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Linux Jargon Buster: What is Flatpak? Everything Important You Need to Know About This Universal Packaging System

Sunday 18th of October 2020 06:28:51 AM

While reading the installation instructions of an application, you’ll often come across terms like “Flatpak”, “Snap”, and “AppImage”.

You might have already used some of them on Linux — but might not really know they are. Flatpak, Snap and AppImage they are ‘universal packaging systems’.

In an earlier article in the Linux Jargon Buster, you have learned about the package manager in Linux. So I won’t bother you with packaging anymore. I’ll highlight what is Flatpak and how it tries to solve problem as a universal packaging system.

What is Flatpak?

Flatpak is a package management utility that lets you distribute, install and manage software without needing to worry about dependencies, runtime, or the Linux distribution. Since you can install software without any issues irrespective on the Linux distribution (be it a Debian-based distro or an Arch-based distro), Flatpak is called universal package.

In case you’re curious, Alexander Larsson is the one responsible to create Flatpak and the history to Flatpak dates back to the summer of 2007. You can read more about his work and Flatpak’s history on his blog post.

It’s impressive to know what it is and how it came in to existence, but why was it created and how does it work?

What problem Flatpak solves?

With so many Linux distributions out there, managing & installing software is one of the most important aspects of managing a Linux system.

If you are an experienced Linux user, you can surely figure out the best way to do it. But, for beginners or for users who don’t want a learning curve to manage packages, these are some issues when using the traditional package formats (deb/rpm):

  • Need to resolve dependencies issues (dependencies refers to other packages that a program depends on to work)
  • Find required libraries to make the software work
  • Adapt to new package managers when switching Linux distributions
  • Not the most secure way of installing/managing software

In other words, with traditional package management systems there are some potential issues that you might encounter in order to make the software work for your system. And, not everyone has the time to troubleshoot!

That’s when something like Flatpak comes in to play.

Flatpak is one such open-source utility that helps you to distribute, manage/install packages without thinking about the Linux distribution you’re using or the dependencies/libraries that the program requires to run.

Now that you have an idea on what it is all about, let’s dive in deeper to know what Flatpak is, how it works, and some background on it.

How does Flatpak work? Image Credits: Flatpak Documentation

Flatpak apps run in an isolated environment (often referred as a sandbox). This sandbox contains everything that’s needed to run that specific program.

Basically, the sandbox includes the runtime and bundled libraries to fulfill the requirements of a program to run. You can learn more about the technical details in their official documentation.

Also, just because Flatpak apps are isolated, it cannot make any changes to your system without explicit permission from the host (you). So, Flatpak offers enhanced security to your system by keeping the applications isolated.

Where do you get Flatpak apps? Flathub

Please keep in mind that in order to use Flatpak packages, your Linux distributions must have Flatpak support. Some distributions like Fedora, Solus etc come with Flatpak support by default whereas you need to manually install Flatpak support in distributions like Ubuntu.

Even though Flatpak technology allows you to not rely on a centralized source for getting software, you will find using Flathub (built by Flatpak team) to distribute and manage software.

There could be other existing Flatpak repositories but none that I’m aware for my personal use-case.

Flatpak: Pros and Cons

No wonder that Flatpak is something impressive — it comes with its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. Here, I’ll list some of them:

Advantages of using Flatpak
  • Flatpak apps can run on any Linux distribution
  • They offer forward-compatibility, meaning — you don’t need to worry about the apps not working if you upgrade your Linux distro to a bleeding-edge version that’s not officially supported by the application.
  • You don’t need to rely on dependencies.
  • In some cases, you will find the latest and greatest version of a program for Flatpak.
  • Flatpak app distribution does not depend on a centralized server, meaning — you don’t get locked-in to one vendor.
  • Enhanced security for your system using sandboxed applications
  • Offers easy integration with an existing software center on your Linux distribution
Disadvantages of using Flatpak
  • It does not have server support yet. It’s only available for desktop Linux as of now.
  • Flatpak apps consume more disk space than you’d usually have when using deb/rpm files. And, you’d need to find ways to free up disk space eventually.
  • Just because it runs on an isolated environment, you may miss a couple of functionalities for some programs. For instance, Flatpak apps may not support your custom GTK theme.

