Commit c529751c authored by ScottWNesbitt's avatar ScottWNesbitt

Deleted a pair of unneeded folders

parent 591d3505
---
Title: Don't Make Anything More Complex Than It Needs to Be
Date: 2014-12-31
Tags: productivity
Published: false
---
A couple of months ago, I posted a link on [Googlehttps://plus.google.com/u/0/+ScottNesbitt/) to a blog post I'd written about creating an editorial calendar for your blog. My buddy Jim Campbell's reply to that post was quite interesting.
While I can't find that reply, I can give you a decent approximation: Jim wrote that he should something like that even if it's just a set of entries in a calendar or just a list of dates.
Jim hit the situation squarely on the head: *don't many anything more complex than it needs to be*.
{{more}}
## Going Overboard
In the situation I just described, or one like it, it's easy to go overboard. You can have entries in your calendar, reminders that are staggered over several days, a link to a note or task in Evernote, a trigger to send you a text message when a deadline is looming, and more.
Admittedly, that's a bit of an absurd example. But I know more than a couple of people who add layers of complexity to a process or a task, even when that process or task doesn't warrant much (if any) complexity.
Take, for example, Getting Things Done (GTD for short, a popular method for productivity). I find GTD to be far too involved for my tastes and needs. Just look at [this workflow diagram](http://sethsphd.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/gtd-v20.jpg).
Another good example is cooking. Too many people seem to believe that cooking is a complex, involved chore that requires a lot of ingredients, a lot of skill, a lot of time, and a lot of specialized equipment. For most people, it doesn't need to be. Test cooking is simple. It involves a few ingredients and a small amount of embellishment. It's cooked with care. Anyone can do that.
## Keep It Simple
Does all that complexity really help? Or is it there just because it seems clever?
With your workflow, just have set of tasks. Give each of those tasks a deadline, or create a [daily task list](http://scottnesbitt.info/post/managing-your-tasks-with-workflowy)? When you've completed a task, cross them off the list.
If you want and need to get things done, you need to make things as simple as possible.
You need to reduce your mental overhead.
You need to boil what you're doing down to its essentials.
## The Dangers of Contrived Complexity
Do I fear complexity? About as much as I fear technology ...
Complexity, in of itself, isn't a always a bad thing. *Contrived* complexity is. By *contrived complexity* I mean complexity that's added to a task or process either because you can or because you haven't thought the situation through.
Complexity is a drag on what you're doing. You tend to spend more time than you should maintaining complex systems, shoring them up. Time that you could better spend doing meaningful work, or even just relaxing and recharging.
Stitching together a bunch of disparate tools and processes might feed your ego a bit and increase your cred as a productivity hacker (whatever that is). But before you do that, you should really ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I really need all of those tools?
2. Is there anything I can remove from or combine in my process?
3. Is there a simpler way to do this?
Answer the questions honestly, based on reason and **not** on emotion.
You might find out that you should give up a few tools. Sure, those tools may be interesting and slick, but chances are they're just adding to your overhead.
You might need to tweak the way that you do things. Adapting to the tweaks will slow you down at first, but once you get into the new flow you'll find that everything moves smoothly and quickly.
In the end, you just might find yourself more productive and with more time to devote to things other than work.
Thoughts? As always, your comments are welcome.
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---
Title: Going Back to Todo.txt
Date: 2015-xx-xx
Tags: tools, productivity
Published: false
---
- tie in 3-month paper challenge
- working, but ...
- still want to keep task list digital. But also want to keep it simple and portable
- for longest time, used [Todo.txt](http://www.todotxt.com)
- problem was do much of my work on a [Chromebook](). When was using Todo.txt regularly, no way to work with it on the Chromebook. Turning to a smartphone or tablet and the [Todo.txt Touch]() mobile app wasn't an acceptable or efficient solution
- so, Todo.txt fell off my list of must-use tools
- fast forward to spring, 2014 (autumn, 2014 for those of you in the northern hemisphere). By chance, dropped by the [Todo.txt website](http://www.todotxt.com) and noticed that list of apps had expanded to include several web apps. And a search of the [Chrome Web Store]() turned up [an app]() and [an extension]() that work with it
- convinced me to go back to Todo.txt and give it another try
- forgotten how much enjoyed using it -- explain why (simplicity)
- right now, using in parallel with paper -- trying to find strengths and weaknesses of both (at least, for me)
- admittedly, that's a bit cumbersome. Will make a choice soon
- for me, only drawback is that apps work exclusively with Dropbox. Hoping someone will develop an app that integrates with [ownCloud]() instead
---
Title: Scott Berkun on Productivity
Date: 2014-11-17
Tags: productivity
Published: false
---
[Sage words](https://twitter.com/berkun/status/466657796809703424) from Scott Berkun:
![](https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/148414/scriptogr.am/berkun-on-productivity.png)
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# Sharing documents with clients using Dropbox
Sharing documents with clients can be a chore. In fact, it can be more painful than it needs to be. Like most people, you probably do that using email. But email has a few drawbacks.
