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While the big corporations have the necessary funding and resources, most open source projects are developed by individuals in their spare time. However, it does require one’s efforts, time and probably includes some overhead costs too. Monetary supports surely help drive the project development.
If you would like to support open source projects financially, let me show you some platforms dedicated to open source and/or Linux.
Funding platforms for Open Source projects
Just to clarify, we are not associated with any of the funding platforms mentioned here.
Gratipay was probably the biggest platform for funding open source projects and people associated with the project, which got shut down at the end of the year 2017. However, there’s a fork – Liberapay that works as a recurrent donation platform for the open source projects and the contributors.
Liberapay is a non-profit, open source organization that helps in a periodic donation to a project. You can create an account as a contributor and ask the people who would really like to help (usually the consumer of your products) to donate.
To receive a donation, you will have to create an account on Liberapay, brief what you do and about your project, reasons for asking for the donation and what will be done with the money you receive.
For someone who would like to donate, they would have to add money to their accounts and set up a period for payment that can be weekly, monthly or yearly to someone. There’s a mail triggered when there is not much left to donate.
The currency supported are dollars and Euro as of now and you can always put up a badge on Github, your Twitter profile or website for a donation.
Bountysource is a funding platform for open source software that has a unique way of paying a developer for his time and work int he name of Bounties.
There are basically two campaigns, bounties and salt campaign.
Under the Bounties, users declare bounties aka cash prizes on open issues that they believe should be fixed or any new features which they want to see in the software they are using. A developer can then go and fix it to receive the cash prize.
Salt Campaign is like any other funding, anyone can pay a recurring amount to a project or an individual working for an open source project for as long as they want.
Bountysource accepts any software that is approved by Free Software Foundation or Open Source Initiatives. The bounties can be placed using PayPal, Bitcoin or the bounty itself if owned previously. Bountysource supports a no. of issue tracker currently like GitHub, Bugzilla, Google Code, Jira, Launchpad etc.
3. Open Collective
Open Collective is another popular funding initiative where a person who is willing to receive the donation for the work he is doing in Open Source world can create a page. He can submit the expense reports for the project he is working on. A contributor can add money to his account and pay him for his expenses.
The complete process is transparent and everyone can track whoever is associated with Open Collective. The contributions are visible along with the unpaid expenses. There is also the option to contribute on a recurring basis.
Open Collective currently has more than 500 collectives being backed up by more than 5000 users.
The fact that it is transparent and you know what you are contributing to, drives more accountability. Some common example of collective include hosting costs, community maintenance, travel expenses etc.
Though Open Collective keeps 10% of all the transactions, it is still a nice way to get your expenses covered in the process of contributing towards an open source project.
Open Source Grants is still in its beta stage and has not matured yet. They are looking for projects that do not have any stable funding and adds value to open source community. Most open source projects are run by a small community in a free time and they are trying to fund them so that the developers can work full time on the projects.
They are equally searching for companies that want to help open source enthusiasts. The process of submitting a project is still being worked upon, and hopefully, in coming days we will see a working way of funding.
In this new Science category within It’s FOSS, we dive into the exciting world of Innovative Science to explore and find out about how the Linux-based Operating System and Open Source are playing a significant role in the major scientific breakthroughs that are taking place in our daily lives.
The Impact of An Open Source Approach Towards Science
Image Source: http://www.sci-gaia.eu/osp-enab/
In future write-ups, we will strive towards exploring the thoughts mentioned in the title of this article. For now, let us look into the following key points:
Transparency is a practice that is considered highly valuable in any project that is being undertaken. It is all about how open the process of intended shared information being distributed is. Transparency makes any kind of action being implemented easily perceivable as it plays a significant role in building an effective decision-making process within an organization or community. A simple example of good transparency practice would be a complete set of records of transactions between two individuals or teams available for reference at any time by both parties.
Though transparency and open source are not exactly the same, both share similar ideologies. The Open Source Approach always brings about a positive impact on transparency within any project team. Since the original source code is available on the public domain and can be repurposed, it becomes easier for various collaborations to be born among different groups or teams to work towards solving a scientific problem that could help society. Speaking of Linux, it is always the first preference in scientific research considering the nature of software practices today. Based on various observations by researchers, Linux is being preferred first and that is good news!
Research without quality always results in reduced or no effectiveness. It’s obvious how Linux and FOSS would profoundly affect the quality of scientific research anywhere in the world. The effect on transparency as discussed above likewise has another positive effect on research too, because when software being used to perform any scientific analysis is open source, it becomes simpler and easier to understand experimental results and errors. It immensely helps in isolating the cause of a software issue. The ability to reuse scientific work for its initial or a different purpose i.e. applicability will only be possible when the original source code is available at hand, making it absolutely ready to deploy or debug after making updates with the necessary changes.
