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Oxfordshire Family History Society

The World of Open Source Software

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Purpose of This Page

This page provides notes and links to accompany the talk "The World of Open Source Software" given to the OFHS Computer Group meeting on February 11th 2008, by Alan Simpson. It gives a summary of the topics covered together with web addresses for the applications discussed.

Last updated 2008-05-10

Topic Details
What is Open Source Software? Copyrighted software, the licence for which permits you freely to run, to copy and to modify the software.
SourceForge.net A huge repository of Open Source projects.
Firefox The well known Web Browser from the Mozilla Organisation.
Thunderbird The well known Email Client from the Mozilla Organisation.
OpenOffice.org A fully featured Office Suite, comprising:
Writera Wordprocessor
Calca Spreadsheet
Basea Database
Drawa Vector drawing tool
Impressa Presentation program
Matha Mathematical function creator
7-Zip A File Manager & ZIP Archiver.
AbiWord A Lightweight Wordprocessor.
Gnumeric A Spreadsheet for Linux and later versions of Windows but note that it will not run under Windows 98SE and earlier.
The GIMP The GNU Image Manipulation Program, which can do just about everything you have ever thought of, to an image.
ClamWin An Antivirus toolkit for Windows, based on the ClamAV Antivirus toolkit for UNIX.
http://www.clamwin.com/     for the Windows version.
http://www.clamav.net/     for its UNIX / Linux parent.
GeneWeb A Web based Genealogy program.
PhpGedView Another Web based Genealogy program. This was demonstrated during the OFHS Computer Group Meeting on 1st August 2007, entitled "Which Family Tree Program?". A brief description can be found on this web site at http://www.ofhs.org.uk/computer-group/wftprogram.html but the dummy PhpGedView family tree for the Simpson family which was provided to accompany that meeting, has now been removed.
GenealogyJ A Cross-Platform viewer and editor for genealogic data. It is written in Java and requires the Java Virtual Machine version 1.4 or later.
Gramps A powerful Genealogy program. Primarily created to run under Linux on many different hardware platforms, but there are also versions available running under Windows, BSD, MacOS and Solaris.
Ftree A compact Genealogy program for Linux. At present this program is free to use and copy but is not Open Source. It is included here as an example of a small easy-to-use genealogy program for Linux on any PC based hardware. (It runs happily in Puppy Linux).
Life Lines Text based Genealogy program for Linux.
PortableApps.com Carry all your favourite programs and data around on a USB pen drive. Work on any Windows computer and leave no traces behind. A complete installation and menuing system and a collection of all the most popular open source applications can be downloaded from the PortableApps.com web site.
http://FreeOS.com/ A Summary of many free Operating Systems. The Comparisons page gives a good historic view of the various OS that have been developed. However this particular page appears not to have been updated recently and the whole range of Linux variants are condensed into just a single entry!
Ubuntu Currently (2008) the most popular variety of Linux for the desktop. Easy to add new applications from The Ubuntu software repository, which is divided into four components, main, restricted, universe and multiverse, based on the level of support available for that software. Ubuntu is currently available pre-installed on new PCs from several suppliers, as an alternative to Windows.

Ubuntu's On Line Documentation is particularly clear, with a unified format used both for official documentation at:
and for user-contributed documentation at:

Linux Genealogy CD A Live CD version of Ubuntu with a range of Genealogical software pre-installed. It is produced by the Gramps project mentioned above.
Xubuntu A derivative of Ubuntu using the the Xfce desktop environment and the Thunar file manager, rather than the more resource-hungry versions, albeit with more bells and whistles, found on Ubuntu itself. The result is an operating system which still feels lively on older hardware and is quite happy on a system with 128MB of RAM, whereas standard Ubuntu requires at least 256MB.
This was the operating system demonstrated on a 600MHz laptop with 128MB RAM during the talk to OFHS on February 11th 2008. http://www.xubuntu.org/
Puppy Linux A lightweight version of Linux, built from scratch, rather than being based on any other distributions. This enables it to combine the operating system and a large collection of pre-installed applications, in less than 100 MB. Ideally suited for breathing new life into an older PC.
From the Live CD, Puppy is up and running for the first time in less than 6 minutes on a 120MHz Pentium, with 56MB of RAM. By default all configuration and user data can be written to a single file on the hard disk. Subsequent boots from the live CD are then much quicker. A full install to the hard disk from the running Live CD takes around a further 5 minutes. (Compare these times with the 40 minutes plus it takes to install Windows 98SE on the same machine).
Puppy can also be run from a CD or USB flash drive if required. Flash drive writes are minimised to avoid degrading the drive, and if the PC is fitted with a CD writer, all the configuration and user data can be written back to a multi-session CD. New applications can easily be added in the form of DotPup and PET packages.
Puppy is written by Barry Kauler and is documented on his own site at:
and also the Puppy Community web site at:
Fluxbuntu Intended as a lightweight version of Linux, based on Ubuntu but capable of running on older PCs. This ambitious project is moving slowly but the current Release Candidate can be installed (with some difficulty) on a 120MHz Pentium with 56MB of RAM. Once installed the desktop appearance is extremely beautiful. However there are very few applications included at present and the response is far from brisk.
The present Release Candidate installation CD is not recommended for beginners, but this is a distribution that is well worth watching. http://fluxbuntu.org/
Smart Boot Manager This floppy disk based utility allows you to boot your computer from a CD or various other devices. It is particularly useful for older PCs in which the BIOS does not support booting from a CD.
GRUB The Grand Unified Bootloader, is used to select between, and to load the chosen operating system in most modern distributions of Linux. You may need to modify its action if for example you want to select between multiple operating systems. This page in the Ubuntu documentation tells you how.
Wine Wine is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API intended to sit on top of the X windows used by Linux and other Unix-like operating systems. This enables you to run many Windows programs under Linux, FreeBSD etc. Note that Wine is a compatibility layer, not an emulator. (The name Wine is an acronym for "Wine Is Not an Emulator"). The good news is that this means that programs will run at arond the same speed via Wine as when running natively. The bad news is that it also means that Wine can only be used on computers with i86 architecture.

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