Open Source Musings

Sharing a passion for Linux and open source, with a decidedly non-techie slant

Recently I was culling some notes and I came across one from early 2008. A note that somehow escaped various attempts at pruning over the last 13+ years. A sign or just blind luck?

The note in question was about a post at a now-defunct blog about open source. One quote I extracted from that post pointed out something that I'd been saying for a (long) while:

There are some functionality that isn't available for the free options out there yet, but the actual portion of people that need that specific functionality is so small.

Believe it or not, most free and open source (FOSS) alternatives to commercial software are fine for most people. And they have been for a while.

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As someone who writes for a living, I tend to take a lot of notes. Once upon a time, I used a desktop application called Tomboy to do that. Tomboy was a nifty little app, but it ran a bit slowly for my tastes. And I found that it could be more than just a little unstable at times.

On top of that, Tomboy needed something called Mono in order to run. To say that Mono has something of a controversial rep in the Linux world is like saying a monsoon is a little bit of rain. I'm not a zealot, but having Mono on my laptop to run a single application seemed like overkill to me. So, it was bye-bye Tomboy and Mono.

While I now use Standard Notes to take notes, my road to it took me through several other applications, both on the web and on the Linux desktop. With the latter, one that I tried and liked was Gnote — a rewrite of Tomboy in the C++ programming language.

Recently, I decided to give Gnote another look. Here's what I found (and recalled).

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This is the first in an irregular series of short posts that teach some Linux command line basics that you might not know or may have forgotten.

Let's kick off this series with a quick look how to move around the command line using the cd command.

The cd command enables you to move between directories. So let's image you're at the top level of your /home directory — for example, /home/scott — and you want to move to a directory named Photos. To do that, type:

cd photos

You can also use cd to move into and around subfolders. Say you're in your home directory, and you want to go to the folder Documents/Letters. To do that, type:

cd Documents/Letters

If, on the other hand, you want to move to a directory that's outside of /home, type cd and the full path to the directory. For example, to jump to a common directory for executable files on your system, type:

cd /usr/local/bin

You can also use the cd command to up and down inside a folder and its subfolders. If you're in the directory Photos/Family, but decide that you want to move one level up to the directory Photos/Taupo2021, type:

cd ../Taupo2021

The ../ tells the cd command to move up one level and then change to the directory that you specify.

You can use ../ as many times as you need. So, if you want to move from Photos/Taupo2021 to the folder Documents/Letters, type:

cd ../../Documents/Letters

The ../../ moves you up two levels in the directory structure and the cd command puts you in the directory in which you want to go.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #cli

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

Good spelling is a skill. A skill that takes time to learn and to master. That said, there are people who never quite pick that skill up—I know a couple or three outstanding writers who can't spell to save their lives.

Even if you spell well, the occasional typo creeps in. That's especially true if you're quickly banging on your keyboard to meet a deadline. Regardless of your spelling chops, it's always a good idea to run what you've written through a spelling checker.

I do most of my writing in plain text and often use a command line spelling checker called Aspell to do the deed. Aspell isn't the only game in town. You might also want to check out the venerable Ispell.

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A good utility is worth it's weight in ... well, whatever you use to weigh something valuable. And while you might not use certain utilities often, when you do I can bet that you're happy those applications are installed on your computer.

Let's take a quick look at three utilities for the Linux desktop that I find quite useful. Who knows, you might find them useful too.

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

In 2016, I took down the shingle of my technology coaching business. Permanently. Or so I thought.

Over the last year or three, more than a few friends and acquaintances have pulled me back (in small ways) into the realm of coaching. How? With their desire to dump That Other Operating SystemTM and move to Linux.

This has been an interesting experience, in no small part because most of the people aren't at all technical. They know how to use a computer to do what they need to do. And they're interested in using Linux. Beyond that, they're not interested in delving deeper. They're not interested in becoming experts.

While bringing them to the Linux side of the computing world, I learned a few things about helping non-techies move to Linux. If someone asks you to help them make the jump to Linux, these eight tips can help you.

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For the longest time, my favourite tool for manipulating PDF files was pdftk. It's billed as a simple tool for doing everyday things with PDF documents and, believe me, pdftk lives up to that billing.

While I don't use it any longer, I still think pdftk is a great tool and that it can be very useful. But it's a bit too much for my needs at the moment.

So what do I use when I need to fiddle with PDF files? The tool that I turn to most often is PDF Tricks. While limited in what it does, PDF Tricks does that very well. Let's take a look at it.

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It's been fascinating, and at times scary, to watch how much of our computing has moved into the so-called cloud. Everything from spreadsheets to word processors, note taking tools and todo list managers, even our music now lives on someone else's computer.

What's so scary about all that? It can be a privacy nightmare, and we don't know what the people behind those online apps are doing with our personal information.

Open source makes it possible to find alternatives to many of those applications, to gain more control of your data, of what you use and how you use it. All that's possible through the miracle and magic of self hosting

Notice that I used the word possible a pair of times in the last paragraph. Not easy or even easier, but possible. Despite what what some people say, and more than a few have said it to me, self hosting open source web apps isn't all that easy.

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(Note: This post was first published, in a different form, at Opensource.com and appears here via a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0 license.)

For me, a word processor isn't the best way to write and publish an ebook. It's just a bit too cumbersome for my taste. Having said that, for many people using a word processor is the fastest, easiest, and most familiar option for writing a book.

Firing up your favourite word processor and typing isn't enough, though. You need to, and should, follow a format. That's where a template comes in. A template ensures that your book has a consistent look and feel.

Creating a template isn't difficult and doesn't take too much time. That time and effort, though, can give you a better-looking book.

I'm going to walk you through creating a simple template for writing individual chapters of an ebook using LibreOffice Writer. You can use this template for books in PDF and EPUB formats, and modify it to suit your needs.

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