Wrapping Up

I hope that now you have a good idea on what Flatpak is all about. If you want to explore more on installing and using Flatpak, I’d recommend you to read our Flatpak guide to get started.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please take a moment to share it across the social media platforms!

Different Types of Kernel for Arch Linux and How to Use Them

Saturday 17th of October 2020 06:23:01 AM

One of the reasons why people use Arch Linux is that it is a bleeding edge rolling release. You get most software and the Linux kernel before users of other distributions.

But this doesn’t mean that you have to always use the latest mainline kernel. There are several kernel options available, and I am going to show you switch kernels in Arch Linux.

Different types of kernels available for Arch Linux

First, let me tell you about different kinds of Linux kernels available to you as an Arch user.

Mainline kernel (package name: linux)

This is the latest stable Linux kernel. Most people use this kernel for the reason that it is the latest available kernel version.

LTS kernel (package name: linux-lts)

The linux-lts package gives you the latest long term support Linux kernel. There is no predefined life cycle for a LTS kernel but you can be assured to enjoy the same kernel version for a much longer period.

Kernel patches normally don’t break anything but a breakage is not impossible to happen. If your hardware isn’t the newest the market can offer, you can enjoy the bleeding edge software with increased stability by installing the slightly older LTS kernel.

Hardened kernel (package name: linux-hardened)

For the security concerned users, there is a hardened version of the latest stable kernel. Do note that several packages will not work when using this kernel.

Performance-tuned kernel (package name: linux-zen)

If you want to get the most out of your system, you can use the “Zen” kernel which is basically a fork from the latest kernel and provides tunes at the cost of throughput and power usage.

How to switch kernels on Arch Linux

Now that you are aware of various kernel choices, let’s see how to change kernel in Arch Linux.

It is a two step process:

  1. Install the Linux kernel of your choice
  2. Tweak the grub config file to add the newly installed kernel

Don’t worry, I am going to show you the steps in details.

Check the kernel version in arch Linux using this command:

uname -r

If it shows only a number

To switch kernels on Arch, can be simply done by installing the kernel that you want to use and tweak the grub configuration file.

Step 1: Install the kernel of your choice

You can use the pacman command to install the Linux kernel of your choice. You just need to know the package name.

You may also install more than one type of Linux kernels at the same time in the system. You can choose which kernel to use from the grub menu.

For the latest stable kernel:

sudo pacman -S linux

For the latest LTS kernel:

sudo pacman -S linux-lts

For latest stable kernel with hardened patches:

sudo pacman -S linux-hardened

To get the Zen kernel:

sudo pacman -S linux-zen Step 2: Tweak the grub configuration file to add more kernel options

By default, Arch Linux uses the latest kernel version as the default. Additional kernel versions are available from under the advanced options:

Additional Linux kernels are available under this option

However, I prefer to do things a bit different and a bit better (in my opinion). Here’s what I do:

  • Disable grub submenu so that all the available kernel versions are shown on the main screen (instead of under Advanced Options).
  • Configure grub to recall the last kernel entry you booted and use it as the default entry to boot from the next time.

Sounds a lot better already, does it not?

To do this you need to edit the GRUB configuration file. All the configuration files in general are located at the /etc directory.

Open your terminal and edit the config file in your favorite terminal-based text editor. I am using Nano editor:

sudo nano /etc/default/grub

As you may notice I have changed the value that I mentioned but I have added another 2 lines so the final result should look like this:

GRUB_DISABLE_SUBMENU=y GRUB_DEFAULT=saved GRUB_SAVEDEFAULT=true

The first and optional line is used to disable the GRUB submenu. I find it easier when instantly I can see all my kernels on the GRUB screen without having to enter the advanced options submenu.

