Open Source Musings

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

It's shocking to see what people know, or more to the point don't know, about Linux these days. And I'm not talking about this from the perspective of a techie.

Not only is there a lot of old information and misinformation floating around out there, but there are also a number myths that still linger. And a few persistent whines, too.

There's more to this than what FUDsters keep spreading. It's also the general lack of knowledge on the part of the ordinary computer user and people who should know better.

Here's a look at half a dozen myths and whines surrounding Linux.

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Just to spare you the pain, I won't go into my usual spiel about how useful the command line is. It is, even for the non techie.

In the terminal window, there are so many commands and so little time to learn them all. And there are so many little tips and tricks that can make life (or even just a visit) to the command line a bit easier.

Let's take a look at a few of my favourite tips. If you've been using the command line for any length of time, these tips will probably be old hat to you. But if you're still learning about the Linux command line, then you might find these tips useful.

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If you've been reading my site The Plain Text Project, you know that I'm a heavy user of Markdown. I do a lot of writing with it. In fact, just about all of my writing is done with a text editor and Markdown. Mainly articles and blog posts, but also book chapters and editions of my weekly letter.

To be honest, I'm not one to use a dedicated Markdown editor. While I use a text editor called Emacs for my writing, I've also tried several dedicated Markdown editors. Most left me feeling cold. A few I found useful and worth taking a second or third look at.

One of those editors is ReText. While it's not the prettiest editor out there, ReText is a solid and capable tool with some useful features.

Let's take a closer look at it.

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(Note: This post was first published, in a slightly different form, at Opensource.com and appears here via a Creative Commons license.)

There are dozens, if not more, tools out there that can help you manage your ever-expanding task list. If you want to manage your tasks like a techie, or just feel like going back to basics, the best way to do that is to turn to the command line.

With the software that's available, there's no reason why you can't effectively manage your tasks from the command line. You don't need to worry about sacrificing features and functions, either. The three task management tools I look at in this post have something for everyone.

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(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

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