Pandemic is good for Linux

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.

Upgrade Day

Pop_OS 20.04 was released a couple of days ago and for whatever reason my System76 laptop wouldn’t upgrade to the latest release. I had rebuilt the computer is February after outsmarting myself one day. Learning the hard way is frequently the best way to learn. In any event I had been running Pop_OS 19.10 and the automatic update just wouldn’t work even after following the excellent documentation on System76’s website. I followed the link to download Pop_OS 20.04, burned the ISO to a USB drive, backed up my system with Cronopete and did a fresh install on my Darter Pro. It all went well and now I’m back in business and blogging. I installed Ubuntu 20.-04 earlier this week on a 2015 MacBook Air that I own. Earlier today I installed a Chromebook for a friend and she returned a Dell 7470 that I had loaned her last year. After getting home I installed Pop_OS on that computer too. This has been upgrade day at the house. I’m eager to explore the nuances of Pop_OS 20.04. What version of Linux are you using? Be sure to leave a comment. Some of my favorite Linux apps are Gnome-Tweaks, GnuCash, KSnip and Cronopete. What are your favorite Linux apps?

What would you like to learn?

I’ve been involved with Linux and open source software for almost twenty years now. I’m writing this post using a Linux laptop from System76. I’ve been writing a lot of thought pieces lately which come my heart. Linux and open source is also from my heart.

I was introduced to Linux around 1997. I bought a book with a CD in it and tried to install on an older 386 PC. I could only get a command prompt. A year later I bought Red Hat 6.1. I installed it on an HP Vectra that had been upgraded to 233 MMX with a Cyrix chip. I got the GUI and it ran well. A couple of years later I built my first Linux server which was for web filtering using Squid, SquidGuard and later Dansguardian. One thing led to another and soon I built a web server, a network attached storage and began to try it on older laptops that were in sitting in closets where I worked.

I started distro hopping around then too. I moved from Red Hat to Suse to Mandrake and then back to Red Hat and later Fedora. I 2005 while on a trip to meet with K12 LTSP team in Portland, Oregon I got introduced to Ubuntu. We had been invited to the PLUG (Portland Linux User Group) and they were handing out Ubuntu 5.04 CDs. I took it home and installed it on a laptop I had been using. I didn’t like it at first but it did support the wireless card I had in the laptop.

Over the years I’ve run many different Linux distributions. I’ve run Centos, Red Hat, Fedora and Ubuntu on file servers and desktops. In the past six years I’ve been toying with the Raspberry Pi and Raspbian.

There are lots of great open source applications that I use everyday. WordPress is one of them. It’s my favorite blogging platform. I use GnuCash. I used to use a proprietary solution until I made the switch four years ago. I’ve learned Python in the past five years and although I’m just a beginner I’m keen to learn more and share with others.

Are you a Linux user? Would you like to learn? Let me know in the comments.

Once a teacher, always a teacher

I am preparing once again to teach class next Wednesday night at the Blount Library in Franklinville, New York. My first class of three adults met a couple of weeks ago and our topic was introduction to computers. The next class will be an extension of that same topic. I was fortunate to be asked to teach this group. I was thinking earlier today of my first student, my brother, whom I taught when we were in primary grades. I would make up tests for him with my Dad’s typewriter. Later as a member of the United States Navy I was called on to educate members of my company in recruit training at Great Lakes, Illinois. Though I recently retired from public education, teaching is something I enjoy. My students on Wednesday night will learn more about Google Drive and Microsoft Office. I’m going to teach them how to attach documents to an email and how to collaborate with others.  I enjoy blogging and using social media and soon I hope to teach a class on that topic too. I was thinking too of teaching a course on introduction to Linux and open source software. Though iPads and tablets in general are very popular there are still computer users who enjoy tinkering and that group would enjoy a class on open source software like Ubuntu Linux or creating your own podcasts with Audacity. Linux is like a software erector set. There is almost no limit to what you could teach a class about Linux. Linux skills are in demand in the marketplace too according to a recent article in PC World.

Inkpad for iPad

Just today I received a tweet from Phil Shapiro (@philshapiro) about an open source program for the iPad. It’s called InkPad and it’s the equivalent of Inkscape for the iPad. I was determined to use it and produce a graphic that I could share back to Phil. My mission is accomplished but more than that I can recommend InkPad to any of you iPad users who are interested in producing scalable vector graphics on your iPad. It’s very easy to use and the “Help” section of the application is very complete and easy to use. I’d give it five stars and I’m using it on an iPad 3 running iOS 7.

I’m blogging today on Ubuntu 12.04 Linux which is running on a four year old Dell Vostro 1520. Ageing technology given new life by Ubuntu Linux.

Open Source of Course

I have been an advocate for open source software for a number of years. Until I bought a MacBook Pro four years ago I used Ubuntu as my primary platform. Ubuntu and other Linux distributions provide a reasonable alternative desktop. The library I’ve been volunteering in the past couple of months has aging Dell Optiplex 755 desktop computers that struggle a bit to run Windows 7 with 4 gigabytes of  RAM. I know these same units using a Ubuntu desktop would still be quite responsive. I have an older Dell Vostro laptop that came with Windows XP Professional on it four years ago. With the end of support for XP I’m tempted to install Ubuntu on it. I could put more memory in the computer and run Windows 7 on it but that’s going to cost about two-hundred dollars. In addition to that I’m going to have to install sometime of antivirus client. With Ubuntu or some other Linux distribution I need none of that and I get a host of other free software programs to install on this older laptop. Open source operating systems like Fedora or Ubuntu provide reasonable alternatives to Microsoft Windows and the Apple Macintosh platform.

