Cross-platform foss apps (again)

Now I'm on MS Windows (see earlier post), because that's what I acquired with the Thinkpad given or loaned to me by my son. But we seem to be reaching a stage where the actual operating system is not of prime importance.* I mean I had to fiddle quite a bit in order to set up the machine as I wanted it, minimizing the connections with Microsoft and setting up the same software I always use on Linux. I'm beginning to think it's a useful constraint to go for software that's available everywhere, on all Linux desktops as well as MS Windows and Mac. Not everything works as well as the non-FOSS options. For example, Foxit Reader (which isn't FOSS) is much more feature-rich than Evince, which I also have set up. But for everyday tasks, Evince is enough.

For those willing to work with the terminal, the limitations become much more insignificant, but it's a struggle to identify the right scripts. For example today I was looking at Imagemagick, and I didn't find yet an easy explanation of how to do stuff. There's a routine operation I always do when importing photos from my phone or elsewhere, in order that I can put them online. This involves reducing the size of the photos according to their longest side (but only those that actually need to be shrunk), and then saving them with a new name. This is very easy in Xnview (which isn't FOSS), but it seems like a struggle to obtain through Imagemagick.

I'm still trying to obtain a FOSS alternative to XNView, and yesterday looked at Digikam. Naturally it can do a lot more for digital assets management than XNView, however its batch routine is still primitive compared with the latter. There are no options for shrinking only large photos (rather than blowing up the smaller ones), and no option for shrinking them by their longest side (in order that it will work the same for portrait and landscape shapes). That's when I started to look at Imagemagick, because why be upset with GUI options, when in the CLI you can do everything, right? But it isn't quite so simple in the case of Imagemagick. And I know myself. Things that take a long time to learn are just as easily forgotten - especially the ones that I don't need to do several times a day, so that they become a routine.

For text editing, I've finally ended up with Bluefish.  It can do everything I need, and it was possible to simplify the interface how I liked it, and use tabs.  One need that many people don't have is simple and painless LTR / RTL shifting, as soon as one changes the input language.  Bluefish handles this painlessly - when I shift to Hebrew or Arabic, it begins the line from the opposite side.  Some programs, for example Geanie, can't handle RTL languages at all, and others don't do it very well.

I would like to get into the habit of using a single editor (Bluefish) wherever I need an editor. For example this WordPress post, and maybe also for writing emails. Using a single editor means that everything is taken care of in one familiar interface, and there are no surprises like losing all of my work if the computer suddenly turns off. Bluefish saves every minute by default.

* The upcoming versions the Windows Linux Subsystem offer an even more real Linux experience than what currently exists, and it has better interaction with filing systems.

Tags in document organization

Just noticed the tags feature in Windows 7, which corresponds to keywords in Office 2007. It would be possible to forego folder organization and just use tags. Folders are an old fashioned way of organizing files, and we really should no longer be using these today. With tags we could also bring together files which would normally be stored separately, like photos and emails.

However it isn't possible to add tags to other formats like pdf, rtf or odt. Although keywords can be added to Openoffice files within Openoffice, these are not recognized as tags by the file manager in Windows 7. That's a pity.

Win 7 file manager

Experience with Windows 7 dualbooted with Ubuntu

Yesterday I installed Windows 7 in the empty partition of my laptop hard drive - the one that had held Windows Vista.  The latter stopped working a few months ago, as did HP's rescue partition.  It was very simple to install Windows 7.  The only difficulty was finding the Windows boot manager after reinstalling the Linux boot manager grub.  Windows had placed it on the former rescue partition, for some reason.

My next difficulty was to get Windows 7 to work with my Ext3 Linux home partition, where I keep my data files.  Previously on Vista I'd been using Ext2fs.  It turns out that this works inadequately in Windows 7.  You have to go into the program on each startup and re-identify the drive letter.  I tried compatibility mode, etc.  Eventually I placed the program file in Windows startup folder.

The Linux partition was then recognized.  Windows file manager identified it clearly, and Itunes was able to find my music there.  But Picasa didn't recognize it.

I had difficulty getting some programs to start on Windows 7.  Chrome and Flock browsers wouldn't install.  With Flock, I changed to compatibility mode before the install, then it worked.

My final problem was that Windows 7 seems to make greater demands on the CPU than does Ubuntu.  The machine heated up more, and shut down a couple of times.  That happened for instance when Picasa was cataloguing my photos, while OpenOffice was simultaneously downloading.  Probably the overheating problem means that it's time to get my laptop fan cleaned.  However, it's significant that Ubuntu never reaches the threshhold that causes the computer to shut down. 

All in all, I liked Windows 7.  It has a few nice additions that make me wonder why they never thought of these before.  Such as the concept of turning My Documents, My Pictures, into libraries that contain other locations.

I will use it once in a while to sync music to my Ipod, and maybe to edit movies (after getting my laptop fan cleaned!), since I'm still not as happy with the Linux options for movie editing.

At this stage, Ubuntu remains for me a better choice for general use - there isn't a strong enough reason to switch back to Windows 7.

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