Open Source Musings

opensource

Just to spare you the pain, I won't go into my usual spiel about how useful the command line is. It is, even for the non techie.

In the terminal window, there are so many commands and so little time to learn them all. And there are so many little tips and tricks that can make life (or even just a visit) to the command line a bit easier.

Let's take a look at a few of my favourite tips. If you've been using the command line for any length of time, these tips will probably be old hat to you. But if you're still learning about the Linux command line, then you might find these tips useful.

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If you've been reading my site The Plain Text Project, you know that I'm a heavy user of Markdown. I do a lot of writing with it. In fact, just about all of my writing is done with a text editor and Markdown. Mainly articles and blog posts, but also book chapters and editions of my weekly letter.

To be honest, I'm not one to use a dedicated Markdown editor. While I use a text editor called Emacs for my writing, I've also tried several dedicated Markdown editors. Most left me feeling cold. A few I found useful and worth taking a second or third look at.

One of those editors is ReText. While it's not the prettiest editor out there, ReText is a solid and capable tool with some useful features.

Let's take a closer look at it.

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(Note: This post is based on a presentation I gave at the Opensource.com Lightning Talks on October 22, 2014)

There are many people out there who are interested in, and even eager to use, open source. Not just for one or two tasks, but for their entire computing experience. But, for a variety of reasons, they aren’t able or willing to make the leap from the closed, proprietary world to a more free and open one.

Even the more resolute ones hesitate. Why? A big part of it is change, which no one really likes. And they might not know a lot about open source.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned that can help you ease people into open source.

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Chances are, have a pile of ebooks in any number of formats — like PDF, EPUB, and even .mobi — on your computer. Chances are those ebooks are scattered across a directory or four. Which means finding an ebook at any given time can be a bit of a chore.

One way around that is to do some housekeeping. You can manually move your ebooks around into dedicated set of folders or subfolders. Instead of doing that, why not use calibre to manage your ebooks?

Let's take a look at how to do that.

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

For most people (especially non-techies), the act of writing means tapping out words using LibreOffice Writer or another GUI word processing application. But there are many other options available to help anyone communicate their message in writing, especially for the growing number of writers embracing plain text.

There's also room in a GUI writer's world for command line tools that can help them write, check their writing, and more — regardless of whether they're banging out an article, blog post, or story; writing a README; or prepping technical documentation.

Here's a look at some command-line tools that any writer will find useful.

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Over the years, I’ve heard (and I keep hearing) that you can’t do this or you can't do that or you can't do the other thing using Linux or using open source software. And guess what? Most of those things I’ll never do or rarely, if ever, need to do. As I’ve written and said in the past, I really don’t care what other people think or what they use their computers and devices for. None of that has any bearing on what I need and what to do.

And what’s that? Write, of course. Articles. A weekly newsletter. Blog posts. ebooks. And more. Linux, and the open source software that I use with it, are more than up to the job.

Let me introduce you to the software that helps me write and publish.

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Yes, Linux is beautiful. I know a number of people who disagree with that statement, but I know better. The beauty of Linux isn't skin deep, either.

The beauty of Linux was brought home to me a few years ago, in (of all places) a report about an Apple press event. At the event, an Apple exec stated that there are 600 million PCs that are five years old or older. He added that it was really sad, to which the audience laughed.

In parts of the world, there are countless people who can't afford to buy a computer — the cost of a PC, even an older one, is more than they make in a month or a year. And there are people everywhere who can't afford to upgrade regularly. They have no choice but to get by with older hardware.

For many people, even in the developed world, paying the rent and feeding the family is more important than buying a shiny new gadget. I make a fairly decent salary. I'm not rich, but I'm far from destitute. I could never afford to upgrade at Apple's desired pace pace (assuming I wanted to step on to that particular treadmill).

So, what's the beauty of Linux that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? The number of distributions that not just run quite nicely on older hardware but which also breathe new life into that older hardware.

Take, for example, my former burner laptop (which found a new home a while back) — I discussed it with Steven Ovadia in an interview with The Linux Setup. That laptop ran Ubuntu Mate. When it gets older and creakier, its new owner can easily install a lighter Linux distribution that will keep it running until the hard drive or processor or other component gives up the ghost. The same goes for the System 76 Galago laptop I bought in 2015 and which I'm writing this post with.

I don't need to, and I can't be compelled to, upgrade my hardware on someone else's schedule. I don't need to, and can't be compelled to, do that deed on someone else's whim. I can do it when I can afford to or when I actually need to. No sooner, no later.

That, to me, is one of the many things that makes Linux beautiful.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #opensource #opinion