Welcome to the Open Source Living Blog. Topics covered here include: Open Source software, WordPress, free thinking, blogging resources, new technology, Web design and more. New articles are posted on a weekly basis. Subscribe by RSS or by Email and you'll never miss an update again! Thanks for stopping by.

What do we value most? The medium, the message or the data structure?

One day last week the thought suddenly occurred to me that I had mislaid my iPod. Gripped with panic, I spent the next 5 minutes rummaging through bag, coat and jeans pockets. Nothing. I tried remembering the last time and place I had used it. I checked that place. Nothing. I then began to reconcile myself with the fact that I might never see my iPod again.

As it happens, a kind soul had handed the device into reception and on leaving work that day, all was good again. I got lucky. But my relief wasn’t so much at having recovered the physical device itself – pleased though I was to see its beautiful, sleek allure once more and it’s cost is certainly not negligible – but more about the fact that I had been able to retrieve my collection of music and data. Not only the data, but its classification: the playlists and file structures I had spent time creating. Click here to continue reading

Developers! What happened to clean and efficient blog themes?

Ok so let me begin with a few simple truisms: 1) Blogging is still very much alive. 2) WordPress is still the preferred blogging platform. 3) Bloggers still need WordPress themes for their blogs. If these points are true, why is it that aside from a handful of exceptions (see list below), there are so few clean, professional and SEO optimized blogging themes being produced by premium developers?

What we have instead is a theme market awash with eye-candy, with graphic-heavy, jQuery-loaded, ajax-sporting, spinning, whizzing, all bells whistling WordPress themes that look great for about 5 minutes but prove utterly useless in the long term for serious bloggers!

And no, I’m not talking about a shift to ultra minimal, over white space designs either. What I am talking about are clean, user-friendly, uncomplicated themes that give a serious blogger the best chances of getting his/her content to an audience right out of the box. Click here to continue reading

Stationery fetishes and old world geekery

This is a short post I dreamt up while my finger hovered over the mouse button for an order of 30 sets of index flags. Yes, that’s right thirty. These are no ordinary index flags by any stretch of the imagination, these are 45 x 8 mm multi-coloured polythene index flags and there are very few places that stock them any more.

You may be wondering what I use all these index flags for. Well that’s very simple. I write tiny notes on them and insert them into books that I’m reading so that next time I need to find a thematic strand in a particular book, I check the index flags and find my page. Click here to continue reading

Where to find Creative Commons licensed photos that will bring your site to life

If you publish content online and you’re not a photographer then chances are that you will at some point have searched for images to illustrate your work. Finding the right photo to accompany a blog post, a magazine article or a new website is often crucial to the success of the project.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but of course the reverse is also true. In this post, I want to highlight a number of excellent free photo sources; places you can bookmark and visit to find that perfect image that brings your work to life. Where possible, I’ve opted for sites that release photos under creative commons licenses to avoid any ambiguity regarding copyright. So here goes… Click here to continue reading

Free and Open Source Seamless Wood Background Tiles

UDPATE: I’ve transferred these files over to my new blog about WordPress, www.wpliving.net. They are still available to download and they are still free. Just follow the link and get them over there. Thanks for stopping by.

After more than a decade of intensive web usage, I’ve accumulated so many resources that I am into terabytes of hard drive memory! Today, I began to look back at parts of my collection and I came across some very neat tileable wood backgrounds, ideal for web designers or for anyone who wants to add a natural feel to their site’s background.

I’ve decided to create a new series of posts on this blog devoted to releasing parts of my “terabyte collection” under a GPL license. For the first post in this series, I’m giving away 3 seamless wood background packs. These are free to download and reuse as you see fit. If you do use them and want to share them too, please link back to this page so other people can enjoy this resource.

And be sure to follow this free web resources category for more goodies in the near future! Alternatively you can follow updates on Twitter or Facebook. Click here to continue reading

WordPress Portfolio Theme Heaven: Craft, Filtered and Solo Themes

In the mid-noughties anyone who was anyone had a blog. Many of those blogs were and to a degree still are used as Internet calling cards; a place to exhibit personal work and to write about subjects close to heart. Then Twitter hit the scene in late 2006 and the social media boom put an end to the “blogging revolution”.

Two things have happened to the blogosphere since the rise of social media. One, it has drastically shrunk in size. This is not necessarily a bad thing since at its peak the blogosphere comprised so many sites that were arguably 80% word pollution. Two, many of those who used their blogs for self-promotional purposes have migrated to more targeted social media platforms – or – have shifted from using WordPress as a blogging platform to WordPress as an online portfolio. Click here to continue reading

Call for a better GPL WordPress Theme Showcase/Market Place on WordPress.org Installations

This post is a response to a simple question I asked myself when compiling the recent 2011 WordPress theme list: where do self-hosted WordPress newcomers go to get high quality, trustworthy themes?

