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Christmas Cheer Open Source Software

Ask Slashdot: Good, Useful Free Software For Gifts? 377

First time accepted submitter Jeng writes "I'm planning on sending flash drives to friends and family as stocking stuffers. Rather than just send a blank drive, I'm looking for what good useful free software that I can load on it — from system utilities and encryption software to fun little games." We've asked similar questions before, but software keeps getting better, and so do the prices on flash drives. So what would you give as a gift this holiday season?
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Ask Slashdot: Good, Useful Free Software For Gifts?

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  • Let's see: (Score:5, Informative)

    by DangerOnTheRanger ( 2373156 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:53PM (#38105724) Homepage Journal
    • SuperTuxKart
    • SuperTux (SVN trunk)
    • Warsow
    • Warzone 2100, maybe
    • Secret Maryo Chronicles


    • Inkscape
    • GIMP

    Other stuff:

    • Python (2.6 or 2.7)
    • Transmission (the Bittorrent client)
    • Filezilla
    • Firefox or Chromium, if they don't use either already
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Battle for Wesnoth
      Tyrian 2000
      Collection of ebooks via Project Gutenberg

      That would keep someone out of trouble for a good while.

    • Inkscape


      Those were the first things that came to mind for me. I use Gimp at least once a week in my job, and Inkscape probably once a month. They are great tools for those who don't need the fanciest of plug-ins. I would bet that they are mature enough now that 90% of home users who think "I need photoshop and/or illustrator" could actually get by just fine with these tools instead.

      And being as most home users know what they can do with the Adobe programs, but not specifically how to do it, they could be ju

    • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:29PM (#38105966) Homepage

      Transmission is one of the worse bittorrent client available. Might as well just have them use a command line utility with the gui available in Transmission.
      Never been a fan of gimp either, it it both too complicated and bloated for a simple paint replacement and does not have enough features to replace Photoshop.
      For torrents you need uTorrent or its far crappier linux brother ktorrent.
      and then for windows at least:
      rename master
      agent ransack
      Infra Recorder

      And then for games I would recommend emulators and roms.
      Dosbox, scummvm, Snex9x
      And you could probably set up all of them to work directly from the drive (linux and windows both, since the emulators are all pretty small) with the games pre-installed.

      I would recommend focusing on the games and picking something personally from you and not just 10,000 roms you found in a torrent.
      Because for the apps at least either the receiver is technically savvy enough they he should already be able to find good software if he needs it or will not appreciated being able to search faster and better (agent ransack).

      • So, you're telling him to him warez as a gift? I thought the point of giving open source was so it's legal.
        • Re:Let's see: (Score:5, Insightful)

          by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:42PM (#38106036) Homepage

          Roms don't have to be illegal, you just have a smaller number to choose from if you are looking for freeware roms.
          But it is not like everyone does not already pirate roms, lets face it the consoles and the original games are no longer produced if you wanted to pay money for them you would only be paying some used games store owner not anyone involved in making the game in the first place anyways.
          Now you can make a very good argument that the developers of the game deserve your money, but I have yet to hear one for the owner of the used store.

          • Who cares if everyone already pirates ROMs? That doesn't make it legal. Freeware ROMs are legal of course, but most of the titles the recipients of this gift have heard of don't fall into this category.
            • Well I would imagine that picking games that recipients have not heard of might be a perk.
              And in Alabama dominoes may not be played on Sunday by rule of law, but like abandon-ware that law is not and cannot be enforced therefore it is not really illegal. Note: obviously some companies are still around that hold the copyright to some of these abandon-ware games, so while no one has ever been prosecuted for abandoner-ware stealing it is theoretically possible.

            • I personally dump my own ROMs with . Tends to work well and I don't have to worry about being busted for piracy.

