Why Photographers Should Look Into Open Source Photo Sharing Platforms

If you’re a photographer, and you’ve never thought about open source photo sharing as a way to advance your career, you should look into it ASAP.

Like I’ve said before, I have tons of different hobbies that I love. I’m just a dabbler. I love to dabble in a lot of different stuff; it’s just fun for me. One of those things, incidentally, ins photography. Now, before we go any further, I should tell you that I’m absolutely not a professional.

I’m totally green. I just bought the best camera under 300 dollars I could find, picked up a good lens at a garage sale, and went at it.

One of the cool things about photography, though, is that the community is really, really great. Eventually, I got to meet a bunch of other photographers who shared similar interests and talk with them about how they’ve invested into growing their own businesses.

And the results of my little poll surprised me! Almost all of the photographers I talked to – but especially the ones who worked as professional freelance photographers – used open source photo sharing sites. After chatting with them, I slowly began to realize the benefits of using an open source photo sharing platform to share your work. Check it out:

  • It gets your work into the world. Sometimes, the most difficult thing about being a new photographer is just getting your work out into the world and in front of people’s eyes. By using an open source platform, this is really easy.
  • It helps you get better. There’s nothing like seriously sizing yourself up against other professionals to help get better. In fact, it’s an essential part of critiquing your own work.
  • It’s a great networking tool. You never know where your next professional contact is going to come from. A lot of photographers make great professional contacts just by becoming part of communities, and open source platforms are a great way to do that!

One Great Blood Donation App You Should Look Into

I really like to do good. I make it a point in my life to help people out. I pick up litter. I volunteer occasionally. That kind of thing.

But, one of the most important things I do, I think, is donate blood. This belief probably comes from my mother’s work as a phlebotomist (shout out to all the phlebotomists out there in Chicago!). I think this is one of the coolest and most socially responsible things you can do as a human being. I mean think about it: by going in and giving just a little bit of your own blood every so often, you could literally save someone’s life.

How cool is that! So. I think it’s important. And I like to go out of my way to be a blood donor advocate. So, it really shouldn’t surprise you that…

I’ve found an app for that!

Yep; just like with everything else, there’s a great app for blood donation. Really, there are tons and tons of great apps for blood donation. But I found one that I feel stands out. Mostly, ti’s good because it’s marketed toward businesses and lets them customize the app (hence the open source-ness) to fit their needs, brand and clientele.

It’s an app called Blood Donor Mobile, and it has some really great features.

Among the best features is the blood donation reminder. This is one of the coolest features on the whole app. Donors can download the app, and it will keep track of the time between donations. When they are eligible to donate again, it will remind them. The coolest thing, though, is that it reminds them based on the type of donor they are (occasional donor, power donor or new donor), making the reminders much more effective.

The app also features a blood donation locator and an array of awesome social functions that donation centers can integrate with their online social presences.

Open Source Beauty Apps

Ok; going to try something a little different here, and you’re really, really going to have to bear with me. I’m going to write about beauty apps!

I know, I know. I’m a dude. Even worse, I’m an IT guy. And we all know that IT guys are notoriously out of touch with style and fashion. Still, I’m going to try! Why?

Mostly, I realized that most of my articles were geared towards dudes. With the exception of my article on open source resources for nurses (not that all nurses are girls or anything; there are plenty of male nurses out there), almost all of the posts on Geeknic are about what we traditionally think of as “guy stuff”: hunting, etc.

So, I wanted to do something for all my awesome female readers. In fact, one of my readers just sent this email:

Dear Nic,

Love your blog! However, despite being an IT professional, I’m a true girls’ girl. Could you do something on open source apps for hair and beauty (especially something on mascara; I love my mascara!)?



So, here ya go, Bess! I’ll do my best! (Pun totally intended). I didn’t find any great mascra apps, but I found loads and loads of hair apps! So, here you go: check out a few of these great open source hair and style apps.

  • GLAMSQUAD. GLAMSQUAD is a really cool app. It has tons of great hair styles catalogued, so you can take it to your stylist and get a haircut that is much closer to what you want.
  • StyleSeat. Style seat is kind of like the Uber of the style world, only you still have to actually get there on your own. But the concept is the same: it gives you listings for all the stylists in your area, and you can book one right from your phone!
  • Priv. This is another great booking app that allows you to order stylists by preference and book them based on who’s free. Super, super useful, even for an IT dude like me!

Open Source Resources for Medical Professionals

As I mentioned in the last blog post, I’ve been writing more and more about how we can apply open source systems to different areas. Some of these areas are recreational (like my article on music apps), and some of them apply to professionals (like this one!).

