7 cool free open source projects you need to check out

The free open source world continues to expand at a phenomenal pace. These are great “jumping off” points for developing products and technologies.

open source

The free open source world continues to expand at a phenomenal pace. These are great “jumping off” points for developing products and technologies. They are also often supported by enthusiastic communities that can be invaluable sources of support and ideas, and there’s nothing hidden, no “secret sauce,” that you can’t get at, modify, or replace. In this slideshow we highlight seven of the coolest FOS software projects around …


You’ve probably checked out the most excellent If This Then That service and been fascinated by the very useful Yahoo Pipes, But if you ever thought you wanted to do something similar but with, perhaps, a tweak here and a special feature there, then Huginn (pronounced “hu-ginn”) is what you’re looking for. This very ambitious project built on Ruby on Rails makes it possible to read web content, monitor and catch events, and perform actions. This project is fairly complex to install and get running but it’s worth it if you’re looking for one of the coolest automation tools around.

License: MIT


Docker looks like it will become the future of software packaging. What Docker does is automate the process of wrapping up Linux applications along with their dependencies into “containers.” These containers (essentially a lightweight form of virtualization), insulate the apps from the host and their resources thereby improving speed of deployment, enabling portability, and enhancing the robustness of the apps and their host environments. More evidence that Docker is the way of the future comes from Amazon Web Services which just announced Docker has been integrated with Elastic Beanstalk.

License: Apache v2.0


Scrapy is an application framework written in Python for crawling web sites and extracting structured data. This data can then be used for a range of useful applications, such as data mining, information processing or historical archival. Originally designed for screen scraping (or, more precisely, web scraping), Scrapy can also be used to extract data using APIs (such as Amazon Associates Web Services) or as a general purpose web crawler. Scrapy has a lot of commercial support through companies such as Scrapinghub, Flax and GoScrape.

License: https://github.com/scrapy/scrapy/blob/master/LICENSE


Yahoo Pipes is an amazing and useful tool (I discussed the service in Gearhead) but there are times when you’d rather have more control or run the pipes on your own machines. The answer is a tool called pipe2py which grabs the details of a Yahoo Pipe (via it’s id) and compiles it into Python. The Pipes Engine is an implementation of pipe2py that will accept a Yahoo Pipe ID and compile, store and run the new pipe on demand on the Google App Engine (currently there seems to be a problem with adding new pipes to the Pipe Engine and many of the existing pipes don’t work, probably because of resources that no longer exist). There’s also a harness to run a pipe2py pipe on Goolge App Engine.

License: GNU General Public


Keeping track of all of your gear in even small IT operations is a daunting task and Racktables, a free, open source application that provides a Web interfaced data center asset management system is the answer. RackTables requires an Apache Web server with PHP 5 and MySQL server version 5.x built with InnoDB and Unicode support. Using Racktables you can create a list of all devices, racks and enclosures as well as specify which devices are in which racks, their physical ports and links, manage IP addresses, document NAT rules, attach files to various objects in the system, create and manage users, and assign user permissions, and define tags for everything in the system (including users).

License: GPL (listed in sources)


Owning your own storage cloud is compelling. While there are scores of proprietary products that make it easy to create a storage cloud, the advantages of using a free, open source cloud platform are huge. These include knowing how it works, having a community of other adopters to refer problems to, and, creating custom features and facilities to implement your own business goals. If you’re tempted than check out ownCloud, a free, open source cloud platform that supports web and WebDAV access, syncing between devices, and even basic editing on the web. It even has plugins, an API and Android and iOS support. And enterprise version is available priced at $9,000 for 50 users.

License:  Multiple (Affero Public v3 and GPLv2)

Dataflow languages are a very different way of thinking about programming. Algorithmic functions are visual objects that are placed on a canvas and connected to each other via cords. Data flows from one object to another via these cords and the object manipulates the data according to their types. Thus in an audio application an object might add reverberation to incoming data stream via a cord that connects it to a sounds source and, again via a cord, pass it on to an object that records the data stream. Pure Data, a free, open source project, available for Windows, OS X, and Linux, is a great example of a data flow language. Quite extraordinary.

License: PD License