Open Source Musings

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

Like many people who live and work in the free and open source software world, I keep hearing that every year is the year of Linux on the desktop. I've been hearing that for longer than I can remember. And each year, Linux doesn't come close to encroaching on the market share or mindshare of Mac OS or Windows.

That doesn't matter. At least not to me. For me, 1999 was the year of Linux on the desktop. My desktop. That was the was year I finally had it with Wind)ows. That was the year I first installed Linux, specifically Caldera OpenLinux, on a Pentium 300 I inherited from my wife. You can read the story about that in my interview with My Linux Rig if you're interested.

Linux worked well for me then, and only got better as the years passed. I've used over a dozen distributions and have test driven many, many more more. Linux has been running on every desktop and laptop computer I've owned since 1999, and I've doing all of my work in Linux since then. Contrary to what some people might say (and have said), I'm not missing anything.

Linux is ready for my desktop. It has been for over 20 years. In fact, Linux is my desktop. Period.

Whether or not Linux becomes mainstream isn't important to me. Linux just works for me. That's all that matters.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #desktop #opinion

When I switched to elementary OS, I resolved to use as many applications written for that Linux distribution as I could. There are quite a few that help me do the work that I need to do.

One of those tasks is outlining, mostly of my writing. I usually use an outline when tackling longer works, but every so often an outliner comes in handy when I need to structure a shorter piece or if something's working out the way it should.

I haven't used a desktop or web-based outliner in a while. Most of my outlining of late has been done in plain text. While I wasn't looking for it, I stumbled across an outliner specifically developed for elementary called (predictably) Outliner. Like many of the applications developed for elementary, Outliner is simple — both in the number of features and to use. But it is quite effective and efficient at what it does.

Let's take a closer look at Outliner.

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It all started with an upgrade.

In October, 2020 version 20.10 of Ubuntu came out. As I usually do, I duly clicked the button to start the process.

That upgrade seemed to go smoothly — everything installed quickly with no conflicts or error messages. I walked away to make a cup of white tea, and when I came back the installation had finished and my laptop rebooted.

It was then that I noticed a problem. A fairly big one. Instead of a login screen, I saw a field of aubergine (the colour, not the vegetable). I thought that my laptop was sleeping, so I pressed some keys to try to wake it up. It didn't work. I rebooted, but I was faced with the same problem.

That definitely wasn't a good place to be in.

It would have been easy to freak out, but instead I saw this an opportunity to do something that I had planned to do in early 2021: migrate to elementary OS.

Luckily, I'd done a backup a couple of days previously and my day-to-day work is synced with Nextcloud so I wasn't going to lose anything. On top of that, I had a bootable USB flash drive with elementary on it so I was ready to go.

As a friend wrote in an email:

I'm guessing you experienced one moment of dread (as the screen sat there, blank and aubergine, lifeless), followed by one moment of elation (a blank slate! I can finally do that thing!).

I did feel both. And I embraced that elation.

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

Before you start reaching for those implements of mayhem, Emacs and vim fans, understand that this article isn't me putting the boot to your favorite editor. I've used both Emacs and vim. And I like them both. A lot.

That said, I realize that Emacs and vim aren't for everyone. It might be that the silliness of the so-called Editor War has turned some people off. Or maybe they just want an editor that's less demanding and which has a more modern sheen.

If you're looking for an alternative to Emacs or vim, keep reading. I have two that might interest you.

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While writers have the reputation of being solitary figures, tapping away at keyboards in small rooms, we sometimes have to collaborate with other writers. And sometimes we need to collaborate while an idea or document is hot.

Collaborating in real time can be tricky. You just can't email word processor files around and hope to quickly or efficiently work together.

A number of online tools make real-time collaboration easier and cheaper. I know a number of writers who have embraced those tools for working with other writers and with clients. But not every writer uses those tools, and not every writer wants to.

If you're in a situation like that, then you might want to consider an open source alternative: EtherPad.

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

If you're like most people, you don't have a bottomless bank account. You probably need to watch your monthly spending carefully.

There are a number of ways to do that, but that quickest and easiest way is to use a spreadsheet. Many folks create a very basic spreadsheet to do the job, one that's consists of two long columns with a total at the bottom. That works, but it's kind of blah.

In this article, I'm going to walk you through creating a more scannable and, I think, more visually-appealing personal expense spreadsheet using LibreOffice Calc.

Say you don't use LibreOffice? That's OK. You can use the information in this article with spreadsheet editors like Gnumeric, Calligra Sheets, or EtherCalc.

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While PDF files have their uses, they can be a bit of a pain to work with. That's especially true when you need to mash two or more PDF files together — say, when you're adding a cover to a book.

To do that deed, you can use a pair of tools that I introduced a while back. Or you can jump to the command line and use software that's probably already on your computer. For the command line junkie, the latter option might be the preferred option.

Let's take a look at a quick and dirty way to combine PDFs at the Linux command line.

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If you were building web pages back in the 1990s, you might remember all of the dedicated HTML editors that were out there. If you were anything like me, you tried more than a couple of them.

Most of those editors have faded from memory, their bits and bytes dispersed ... well, wherever they've been dispersed to. One of the few that survived on the Linux desktop is Bluefish. And it survived for a good reason. Bluefish is a solid HTML editor that's actually more than an HTML editor.

Let's take a look at it.

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