The second line is used to save the last kernel entry.

Lastly you need to ensure that GRUB will use as a default the last saved entry.

Save the configuration file and exit.

Step 3: Re-generate the GRUB configuration file

To make the changes effective you need to re-generate the configuration file. To do so, open the terminal and run the following command:

$ sudo grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

If it looks familiar to you, you have used this command during the Arch Linux installation process.

Reboot your Linux system and select the kernel you want to use!

Conclusion

You don’t need to worry about updating the kernel in Arch Linux. If there are updates to your choice of kernel, it will be installed with the system updates. I guess you already know how to update Arch Linux system.

Switching kernels on Arch Linux is an easy to do process with several options tailored to your needs. I find the above method the safest and easiest as you don’t need to remove a kernel from your system. If you choose to run the latest kernel, it’s good to have installed the LTS kernel in case of a kernel panic.

I hope you liked this Arch Linux tip. Stay subscribed to It’s FOSS for more tips and tutorials.

Love Windows Calculator? You can Now Use it on Linux as Well

Thursday 15th of October 2020 03:08:31 PM

In the first quarter of 2019, Microsoft open sourced the Windows Calculator. Being open source, it allows developers to use it in their own applications.

I couldn’t care less for a calculator application but as some It’s FOSS readers pointed out, they like using the Windows Calculator.

After almost a year and a half, the ‘famed’ Windows Calculator is now available on Linux but not officially.

Windows Calculator on Linux

The team behind Uno Platform has ported the Windows Calculator to Linux and made it available as a Snap application.

Since it is not officially from Microsoft and is ported by Uno project, the application is named Uno Calculator.

Uno is a UI platform and it allows you to build native mobile, desktop, and WebAssembly apps with C# and XAML from a single code base. The UI looks the same on all devices.

Team Ubuntu has worked with the developers of Uno Platform to make it easier for developers of cross-platform applications to publish for Linux users, via the Snap Store.

If you are using Ubuntu or if you have Snap enabled on your Linux distribution, you can use the following command to install Uno Calculator using the following command:

sudo snap install uno-calculator

Note: At the time of writing this article, Uno Calculator has not been pushed to the stable branch. If you see an error, you can install it from the beta channel using this command:

sudo snap install uno-calculator --beta

Once installed, you can search for Uno Calculator in application menu and start using it.

Do you need Windows Calculator on Linux?

That depends on you to be honest.

You have the choice of GNOME Calculator that is pretty handy for most work. If you want advanced stuff, you have Qalculate.

But then if you often switch between Windows and Linux or if you have used Windows Calculator for a long time, you would find it useful.

I know some of the It’s FOSS readers don’t like Microsoft products or non-FOSS products or FOSS products from Microsoft. However, if it provides more choice for a Linux user, then why not?

Again, I have never used Windows Calculator so I cannot comment on its usefulness or superority (if any). Honestly, I hardly use calculator on the desktop. No, not because I am a human computer like Shakuntala Devi but more for the reason that I never really had the need.

What about you? Are you a fan of (now open source) Windows Calculator? Will you be using it on Linux?

4 Firefox Features You Should Be Using Right Now

Thursday 15th of October 2020 05:33:13 AM

Last month, I ditched Google Chrome for Firefox completely.

I was using Firefox as my secondary browser and Chrome was my primary browser because I have been using it for more than ten years and it has all my passwords and bookmarks stored.

Honestly, I was just lazy in switching the browser but it was way easier than I thought. Firefox imported the bookmarks from Google Chrome and I quickly arranged the folders on the main bookmark bar.

Similarly, I also exported all the saved account password and imported it into Firefox.

With these two things done, I happily started using Mozilla Firefox as my main browser. And this is when I started noticing and using obscure Firefox features that make my browsing experience better.