Emails can get deleted or lost. If a file is attached to a message and you or your client haven't downloaded it to a computer, then it's gone. History. Sucked into a digital black hole. You can add your favourite metaphor ... On top of that, it's easy to confuse versions of the same file. That causes **a lot** of problems.
A better option is to use [Dropbox](http://www.getdropbox.com). With it, you can quickly and simply make files available to clients and prospective client. How do you do that? Let's take a look at just that.
<!--more-->
### Before you begin
Obviously, you'll need a Dropbox account. You can get one for free. But you're limited to Dropbox -- you can appluy what I'm going to discuss in this post to any file storage or sharing service, like [Box](http://box.com), [ownCloud](http://www.owncloud.org), or [Google Drive](http://drive.google.com)
The types of documents that I usually share are proposals, contracts, samples, invoices, drafts for final review, and the like. The kinds of documents that will get lost if sent by email.
Notice that I don't include works in progress that I'm collaborating on with someone. In that case, I prefer to use tools like [Google Docs]() or [Draft]().
When you're using a service like Dropbox, be *very* selective about the types of documents that you share. Don't include credit card or banking information in the your documents.
With that out of the way, let's get going.
### Setting up sharing
There are two ways you can do that in Dropbox: using the Public folder or sharing a specific folder or document. For client work, I try to avoid using the Public folder for obvious reasons. Instead, I prefer to share a document directly from its folder. You can do that, and your client doesn't need a Dropbox account to view or download the document.
I counsel my [coaching clients](http://scottnesbitt.co.nz) to create folder structures for their clients in Dropbox (or whatever tool they're using). I discuss how to do that [in this post](https://scottnesbitt.net/weblog/managing-and-organizing-your-writing-files-with-dropbox/). Doing that makes organizing your work a lot easier.
Go into your client folder (or the folder containing the document that you want to share). Right click on the name of the document and then select **Share link**.
[insert dropbox_share_link.png]
A new web browser tab or window will open.
[insert dropbox_email_form.png]
Enter your client's email address and a short message, and then click **Send**. An email, along with a link to the document, appears in their inbox.
[insert email_from_dropbox.png]
When your client clicks the link, they're taken to a page that displays the document. They can download it and, depending on the type of file, may be able to view it.
You can also share a folder with a client. Instead of right clicking on the name of the folder that you want to share. The link that's sent to your client takes them to the folder, where they can view and download individual files or all of the files in a folder as a single .zip file.
Whether you share a single file or a folder, your client can't edit or delete the files in your Dropbox.
### Get clients to send files to you using dbinbox
WHat happens if a client wants to send you an edited word processor file, a marked up PDF, or a signed contract? Instead of email it to you (remember what said earlier about emailed documents), have them use [dbinbox](http://dbinbox.com/) instead.
dbinbox is billed as *an inbox for your Dropbox*. How it works is simple: you link the tool to your Dropbox account. Doing that generates a URL that points to your Dropbox account -- for example, *https://dbinbox/johnsmyth*. You give that URL an access code.
When a client wants to send you a document, they go to the URL and then enter the access code that you give them.
[insert dbinbox_access_code.png]
Then, they can upload one or more files.
[insert dbinbox_upload.png]
The file or files are then sent to the *Apps/dbinbox* folder in your Dropbox account.
### Final thoughts
Using Dropbox (or a service like Dropbox) can make sharing documents with clients and prospective clients a lot easier. If nothing else, it helps make sure that you don't lose files or confuse versions of those files.
Thoughts? As always, your comments are welcome.
---
Title: Effectively Using Evernote
Date: 2014-12-03
Tags: tools, productivity
Published: false
---
Over the years, I've been accused of hating [Evernote](http://www.evernote.com). That's not true. Not in the least. I've used Evernote on and off (on at the moment) for quite some time and while I'm not as enthusiastic about it as some people are, I do find Evernote to be a very useful tool.
One aspect of Evernote that's both exhilarating and frustrating is its flexibility. In it's early days, Evernote's tagline was *Remember everything*. Now, it's *The workspace for your life's work*. Both encourage people to do **everything** in Evernote, even though Evernote might not be the best place to do much of that work.
Most people I've talked to or have [coached](http://scottnesbitt.co.nz) have told me that they only only need Evernote for a small number of tasks. But thanks to its nature as a blank canvas, Evernote can be a bit overwhelming -- they don't know where to begin.
Here are some tips that can help you effectively use Evernote.
{{more}}
## Think About How You Want to Use Evernote
It's easy to say *I want to use Evernote for everything*. That's a surefire way to use it for nothing.