The goal, though, is to show that open source technologies can help many, many different kinds of people. So what’s up for this post? Nurses!

Well, not just nurses, really. The resources listed here could potentially work for many different medical professionals – whether you’re a medical billing specialist, a doctor, or simply a coding specialist. Nurses, of course, are represented a bit more strongly, but that’s mostly because nurses have a strong online presence, so they are much more likely to have open source technologies catered to them (that’s what I’ve found anyway).

So, without further ado, here are some awesome open source things medical professionals will probably find useful.

Nursing software

There’s no shortage of nursing software, but, like with everything else on this blog, we play favorites. So what’ is our favorite? A little software called VistA Nursing. VistA Nursing is an open source health information system, and it’s all geared toward nurses.

There’s a heavy educational component here. In other words, this software is meant to be a shared professional resource that helps all nurses become better nurses. Neat idea!

Open Source Nursing Apps.

There’s no shortage of nursing apps, either. But if you’re going to download a few, try the following:

  • RNAO Nursing Best Practicies
  • Unbound Medicine
  • Mobile Apps for Student Nurses

If you’re a professional, RNAO is an absolute goldmine. It makes you look really, really smart, and it answers most questions the average nurse might have. The others are great for students, though.

Nursing Organizations

This isn’t software, but organizations are, by definition, open source, since they share collective knowledge. If you’re new to nursing, check these out:

  • Alliance for Nursing Informatics
  • American Nursing Informatics Association

A few Great Open Source Hunting Apps

So, I’m finding that this blog is trending in a very particular direction lately. Mostly, I’ve found myself wanting to write about how we can apply open source technologies and systems to a bunch of different stuff.

I think this is mostly because I have a lot of different hobbies myself. But I also think it’s important for open source communities to cast a wide net – to show the benefit of open source technologies to lots of different kinds of people.

Because, really, almost any community of people could benefit from the collective, collaborative nature of open source systems. It makes almost everything better, and hobbies aren’t exempt!

So which hobby are we talking about today? Hunting!

Truth be told, I’m much more of a fisher than I am a hunter, but I do go hunting occasionally. So I was excited to find there was a bunch of different open source hunting apps on the market.

I listed a few here, so you could benefit from my research, whether you’re looking for the best binoculars for hunting, or you’re just grabbing your tent and adventuring. As always, if you have any other ideas or know of any apps I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments!

  • iSonular Hunting & Fishing Times. This is a truly open source app, since it collects data from all over the world from many different sources. Basically, this app tells you the best times of day to hunt or fish virtually anywhere on Earth. Pretty cool!
  • Primos Hunting Calls. This is a funny one, but it’s also really useful. This app will play a variety of hunting calls right from your phone, so stop practicing in the mirror!
  • iHunt Journal. This is an app that you contribute to. It allows you to track basically everything about your hunting habits, including game type, hunting times and weather. Pretty sweet stuff right here.

Did I miss anything? If I did, leave a comment!

3 Awesome Open Source Music Sites for Digital Musicians

The landscape of the music world has been changing for a while now. And I think we all know that. With all the talk about piracy, it’s almost hard not to have about the changing music industry. Additionally, more and more musicians are turning to freelance creative work.

As you know, I’m an IT guy. That’s been my profession for a while now. But did you know that I play a little guitar? Because I do!

I was in a band for a few years, so I have quite a few friends in the music industry, and I even have a few who make their living producing music on the commercial scale (I did a commercial on  digital piano reviews for an instrument company that sold stuff like digital drums). However, when you do this, it’s really not feasible to compose all the music yourself.

You need to be able to use other people’s music, so you can focus on creating a commercially viable product. And sometimes, it’s tough to buy the music, especially if you are freelancing or just starting your business.

So what’s the solution? Open source music, of course! Obviously, we love open source stuff here. And open source music is something I’ve had some experience with. So, I wanted to give you all a quick list of my favorite resources that you could use to find open source music on your own. Check it out.

  • OpenSound.org. Open Sound is a really great resource, and it’s a good example of how powerful the concept of a “gift economy can be. Musicians can share their music and license it through Creative Commons, making it free to download.
  • Jamendo. This is another great resource, although it has slightly less music to choose from than Open Sound. Still, it’s a good one.
  • MagnaTune. MagnaTune is a really great option for musicians, specifically, since it allows you to create and use music with a free license and then move to a commercial license later.


Hunting for a Hunting App?

