Sparkling gems and new releases from the world of Free and Open Source Software

Marble 2.0

This KDE application often gets overlooked, as well, and the release of the 2.0 update is the best excuse to look again. Marble is basically an open source version of Google Earth. Unlike Google, all the data used by Marble is open. While you scroll around the 3D globe exploring different parts of the Earth, the data in any layer you're using will be completely "Free," including OpenStreetMap layers, global temperature and precipitation maps (from December and July), weather, real-time clouds, political maps, and even the Behaim Globe from 1492. Plus, you can explore the moon, although the new navigation feature didn't seem to be able to plot a route between Mare Tranquillitatis to Mare Smythii without a detour via Paris. These layers are Marble's biggest strength, because there's so much to discover while focused on a single location.

Everything is beautifully rendered and presented, even on modest hardware, thanks to the new OpenStreetMap vector rendering, which covers the entire globe and looks fantastic. The satellite view looks good from a distance and serves its purpose perfectly for wide-angle geography, but it can't compete with Google or Microsoft when zoomed in because it's using public domain images, mostly from NASA. We'd love some rich anthropologist to create a similar data set of higher resolution imagery. Marble can be used with a GPS and navigate routes on foot, bike, or road or connect to the flight simulator, Flight Gear, to provide real-time map support. Plugins link to Wikipedia and other local information and, because much of the data can be cached locally, would make an ideal tool for the classroom or travel. The development team are working on an Android version, currently in Beta, that might just bring Marble to a much wider audience, and we can't wait.

Navigate around the Earth like it's 1492.

Project Website

Classic Platformer

SuperTux 0.5.0

There can't be many Linux users who haven't played SuperTux. For many years, before SteamOS seemingly changed everything, it was one of the few genuinely finished and playable games for our platform of choice, although that doesn't include the great work done by Loki, LGP, and Tux Racer. SuperTux is a platform game that's taken a huge dose of inspiration from the various early Super Mario games. You use your lightening-fast reflexes and platforming skills to get your penguin across each level. The thing that sets SuperTux apart is that, because the game has been in development for so long (since 2003), each level is finely tuned, with just the right amount of compulsive addiction. This is something that doesn't happen overnight, and it's something that SuperTux has over the million other Mario-styled platformers. There is even an online poll for rating all the world 2 levels, so that developers can look at making similar improvements to those levels in a future release.

It's also fantastic that the game is still being actively developed, even if the version number gives no indication of its heritage. This release, for instance, includes an in-game level editor, so you can tweak the levels yourself and see if you can improve on their magic. This is a great way for younger players to not only see how games like this are constructed and programmed, but also to experiment with game mechanics and the idea that what works on paper might not always work in practice. The level editor makes this update worth the download on its own, but there are also lots of improvements to some of the levels, the languages, and the game engine. SuperTux can be downloaded for any platform, including installers for other operating systems, and built from the source code, and we highly recommend you grab a copy.

New for this version of SuperTux is a brilliant and game-changing (see what we did there?) level editor.

Project Website

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