Open Font Library – free, high quality fonts, without a hassle

open font library logoThere is no quicker way to get a virus than to click on a “1000s of Free Fonts!”link in Google.  Even if no virus, they often require registration, installing spyware or some other nuisance.

Instead, go to:   Open Font Library.    This is part of larger Libre Graphics Initiative which also supports the very useful program, Inkscape.

open font library ScreenshotFree Font Library offers only a few hundred fonts which may seem weak compared to the other sites which brag about thousands of fonts but good graphic artists know that a few high quality fonts are much more valuable than lots of shoddy fonts.  A high quality font offers separately-designed italics, bold and small caps as well as support for symbols and non-English characters.

Very importantly, Free Font Library provides a very nice font specimen which allows the user to see the font in all its formats. And, downloading is just a click.

If you need a wild decorative font then you will probably still need to risk a virus and go to one of the “1000s of Free Fonts!” websites but for your everyday needs, Open Font Library is the place.

Tool: Open Font Library
Description: free (virus free!) fonts
License: various, but all open
Alternatives: many others
Rating: very useful


Open Definition – alternative licensing to Creative Commons

jjffjj OpenDocument logoOpen Knowledge is a non-profit organization in Cambridge, England founded not long after the Creative Commons organization.   While it seems to have a (somewhat) broader scope than Creative Commons, it also runs a licensing service called Open Definition.

While I have found the Creative Commons license perfectly useful for what I create,  the Open Definition tools apply more broadly to things like funding and services.

Open Definition buttonsIf you find that the Creative Commons license doesn’t fit your effort, you may take at look at the Open Definition licenses.   Like Creative Commons, they have a license guide to assist you.  Unfortunately it gets into the legal language fairly quickly but that may be unavoidable considering the broader nature of this project.

Tool: Open Definition (dot org)
Description: open licensing system
License: open (obviously!)
Alternative: Creative Commons
Rating: potentially useful

The best FLAC compression level – a simple guide

FLAC is a great open source tool for archiving audio.   There is no loss in quality but it is smaller than WAV or AIFF files.   See my blog entry about the various audio file formats.

While FLAC is very easy to create and use, there is some confusion about the best compression level to use.   Unfortunately, a Google search does not clarify the issue.

For starters, it is important to understand that all FLAC files sound like the original.    That’s why it is called “lossless.”     The main difference in the compression levels is how much time it takes to “rip” the file and how small the resulting file will be.

Simply put – the higher compression level (6.7, 8): the smaller size of the file but the longer time it will take to rip.

Thanks to the good people at Stream #0,  we have some data to determine what compression level to use.   For their test, they used “Pride”  by U2  (3:50) as a sample song.


As you can see from the graph, a compression level of 4 or 5 is the best choice.  Higher takes longer but the file is minimally smaller.

Bottom line:   use compression level 5

See the original study.

Digital Dewey — organize your digital collection like your physical library

The Digital Dewey Project 1.0

DigitalDeweyLogoThis project is a “zipped” collection of folders which mirrors the Dewey Decimal System as listed by Wikipedia. It has approximately 2500 folders and nested sub-folders, one for every major Dewey subject. Version 1.0 doesn’t go down to the decimal level but may in the future.

Users can unzip these folders on to their hard drive and organize their digital collection by dropping the documents in the appropriate folder.

The inspiration for this project happened when I was digitizing documents for a speciality library where scans of documents were simply dumped into one gigantic file folder. While this works fine if the documents are hyper-linked to an OPAC entry, it is almost useless for browsing. If a library were to use the Digital Dewey system, a user could browse through the digital collection similar to how they browse in a physical library. Be sure to set the file permissions to read-only.

Get the Zip File

Open Ethos software

I prefer open source tools but I’m also a pragmatist who sometimes uses propriety software, especially on my Windows computers..

Not all commercial companies are bad guys. I call these “Open Ethos” companies and recommended some of their programs in this blog. Open Ethos companies are for-profit and proprietary but they still have an open approach.

My definition of an Open Ethos product or service:

  • The company never copyrights or owns users’ data and documents. (With some obvious exceptions such as and Wikipedia)
  • User data can be easily exported to common formats for use in other programs.
  • A free, fully functioning, non-expiring, version of the software is offered (This can be a “light” version.)
  • Installing the software does not change computer settings, except as needed to run the program.
  • There is a reasonable privacy policy with no spyware, spamming or aggressive marketing.
  • Accounts can be easily and completely closed.

These are the main Open Ethos programs/services I regularly use:

ACID Xpress; Any Video Converter; Audiograbber, CutePDF, Google Docs/etc.; IrfanView; LastPass; PandaCloud; Skype; TextPad; VideoSpin; and WinAmp.

A few aren’t perfect on all points. I think a couple have an “opt out” box for letting Ask invade your browser, for example, which is very annoying if you forget to uncheck it. Open Ethos programs are by definition a compromise and you have to personally balance annoyances with the value of the software.

Tip 1: When installing Open Ethos software, do not mindlessly click through the installation process but read the screens and opt-out of any trial versions or optional “bonus features.”

Tip 2: Try to download the program from the original company’s site.  Often, third-party download sites add spyware to the programs they offer.   A good download site is No Nags which features Open Ethos software. 

Year of Living Open Source





I heard Sam Muirhead on the radio today.   He is a filmmaker in Berlin and he’s trying to live for a year as an OpenSourcerer.

What makes him especially interesting is that he’s not a natural DIYer, like those of us in the 0pen-source movement tend to be.

I suspect that one of his biggest challenges is going to be video.   When I decided to do grad school with only open-source tools, video was my biggest challenge.    I did edit video but it wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t professional level.

Muirhead seems to have a good sense of humor and I think his project might be fun to follow.

He isn’t just doing open-source software but at all kinds of things like open-source toothpaste and undies.


Year of Open Source