Tech Tips

Dear Kodi, Where's My Surround?!?!

I love Kodi. (This is just an evolution of my love for XBMC, since it's the same thing with a new name.) In fact, although I've expressed my love for Plex over and over (and over) the past few years, I still use Kodi as my main interface for the televisions in my house.

Simple Photo Editing, Linux Edition!

A while back I wrote about the awesome open-source image editing program Paint.NET, which is available only for Windows. Although I'm thrilled there is an open-source option for Windows users, Paint.NET is one of those apps that is so cool, I wish it worked in Linux! Thankfully, there's another app in town with similar features, and it's cross-platform!

Non-Linux FOSS: MenuMeters

It sounds like a "back in my day" story, but I really do miss the days when laptops had LED activity lights for hard drives and Wi-Fi. Sure, some still have them, but for the most part, the latest trend is to have no way of knowing if your application is pegging the CPU at 100%, or if it just locked up.

Wondershaper—QOS in a Pinch

In past articles, I've discussed my BirdCam setup and how it automatically archives video footage from my bird feeders to YouTube every night. That's a really cool process, but unfortunately, it saturates my upstream bandwidth in the evening.

Non-Linux FOSS: Animation Made Easy

If you've ever wanted to make an animated film, the learning curve for such software often is really steep. Thankfully, the Pencil program was released and although basic, it provided a fairly simple way to create animations on your computer (Windows, Mac or Linux) with open-source tools. Unfortunately, the Pencil program was abandoned.

Android Candy: Disney Everywhere, Even Android!

As a father of three girls, I have piles and piles of Disney DVDs and Blu-rays. I occasionally look at the "Digital Copy" information and roll my eyes, because it requires some odd Windows DRM software or some other convoluted watching method that usually isn't possible or even interesting for me.

Android Candy: Google Keep

I love Evernote. I pay for a premium membership, and to be honest, I don't think I even use the premium features. I just love Evernote so much, I want to support the company. But in the spirit of fair comparison, I forced myself to try Google Keep.

Non-Linux FOSS: Don't Type All Those Words!

We've mentioned Autokey as a great tool for text replacement in real time on Linux. Thankfully, there's an option for Windows users that actually is even more powerful than Autokey! AutoHotkey is a similarly named application that runs strictly under Windows.

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.

Non-Linux FOSS: XAMP

One of my career iterations put me in charge of a Windows server that had Apache and PHP installed on it to serve as a Web server for the corporate intranet. Although I was happy to see Apache used as the Web server dæmon, the installation on the Windows server was the most confusing and horrifying mess I've ever seen.

The Awesome Program You Never Should Use

I've been hesitating for a couple months about whether to mention sshpass. Conceptually, it's a horrible, horrible program. It basically allows you to enter an SSH user name and password on the command line, so you can create a connection without any interaction. A far better way to accomplish that is with public/private keypairs.

A GUI for Your CLI?

For new Linux users, the command line is arguably the most intimidating thing. For crusty veterans like me, green text on a black background is as cozy as fuzzy slippers by a fireplace, but I still see CLI Companion as a pretty cool application.

Non-Linux FOSS: Remember Burning ISOs?

I was chatting with a Windows-using friend recently, and he wanted to try Linux on one of his older computers. I always like those sorts of conversations, and so I kept chatting, walking him through setting up Unetbootin to create a USB installer and so on and so on. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to get the USB drive to boot.

The Cow Says, Have Fun!

Sometimes, when the clock hits 3:00am, and you've been in the server room since 9 o'clock the previous day, you start to get a little batty. That's the only explanation I have for programs like cowsay in Linux. Still, I'm glad they're there, because life wouldn't be nearly as fun without them. Here's a quick list of silly Linux programs off the top of my head.


I am a visual learner. When I try to teach something, I naturally like to use visual examples. That usually involves me working for hours to create flowcharts in Google Docs using the drawing program. Yes, it works, but it's a very cumbersome way to create a flowchart. Thankfully, I recently discovered Lucidchart.

One Charger to Rule Them All

If you're anything like me, your nightstand is full of electronic devices that need to be charged regularly. Every night I have: Nexus 7 tablet. Cell phone. Kindle Paperwhite. iPad Air. Fitbit.

IndieBox: for Gamers Who Miss Boxes!

There are lots of cool ideas on the Internet that never really make it out of the "startup" phase. IndieBox has been around only for a few months, but I really, really hope it catches on. Here's the idea: Every month, you get a Linux/Mac/Windows-compatible Indie game in the mail.