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


None of us around in the 1980s would have thought that the art style of those pixilated sprites would survive 30 years. Creating something that worked in a 16x16 grid of eight colors was a necessity, not a creative decision. And yet, pixel art is thriving in an era where 400dpi screens are common. This is because the aesthetic of pixel art is difficult to replace by simply creating a higher resolution image. Even when pixilated games are now rendering outside the boundary of simple matrices of color, it's the style and creative limits that remain, making it easier to understand why "voxels" have become so popular. These three-dimensional pixels started off as the building blocks of 3D gaming, before graphical processors could accelerate triangles; however, like two-dimensional pixels, they've become a creative genre in their own right, mostly thanks to Minecraft.

This also means there's an insatiable appetite for creating 3D voxel art, and that's exactly what VoxelShop does. It's like a 3D sprite editor. Instead of a single matrix of pixels, your creations have layers that can then be rendered from any angle or imported into anything that uses voxels. Some examples have even been sent to 3D printers to get these little models onto your real desktops. This brilliant application even lets you draw 2D sprite art in flat X, Y, and Z squares while rendering the result into the 3D view. You can choose which slice to edit or draw directly into the movable 3D viewport, and you're obviously no longer constrained to small grids. Voxels can be any size you like, and there's a neat 3D fill tool that helps you avoid repetitively clicking your mouse. All we really want is virtual reality headset support, but that's not going to happen until either Valve or Oculus port their tools to Linux.

In VoxelShop, you can enable a brilliant help view that overlays the GUI with simple instructions on what everything does.

Project Website

Music Ripper


Many of us have found ourselves transported into a world of streamed music with huge collections of physical music products in tow, often collected over decades. For people who love music, streaming services are amazing, often letting you discover new music every day, but the audio quality and breadth of content can seldom compete with your compact disc collection. The solution is to rip these audio discs onto your hard drive, perhaps even storing them online to stream back through services like Google Play Music (although the quality suffers). And yet, getting the audio off your collection isn't always straightforward because, unlike discs holding pure data, it's very easy for an audio rip to introduce errors as the various frames are read off the disc, as well as jitter as the timing of the rip changes. Of course, audio CDs are also likely to have scratches and blemishes that affect the rip performance, and ripping software needs to be able to restore any missing data as transparently as possible.

This is why, despite this ripping process being well established, a sizeable audiophile subculture has built up around the vagaries of ripping, with ripping software being updated to add the newest methods and ideas. Whipper is a fork of one of the most established rippers, "the morituri project," a tool that has always targeted ripping accuracy over speed. This is what most of us want if we're going to the trouble of ripping 500 or 1,000 CDs from a collection, although you obviously need a lot of patience. Whipper can test and copy a rip, detect hidden tracks, use templates for filenames and directories, and create perfect copies of your music, and it's great that this kind of software is still being developed.

Whipper supports modern metadata searches (e.g., of MusicBrainz) and tests the validity of a rip with AccurateRip.

Project Website

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