Flow of Ideas
As this key point suggests, scientific knowledge should not be contained. This is how the concept of open access came into being. Open Source supports the spirit of scientific knowledge freedom with its open model. Proprietary software means closed source, which implies lack of transparency in understanding how it really works. When we do not understand how it actually works from the core, are we not hindered from effectively solving our targeted problem with required precision? The time spent in replicating or improving such a model could have greatly been reduced had it been open source in the first place!
A recent study was published by ScienceDirect which revealed that it is the Open Source sector which dominates the industry when compared to its Proprietary counterpart when considering the long run. This has been done by studying and formulating their mutual relations corresponding to R&D.
Careful study of open source code allows the scientific programmer to note down possibilities of improvements, erroneous bugs which could be vital for scientific accuracy and implementing new features. Introducing new features becomes quite easier as the user knows where to intelligently implement them within the various snippets of open source code every part of which is obviously accessible.
Savings on Funding
Any scientific research requires sufficient funding to work effectively towards an outlaid objective. To be able to invent or discover, we require tools. But when it comes to software tools, it is evident how adopting an open source model would cut down costs. We do not need to buy a costly operating system while building a science lab. Computers are heavily relied upon to perform in-silico analysis and thankfully we have an enormous amount of freely available open source scientific operating systems and software to work on the same. The expenditure that goes into buying proprietary software could be justifiably used to do actual research just by using open source software instead.
Open Source Journals
Scientific journals are a source of reliable information and research news. Interestingly, we now even have software journals exclusively meant for looking up Open Source information. One of them is JOSS, i.e The Journal of Open Source Software which is a great resource to browse upon open source research software packages. The journal has specifically been designed with a developer-friendly approach. We will discuss more such journals in future articles.
Open Science is a movement that is gradually becoming a revolution, to make all scientific work available to everyone, irrespective of the status of the individual or group who have an eagerness to know or learn. This has been described in the featured image (by Sci-GaIA) of this article in a very simple manner. Sci-GaIA promotes the use and development of e-Infrastructure in Africa. The idea of Open Science dates as long as back to the 1600s! Open Science is based on four core values: open access, open data, open source, and open standards. Many countries have full-fledged open data projects. Here’s France, India and the U.S.’s. Check out this beautifully illustrated and interactive open science page on the Sci-GaIA website!
Following are the laws of Open Science:
First law: All data are open and all ideas are shared
Second Law: Anyone can take part at any level
Third Law: There will be no patents
Fourth Law: Suggestions are the best form of criticism
Fifth Law: Public discussion is much more valuable than private email
Sixth Law: An open project is bigger than, and is not owned by any given lab
The above laws were first laid down by visionary scientist and researcher, Matt Todd in his own blog post on Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD – discussed next) for Malaria. The following video mentions the first three:
Brief: This step-by-step tutorial demonstrates how to upgrade to Ubuntu 18.04 Beta from Ubuntu 17.10.
If you are using Ubuntu 17.10 right now and are excited about the new features in Ubuntu 18.04, you may want to try it. Ubuntu 18.04 will be coming in the end of April but if you want to try it before that, you can upgrade to Ubuntu 18.04 beta today.
Upgrade from Ubuntu 17.10 to Ubuntu 18.04 Beta
I am using the default Ubuntu 17.10 GNOME flavor for this tutorial but I believe the same steps should be applicable to other Ubuntu flavors such as Kubuntu, Xubuntu etc. You’ll also have to use some commands but they are not at all complicated.
Before you upgrade to Ubuntu 18.04 beta, you should keep a few things in mind:
Beta means bugs. You’ll have an operating system which is not developed completely. So you may encounter issues with your systems. Beta releases are intended for testing the OS before its final release.
If you choose to upgrade your Ubuntu version, you cannot downgrade it. You cannot get back to Ubuntu 17.10 without reinstalling it. Which means you may lose your existing data.
Once the correct Software Sources settings are in place, open a terminal and use the command below to update the system. It may take some time, depending on your internet speed.
sudo apt update && sudo apt dist-upgrade
If you are asked to do a system restart, restart your system.
Now run Update Manager with option d so that it looks for distribution upgrade.
sudo update-manager -d
This will open the Software Updater and it should notify you of the availability of Ubuntu 18.04.
Obviously, click on Upgrade.
The rest of the process is fairly easy. All you have to do is to follow the on-screen instructions.
It will download the release upgrade tool.
And then it will prepare your system for the upgrade by setting new software repositories.
And at this stage, you’ll be asked to actually upgrade your system. This is the point of no return. You cannot go back from here so make sure you have a reliable internet. The entire process may take anywhere from 20 minutes to 90 minutes depending on your internet speed.
Now your system will be installing the new Ubuntu 18.04 packages.
After some time, you’ll be asked whether you want to keep the obsolete packages from the previous Ubuntu 17.10 install. I advise removing them.
At this point, you have already completed the Ubuntu 18.04 upgrade process. You’ll be asked to restart your system now.