Before you start using Evernote, think about how you want to use it. Three common uses of Evernote are:
* Personal organization
* For business
* For school
Then, break down what you want to organize. For example, if you're using Evernote for personal organization, you might want to collect recipes, plan trips, create checklists and to-do lists, save interesting articles to read later, and collect serial numbers and warranty information and user manuals in one place.
Try to focus on one two areas in which you will use Evernote. Be sure taht there's a clear delineation between the two. I use Evernote to mainly for writing, but I also mix in some personal use. To ensure a division between my two uses of Evernote, I set up a structure to keep them apart.
## Set Up a Structure
Freeform is fun. Freeform is easy. But keeping your notes and work freeform is a sure route to disaster. Even with Evernote's search feature, it will take more time than it should to find what you need to find.
Organization and structure are key when using Evernote. The basic units of organization in Evernote are *notebooks* and *notes*. Notebooks, obviously, are collections of notes. I organize my notebook in a tree. The structure of that tree is based on what I want to remember or what I want to do.
I have notebooks for a variety of purposes, including:
* Ideas for articles
* Notes for articles (which also include research)
* Blogging
Here's a look at some of the notebooks that I use:
![](https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/148414/scriptogr.am/evernote_notebooks.png)
Notice that some of the notebooks have notebooks under them. That structure is called a *stack*. The stacks let me further organize my notes -- I can have a top-level notebook, and add related notebooks to the stack which lets me quickly find what I’m looking for when I need it.
I can easily see what notebooks I have and can quickly find the notes that I need to find.
## Be Very Selective About What You Save
It's easy to dump everything that you come across into Evernote. It's a convenient place to dump things -- interesting or funny quotes, links, images, and more. But even if you carefully organize your content in Evernote, the toll can quickly become like that closet in your house -- a place where a lot of cruft piles up.
Instead, focus on collecting the information that you *need* and the information that you *will use*. Doing that will streamline the amount of information that you need to deal with in Evernote and can help prevent you from clogging it up with ephemera.
## Do a Periodic Purge
Evernote is like any other tool -- digital or otherwise. There will be information in it that you will no longer need, which is obsolete, which you will never get to, or which you've forgotten about. It happens to us all. And, yes, I'm not immune!
Every six weeks or so, take some to to go through your notes. Then, ruthlessly expunge items that are older than six weeks. Obviously, you won't be doing that for everything (such as product serial numbers and warranty information). But the itinerary for the the trip last spring, or the link to a funny video? Get rid of them.
Think back to a [post in this space](http://scottnesbitt.info/post/its-not-the-tool) from earlier in 2014. Do you think the person who collected 365 notes for possible blog posts got through a big chunk of those ideas? I'd say not.
Stuffing notes away like a squirrel hoards nuts isn’t going to do any good. You’ll just increase your digital clutter. You'll just add to your cognitive overhead.
Instead, be honest. Be brutal.
## Final Thought
These suggestions won't work for everyone. But if you're struggling to keep yourself organized with Evernote, then give these a try. They just might work for you.
(**A quick plug**: If you’re interested in learning more about how to get the most out of Evernote, feel free to [get in touch with me](http://scottnesbitt.net/contact.php) to learn more about my [technology coaching](http://scottnesbitt.co.nz) services.)
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---
Title: 3 Books That Can Help You Tame Evernote
Date: 2014-12-10
Tags: evernote, books, tools
Published: false
---
(**Note:** This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, [here](https://scottnesbitt.net/weblog/3-books-that-can-help-you-master-evernote/))
[Evernote](http://www.evernote.com) is a useful and flexible tool for anyone. So flexible, in fact, that you can use it for just about anything.
I know people who use Evernote to organize their writing, plan trips, help run their small businesses, keep track of their collections, and more.
It can be a bit challenging to get up and running with Evernote. And, if you're like me, you sometimes overthink things and that makes the process of working with a tool like Evernote a bit more difficult. A good guide, in the form of a good book, can help.
For the longest time, there was a dearth of books in English about Evernote, even though there seemed to have been a cottage industry of books about Evernote in Japan. That's changed. There are a number of titles in English about Evernote. Some are good, some not so.
Here's a quick look at three of the better books (in English) about Evernote that are on the market.
{{more}}
### Evernote Essentials
*[Evernote Essentials](https://members.nerdgap.com/order-evernote-essentials/)* by Brett Kelly was one of the first major English-language books about Evernote, and it's still one of the best. If you're new to Evernote, or need a refresher, this is the book to consider.
The book takes you through Evernote from the beginning -- setting creating notes, organizing your notes using notebooks and stacks (a hierarchy of subfolders or subcategories for notes), tagging, using apps and reminders, and a lot more. The kinds of things that confound some users of Evernote, and which they're forced to learn through trial and error.
