Open Source Musings

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

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

Just about everyone I know takes notes, and many people use an online note-taking application like Evernote or Google Keep. Those are all good tools, but you have to wonder about the security and privacy of your information — especially in light of Evernote's great privacy flip-flop of 2016. If you want more control over your notes and your data, you really need to turn to an open source tool.

Whatever your reasons for moving away from one of the popular web-based note-taking applications, there are plain text alternatives out there. Let's look at one of those alternatives: Turtl.

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Back in the days when I used Windows, one of the applications that I relied on was Paint Shop Pro. It wasn't just a powerful image editor. It also had a built-in screen capture function. Professionally, that was very useful.

Of course, Paint Shop Pro isn't available for Linux. And, anyway, I think Corel (the company that sells it) has really bloated Paint Shop Pro in an attempt to turn it into a rival to Photoshop.

I regularly use one of a handful of screen capture utilities on the Linux desktop. Every so often, I find myself pulling those images into The GIMP to edit them. But since The GIMP has its own screen capture function, I can cut out the middle man whenever I need to.

To take a screenshot, fire up The GIMP. From the File menu, choose Create and then click Screenshot to open the Screenshot dialog.

Getting ready to take a screenshot with The GIMP

You can choose to take a screenshot of:

  • A single window
  • The entire screen
  • A region on the screen or on a window

You can also set a delay (in seconds) before grabbing the screen. When you're ready, click the Snap button. If you chose to:

  • Take a screenshot of a single window, click on that window
  • Grab a region of a screen or window, click and drag to select the region

After a moment, the screenshot appears in The GIMP.

Editing a screenshot taken with The GIMP

From there, you can manipulate the image as you need and then export it to a file. Easy, no?

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #desktop #apps

Once upon a time, my websites originated from a couple of well-known hosting providers. During those years, I regularly needed to log into the servers that hosted my web sites to change or upload a file. For the longest time, I did that using FTP, but stopped because the passwords are sent in plaintext. Wasn't that reason enough?

While I often used FileZilla for secure connections, it was overkill when I needed to change or transfer one file. Instead, I turned to the command line and used SSH and SCP. Both offered me a level of security that FTP didn't. Why? They create an encrypted connection with a server — no plaintext is allowed.

Let's take a quick look at SSH and SCP.

Note: This post isn't a comprehensive guide to SSH and SCP. It's a quick and dirty introduction for someone with few technical skills. What you read here will help get you going. You can get more information from a number of sources, including this one.

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(Note: Parts of this article were published at Opensouce.com and appear here via a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.)

It's been seven years since Google pulled the plug on Google Reader. Seven. Years. And, believe it or not, there are people who are still whining about that. Some of them even say that by sending Reader to the digital glue factory, Google killed RSS.

Those people need to shut up.

RSS isn't dead. Far from it. RSS is still a great way for you to take control of the information you ingest from the online world. You choose what you want to read, not an algorithm.

All you need is a good RSS reader. If you want to go back to basics with your RSS reader, a solid option is Newsboat. It's a command line feed reader, forked from the venerable Newsbeuter, that's easy to use but packs a good number of features.

Let's take a look at how to use it.

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As you may or may not know, I publish an email letter called Weekly Musings. To celebrate the letter's first year, I recently decided to collect the first 52 essays into an ebook.

With the last few ebooks I've published (at least ones in EPUB format), I've written them in a desktop application called Sigil. This time 'round, things were a bit different.

The 52 essays that I wanted to collect in the book were individual files formatted with Markdown. Converting them to HTML (which is file format in which Sigil stores chapter files) and importing them into Sigil would have been a bit of a chore. Instead, I turned to Pandoc to quickly do the deed.

Pandoc, if you're not familiar with it, is something of a Swiss Army Knife for converting between markup languages. Pandoc can also create EPUB files.

Let's look at how I did it.

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I've never been much good at keeping a journal. I've tried. Believe me, I've tried. It's just never worked out. Chalk part of that up to laziness and part of that to the belief that little in my life is worth chronicling.

Every so often, though, I take another kick at the journalling can. This time around, I went back to a command line app that I tried and liked a few years ago. That app? jrnl. It's a quick, easy, and minimalist way to keep a journal. Let's take a look at it.

Getting Going

To install jrnl, you'll need Python and a tool called pip installed on your computer. If they aren't installed, do the deed using your Linux distribution's package manager.

Open a terminal window and run the command pip install jrnl. It should only take a few seconds to install.

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Since I first encountered it in 2013, I've had a soft spot for Elementary OS. I like Elementary because it's simple.

It's not a Linux distribution for the techie. Elementary is for the ordinary person, the person who just wants to get some work done. It's not for someone who likes to finely tweak their desktop or who edits configuration files within a centimetre or two of their lives.

No. Elementary is simple. It's concise. It's easy to learn and use. As someone I know pointed out, Elementary OS carries forward the promise Ubuntu made, then abandoned, about being the Linux distribution for everyone.

It's been a while since I last used Elementary, so I figured it was time give it another look. Ready? Here we go.

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