Sunday, May 23, 2004


TheOpenCD is a CD full of open source software for Windows. The idea is to make Windows users aware of Open Source and, hopefully, interest them in eventually trying out Linux. Open source software differs from commerical software, like that produced by Microsoft, in that it is free of charge to use and, since the computer source code is also available, those who are interested may contribute back bug fixes and enhancements. The vast majority of users simply consume, they don't write computer programs; this is understood by all and is okay.

One can download a CD image and burn it to a CD to pass around to his friends but what I've been doing is simply downloading the individual programs that interest me. For example, I recently installed PDFCreator, which allows the "printing" of any document from any Windows program to Adobe Acrobat format. I use the free Adobe Reader to view the resulting pdf ("portable document format") file and avoid having to buy the Adobe Acrobat software suite, saving a few hundred dollars.

OpenCD software is categorized as "Office & Design", "Internet & Communication", "Multimedia & Games", and "Utilities and Others". To see the software, click on the "The Programs" link on the main web page.

Friday, May 21, 2004

First Things Magazine

Have you seen First Things magazine? I recently subscribed and received my third issue just today, which is the impetus for this blog entry. It - the magazine - describes itself as "published by Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society." This ecumenical publication is actually largely Catholic and the nonpartisan perspective generally leans slightly to the right. Since these coincide with my own tendencies - Catholicism and a slightly right of center set of opinions - I was intrigued when I first ran across the web site. I also read somewhere that Robert Bork (President Reagan's Supreme Court nominee who ended up outrageously "borked" in the 1980s) considers it his favorite magazine.

Last issue included a very good article by Avery Cardinal Dulles, the son of Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Dulles, on "The Rebirth of Apologetics". Apologetics is a topic that has come to my attention for the first time recently and is, essentially, a refusal to remain silent in the face of attack or ridicule of the Catholic faith. I listen to EWTN radio regularly and there is a weekly program on coaching ordinary Catholics to deal with the questions raised by, typically, evangelical Christian co-workers. But lest I give the impression that I consider the evangelicals opponents ... I do not. They are an important ally in the cultural struggle with the left in this country. Nevertheless that weekly EWTN program is valuable but I would like to hear a similar program on how to deal with the condescending atheists, a problem that I encounter more frequently.

Finally, each issue has a section called "The Public Square" that is an expanded editorial page and actually spans a good number of pages. The Public Square is written by the magazine's editor, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who is, I believe, a Jesuit (although I've just paged through the magazine trying to verify that but have come up empty). The subtitle is "A Continuing Survey of Religion, Culture, and Public Life" and consists of a large number of essays, each ranging in length from a paragraph to a few pages. Taken collectively they seem almost to be a stream-of-consciousness effort. For example in the May 2004 issue the topics include (1) "The Catholic Reform", (2) "Believing in Evolution", (3) "From Common Culture to Culture Wars", and (4) While We're At It, a collection of untitled paragraphs covering a wide variety of topics.

Highly recomended. Check out the web site First Things where a couple of the articles in the current issue are posted, as are all articles in previous issues.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Scilab is an Open-Source Clone of Matlab

If you're a Matlab user you may be interested in Scilab. While the user interface is not as polished as that of Matlab, it is a first-rate numerical computational tool that, almost certainly, will allow you to do for free in Scilab what you've been doing for a price (thousands of American dollars) in Matlab. You also don't have to worry about ridiculous licensing and installation procedures. If you're a college student, you can buy student editions of Matlab for relatively little money (approx $100?) but consider the open source option too. The reason MathWorks sells cheaply to students and faculty is to grow demand at work when the students move onto gainful employment. (Yes, eventually you will graduate, I know it doesn't seem that way right now!)

Scilab is open source and binaries are available for download for free unices and for Windows. Source code is also available, of course.