After restarting the system, you might not notice a visible difference right away. Even the wallpaper remains the same as Ubuntu 17.10. However, when you check in system details, you’ll see that your system is now Ubuntu 18.04 beta.
That’s it. That’s all you needed to do to upgrade to Ubuntu 18.04 beta from Ubuntu 17.10. Enjoy Ubuntu 18.04 beta and keep reporting bugs and crashes so that Ubuntu team could fix them before the actual release.
Brief:This is a continually updated article to inform you about Fedora 28 release date, features and everything important associated with it.
Development on Fedora 28 began right after the release of Fedora 27 release. The new release will bring battery improvement on laptops, slightly different initial setup and a possible secure Thunderbolt 3 support among other things.
Fedora 28 Release Date
Fedora has a six monthly release cycle. Which means there are two Fedora releases each year. These releases are usually timed around May Day (1st of May) and Halloween (31st October). However, Fedora has a history of not keeping up the release dates. So the release schedule is only tentative and the dates may change for all the phases.
Here are some of the noticeable new features in Fedora 28 release:
1. Improved battery life on laptops
No more manual tweaks! Fedora 28 will deploy several tweaks on its own to provide improved battery life. As explained in a talk at FOSDEM 2018, Fedora 28 will have the following power management tweaks:
Enabling auto-suspend for Intel HDA codecs saves around 0.4 W
Enabling SATA ALPM by default saves up to 1.5 W
Enabling i915 Panel Self Refresh by default saves around 0.5 W
With these tweaks in place, some laptop models will see up to 30% of battery life improvements.
While ‘power users’ can do these tweaks manually and achieve the same result, the idea is to provide an out of the box experience to every Fedora user. Indeed a good thinking there.
2. Reduced Initial Setup Redundancy
To make Fedora more beginner friendly, Fedora 28 Workstation will have fewer ‘questions’ to answer at the install time. There will be no root password anymore and the user password itself will be sufficient for the root actions, same as Ubuntu.
There will be some more code changes to reduce the redundancy between Anaconda installer and gnome-initial-setup.
Fedora 28 will see the addition of guest-drivers to the Fedora kernel package, packaging the userspace-tools (VirtualBox Guest Additions) and adding the VirtualBox Guest Additions package to the default package list for the Workstation product.
This means using Fedora in VirtualBox will have a better experience.
4. New supplemental wallpapers
This is only for hardcore Fedora fans. As usual Fedora 28 will also have a new set of wallpapers.
You can download these wallpapers from the link below:
If you want to test Fedora 28 before its release, you can download Fedora 28 beta version from the link below. But before you do that, let me warn you that beta means bugs. You’ll have an unstable operating system with possible issues. I advise not using it as your main OS yet.
Brief: Kali Linux and Debian join Ubuntu and SUSE Linux on Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). This means that now you can install these Linux distributions in command line mode inside Windows 10 like any other Windows application.
Last week Microsoft announced the availability of Debian and Debian based hacking distribution Kali Linux on Windows Subsystem for Linux. You can download these two distributions from Microsoft Store and install them like any other Windows 10 application. This way, you get the command line version of these Linux distributions.
These announcements should not come as surprise because Kali had already announced on their site in January that they are “always on the prowl for novel environments to run Kali on, and with the introduction of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in Windows 10, new and exciting possibilities have surfaced.”
They also hinted at the inclusion of other Debian based distributions on WSL in the same announcement, “it shouldn’t be too hard to incorporate another Debian-like distribution, right?”
This indicates that Microsoft has kept its promise at its Build 2017 conference to make available more Linux distributions in the Microsoft Store to be used on Windows 10 subsystem for Linux.
To download and install Linux app on Windows 10 subsystem using WSL, you need to, first of all, enable the Optional Windows feature. You should also check out our screenshot guide of installing Linux over WSL. The installation procedure is same for all Linux distributions available on Windows Store.
Kali Linux also has an official video showing quick installation process.
Installing Kali Linux over WSL from the Windows App Store - Vimeo
Considering that so many wannabe hackers try to use Kali Linux, perhaps now they will have an easier way to install it. Though I am not sure whether using Kali Linux is a good idea altogether. Debian is a much better choice for all-purpose computing. What do you think?
Brief: Open Source system cleaner application BleachBit version 2.0 has been released. The new version brings some improvements and new features to the most used system cleaning application on Linux.
The open source system cleaning software, BleachBit has announced its first major release, BleachBit 2.0, after one and a half year. According to the release statement, this latest update “brings major improvements to infrastructure, security, stability, and the framework.”
The open source software that has been designed for both Linux and Windows operating system helps to free disk space by cleaning many applications and various web browsers as well as putting guard on users privacy. You can call it Ccleaner alternative for Linux.
BleachBit 2.0 deletes cookies, clears cache and Internet history, deletes logs, shreds temporary files and discard junk files that users may not be aware of.
