Inspired by Jaslabs’ 10 must-have open source gifts, I have come up with what I think are some of the coolest ways that people have taken the concept of open source and run with it.
This is a list compiled from several sources. I have purposely skipped some of the obvious open source projects such as all the different Linux distributions, Apache, MySQL, etc. because these are all very well know. What I am trying to do is bring some of the lesser known gems to light so that everyone can benefit from them.
This list is not in any order so check them all out.
I know that there are a lot of things out there that I would love to be able to make myself but I just do not have the skills or knowledge. This is where fabbers come in. Basically, they are 3D printers!
Fab@Home is a website dedicated to making and using fabbers - machines that can make almost anything, right on your desktop. This website provides an open source kit that lets you make your own simple fabber, and use it to print three dimensional objects. You can download and print various items, try out new materials, or upload and share your own projects. Advanced users can modify and improve the fabber itself.
RepRap is short for Replicating Rapid-prototyper. It is a practical self-copying 3D printer.
RepRap will make plastic, ceramic, or metal parts, and is itself made from plastic parts, so it will be able to make copies of itself. It is basically a three-axis robot with a glue gun. If it was making a plastic cone, it would lay down a quickly-hardening 0.5mm filament of plastic, drawing a filled disc. It would then raise the plastic extrusion head and draw the next layer (a smaller filled disc) on top of the first, repeating the process until it completed the cone. Conductors can be intermixed with the plastic to form circuits - in 3D even!
There are some really talented car people out there. I would be willing to bet that the could come up with some really cool ideas and vehicles when they start working with this project.
It is the goal of the OScar Project to develop a car according to Open Source principles. In our opinion, a car is not a vehicle full of high-tech gadgets. Instead, we are looking for a simple and functional concept to spread mobility. Form follows function.
Apart from that, OScar is not just a car. It is about new ways of mobility and the spreading of the Open Source idea in the real (physical) world. On this website, you will find a great community of developers and drivers who want to invent mobility anew and together.
The project started in 1999. In December 2005, it reached release 0.2. Starting in 2006, everyone is welcome to participate.
3. SourceForge and Freshmeat
The two open source meccas. If you are looking for open source projects and information, these are the two places to go.
SourceForge.net is the world’s largest Open Source software development web site, hosting more than 100,000 projects and over 1,000,000 registered users with a centralized resource for managing projects, issues, communications, and code. SourceForge.net has the largest repository of Open Source code and applications available on the Internet, and hosts more Open Source development products than any other site or network worldwide. SourceForge.net provides a wide variety of services to projects we host, and to the Open Source community.
freshmeat maintains the Web’s largest index of Unix and cross-platform software, themes and related “eye-candy”, and Palm OS software. Thousands of applications, which are preferably released under an open source license, are meticulously cataloged in the freshmeat database, and links to new applications are added daily. Each entry provides a description of the software, links to download it and to obtain more information, and a history of the project’s releases, so readers can keep up-to-date on the latest developments.
freshmeat is the first stop for Linux users hunting for the software they need for work or play. It is continuously updated with the latest developments from the “release early, release often” community. In addition to providing news on new releases, freshmeat offers a variety of original content on technical, political, and social aspects of software and programming, written by both freshmeat readers and Free Software luminaries. The comment board attached to each page serves as a home for spirited discussion, bug reports, and technical support. An essential resource for serious developers, freshmeat.net makes it possible to keep up on who’s doing what, and what everyone else thinks of it.
Car navigation systems are becoming more popular. OpenTom is a customized version of Linux that runs on the TomTom GO platform.
A completely customizable OS for your MP3 player.
Rockbox is an open source firmware replacement for a growing number of MP3 players. Rockbox aims to be considerably more functional and efficient than your device’s stock firmware while remaining easy to use and customizable. Rockbox is written by users, for users.
