It's Friday! We can move from the home office to the couch! Yay!
Today's free and open source software (FOSS) goodness comes from ... hang on ... Microsoft! Yep, Microsoft. They're developing and releasing PowerToys as an open source project!
If you've been around since the days of Windows '95 and XP, you know what a great program PowerTools was 'back in the day'. The project was axed for Vista and did not reappear in Win 7 or 8.
Now it is an open source project and housed on GitHub. You can once again do a bit of tweaking with PowerToys!
Right now PowerToys includes the following tweaks:
-Fancy Zones (a window manager)
-Windows key shortcut guide
-PowerRename (shell extension)
-File Explorer Preview Panes
-Image Resizer (shell extension)
-PowerToys Run (an app launcher)
Future additions include:
-Maximize to new virtual desktop
-Animated Gif recorder
-End Task with mouse
-Find my cursor
If any of this interests you, head on over to GitHub and give it a try. (FYI - You have to scroll down a bit for instructions.) It's pretty cool!
Happy Friday! And Happy Valentine's Day❣
Let me jump right in to the FOSSy goodness. Today I'm recommending a program that I don't use on a regular basis. I've used it in the past, but I don't do much video editing because I'm awful at it.
If you do want to try video editing or you need a decent video editor, OpenShot is for you. It's "easy to use, quick to learn, and surprisingly powerful video editor".
The program has a simple interface from which you can trim and slice, animate (in 3D), use video effects, control audio output, control timing and motion effects and style titles.
OpenShot is Free and Open Source Software for Windows, Linux and Mac.
The Free and Open Source Software for today is Nomacs | Image Lounge!
Nomacs is an image viewer with some basic editing capabilities. The best thing about Nomacs is its support for a wide range of file formats and conversion capabilities. I use the program extensively and it is smooth.
If you need a good program for viewing or editing multiple formats of images, Nomacs is great. It's available for Windows, Mac, Linux, BSD and others. Check it out!
It's another FOSS Friday! We have more refreshing Mint for you this week. Today's Mint comes in Cinnamon. It's Linux Mint, of course!
We saw the sun set on Windows 7 this week and there isn't be a better time to switch to Linux on your home or work computer. Linux Mint Cinnamon is one of the best and easiest distros (distributions) for beginners. It's also the best distribution for anyone who doesn't want a lot of fussing about. Mint allows you to install and instantly get to work.
When I originally switched from Windows to Linux this was the distro I picked. My switch was nearly seamless. It took a little while to get used to the new folder structure and to what I could and couldn't do without administrative permissions (sudo!), but all of it was easily learned and soon I was happily working away on my new operating system.
Mint's desktop is intuitive to Windows users. It starts with the task bar on the bottom and the 'start' button on the left. Click on the button and it opens to a whisker menu that lists categories which open when you run your pointer over them. The installed options include nearly every program you need to hit the ground running: Firefox for web browsing, Libre Office for Officing, Rhythmbox for music, GIMP for graphics, and so on. The Package Manager (like Windows Store or iTunes for iOS) has tons of other options for nearly any other program you might need.
Mint Cinnamon, as shipped, isn't going to win any beauty pageants. It's sort of old fashioned looking. But it is very stable and it performs beautifully. It's a workhorse. One of the nice things about Mint is that they tend to change very slowly. Unlike most OS builders, they don't throw out big changes to users and expect them to adapt or die. The change from version 18 to 19 was mostly under the hood and involved security and speed. Updates are not exciting times. For many users that's a good thing.
If you have concerns over beloved Windows programs Mint uses WINE fairly well and Play On Linux gives you even more options. It's not ideal, but Windows programs will work.
I encourage anyone who is reluctant to switch from Windows 7 to Windows 10 to take a look at Linux Mint Cinnamon. It's honestly one of the best operating systems out there.
If you think you might like to try out Linux Mint before you install it on your computer, give us a call and we'd be more than happy to show you what the OS is like and let you have a go at it.
Hello FOSS FRIDAY! FOSS is free and open source software.
Yummy Peppermint today.