        • There are several games available legally for ScummVM, which he suggested. Beneath a Steel Sky and Flight of the Amazon Queen for example, were both released as freeware by their authors and can be downloaded right from the ScummVM homepage.
          • by bipbop ( 1144919 )
            Speaking of commercial games now available for free, Ur-Quan Masters [] is a classic, and happens to be open source now as well. (For those who aren't familiar with the new title, UQM is Star Control 2.)
    • Re:Let's see: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PerlJedi ( 2406408 ) Works for Slashdot on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:31PM (#38105982) Homepage Journal

      I'd add a few suggestions:

      • VLC []
      • XBMC []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:57PM (#38105740)
    If you're arrogant enough to think that you're doing something for OTHERS by giving them things that represent your passion and "religious" devotion to open source, you're not likely to understand why, but this is a terrible idea. Give other people what THEY want, not what YOU think would be cool. This is an absurd idea.
    • by xs650 ( 741277 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:01PM (#38105762)
      Yup, I was thinking it was like giving someone a free Gideon's bible out of a hotel room.
    • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <> on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:18PM (#38105874)

      > Give other people what THEY want, not what YOU think would be cool.

      Oh bullpoop. The guy is giving out USB sticks. Very handy things for almost anyone to get in their stocking. He just wants to prepopulate em with some helpful stuff. Something you can't do with closed software but you can easily do with Free Software.

      And yes, plenty of people give gifts based on their particular passion. Apple folk will tend to give out iProducts. Would they give one to somebody they KNOW isn't going to use it? Hopefully not, but a lot of people on their list would so they do. What is the difference?

      Stick OO.o on there of course. And Firefox, Chrome, etc. And why not Gimp, Blender, and friends. All run Windows, why not spread em around. Will everyone use them? Probably not, but a few might and those that don't can just hit delete.

      • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @12:18AM (#38106230)

        Exactly. If the guy was giving away copies of MS Office or Windows 7 or (insert popular game here), these people wouldn't be calling it "religious", but since it's OSS somehow it's different.

      • by optimism ( 2183618 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @12:51AM (#38106360)

        > Give other people what THEY want, not what YOU think would be cool.

        Oh bullpoop. The guy is giving out USB sticks. Very handy things for almost anyone to get in their stocking. He just wants to prepopulate em with some helpful stuff.


        And...these views are compatible. You can think about what different people might want, and put that on their key.

        Me, I would start by putting relevant family & friend photos/videos on everyone's USB stick. Even better, I'd make the effort to organize them into slideshow/video presentations, with a soundtrack and transitions. And configure them up to auto-play on the machines of the less-clueful recipients who have not disabled auto-play. :)

        Mom will like that for sure. Then maybe Dad would appreciate some good apps/installers (Firefox, VLC, Abiword, etc)...and Bro would appreciate a collection of freeware/shareware/abandonware games (thinking Humble Bundle, other indies, MAME, etc)...and Sis would appreciate a few favorite DVDs, ripped and transcoded to copy straight to her iPad (gifting the DVDs as well, but doing the work for her).

        Frankly it sounds like a great idea, if you think about what your family/friends would appreciate besides just another USB stick.

    • Give other people what THEY want, not what YOU think would be cool. This is an absurd idea.

      Baloney. You might as well just give gift cards or cash with that attitude.

      A gift is an opportunity to share what you think is cool with someone else on the chance that they will think it's cool too. Maybe they won't think it's cool, but that's no skin off their nose, it was free anyway...

  • lots of options (Score:4, Informative)

    by lister king of smeg ( 2481612 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:01PM (#38105766)

    well you can use a bootable USB of course, or you could use virtualization-on-a-stick, using qemu or portable virtual-box [] []

    or you could use portable app's projects off of sourceforge.

  • Tons of free games (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Works off a CD, DVD or USB flash drive. []

  • by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) * on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:06PM (#38105796)

    How about a big collection of free music/ebooks/movies/art, etc? Maybe consider putting together a digital slideshow of photos and movies of family and friends, too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How about a big collection of free music/ebooks/movies/art, etc?