Rockbox has been in development since 2001, and receives new features, tweaks and fixes each day to provide you with the best possible experience on your MP3 player. A major goal of Rockbox is to be simple and easy to use, yet remain very customizable and configurable. We believe that you should never need to go through a series of menus for an action you perform frequently. We also believe that you should be able to configure almost anything about Rockbox you could want, pertaining to functionality.
Another top priority of Rockbox is audio playback quality - Rockbox, for most models, includes a wider range of sound settings than that device’s original firmware. A lot of work has been put into making Rockbox sound the best it can, and improvements are constantly being made. All models have access to a large number of plugins, including many games, applications, and graphical “demos”.
You can load different configurations quickly for different purposes (e.g. a large font for in your car, different sound settings for at home). You can even customize your “While Playing Screen” to display only and exactly what you want to see when you’re playing music. In addition, Rockbox features a very wide range of languages, and all supported models also have the ability to talk to you - menus can be voiced and filenames spelled out or spoken.
6. OpenWRT, Tomato and HyperWRT Thibor
Inexpensive routers and firewalls aimed at the home user market are now plentiful. But, the software on many of these systems does not use the hardware to its full potential. These open source firmware projects extend the functionality and usability of these routers to make them work more like their expensive cousins.
OpenWrt is described as a Linux distribution for embedded devices.
Instead of trying to create a single, static firmware, OpenWrt provides a fully writable filesystem with package management. This frees you from the application selection and configuration provided by the vendor and allows you to customize the device through the use of packages to suit any application. For developer, OpenWrt is the framework to build an application without having to build a complete firmware around it; for users this means the ability for full customization, to use the device in ways never envisioned.
Tomato is a small, lean and simple replacement firmware for Linksys’ WRT54G/GL/GS and Buffalo WHR-G54S/WHR-HP-G54 routers. It features a new easy to use GUI, a new bandwidth usage monitor, more advanced QOS and access restrictions, enables new wireless features such as WDS and wireless client modes, raises the limits on maximum connections for P2P, allows you to run your custom scripts or telnet/ssh in and do all sorts of things like re-program the SES/AOSS button, adds wireless site survey to see your wifi neighbors, and more.
HyperWRT is a GPL firmware project for the Linksys WRT54G/WRT54GL/WRT54GS and WRTSL54GS wireless routers based on the latest stock Linksys firmware. The original goal of the HyperWRT project was to add a set of features–such as power boost–to the Linux-based Linksys firmware, extending its possibilities but staying close to the official firmware. Over time, it has continued to be updated with newer Linksys firmware, and incorporated many more features typically found in enterprise routing equipment.
7. Neuros OSD
The ability to combine my stereo with my MP3 player with my VCR with my cable box with my XBOX with my digital camera with my…
The Neuros OSD was created to connect user’s computer and entertainment worlds. Among many other things, this would allow users to watch video downloads and digital photo slideshows on TVs and listen to MP3s through their stereos.
Previously the choices for doing this have been restricted to two approaches: all-in-one PC-based media centers and limited, closed “embedded” devices in various forms: PVRs, digital media adapters and streaming devices.
Smartphones are cool. Open source smartphones are even cooler!
Until now, mobile platforms have been proprietary and scattered. With the release of OpenMoko, which is based on the latest Linux open source efforts, developers now have an easy way to create applications and deliver services that span all users and provide a common “look and feel”. OpenMoko also offers common storage models and libraries for application developers, making writing applications for mobile phones fun and easy while guaranteeing swift proliferation of a wide range of applications for mobile phones. With such extremely high quality open frameworks, developers will be armed with exactly the tools they need to revolutionize the mobile industry.
I kind of view this project as a cross between a notebook and a PDA.
Could also be seen as a poor man’s laptop. Not according to people from within the project. It is more along the lines of a better use of existing equipment. Being more efficient, using less power, re-using existing technology, etc.
