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    Copyright 2013 Christopher D. Whittum, M.Ed.

    Open Source Does the Holidays

    You can’t say that open source developers don’t appreciate the holidays.  So, why would I make such a strange statement?  Well, bear with me, while I elucidate on this.

    vlc,energize education
    VLC gets merry.

    Let’s take a look at a piece of open source software with which you’re probably familiar –VLC Media Player.  VLC is a versatile media player, available for Linux/UNIX, Apple MacOS and Microsoft Windows, to list a few of its available platforms.  Formats supported include, but are certainly not limited to, AIFF, AVI, MIDI, VCD, Apple QuickTIme, MP4, Ogg, DVD video and WAV.  So, how does this versatile application get into the holiday spirit?  By default, when it is launched, the VLC window displays a picture of an orange and white striped cone, like one you’d see at a construction site.  Starting one week before Christmas, this image changes to an orange and whitecone bedecked with a Santa hat.


    potato guy,ktuberling,energize education
    A Christmas party compliments of Potato Guy (running in the Xfce Desktop Environment, I might add).

    The next program I’d like to address is Potato Guy.  As the name would imply, this is a port of the small children’s toy, Mr. Potato Head.  This game was developed by the same team that developed the K Desktop Environment (KDE) and is one of the games that can be installed as part of KDE.  It can also be run just fine without KDE.  The biggest difference between Potato Guy and Mr. Potato Head, apart from the former being software, is that it offers a variety of what it refers to as Playgrounds.  These include, among others, two Potato Guy sessions, Robin Tux (Robin Hood with Tux, the Linux Penguin), Robot Workshop, The Moon and, you guessed it, Christmas.  The user has access to tree decorations, presents, snowflakes, stars and an interesting assortment of animals that can be used to create a jolly little woodland Christmas scene.  Potato Guy, also known as KTuberling, is available for UNIX-based operating systems.

    supertux,enerize education through open source
    Show ’em what yuletide spirit means, Tux!

    Another game that gets into the spirit of the holidays is SuperTux..  SuperTux is an open source spin-off of Nintendo’s Super Mario.  Using keyboard or joystick, the user has to guide Tux the Linux Penguin across Antarctica on a quest to rescue his girlfriend Penny from the evil Nolok.  On the way, Tux has to jump over or duck under obstacles, avoid or overcome adversaries and pick up goodies.  Tux eventually discovers red flowers that endow him with firepower, the attainment of which is indicated by Tux donning a red firefighter’s helmet.  This time of year, however, the red helmet appears as a Santa hat, making Tux look very festive indeed.  SuperTux is available for UNIX-based operating systems, Apple MacOS and Microsoft Windows, among others.

    xsnow,open source christmas,energize education
    Xsnow running on the author’s Window Maker desktop.

    Finally, there’s a little program that will liven up your Linux/UNIX desktop for the holidays, Xsnow.  Xsnow can be run from a terminal and, by default, puts fir trees on your desktop, makes snow fall and wind blow and even shows Santa and his reindeer riding though it all.  The snow flakes actually accumulate on open windows and menus.  Xsnow can be configured from the command line to tweak options like background color, trees/no-trees, number of snowflakes, wind speed and the size of Santa’s sleigh to name a few.  You can read all about these options in the xsnow man page.  Xsnow is available for UNIX-based operating systems.

    So now you can liven up your computer experience for the holiday season.  From all of us here at Energize Education, we hope you and your family have a joyous and safe holiday season!


    VLC Media Player Web Site

    Potato Guy Home Page

    Xsnow Download

    Xsnow Man Page

    SuperTux Home Page


    Bischoff, E., Calhoun, J. & Cid, A. A. (2016).  KTuberling [computer software].  GNU General Public License.

    Jansen, R. (2001).  Xsnow [computer software].  GNU General Public License.

    SuperTux Team.  (2016).  SuperTux [computer software].  GNU General Public License.

    VideoLAN.  (n.d.).  VLC media player [computer software].  GNU General Public License.