Firefox features to make your browsing experience better

If you too are a Firefox user, I highly recommend trying these features. Maybe it would become an integral part of your browsing habit.

1. Use Firefox account to sync account passwords, bookmarks across devices

Perhaps this is the first thing you should do after installing Firefox on Ubuntu or whichever operating system you use.

With Firefox account, you can choose to save your bookmarks, account passwords for various websites, browsing history across devices.

This is a great help when you reinstall the operating system or use your Firefox browser on a secondary system (like your home computer and your work computer).

You can also use it to send an opened tab to another device where you have Firefox installed and running. This is good for sharing URLs between your PC and your mobile.

Firefox also has a built-in password manager called Firefox Lockwise. You may use it as a standalone app on your smartphone. With that app, you can see the saved account details for logging into apps of your regular websites (like Amazon).

Personally, I use Bitwarden and that’s my current choice of password manager on Linux and Android.

2. Use reading (and listening) mode and enjoy web content in better way

Despite being right on the address bar, many Firefox users are unaware of the superb reader view option.

Reader View in Firefox

The reading mode changes the looks of a webpage to give you a clean and better reading experience. It removes the sidebar, ads and changes the fonts type and size.

You can control some aspects of the reading mode looks. You can change the font (between two choices), change the width of the content, font size, line height etc. You can also select light, dark and sepia themes.

There is an experimental listening mode as well. It doesn’t work that well in my opinion.

When you feel like going back to the original webpage, just click on the x symbol.

3. Use Firefox Relay to prevent email exploitation

Almost every website you visit these days on the web today would offer you email newsletters. But can you trust all of them?

You’ll notice that even if you unsubscribe from some newsletters, you still get their emails. Some times, when you sign up for some service/newsletter, you start getting emails from random sources because maybe that email database got leaked, or they sold your email address.

The Firefox Relay is an add-on that allows you to use “permanent fake email addresses”. You can use these addresses to sign up to newsletter and product updates.

The emails sent to these addresses are sent to Firefox Relay first and then Firefox Relay forwards it to your email address.

If at any time you feel like not receiving updates on that address, just pull the plug from Firefox Relay. Since your real email address was never exposed to the third party, you won’t be troubled with spam anymore.

Firefox Relay Example

If you remember, we had covered a similar service called Simple Login earlier. Firefox Relay is in beta but works fine.

4. Use Pocket for saving interesting articles from the web

Mozilla acquired Pocket (previously known as Read It Later) web-app a couple years ago. Mozilla is now trying to tightly integrate it with Firefox. You can see the option to save a webpage to Pocket beside the address bar.

Pocket is bookmarking mechanism with superpowers. Unlike bookmarks, Pocket saves entire webpage. You can read it ad-free, distraction-free (like reading mode in Firefox) at a later point of time. This is handy tool for people like me who find interesting things over the internet but don’t start reading it immediately.

Pocket is free to use for saving webpages and reading/listening to it later. They also have premium features (for a price) like permanently saving webpages (even if the website is deleted, the article is saved in Pocket), automatic tag suggestion, full-text search and ability to highlight interesting sections. I use Pocket Premium.

Pocket also has apps for Android and iPhone so that you can save and read your saved articles on the go.

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Recommended Read:

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Work faster and be more productive with these useful Firefox keyboard shortcuts.

There’s always more to explore

Firefox has a lot more to offer. You can explore the preferences and configure privacy and security options if you like. There are tons of add-ons you can use as per your requirements.

Prefer dark theme? You can turn on dark mode in Firefox. There are many more themes available if you like customizing the looks of your browser.

There is no end to exploration but in this article I wanted to show the features I consider essential.

Now that I have shared my favorite Firefox tips, why don’t you share your favorite Firefox feature or trick you love to use? The comment section is all yours.

KDE Plasma 5.20 is Here With Exciting Improvements

Tuesday 13th of October 2020 01:13:02 PM

KDE Plasma 5.20 is finally here and there’s a lot of things to be excited about, including the new wallpaper ‘Shell’ by Lucas Andrade.