What I really like about *Evernote Essentials* is the use detailed use cases that Kelly has added to the book. These include advice on using Evernote to plan and record your travel, archiving what you've posted to social media, and going paperless. The use cases show how to use the information in the book in a practical, rather than somewhat theoretical, way.
### Work Smarter with Evernote
Aimed more at the business person or corporate employee, the thrust of *[Work Smarter with Evernote](http://hbr.org/product/work-smarter-with-evernote/an/11850E-KND-ENG)* by Alexandra Samuel is productivity through the mechanics of using Evernote. It's the shortest of the three books I look at in this post, but it's also the most focused.
The book is divided into four main chapters that explain how to:
* Capture the information that you need to capture
* Organize what you've captured, and (to use a word I dislike) prioritize it
* Share and collaborate
* Set up Evernote in 30 minutes
You do that through careful tagging of notes and creating notebooks for specific tasks. But the key, as Samuel points out, is to develop habits and build a mindset that will help you use Evernote effectively. Something I've been telling my [technology coaching](http://scottnesbitt.co.nz) for years.
### Untethered with Evernote
*[Untethered with Evernote](http://getuntethered.com/)* by Stacey Harmon and Kristie Willis combines many of the best elements of the two books that I just discussed. It's a combination primer and practical guide to Evernote that not only gets you started with the tool, but provides you with great tips and advice for using Evernote in your professional and daily lives. The main aim is to help you use Evernote to make as much of your life as paperless as possible.
Some of the highlights of the book include a list of hardware and software that you can use in conjunction with Evernote, advice on how to organize information in Evernote, and offering recipes that can help you get the most out of the tool.
Those recipes run the gamut of operating a business (planning, managing tasks and leads, and dealing with invoices and receipts), collaborating with others using Evernote, and using Evernote to organize your personal life.
You can tell that Harmon and Willis are *very* enthusiastic and experienced Evernote users. That comes out on just about every page. It's that enthusiasm that's really the main strength of the book.
Do you have a favourite book about Evernote? Feel free to share your pick by leaving a comment.
(**A quick plug**: If you’re interested in learning more about how to fit technologies like a Evernote into your personal or business workflow, feel free to [get in touch with me](http://scottnesbitt.net/contact.php) to learn more about my [technology coaching services](http://scottnesbitt.co.nz).)
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# Open source alternatives to web apps: DuckDuckGo
**Application:** DuckDuckGo
**Replaces:** Any search engine
It's safe to say that most people don't think about the search engine they use. By default or conditioning, they turn to Google, Bing, or Yahoo! to do their online searches.
*Most* people. There are more than a few of us who look for alternatives. Why? mainly because the big search engines (and more than a couple of the smaller ones) track our search history. Sure, that might make for more accurate and tailored searches, but that opens the door to how much data of ours they're collecting. And what they're doing with that data.
That's where DuckDuckGo comes in. It's a search engine that respects your privacy, in many ways. While you can't host an instance of DuckDuckGo yourself, it's still a great web app. And one you really should try if you haven't already.
Interested? Then read on.
<!--more-->
### Hacking DuckDuckGo
- mention contributor program
\ No newline at end of file
# Easing into open source
**Note: This post is based on a lightning talk that I gave on October 21, 2014 at the [Opensource.com Lightning Talks](http://technologytank.org/2014/10/09/opensource-com-lightning-talks-linux-docker-it-automation-and-more/) in Raleigh, North Carolina. I've made the [slides for the talk](http://www.slideshare.net/Scott.Nesbitt/easing-into-open-source-slides) available on Slideshare.**
There are many people out there who are interested in, and even eager to use, open source. Not just for one or two tasks, but for their *entire computing experience*. But, for a variety of reasons, they aren’t able or willing to make the leap from the closed, proprietary world to a more free and open one.
Even the more resolute ones hesitate. Why? A big part of it is change, which no one really likes. And they might not know a lot about open source.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
One of the many ill-fitting hats I wear is [technology coach](http://scottnesbitt.co.nz). I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned as a technology coach that can help you ease people into open source.
### Take it slow
The temptation is there to toss new users into the deep end, and let them let them fend for themselves. That’s how a lot of us learned about open source. We grabbed a live CD or live USB, or an installation package for an interesting piece of software, and just went to town. We reveled in making mistakes, learning, then repeating the cycle again.
That doesn’t work for everyone. Tossing most people into the deep end doesn’t give them a sense of confidence. Instead, you wind up with a lot of people fussing and whining. A bad experience will turn them away. And that's not the outcome that we want.
### Don't preach the gospel
Curb the urge to get up on a soapbox and preach the open source way to the masses. It rarely works. Many people don’t care about the [Four Freedoms](http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman#Four_Freedoms), or the ethical and ideological arguments around using open source. At least, not yet.
If you get up on your soapbox, they’ll just glaze over. They'll ignore you. They'll walk away.
