It’s been a surprisingly long time since I actually published anything on this blog, for a wide variety of reasons. A large part of why this blog existed was to talk about my involvement with the Ubuntu project, but I’ve drifted gently over the last four to six years from being a regular contributor to Ubuntu to being just another opinionated user of it. Interests change, projects get bigger and move in unexpected directions (Unity, to pick an old scab…) and things gradually drift apart. I’ve been renewing my hard-won Ubuntu membership mostly out of reflex for several years now, and will probably finally let it lapse when I next get that prompting email from Launchpad.
That said, I am going to be using this blog again, mostly to talk about bicycling (I have a really, really awesome and epic European bike touring holiday coming up this month through June & July!) and other things that interest me, but to keep the “what is this doing on Planet Ubuntu?” whingers happy I’ve finally used WordPress’ excellent category-based-RSS feature to (mostly) feed only actual Ubuntu-related material (should I happen to write any…) to Planet Ubuntu. Hopefully that frees me to write more without worrying if it’s “suitable for Planet U”…
If you want to read occasional postings from a bike ride from Vienna, Austria to Nantes, France starting in a couple of weeks and going through to the third week of July, though, please stick around!
My opinion on Unity, reduced to two sentences and with all profanity removed with a crowbar:
If you want a shiny barely-customizable straitjacket as a desktop environment, go buy a Mac. Please stop wrecking Ubuntu.
Rummaging through my blogposts related to Ubuntu, too many of them are grumbling or complaining posts. We forget about the awesome stuff in Ubuntu because it Just Works; it’s the stuff that’s broken or that we dislike that consumes our attention.
So, let us now praise excellent little apps. There’s a Unix/Linux tradition of apps that do one job, and do it well, and that has continued into the desktop/GUI era.
I’ll start with PDF-Shuffler. All it does is merge & break apart PDFs, but it does it very intuitively, with a UI consisting of four buttons and a main screen. You can even drag’n’drop between two different PDF-Shuffler windows.
I use PDF-Shuffler regularly as an adjunct to Inkscape, which can produce PDF very easily but has (so far) no mechanism for multi-page documents (this is an SVG-spec issue, not just an Inkscape issue). PDF-Shuffler makes blending a group of single-page PDFs from Inkscape into one document for publishing painless and brainless.
A recent project involved a mostly-text six page PDF created in OpenOffice and four graphic-heavy single page PDFs from Inkscape. Rather than chance OOo’s SVG import, or hack about with Scribus (a very powerful app, but not one I use enough to be fluent with), PDF-Shuffler allowed me to merge Inkscape’s high quality PDFs with the OOo text PDF.
I can’t promise this will become an entirely regular feature, but I want to do a bit more blogging on the smaller, more elegant, often forgotten apps and features available in Ubuntu. If nothing else, it’s a change from complaining!
Want to learn to appreciate the power of a modern desktop Linux install? Spend a week at your folk’s place, swearing at your stepmother’s WinXP box. Shockingly crippled… how do Windows users victims put up with this crap? No integrated FTP or SSH in the file manager, text editor that doesn’t recognize and support HTML or PHP, no support for SVG, OGG, PNG or a host of other useful file formats… blergh.
I love visiting the folks, I’m actually glad it’s snowing so we can hopefully get a good cross-country ski in tomorrow, but getting back to a proper, fully-functional computer will be kind of nice!