Sunday, 3 December 2006

Mousetrap - 81

Free as a bird
Open Source Windows
FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) refers to a growing movement worldwide to create and popularise software that is not tied up in legal tangles of ownership. “Free,” you must understand, does not necessarily mean zero cost; think, instead, of Free Speech. It is software that can be used for any purpose, the source code can be studied freely, and modified and redistributed. Prime examples would be the Linux operating system and the Firefox web browser. This site lists what its owners think are the pick of the crop. A short list, sorted by category (and covering pretty much every reasonably common use of computers), with brief introductions and links to their respective download pages.
More on Free and Open Source Software
If the subject interests you, do also see Free Software Foundation of India, the National Resource Centre For Free/Open Source Software and Sarovar, India's first portal to host projects under Free/Open source licenses. Quite a lot of what you see may be a bit too geeky to understand (let alone use), for the likes of you and me, but a few minutes of sifting is likely to yield something you can use. [NRCFOSS & Sarovar links via Prayas Abhinav.]

Only the paranoid survive
Worst-Case Scenarios
Sharks. Alligators. Child rearing. All have their hazards. Yup, even the little ’uns. And while most of us are fortunate enough not to actually land up in genuine worst-case scenarios, what if, hmm? There’s a wide selection of scenarios here, and very simple, cut-and-dried ways to get out of them. I don’t like the site’s navigation, but it’s worth the bother to take a look through. You may not need the bits about surviving failed parachutes, but they’re useful sections on dating, and a lovely one on the work place. Do check the one about getting out of a sinking car. Rather likely we’ll need that, given the way our weather’s going these days.

Damage control
A Year Of Living Generously
Right. So this planet is going to hell in a handbasket. What can you do about it? This site is an offshoot of an experiment where a hundred people spent a year living more generously. “We turned off the tap while cleaning our teeth, we composted, .. we gave friends goats instead of CDs..” Um. Never mind. The project has since expanded to over a thousand individuals and over 600 households who have committed to live more responsibly. You don’t have to sign up to do the earth some good. Simply browse through their suggested “actions” (6494 listed), and put a few into practice. For instance, not leaving your phone charger plugged in with the switch on. And if you’re buying me something, avoid the goats, okay?

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 3rd December, 2006.

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