With Windows 7 coming to a screeching halt next week there may be a lot of people who are not thrilled with the idea of updating to Windows 10. Many have concerns about the way that the OS operates and behaves.
If you are one of those people and you are willing to experiment a bit, there's Linux.
Linux OS comes in what is called "distributions" or "distros". Some are easier to learn than others. Some look and work a lot like Windows 7. It's a myth that Linux is hard to use. It isn't. It's "Follow the directions." easy. If you've backed up all of your personal data, you can be up and playing or working within a couple of hours.
I'm going to show you a few Linux distros (distributions) that I think are the easiest to transition from Windows 7. I will not post about a distro I've never used. I'll post links to articles on my Rabbit Stew Facebook page about distros I've never used. Open Source (Linux is Open Source) has some of the smartest people around writing about their experiences on various distros.
Let's get started.
PEPPERMINT OS 10
Peppermint is geared toward using internet resources rather than native desktop programs. It's good for Netbook use and low powered computers. I also love this distro for newcomers. I think it is the most user friendly of all the distros. If you spend most of your computer time online doing email, surfing, watching YouTube videos, playing simple games, Facebooking, reading, etc., this one is for you. The interface includes a lot of internet apps.
Visit the Peppermint OS Web Site to look at screenshots or read about the OS.
If you want to get a feel for how the OS works, watch this simple exploration video by Linux Scoop.
I found a great overview of the pros and cons of Peppermint 10 by watching 3D PC's video:
3D PC gets a bit geeky at times (and uses really lame memes that kind of make the vid adorable), but he lays out what he likes about the distro and what he doesn't. He's got specialty software needs that won't run on any Linux distro, which is a major concern for many users. In all honesty, it takes a bit of time to adjust to using nothing but Linux compatible software. There are ways to run Microsoft programs on a Linux computer, but that's another post.
Casual computer users should not be concerned about this. In my opinion using Peppermint OS is closer to using Windows 7 than using Windows 10.
Peppermint 10 is a great OS for someone switching from Windows 7. Most of the interface is intuitive for Windows users and what isn't is easy to learn.
I'll be posting more on other Linux distros soon.
This article is going to be a bit different from my usual Friday free stuff recs. A couple of weeks ago friend asked me about podcasts and how to listen to them. Here it is.
I'm addicted to podcasts. I love them. I listen to them compulsively.
Podcasts are big right now. Huge. It's easier than ever to both find a player (podcatcher) and find a podcast that captures your interest and compels you to listen. Professional actors and newscasters are involved in making podcasts. The subjects are broad. My own subscriptions range from Celtic Christmas music that posts only in November and December every year to Ronan Farrow's new podcast that covers the release of his new book "Catch and Kill".
There are a plethora of apps available for all platforms. The podcatcher that I use on my desktop is GPodder. It's short for Gnome Podder and it is an open source tool for catching and maintaining a feed of podcasts for Linux machines. GPodder is not a podcast player. It is an aggregator. When you hit the play on an episode you want to listen to, it opens up in the media player of your choice. I use VideoLAN and recommend it highly.
But that's me. I am compelled by unseen forces to use open source everything unless it is on my phone. Which is where nearly everyone else else listens to podcasts. The lesson here is don't be like me. Go with the easy stuff.
The easiest way to listen to podcasts is with native apps:
If you have an Apple phone use the pre-installed Apple Podcasts app.
Yes. It's that simple.
If you have an Android Phone use the Google Podcast app. I've been using it for a couple of days now and I like it. It's dead simple to use and doesn't drain my battery to death. The app is a win for me. (Side note: I'm not sure WTH is up with the reviewers - I have not had the problems they are describing at all. It's easy to close the program in 'close all' and the podcasts are supposed to start where you leave off. That's how it works.)
You can also rinse, lather, repeat with Spotify. Spotify has an excellent interface for podcasts and is one of the podcast catchers/players of choice for all platforms - Mac, Windows, Android, Chrome, iOS and even Linux. I've been using it on my desktop for a few days and it's good. The ads can get annoying, but it's a commercial product, not open source. I didn't expect to get it for free.
