Open Source Articles Authored by Jeff Macharyas

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May the fourth be with you: How Star Wars (and Star Trek) inspired real life tech

The technologies may have been fictional, but these two acclaimed sci-fi series have inspired open source tech.

Sweet Home 3D: An open source tool to help you decide on your dream home

Interior design application makes it easy to render your favorite house—real or imaginary.

sweet home 3D: open source house design toolI went in search of an open source solution to better illustrate what our future dream house would look like that wouldn’t hinge on my fuzzy memory and blurry photos.

Sweet Home 3D did exactly what I wanted it to do. Sweet Home 3D is available on Sourceforge and released under the GNU General Public License. The website is very informative, and I was able to get it up and running in no time.

What I learned at WordCamp about the new WordPress Gutenberg editor.

WordPress’ new content editor takes a radically different approach to designing web pages.

wordpress dropcap with gutenberg editorI recently attended WordCamp Toronto, where many of the speakers focused on Gutenberg. WordCamps are a series of one-day, community-driven, and informal WordPress conferences held around the world. Here’s some basic information you need to know.

Franz makes it easy to organize all your messages in one easily accessible place.

If you are like me, you use several different chat and messaging services during the day. Some are for work and some are for personal use, and I find myself toggling through a number of them as I move from apps to browser tabs—here, there, and everywhere.

The Franz website explains, “Being part of different communities often requires you to use different messaging platforms. You end up with lots of different apps and browser windows trying to stay on top of your messages and chats. Driven by that, we built Franz, a one-step solution to the problem.”

Open source SVG: The writing is on the wall

open source svg import for wordpressAnimating text and objects on web pages is a great way to build user interest and engagement. There are several ways to achieve this, such as a video embed, an animated GIF, or a slideshow—but you can also use scalable vector graphics (SVG). An SVG image is different from, say, a JPG, because it is scalable without losing its resolution. A vector image is created by points, not dots, so no matter how large it gets, it will not lose its resolution or pixelate. An example of a good use of scalable, static images would be logos on websites.

Learn how to tell a story with TimelineJS.

TimelineJS 3 is an open source storytelling tool that anyone can use to create visually rich, interactive timelines to post on their websites. Reid Larson, research and scholarly communication librarian at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, began searching for ways to combine open data and visualization to chronicle the history of Essex County (a county in northern New York that makes up part of the Adirondacks), in the 1990s, when he was the director of the Essex County Historical Society/Adirondack History Center Museum.


Just don’t forget the goggles and scarf.

Jenny Everywhere, by Elizabeth BealsHeard of Jenny Everywhere? Me neither, until I was looking for media to use for an open source character drawing contest I was involved in. As I Googled my way around the internet, I happened upon Jenny Everywhere. Jenny is described as “existing in every reality and being able to shift between realities.” Jenny Everywhere is also referred to as “The Shifter” and was created, according to Wintle, because there were no truly open source or public domain characters. This enables artists and writers to place the character into just about any medium they choose. There’s even a special day for people to send in their drawings and version of Jenny Everywhere every year on August 13. At, creators post their iterations of Jenny, and some have posted for years, like Elizabeth Beals, a fan from Georgia, who features her as a fiery redhead in a large red scarf.

How to edit Adobe InDesign files with Scribus and Gedit

To be a good graphic designer, you must be adept at using the profession’s tools, which for most designers today are the ones in the proprietary Adobe Creative Suite.

However, there are times that open source tools will get you out of a jam. For example, imagine you’re a commercial printer tasked with printing a file created in Adobe InDesign. You need to make a simple change (e.g., fixing a small typo) to the file, but you don’t have immediate access to the Adobe suite. While these situations are admittedly rare, open source tools like desktop publishing software Scribus and text editor Gedit can save the day.

12 fiction books for Linux and open source fans

Open Source by M. M. Frick

Casey Shenk is a vending-machine technician from Savannah, Georgia by day and blogger by night. Casey’s keen insights into the details of news reports, both true and false, lead him to unravel a global plot involving arms sales, the Middle East, Russia, Israel and the highest levels of power in the United States. Casey connects the pieces using “Open Source Intelligence,” which is simply reading and analyzing information that is free and open to the public.

I bought this book because of the title, just as I was learning about open source, three years ago. I thought this would be a book on open source fiction. Unfortunately, the book has nothing to do with open source as we define it. I had hoped that Casey would use some open source tools or open source methods in his investigation, such as Wireshark or Maltego, and write his posts with LibreOffice, WordPress and such. However, “open source” simply refers to the fact that his sources are “open.”

Although I was disappointed that this book was not what I expected, Frick, a Navy officer, packed the book with well-researched and interesting twists and turns. If you are looking for a book that involves Linux, command lines, GitHub, or any other open source elements, then this is not the book for you. (Recommendation and review by Jeff Macharyas)

Take your computer on the go with Portable Apps

Portable Apps lets you access all your go-to apps anywhere, anytime—regardless of whether you are using your own computer or not.



University students create award-winning open source projects

In my short time working for Clarkson University, I’ve realized what a huge impact this small university is making on the open source world. Our 4,300 student-strong science and technology-focused institution, located just south of the Canadian border in Potsdam, New York, hosts the Clarkson Open Source Institute (COSI), dedicated to promoting open source software and providing equipment and support for student projects.
3 open source apps for Windows

3 open source apps for Windows

When switching from one kind of computer to another, use open source tools to continue working with ease.

