Open Source Musings

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

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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There's no doubt that a good application launcher can save you time and cut down on keystrokes and mouse clicks when working on the desktop. Over the years, I've tried a number of launchers. None of my experiments were as satisfying as I thought they would or should have been.

I don't know why that was. Maybe I was just too wedded to my application menus and my mouse. Or maybe I just had all the applications I needed within reach of that mouse or the run program dialog or docks like AWN.

For whatever reason, I decided to give a launcher another try. I looked at several and went with one called Kupfer for a second time. It's quickly grown on me.

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Information. We all deal with more than a bit of it daily. Notes, links, ideas, tasks, quotes, snippets, and interesting files. And how we deal with those pieces of information varies from person to person. Some of us store them in text or word processor files. Others use one or more online tools. Some of us even use reliable, old fashioned paper.

But no matter how you collect your information, managing it is always a chore. And while there are a number of open source tools for effectively managing your information, why not turn to the command line? One excellent command line tool for managing information is pygmynote.

Let’s take a closer look at it.

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If you're doing any work at the command line, that work probably involves more than a couple of keystrokes. You can save time and reduce the amount you type at the command line in two ways.

One way is to create a script that encapsulates all of the commands and options that you'll be using to perform an operation. All you need to do is run the script along with, say, a file name. That's great for single or multiple commands that require a lot of options.

For other commands, an easier way is to create an alias. An alias replaces the command and its options with something shorter. For example, if you want to list the contents of a directory in detail, you can type ls -l at the command line. Or, you can create the alias ll and use that instead.

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

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It wasn't that long ago that the free and open source (FOSS) world wasn't a pleasant place to be in. If you were someone who lacked technical skills and posted for help in a forum, you were as liable to get belittled as you were to get help.

And woe betide you if you wrote or said something that didn't mesh with the ideas or beliefs of some corner or the other of the FOSS world. Yeah, fun times.

Thankfully, things have changed. For the most part. The free and open source software world is now a lot more open, accepting, giving, and tolerant. There are still pockets like the ones I just described, but they're fewer and smaller now. But the attitude that you need deep technical skills to be involved in or use FOSS persists.

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About which Linux distro you use and why.

About your favourite window manager.

About which text editor you prefer.

About whether or not you think the command line is useful.

About who you buy your hardware from.

About whether or not you use web-based applications and why.

About what license you prefer.

About your choices and what you think of any of my choices.

There’s an old saying: to each their own. That’s how I feel about most things. Everything that I just mentioned, and more, is a matter of personal choice. Mine, yours, and everyone else’s. In my case, it’s also about what works for me. It’s not about ideology or what’s popular or even me going against the grain.

My choices might not mesh with yours. That’s to be expected. But I don’t want to hear about it.

That is all.

Scott Nesbitt

#FOSS #opinion

Does the world need another mobile operating system? Canonical, the company that develops and markets Ubuntu, thought so. In 2015, Canonical released Ubuntu Touch, the mobile version of its popular desktop Linux distribution.

The idea was to create an alternative to iOS and Android. An alternative that was completely free and open source, and which was not only secure but also respected the privacy of its users.

That experiment lasted for about two years. Ubuntu Touch was available for a few smartphones and a tablet, but the market wasn't growing in the way Canonical had hoped. In April, 2017 Canonical announced it was pulling the plug on its creation.

Ubuntu Touch looked like it was going the way of Palm's version of webOS. However, during its short life a small yet dedicated and passionate community grew around the operating system. And, in true open source fashion, that community came together to rescue Ubuntu Touch.

Via EtherPad, I chatted with Dalton Durst, one of the two full-time developers with the project. He walked me through the origins of the UBports project, took me down the often bumpy road it travelled to get where it is, and discussed where the project is going.

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