Things are about to get a lot easier for hunters now that there are a bevy of awesome apps to make a trip into the woods a sure fire success. I did a bit of research on all the latest hunting apps and came up with a few that cover pretty much everything that a hunter would need at their fingertips. Each of the apps reviewed is Android and Apple friendly and can be found for free or a small fee in their respective app stores.

Primos Hunting Calls has been rated the best-selling hunting app of all time. The app will allow you to use over 20 interactive animal calls from many categories such as turkey, elk, deer, waterfowl and predators. The animal sounds are incredibly authentic and sure to attract the desired prey.

Redsnake Enterprises created an extremely helpful app for hunters aptly named the Hunting Light & Blood Tracker, and it goes great with your other equipment, like your best survival knife or your favorite wilderness tool. This app will assist hunters by improving visibility in nearly any lighting conditions. The use of the green light enables the apps night vision, blue will help pick up greenery that wouldn’t be visible otherwise and there is a standard white light for regular use. Possibly the most important and useful feature of this app is the special light filter that enhances the visibility of any blood shed by a wounded animal.

An app that all hunters should download is the SAS Survival Guide. This app is developed by a former Special Air Service soldier and the guide contains nearly everything a hunter will need to know to stay safe in the woods. You can view vital safety and survival information along with a photo gallery that contains detailed descriptions of poisonous plants. There is also a Morse code signaling device, compass and comprehensive first aid section.

GoldenPic is quickly becoming a favorite app among many hunters. This app was originally intended to be a simple photography app for outdoor enthusiast, but has recently been extended to a utility app ideal for hunters. GoldenPic provides the times of sunrise, sunset and lunar phases. Knowing these times is very crucial for hunters to track their prey’s wake and sleep cycles. The coolest feature this app has is the ability to tell you when the Golden and Blue Hours are. The Golden Hour is the first and last hour of sunlight each day. The Blue Hour is the period of twilight during each morning and evening. You can also use this app to save hunting locations and post pictures to your favorite social media sites.

Bug Spray is an app that proves that there really is an app for everything. Every hunter will unfortunately run out of bug repellent at some point or another while out scouting the woods for a good target. Instead of getting bitten to oblivion you can now use this app to rid yourself of these pesky critters. This app will emit a high frequency tone that will keep the bugs away. The tones are released at a range that is above where most people can hear, but do keep in mind that some prey animals may be able to hear the sound and stay away.

5 Mind Blowing Smart Watches You Need to Watch Out For

When I was a kid I always really wanted a digital watch. I thought it was so cool that I could see what time it was without having to look for the hour and minute hand. The real reason I wanted a digital watch was for the stop watch and I didn’t think it could get any cooler than that. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a watch could do all of the amazing things that the newest and coolest wave of smart watches can for less than $200.

The Pebble Smartwatch is a really cool smart watch that is available for both Android and iPhone. With this watch you can view notifications from your email, SMS, caller id, calendar and most of your favorite apps. To add a personalized touch you can download watch faces and apps to fit your interests as well as select a black, grey, orange, red or white face to fit your style. You are able to easily control your music player with the tap of the watch too. The Pebble Smartwatch has a rechargeable battery that lasts and amazing 5-7 days off of a single charge.

The Martian Watches Passport is a supped up smart watch from one of the best watch brands that does it all and then some. It’s a fashionable watch that comes in black, silver and white and it is very fashionable looking. You can use this smart watch to do nearly every task that your phone does. You can use voice commands to create calendar events, check the weather, get directions and set an alarm. Staying connected via social media and SMS is easy with notifications coming right to your wrist. If your hands are full and you need to make or answer a call, no problem with this smart watch.

The i’m Watch is the first smart watch that allows you to connect to your phone using Bluetooth technology. It’s a really cool looking watch that comes in black, blue, pink, red, white and yellow. With this watch you can make and receive phone calls, view text messages and receive all of you social network notifications.

The Sony Smart Watch SW2 for Android phones is another pretty amazing piece of technology. This smart watch has a sunlight readable, touch and swipe screen that uses innovative technology. Using your phone’s Bluetooth you can view messages, make/receive calls and set up tasks on your calendar. You can receive social media notifications as well as updates from your favorite apps.

The Cookcoo Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Watch is anything but cuckoo with all that is has to offer while looking like a regular watch with its unassuming faceplate and simple band. You can add a bit of color by selecting a band in white, pink or blue if you’d rather skip basic black. This watch will alert you to your calendar tasks, alarms, emails, text messages and social notifications. Don’t worry about missing a call because the watch will vibrate or an icon will pop up when one comes your way. The coolest feature this smart watch has is the ability to notify you when you leave your phone behind and will send an alarm if your phone is missing.