For me, I worked on a Mac for many years, and now I have to work on a Windows machine at my job. I really miss a few of the MacOS features, so I set out to find open source solutions to these and other Windows conundra. Here are three to get you started.

Flags lined up in a row

Creating flags with CSS and other open source tools

Some flags are symbols of countries, and some are easily recognizable, such as the flags of Canada and Japan. Others are more obscure, such as those of Sierra Leone and Andorra. But who owns the copyright to flags of the world? According to Wikipedia, “national, governmental, or historical flags are … in the public domain because they consist entirely of information that is common property and contain no original authorship.” Of course, there are flags for states, provinces, cities, and so forth. It is assumed that geographically representative flags are in the public domain and can be used freely.
How 11 open source projects got their names

How 11 open source projects got their names

Like many well-known brand names we take for granted, such as “Kleenex” or “Pepsi,” the open source world has its own unique collection of strange names that meant something to someone at some time, but that we simply accept (or mispronounce) without knowing their true origins.

Let’s take a look at the etymology of 11 such open source names.

old camera

An open source Instagram desktop photo uploader

I’ve never really been into Instagram (or Pinterest), but I needed to learn and start Instagramming. I had a few pictures from a recent event, and I was all set to upload them onto Instagram from my Windows 10 desktop, but Instagram is a mobile-driven application. I couldn’t find an upload button on the browser; I tried Chrome, Firefox, and Brave. Hmmm. OK. Let’s try the Microsoft Store and install the handy app. Uh-oh, same problem.
Teaching open source graphic design is a learning experience

Teaching open source graphic design is a learning experience

I taught ten high-schoolers graphic design using Open Source and Adobe at St. Lawrence University. Before I met my class of 10 teenagers, I made assumptions about their technical abilities. Because they are children of the 21st century, I assumed that they were born technically savvy, knew the ins and outs of the command line, and could find their way around the C drive with ease. Never assume. I had to backtrack on my lesson plan to include basic computer functions, such as finding and launching programs, filename extensions, copying files—and then finding them.
A left-handed software user's plea

A left-handed software user’s plea

Left-handed people face many challenges in a right-hand dominated world. For the 10% of us who live under their oppression, it can be maddening. In the early 20th century, my left-handed grandfather was forced to write with his right hand in school, making his handwriting completely illegible. What would great lefties like George H.W. Bush, Bart Simpson, Lt. Cmdr. Data, Barack Obama, or Bill Gates think?

At least we have advanced a little… but not enough!

Tinkering with OpenShot for video editing

Tinkering with OpenShot for video editing

Although I love using open source software, I work for an organization that relies on Adobe. Most of what I do is created in Adobe, but whenever I get a chance to branch out, I turn to open source first to supplement and enhance my work. I had an opportunity recently to do just that.
2 open source Adobe InDesign scripts

2 open source Adobe InDesign scripts

As much as we would like to use open source tools, graphic designers are expected to use Adobe software. Photoshop and Illustrator skills are expected, but for many, so is InDesign. It used to be QuarkXPress, but Adobe has become the de facto design suite of apps and resistance is futile.

For my job, I must use InDesign. For freelance work, I use InDesign, Scribus, GIMP, and Photoshop, depending on whether I am creating the artwork or starting with someone else’s work.

Open source in death and beyond

Open source in death and beyond

We all experience death and it becomes a long drawn out process of paperwork and burial rituals that we hope doesn’t weigh too much on the loved ones we’ve left behind. The open source community has given this process some thought, not surprisingly. They’ve lent their mindshare towards rethinking how to deal with that final episode of life. It turns out, not only is open source great in life, but it comes in handy in death, too.
Unleashed: Open source tech for pets and animals

Unleashed: Open source tech for pets and animals

I was talking to my cat, Donald, and he brought up a good suggestion. “Why don’t you write about open source solutions for animals?” he said. You know, he was right! Learn about some of the open source projects and tools out there that help us keep, love, and help our furry friends.
Lessons from a brief career in open source

Lessons from a brief career in open source

Follow Jeff’s in-direct trajectory of various career choices that led him to a brief career in open source to a career in higher education communications.
A look at 6 iconic open source brands

A look at 6 iconic open source brands

Look to these six open source projects who are doing branding right for inspiration and guidance.
Best of Art and design

Best of Art and design

As technology evolves, so do artists. Learn about top open source programs and tools.
pink typewriter

Tools for writing the next best seller

Want to write a book? Check out these eight great tools for starting and finishing your writing today.
Star Trek: inspiring people and their tech since 1964

Star Trek: inspiring people and their tech since 1964

Star Trek has inspired fans, technologies, and careers ever since its creation in 1964 and debut in 1966. Star Trek has, and will always be, an open source inspiration for Terrans, Romulans, Andorians, and across the galaxy.
Expensive tools aren't the only option for graphic design (and never were)

Expensive tools aren’t the only option for graphic design (and never were)

Find out how one graphic designer was introduced to open source through an advertiser and never looked back. How a mysterious “.sla” opened up the world of open source.