Open Source Musings

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

(Note: Parts of this article were published at 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.


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.


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.


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.


Chances are that you have more than a couple of passwords. The difficulty lies in remembering and wrangling those passwords.

You could trust your passwords to an online password manager. But can you actually trust those services? Assuming you had any trust in them in the first place.

Anyone wanting to keep their password secure on their (Linux) desktops will want to check out KeePassXC. It's based on the venerable KeePassX password manager, and is one of the many password managers available for the Linux desktop. It's also one of the easiest to use and most flexible of the bunch.

KeePassXC stores you passwords in an encrypted database on your hard drive. The database is quite small and you can use it with versions of KeePassXC on other operating systems.

Let's take a look at how to use KeePassXC to store and manage your passwords.


One of the great things about the command line is that you can do just about anything there that you can do within a graphical environment like GNOME, KDE, xfce, OpenBox, or whatever window manager you use. Sometimes, you can do it faster and more efficiently.

One of the tasks I do at the command line is renaming and deleting both files and folders. That's often because I've converted or combined files and need to change their names or get rid of the ones that I don't need any longer.

There are three commands that let me do that quickly and easily. Let's take a look at how to use them.


When I read ebooks, I do it on my phone or with my Kobo ereader. I've never been comfortable reading books on larger screens. Strangely enough, articles aren't a problem ...

Having said that, I know that many people regularly read books on their laptops or desktops. If you are one of them, or think you are, then I'd like to introduce you to three ebook readers for the Linux desktop.


Bookworm is billed as a simple, focused ebook reader. And it is. Bookworm has a basic set of features, a set that some people will pooh-pooh it for being too basic or for lacking functionality (whatever that word means). Bookworm does one thing, and does it well without unnecessary frills.


The humble (and often, not-so-humble) text editor. It can be a wonderful thing. I know more than a few people who are zealous about their editors, and view them in the same way that they view their toothbrushes. Yes, they’re that hardcore.

Having said that, I know more than a few people who actually shy away from text editors. Why? Because they view editors as strictly a programmer’s tool. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even though I’m not a coder of any stripe, I find a text editor to be a valuable tool. More than that actually. For me, a good text editor is indispensable.

You might be writing an article, either in straight text or with a markup language like Markdown. You might be editing the HTML of your web site. You might be peeking at a shell script. Or you might just be taking a peek at a README file or change log for some software that you’re about to install. Pulling those kinds of files into a word processor is overkill.

Those are situations in which text editors are very handy. But with so many editors out there for the Linux desktop, how do you choose the one that’s for you? And by you, I mean someone who isn’t a software developer or (too much of) a techie. Someone who thinks that C is the third letter in the alphabet, for whom regular expressions are an ordinary way of speaking.

Everyone has their own favourite editor. Here’s some advice I give people who are looking for the right one for them.


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