      Some hints:

    • by PsychoSlashDot ( 207849 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:43PM (#38106046)

      How about a big collection of free music/ebooks/movies/art, etc? Maybe consider putting together a digital slideshow of photos and movies of family and friends, too.

      I think you're by far the most insightful in the discussion so far. I have to think that generally speaking, software that is useful (to the recipient) and free (available to the recipient already) is likely to be owned by the recipient. Sending people Firefox or Foxit Reader or 7Zip is pointless because either the don't have any clue how to or why to use it, or they already do. Yes, a generalization, but I suspect that loading up a bunch of software is just going to waste the recipient's time, forcing them to delete it all. On the other hand, MEDIA might be cool. And the time spent checking out Creative Commons (and other sources of) music and so on rewards the sender too. Everyone wins.

    • Do one better than this. You have a month. Go and borrow old photo albums from people and start scanning. You family will thrill over old wedding and vacation photos with embarrassing haircuts and awful fashions that they had forgotten.

      See how many pictures of their parents as kids you can find for your nieces and nephews. Bonus points if they are wearing clothes or fashions that are completely different from their current personalities (Hey dad was completely metal!) with double bonus points if it highligh

  • PortableApps (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:09PM (#38105814)

    If they are using Windows, I suggest the full collection of PortableApps from
    It will runs directly from your flash drive and is really useful! :-)

    • I second this.

      I use a number of their apps at work, where they have their systems locked down. I can use Notepad++ as my default editor, instead of IE7 I can use FF with extensions (adblock, greasemonkey, etc.), among other apps.

  • I'd say add Ubuntu / Linux Mint (which people seem to really like, more so than Ubuntu it seems). Other software could be: TrueCrypt and KeePass for internet security, calibre for ebook management,Thunderbird for email and LibreOffice for office needs. While you're at it, Skype (full download) might be good as well - i always seem to need it at the most inopportune moment). This might be a bit of a cheat, but check out here []. You know your friends, see for yourself what they might like from here and download
  • PortableApps (Score:5, Informative)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:13PM (#38105834) Homepage
    You should fill it full of stuff from PortableApps []. Tons of great programs there. Plus they don't have to install anything. No worry about messing up their computer.
  • baby! Once I got ahold of a copy of Nuclear War online and started playing it again, kids of all generations should get to play that!

  • uTorrent - the gift that keeps on giving.

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:21PM (#38105910)

    I think the idea's a lil bland, I mean ... yay you put some free apps they could go get anyway.

    But.... its' a stocking stuffer, let's have a little fun, right? Why not run around a few sites like Fail blog or LOLCats and find a big heap of funny pictures, and plunk em on the drive? That way they'll plug the drive in and have some fun zipping through those and having a few laughs. You could even throw in a folder family photos and give them something unique.

    But if you're dead set on giving away apps, I can tell you I'd dig it if somebody took a flash drive and put Portable versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, a good mail client, and... well surprise me! I say 'portable' because if I don't have to install them, I'd definitely poke around and try them out.

  • free or Free? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:28PM (#38105950)

    Just give them uTorrent - the gift that keeps on giving!

    Seriously, though, are we talking about freeware or Free Open Source Software? There's a lot of great freeware out there; applications like Picasa, utilities like Piriform's set, games like Cave Story (a.k.a. Doukutsu Monotogari). I hope you're not ruling out closed source, since your friends and family really won't care about the difference.

    Also, you should probably start by looking for popular downloads on sites like FileHippo, SourceForge, and even (groan) There are also quite a few commercial games that were later released as freeware or free-to-play; Team Fortress 2 is a prime example.

