10 best (unknown) open source projects

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Chordii Songmaker

fig1humming290.jpgSource: Vromans.ORG
Figure 1: A Chordii song sheet with guitar tablature and chords.

Chordii (pronounced chord-ee-ee) takes simple text song scripts and turns them into nice printable song sheets with guitar chord tablature. (Figure 1.) The scripting markup is simple and uses standard chord nomenclature, so even the most tech-resistant artiste can learn it quickly. Chordii comes with a database of over 360 chords, and you can add your own. Then you can create a printed chord reference, with your custom chords indicated by asterisks. Chordii comes with an excellent user manual. (Linux, Windows, any platform you can compile it on.)

Virtual Moon Atlas

Explore the moon without leaving your comfy chair! The Virtual Moon Atlas takes you there. This is a fantastically detailed, high-resolution atlas containing thousands of images from many public and private lunar photo libraries. It includes multiple overlays such as altitude and coordinates grids, texture mapping, dynamic shadows, every view you can think of, rotation and zoom, and detailed information on moon features. You can make notes and colorize lunar features. To get the best performance and access to the 3D maps you need a modern PC and a graphics card that supports OpenGL. It defaults to 2D if you don't have a good graphics card. The Virtual Moon Atlas is used by scientists and schools all over the world. It is a free download, or you can purchase a CD which helps support the project. (Linux, Mac, Windows.)

Storybook -- Organize Your Novel

So, you want to be a novel writer? What tools do you need other than your brain? Not many, and Storybook is a good one to consider using. Storybook won't construct your plots, create your characters, or put fabulous dialogue in their mouths. It will help you stay organized and not lose track of ideas or direction. Use it to track plot lines, characters, events, and locations. Storybooks uses strands for tracking related scenes, or any related passages. Status tracking, such as "Not started", "Started", "Completed" and "Abandoned" saves you from having to juggle multiple task lists in your head. (Linux, Mac, Windows.)

AMEE: Avoiding Mass Extinctions Engine

Avoiding mass extinction sounds like a good plan to me, and the AMEE project, like the OpenTox project, leverages open source software and methodologies to collect, map, measure and analyze carbon dioxide data. The AMEE data aggregation platform provides an open, neutral central resource for anyone to use, from individuals who want to examine their own carbon footprint to consultants, businesses, and researchers. Some of AMEE's services are free, some have a price tag. UK companies are especially motivated to measure their carbon footprint because they are taxed for excessive carbon emissions. Many businesses want to be responsible, and to find ways to cut energy usage to cut costs.

OTRS: Open-source Ticket Request System

Nothing says you care like tracking and swiftly resolving trouble tickets, and OTRS is an excellent tool for this. Every ticket has a complete history, and related tickets can be grouped into a single incident. It supports multiple users, as a good RTS should, and can scale up as hugely as you need it to. It has a nifty feature for creating FAQs and managing FAQs, autoresponders, and tickets can easily be moved into different queues. (Linux, Mac, Windows.)

Impro-Visor -- Jazz Improvisation Advisor

When you want a software application to teach you the fundamentals of improvisation, of chord structures, transitions, and solos, then give Impro-Visor a try. First write your song sheet, then play it back for instant gratification, with auto-generated rhythm section accompaniments. Your music sheets may be exported as MIDI or MusicXML, and it supports a large range of musical styles from Zydeco to African. (Linux, Mac, Windows.)

Mandelbulber 3D Fractal Explorer

fig2fractal290_0.jpgSource: Carla Schroder
Figure 2: A 3D fractal created by Mandelbulber. This one looks like a habitat of some kind.

Fractals are just plain fun, math converted into colors and shapes, and Mandelbulber takes them to the next dimension. 2D fractal generators are as common as Cadillacs at Graceland, but there are not so many 3D fractal generators. The Mandelbulber developers call it experimental, but it's easy to use and creates impressively detailed images with realistic shadows, wild colors, and depth. Figure 2 is one of my Mandelbulber creations. This is a a CPU-intensive process, so the more powerful your computer the faster it goes. (Linux and Windows.)

Bonus Round: Bleach BitPortable

Thanks to the insatiable greed of online vendors for our personal data, which they misuse and abuse in all manner of unaccountable ways, we must forever be canny and vigilant in our Web surfing. BleachBitis a good little tool for clearing Web browsers on Windows systems of HTTP cookies, nasty sneaky Adobe Flash cookies, history, log files, unnecessary localizations, passwords, temp files, Web caches, and much more. Now it comes in a portable version you can carry anywhere on a USB stick. PortableApps, the home of BleachBit, offers over 120 free, open source portable applications for Windows users.

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