There are other podcast catcher/players that are platform specific like Overcast (iOS) and Podcast Addict (Android/Chrome). I didn't like Podcast Addict when I tried it a couple of years ago, but other people seem to like it well enough. Like Spotify, Podcast Addict is free for basic use, but has a paid version that removes ads.
Finding a good app for catching and listening to podcasts is easy. What's hard is finding a good podcast - Mostly that's because there are so many good ones out there. You could spend the rest of your life listening to interesting podcasts and still not reach the end of them.
And that's what I'll be talking about next week. Finding good podcasts that are right for you in an ocean of good podcasts.
It's Friday! I've got VPN for you today.
Firefox and Cloudflare came together and created a VPN that's built into Firefox Desktop browser. I tried it out yesterday and it is pretty fantastic.
First you have to set up a Firefox account. If you don't want to use your real email account, set up a free account at one of the myriad providers available (Proton, AOL, Yandex, Mail. com, etc.) and then set up an account at Mozilla/Firefox. After you do this you will be asked to verify the account at Firefox. (This is not as involved as it sounds.)
After you've verified the account, head on over to The Firefox Private Network.
It's dead simple to use. On and off. If you need more granular control, you should seek out a paid VPN. When I used it yesterday, the speeds were excellent. Upload suffered a bit, but download speed was nearly as good as my non-VPN connected speed. Unlike most of the other free options for VPN, this one is actually usable.
The Firefox Private Network is in beta and it is free right now as an extension. Mozilla says that they may have a paid version in the future, so this is an opportunity to give it a try for free.
Mozilla is doing some awesome stuff lately. I am pleased.
It's FOSS Friday!
I've been using Libre Office a lot lately and I'm completely impressed with how far it has come and how beautifully it renders documents coming from Microsoft Office. I can actually use templates from MS Office now.
The documents created on Libre office also save and open in Microsoft Office flawlessly. It's super impressive how far the programs in the Libre Office Suite have progressed since the last time I used it years ago.
The Suite includes:
If you have used Libre in the past and been unhappy with it, give it another go. I sincerely think that you will be pleased with it now. Plus, what have you got to lose? It's free and open source.
Download the office suite today and give it a try. It's easy and free.
There is a Libre Office Viewer (editing is still in development) Android Play Store. Google Docs have no problems with files from Libre Office though, so the native Google programs should handle them just fine if you don't want to bother with another program on your phone.
There are paid versions of the suite on the Microsoft Store ($10) and Mac Store ($8) apps - both are LibreOffice Vanilla. (As an aside, this is how FOSS works. The developers took the free and open source software and developed it as an app for the MS and Mac platform stores. Developer then charges for the convenience of having it available on the platform. Yay for Open Source!) Again, Libre and native Microsoft play fine together, so it may not be necessary.
There are other options for the program and plenty in development. If you are interested in Libre Office for business or personal use, but have questions, contact us and we'd be happy to talk about it with you.
Happy Friday! I'm here to spread some freedom!
In May (weekend of the 4th and 5th) Firefox had a problem that broke almost of their extensions. I am a heavy user of those extensions. The loss of those extensions broke the internet for me. It left me using Chrome and Chromium, which isn't bad, but it's not what I prefer.
So, I decided to give Waterfox, a fork of Firefox, a try!
I also said that I'd give you all an update on my experiences with various browsers. I've been using Waterfox as a daily browser since May and I love it. It behaves exactly like Firefox and I'm able to use all of my lovely extensions. Some of the extensions take a bit of fiddling, but if you aren't a power user, you probably won't need to.
One of the nice things about Waterfox is the lack of corporate apps included on install. There's no Pocket.
I like it because it lends itself to choice and risk. It doesn't tell you what you are allowed to do because you will be taking a risk. I can easily install extensions and plug-ins that are not on the Firefox white-list. Waterfox treats you like a grown-up.
In addition to the extensions available at the Mozilla site, Waterfox maintains a collection of archived addons.
The devs are responsive and have a subReddit for support. They post frequently on their blog.
Waterfox is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
All in all, it's a great substitute for Firefox.