  • Humble Bundles (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:30PM (#38105978) Journal
    Not quite free, but you can buy a handful of them at $1 a pop and explain that you're giving them away as gifts.
  • by ThorGod ( 456163 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:33PM (#38105990) Journal

    I used to have a zip file with a ton of free-use black and white cigarette/tabacco commercials. I'm sure they still exist on torrent sites. They're free and *legal*, and some will make your head spin in three different directions all at once. Then they can delete them and use your gift as a gift ;)

  • (Score:4, Informative)

    by DragonTHC ( 208439 ) <Dragon@gamers[ ] ['las' in gap]> on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:34PM (#38106000) Homepage Journal

    The portable apps suite is a powerful free toolbox useful for any user and admin alike.

    You can also customize each flash drive to the recipient of the gift. There's tons of apps available including games.

  • by JoeCommodore ( 567479 ) <> on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:52PM (#38106092) Homepage

    Back in the 80s I did a Commodore 64 Christmas Disk for three years, one thing that was good about it is that I know everyone who I gave it to had a Commodore 64, and thus everything to use the disk. Now ids a different matter, you have people running potentially three platforms (Linux, Mac, Windows) with several versions as well as varying system specs. Not that FOSS software isn't a bad idea, I just hope you have time to support all those people you give it to as there will be issues depending on thier OS, and technical skills.

    I have a better idea; A couple years ago I did that but included family photos, etc. stuff my family would be interested in regardless of the platform.

    Besides photos, also think about video clips of the family and kids, and you can throw in PD or CC music , e-books, art, etc.

  • Load up the new launcher beta and load all the existing apps.
  • LiMP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:56PM (#38106120)

    Linux Media Player and some CC music and movies.

    Did this in '08 for my friends, still gets talked about - I still get voicemail with "Got any more of that free live music?"

  • I've always thought stocking stuffers should usually provide some instant gratification.
    Since you're presumably giving these to less-tech literate people, there's a decent chance they won't immediately think the USB drives are awesome and wipe the disk without too much thought. Now if you tie some candy (like a candy cane) around the drive stick on a bow and make pretty, they will treat it more specially and might actually try out the software since they've already associated the USB drive as awesome, they'

  • Wikipedia? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @12:07AM (#38106176)

    How about the Wikipedia database? Only 7GB (compressed) and will provide many hours of bedside reading.

    Or, if you're feeling particularly generous, give them the full database including all revisions - only 28GB compressed with 7-Zip, so will fit nicely on a 32GB flash drive. This expands to over 5TB of data, so will provide many more hours of exciting reading. []

  • Aside from Linux Mint, which I prefer over Ubuntu for a better out of the box experience (I just installed Lisa yesterday evening), I'd suggest these: VLC / SMplayer
    7zip (and *remove* Winzip/WinRAR/whatever).
    Firefox / Google Chrome
    Notepad++ (associate with everything)
    Foxit Reader (I know it's closed source, perhaps Sumatra instead? I use both)
    If the receiver is a student, tools for things like Latex (Miktex + Texmaker, perhaps?)
    A print copy of the manual [].
  • Full of free Portable applications, so they can take their email inbox, firefox favourites and a whole lot of other tools and toys with them wherever they go. The best bit is, they are all FREE!!!
  • For image manipulation, The Gimp. To get it out of the camera, UFRaw. To get rid of duplicates, Clonespy. These are all rock solid maintained performers
  • OSS for WIN (Score:5, Informative)

    by enter to exit ( 1049190 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @12:30AM (#38106282)
    There exists such a project currently: []

    Couple this with the selection from OSS-WIN solves your dilemma significantly: []
  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @12:42AM (#38106328) Journal

    Fill the drive with all the malware you can find.

  • by flimflammer ( 956759 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @12:53AM (#38106374)

    I don't think this is a particularly good gift. Giving people free software on top of a cheap thumb drive (even giant ones are a dime a dozen now) feels little more than a silent push to free software from whatever they might be currently using.

    If you want to give them a gift, give them something like a copy of Minecraft--something they can't just download for themselves.

