Open source software used in this site and for my work
All of these were run under Windows. They run identically under Linux. Macs can be iffier.
When downloading for use in Windows, be sure to look for the "Windows binaries" with a .exe or a .zip extension. .Zip files need to be unzipped first (using e.g. pkzip). Then the install file, which is always something obvious like "install.exe" or "setup.exe", can be clicked to start the actual install. (Windows XP has an unzip utility as part of the operating system.)
Update Dec. 2005. I switched over to Linux (Fedora Core 3) almost a year ago now. The programs below really do run identically under Linux. Running Linux has been fun and interesting. Sometimes more of one, sometimes more of the other. One of the nicest things is how viruses slide off like I'm coated in teflon. Linux GUI frontends still aren't ready for people who are uncomfortable with using the command line or occasionally messing about with the operating system. The GUIs, (gnome, kde, both bundled with the operating system) are getting close, but they're not quite there yet. If you're old enough to remember DOS, Linux is currently easier to handle than that, and if DOS didn't scare you too much, you'll have no big problems with Linux. To me, it's worth a lot just knowing that my computer isn't whispering to Bill what it thinks of the software I'm using.
Blender 2.36 -- Animations --
A phenomenal program by Ton Roosendaal and with contributions by the community. Takes quite a bit of learning, but can take you as far as your talent will go. A copy of the documentation is a must, and buying it supports the Blender project. Online tutorials and support forums (at www.blender3d.com, and two of the biggest at www.elysiun.com and www.blenderman.org) are also essential tools for learning the program. For my animations, two tuts at elysiun: faces by Torq and clouds by Cog, were particularly useful. Also the very underlinked (and hard to find) relative vertex key tut by jeaninmontreal. Blender installs with a double-click in Windows.
Update Dec. 2005.
blenderman.org is no more! Aargh. What a shock. I
haven't studied the following links carefully, but it looks like they
have the same general info and more.
Resulting animations were converted to Flash format using a combination of Rad Video Tools by Jeff Roberts and Wax 2.0 by Satish Kumar. (It's a long story.) Flash animations were embedded using the FlashObject embed method by Geoff Stearns, except on the home page. On the home page, I'm using a script kindly provided by Jackson Cochrane (Warren86) at webdeveloper.com that allows different clips to load first, and I'm suffering from ignorance about how to put that script and Geoff's together. The core of the home page script uses Drew McLellan's flashsatay method. The flash preloader was modified from the good stuff available at Colin Moock's Flash Actionscript site http://www.moock.org/asdg/codedepot/.
Starfield image in one of home page clips modified from images of the Dwingeloo 1 galaxy by S. Hughes, S. Maddox, et al., Isaac Newton Telescope, 1994.
JAlbum 5.1 -- Web Photo Galleries --
A slick, versatile way of getting your photos on the web. By David Ekholm. Much easier to use than the one in my version of Adobe Elements (which is, admittedly, a million years old) and much more customizable. In addition to the Calochortus collection, a much larger set of plant pictures from California, Fiji (mainly orchids), and other locations, are available at Paul Kores web site. The "skin" used is Exhibit Plus 1.2. Double-click installation.
Update Dec. 2005. They're up to version 6.0, and it's even better and more beautiful. I love this program. And the skin I used is now up to version "ExhibitPlus" and is also even better.
Gimp 2.0 -- image processor --
Full-featured image processing program. Takes a lot of disk space. Installation requires gtk libraries to be installed first, but both that and the Gimp are just a matter of downloading and double-clicking. The newest stable version of Gimp (i.e. 2.0) is supposed to be free of issues when run under Windows. I've been using it for a few months [update: for over a year] with no problems. Previous versions crashed under Windows regularly, although they worked well under Linux. The name stands for Gnu Image Manipulation Program.
Nvu 1.0 -- html editor --
These pages were mostly written using a (by now) antique version of Dreamweaver. However, Nvu (for New View) has come out recently and is at least as easy to use as commercial software. It is full-featured and fast. My only problem so far has been a spot of trouble applying style sheets due, I think, to the fact that I don't know how to use the program very well yet. Definitely worth a close look. Double-click installation.
Update: Dec. 2005. After nearly a year using Nvu for everything, it meets my needs in all respects. People who want to make heavy use of Flash or other plugins without coding their own html will be happier with one of the commercial programs. All others: get Nvu. It's beautiful.
Open source "Office" software put out by Sun Microsystems and the community. I've been using it since version 1.0, and currently 1.1.2. (I see on their site that they're up to 1.1.4. In open source software, these minor version numbers often reflect major changes.) The word processing element of the suite completely replaces Microsoft's Word, and reads and writes Word formats without any issues. The Powerpoint counterpart works fine by itself, but does have conversion issues if you try to read or write MS Powerpoint files (some fonts don't transfer correctly). (At least, it did in April 2004. May be fixed by now.) I haven't used the other elements of the suite. Takes a LOT of disk space (well over a hundred megabytes). Version 1.1.4 includes an html editor that works for basic pages. Double-click installation.
Update Dec. 2005: OpenOffice has come out with version 2.0. Powerpoint conversion issues have disappeared. MSWord conversions have been completely flawless and transparent for my work. (Very long documents, but easy formatting. I use headers, page and date fields, indexes, tables of contents, formatted images, and all that works fine.) There is no reason at all any more to deal with Microsoft's silly registration schemes or anything else. OO is completely interoperable with Microsoft Office documents and a joy to use. Get it now!
And last but not least: Firefox
These are, respectively, a browser and mail program. They are so far ahead of Internet Explorer, all I can say is run, don't walk, to download and start using them (if you haven't already). Web sites come up about three times faster. For those blankety-blank sites that misbehave outside of IE, there is an extension to Firefox that allows you to view pages as if in IE (only if you're running Windows or MacOS, of course). Open source programs are currently less prone to viruses, but once the whole world is using them, hackers will attack them too, so that's not something to count on forever. Double-click installation.
All of these programs rely on contributions of time and/or money to remain viable. If you find them useful, please do what you can.