What do they care about? What open source *can do for them*. What it can do to help them do what they need to do. It's a selfish motivation, but a real one. And that’s what you really need to focus on. More about this in a moment ...
### <em>I'm afraid of open source. I can't program</em>
Someone actually said this to me recently. There’s a perception that open source is the domain of the developer, the system administrator, and the techie.
It’s not.
Look at me. I don’t have deep technical knowledge, but I live my life in open source. I’m sure that goes for some of you reading this post, too.
It’s always useful to remind people that to use open source software they don’t need to know how to code, They don’t need to know how to compile software. They don’t need to know how use the command line or tweak configuration files. But if they want to they can learn.
### <em>But it's not ...</em>
I run into what I call the *It’s not* syndrome quite a bit. As in *It’s not a Mac* or *It’s not Windows* or *It’s not Office*, or *It’s not like my favourite tool*. Saying that implies that open source has less value, less merit, and is less useful than proprietary software.
That syndrome is hard to cure. But there is an answer for it ...
**So what?**
Open source has its merits. It's useful. It has its strengths. As many, if not more, than proprietary software. Most people can do most (if not all) of their work using open source. They can do it comfortably, quickly, and efficiently.
### Comparison = glazed eyes
Don’t go into a feature-by-feature comparison of an open source tool and a proprietary one. That list can be long. It can be involved. It speaks to the technology fetishist more than to the average user.
For many people, a feature-by-feature comparison is boring. They don’t care about that kind of minutiae, and it will trigger an *It’s not a ...* response.
### Be a mentor
Instead, teach them. Guide them. Coach them. Focus on what software they use now, the features that they use, and how they use that software and those features.
Show them, for example, how to set up a document in LibreOffice Writer. How to crop an image in The GIMP. How to get photos off their cameras with DigiKam. How to play media with VLC.
Once you've done that, ease them into more advance features. You might not need to do that, though.
### Open source has a price
Remind them that open source does have a price. That price doesn’t have a currency symbol in front of it. It’s a price, though, that many people have a hard time paying.
That price? *Time*. Time to adapt to something new. Time to build new habits. Time to learn new or different ways of doing things. As I tell my coaching clients, you need to build discipline and habits. Once you do that, you’re on your road to mastery.
### Take baby steps
Start them off slowly. Take baby steps, not giant leaps. Don’t, for example, show people all the funky ways that they can use (say) Gnumeric. Instead, show them how to use it to set up a simple household expense spreadsheet.
Then, build from there. Cover more advanced topics, if they need that sort of thing. Remember that not everyone is a power user. Many people who sit in front of computers do a small number of specific tasks. Anything else is unneeded overhead to them.
### Turn users into advocates
Getting more people using open source, and embracing the ideas and values behind it, is the right thing to do. It’s not easy, but it can be done with very little pain.
Who knows: by showing people the open source way, we might get some of them to spread the word. In the end, that benefits us all.
**Photo credit:** [asifthebes](http://www.freeimages.com/profile/asifthebes)
# Two weeks with elementary OS
[elementary OS](http://elementaryos.org) is one of those distributions I've been eyeing for a while. A few months ago, I gave it a quick test drive using a live USB and was impressed by elementary's simplicity and minimalism.
But, for a variety of reasons, it feel off my radar. Until a few weeks ago when I decided to install elementary on an older laptop to put it through its paces.
That was an interesting experience, and I mean that in a good way. I found elementary to be a zippy distro, and one that's easy to use. While it won't appeal to the hardcore techie, it will definitely appeal to someone new to Linux who wants to get their feet wet.
Let's take a look at elementary OS.
<!--more-->
### Installation
The first step was to download the latest .iso image. You have a choice of making a donation to the project before downloading, or downloading for free. I chose the latter option (although I went back later to make a small donation to support the project).
As is my custom, I created a live USB with [unetbootin](http://scottnesbitt.net/ubuntublog/creating-bootable-usb-drives-with-unetbootin/). From there, I plugged the USB drive into my laptop and started it up. The laptop itself is about four years old and packs a 320 GB hard drive, 4 GB of memory, and a 1.7 GHz processor. It's not the fastest laptop around, but it's OK.
Once elementary's desktop loaded, I went immediately to install it. Seeing as how I'd given it a peek in the past, I didn't need to run it as a live USB again. The installation took about 15 minutes -- I chose to download and install updates during the installation process.
The installer required minimal input from me. It just asked for a user name, a password, my location, and the keyboard layout that I wanted to use. Before I knew it, the installation was finished and I was restarting the laptop.
[insert elementary-main-window.png]
### Getting started
elementary OS comes loaded with a basic set of applications, including:
* The Midori web browser
* The Geary email client
* Empathy (an instant messaging client)
* Simple Scan
* The Shotwell photo manager
It also packs a basic text editor, a PDF viewer, a music player, and a movie player. You can also install more software using elementary's Software Center (which is similar to the ones found in Ubuntu, Lubuntu, and Linux Mint). The selection of software available in elementary's Software Center is on par with its counterpart under Lubuntu.