It is worth noting that is not an LTS release unlike KDE Plasma 5.18 and will be maintained for the next 4 months or so. So, if you want the latest and greatest, you can surely go ahead and give it a try.

In this article, I shall mention the key highlights of KDE Plasma 5.20 from my experience with it on KDE Neon (Testing Edition).

Plasma 5.20 Features

If you like to see things in action, we made a feature overview video for you.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Linux videos Icon-only Taskbar

You must be already comfortable with a taskbar that mentions the title of the window along the icon. However, that takes a lot of space in the taskbar, which looks bad when you want to have a clean look with multiple applications/windows opened.

Not just limited to that, if you launch several windows of the same application, it will group them together and let you cycle through it from a single icon on the task bar.

So, with this update, you get an icon-only taskbar by default which makes it look a lot cleaner and you can have more things in the taskbar at a glance.

Digital Clock Applet with Date

If you’ve used any KDE-powered distro, you must have noticed that the digital clock applet (in the bottom-right corner) displays the time but not the date by default.

It’s always a good choice to have the date and time as well (at least I prefer that). So, with KDE Plasma 5.20, the applet will have both time and date.

Get Notified When your System almost Runs out of Space

I know this is not a big addition, but a necessary one. No matter whether your home directory is on a different partition, you will be notified when you’re about to run out of space.

Set the Charge Limit Below 100%

You are in for a treat if you are a laptop user. To help you preserve the battery health, you can now set a charge limit below 100%. I couldn’t show it to you because I use a desktop.

Workspace Improvements

Working with the workspaces on KDE desktop was already an impressive experience, now with the latest update, several tweaks have been made to take the user experience up a notch.

To start with, the system tray has been overhauled with a grid-like layout replacing the list view.

The default shortcut has been re-assigned with Meta+drag instead of Alt+drag to move/re-size windows to avoid conflicts with some other productivity apps with Alt+drag keybind support. You can also use the key binds like Meta + up/left/down arrow to corner-tile windows.

It is also easier to list all the disks using the old “Device Notifier” applet, which has been renamed to “Disks & Devices“.

If that wasn’t enough, you will also find improvements to KRunner, which is the essential application launcher or search utility for users. It will now remember the search text history and you can also have it centered on the screen instead of having it on top of the screen.

System Settings Improvements

The look and feel of the system setting is the same but it is more useful now. You will notice a new “Highlight changed settings” option which will show you the recent/modified changes when compared to the default values.

So, in that way, you can monitor any changes that you did accidentally or if someone else did it.

In addition to that, you also get to utilize S.M.A.R.T monitoring and disk failure notifications.

Wayland Support Improvements

If you prefer to use a Wayland session, you will be happy to know that it now supports Klipper and you can also middle-click to paste (on KDE apps only for the time being).

The much-needed screencasting support has also been added.

Other Improvements

Of course, you will notice some subtle visual improvements or adjustments for the look and feel. You may notice a smooth transition effect when changing the brightness. Similarly, when changing the brightness or volume, the on-screen display that pops up is now less obtrusive

Options like controlling the scroll speed of mouse/touchpad have been added to give you finer controls.

You can find the detailed list of changes in its official changelog, if you’re curious.

Wrapping Up

The changes are definitely impressive and should make the KDE experience better than ever before.

If you’re running KDE Neon, you should get the update soon. But, if you are on Kubuntu, you will have to try the 20.10 ISO to get your hands on Plasma 5.20.

What do you like the most among the list of changes? Have you tried it yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

LibreOffice Wants Apache to Drop the Ailing OpenOffice and Support LibreOffice Instead

Tuesday 13th of October 2020 11:03:04 AM

It is a no-brainer that Apache OpenOffice is still a relevant recommendation when we think about open source alternatives to Microsoft Office for Linux users. However, for the past several years, the development of OpenOffice is pretty much stale.

