More on FOSS for transit

I put my last post on free and open source software for transit systems out as a lifeboat, thinking it would bob on the waves of the Internet until someone — far from now — might read the post and wonder. I didn’t think I’d get a reply so quickly.

So I’ve looked further for options.

  1. I asked the American Public Transportation Association’s point person if she knew anything. Not FOSS, but here’s their list of bus management software. Which, I suppose, might help a willing amateur like myself ask the right questions in future.
  2. I did find this Linux Insider article from March 2008 about FOSS traffic management solutions, which cited a project at the University of California, Davis. Not transit, but I’d think there’s some room for overlap
  3. That UC Davis program and this project especially. Again, to inspire
  4. Then there’s the legal imperative in a number of European and Latin American governments to use fee and open source software where available. So perhaps something is out there, but not in English.

I’ll keep looking.

Help needed: FOSS for public transportation systems

Do you know of free and open source software (FOSS) for managing public transit (public transportation) systems? Especially small, bus-based systems. Perhaps I don’t know the lingo well enough, but all I can find are expensive, proprietary systems. You would think there was a need.

As in earlier requests, pointers to good association or government sites, or thoughtful blogs, are also welcome.

Helping Lower Walnut: office suite

It’s no secret I love It’s no secret that there’s a new 2.4 release and a beta for the 3.0 release out. Perhaps less well known is that you can run Windows and use (The 3.0 version, with full release due in September, should benefit long-suffering Mac users.)

The Rev. Angela Mather knew her colleague J.W. at the nearby Asbury-Judson Larger Parish is a Linux freak — first out of cost necessity, later on principle — and this was her concern. For now, she wanted a tool, not a cause. But it turns out the office suite an easy download from With a high-speed connection, the download and using all the default settings (best for most people) it takes about a half hour.

High-speed connections are rare in Wolastoq County, so J.W. gave Angela a copy of on CD-ROM, which she could then copy or share freely. Or, as J.W. put it, “to share the love.”

J.W. offered this additional bit of advice: once you’re in, go to Tools > Options and fill in the User Data, which are the fields that you see when that window pops up. “That will help with automating office practices later.”

User data in

Epiphany browser fix

I love the Firefox browser — in theory. It’s free and open-source. It’s got tons of extensions . . . and that’s part of the problem. My former favorite browser is a terrible memory hog, at least on the (ahem) low-end machines that I can’t get enough of.

Better to use the browser developed for, and integrated with, the GNOME desktop, one of the main options on Linux desktop computers, and the default desktop for vanilla Ubuntu Linux. (New version tomorrow!) Thus the theologically-appealingly-named Epiphany browser. Its speedy because it doesn’t try to be all things. There are a modest set of extensions, which I added. More about that in a moment.

I had one complaint. When I Control-T’d to create new tabs, the cursor didn’t start in the address bar, so I would have to mouse to it to add an address. The solution is simple, if you know that the term term for starting in the documentation is focusing.

Set you start page as “blank” by going to Edit > Preferences > General tab > Home page > “Set to blank page.” It’ll work now.

But what I really love is the extension that synchs my bookmarks with my account, both from home and work. This allows easier tagging of sites I like and lets me search for saved sites by keyword in the address bar, rather than trying or looking for the URL. I can tell my Google searching has dropped already. (Then again, I have almost 2300 links recorded.)

The downside is that some sites break badly in Epiphany — it has a tiny market share — so I keep Firefox in reserve.

What common distributed work would work for UUs?

Two givens.

  1. My Day Job includes lots of interaction with software developers.
  2. My hobby — effectively — is learning more about my three computers, each with its own variant of Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu Linux, like other free and open source software projects, have a open yet ordered and participatory style of development.

There are days that software is more of vital force than theology. But make no mistake: I don’t write code. There are plenty of basic things I don’t understand. I’m OK with the odd amount of installation, troubleshooting and look forward to helping out with documentation. But I believe in the process and the outcome to want to do my part.

I’ve thought that this attitude is the difference between a healthy church and a sick one.

Given, too, that the Unitarian Universalist Association is moving to an all-congregations, all-the-time format — a mistake on many levels; for one, by what moral authority does it then credential ministers? — but that issue has been examined at more length most recently at Transient and Permanent. So look there, too. (I’ll bring it up again later.)

Thus, it seems high time to (1) use new models of distributed work to (2) share the work that the has been customarily under the umbrella of the Unitarian Universalist Association, but for which there may be little political will to accomplish.

What would you nominate for shared work?  What work models unfamiliar to churches would you suggest?

The Church's questions about copyright

I really enjoy religious education professor Mary Hess’s Tensegrities blog. Yesterday she promoted a new World Council of Churches publication Love to Share, of which she herself is a contributor. You may download it here as a PDF and it is licensed in such a way that you may share copies.

