Tech Tips

What's Your System's Uptime?

Keep track of your system's uptime and downtime with the tuptime tool. Finding your system's uptime is easy if the "beginning" means the last startup; the historical uptime command reports that information. But what happens if by "beginning" you mean the first startup ever of the system? Or the last 365 days? Or the last month?

Writing More Compact Bash Code

In any programming language, idioms may be used that may not seem obvious from reading the manual. Often these usages of the language represent ways to make your code more compact (as in requiring fewer lines of code). Of course, some will eschew these idioms believing they represent bad style. Style, of course, is in the eyes of beholder, and this article is not intended as an exercise in defining good or bad style. So for those who may be tempted to comment on the grounds of style I would (re)direct your attention to /dev/null.

Edit PDFs with Xournal

Forget all of those magical command-line PDF incantations and edit your PDFs easily with Xournal. Somehow, despite all the issues with proprietary clients and the history of security issues with Acrobat, PDFs have become the de facto standard for your average print-ready document shared around the office. Sure, people might use some kind of open document format or a cloud editor if they intend to edit a document, but if the goal is to print the document or lock its contents in place, most people these days will export it to a PDF.

Telecommuting Tips

With all the collaboration technology available for offices today, there's no reason telecommuters can't be as productive and as connected as other team members. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, known for high-tech companies, horrible traffic and high cost of living. When it came time for me to buy a house, I chose an area that left me with a 90–120-minute commute, depending on traffic and the time of day, so through the years, I've negotiated work-from-home days and have experience with telecommuting at companies of various sizes with different proportions of remote workers. Telecommuting is not only more convenient for many employees, it also can get the best work out of people, because it can grant better opportunities to focus and lets employees get right to work instead of spending hours getting to and from work. Unfortunately, many places inadvertently sabotage their telecommuters with bad practices, so here are a few tips to help make telecommuting successful.

Clearing Out /boot

The /boot partition sometimes needs a bit of attention. If you enable automatic updates, it will fill up with old kernels that you'll probably never need. It also will stop you from running aptitude to install or remove anything. If you find yourself in this situation, you can use dpkg to get around it. dpkg is the higher-level package manager in Debian-based distributions, and it's very useful when aptitude has broken. To see the status of your partitions, run: df -h:

Easy SSH Automation

A script a day will allow you some freedom to play and build other useful and more complicated scripts. Every day, I attempt to make my life easier—by this I mean, trying to stop doing the repetitive tasks. If a process is repeatable; it can be scripted and automated. The idea to automate everything is not new, but try automating a command on a remote host. SSH is very flexible, and it comes with many options. My absolute favorite is its ability to let you run a command on a remote server by passing the -t flag. An example:

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.