Of course, it is not a shocker, considering Abhishek wrote about the possibility of Apache OpenOffice shutting down back in 2016.

Now, in an open letter from The Document Foundation, they appeal Apache OpenOffice to recommend users to start using better alternatives like LibreOffice. In this article, I shall mention some highlights from the blog post by The Document Foundation and what it means to Apache OpenOffice.

Apache OpenOffice is History, LibreOffice is the Future?

Even though I didn’t use OpenOffice back in the day, it is safe to say that it is definitely not a modern open-source alternative to Microsoft Office. Not anymore, at least.

Yes, Apache OpenOffice is still something important for legacy users and was a great alternative a few years back.

Here’s the timeline of major releases for OpenOffice and LibreOffice:

Now that there’s no significant development taking place for OpenOffice, what’s the future of Apache OpenOffice? A fairly active project with no major releases by the largest open source foundation?

It does not sound promising and that is exactly what The Document Foundation highlights in their open letter:

OpenOffice(.org) – the “father project” of LibreOffice – was a great office suite, and changed the world. It has a fascinating history, but since 2014, Apache OpenOffice (its current home) hasn’t had a single major release. That’s right – no significant new features or major updates have arrived in over six years. Very few minor releases have been made, and there have been issues with timely security updates too.

For an average user, if they don’t know about LibreOffice, I would definitely want them to know. But, should the Apache Foundation suggest OpenOffice users to try LibreOffice to experience a better or advanced office suite?

I don’t know, maybe yes, or no?

…many users don’t know that LibreOffice exists. The OpenOffice brand is still so strong, even though the software hasn’t had a significant release for over six years, and is barely being developed or supported

As mentioned in the open letter, The Document Foundation highlights the advantages/improvements of LibreOffice over OpenOffice and appeals to Apache OpenOffice that they start recommending their users to try something better (i.e. LibreOffice):

We appeal to Apache OpenOffice to do the right thing. Our goal should be to get powerful, up-to-date and well-maintained productivity tools into the hands of as many people as possible. Let’s work together on that!

What Should Apache OpenOffice Do?

If OpenOffice does the work, users may not need the effort to look for alternatives. So, is it a good idea to call out another project about their slow development and suggest them to embrace the future tools and recommend them instead?

In an argument, one might say it is only fair to promote your competition if you’re done and have no interest in improving OpenOffice. And, there’s nothing wrong in that, the open-source community should always work together to ensure that new users get the best options available.

On another side, one might say that The Document Foundation is frustrated about OpenOffice still being something relevant in 2020, even without any significant improvements.

I won’t judge, but I think these conflicting thoughts come to my mind when I take a look at the open letter.

Do you think it is time to put OpenOffice to rest and rely on LibreOffice?

Even though LibreOffice seems to be a superior choice and definitely deserves the limelight, what do you think should be done? Should Apache discontinue OpenOffice and redirect users to LibreOffice?

Your opinion is welcome.

2 Ways to Download Files From Linux Terminal

Tuesday 13th of October 2020 07:43:41 AM

If you are stuck to the Linux terminal, say on a server, how do you download a file from the terminal?

There is no download command in Linux but there are a couple of Linux commands for downloading file.

In this terminal trick, you’ll learn two ways to download file using command line in Linux.

I am using Ubuntu here but apart from the installation, rest of the commands are equally valid for all other Linux distributions.

Download files from Linux terminal using wget command

wget is perhaps the most used command line download manager for Linux and UNIX-like systems. You can download a single file, multiple files, entire directory or even an entire website using wget.

wget is non-interactive and can easily work in the background. This means you can easily use it in scripts or even build tools like uGet download manager.

Let’s see how to use wget to download file from terminal.

Installing wget

Most Linux distributions come with wget preinstalled. It is also available in the repository of most distributions and you can easily install it using your distribution’s package manager.