### Taking a peek at the interface and the applications
Overall, elementary's interface is very clean and very compact. There is a minimum of clutter, and very little on the desktop to get in your way.
The **Applications** menu is unlike the ones found in most other Linux distributions. When you click **Applications**, a pop out that resembles a word balloon appears. That pop out contains links to the installed applications.
[insert elementary-applications-menu.png]
I'm not a fan of the default view that you see above. You can change it to a more traditional set of categories by clicking one of the icons in the top-left corner of the pop out.
[insert elementary-applications-categories.png]
You can also launch the applications that you frequently use from elementary's dock.
[insert elementary-dock.png]
The stock applications don't have a menu bar. Instead, the title bar and the icon bar for each application is combined into a single entity called a *header bar**. It's all very seamless and clean. Many of the stock applications also have a **Settings** button (which looks like a gear) that, when you click it, displays a list of commands and options.
[insert elementary-application-settings.png]
Note that this setup isn't true for all applications. If, for example, you install The GIMP then you'll get a menu bar.
### Getting to work
My main plan for elementary OS was to see how much work I could do with it. To do that, I need to install some additional software. That was:
* Firefox
* A full TeX system
* LyX
* Calligra Author (an alternative word processor)
* Inkscape
* Markdown
* ReText (a Markdown editor)
All of those applications are available through the Software Center.
As expected, working with those tools was simple and smooth. It was just like working on any other Linux distro I've used -- that wasn't a surprise. As I mentioned several paragraphs ago, I was pleasantly surprised at how zippy the software (and elementary OS itself) was on a relatively underpowered laptop.
### Final thoughts
elementary OS is aimed at the ordinary user and not the techie. It's easy to get up and running with elementary, and you can quickly install the software that you need.
While I really like elementary OS, I see no compelling reason to switch over from Lubuntu. At least, for the moment. When the next version, codenamed *Isis*, is released that might change.
# Two weeks with elementary OS
[elementary OS](http://elementaryos.org) is one of those distributions I've been eyeing for a while. A few months ago, I gave it a quick test drive using a live USB and was impressed by elementary's simplicity and minimalism.
But, for a variety of reasons, it feel off my radar. Until a few weeks ago when I decided to install elementary on an older laptop to put it through its paces.
That was an interesting experience, and I mean that in a good way. I found elementary to be a zippy distro, and one that's easy to use. While it won't appeal to the hardcore techie, it will definitely appeal to someone new to Linux who wants to get their feet wet.
Let's take a look at elementary OS.
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### Installation
The first step was to download the latest .iso image. You have a choice of making a donation to the project before downloading, or downloading for free. I chose the latter option (although I went back later to make a small donation to support the project).
As is my custom, I created a live USB with [unetbootin](http://scottnesbitt.net/ubuntublog/creating-bootable-usb-drives-with-unetbootin/). From there, I plugged the USB drive into my laptop and started it up. The laptop itself is about four years old and packs a 320 GB hard drive, 4 GB of memory, and a 1.7 GHz processor. It's not the fastest laptop around, but it's OK.
Once elementary's desktop loaded, I went immediately to install it. Seeing as how I'd given it a peek in the past, I didn't need to run it as a live USB again. The installation took about 15 minutes -- I chose to download and install updates during the installation process.
The installer required minimal input from me. It just asked for a user name, a password, my location, and the keyboard layout that I wanted to use. Before I knew it, the installation was finished and I was restarting the laptop.
[insert elementary-main-window.png]
### Getting started
elementary OS comes loaded with a basic set of applications, including:
* The Midori web browser
* The Geary email client
* Empathy (an instant messaging client)
* Simple Scan
* The Shotwell photo manager
It also packs a basic text editor, a PDF viewer, a music player, and a movie player. You can also install more software using elementary's Software Center (which is similar to the ones found in Ubuntu, Lubuntu, and Linux Mint). The selection of software available in elementary's Software Center is on par with its counterpart under Lubuntu.
### Taking a peek at the interface and the applications
Overall, elementary's interface is very clean and very compact. There is a minimum of clutter, and very little on the desktop to get in your way.
The **Applications** menu is unlike the ones found in most other Linux distributions. When you click **Applications**, a pop out that resembles a word balloon appears. That pop out contains links to the installed applications.
[insert elementary-applications-menu.png]
I'm not a fan of the default view that you see above. You can change it to a more traditional set of categories by clicking one of the icons in the top-left corner of the pop out.
[insert elementary-applications-categories.png]
You can also launch the applications that you frequently use from elementary's dock.
