There is a project I have in mind for this winter (more on that at the end of this post) that I want to use Linux for. I have an old Acer netbook that was running Ubuntu 10.04 so I decided to update it to a more recent release. It also seemed like a convenient time to review some open-source software I appreciate and make sure it got re-installed after the update.

Initially, I tried to upgrade from within my existing OS installation (following instructions such as here and here). However, updating from end of life releases is a major challenge, so eventually I decided to download a recent version of Ubuntu and install it from a live USB. I went with Xubuntu 16.04, because it is an LTS (long term support) release. Xubuntu uses the Xfce desktop, which is lighter than the desktop used by regular Ubuntu (however, see below for a number of applications where I do prefer the GNOME version).

To make the bootable/live USB, I used Rufus. It was quite a smooth process to reinstall the new version after that, and it even kept my /home directory intact. Then I proceeded to find some open-source software that I wanted to [re]-install:

  • gedit is a nice plaintext editor with syntax highlighting and line numbering.
  • The GNU Image Manipulation Progam is the main program I use for editting photos.
  • Inkscape is for vector graphics. I've used it to make some infographics (e.g. for these posts).
  • It's been quite a while since I've done any audio editting but when I used to (during my master's studies I volunteered to help prepare recordings of church services) Audacity met my needs very well.
  • VLC is a cool media player.
  • Stellarium is fun if you want to look at some constellations.
  • wine makes it possible to run some Windows programs on Linux.
  • The xml copy editor is a utility that is handy to have on random/rare occasions.
  • I prefer the Synaptic package manager to the default one included with the installation.
  • And of course I had to install octave, R, and LaTeX (here are a few posts I've used them for).

There is some other open-source software that I haven't installed yet, but still wanted to mention:

  • I've only tried video editting once I think, but if I wanted to get into it, I'd look into Pitivi or Avidemux.
  • qGIS is an open-source GIS. I've gotten some use out it in the past (e.g. for the map in this post)—the mapping I do is pretty casual so Google Earth is almost always sufficient, though.
  • I used wxMaxima a bit in university but any math I do these days is much more likely to be numerical than symbolic.
  • When I first started using Linux (in 2007 or so), I liked the Gnumeric spreadsheet program—now I stick with Excel because it's more-or-less standard.
  • Around the same time, F-Spot was the photo organizer I used. Now it seems like Shotwell might be a good choice but I haven't started using it yet.
  • In the games department, I remember having fun playing Battle for Wesnoth. 0 A.D. is one that was suggested by the Xubuntu software repository. And Dwarf Fortress is available for Linux.

I installed a couple of Go programs (CGoban and Gnu Go) on my netbook, but I haven't tried them yet. On my phone, I've recently started using JoyGo; the AI is harder than on the old app I was using so I'm losing consistently. Time to read up on strategy some more.

On the subject of phone apps, this one is useful for locating parks and preserves to explore in New Brunswick.

Finally, I'll share about the project I mentioned in the introduction. I'm planning to go through the book Seven Languages in Seven Weeks by Bruce A. Tate. It gives brief lessons in: Ruby, Io, Prolog, Scala, Erlang, Clojure, and Haskell. I certainly don't expect to become skilled at any of these languages in that amount of time, but I'm hoping to pick up some new approaches for problem solving and a basic understanding of different programming paradigms. My plan is to write some blog posts as I work through this book (don't count on them all being posted in the next seven weeks, though).

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