New features in BleachBit 2.0
BleachBit 2.0 comes along with some major changes since version 1.2 was released in 2016. Below are some of the improvements:
Drag-and-drop Support: It is now possible to drag and drop files into the program window for shredding using its disk-cleaning tools
Web Browsers: Preservation of thumbnails, error Favicons have seen improvements in Chrome and Chromium browsers. You can now also clean site engagement history on these two browsers. DatabaseError on Firefox Firefox profiles has been fixed
Packages for Fedora 25 & 26, OpenSUSE Leap 42.x and Debian 16.10 have been added
For Windows OS, to improve on accuracy, some APIs have been improved to help users wipe specific files
Mac OS X (Darwin) has seen some improvements in its basic functions though an installer or GUI is still not available
Fixes specific only to Linux: There are some fixes that are only specific to Linux. These include the journald cleaner, use of PolicyKit, apt clean fixes, XDG base directrix specification in cleaners and an improvement in Liferea cleaner
BleachBit 2.0 has installation packages available for Linux-based distros like Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint, Debian and OpenSUSE as well as for Microsoft Windows. You can download BleachBit 2.0 for Linux from the page below:
Recently, I have taken a little dip into the world of BSD. As part of my attempt to understand the BSD world a little better, I connected with Lucas Holt (MidnightBSD founder and lead developer) to ask him a few questions about his project. Here are his answers.
It’s FOSS: Please explain MidnightBSD in a nutshell. How is it different than other BSDs?
Lucas Holt: MidnightBSD is a desktop focused operating system. When it’s considered stable, it will provide a full desktop experience. This differs from other efforts such as TrueOS or GhostBSD in that it’s not a distro of FreeBSD, but rather a fork. MidnightBSD has its own package manager, mport as well as unique package cluster software and several features built into user land such as mDNSresponder, libdispatch, and customizations throughout the system.
It’s FOSS: Who is MidnightBSD aimed at?
Lucas Holt: The goal with MidnightBSD has always been to provide a desktop OS that’s usable for everyday tasks and that even somewhat non technical people can use. Early versions of Mac OS X were certainly an inspiration. In practice, we’re rather far from that goal at this point, but it’s been an excellent learning opportunity.
Lucas Holt: I started in technical support at a small ISP and moved into web design and system administration. While there, I learned BSDi, Solaris and Linux. I also started tinkering with programming web apps in ASP and a little perl CGI. I then did a mix of programming and system administration jobs through college and graduated with a bachelors in C.S. from Eastern Michigan University. During that time, I learned NetBSD and FreeBSD. I started working on several projects such as porting Apple’s HFS+ code to FreeBSD 6 and working on getting the nforce2 chipset SATA controller working with FreeBSD 6, with the latter getting committed. I got a real taste for BSD and after seeing the lack of interest in the community for desktop BSDs, I started MidnightBSD. I began work on it in late 2005.
Currently, I’m a Senior Software Engineer focusing on backend rest services by day and a part-time graduate student at the University of Michigan Flint.
It’s FOSS: I recently installed TrueOS. I was disappointed that a couple of the programs I wanted were not available. The FreeBSD port system looked mildly complicated for beginners. I’m used to using pacman to get the job done quickly. How does MidnightBSD deal with ports?
Lucas Holt: MidnightBSD has it’s own port system, mports, which shared similarities with FreeBSD ports as well as some ideas from OpenBSD. We decided early on that decent package management was essential for regular users. Power users will still use ports for certain software, but it’s just so time consuming to build everything. We started work on our own package manager, mport.
Every package is a tar lzma archive with a sqlite3 manifest file as well as a sqlite 3 index that’s downloaded from our server. This allows users to query and customize the package system with standard SQL queries. We’re also building more user friendly graphical tools.
Package availability is another issue that most BSDs have. Software tends to be written for one or two operating systems and many projects are reluctant to support other systems, particularly smaller projects like MidnightBSD. There are certainly gaps. All of the BSD projects need more volunteers to help with porting software and keeping it up to date.
It’s FOSS: During your June 2015 interview on BSDNow, you mentioned that even though you support both i386 and amd64, that you recommend people choose amd64. Do you have any plans to drop i386 support in the future, like many have done?
Lucas Holt: Yes, we do plan to drop i386 support, mostly because of the extra work needed to build and maintain packages. I’ve held off on this so far because I had a lot of feedback from users in South America that they still needed it. For now, the plan is to keep i386 support through 1.0 release. That’s probably a year or two out.
It’s FOSS: What desktop environments does MidnightBSD support?
Lucas Holt: The original plan was to use Etoile as a desktop environment, but that project changed focus. We currently support Xfce, Gnome 3, WindowMaker + GNUstep + Gworkspace as primary choices. We also have several other window managers and desktop environments available such as Enlightenment, rat poison, afterstep, etc.
Early versions offered KDE 3.x but we had some issues with KDE 4. We may revisit that with newer versions.
It’s FOSS: What is MidnightBSD’s default filesystem? Do you support DragonflyBSD’s HAMMER filesystem? What other filesystems?