Get past the typically overwrought WCC/UN/UNESCO-type rhetoric at the front and very quickly this report considers conflicting demands of intellectual property rights, the desire for Christians of different places and confessions to share resources, and the biblical value of “holding all things in common.”

I’m only about a third of the way through, but as one who discounts the proprietary approach to Christian liturgy, I’m keen to finish.

Folk Mass Hero

Friday was a noteworthy day at Day Job and included — among other things — a lunchtime round of Guitar Hero. (Don’t ask.) I was very kindly asked to participate but

  • the music associated with the game is very much what I call Straight Boy Rock, and I don’t care for it. (Had there been Synth Pop Hero, I might have been game.)
  • an episode of South Park skewering Guitar Hero kinda ruined it for me.
  • I’m getting to be enough of a free software/free and open culture geek that I’m not keen on giving brainspace to proprietary software and music.
  • Then an Office Mate — the same one who sold me his Asus Eee PC — told me about Frets on Fire, an open-source clone of Guitar Hero. (You use your keyboard upended for the controller.) At least that covers my third concern.

    Then I noted your can — really, must — upload your own favorite songs, in the open OGG format or as a MIDI. MIDI, really? Because most of the MIDIs I know of are hymns. And while that doesn’t exactly address by first concern, it does mitigate it. (And it’s a goofy enough idea to minimize the second concern.)

    A pretend-guitar playing game, on open-source software, pretending to rock out, Folk Mass-style. First, I think that helps establish my geek cred. And it does make the mind wonder and wander.

    For Linux of course, but also Windows and Mac OS X (wonky): Frets on Fire

    Tiny church administration: making booklets

    OK gang: I’m going to show you how to do something useful. Making booklets.

    It takes essentially the same effort to make a four page order of service (folded over from a piece of letter paper/A4) as a 36 page booklet, and the uses shouldn’t be hard to imagine. Including a meditation guide or church directory. A tidier annual report, say. Or a printed liturgy.

    Even in daily life I see uses for booklets. And I’m rather keen on printing up longer documents as a booklet: not only does it take a quarter of the paper than printing the usual way but a booklet is easier to tote around. (I have a large pocket in my winter coat that’s perfect for them.) The D.I.Y. Planner justs begs to be printed as a booklet.

    Back years ago when I was making a folded-over newsletter for my old, old church, it wasn’t easy. It took me hours of cutting and pasting and forcing columns and cussing to get all the pages in order. Today all you need is a printer, a saddle stapler (for anything longer than four pages; optional, I suppose) and one of two pieces of software.

    1. If you’re composing a document, you can use, my favorite office suite. Not only is it intellectually free, but free of charge, which will mean more to most people. Download it, well, at
    2. If you have a PDF file already, you can use Adobe Reader 8, which isn’t intellectually free, but free of charge all the same.

    I use both.

    1. Write your document. That’s the hard part.
    2. Change the page setting. Format > Page > Page tab. Make Format “User.” Change height and width to 8.5 and 5.5 inches. Set to landscape orientation. Close window.
    3. Format the document to your heart’s content. More about that later.
    4. For Tools > Options > Writer > Print. Select “Brochure” under Pages. Close window.
    5. If you have a duplex printer, print — er– duplex and voila! you have a booklet.
    6. If you don’t have a duplex printer, go back to the same Tools > Options > Writer > Print and deselect “Left”. Close. Then print. Flip paper over in printer. (You may want to test this.) Go back and deselect “Left” and — you got it — select “Right.” Close and print. You have your booklet.
    7. Now restore the “Left” and “Right” setting and deselect “Brochure” or else others will never understand why all subsequent print jobs are so strange.

    Because has native PDF creation abilities, you can “print” a PDF the same way, as if you had a duplex printer, and the resulting PDF will ready to print as a booklet. A good way to share a ready-to-print booklet.

    But if you have that PDF, open it in Acrobat Reader 8.

    In the print window, under Page Handling > Page Scaling select “Booklet Printing.” If you have a duplex printer, proceed. If you have a one-sided copier, select “Odd Pages Only” under then flip and print “Even Pages Only.”

    OK, this isn’t rocket science but it isn’t the sort of thing each person needs to rediscover each time.

    Tiny Firefox diet hack

    You could use the Calorie King toolbar to look up the nutritional information of food — I record everything I eat — but I think that takes up too much monitor space.

    Instead, I added Calorie King as a search engine in the pull-down search engine bar at the upper right hand side of my browser. Tidy and tidy!

    (And if you don’t use the Firefox browser, you can get it here.)

    With this entry, I open the category Hacks.