[insert elementary-dock.png]
The stock applications don't have a menu bar. Instead, the title bar and the icon bar for each application is combined into a single entity called a *header bar**. It's all very seamless and clean. Many of the stock applications also have a **Settings** button (which looks like a gear) that, when you click it, displays a list of commands and options.
[insert elementary-application-settings.png]
Note that this setup isn't true for all applications. If, for example, you install The GIMP then you'll get a menu bar.
### Getting to work
My main plan for elementary OS was to see how much work I could do with it. To do that, I need to install some additional software. That was:
* Firefox
* A full TeX system
* LyX
* Calligra Author (an alternative word processor)
* Inkscape
* Markdown
* ReText (a Markdown editor)
All of those applications are available through the Software Center.
As expected, working with those tools was simple and smooth. It was just like working on any other Linux distro I've used -- that wasn't a surprise. As I mentioned several paragraphs ago, I was pleasantly surprised at how zippy the software (and elementary OS itself) was on a relatively underpowered laptop.
### Final thoughts
elementary OS is aimed at the ordinary user and not the techie. It's easy to get up and running with elementary, and you can quickly install the software that you need.
While I really like elementary OS, I see no compelling reason to switch over from Lubuntu. At least, for the moment. When the next version, codenamed *Isis*, is released that might change.
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# Creating EPUB files in wallabag
You might remember a post I wrote a few months ago about [wallabag](https://scottnesbitt.net/ubuntublog/open-source-alternatives-to-web-apps-wallabag/), an open source alternative to read-it-later apps like Instapaper and pocket. If you don't remember, feel free to go back to that post and read it. Don't worry. I'll wait for you.
Done? Great! Let's continue.
One of the drawbacks of wallabag was that you couldn't download the articles that you saved as an EPUB file. Well, shortly after I wrote that post wallabag was updated with (among other things) that feature. I wish I could say that I was responsible for getting the developers to include EPUB export, but I'm sure that feature was on the development roadmap for a while.
Let's take a look at how to create EPUB files in wallabag.
<!--more-->
### Why create an EPUB anyway?
You can read articles that you've saved to wallabag online, or using the [mobile app](https://f-droid.org/repository/browse/?fdid=fr.gaulupeau.apps.InThePoche). Both have their limitations.
You need to be online and at your computer to use the wallabag or [Framabag](https://www.framabag.org/) (the hosted version of wallabag). The mobile app is functional, but you can't control the choice or size of the font used with the app.
If you want to take your reading offline instead, then generate EPUB and loading it into app like [FBReader](http://fbreader.org/) on a laptop or a mobile device is the way to go.
### How to create an EPUB
There are three ways you can create an EPUB of the content you're storing in wallabag:
* All of your unread articles
* A single article
* All of your content in wallabag
Let's say you're taking a train, bus, or plan ride and want some reading material for your trip. So, you've collected a bunch of articles and blog posts in wallabag. To save them as an EPUB file, scroll to the bottom of the **Home** page in wallabag and click the **Download the articles from this category in an epub** link.
[insert wallabag-collection.png]
Depending on the number of articles you've saved, it can take a couple of seconds to 10 seconds or more for wallabag to generate the EPUB file.
If you only want to save a single article -- say, a piece of [longform journalism](http://longform.org/) -- as an EPUB, view it in wallabag. Scroll down to the end of the article and click the **EPUB** link.
[insert wallabag-single-article.png]
Finally, you can combine all of your content in wallabag into an EPUB by clicking **config** on the **Home** page. Then, scroll down the **config** page until you find:
[insert wallabag_generate_epub.png]
This will create an EPUB that contains what you haven't read yet and what's in your wallabag archive (if anything).
(In case you're wondering about the archive, here's how it works: when you finish reading an article in wallabag, you can either delete it or *archive* it. The latter marks the article as read and saves it to wallabag's database. The article is moved off the **Home** page. You can reread archived articles by clicking the **archive** link.)
If you're wondering what the ebook looks like, here's an example:
[insert wallabag_epub_read1.png]
And with the table of contents displayed:
[insert wallabag_epub_read2.png]
### Any drawbacks?
Only a couple. First, you can't customize the EPUB that wallabag generates. You get a stock cover that includes a generic title and the wallabag logo:
[insert wallabag-epub-cover.png]
For some reason, when you open an EPUB generated by wallabag in a reader, the page that appears is an informational page, and not the cover or table of contents or even the first article in the book.
Generating an EPUB from your articles in wallabag is a good way of taking your reading portable. It's fast and easy, and works on any device that supports an EPUB reader.
**Photo credit:** [robertogreco](http://www.flickr.com/photos/46137600@N00/2263650976) via [PhotoRee](http://www.photoree.com)
# Creating EPUB files in wallabag
You might remember a post I wrote a few months ago about [wallabag](https://scottnesbitt.net/ubuntublog/open-source-alternatives-to-web-apps-wallabag/), an open source alternative to read-it-later apps like Instapaper and pocket. If you don't remember, feel free to go back to that post and read it. Don't worry. I'll wait for you.
