Open Source Musings

Focusing on Linux and open source, with a decidedly non-techie slant

(Note: This post is based on a presentation I gave at the Opensource.com Lightning Talks on October 22, 2014)

There are many people out there who are interested in, and even eager to use, open source. Not just for one or two tasks, but for their entire computing experience. But, for a variety of reasons, they aren’t able or willing to make the leap from the closed, proprietary world to a more free and open one.

Even the more resolute ones hesitate. Why? A big part of it is change, which no one really likes. And they might not know a lot about open source.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned that can help you ease people into open source.

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Chances are, have a pile of ebooks in any number of formats — like PDF, EPUB, and even .mobi — on your computer. Chances are those ebooks are scattered across a directory or four. Which means finding an ebook at any given time can be a bit of a chore.

One way around that is to do some housekeeping. You can manually move your ebooks around into dedicated set of folders or subfolders. Instead of doing that, why not use calibre to manage your ebooks?

Let's take a look at how to do that.

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(Note: This post was originally published at Opensource.com and appears here via a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.)

For most people (especially non-techies), the act of writing means tapping out words using LibreOffice Writer or another GUI word processing application. But there are many other options available to help anyone communicate their message in writing, especially for the growing number of writers embracing plain text.

There's also room in a GUI writer's world for command line tools that can help them write, check their writing, and more — regardless of whether they're banging out an article, blog post, or story; writing a README; or prepping technical documentation.

Here's a look at some command-line tools that any writer will find useful.

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When I tell people I have 10 thumbs when it comes to anything technical, they don't believe me. In fact, they point to all the articles and blog posts I've written about using the command line to try to refute my claim.

Nice try.

I'm no expert or wizard with the command line. Far from that. And I'm not one of those people who believes that you absolutely must be fluent in command line/shell/terminal (or whatever you want to call it) to be able to use Linux. I know any number of folks who happily and productively use Linux. Not one of them have ever cracked open a terminal window.

So why do I write about the command line, especially in posts and articles aimed at those without many (or any) technical skills? Aimed at people like me? Two reasons.

First, there are a number of command line applications and utilities that anyone can benefit from. Those range from spelling checkers to file conversion tools like pandoc to applications for writers.

Second, you don't need to be an expert to use the command line. You don't need to know how to script. You don't need to remember ever option for every tool that you use. You only need to remember the options that you need to remember, nothing more.

Yes, anyone can use the command line.

That said, being able to use the command line isn't a requirement for using Linux. But using it can expand what you can do with Linux.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #cli #opinion

I was surprised and saddened when I read this post earlier today. Yes, the venerable Linux Journal has ceased publication. For good this time.

Back in 2017, the magazine announced that it could no longer continue publishing. Shortly afterwards, the Linux Journal got a second lease on life. Sadly, the kind of resurrection doesn't seem to be in the cards this time 'round.

I've been reading the Linux Journal on and off since the 1990s. Even for someone with 10 thumbs when it comes to anything technical, the magazine was a great source of information about Linux and free/open source software.

And while it may sound a bit lame, one of my goals as a writer was to have something published in the Linux Journal. I have to balance the minor disappointment of not achieving a professional goal with the cold reality that the magazine's staff, a group of FOSS advocates who passionately kept the publication alive, are now out of work. I'm hoping they can bounce back.

A tip of the hat to the staff and writers, past and present, of the Linux Journal. You did fine work, and the forum that you provided for both writers and readers will be missed.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #opinion #linuxjournal

Over the years, I’ve heard (and I keep hearing) that you can’t do this or you can't do that or you can't do the other thing using Linux or using open source software. And guess what? Most of those things I’ll never do or rarely, if ever, need to do. As I’ve written and said in the past, I really don’t care what other people think or what they use their computers and devices for. None of that has any bearing on what I need and what to do.

And what’s that? Write, of course. Articles. A weekly newsletter. Blog posts. ebooks. And more. Linux, and the open source software that I use with it, are more than up to the job.

Let me introduce you to the software that helps me write and publish.

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Yes, Linux is beautiful. I know a number of people who disagree with that statement, but I know better. The beauty of Linux isn't skin deep, either.

The beauty of Linux was brought home to me a few years ago, in (of all places) a report about an Apple press event. At the event, an Apple exec stated that there are 600 million PCs that are five years old or older. He added that it was really sad, to which the audience laughed.

In parts of the world, there are countless people who can't afford to buy a computer — the cost of a PC, even an older one, is more than they make in a month or a year. And there are people everywhere who can't afford to upgrade regularly. They have no choice but to get by with older hardware.

For many people, even in the developed world, paying the rent and feeding the family is more important than buying a shiny new gadget. I make a fairly decent salary. I'm not rich, but I'm far from destitute. I could never afford to upgrade at Apple's desired pace pace (assuming I wanted to step on to that particular treadmill).

So, what's the beauty of Linux that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? The number of distributions that not just run quite nicely on older hardware but which also breathe new life into that older hardware.

Take, for example, my former burner laptop (which found a new home a while back) — I discussed it with Steven Ovadia in an interview with The Linux Setup. That laptop ran Ubuntu Mate. When it gets older and creakier, its new owner can easily install a lighter Linux distribution that will keep it running until the hard drive or processor or other component gives up the ghost. The same goes for the System 76 Galago laptop I bought in 2015 and which I'm writing this post with.

I don't need to, and I can't be compelled to, upgrade my hardware on someone else's schedule. I don't need to, and can't be compelled to, do that deed on someone else's whim. I can do it when I can afford to or when I actually need to. No sooner, no later.

That, to me, is one of the many things that makes Linux beautiful.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #opensource #opinion

That's the title of an article published at Opensource.com in June, 2019. It's one that, in its original form at least, caused a little controversy as Ben Cotton notes.

But the question has been tugging gently at my brain since then. After unconsciously pondering what a Linux user is, my answer to the question is anyone who uses Linux.

That might be the techie, the hacker, the system administrator, or the developer. It might be an artist or writer. It might be a photographer, a musician, or a student. It might be you.

The only thing that qualifies anyone as being a Linux user is their use of Linux, regardless of their distribution of choice. I know that's blasphemous in some circles, even today. Those who swallow the power user fallacy will argue that unless you use, for example, pure Debian or Arch you aren't doing it right.

It doesn't matter if you use Ubuntu, Elementary, Fedora, Mint, Trisquel, or something else. It doesn't matter if you never compile your own software or kernels. It doesn't matter if you don't fiddle with configuration files. The moment you log into a computer running Linux, you're a Linux user.

Yes, it's that simple.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #opensource #opinion

(Note: This post was originally published at Opensource.com and appears here via a CC BY-SA 4.0 license)

Thoughts. Ideas. Plans. We all have a few of them. Often, more than a few. And all of us want to make some or all of them a reality.

Far too often, however, those thoughts and ideas and plans are a jumble inside of our heads. They refuse to take a discernible shape, preferring instead to rattle around here, there, and everywhere in our brains.

One solution to that problem is to put everything into an outline. An outline can be a great way to organize what you need to organize and give it the shape you need to take it to the next step.

A number of people I know rely on a popular web-based tool called WorkFlowy for their outlining needs. If you prefer your applications, including web ones, open source then you'll want to take a look at Calculist.

The brainchild of Dan Allison, Calculist is billed as the thinking tool for problem solvers. It does much of what WorkFlowy does, and has a few features that its rival is missing.

Let's take a look at using Calculist to organize your ideas (and more).

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