On Ubuntu and Debian based distribution, you can use the apt package manager command:

sudo apt install wget Download a file or webpage using wget

You just need to provide the URL of the file or webpage. It will download the file with its original name in the directory you are in.

wget URL

To download multiple files, you’ll have to save their URLs in a text file and provide that text file as input to wget like this:

wget -i download_files.txt Download files with a different name using wget

You’ll notice that a webpage is almost always saved as index.html with wget. It will be a good idea to provide custom name to downloaded file.

You can use the -O (uppercase O) option to provide the output filename while downloading.

wget -O filename URL Download a folder using wget

Suppose you are browsing an FTP server and you need to download an entire directory, you can use the recursive option

wget -r ftp://server-address.com/directory Download an entire website using wget

Yes, you can totally do that. You can mirror an entire website with wget. By downloading an entire website I mean the entire public facing website structure.

While you can use the mirror option -m directly, it will be a good idea add:

  • –convert-links : links are converted so that internal links are pointed to downloaded resource instead of web
  • –page-requisites: downloads additional things like style sheets so that the pages look better offline
wget -m --convert-links --page-requisites website_address Bonus Tip: Resume incomplete downloads

If you aborted the download by pressing C for some reasons, you can resume the previous download with option -c.

wget -c Download files from Linux command line using curl

Like wget, curl is also one of the most popular commands to download files in Linux terminal. There are so many ways to use curl extensively but I’ll focus on only the simple downloading here.

Installing curl

Though curl doesn’t come preinstalled, it is available in the official repositories of most distributions. You can use your distribution’s package manager to install it.

To install curl on Ubuntu and other Debian based distributions, use the following command:

sudo apt install curl Download files or webpage using curl

If you use curl without any option with a URL, it will read the file and print it on the terminal screen.

To download a file using curl command in Linux terminal, you’ll have to use the -O (uppercase O) option:

curl -O URL

It is simpler to download multiple files in Linux with curl. You just have to specify multiple URLs:

curl -O URL1 URL2 URL3

Keep in mind that curl is not as simple as wget. While wget saves webpages as index.html, curl will complain of remote file not having a name for webpages. You’ll have to save it with a custom name as described in the next section.

Download files with a different name

It could be confusing but to provide a custom name for the downloaded file (instead of the original source name), you’ll have to use -o (lowercase O) option:

curl -o filename URL

Some times, curl wouldn’t just download the file as you expect it to. You’ll have to use option -L (for location) to download it correctly. This is because some times the links redirect to some other link and with option -L, it follows the final link.

Pause and resume download with curl

Like wget, you can also resume a paused download using curl with option -c:

curl -c URL

Conclusion

As always, there are multiple ways to do the same thing in Linux. Downloading files from the terminal is no different.

wget and curl are just two of the most popular commands for downloading files in Linux. There are more such command line tools. Terminal based web-browsers like elinks, w3m etc can also be used for downloading files in command line.

Personally, for a simple download, I prefer using wget over curl. It is simpler and less confusing because you may have a difficult time figuring out why curl could not download a file in the expected format.

Your feedback and suggestions are welcome.

MellowPlayer is a Desktop App for Various Streaming Music Services

Monday 12th of October 2020 12:52:55 PM

Brief: MellowPlayer is a free and open-source desktop that lets you integrate web-based music streaming services on Linux and Windows.

Undoubtedly, a lot of users prefer tuning in to streaming services to listen to their favorite music instead of purchasing individual music from stores or downloading them for a collection.

Of course, streaming services let you explore new music and help artists reach out to a wider audience easily. But, with so much music streaming services available (Soundcloud, Spotify, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, etc) it often becomes annoying to utilize them effectively while using your computer.

You may install Spotify on Linux but there is no desktop app for Amazon Music. So, potentially you cannot manage the streaming service from a single portal.

What if a desktop app lets you integrate streaming services on both Windows and Linux for free? In this article, I will talk about such an app — ‘MellowPlayer‘.

