Open Source Musings

desktop

When I switched to elementary OS in late 2020, I decided that my commitment to it would include trying to use as many applications coded specifically for the distribution as possible. So far, I've succeeded. While I do use some so-called standard open source applications, much of what I use on my desktop is curated for elementary OS in its AppCenter.

Let's spend the next few hundred words looking at three of those applications. I might not use them all of the time, but they definitely come in handy when I need them.

Minder

Mindmapping can be a very powerful creativity technique. A mindmap lets you visualize your ideas and how they fit together, and can unblock a mental log jam.

I usually pull together mindmaps on paper. But when I don't want to kill trees and waste ink, or don't have pen and paper handy, I turn to Minder.

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I can't believe I missed the announcement (and thanks to Steven Ovadia for pointing it out): elementary OS recently turned 10.

And can't believe it's been 10 years since the project started! That tempus sure does fugit ...

I heard about elementary when it came out a decade back, but for a variety or reasons (which I've forgotten) I waited a couple of years before taking it for a spin. That was just before the distribution switched to its current window manager, so the elementary OS desktop looked a bit different than does today. It still looked fine, but there were a few unsanded edges.

Even then I saw the potential in elementary OS — a Linux distribution for average computer users, folks who didn't want to embrace their inner geeks. They just wanted to get stuff done on desktop, and maybe move away from MacOS or Windows with a minimum of fuss and pain.

As acquaintance said, elementary OS carries forward the promise that Ubuntu made, then abandoned, about being the Linux distribution for everyone. And I believe it is.

While I didn't think elementary OS was quite ready to be my daily driver in its early days, I kept an eye on it. The distribution got better and better as time passed. It became more polished, more stable. Then in 2020 I embraced elementary OS fully. I haven't looked back and don't see a reason to switch to another flavour of Linux.

Here's hoping for another 10 (and more) years of elementary OS. I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves and grows in the coming months and years.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #desktop #elementaryOS

(Note: This post, in a different form, was first published at The Plain Text Project and appears here via a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.)

Ever have a moment in which an idea or thought or quote or whatever suddenly popped into your head. A moment when you needed to get that idea or quote or whatever down before you forgot? Yeah, me too.

Once upon a time, people did that with pen and paper using something called a scratchpad. Actually, they still do. Using a paper scratchpad works, but why scramble for analog tools when you can go digital? And why use something complex when you can use plain text?

Why a Scratchpad?

You could, as I just mentioned, have a thought or idea. Something that you need to do or someone whom you want to contact. A scratchpad can be an extension of your short-term memory. Use one to put down whatever’s popped into your head before it fades away.

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Once upon a time, I used a Linux distribution called Ubuntu quite extensively. One of my favourite apps for Ubuntu was a Markdown editor called UberWriter.

What made UberWriter a favourite was that it was minimalist. It was clean with no distractions. It was easy to use. And it had several nice features that complemented its aesthetics.

Then, one day, UberWriter started acting wonky on my desktop. I can't remember how or why, but it became practically unusable — and not just for me, either. I uninstalled it, opting instead for a text editor and never looked back.

Recently, though, a friend pointed me in the direction of a Markdown editor called Apostrophe. After doing a bit of poking around, I learned that the editor is UberWriter in a new guise. Of course, I immediately decided to give it a go. Here's what happened.

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How do people take notes on the Linux desktop? Let us count the ways ...

Actually, let's not. There are just too darned many ways to do that deed.

Into that mix comes Notes-Up, a simple yet flexible app for taking, editing, and organizing notes on the elementary OS desktop. Let's take a closer look at Notes-Up why don't we?

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For the most part, I like my software simple and focused. Software that does one thing, does it well, and with the minimum of frills.

That goes for the music player that I use on the Linux desktop. I only need something that plays music. I don't need equalizers, harmonizers, transmogrifiers, or anything that makes the hearts of so-called audiophiles flutter.

While idly leafing through the elementary OS AppCenter recently, I came across Byte. It's a music player that (gasp!) plays music. It can do one or two other things, too, but at its core Byte is a music player and nothing else.

Let's take a quick look at it.

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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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If you write the same type of document regularly — whether it's an article, book, paper, or blog post — using a template can save you a bit of time when you're getting started. Instead of going through the whole process of firing up an application and setting up a document from scratch, using a template offers you a preset format that you can dive into.

In GNOME, the templates for the types of documents that you regularly create can be just a right click away. Literally. Here's how to set that up.

(Note: I've also used this feature with various flavours of Ubuntu. It might also work with other desktop environments — just don't quote me on that.)

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