Lucas Holt: Boot volumes are UFS2. We also support ZFS for additional storage. We have read support for ExFat, NTFS, ext2, CD9660. NFS v3 and v4 are also supported for network file systems.
We do not support HAMMER, although it was considered. I would love to see HAMMER2 get added to MidnightBSD eventually.
It’s FOSS: Is MidnightBSD affected by the recent Spectre and Meltdown issues?
Lucas Holt: Yes. Most operating systems were affected by these issues. We were not informed of the issue until the general public became aware. Work is ongoing to come up with appropriate mitigations. Unfortunately, we do not have a patch yet.
It’s FOSS: The Raspberry Pi and its many clones have made the ARM platform very popular. Are there any plans to make MidnightBSD available on that platform?
Lucas Holt: No immediate plans. ARM is an interesting architecture, but by the very nature of SoC designs, takes a lot of work to support a broad number of devices. It might be possible when we stop supporting i386 or if someone volunteers to work on the ARM port.
Eventually, I think most hobby systems will need to run ARM chips. Intel’s planning on locking down hardware with UEFI 3 and this may make it difficult to run on commodity hardware in the future not only for MidnightBSD but other systems as well.
At one point, MidinightBSD ran on sparc64. When workstations were killed off, we dropped support. A desktop OS on a server platform makes little sense.
It’s FOSS: Does MidnightBSD offer support for Linux applications?
Lucas Holt: Yes, we offer Linux emulation. It’s emulating a 2.6.16 kernel currently and that needs to be updated so support newer apps. It’s possible to run semi-recent versions of Firefox, Thunderbird, Java, and OpenOffice on it though. I’ve also used it to host game servers in the past and play older games such as Quake 3, enemy territory, etc.
It’s FOSS: Could you comment on the recent dust-up between the Pale Moon browser developers and the team behind the OpenBSD ports system?
[Author’s Note: For those who haven’t heard about this, let me summarize. Last month, someone from the OpenBSD team added the Pale Moon browser to their ports collection. A Pale Moon developer demanded that they include Pale Moon’s libraries instead of using system libraries. As the conversation continued, it got more hostile, especially on the Pale Moon side. The net result is that Pale Moon will not be available on OpenBSD, MidnightBSD, or FreeBSD.]
Lucas Holt: I found this discussion frustrating. Many of the BSD projects hear a lot of complaints about browser availability and compatibility. With Firefox moving to Rust, it makes it even more difficult. Then you get into branding issues. Like Firefox, the Pale Moon developers have decided to protect their brand at the cost of users. Unlike the Firefox devs, they’ve made even stranger requirements for branding. It is not possible to use a system library version of anything with Pale Moon and keep their branding requirements. As such, we cannot offer Pale Moon in MidnightBSD.
The reason this is an issue for an open source project is that many third party libraries are used in something as complex as a web browser. For instance, Gecko-based browsers use several multimedia libraries, sqlite3 (for bookmarks), audio and video codecs, etc. Trying to maintain upstream patches for each of these items is difficult. That’s why the BSDs have ports collections to begin with. It allows us to track and manage custom patches to make all these libraries work. We go through a lot of effort in keeping these up to date. Sometimes upstream patches don’t get included. That means our versions are the only working copies. With pale moon’s policy, we’d need to submit separate patches to their customized versions of all these libraries too and any new release of the browser would not be available as changes occur. It might not even be possible to compile pale moon without a patch locally.
With regard to Rust, it requires porting the language, as well as an appropriate version of LLVM before you can even start on the browser.
It’s FOSS: If someone wanted to contribute to your project, both financial and technical, how can they do that?
Lucas Holt: Financial assistance for the project can be submitted online. We have a page outlining how to make donations with Patreon, Paypal or via bitcoin. Donations are not tax deductible. You can learn more at http://www.midnightbsd.org/donate/
We also need assistance with translations, porting applications, and working on the actual OS. Interested parties can contact us on the mailing list or through IRC on freenode #midnightbsd We also could use assistance with mirroring ISOs and packages.
I would like to thank Lucas for taking the time to reply to my many questions. For more information about MidnightBSD or to download it, please visit their website. The most recent version of MidnightBSD is 0.8.6.
Have you ever played around with MidnightBSD? What is your favorite version of BSD?
If you found this article interesting, please take a minute to share it on social media.
Brief: It’s FOSS reader Dave Merritt shares some hidden and ignored features of Linux Mint Cinnamon that he started to love.
I’m often asked by traumatized Windows users which Linux operating system I would recommend. Until a year and a half ago I recommended Zorin OS without hesitation. However, last year at this time, Zorin was still working on a major re-write and could not offer an LTS (long-term support) release.
One of the problems of the Linux world is that distros great and small come and go. So lacking any certainty that Zorin would be ready before my version lost its support—or that Zorin would still exist—I downloaded Linux Mint Cinnamon 18 and have been using and recommending it ever since.