A light, letter sized LCD or E-ink display tablet with touch screen, Wi-Fi, few GB of flash memory, decent battery life and a price of under $500 - that could be the specs of the OpenBook. The OpenBook initiative started because there is no product that would meet this requirements on the market today. The initiative’s goal is to maintain an open specifications of the OpenBook.
The Project aims literally to target “between MIT $100 laptop and a consumer Tablet PC”, which actually means design a device that would not waste both software and hardware resources and still be highly usable. Technology in usability does not change every two years to force you change the hardware. When software changes the device can be easily re-flashed gaining the new features.
One of my favorite things about the Internet is that it gives a complete nobody like myself the ability to interact with people who know an awful lot more than I do. ThinkCycle attempts to bring these types of people together.
ThinkCycle is an academic, non-profit initiative engaged in supporting distributed collaboration towards design challenges among underserved communities and the environment. ThinkCycle seeks to create a culture of open-source design innovation, with ongoing collaboration among individuals, communities and organizations around the world.
You can think of this like an open source franchise.
Adafruit Industries is an open source business project by Limor Fried and Phillip Torrone. Phil (MAKE magazine) etched his Powerbook a year ago and thought it would be fun to do others and later spent an entire weekend etching hundreds of devices - Limor (Adafruit) thinks it’s a good idea to do open source businesses and cuts arcylic for the x0xb0x open source MIDI synth kit.
We are publishing how to use the high powered laser system, set up, techniques, business practices and templates. You could start your own laser business, we’ll even help you.
12. GoGo Board
This project tugs at the heart of all true hackers since they believe that all information should be free. GoGo board helps to teach using open source.
The GoGo board framework is a collection of open-source hardware platforms mainly aimed for educational projects. It is being designed with the following goals in mind:
- General purpose. Learners can use the board to construct robots, measure and log environmental data, conduct scientific investigations, create game controllers, build interactive art installations, and much more.
- Openness. We try to open as much as we can the design of both the hardware and software components. Hopefully, this will make it possible for anyone to modify the board to fit their particular needs.
- Easy construction. The GoGo Board is designed using large printed circuit board pads and components for easy soldering. There are no small surface-mount components that often require soldering experience and specialized tools. Moreover, the printed circuit board (PCB) is designed with large traces , therefore making its creation possible with low-cost, commercially-available PCB construction kits.
- Simple components. We purposely choose parts that are relatively easy to find in electronics stores around the world. We have been able to build boards using parts bought entirely in the USA, Brazil, or Thailand.
- Low cost. We try to minimize the number of required components to reduce cost. Also, as the parts are easy to find, they are normally cheap as well.
I remember trying to make root beer when I was a kid using an extract. The results were disastrous. But, you may be lucky and come up with better results when you make these open source beverages.
OpenCola is a brand of cola unique in that the instructions for making it are freely available and modifiable. Anybody can make the drink, and anyone can modify and improve on the recipe as long as they, too, license their recipe under the GNU General Public License.
Although originally intended as a promotional tool to explain free software / open source software, the drink took on a life of its own and 150,000 cans were sold. The Toronto-based company Opencola founded by Grad Conn, Cory Doctorow and John Henson became better known for the drink than the software it was supposed to promote. Laird Brown, the company’s senior strategist, attributes its success to a widespread mistrust of big corporations and the “proprietary nature of almost everything.”
OpenBeer (Vores Øl):
Vores Øl (Our Beer) is a great tasting energetic beer and it’s the world’s first open source beer! It is based on classic ale brewing traditions but with added guarana for a natural energy-boost.
Version 1.0 is a medium strong beer (6% vol) with a deep golden red color and an original but familiar taste.
FREE BEER is a beer which is free in the sense of freedom, not in the sense of free beer.
The project, originally conceived by Copenhagen-based artist collective Superflex and students at the Copenhagen IT University, applies modern free software / open source methods to a traditional real-world product - namely the alcoholic beverage loved and enjoyed globally, and commonly known as beer.
