A Brief Look At Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

Screenshot at 09-16-16

The plan was to update my laptop at work, preferably before noon, so that I could use my lunch hour to edit my novel. But Ubuntu didn’t update their repositories until after I got home. Leading to me calling the release “Tardy Tahr”. So I didn’t actually get to upgrade until an hour before bed. I still only have about an hour’s time on the new OS, so my comments here are not going to be complete.

First Impressions

It looks familiar on the surface. But closer inspection reveals a refinement that just makes me smile. Since I’m using a Dell XPS 13″ laptop with 13.10 on it, I’ve had no end of fits getting the touch pad to work correctly. Apparently the drivers for it were only available in the 12.04 LTS version of the operating system. Now that I’m on a new LTS (Long Term Service), I have a perfectly working touch pad. By working I mean that it no longer reacts negatively to my slight wrist brushes while I type. This is a BIG deal for a writer.

The other new feature that I welcomed enthusiastically was the ability to shrink the launcher bar to something the size of the menu bar at the top. This nets me a bunch of horizontal screen space. I love that feature. You can see this in the screenshot above.

As for all the other included awesomeness, I really don’t care. The two things that bothered me the most about the OS are now “fixed”. I’m ready to get working on the next novel. Congratulations to Canonical and all the volunteers who worked on Trusty Tahr. Another excellent release!


Liferea My New RSS Feed Reader

I don’t often read my RSS feeds as much as I used to. I just don’t have the time every day to read it. But I do like to catch up at the end of the week with a list of blogs that I follow on a range of topics.

I was using Google’s Reader product for years but that went away. So rather than bitch and moan on the social networks, I just switched to a Linux based reader that I use mostly at home. It’s called Liferea and here’s a shot of it in action on my laptop.

I was able to export all my feeds from Google and import them into Liferea with no issues at all. Since I don’t really need a web based client for my RSS feeds, I think this will suit me  for now.

If you don’t need web access for your feeds, a client side program like this might just work for you too. You can pick up Liferea in the Ubuntu Software Center.


Six Months After My Switch to Linux

Last year my Macbook finally gave up the ghost and I was forced to buy a new laptop. I elected to go with my gut and use Ubuntu instead of a new Mac. I’ve been using Ubuntu on my secondary PCs for years. But all my writing and other web-design work was performed on the old, white Macbook.

In deciding to go with Ubuntu instead of Mac, I was forfeiting the use of my primary writing tool – Scrivener. Sure you can mess with an unsupported Linux port of the program, but really I was going to have to start over with something else. Most writers would have been appalled at having to go back to Word or LibreOffice, but I had reason to believe that life after Scrivener would go on.

I purchased a new Dell 13″ XPS and booted into Ubuntu, never looking back. The computer worked great and the OS was a breeze to use. Then I found a Scrivener-like program that was designed to work on Linux. Plume Creator has proved to be a great program for writing and plotting my novels. It works enough like Scrivener to make me happy.

In the past few month lots of interesting developments are happening on Ubuntu. The OS is being used on everything from phones to computers and the acceptance level by companies not normally accepting of Linux is growing. Gaming platforms like Steam are coming to Ubuntu and developers are continuing to filter over from Apple. Mind you, its no land rush, but many folks are realizing that they can live without the Apple and Windows.

As for the Dell, it has performed really well so far. My only issue is a hardware one. The screen has developed a few bad pixels. I wonder if I can send it back and have them replace the screen with the new higher resolution one? ;-)

I don’t miss the Macbook at all. My coding and writing processes have not changed, many of the same tools I used on the Mac are available on Ubuntu, some are actually better in my opinion. Would I recommend everyone leave Apple and Windows for Ubuntu? No. Only the hardy ones, willing to use something better and take all the social abuse for being different. Mmmm, that sounds familiar.

Writing Tools on Ubuntu

When you come to Ubuntu from the Mac or Windows worlds, you start looking around for programs that you used on your old system. Sometimes you easily find versions of your favorite tools and sometimes it can be a challenge and lead to frustration. This post will help you find the programs that I use when I write fiction. They are not in any particular order.


My primary writing application is Plume Creator. It works like Scrivener, so if you use that tool, you will feel at home with it. You can get it here and just double click on the file after it downloads to bring up the Ubuntu Software Center to install it.

