All hail open source

Ubuntu logoIt’s that time of the year again. Middle school science fair season is upon us. This year rather than filling the basement with seedlings and taking daily measurements, my son’s decided to explore the world of open source computing. Frank the younger wants to know if PCs running Linux and open source software are a viable alternative to Windows and Mac OS machines running commercial software currently in schools.

First, he had to develop a suite of comparisons – common tasks a middle school student needs his computer to do. Most of it reads like a typical home user’s needs. Web browsing, email, IM, and music playing topped the list. After compiling his list of tasks he asked me to compile a list of my common tasks. To his list I added video editing, image editing, illustration, motion graphics, and bookkeeping.

Next he needed to compile the data, so he asked me to try to use Linux for a couple of days and give him some thoughts. I found an old Sony Vaio PCG-650 with a Pentium III 600 MHz processor, 256 MB of RAM, and a 12 GB hard disk and loaded the Ubuntu 6.10 Linux distro onto it. Hey, I’m not going to risk a production machine, or for that matter, any machine that would fetch more than $25 on eBay.

Even though I’m unlikely to give up my trusted Macs, I’ve got to admit that I’ve been impressed with Linux and the Ubuntu community. For the past several days I’ve been checking personal email, preparing lecture notes on Presentation, and even doing some simple image editing with GIMP and illustration with Inkscape. Adobe’s got nothing to fear – I’ll stick with Photoshop and Illustrator, but Microsoft is another story. Office and Vista, MSFT’s $700+ of bloatware, don’t really compare that well to the open source alternatives. Factor in that whole virus, malware, adware, and spyware thing, and you get the picture. Windows is moving from a necessary evil, to an unnecessary one – at least on the home front.

On the video editing and effects front it’s another story. There are a few crude NLEs available, but I have yet to find a motion graphics and compositing tool. Apple, Avid, and Adobe are still going to be with me from 9-5 Monday through Friday.

I’d love to hear other video pros’ experiences with Linux. It seems that democratization of tools is this year’s theme. Shouldn’t Linux have a role in that?

2 Thoughts on “All hail open source

  1. Did you check out the Jashaka Project? I interviewed the founder and from what I recall, their 3.0 release will likely be a useful tool. But I haven’t tried it in practice.


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