FREE BEER is based on classic ale brewing traditions, but with addded Guaraná for a natural energy boost. The recipe and branding elements of FREE BEER is published under a Creative Commons (Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5) license, which means that anyone can use the recipe to brew their own FREE BEER or create a derivative of the recipe. Anyone is free to earn money from FREE BEER, but they must publish the recipe under the same license and credit our work. All design and branding elements are available to beer brewers, and can be modified to suit, provided changes are published under the same license (”Attribution & Share Alike”)
When you think of the kings of computer nerds, you think of MIT. They have now made a number of their courses, not only in computer science, available under open source licensing.
MIT OCW is a large-scale, Web-based electronic publishing initiative funded jointly by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation , MIT, and generous support of the Ab Initio software company.
MIT OCW’s goals are to:
- Provide free, searchable, access to MIT’s course materials for educators, students, and self-learners around the world.
- Extend the reach and impact of MIT OCW and the “opencourseware” concept.
MIT OCW would not be possible without the support and generosity of the MIT faculty who choose to share their research, pedagogy, and knowledge to benefit others. We expect MIT OCW to reach a steady - though never static - state by 2008. Between now and then, we will publish the materials from virtually all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate courses.
We will be continually evaluating the Access, Use, and Impact of MIT OCW. With 1,400 courses published as of May 1, 2006, we are still in a learning stage of this MIT initiative and we will benefit enormously from your feedback, as we strive to make MIT OCW as rich and useful as possible for our users.
If you have a small office but would like the ability to transfer calls, call others in the office, etc., Asterisk could be the answer you are looking for.
Asterisk® is a complete IP PBX in software. It runs on a wide variety of operating systems including Linux, Mac OS X, OpenBSD, FreeBSD and Sun Solaris and provides all of the features you would expect from a PBX including many advanced features that are often associated with high end (and high cost) proprietary PBXs. Asterisk® supports Voice over IP in many protocols, and can interoperate with almost all standards-based telephony equipment using relatively inexpensive hardware.
Asterisk® is released as open source under the GNU General Public License (GPL), meaning that it is available for download free of charge. Asterisk® is the most popular open source software available, with the Asterisk Community being the top influencer in VoIP.
I’ve always likes the idea of my house knowing where I am and then reacting accordingly. OpenBeacon may be what I need.
OpenBeacon is a free design for an active RFID device which operates in the 2.4GHz ISM band. The device contains a unique serial number, but may have other information. OpenBeacon is designed as a transceiver device and therefore both transmits and receives radio waves. The intention of this project is to offer a wide range of use cases such as visitor or item tracking and wireless remote control with a free self-contained and low-cost RFID design.
17. MAKE Blog and Instructables
What SorceForge and Freshmeat are to open source software, MAKE Blog and Instructables are to everything else open source. If you are looking for some cool projects, these are the places to be!
MAKE brings the do-it-yourself mindset to all the technology in your life. MAKE is loaded with exciting projects that help you make the most of your technology at home and away from home. This is a magazine that celebrates your right to tweak, hack, and bend any technology to your own will.
Instructables is a website where passionate people share what they do and how they it, and learn from and collaborate with others. Instructables was started by the partners at Squid Labs because we needed a quick and easy way to document and collaborate on our many projects. It seemed really useful to us, so we shared it with everyone, and now it’s growing so fast we assembled a whole team devoted just to Instructables. Read more about the history…
All of the tutorials, called Instructables, on the website are free. To create a new Instructable, comment on someone else’s Instructable, or do lots of other cool things, you need to create a free account.
In major “first world” countries, we are accustomed to government being able to spend a lot of money and resources on disaster preparedness. This is a system for everyone else.
