silly FUDwagons Roll

There is such a wealth of great Free and Open Source software applications it's almost an embarrassment of riches, and we're going to look at 8 of them in this two-part series. Yes, we keep hearing the repetitive klaxon of the tireless FUDwagon: "Linux is no good because everyone needs Adobe Flash and Reader, Photoshop, and Games". I have news for those silly FUDsters: there is a whole galaxy of great software beyond silly old Adobe, Photoshop, and gory fragfest games.

Adobe Flash and Reader run on Linux, and I'm not sure why anyone would want them. Flash is all right, but it's a closed-source application prone to security holes. Gnash and Swfdec, which are good FOSS Flash clients, both work well on a lot of sites including YouTube, though they gag on some sites. But then so does Adobe Flash, if you have the gall to be a point release behind.

Adobe Reader is for users who want a big fat bloated blob of spyware on their Linux PCs. KPDF, xpdf, and Ghostview are all excellent PDF readers, and Ghostview ignores any feeble Adobe copy protections. I have yet to find a PDF I could not read with one of these.

Photoshop? Give me a break. 90% of Photoshop users are not professionals; they have it only because they glommed pirated copies, and they feel all happy because they got an expensive program for free. They have no idea how to actually use it, and all the functionality they need is in Microsoft Paint.

Games? If the only thing a person uses a computer for is playing Windows games then Linux is not for them. Windows isn't either; they should be using a gaming console. A user who needs both Linux and Windows could do a smart thing, and that is use Windows only when they absolutely have to, and never ever connect it to any networks.

Current Favorites: Audacity Audio Recorder and Editor

Audacity is an awesome audio recorder and editor. It is licensed under GPL2/3, and it runs on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. If you're into digital audio production at all you've probably seen a lot of criticism of Audacity, calling it a toy and other uncomplimentary names. The people who say this aren't making informed judgments, because Audacity is a powerhouse that is easy to learn. It's great for turning a laptop into a portable recorder and editor, or a workstation into a high-powered recording studio. You can convert any legacy media to CD or DVD, record live music, make podcasts, convert your studio master files to all kinds of different formats, and edit recordings to your heart's content. It supports all kinds of special effects and fixits.

You can record up to 16 tracks at one time, and create any number of tracks until your computer keels over. You can edit and tweak multi-track recordings, and you can export to 5.1 and 7.1 surround. But if you're into heavy-duty multi-track mixing and studio wizardry, then Audacity probably doesn't handle it in a way that would be pleasing to you. It does not have individual per-track level meters or per-track notes and bookmarks, and it doesn't have the nice synchronization tools of powerhouse audio mixers and editors. For simpler multi-track editing it's fine.

Any audio hardware that works in Linux works with Audacity. Combine it with a real-time (rt) kernel and JACKD, the super-low latency sound server and audio router, and you have one sweet powerhouse digital audio recorder. I use it for recording my favorite band and making CDs, converting legacy media to CD, and a whole lot of other audio tasks. It makes beautiful high-quality recordings, and I wouldn't trade it for any number of fancy expensive commercial apps.

Zoneminder, Video Security

Zoneminder is an impressive security application that puts a lot of spendy commercial apps to shame. Use an old PC with a big hard drive as your security digital video recorder, connect any compatible video, IP, wireless, and USB cameras, and you're in business. You can even cobble up a system using cheapo Webcams, though you probably don't want to go too cheap like banks and convenience stores, with their blurry useless systems. (Why do they even bother?) You can have color, sound, motion sensor, and even night vision.

The Zoneminder site is extremely helpful and includes a list of compatible hardware. You can control your cameras over the network and even over the Internet, and you can have Zoneminder send you event notifications. Its feature set is comparable to the high-end commercial systems, and it can be integrated into an X10 home automation system. License: GPL.

Kile, TeX/LaTex IDE

Kile is a slick, useful integrated graphical environment for TeX and LaTex. I'm writing my next book in it and it's a huge timesaver. It has complete functionality on both the command-line and in the GUI, and you can wander back and forth between the two with no problems. It comes with a comprehensive LaTex help reference, and it has some nice tools for managing large projects like a book.

It has a lot of one-click operations such as compilation, convert to PDF, and view PDF. Plus syntax highlighting, error highlighting, and autocompletion. QuickPreview is fast for previewing selected parts of a document when you don't feel like waiting for the whole thing to compile.

KompoZer, WYSIWYG Web Editing

KompoZer is one of the nicest graphical Web-authoring programs on any platform. It supports both page editing and site management, rather like Dreamweaver except it doesn't cost a fortune (free), has FOSS licenses (GPL, LGPL, MPL), and it's fast and stable. You can switch back and forth between editing your pages manually or using the nice GUI without it getting all flustered, and it's pretty easy to learn. You can make forms, tables, templates, and insert images, sound, video. The markup is nice and clean and could teach other similar products a thing or two about clean markup.

KompoZer support a number of language packs, and even has localized user forums.

In part 2 we'll look at some more excellent, boastworthy Linux applications. I encourage everyone who uses and enjoys these to click their donation links and send them a few dollars, because nothing says "Thank You!" like cash money.

Article courtesy of Linux Planet.

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