I also use LibreOffice and that comes pre-installed with Ubuntu. This is the equivalent of Microsoft Office for most writer’s needs. Comes with spreadsheet apps and a word processor that works just like Word.

Another great writing program is Focus Writer.

For simple and quick plain text editing, I use Scribes.


My favorite dictionary is GoldenDict and you can find that in the Ubuntu Software Center. I like it because it lets you use various online sources including the Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia. I always have this app open full screen on its own desktop.

AiksaurausGTK is a thesaurus and nothing else. Again, this baby is open when I’m writing. You can find that in the Ubuntu Software Center.

Image Manipulation

If you are like most writers, you have lots of images that you use for inspiration when you write. I store mine in my novel folder on Dropbox. When I need to view them, I use ImageViewer which is built in to the OS. When I want to modify them quickly, I use Pinta Image Manipulator. Pinta is in the Ubuntu Software Center but you should make sure you get the latest 1.4 version for best results. This is actually based on the code used for Paint Plus on Windows.

If you are serious about Photoshopping something, use Gimp. You can find that in the Ubuntu Software Center. The latest version of Gimp is pretty awesome.

Lastly, I use Inkscape to do any vector based images, like maps. You can find that in the Ubuntu Software Center.

Ebook Creation

I no longer build up my own ebooks, but when I need a quick one made, I use Sigil. I also have been known to dable with Calibre for ebook organizing on my laptop.


These days, I’m always using my phone to take notes. I use Evernote on that and on my Ubuntu, I sync with Evernote using EverPad. EverPad even has a lens. So be warned, Lensmen!  Okay, bad Sci-Fi joke.

Of course Dropbox is well integrated into Ubuntu and I recommend everyone use it or UbuntuOne to back up your writing.

That’s just about all the apps that I use when I write or work on author related things. If you can think of anything else to add, please leave a  comment and tell us about it.

Sputnik Program Updates PPA Location

The ppa that I linked to in my post about installing the kernel fixes by Kamal Mostafa has moved to a Canonical server. Please update your Dell XPS laptop to get the latest fixes.

Type the following lines into your terminal one at a time, hitting enter after each one to update your system:

sudo apt-get-repository  ppa:canonical-hwe-team/sputnik-kernel 

sudo apt-get update

This will start the updater program and get you all the latest fixes from Canonical.


Clementine on Ubuntu

Sometimes when I write, I like to listen to film soundtracks. Since I don’t own any soundtracks these days, I use Clementine and tune into SKY.fm. They have a channel for movie soundtracks.

Clementine ties into my top bar and lets me control it from there without even opening the main program. But when I do open the program, it provides me with all kinds of cool stuff about the musician.

Clementine is one of my favorite apps on Ubuntu. Check it out!

Favorite Linux Apps – ScreenCloud

One of my favorite apps on Ubuntu is ScreenCloud. This is a simple little program that resides in my menu bar at the top of the screen and lets me take screenshots and store them on the web. Since I use this primarily for my blog, I can then copy the URL of the image to WordPress and be off on my way.

Above you can see what the admin page on the website looks like with all my screenshots. Below is the Preferences dialog. I’ve been using ScreenCloud for a month now and so far have not found it lacking any features and it performs perfectly.

If you’re looking for a nice, feature-rich screenshot capture program, look no further, ScreenCloud is there for you. Oh, it works on those other OS’s too.


Scribes Text Editor

Since moving to Ubuntu Linux on my laptop, I have developed an interest in native applications. One of my favorite new text editors is called Scribes. Scribes is more than just another Gnome based text editor. It’s an example of a programmer pushing the boundaries and following his bliss, to make a unique and awesome new take on a simple application.

“Let’s make text editing seamless, empowering and fun. Let’s make ease of use and productivity our foremost priority. Let’s show how simplicity and minimalism inspires good design.”

As this bit from the About page says, Scribes is not your average text editor. It has a mission. Lateef Alabi-Oki is the programmer behind Scribes. He has very particular ideas about what he’s doing and I for one, find that refreshing. You should read his blog if you are a programmer.

Anyway, do give this editor a spin and see if you like it. I use it all the time now and love it.