Sahana is an integrated set of pluggable, web based disaster management applications that provide solutions to large-scale humanitarian problems in the aftermath of a disaster. Our aspirations are as follows:
- Primary: Help alleviate human suffering and help save lives through the effecient use of IT during a disaster
- Bring together a diverse set of actors from Government, Emergency Management, NGOs, INGOs, spontaneous volunteers and victims themselves in responding effectively to a disaster
- Empower the victims and their next of kin and better enable them to help themselvesProtect victim data and reduce the opportunity for data abuse
- Provide a Free and Open Source solution end-to-end available to everyone
Never have to register at another website again!
OpenID is an open, decentralized, free framework for user-centric digital identity.
OpenID starts with the concept that anyone can identify themselves on the Internet the same way websites do-with a URI (also called a URL or web address). Since URIs are at the very core of Web architecture, they provide a solid foundation for user-centric identity.
The first piece of the OpenID framework is authentication — how you prove ownership of a URI. Today, websites require usernames and passwords to login, which means that many people use the same password everywhere. With OpenID Authentication, your username is your URI, and your password (or other credentials) stays safely stored on your OpenID Provider (which you can run yourself, or use a third-party identity provider).
To login to an OpenID-enabled website (even one you’ve never been to before), just type your OpenID URI. The website will then redirect you to your OpenID Provider to login using whatever credentials it requires. Once authenticated, your OpenID provider will send you back to the website with the necessary credentials to log you in. By using Strong Authentication where needed, the OpenID Framework can be used for all types of transactions, both extending the use of pure single-sign-on as well as the sensitivity of data shared.
Beyond Authentication, the OpenID framework provides the means for users to share other components of their digital identity. By utilizing the emerging OpenID Attribute Exchange specification, users are able to clearly control what pieces of information can be shared by their Identity Provider, such as their name, address, or phone number.
“MisterHouse, please turn out the lights and lock the doors for the night.” Well, not quite but getting closer!
MisterHouse is an open source home automation program. It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s entirely geeky. Written in Perl, it fires events based on time, web, socket, voice, and serial data. It currently runs on Windows 95/98/NT/2k/XP and on most Unix based platforms, including Linux and Mac OSX.
A small server for use with Linux. All types of potential here!
The KuroBox is a small-footprint Linux-based embedded platform for a personal server.
The current incarnation of the KuroBox, the KuroBox/HG, sports a 266Mhz PowerPC processor, 128MB of RAM, 2 USB 2.0 Ports, and a 10/100/1000Mbit network interface.
If you ever wanted to install an Ethernet port in your toaster, this is the project for you!
Ethernut is an Open Source Hardware and Software Project for building tiny Embedded Ethernet Devices.
Nut/OS will enable you to create very smart applications, running blindingly fast on almost no hardware.
If you love TiVo and Windows Media Edition but want to save the cost, you can build your own using the computer you have already paid for!
MediaPortal is an Open Source application ideal for turning your PC / TV into a very advanced Media Center. MediaPortal allows you to listen to your favorite music & radio, watch and store your videos and DVDs, view, schedule and record live TV as a digital video recorder and much much more. You get MediaPortal as Open Source software. This means you can help in developing MediaPortal or tweak it for your own needs with lots of innovating plugins from our great community.
If you thought that the mold in your fridge could actually produce some useful penicillin, these guys may be able to help.
If you found this post useful, why don't you buy me a cup of coffee to show your gratitude?
Dramatic recent expansion of intellectual property protection for biotechnology research tools has led to concerns that future innovation will be blocked unless action is taken to preserve access to, and freedom to operate with, those tools that are important for further research and development.
Open Source licensing is a style of intellectual property management that has evolved in the past half-decade out of the Free Software movement, initiated in the early 1980s in response to restrictive copyright licensing practices adopted by commercial software developers. The Open Source approach seeks to preserve ongoing community access to proprietary software tools without precluding or discouraging commercial involvement in their development.
“Open Source Biotechnology” refers to the possibility of extending the principles of commerce-friendly, commons-based peer production exemplified by Open Source software development to the development of research tools in biomedical and agricultural biotechnology.