Ubuntu v. Macintosh and Windows continued

Since writing my first piece on Ubuntu v. Macintosh and Windows I’ve had thousands of visitors to my blog and over a dozen comments. All of the comments have been instructive and constructive in my own growth and I’m grateful for them. I’ve learned more about the Macintosh Pro I use at work and the one I have at home. I’ve learned how to load Xcode to the Macintosh so I can use it at the command line in some ways identical to Ubuntu. I’ve also had ample opportunity to re-examine what I said and what I experienced and Ubuntu still comes out on top. Apple’s got great multimedia tools and I have really enjoyed using them. I have enjoyed using iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes etc. I was an iTunes user on the Windows side before I ever used one of these newer Macs. I’m still prefer Firefox to Safari and to anything Microsoft or Apple produce. I’m mostly a Google Docs user but when I need a desktop productivity application I tend to use One of the aspects that concerns about Macs and Windows desktops is the file system. What happens when you lose the GUI on a Mac? I know that the fabled blue screen panics most PC users. I know that ext3 and now ext4 are stable file systems and even if I lose the GUI I can get my files back and in many cases reconfigure X so that I get a GUI back.

What happens when a Mac loses its GUI? What are the advantages of NTFS and HFS? Are they superior to Ext3 or Ext4? One of the greatest gifts I can give to PC users who have been hacked or had their system trashed by a trojan is the use of Linux and Ubuntu in particular to mount their file system and move their important files to relative safety. I’m looking forward to your responses. Thanks in advance.

New theme

Theme change for the first time since I began blogging on WordPress a few years ago. I liked my old theme, but was ready for something different.  This has been a year of change and I’ve experimented with my life a bit. I followed my heart back to St. Bonaventure University even when the lure of doctoral program at another school beckoned. I would like to get a doctorate at some point and maybe my trip to Bonaventure will eventually produce that. I just love research and finding out new information and applying it. After I overcame my initial worries about keeping up with my classmates in a subject area I had not officially explored.

This spring I’m going to be involved in an internship in special education. It’s an area I know very little about, but its quite fascinating. This fall I took school law and leadership. Initially I liked the leadership course quite a bit more than the law course, but my love of research took me deeper into the law. I discovered that I had a trivial pursuit understanding of such important cases as Brown v. Board of Education.   Going back to school at 56 was also a concern. I was self-conscious about being the old guy in the class. That was quickly allayed by one of my classmates who wrote such a touching response to one of my initial answers that it brought me to tears. Those tears were a blessing and a benediction which provided the acceptance within my own heart that I was doing the right thing.

I also purchased a MacBook Pro because I wanted to be a bit more mainstream. I was afraid that using Ubuntu and Open Office would be frowned upon at the University. I was wrong about that. All of my writing was actually done in Google Docs and OpenOffice.  I learned that I could use open source tools in higher education with no penalty. Bonaventure is a Microsoft oriented school, but many students had a Mac like me and professors are really only concerned if work is done.  Our course was delivered in a hybrid format which featured Moodle, yet another open source application.  My experience has left me looking forward to the spring semester with great anticipation and the knowledge that I can contribute. I feel younger too and energized.

I often found myself on campus working at Friedsam Library. Entering and leaving the library I was greeted by a display of my old friend Thomas Merton. In fact Merton is everywhere in my life, my trips to Mt. Irenaeus, University ministries, walking across campus and looking up at “Merton’s Heart.”  There’s a new theme in my life and it’s really an old theme that’s been restated.

Thankful heart

I’ve got a whole week off and I’m enjoying it. I got a 4.0 at St. Bonaventure last semester too. Going back to graduate school was a lot of fun it turns out and it was a homecoming too. I was scared at first but gradually warmed up to the idea. Christmas was fun too. Devin was home with his girlfriend and Dara’s spending a week with us. It’s almost like life used to be like except we’re older and maybe a bit wiser.  I got a lot of nice gifts this week. One of them is a Keurig Coffee maker.

I watched a bit of television tonight, but not enough to really spoil me. I spun around the news, but it’s all pretty negative. I even like Countdown, but it’s just too negative. I don’t even read much of the news blogs anymore. They’re all very negative and once I got weaned from them and discovered that I could live without a newspaper and news programming I became a lot more contented. It’s all very cynical programming.

I’ve become an active Facebook user and a very active Twitter’er. One of the people I met through presenting at NYSCATE the last few years inspired me to create a Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud in a virtual machine. It’s working too and I’m learning more new things. That’s gotten me back to Ubuntu and today I used my Ubuntu machine almost exclusively. I’ve been using the Mac Book Pro a great deal this fall and feeling a bit guilty that I sold out the open source community.  Going back to school I thought I ought to be a bit more mainstream. I was a bit wrong as I never really needed anything other than Google Docs and Moodle along with reading books  and using Google Scholar to complete the two courses I took at St. Bonaventure.

My experience once again confirms that Linux and Ubuntu in particular is all I really need to be productive. I cannot rave enough about Virtual Box either. That is one fine product and is my favorite desktop virtualization software.  I’m darn glad I didn’t retire in June too. I’m looking forward to an active semester in a few weeks. I covet your prayers. Peace!

Gus Macker Tournament

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This weekend our family spent much of the weekend in Hornell, New York at the annual Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament. Our son Devin has competed in many of these events over the past ten to twelve years. This weekend Devin’s team finished third in the Top Mens Division. His teammates included Jeff Haskell, Jason Luther and Bob Gibbs. This video taken from the second game on Saturday features Devin and his teammates along with our neighbor Ben Kopp who was on the opposing team. In fact this game featured neighbors and relatives playing against each other. This weekend was a lot of fun watching lots of talented players compete.
I took the video with my Canon ZR200 camera and edited it on Ubuntu 7.10 using Kino. Kino works well with