As a result, the last 18 months have been quite boring for me: nothing ever seems to go wrong with Linux Mint. On the other hand, it’s nice to write about things that work well. For this article, I’ll focus on five tiny and easy-to-use features that I’ve found to be very useful. All come pre-installed. Which is nice since using Synaptic Package Manager or the bash line can be quite intimidating for newcomers to Linux.
1. Nemo Preview
I have a large music collection and often make compilation CDs for friends. If you’ve done this yourself, you’ve probably noticed that “gain” varies greatly from CD to CD and from format to format. And while Brasero and most other burning apps can smooth out small bumps it can’t do much about the more wild inconsistencies that often show up. And while the gain on a single track is easily adjusted using Audacity, it’s hard to tell how much adjustment is needed if you can’t quickly compare it to a benchmark file.
Say you’re at the point where if two tracks can be made to match, the disc will be perfect. My problem here is that my default music player, Banshee, has to suck up hundreds of albums from an external drive before it will open and that takes a few seconds. And once up it can take a few more seconds to switch back and forth from track to track. Full-featured music players simply aren’t designed to be nimble.
This is where Nemo Preview comes in. It’s built into the Nemo File Manager and couldn’t be faster or easier to use. Simply click on the file and hit “space bar”. If it’s an audio file, a micro player appears and starts playing instantly. Hit “space bar” again to close it, click on the new file and hit “space bar” again, and you’re listening to the other track. Nemo Preview also works on most other types of files, though not always with the same blazing speed.
Click the file and hit space bar
A micro music player will come up
2. Mint Menu Part 1 The “Uninstall” Feature
A few weeks ago I was trying to make a Skype call, but Skype wouldn’t open. This wasn’t the first time this has happened to me. It happens every time Skype upgrades. Microsoft makes an upgraded version for Linux but makes no allowances for the removal of the newly defunct version. Trying to install a current version isn’t all that hard; the latest version is present in the Mint repositories and its easy enough to down a .deb file from the Skype website. But if you forget to remove the old version first, you can wind up with two versions—only one of which works.
For an experienced user, this can be easily solved two different ways. The redundant version can be removed using Synaptic Package Manager, or by opening
Software Manager, clicking on “show installed applications”, hunting it down and then removing it by clicking “uninstall”.
However, the Mint Menu offers a far simpler solution. Locate the application and “Right-click” on the icon. This activates a drop menu—which also allows you to create a panel or desktop launchers. Click on “Uninstall” from the drop menu. This activates Synaptic, prompting you to type in your password. Finally, a progress window will open, which will tell you when it’s done (or will sometimes ask to allow certain other libraries to be added or removed).
So, returning to the redundant Skype problem, since both versions will appear in the menu, simply test and then “Uninstall” the one that doesn’t work.
3. Mint Menu Part 2 Where the heck did that Download Go? Use “Recent Files” to find out!
Like every Linux OS I’ve ever used, Mint Menu has a “Recent Files” option. This option remembers not only files you’ve created or used but also everything you’ve downloaded. A mistake I frequently make is addressing a download to the wrong folder. Nemo has a decent search function but it can take time. It’s far easier to find a file’s location in the Mint Menu. Click on “Recent Files”, hover over the misplaced file and at the bottom of the menu it’s exact location will appear.
In Recent Files, hover over the misplaced file and at the bottom of the menu it’s exact location will appear
If the “Recent Files” option doesn’t appear in your menu, that’s because there is an option to turn it off in order to protect your computing activities from prying eyes. If you can’t find it on your menu, go to “System Settings” and click “Privacy”. You’ll see this screen:
Turn on Privacy in Linux Mint
Simply toggle it to “on” and adjust further as suits your needs. (But remember, if you select “Never forget old files” your menu will take longer and longer to open as time passes and entries multiply.)
Recently used files can be turned on or off
4. Unattended Upgrade: An invisible friend
For at least a decade I’ve been an occasional user of “ClamAV”. It’s an open source virus scanner for Linux. When I use it, it’s as a courtesy: Linux systems may be immune to all known Windows viruses, but Linux users can pass them on to systems which are not.
Anti-virus software has unique needs: writers of malicious code don’t release their work on a predictable schedule. So virus signatures are ever-changing. And furthermore, the more creative mal-ware becomes, the more creative search algorithms need to be.
But even though ClamAV can be downloaded from most repositories, that was pretty much it. If you wanted to use you had to manually update first the engines, and then the virus signatures—and in that order, if you wanted it to work properly. Since these updates came directly from the author’s servers, this process could take a lot of time.
While this was a hassle, it usually worked—eventually. And I can understand why virus signatures should be updated manually with every use—it would place an absurd burden on the repositories to keep them current. But what I could never understand why the repositories never sent updates for the interface. In a decade of using ClamAV on Ubuntu, Fedora and Zorin I never received a single update.
