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Open Source You Can Use: October Edition

In this edition: Chrome vs. Flock, a new OpenOffice.org release candidate, leaving behind free-as-in-beer, and a tiny open source gem.

In this edition: Chrome vs. Flock, a new OpenOffice.org release candidate, leaving behind free-as-in-beer, and a tiny open source gem.

Like many of you, I've been using Google Chrome since it first popped out -- not as a full replacement for my browser, because there are just so many things that "casual browsing" encompasses today that it doesn't quite do yet. It still doesn't have a bookmark editor, can't even handle RSS feeds, and behaves bizarrely on certain pages -- but hey, it's beta (like so much of the rest of Google, ha ha), so that's par for the course. And for sheer speed and smoothness, it's stupefying.

Not even Flock 2.0 beta 3 is faster. That just dropped this past week as well. I'm using that as my default browser for now, and while some of the built-in features (the blogging client) aren't quite what they ought to be, others (the Flickr uploader) are quite nice. When I don't want to fire up Flock itself to upload pictures, the Java-based jUploadr works great too, and runs cross-platform.

OpenOffice.org 3 continues to make a steady march towards a final release candidate; RC3 has just emerged. I'm holding off for a PortableApps version before try it out, but the improvements in speed and stability throughout the 3.0 betas and RCs are so dramatic that anyone who wrote off OO.o as slow and crashy before owe it to themselves to take another look. I'm still deeply unimpressed with Base -- it's little more than a front-end for database connectivity and not really a desktop DB solution -- but I wonder how much of that may be due to the way databases themselves have evolved in the last several years. Most of the "personal databases" I've seen recently are either custom apps built around a tiny open source DB engine or SQL Server Desktop Engine, or just a spreadsheet. In fact, OO.o's own Calc works as a pretty good basic flat-table database.

Another example of why free-as-in-beer can turn around and bite you: For a while I was using a freeware media-tracking application named Libra, but development of the program seems to have stopped -- it hasn't been updated in over a year -- so I've started looking into alternatives. One of them is Data Crow, but so far I'm not impressed with it: it's extremely clunky to work with and its workflow is not very clear. Alternatives are recommended, especially programs that can use a webcam as a barcode reader (a big part of the reason I used Libra in the first place).

Finally, a tiny little program that's saved my bacon: Control Content Saver. Use it to snag the contents of any window, especially from programs that have no export function. I've used this to dump Now Playing lists from a Windows Media Player instance that had over 18,000 items in it, among many other things.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer