Yesterday I helped a friend restore two laptops to good working order using Linux Mint 21.1. My daily driver is Pop!_OS but my friend is new to Linux and I thought Linux Mint with a Cinnamon desktop would be a good place for him to start his Linux journey. I saved his files from the first laptop on a USB drive and then began the install of Mint from another USB drive that I had prepared for that purpose. The candidate was a three year old Hewlett-Packard Laptop with a lightweight AMD processor and 4 GB or RAM. The computer had really gotten slow and was showing signs of a malware infestation when I suggested to my friend that he let me help him give Linux Mint a try.
The install of Mint went very well and we were done in about fifteen minutes which included adding updates and restoring his word processing and image files from the Windows 10 operating system that had existed on this laptop just a few minutes before. My friend was so excited by the results and the new life in his laptop that he invited me to try Mint on an extra Acer Aspire laptop that he had in a cupboard in his home. The Acer was a great candidate. Eight gigabytes of RAM, i5 processor and 250 GB SSD drive. My friend is quite happy with his two laptops now that they are running Linux Mint. I am always delighted when I can share the gift of Linux and open source software with anyone.
GnuCash is a popular open-source personal finance or small business accounting for Linux users. It is a full-featured double-entry accounting system that supports multiple accounts, investments, and currency conversions. The app also provides a variety of helpful financial tools, including budgeting, reporting, invoicing and more. GnuCash is a great choice for users who are looking for a comprehensive and powerful financial management solution. GnuCash is my own personal favorite that I have been using everyday for over six years. GnuCash can be installed from the command line or as a Flatpak depending on your distribution and/or personal choice. GnuCash is licensed with Gnu Public License. GnuCash is also available for MacOS and Windows users too.
Homebank is a free, open-source personal finance app for Linux, Windows and MacOS users. It easily imports files from Quicken, Microsoft Money and other software. It also imports from popular bank formats OFX/QFX, QIF and CSV. The source code for Homebank is freely available and licensed with GPL v 2.0. The project provides information about how to download and install on your distribution or operating system.
KMyMoney is a cross-platform double-entry bookkeeping system for personal finance management built on KDE. It’s similar in operation to popular proprietary personal finance applications. KMyMoney also supports multiple accounts and currencies, making it a great choice for users who need to manage their finances in multiple countries. It’s latest stable release was June 2021. It is licensed with Gnu Public License. The project provides download images for Linux, Windows and MacOS.
Skrooge is open source and available for download and install on Linux and BSD. It’s also available on Windows and MacOS. You can import accounts from many sources including AFB120, QIF, CSV, MT940, OFX, QFX. According to their website Skrooge is able to import directly transactions from all your banks web sites in one click. Skrooge provides excellent documentation too.
I’m blogging tonight using my System76 Darter Pro which is now nearly three years old. The laptop came with Pop!_OS installed on it and I kept using that Linux distribution for much of the first two years. Last year I made the switch to Linux Mint and I enjoy that very much. Whether I’m running Pop!_OS or Linux Mint my computer runs as well as it did when it was new nearly three years ago. Linux and free software provide the best value for most users and yet daily I encounter folks who have never heard of Linux or free software. Last week I helped a friend access their inaccessible Microsoft Word and Excel files by installing LibreOffice 7.2 on their Windows laptop. I hoped to encourage this person to upgrade their Windows 7 operating system which is out of date with the Linux option. Their computer which is a Hewlett-Packard DM4-2070us is an excellent candidate. It has an i5 processor and six GB RAM. One of the impediments for my friend is the need to edit PES files for a Brother embroidery machine. I found an open source workaround using the Inkstitch extension with Inkscape. I wish I was more proficient with that application than I am.
Today when I came home there was a box sitting in the house waiting for me. My wife said it was a computer my brother-in-law had used in his business. She said, “Dave wanted you to have this computer back now that he’s retired.” I vaguely remember helping Dave get this computer about ten years ago. It’s a Dell Vostro 1520. Checking on the Dell support website I found that the warranty expired nine years ago. The computer came with Windows XP which is what he needed at the time. I checked out the BIOS and determined it had a Core 2 Duo CPU with 2 gigabytes of RAM. It has 300 gigabyte SATA hard disk and Intel wireless.
It was a perfect candidate for Linux Mint XFCE. I made the Mint XFCE 20.1 thumb drive with my desktop computer and fired up the Vostro. I pressed F12 to boot from the USB drive and the install went really well. I ordered a new battery and a memory upgrade to bring it up to 4 GB of RAM. I’ve got a spare 120 GB SSD drive to put into it. Someone will soon be getting a lovely refurbished Dell Vostro 1520 that’s been refitted with Linux. You just have to love Linux and open source. It’s the gift that keeps giving.
Are you looking for a password manager? Password managers abound and many are open source. Which one will you choose? I was letting a browser store my passwords until an upgrade to my system left my browser based solution wanting. That’s when I started looking for a password manager. I looked in the software store of my Linux distribution. I downloaded and tried out a number of them. That list included Keepassx, Keepass2.and Bitwarden. Then I opted for a free proprietary solution. That worked until recently when the free solution put some conditions on the use of their product.
Last week while listening to Linux Unplugged I heard Chris Fisher recommend Bitwarden. Hindsight is 20/20 and now I wonder why I didn’t choose Bitwarden in the first place. There is value in making mistakes and learning from them. I like that I can install Bitwarden on my computer and have it backed up in the cloud or in my own self hosted solution.
The software runs on Windows, MacOS and Linux. You can integrate Bitwarden into your favorite web browser and that list includes Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, Microsoft Edge and others. Bitwarden is mobile too. You can download it for iOS and Android. You can opt to install the software from the command line too. I like that I can access Bitwarden from any computer via the web vault too. I love that the data is fully encrypted end to end with AES-256. Learn more about Bitwarden’s security resources.