  • My Free App List (Score:4, Informative)

    by tty7 ( 2511532 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @12:59AM (#38106410)
    Games: FrozenBubble, Neverball, Vertigo, Zaz, Supertuxkart, Some form of tetris, Gweled, Blobby Volley 2, LBreakout 2, Frogatto, armagetron, xmoto, PokerTH, trackballs. Others: Cryptkeeper (hide directories), audacity(bundle mp3 support), openshot, desktop recorder, clementine-player(music), smplayer (if everyone has vlc), cherry--tree(note taking app, []), tasque, focuswriter and virtualbox to run ubuntu.
  • by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @01:23AM (#38106506)

    Anything that you can get for free, they can get for free. If they can get it for free, it's automatically unsuitable as a gift.

    Even if the software is just a bonus for the flash drives, and you're also giving them a real gift and the flash drive is just the equivalent of a candy cane, it's still a bad idea. Free software is something you're interested in. You don't give people gifts that you're interested in, or that are meant to convince them to do things that you approve of. That kind of gift is self-serving and arrogant no matter how good the cause; just giving them actual candy canes would probably be received better.

  • by aristotle-dude ( 626586 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @01:34AM (#38106558)

    Don't be an arse and try to "convert" people to your FOSS leanings by giving them a trojan "gift horse". Seriously, either give a gift that you actually think they would like or don't bother. That gift does not have to be expensive or even bought but if it is the latter, then you actually have to have created it yourself. Taking a USB stick and copying over FOSS is not creative or a real gift. You are basically giving out a FOSS tract.

  • Why? (Score:5, Funny)

    by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @01:57AM (#38106648) Homepage Journal

    After having received from someone a gift that took their time and money to buy and wrap, and maybe make themselves, the last thing I would want to give in return is something that didn't cost me anything. Okay, so maybe you're also getting them a real gift. But who would install something they just found on a USB stick?

    • Your dumb user isn't going to care about FOSS, because he's already bought all of his software from Microsoft, and as far as he's concerned, that's all the software he'll ever need.
    • Upon finding Windows programs on them, the Mac user in the family will loudly speculate that he might get you a "real" computer for Christmas next year.
    • Your younger brother will tell your mother that 'ubuntu' is the African word for pornography, after which your mother will delete everything on the drive and casually mention to you that you need to update your virus scanner.
    • Your sister will ask you to reimburse her for "crashing" her computer after her 5 year old found the drive, plugged it into the computer, and inadvertently installed Ubuntu over Windows. And she's going to be forever mad that the only copy of her wedding video went with it.
    • Most of your relatives will be a little perplexed, because they can't really appreciate the gift at first. Most of them didn't bring their computers, and even the ones that did have better things to do that troll through a collection of software they could just download from the internet anyway.
    • A three year old will find one and admire the shiny plastic. A fate which will not bother the original recipient the least - hey, at least someone appreciates your Christmas gift.
    • Your Grandpa will mistake it for candy and spend Christmas night in the emergency room while panicked relatives try to figure out if it the cover is missing because Grandpa swallowed it, or it never had one in the first place.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @02:04AM (#38106676) Homepage

    I just bought four SanDisk USB drives, in original packaging, at Costco. I had to clean them of junk before using them. They even had autorun files and some kind of installer.

    Send the guy an empty drive that's really empty. That's a real gift today.

    • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @03:38AM (#38106924)

      I just bought four SanDisk USB drives, in original packaging, at Costco. I had to clean them of junk before using them. They even had autorun files and some kind of installer. Send the guy an empty drive that's really empty. That's a real gift today.

      That's an especially fun gift for computer security professional. Since they'll never believe the drive is actually *empty*, you've given them a fun game where they try to figure out how you hid the malware. Everybody wins.

  • Support (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fnord666 ( 889225 ) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @11:58AM (#38108718) Journal
    My only suggestion would be to choose your apps carefully. After all, you are going to be supporting them for the next five years!

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.