Linux For Poets

Linux for Busy People

I have been a rather boring nerd lately. I am still a nerd, loving Linux, but I haven’t been doing a lot of twiddling, which doesn’t make for many exciting blog posts. But also, it’s kind of the point of an operating system: to just do your work and not have to fiddle with the OS itself. So I decided to write about boring Linux use.

Flowers on a tree I planted when I wasn't at the computer

Another thing about Linux daily use: people worry about distros too much. Because once you get over the novelty, distros don’t matter that much. Sure, there are differences, but in day to day use, how much difference is there from one to the next? You need it to be stable, and you need to know how to install software, and the workflow varies based on Desktop Environment, like Gnome vs Mate vs XFCE, vs a tiling window manager. But once you’re settled in, it’s about the software you’re using, not the operating system. If it is still about the operating system, it probably means that it’s causing problems, (or because you’re nerding out so hard on your OS, which I would understand) because the OS is supposed to get out of the way and let you do your work. So I don’t object to distro reviews, certainly, but I think we should have more software reviews to help with that side of Linux use. At the end of the day, you need the right software to do your actual work. Which is one way to help more people adopt Linux and Free Software - make it accessible and make it easier to find software that will get the work done. Massive strides have been made in this direction mind you, which is beautiful. This is a testament to how much progress that Linux for desktop has made, that there are so many good distros that any person can just run with.

That is why I tend to be more interested in software than Linux distributions these days. I love hearing about other peoples’ favorite software, so I can only assume that feeling is universal.

Here’s the current rundown. It’s working well.

Distro: Ubuntu Mate 19.10

I recently did the built in upgrade from 19.04, using the Update Manager. It was easy and painless. [Except for this glitch: I didn’t have the upgrade show up as an option right away, in spite of having the Software & Updates setting for “Notify me of a new Ubuntu Version” set to “For any new version.” I had to run the terminal command “update-manager -c” or “update-manager -d” (can’t remember which one did the job) to get it to load the Update Manager with the option to upgrade. I don’t know why.] I did a backup of course, but nothing untoward happened. I can’t really tell the difference, except 19.10 is faster. So that’s great.

Maybe I’m a creature of habit, but I like using the Mate desktop. I spent a few months on Pop OS with their Gnome desktop, and it was nice and very pretty, but it slowed down over time and wasn’t as responsive as I wanted. So I want back to Mate. Not dissing on Gnome, but I keep trying because Gnome is pretty, but then going back to Mate.

[Desktop Environment Rant: The main thing I want from a desktop environment is to press the menu button and have a searchable application menu pop up instantaneously. A half-second lag is way too long. And almost everything else about a DE is details for me. I have 16 GB of RAM on this machine, it has no business having any delay in the desktop. Hence my love of “lightweight” desktops, but I think all desktops should be lightweight. A desktop environment should run fast on a machine with way less RAM than mine.]

Helping Your Eyeballs:

Redshift or Night Light

Oh my gosh. I can’t use my computer without this. The regular light spectrum of a computer monitor is blinding and painful to me now. I use Redshift all the time, not just at night. When I was using Pop OS it came with Night Light through Gnome, and that worked well. On Mate I use Redshift, and that works well. I did have to edit the config file which took a minute, but the instructions are pretty clear on the web site, and once it’s set up, it works great.

## Writing

### Zim

As always, for journaling (with the journal plugin) and notes. The best.

### Micropad (μPad)

A sort of digital scrapbook, so you can put images, text notes and file links into a notebook. I’m using it more, and liking it very much.

### Cherry Tree

I like this because I can include links to local files. I like to be able to link to applicable files all from one document, so they are easy to access, even if they aren’t all in the same folder on the computer. Different look, but similar function to MicroPad. Still deciding which I like better.

### Scrivener

The last Linux release is now an AppImage which is awesome.

### Typora

I know, it’s not open source, and I feel bad about that. But it’s a nice piece of writing software for markdown. Though lately I’ve just been using Atom.

### Zettlr

Another nice piece of writing software for markdown.

### Atom

I actually like Atom for writing, because of its document list in the sidebar and the ability to have more than one file open at once. That’s not a fancy capability I know, but a lot of Markdown editors don’t do that, and it’s a pain switching back and forth.

### Kate

Is just a nice text editor. Part of the KDE suite of software. Though I don’t use the KDE desktop, they make some great software that I rely on- KMyMoney, KDenLive among others.

### ZuluCrypt

​I use this to encrypt documents that are personal. Works great. I used VeraCrypt previously, but it unmounted my encrypted volume every time I closed my laptop, which was annoying and I couldn’t debug it. So ZuluCrypt it is.

## Less than Optimum, ethically:

There are some things I am using that are not optimum according to my principles, but I’m leaning toward practical rather than optimal right now. Optimal is hard to come by… A more optimum version of myself would not use these cloud based services, and everything would be open source. But they’re handy.

### Remember the Milk

​I wanted a to do list that would give me repeating tasks so I don’t forget when to pay the water bill. It has a good Linux app, and the free plan works well.

### SimpleNote

​I have some notes and recipes that I like to just have in one easy to grab place, and SimpleNote works well for that. And they have a good Linux client, which is open source. So that’s good.

### Wordpress

​I am still using this for my web sites.

## Utilities

### X-Tile

For tiling windows into a nice little grid of various arrangements. By the same fellow who makes ZuluCrypt

### Sunflower

A neat double pane file manager that I really like. For comparing and organizing files a double pane manager is just nice sometimes.

### Syncthing

Another staple. I use this to sync files on my laptop to my desktop and my android tablet. It’s great.

### KeepassX

Good, solid password manager. Been using it for years now, and it works well.

## I’m Bad at Command Line

That’s not really true. I’m not patient enough for the command line. It irritates me having to hunt for keyboard shortcuts. I understand if you’re disappointed in me. I’m a little disappointed in me too. Sometimes I get on a kick and try out CLI apps, but it doesn’t last long.

I’m great at using apt (or apt-get) for software installation, because it’s usually faster than the Software Manager if you already know the program you want to install. Besides that, sometimes the program will install with “sudo apt install” and won’t with the Gnome Software Manager. I can’t explain that. I also keep Synaptic software manager around, so I can search there too. It’s not fancy, and it gets the job done.

I know command line apps are great and some folks love them. I sometimes enjoy writing in Nano, and I wish for a command line writing program, for the minimalism. I know there is Wordgrinder, which is pretty cool, but I dislike having to import and export into programs. I want to edit .txt or .md files directly and that’s it. Any other file types are locked into certain programs and that’s not for me.

Nano - command line text editor

Ranger - command line file manager

Wordgrinder - command line word processor