Open Source Musings The thoughts, ideas, and opinions of an open source guy

A few recommended books

Piles of books

Are you looking for some slightly different books about open source to read? Ones that aren’t technical or which don’t delve into the technology? If that’s the case, I have three books for you:

Ours to Hack and to Own — These days, it seems that the technology that we buy or use isn’t ours. Someone else controls it, or the tightly restrict how we can use it. We’re often at the mercy of large corporations which have a grip on what we see and read and hear. Is there way to take back some semblance of control? That solution could be platform co-operatives, which are the focus of the book Ours to Hack and to Own.

The book collects 40 essays about platform co-operatives, and how we can use them to promote more openness with the systems and services we use and rely upon. You can my review of the book at to learn more about Ours to Hack and to Own.

The Open Schoolhouse — A few years ago, I interviewed Charlie Reisinger for and was both impressed and moved by the work he and his team had done to introduce open source to the Penn Manor school district in Pennsylvania. In 2016, Charlie decided to pull his thoughts and experiences, and those of the staff and students works with, into a book. The result is The Open Schoolhouse.

It’s an inspiring book, not only from the angle of open source triumphing but also how open source has changed lives. Charlie tells a number of stories about how the shift to open source not only saved the Penn Manor school district a lot of money, but also helped a number of students find themselves and to achieve beyond their own expectations.

You can download a PDF version of the book, but I encourage you to buy a copy. It’s well worth the price.

The Cabbage Tree Method — The goal of this book is simple: to introduce a method of developing open source software that puts the people who will use the software at the centre of the design process. Yes, via the Cabbage Tree Method, people will actually control the design of what they’ll use.

That sounds chaotic, but it’s not. The Cabbage Tree Method, as Adam Hyde explains, is about com­mu­ni­cat­ing and col­lab­o­rat­ing with the user at the cen­tre of the process. That collaboration is led and guided by a facilitator, and the folks crafting the code will know exactly what the users want and need when they start coding.

You can read the book online or download an EPUB or a PDF version of the book.

Giving 3 slightly different applications a try

A laptop

At least, different for me.

Variety. It is, as the saying goes, the spice of life. And where can you get more variety than with a Linux distribution?

When I test drive (or do more) with a new Linux distro, I’m usually exposed to some software that might not normally look at. And that’s what happened when I recently installed GalliumOS on my Chromebook in early 2017.

As you may or may not know, GalliumOS is based on Xubuntu. It’s been a while since I’ve used Xubuntu, but I’ve always been a fan of it. Since installing GalliumOS, I’ve started using three small applications that I probably wouldn’t have normally taken a look at otherwise.

Here’s a quick peek at them.

Tagging MP3 files with gmp3info

Side view of a turntable

I have two very distinct sides. On one hand, I like things neat and orderly. And I like them well catalogued and tagged. On the other hand, I’m lazy. There are times when I just don’t want to put in the time and effort to make things neat and orderly, or to properly catalogue and tag them. That includes my music files.

Back in the day, I ripped a number of my CDs on a computer without an internet connection. Which meant that the ripping software I used couldn’t get metadata about the songs I was converting to MP3. Which meant that I couldn’t get album art or properly catalogue my music. I figured I’d do that sometime in the future. That time only came about recently — 14 years or so later. Yes, it’s not pretty …

But I have to reap what I’ve sown. Luckily, there aren’t that many files that I need to tag (add information to). For the ones that I need to tag, the question is how? I looked around and found a decent utility called gmp3info. It makes life quite easy. Let’s take a look at how to use it.

Quickly resizing images with Simple Image Reducer

A bunch of cars being compacted

Sometimes, you need to quickly resize one or more images. Why? You need one or more thumbnails, you need to resize an image for a blog post, you want to create some wallpaper for a mobile device, or you want a smaller version of a logo for a document or web page.

In those cases, firing up The GIMP is a bit of a waste. You just need to do the job quickly and, in some cases, with two or more images.

Enter Simple Image Reducer. It’s a fast, effective tool for resizing one or more images.

Let’s take a quick look at how to use it.

A few links of interest - 21 March, 2017