Editors' Choice

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Tune Up Your Databases!

My last full-time job was manager of a university's database department. Ironically, I know very, very little about databases themselves. I'm no longer in charge of college databases, but I still do have a handful of MySQL servers that run my various Web applications. Apart from apt-get install, I have no idea how to make databases work. Thankfully, help is available.
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Poppins

My friend and fellow Linux Journalian Kris Occhipinti recently posted a reminder on Facebook for everyone to back up regularly in 2016. Although it's something we already should be doing, if you're not a regular backer-upper, you should start today!
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Help Me, Uncle Shawn

If you're anything like me, the holiday season is spent fixing Wi-Fi and removing spyware. Occasionally, I get to install Linux for a relative who is ready to give up Windows or needs something that will run on a circa-Windows 2000 computer (Xubuntu is usually my choice).
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Non-Linux FOSS: Airsonos

I love Sonos. There probably are some audiophiles reading this who rolled their eyes at my lack of auditory prowess, but honestly, the speakers sound wonderful to my 1980s-damaged eardrums. Granted, the Wi-Fi-enabled speakers are very expensive, thus limiting my supply.
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Tiny Makers

If you've ever dropped Mentos in a bottle of Coke with kids or grown your own rock candy in a jar with string, you know how excited children get when doing science. For some of us, that fascination never goes away, which is why things like Maker Faire exist.
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Android Candy: Copay—the Next-Generation Bitcoin Wallet

When I hear the word "copay", I think of the doctor's office. Thankfully, the Copay app from the folks at Bitpay doesn't cost you anything, and it keeps your Bitcoin healthy and secure. I've mentioned many Bitcoin wallet applications and cloud solutions during the past few years, but Copay truly is different. It has features other wallets can't touch, such as:
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Non-Linux FOSS: Flaky Connection? Mosh it!

Most of the work I do on computers is done via the command line. When I'm off on vacation somewhere, that means shoddy Wi-Fi and cell-phone tethering. Because cell-phone tethering gets expensive quick (I also have three teenage daughters with which I share a data plan), I try to use free Internet whenever I can. The biggest hassle with that method is dealing with broken SSH sessions.
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One Port to Rule Them All!

I was chatting with Fred Richards on IRC the other day (flrichar on freenode) about sneaking around hotel firewalls. Occasionally, hotels will block things like the SSH port, hoping people don't abuse their network. Although I can respect their rationale, blocking an SSH port for a Linux user is like taking a mouse away from a Windows user!
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Non-Linux FOSS: Vienna, Not Just for Sausages

Although the technology itself has been around for a while, RSS is still the way most people consume Web content. When Google Reader was ended a few years back, there was a scramble to find the perfect alternative. You may remember my series of articles on Tiny Tiny RSS, Comma Feed and a handful of other Google Reader wannabes.
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Chrome-Colored Parakeets

I personally like Google's Chrome interface. It's simple, fast, elegant and did I mention fast? Unfortunately, I don't like how locked down the Chrome OS is on a Chromebook, nor do I like its total dependence on Google. I also don't like the lack of ability to install Chrome easily on generic hardware. Thankfully, Budgie is here to help.
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Nmap—Not Just for Evil!

If SSH is the Swiss Army knife of the system administration world, Nmap is a box of dynamite. It's really easy to misuse dynamite and blow your foot off, but it's also a very powerful tool that can do jobs that are impossible without it.
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Many Drives, One Folder

RAID is awesome, and LVM is incredibly powerful, but they add a layer of complexity to the underlying hard drives. Yes, that complexity comes with many benefits, but if you just want to spread your files across multiple storage locations, there's a much easier way.
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Autokey: Shorthand for Typists

For years I avoided installing keyboard shortcut tools on my computers. I thought dog-gonnit, if something needed to be typed out, I'd type every letter myself. Recently I capitulated, however, and I must say, going back seems unlikely. If you've never tried a text-replacement app, I highly recommend doing so.
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Android Candy: Goodbye RDP, Hello Chrome Remote Desktop!

Controlling a remote computer is something you're all familiar with. Whether that means RDP to your corporate Windows Server (we don't judge), Apple Remote Desktop (which is really VNC) to your OS X machine or VNC/X11/etc. into your GUI Linux machine, it's always a pain in the rear.
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Android Candy: Quit Thumbing Your Passwords!

I use my phone more often to log in to on-line accounts than I use a computer. I can assure you it's not because typing passwords on a tiny keyboard is fun. For most of us, we just have instant access to our phones at any given time during the day.
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Android Candy: Oyster—Netflix for Books!

For avid readers who can't find the time to visit their local library or struggle to carry giant tomes of awesomeness around with them, eBooks have become a convenient way to consume books. Whether it's on a Kindle, a Nook or in an app on your phone, eBooks are the ultimate in portability. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to find the book you want in a format you can read.
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AutoSSH, for All Your <CONNECTION LOST>

I love SSH. I mean, I really, really love SSH. It's by far the most versatile, useful, amazingly powerful tool in my system administration quiver. One of the problems with SSH, however, is that when it dies, it doesn't automatically recover. Don't get me wrong.
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Pro Video Editing with Pitivi

Several decent video editors are available on the Linux platform. Kdenlive, OpenShot, Cinelerra and Pitivi are those that come to mind as "big players" in an admittedly small market. I've used them all through the years, with varying levels of success.
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Alice, the Turtle of the Modern Age

Many of us grew up with LOGO, the kid-friendly programming language that guided a little turtle around a screen. Yes, it was simplistic. Yes, it taught only the very basics of programming concepts, but it also inspired an entire generation of programmers. The applications you run every day were written by people who steered a digital turtle around a screen in third grade.
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Fight the Good Fight with SmokePing

My Internet connection is unstable. I do realize ISPs generally claim some downtime is expected, and service is not guaranteed, and countless other excuses are common for intermittent service. I currently pay $120/month for business-class service, however, and I expect to get reliable Internet access on a regular basis.