First of all, let’s give credit where credit’s due. Automattic and the wider WordPress community put in a huge amount of time to maintain the excellent WordPress Codex and the WordPress support Forums, Themes and Plugins lists. Combined, this is a formidable resource for anyone serious about WordPress.

But when it comes to WordPress themes; faced with an increasingly dominant premium theme market, the official free WordPress theme list seems at best, amateurish and old hat by comparison. And so the question must be asked: what can be done to change this? What can be done to give WP.org newcomers more choice?

Click here to continue reading

The Great Big 2011 Free WordPress Theme List: New Themes Added Every Week!

Not another mind-numbing theme list I hear you say. Yes, but this one is different, this one is organic! Every week until the end of 2011, this list will be updated with new themes as and when they are released. To that end, I very much welcome suggestions from readers for new, high quality 2011 WordPress themes. Either leave a comment or send me a quick message via the contact form with a link to your theme.

In addition to providing an excellent, centralised resource for anyone looking for fresh and free WordPress themes, the point of this exercise is to demonstrate that along side the continuing expansion of the WordPress premium theme market, free alternatives are still being developed – they just get far less exposure than their paid counterparts. This post is a humble attempt at unifying some of the best free themes released in 2011 so far. The post will have a continual presence on this blog via the banner you see in the sidebar. Either bookmark the post or click on the banner to see updates. Each new theme added to the list will carry a small red star icon flagging its arrival.

A couple of notes on the presentation and selection of themes before we begin. First, the categories. The order of the themes presented here is inspired by theme categories in use over at ThemeForest. More categories will be added when needed, and current categories may be rearranged as time goes by. Second, the selection criteria. Each theme included here has been selected for its high level of usability and aesthetic beauty and all present themes are, to the best of my knowledge (please correct me if I’m wrong), 2011 releases. And that’s about it. So without further ado, it’s time to enjoy these iconic free 2011 WordPress themes! Click here to continue reading

Five Key Websites for Open Source Fonts

Stop reading this post for a minute, turn away from your screen and look at some of the fonts around you. We tend to take this storm of signs for granted, its sheer density saturates the senses, but look closely at the bars and bends, the ascenders, descenders and extenders, the serifs, italics and obliques, and the subtle art of typography begins to emerge.

Typefaces inform our relationship with signs. They are the pitch bend in the musical chord: get them right and they have the potential to unlock emotion, get them wrong and they’re dull, discordant and their message is obscured. Fonts have of course long been a staple of graphic design and the advent of the Web – the world’s most extensive typographic archive – has seen this subtle art soar in popularity.

In this post I want to highlight a selection of the Web’s best open source font collections. Each site was chosen for its potential to inspire, inform and be a practical resource for anyone in search of high quality free fonts and for anyone wanting to find out more about the importance of Open Source font licensing. Click here to continue reading

The BookClub WordPress Theme: a New Solution for Digital Archives and Repositories

In my last post, I wrote about some of the factors that have helped transform WordPress from a fledgling blog application into a sophisticated content management system; factors that include code, community and financial sustainabilty. One of the companies that continues to play a significant role in this development is WooThemes, and their WordPress theme BookClub is a prime case in point. In this review, I’ll explain why.

One of the fields that WordPress has touched on in the past, but has never fully embraced is data classification. By that, I mean archives, repositories, special collections and other systems of data typology. It’s a burgeoning space with academic, cultural and political institutions the world over busy building digital archives. Some recent examples include the Proceedings of the Old Bailey; the Times Newspaper Archive; Oxford University’s John Johnson Ephemera Collection; and the Google Art Project.

The name ‘BookClub‘ may sound prosaic by comparison, but don’t be fooled, the framework that lies beneath has the ability to turn WordPress into a powerful digital archive. Let’s take a closer look at how it achieves this and more. Click here to continue reading

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The OSLiving blog addresses issues of import in a broadly based Open Source context. It is a space for information, opinion and informed debate.

Discover software reviews and interviews with leading figures in the field, commentary on current Open Source issues and musings on all things WordPress.

If you'd like to contribute a guest article to the blog, please get in touch.

Sites We Like

SourceForge - one of the longest running portals devoted to housing projects from the Open Source community. A great place to find OSS projects to collaborate on.

Open Source Initiative - the OSI maintains the Open Source Definition and offers a range of information on OSS licensing and standards.

OSALT - a brilliant site devoted to open source alternatives. The site compares quality OSS with its commercial peers.

Got a great OSS link? Let us know.