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GIMP – Photoshop replacement

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program and is a free open source alternative to most photo or image manipulation software, eg Adobe Photoshop. While it is not quite as full featured as Photoshop, it is close. It is not as polished either but as Photoshop costs over $1000 and some places end up with pirated copies. The fact that GIMP is free and powerful enough for pretty much any business need makes it very worthwhile.

There is a large online user community who maintain tutorials and provide tips and support and extensive documentation.

GIMP is available for any platform.

GIMP can be downloaded from Please note that the GIMP project does not officially release Windows or Mac versions, these are managed separately (and updated just as fast). Windows here, Mac here.

Posted in: Free Software
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A Wiki is something no business should be without.

Wikis (best known in reference to are a simple and fast solution for storing knowledge. The idea is that anyone can edit the information using a set of simple commands to mark up the content rather than needing to know HTML. Mediawiki is the engine behind Wikipedia and is a free and open source web content management system. The code is PHP with a MySQL database so can be set up on any platform (I have set up wiki’s on Windows and Linux without any issues).

A Wiki makes a very good Intranet platform but is better suited to documentation (or a documentation component to enhance an existing intranet) as its layout options are limited (to pretty much one option). Version control is easy (any changes can be rolled back) and users are tracked. A Wiki makes is so easy to quickly add notes, edit, update and create pages that it is no longer an inconvenience (as many people are probably aware, the first thing to fall behind when things get busy is documentation) to keep important documentation current.

To get a feel for how easy it is to “mark up” content for a Wiki, the MediaWiki help:formatiing page is a good place to start.

A Wiki is a centralised repository and can be easily backed up using the built in options in MySQL ensuring that you can keep it safe. By having it in one place that is well known and is also searchable (by its nature), new documentation is less likely to be put somewhere else (which makes it less useful). If this sounds like a strange thing to say, you have obviously not worked in SME IT where the documentation (that I have experienced personally) could be as little as 1 piece of A4 paper printed on both sides, may not have been updated on over 3 years, or may be in 5-6 different locations (electronic and physical or a combination) as each new IT manager moves in and decides to do it their own way.

Posted in: Business

VLC – Audio and Video player

No user can be without VLC, the Video Lan Client, an open source free media player (yes, completely free).

Unlike pretty much any other media player, VLC can play almost any audio or video format (yes even Real, Quicktime and Flash FLV) straight away including DVD’s without requiring third party or commercial codec’s (to read various non-standard compression formats). Its interface is not quite as slick as the latest Windows Media Player, PowerDVD, Plex or iTunes but it is not trying to be, it just works. It will happily play direct from disc or file as well as digital streaming media (including DVB-T television). It can play VOB files (from ripped DVD’s), as well as the newer high definition formats such as M2TS and MKV files.

A useful side effect of installing VLC is the installation of an MPEG2 codec which will then allow Windows Media Player to play DVD’s.

Unfortunately the version for the iPad (still free) is not as stable as the version for normal PC’s. I have found that it crashes (locks up) quite regularly (every 6-8 minutes), far to often to be a useful media player when offline. Development for the iPad may not continue due to the iTunes store licencing requirements conflicting with the Open source GNU licence VLC is developed under.

It is available for Windows, Mac and Linux from

Posted in: Free Software