I’m the sort of nosey-parker who examines every update that comes my way. One of the features of the Mint “Update Manager” is that it provides a description of the item as well as a change log. Soon after switching to Mint, one of the updates I got was called “unattended upgrades”. Oddly it lacked any such information. That’s because “Unattended Upgrades” (along with “Mint upgrade” which I plan to examine more thoroughly in the future) isn’t really a package. What it does is search your system for rarely used packages from official repositories and PPAs to make sure even low priority applications are checked for updates instead of—as usual—being ignored.
Soon after I received for the first time ever updates for ClamAV. Above are my most recent updates.
This last built-in feature has little practical value, but it can nevertheless be loads of fun. Most Linux systems come with a limited range of built-in audio files to give you audible cues for various system states; log in, log out or notifications of new emails, for example. Linux Mint Cinnamon has gone to great lengths to offer users the ability to install their own sound scripts and to choose which system events you’d like among them to notify you about. The only limitation is that custom sounds must be in ogg or wav formats. It’s also a good idea to nest them somewhere in your home folder, though not absolutely necessary.
You can find and download system sounds all over the web. But if you’re feeling adventurous you can easily make your own. They can be verbal: simply record your own voice—if you have a webcam you’ve got a microphone. You can also raid your music collection. Using Audacity you can clip out a section of a song, save it as an ogg or wav file and use the “fade in” and fade out” effects to smooth out the edges. Or you can go really crazy and use the wide range of effects. (My favorite is “Paulstretch”.)
Once you’ve made your palette of sounds, installation is a breeze. Go to “System Settings”, scroll down to “Hardware”, click “Sound” and then “Sound Effects”. From this menu, you can add or remove sound effects by toggling them on or off. By choosing the music icon you can plug in your custom sounds and then you can test them with the play icon.
System Sound Settings
A Few Caveats
The first three features I mentioned were available in Zorin 9, although I couldn’t find them in the first release of Zorin 12, they may have been added since. None of the first three features appear in the latest version Ubuntu Gnome. Finally, for all I know “Unattended Upgrades” is common a feature of all Ubuntu-based Linux Systems these days. But what I can say in total candor is that in over a decade of using Linux I never received a single update for “Grub Customizer” or “Clamav” until I switched to Linux Mint.
About author Dave Merritt: I’m a 59 years old, fulltime landscaper and parttime PCmedic. I’ve been an avid Linux user for over ten years. In that time, I do not claim to have made every possible mistake, only most of them. I’m a big fan of prog rock, avant jazz and J S Bach, and enjoy reading Neal Stevenson and anything to do with the foundational problems in modern physics.
Brief: Snaps are Canonical’s way of providing a cross-distribution package management system. In this article, we will see how to install and use snaps in various Linux distributions.
You might be hearing about Snap applications these days. Canonical describes Snap as a universal Linux package which can work on any distribution.
Snaps are basically an application compiled together with its dependencies and libraries – providing a sandboxed environment for the application to run. These are easier and faster to install, can receive latest updates and is confined from the OS and other apps.
An application can be packaged for every Linux desktop, server, cloud or devices in the form of snap. For an application developer, maintaining different package formats and subsequent updates is a pain, which Canonical in the form of Snaps has tried to overcome. It has worked well because more and more applications are now providing Snap packages.
In other words, instead of worrying about DEB packages for Debian/Ubuntu, RPM packages for Fedora etc, you can use Snap package that would work on all Linux distributions with Snap support.
Advantages of snaps
Easier to create and manage for Developers: Snaps are easier to create and contain all the dependencies and libraries needed to run, which also means the application uses the latest libraries and do not face any dependencies issues.
Automatic Updates: Updates to a snap are delivered automatically on a daily basis, and reaches out to everyone irrespective of the base OS.
One snap for everything: be it a desktop, server or cloud.
Different releases availability: A snap can be maintained in the stable release, beta versions, and daily build at the same time and you can switch between each other whenever you want.
Security: Snaps run in a sandboxed environment, isolated from the rest of your system.
How to install Snap on Linux
Before you Snap packages, you will have to install snapd. snapd is a management environment that handles installation and updates of snaps. Installing snapd will enable Snap support on your Linux distribution.
Let’s see how to install it for different Linux distributions.
Enabling Snap support on Debian and Ubuntu based distributions
If you want to use Snap applications on Linux Mint and other Debian or Ubuntu based distributions, use the command below:
sudo apt install snapd
Enabling Snap support on Fedora based distributions
sudo dnf install snapd
Enabling Snap support on Arch-based distributions
snapd is available in Arch User Repository. Run the below command to install and enable it.
Once the package is successfully installed from the community repo, enable the systemd unit.
sudo systemctl enable --now snapd.socket
How to use snap with the basic Snap commands
Once you are done with the snapd installation, it’s time to see how to use it. We have already covered Snap commands in detail. Here, I’ll just quickly list out the most useful Snap commands.