Great Open Source Apps for Runners

Spring marathon season is here and that means it’s time to lace up your tennis shoes for some pavement pounding preparation (or, if you’re like me, your best crossfit shoes). I find that I need a little assistance to keep me on track during my training and I like to use an app on my phone since I use it as my music source anyway. There are a ton of apps available for runners and it can difficult to decide which one is the right one for you. To help my fellow runners out, I’ve waded through the plethora of runner’s apps to find the most user friendly and functional options that will help you during your training. To make it easy, each of the apps below is available for download on Android and iOS devices and is available in their respective market places.

RunKeeper Pro is a one of the most well-known and frequently used apps by avid runners. This app is loaded with features and will really keep you inline while training. With Runkeeper Pro you are able to track your distance, speed, caloric output and you can even enter other activities besides running. It’s a really functional and user friendly app that covers all of the most important bases when you are training. There is a small fee for RunKeeper Pro, but it’s worth it in the long run.

An equally appealing app for runners is Nike +. With the Nike + app you can easily track your distance, time, running pace and calories burned. A really cool feature that will surely keep you going even when you feel like throwing in the towel is the social media sharing option. You are able to post to Facebook at the start of your run and receive cheers each time one of your friends “likes” or comments on your running thread. If positive feedback from your friends and family isn’t enough to keep you going then keep an ear out for some praise from some of today’s top athletes. Once you’ve given your running shoes a good workout you can upload your progress into nikeplus.com to get an overview of your training. The Nike + app is free and works great with the Nike shoe chip that’s available to purchase at most athletic stores.

Strava is another great app for serious runners that are trying to stay on target and want to keep all their progress goals on point. Much like RunKeeper and Nike +, you can track your distance, time, running pace and caloric output then view your progress on the app’s website. This app also you to follow your friends to give them a virtual high five, you can share your progress on social media sites and even share your progress on Instagram. You can see how you stack up against other runners that are in your age and weight range with the Premium version of the Strava app. The basic version of the app if free, but you can upgrade for a low cost if you’d like an added feature boost.

Cool Open Source Car Apps for Everyone

I love my car. I spent pretty good money to save up and buy one of the best 7 passenger vehicles I could find (looked at some 9 passenger vehicles, too; I just love big rides!). So, naturally, I love cool car gadgets! I never knew how many cool car apps were available in the Android and iOS app stores. There is one for nearly everything you could think of while on the road or to keep your car’s performance up to snuff. I could spend days going over all of the apps that would make your life easier, but I’ll spare you and just talk about three of my favorites. Take a look!

TireCheck: The Israeli tech company, Neomatix developed an app that will replace the tire gauge easily and efficiently. Once you have downloaded the app, all it takes is a few more taps on your phone to get your tire pressure. Here’s how it works: Input your car’s make and model, snap a picture of your tires with your phone’s camera and then wait for a few seconds. The app will then generate a report with how much air you need to add (or subtract), the impact it has on your tire’s performance and a few other helpful details. TireCheck is able to judge all of this by using image processing algorithms, so basically what that means in non-fancy computer language, is that the app can tell the pressure by the shape of the tire based upon the make and model of your car. This app is cool for everyone, but I think it is even cooler and more useful for women. Not to say that all of us ladies are clueless when it comes to tire pressure, but I for one haven’t the slightest idea how to even use a tire gauge. You can download the app for free for your iPhone or from the TireCheck website. Android users will soon be able to download it from the Google Play Store as well.

Honk: How many of us have parked our cars and assured ourselves that we’ll remember exactly where it was only to find that our memory created a black hole where that information should be?  Well now there is a clever little app that will keep you from having to wonder aimlessly around a parking lot or up and down a parking garage. Honk allows you to mark where you’ve parked your car with a GPS pin. The app will even work for you if you parked way in the depths of a parking structure. You can move the pin, take a picture and makes notes to help you remember where you parked. Another really helpful thing this app can do is track how much time you have left on a parking meter. You can download Honk for your iPhone through the App Store for a tiny little fee.

PlugShare: We are in the age of hybrid and EV cars and with that comes the need for charging stations. Sadly, charging stations aren’t on every other street corner like gas stations, so this app will come in especially handy for eco-friendly drivers. PlugShare makes it easy to find the closest charging station to your current GPS ping. It also gives you a breakdown of which ones are public, home, quick charges and in current use. You can also filter the results by adding or deleting free stations or charger types. PlugShare functions much the same as the website does and will offer you driving directions and contact information for the charging stations. This free app is available for both iOS and Android phones and can be found in their app stores.

