Open Source Musings

desktop

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 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 , using a template can save you a bit to time when you're getting started.

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

(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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Ah, the PDF file. Like it or not (and there are many standing on both sides of that line), the PDF has somehow, in some way, become ubiquitous. It's become a de-facto standard document file format.

Nowadays, a range of different applications and tools can spit out PDFs with the click of a button or an option added to a command line. Generating a PDF is one thing. Manipulating one is something else. On the Linux desktop, there are several utilities which can do just that. Let's take a look at two of them.

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Although I hate to admit it, sometimes words just aren't enough. Every so often, you need to how and not just tell. Literally. And there are times when a screen capture, or set of screen captures, doesn't cut it either.

What you need is a short video. More to the point, a screencast. Unless you're doing something professionally, all you need is a quick and dirty recording. A great tool for doing that is Peek. Peek is simple, fast, and surprisingly flexible.

Let's take a look at it.

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

While I'm a big fan of plain text, I'm also a big fan of both privacy and of taking control of as much of my data as I can. Plain text is great for doing that.

If you find yourself using a platform or a tool that winds up not respecting your privacy, lain text enables you can easily move your information elsewhere. All without having to worry about fiddly conversions.

That's especially true when it comes to taking notes. You might be familiar with Evernote and Google Keep. I've used them in the past, but my trust in the companies behind both was eroded several years ago. Which is one of the reasons why I turned to Standard Notes.

What if you want even more control? You can turn to Joplin. It's billed as An open source note taking and to-do application with synchronisation capabilities, and it does a very good job of all that.

Let's take a look at how to use Joplin to organize your information.

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

When you think of the word wiki, examples like MediaWiki or DokuWiki probably come to mind. They're open source, useful, powerful, and flexible. They can be great tools for collaborating, working on your own, or just organizing the piles of information in your life.

On the other hand, those wikis are also big. They need quite a bit of additional digital plumbing to run. For many of us, this is overkill, especially if we only want to use wikis on our desktops.

If you want to get that wiki feeling on your desktop without dealing with all of that plumbing, you easily can. There are a number of solid lightweight wikis that can help you organize your information, keep track of your task, manage your notes, and more.

Let's take a look at three lightweight, desktop wikis.

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In my work on The Plain Text Project and for Opensource.com, I've looked at ... well, a lot of text editors over the years. And when readers didn't see their favourite editor in an article, they suggested I include it.

Besides the usual suspects, one editor that kept popping up was Geany. While I haven't written a lot about Geany, I'm not unfamiliar with it. Despite being aimed at developers, Geany was for years the editor I used when working on LaTeX documents.

Since it's been quite some time since I've used it, so I recently decided to give Geany another look. Let's jump in.

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If you've been around the web for a while, you might recall the First Browser War. It was a digital arms race between Netscape and Microsoft to cram as many features into their web browsers as they could. And they did. The result of that war was buggy, bloated, ungainly software. I don't miss those days ...

Things aren't quite that bad in the web browser world today. But as this article points out, modern browsers still try to do too much. They try to be too much. Even though I use Firefox, I'm always on the lookout for a good minimal, open source web browser. And like the writer of that article, I've used, written about, and liked one called Min. But I also try to keep my options open.

Recently, I was reacquainted with Web, the browser that comes with the GNOME desktop. I remember Web when it was called Epiphany. Back then, it was a lightweight browser with more than a little promise. In those days, it wasn't quite where I thought it should be, though. Several years on, I decided to take another look at Web. Here's what I found.

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

I've had a soft spot for Elementary OS since I first encountered it in 2013. A lot of that has to do with the distribution being very clean and simple.

Since 2013, I've recommended Elementary to people who I've helped transition to Linux from other operating systems. Some have stuck with it. Some who moved on to other Linux distributions told me that Elementary helped smooth the transition and gave them more confidence using Linux.

Like the distribution itself, many applications created specifically for Elementary OS are simple, clean, and useful. They can help boost your day-to-day productivity, too.

Let's take a look at five of those apps.

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Over the years, I've read a lot about how Linux on the desktop is dead or dying. About how Linux hasn't been gaining any traction on computers used ... well, used everywhere and by everyone. I've even heard more than a few people muse whether or not Linux is ready for the desktop.

To be honest, I don't care about all those gloom and doom prognostications.

Why?

As I've been saying for a long time, Linux is ready for my desktop. It has been since the turn of the century. Using Linux and various pieces of free and open source software, I can do everything that I want and need to do on a computer. Write and publish? Definitely. Work with graphics? No problem. Play music and video? As long as there's no DRM, all is better than good. Use the web? Obviously ...

And, no, I only have to use the command line if I want to. I do every so often, but that's another story.

For me, Linux just works. More to the point, it lets me work. It's that simple. The experiences of others, the utterances of journalists and pundits, and the disbelief of people around me using Windows and Apple products don't matter to me. What matters are my experiences and how Linux works for me.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #desktop #opinion