You can search different snaps and install it. There is a Snap store which holds different public and private apps (or snaps) for clouds, desktops, devices etc.
Finding a snap
Anyone can publish a snap in the store, however, you only see the snaps that are published to the stable release and has been reviewed. Use the below command to search for a snap:
sudo snap find libreoffice
Once you found the snap you are looking for, you can install it with the below command:
sudo snap install <snap_name>
List out installed snaps
You can use the below command to see the snaps you have installed along with their versions and the developer:
Update an installed snap app
Snaps are updated periodically to their latest version. In case you are trying to do it manually, type in the below command in the terminal:
sudo snap refresh <snap_name>
Uninstall a snap package
To remove a snap
sudo snap remove <snap_name>
With different Linux distributions running different package managers and formats, there is no single way of installing an application in every Linux distribution the same way. Snap can be the solution to this problem, over-coming the installation issues (like a missing library) and making sure you are running the latest version!
What do you think about snaps? Do tell us in the comments.
Brief: Who says Linux command line is no fun? When you are in the mood of some naughty, geeky fun, read these witty man page entries.
If you have been using Linux for some time, you might already be familiar with the term man pages. Mostly because you would have been advised by your colleague, friend or a total stranger on a Linux forum to RTFM (read the f***ing manpage).
Long before people start using search engines for each and everything, Linux users relied on the man pages to know how a certain Linux command works. It is still a great help.
But I am not going to talk about greatness or usefulness of the man pages. I am going to show you the witty side of man pages.
There is a package unsurprisingly called funny-manpages and it adds some witty entries to the man pages.
Before I show you a few examples, let me give you the same ‘warning’ that its description does:
A set of miscellaneous humorous manpages (don’t take them too seriously!). Includes, amongst others, rtfm (1). Warning! Some of these manpages might be treated offensive. You’ve been warned.
If you are not extra-sensitive and can tolerate stuff with a sexual overtone, you should be fine with these entries.
I think funny-manpages are available in most Linux distributions. You can install it using your distribution’s package manager. In Debian and Ubuntu based distributions, use the command below:
sudo apt install funny-manpages
Once you have this package installed, you can read some entries using the man command. For example, if you use command man celibacy, you’ll see an output like this:
You can see the style of writing is identical to the real man page entries. While this particular entry is deliberately not big, some of the funny man page entries are well detailed.
baby — create new process from two parents
baby -sex [m|f] [-name name]
baby is initiated when one parent process polls another server process through a socket connection in the BSD version or through pipes in the System V implementation. baby runs at low prior‐
ity for approximately forty weeks and then terminates with a heavy system load. Most systems require constant monitoring when baby reaches its final stages of execution.
Older implementations of baby did not require both initiating processes to be present at the time of completion. In those versions the initiating process which was not present was awakened
and notified of the results upon completion. It has since been determined that the presence of both parent processes result in a generally lower system load at completion, and thus current
versions of baby expect both parent processes to be active during the final stages.
Successful completion of baby results in the creation and naming of a new process. Parent processes then broadcast messages to all other processes, local and remote, informing them of their
-sex define the gender of the created process
-name assign the name name to the new process
baby -sex f -name Jacqueline
completed successfully on July 9, 1992 at 9:11pm. Jacqueline's vital statistics: 8 pounds 3 oz, 20 inches, long dark hair. The parent process, Kim Dunbar, is reportedly doing fine.
cigar(6), dump(5), cry(3).
Despite its complexity, baby only knows one signal, SIGCHLD, (or SIGCLD in the System V implementation), which it uses to contact the parent processes. One or both parent processes must then
inspect the baby process to determine the cause of the signal.
The sleep(1) command may not work as expected on either parent process for some time afterward, as each new instance of baby sends intermittent signals to the parent processes which must be
handled by the parents immediately.
A baby process will frequently dump core, requiring either or both parent processes to clean up after it.
Despite the reams of available documentation on invoking and maintaining baby, most parent processes are overwhelmed.
Funny, isn’t it? Perhaps next time someone says RTFM, you could actually type man rtfm and read the entry:
rtfm - a response for easy questions from clueless lusers
rtfm [ -p ] [ -h ] [ -d option ] [ -i interval ] [ -a action ] [ -q luser]
rtfm is a command for system administrators to use in dealing with new users. rtfm is useful for dealing with users having trouble with their pictures downloaded from alt.binaries.pic‐
tures.erotica. rtfm will continue to run until killed by hand, using `kill processid'. rtfm can be invoked by anyone who has enough of a clue to know what a man page is.
-p Give the answer in a polite fashion.
-h Tell the clueless luser to go to hell. Used with the -p option, they'll look forward to the trip.
Some of the other funny man page entries are sex, condom, flame, flog, gong, grope, party, rescrog etc.
If you find Linux man pages a bit boring, try reading these funny man pages. If you like referring to man pages, you would surely chuckle at these funny man pages.
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