Ubuntu for web developers

I’ve now been a home user of Ubuntu for 2 months, give or take. In that time I’ve booted into Windows XP a total of two times. Once to get photos off the wife’s phone using a Bluetooth application (I could use a USB lead in Ubuntu, I’ve since discovered) and once to get some details saved inside an application.

For what I do, Ubuntu is proving to be an excellent choice. The new version has fixed a fair few of my niggles, such as pane layout in FileZilla not being saved. So, for any other web developers out there who is sick of WIndows, or looking at a costly "upgrade" (I use the term loosely) to Windows Vista, here’s what I use daily in Ubuntu:

  1. SciTE, Scintilla Text Editor – a basic text editor, which is what I do all of my development in. It could have a few more features (I miss the PHP function list plugin for Notepad++) but as far as text editors go, it’s pretty darn good.
  2. The aforementioned FileZilla FTP application which I’ve used in Windows for a long time. It’s a great FTP package that does every thing I need it to do. The latest version is especially nice.
  3. MySQL Query Browser allows me to easily create and edit both the schema of MySQL databases and the data itself. It’s like a cut-down version of SQL Server Management Studio, without the screen-wasting, time-wasting, CPU-wasting rubbish. The Administrator tool is really slick, too.
  4. My weapon, sorry, browser of choice is still Firefox. I have to be honest and say that a few plug-ins don’t seem to work for me (Color Picker and Tidy being the most important ones) but Chris Pederick’s Web Developer Toolbar is perfect, and makes the ‘Fox the standout choice fo web developers.
  5. One of the most famous pieces of free software is the GIMP. I have to confess I’d prefer to use Fireworks (which runs in Wine, and I have a valid licence for … hmm) but for the graphic work I’ve needed up to now it’s been fine. Again, the new version makes a lot of positive interface changes.
  6. Although I’m just a one-man-band development team, I find source control is very useful. If nothing else then just for off-site backups. My tool of choice for commits is RapidSVN which works with my Subversion server.
  7. Open Office. Of course, what more can I say?
  8. For tunage I use RhythmBox, which I find to be fantastic. Being able to create CDs from playlists with two clicks makes life easier. The only downside is I haven’t found any keyboard shortcuts to move up/down tracks. I’m sure they’re there, as pretty much everything is when I look properly.

And when I get chance to do some music stuff, which isn’t often to be honest, I lay down the beats with the following:

  1. Jack‘s the boss. Audio and MIDI routing, and a centralised time server, all wrapped up in a little neat box. Some musicians studio pay thousands for this functionality.
  2. Ardour audio workstation, which records all of the audio-based stuff. Works with Jack like they’ve been best friends for years. The next version will have MIDI support, which is a bad thing for me as I’m male and therefore can’t have the children of the developers no matter how much I want to.
  3. Kicking the beats is Hydrogen drum machine, which I only recently started using but already love.
  4. ZynAddSubFx is a great little synth. There are loads of other synths I haven’t even got round to trying.
  5. Qsynth – Qt GUI Interface for FluidSynth makes working with soundfonts a breeze.
  6. I have to mention LinuxSampler (for which I use the front-end Qsampler) but in honestly I’ve not managed to get it playing GigaSampler files yet, which is the whole reason I want to use it. Can anyone help?

If you haven’t heard of these applications, or if you’re not even aware that there are good, free and – most importantly – non spam and ad-infested applications out there then hopefully this list has whetted your appetite. I have to admit I’m a fully paid-up fan of open source software, and Ubuntu in particular, and like Apple I find using Windows at home an increasingly tedious business.

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