Should Businesses Really Use Open-Source Software?

We’ve been working in the software consulting business for some time. And, of course, many of your have been to our conferences and met us in person. One of the fun parts about that process is that we get to meet with all kinds of people from all kinds of businesses. And lots of them will seek out our expertise (whether it’s in the form of a formal meeting or just over wings and a beer – which, by the way, is our favorite!).

As we gradually started getting deeper and deeper into the open-source software code, we started to get one question over and over: “Should businesses really be using open-source software?”

That’s kind of a loaded question, I think, but I hope you can see the fear behind it. The fear, of course, is that many business owners are scared of using a software whose code is 100% public. In my experience, most business owners – but especially older, more traditional business owners – have a problem with anything that is 100% public. Many of these folks have built very old businesses on proprietary technologies or systems, so the idea that we’re all one big happy family sharing the best practices for doing one thing or another is a bit… weird. So, I wanted to very, very briefly outline the reasons a business might adopt open-source software.

  • You get tons and tons of quality for low cost. That’s just the nature of open-source software. It’s built to be public, and it does not make its money through private sales and NDA agreements. It’s built to be shared. And so, most of the time, it’s cheaper.
  • It’s collaborative. This is where the quality comes from. Two heads are better than one, and a thousand heads are better than two. When you have a global community working to improve a product, it gets good fast.
  • It’s safer. Yes, it’s safer! I wrote about this in my previous blog post, but for now, suffice it to say that just as you can collaborate to increase the quality, you can also collaborate to increase security.

What do you guys think?

Is Open-Source Software Safer?

Security is super important. This is especially true in online environments, and it’s even truer for companies. And, it’s absolutely critical if you’re a company who handles sensitive client information. Way back when I worked in the corporate world, I used to do projects for major global corporations – Like Coke and McDonalds – and believe me: the systems we had in place to protect their sensitive data was absolutely insane.

The point is: it’s important, and very few companies are willing to risk data leaks. And it’s for that exact reason that open-source software is generally seen as safer. When I tell people this, a lot of times (especially with people who don’t work in IT, the reaction is, “Really? A software package in which the entire code is available to literally everyone is supposed to be safer than a proprietary software package?”

And the answer, almost all of the time is yes! Here’s why. When you have a private software package, you generally only have a small team of developers working on it. Before it’s deployed, part of the QA process is checking for gaps in security. Usually, to do this, you have to pay a security expert to come in and basically break – or hack – our software to see where any exploits could occur. Sometimes that person will find a hole. Sometimes they won’t.

Do you see the problem yet? Basically, the security of your software depends almost entirely on the skill of the person you’re paying to hack it. That’s kind of scary!

But it’s basically the opposite with open-source software. With this kind of software, instead of one (or a few) people trying to find security exploits, thousands of people are trying to find exploits. So, any holes in the program will be found much, much sooner than they otherwise might. You’ll also find more.

So what’s the verdict? Yes! Open-source software packages are almost always more secure than private software.

Check Out These Awesome Open-Source Project Management Tools

Obviously, open-source software is one of our favorite things here. We just love the idea of creating an amazing product and sharing it with people who can use it, build on it and improve it. With that spirit in mind, we’ve been searching out some of the best open-source project management tools around.

Project management is a really fantastic market for open-source software. Why? Well, because in general, project management requires a few basic things that anyone can create: workflow management, user management, and task assignment.

However, most project managers also need very specific things – things specific to their industry and their product. So, with an open-source software, project managers can create exactly the product they need to manage their teams as effectively as possible.

So, if you are a project manager, and you just can’t seem to find the right tool, check out some of these!

  • ProjectLibre. ProjectLibre is an open-source project management tool by Marc O’Brien. In addition to having some pretty standard features – like task management – the base program also features stuff like resource allocation, tracking and data charts. This makes it extremely easy to see where your resources are being spent, so you can allocate them more efficiently. They have been iterating since release, and this year, they’ll be coming out with version 2.0. We can’t wait!
  • OpenProject. OpenProject is another great open-source project management tool, and it really stands out for its excellent collaboration management. It’s built on Ruby, and it’s packed full of other really great PM tools. This tool is currently on its third version, and we’re set to see some updates later this year.
  • Redmine. The final tool on our list here is Redmine. We really like Redmine because it’s a web-based product, and it works on the web really well. It’s an ideal product for any teams that work with each other remotely (which is happening more and more these days.