Done? Great! Let's continue.
One of the drawbacks of wallabag was that you couldn't download the articles that you saved as an EPUB file. Well, shortly after I wrote that post wallabag was updated with (among other things) that feature. I wish I could say that I was responsible for getting the developers to include EPUB export, but I'm sure that feature was on the development roadmap for a while.
Let's take a look at how to create EPUB files in wallabag.
<!--more-->
### Why create an EPUB anyway?
You can read articles that you've saved to wallabag online, or using the [mobile app](https://f-droid.org/repository/browse/?fdid=fr.gaulupeau.apps.InThePoche). Both have their limitations.
You need to be online and at your computer to use the wallabag or [Framabag](https://www.framabag.org/) (the hosted version of wallabag). The mobile app is functional, but you can't control the choice or size of the font used with the app.
If you want to take your reading offline instead, then generate EPUB and loading it into app like [FBReader](http://fbreader.org/) on a laptop or a mobile device is the way to go.
### How to create an EPUB
There are three ways you can create an EPUB of the content you're storing in wallabag:
* All of your unread articles
* A single article
* All of your content in wallabag
Let's say you're taking a train, bus, or plan ride and want some reading material for your trip. So, you've collected a bunch of articles and blog posts in wallabag. To save them as an EPUB file, scroll to the bottom of the **Home** page in wallabag and click the **Download the articles from this category in an epub** link.
[insert wallabag-collection.png]
Depending on the number of articles you've saved, it can take a couple of seconds to 10 seconds or more for wallabag to generate the EPUB file.
If you only want to save a single article -- say, a piece of [longform journalism](http://longform.org/) -- as an EPUB, view it in wallabag. Scroll down to the end of the article and click the **EPUB** link.
[insert wallabag-single-article.png]
Finally, you can combine all of your content in wallabag into an EPUB by clicking **config** on the **Home** page. Then, scroll down the **config** page until you find:
[insert wallabag_generate_epub.png]
This will create an EPUB that contains what you haven't read yet and what's in your wallabag archive (if anything).
(In case you're wondering about the archive, here's how it works: when you finish reading an article in wallabag, you can either delete it or *archive* it. The latter marks the article as read and saves it to wallabag's database. The article is moved off the **Home** page. You can reread archived articles by clicking the **archive** link.)
If you're wondering what the ebook looks like, here's an example:
[insert wallabag_epub_read1.png]
And with the table of contents displayed:
[insert wallabag_epub_read2.png]
### Any drawbacks?
Only a couple. First, you can't customize the EPUB that wallabag generates. You get a stock cover that includes a generic title and the wallabag logo:
[insert wallabag-epub-cover.png]
For some reason, when you open an EPUB generated by wallabag in a reader, the page that appears is an informational page, and not the cover or table of contents or even the first article in the book.
Generating an EPUB from your articles in wallabag is a good way of taking your reading portable. It's fast and easy, and works on any device that supports an EPUB reader.
**Photo credit:** [robertogreco](http://www.flickr.com/photos/46137600@N00/2263650976) via [PhotoRee](http://www.photoree.com)
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# A non-techie's perspective on blogging with Jekyll
As you probably know, I blog quite a bit. Not as much as I should in this space (sorry!), but quite a bit nonetheless.
WordPress is my blogging platform of choice. Mainly because it's powerful and flexible, as well as being easy to use. Due, in large part, to my work as a [technology coach](http://scottnesbitt.co.nz), I find myself investigating other blogging platforms. Sometimes, the proofs of concept that I create for my clients wind up being going concerns.
That happened with [two](http://scottnesbitt.info) such [blogs](http://morningmusings.info), as well as my coaching site. They were spread across a pair of services that designed for static blogging. There was nothing really wrong with those services, aside from a few limitations that I ran up against. But I wanted to embrace my inner control freak a little more.
I didn't, however, want to create a PHP-based website or use a bulky content management system for the blogs. Instead, I kept things static. After looking at a few static website generators, I went with [Jekyll](http://jekyllrb.com/) (for a variety of reasons).
I won't say the transition was completely painless, but it wasn't too bad. Making that move let me embrace my inner geek a bit, too.
(**Note:** This post isn't a comprehensive guide to building a blog or website using Jekyll.)
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### So, what's Jekyll?
It's tool for building static blogs and websites. By _static_, I mean the pages and post are a set of HTML files. You aren't pulling information from a database or a set of files (in the way, say, WordPress and Joomla! do).
Jekyll is a bit of a techie tool. You use it at the command line, and it follows the write-compile-test workflow that software developers are familiar with. You write you posts, rebuild your site or blog, and view everything to make sure all is good.