You can create a Bitwarden account for free. Bitwarden is open source and released under GPL v. 3.0. You can easily inspect the code. The Bitwarden community is vibrant and it is easy to become a part of that by visiting their forum to learn more about the software and pose questions. You can follow Bitwarden on Twitter and Reddit. The project maintains excellent documentation to help you use it well.
What is your favorite open source password management solution?
I’ve been a Linux user for more than twenty years. I started with Red Hat 6.1 in the late 1990’s. Since then I’ve used a number of distributions and have loved the experience and freedom of open source software. My journey has taken me from Red Hat to Suse then Mandrake. Fedora 1 to Fedora 5 and then Centos and Ubuntu 5.04 in 2005. In the past couple of years I have been running Pop_OS! which I really like. It’s a great implementation of Ubuntu. It’s better than the stock release of Ubuntu Desktop in my estimation.
I first heard of Linux Mint a dozen or more years ago when a community member shared that he used that distribution. Last year a friend asked me to install Linux on an under powered Windows laptop that they owned. In my search to find the right distribution I settled on Linux Mint XFCE. It worked well. Then came the pandemic.
Since March of last year I’ve been helping folks get connected to Zoom and other video conferencing solutions and in all but one case I’ve used Linux. Several of the units I’ve purchased on Ebay came from Free Geek which is a non-profit in Portland, Oregon. Those laptops have come with Linux Mint installed. Most of the time I reinstalled Pop_OS on them. Recently when looking for a Linux solution for an aging Acer laptop with a Pentium processor I opted to install Linux Mint XFCE. It fit the bill perfectly. The client was very happy that a computer that was in their storage closet would now be the solution to their problem created when Google nixed cloud printing and made it impossible to print from their Chromebook to a two year old HP LaserJet multi-function device.
In helping a client find a Linux solution to his problem I decided it was time to try Mint on my System76 Darter Pro. I installed the Cinnamon desktop and had fun learning the nuances of this new interface. I liked it so well that I decided to use it on my Intel NUC desktop. I backed up my files and had Linux Mint 20.1 installed. I’m having fun configuring it the way I like it. Mint comes with a backup solution of it’s own but I opted to install Cronopete which is my favorite backup software. There’s always a learning curve with any new distribution. I’m looking forward to the experience. Thank you Linux for the freedom to choose.
Recently my son asked me if I could locate a video of him scoring 35 points in one half of a high school basketball game. The game happened about eighteen or nineteen years ago. Fortunately many years ago I transferred the VHS-C format video to a digital format and created DVD’s of each of the games from his senior season. Thank goodness my wife is much more organized than me and she remembered where the DVD collection was. Now the problem was moving from the DVD format to digital video that could be loaded onto our son’s iOS device for playback. That’s where Handbrake came to my rescue. If you’re not familiar Handbrake is a great tool for video transcoding. Add to that it’s open source too.
My daily driver is a System76 Darter Pro and it’s currently running Pop!_OS 20.04. I had to install Handbrake which is easy from the command line, $ sudo apt install handbrake. After that I attached a USB connected DVD drive and in about thirty minutes I created a video which can be uploaded to my son’s iPad. Open source software is an incredible bargain and tools like Handbrake are great. You can run Handbrake on Windows and MacOS if you don’t have a Linux computer.
Yesterday I collaborated with long time friend and fellow Linux enthusiast Phil Shapiro. Recently we had been exploring open source solutions for video conferencing. There are two platforms with which we had some experience and those are BigBlueButton and Jitsi. They’re both great platforms but for slightly different audiences. I have used Jitsi recently to collaborate with local librarians and to meet with friends. BigBlueButton is a platform that really is designed to support online education. It has a tools like a whiteboard that Jitsi doesn’t have. Although you can share your screen on Jitsi and you can record to the cloud if you would like.
Yesterday we planned to collaborate on BigBlueButton but had technical difficulties and switched to Jitsi. Phil used screen capture software and published our conversation on YouTube. It was a good experience. Today I decided to invest in a portable video background so our next effort will look a bit more professional and I need to be a little less wooden.
Phil and I met about ten years ago on Twitter over a common love of Linux and open source software. In the video we discuss our experiences with the Linux Terminal Server project and the advantages of using Koha supported by ByWater Solutions in public libraries. I hope you enjoy the video and our conversation.
A month or so ago after receiving calls from friends that their Windows machines were having troubles and needed attention I thought this is the perfect time to switch to Linux. Apparently I wasn’t the only person thinking that way. Jason Evangelho who has a regular column at Forbes shared a tweet today that said Ubuntu enjoyed a 599% uptick in users. That’s a very significant number.
With more and more people working from home and a growing segment of the population videoconferencing in education and other sectors of the economy Linux just makes sense. I’ve been doing a lot of videoconferencing lately to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. Besides great open source conference platforms like Jitsi and BigBlueButton there is Linux support for BlueJeans, Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts.
You can go purchase a new Linux laptop from System76, Purism, Dell and other vendors but more importantly you can easily refurbish an older system and run Fedora, Ubuntu, Pop!_OS, Linux Mint, ElementaryOS or any other Linux distribution and be reasonably productive at a fraction of the price. I have a number of laptops and only one is not running Linux.
One of the really useful and neat features of Pop!_OS 20.04 and what sets it apart from the standard Ubuntu 20.04 release is window tiling. It’s quite amazing and I know that I’m going to find this really useful going forward. I really have to hand it to the UX team at System76 who thought of this in the first place. Jason Evangelho has a great article about Pop!_OS and shared this video from System76 about the new UX feature.
If you’re not familiar with Pop!_OS and or new to Linux you really ought to give it a try.