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Surfin’: Open Source Ducks

05/04/2012

By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, Surfin’ rediscovers the wonders of open source software.

I am trying to get my ducks all lined up for my annual trek to the Dayton Hamvention in less than two weeks. One duck in that line-up is PSR, the quarterly newsletter of TAPR. In addition to serving as the Contributing Editor of Surfin’, I am editor of PSR and the pre-Dayton issue of that newsletter is due.

On Monday night, I had all the articles for PSR edited and ready for layout in my desktop publishing software, Adobe InDesign. But when I began laying out the newsletter, nothing worked. I was up way past my bedtime wrestling with the software. Finally, I gave up (“I’ll think about it tomorrow”) and went to bed, but tomorrow came and still nothing worked.

Googling the problem, I discovered that InDesign does not play nicely with the current version of the operating system I was running (Mac OS X).

I was running the previous version of Mac OS X when I desktop-published the previous issue of PSR without a problem. But about a month ago, I updated to the current version of Mac OS X and woe is me!

“Don't panic,” I told myself; I figured I had the four options:

1. Reinstall the previous Mac OS X on my Mac.

2. Install the previous Mac OS X on an external hard drive and boot my Mac off that external drive.

3. Buy the new version of InDesign.

4. Use something else for desktop publishing.

Since time was of the essence, I concentrated on option #4 because options #1, 2 and 3 could be time-consuming, and option #1 actually scared me.

I considered a handful of word processors to handle the job, but I was not too thrilled about trying to desktop publish with a word processor, so that became Plan B.

One word processor I considered for desktop publishing was Apache OpenOffice. I have been using OpenOffice for a few years now in lieu of Microsoft Office and I am a very satisfied customer. For the uninitiated, OpenOffice is open source software that runs on a variety of operating systems including Mac, Windows, and Linux.

The proverbial light bulb lit up over my noggin: Maybe there is open source desktop publishing software! After all, there is open source software for everything else.

Googling, I found Scribus, “an Open Source program that brings professional page layout to Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, OS/2 Warp 4/eComStation and Windows desktops with a combination of press-ready output and new approaches to page design.”

I downloaded and installed Scribus. In less than an hour, I built a template that emulates the PSR template I built for InDesign and I have been tweaking it as I go along laying out the newsletter.

There is a learning curve, but it helps a lot that this is not my first time desktop publishing. Also, learning under the gun is a little daunting, but I have to say that I am a very satisfied customer and will be done with the newsletter by the time you read this.

The moral of the story is this: Go to open source for your software solutions. There are lots of open source software programs available, including a fine collection of ham radio open source software. And did I mention that the software is free?

Until next time, keep on surfin’!

Editor’s note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, seeks the unusual in radio. To contact Stan, send e-mail or add comments to the WA1LOU blog.



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