MellowPlayer: Open Source App to Integrate Various Streaming Music Services

MellowPlayer is a free and open-source cross-platform desktop app that lets you integrate multiple streaming services and manage them all from one interface.

There are several supported streaming services that you can integrate. You also get a certain level of control to tweak your experience from each individual service. For instance, you can set to automatically skip ads or mute them on YouTube.

The cross-platform support for both Windows and Linux is definitely a plus point.

Apart from the ability to manage the streaming services, it also integrates the player with your system tray to easily control the music. This means that you can use media keys on your keyboard to control the music player.

It is also worth noting that you can add a new service that is not officially supported by just creating a plugin for it yourself within the app. To let you know more about it, let me highlight all the key features below.

Features of MellowPlayer
  • Cross-platform (Windows & Linux)
  • Free & Open-Source
  • Plugin-based Application to let you add new service by creating a plugin
  • Integrates the services as a native desktop app with the system tray
  • Supports hot keys
  • Notifications support
  • Listening history
Installing MellowPlayer on Linux

MellowPlayer is available as a Flatpak package. I know it’s disappointing for some but it’s just Flatpak for Linux and an executable file for Windows. In case you didn’t know, follow our guide on using Flatpak on Linux to get started.

Download MellowPlayer Wrapping Up

MellowPlayer is a handy desktop app for users who often dabble with multiple streaming services for music. Even though it works fine as per my test with SoundCloud, YouTube, and Spotify, I did notice that the app crashed when trying to re-size the window, just a heads up on that. You can explore more about it on its GitLab page.

There are two similar applications that allow you to play multiple streaming music services: Nuvola and Nuclear Music Player. You may want to check them out.

Have you tried MellowPlayer? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Linux Jargon Buster: What is Display Manager in Linux?

Sunday 11th of October 2020 07:27:10 AM

In this chapter of the Linux Jargon Buster, you’ll learn about display manager in Linux. Is it part of the desktop environment? What does it do?

What is display manager in Linux?

In simple terms, a display manager is a program that provides graphical login capabilities for your Linux distribution. It controls the user sessions and manages user authentication. Display manager starts the display server and loads the desktop environment right after you enter your username and password.

The display manager is often synonymous with the login screen. It is the visible part of it after all. However, the visible login screen, also called greeter, is only a part of the display manager.

Login screen is the visible part of a display manager

As with various desktop environments and display servers, there are various display managers available as well. Let’s have a look at them.

Different display managers

Some people think of the display manager as part of the desktop environment but that’s not the case. It is a separate program.

A desktop environment may recommend a certain display manager but it doesn’t mean that it won’t work with some other display manager. If you ever installed more than one desktop environment in the same system, you might remember that a login screen (i.e., the display manager) allows you to switch the desktop environments.

A display manager can be used with various desktop environments

Though the display manager is not part of the desktop environment, it is often developed by the same team as the desktop environment. It also becomes part of the identity of the desktop environment.

For example, the GNOME desktop environment develops GDM (GNOME Display Manager) and just by looking at the login screen, you would think of GNOME desktop environment.

GNOME login screen with GDM

Some popular display managers are:

  • GDM (GNOME Display Manager): preferred by GNOME
  • SDDM (Simple Desktop Display Manager): preferred by KDE
  • LightDM: developed by Ubuntu for Unity desktop
Display managers can be customized

There are so many desktop environments available. Do they all have their own display managers? No, that’s not the case.

As I mentioned previously, the visible login screen is called a greeter. This greeter can be customized to change the looks of the login screen.

In fact, many distributions and/or desktop environments have written their own greeters to give users a login screen that resembles their brand.

For example, Mint’s Cinnamon desktop uses LightDM but has its own greeter to give it more Mint-like (or should I say Cinnamon-like) looks.

Linux Mint login screen based on LightDM

Take a look at Kali Linux’s login screen:

Kali Linux login screen

If you are into coding and tweaking, you can modify or code your own greeter as per your liking.

Changing display manager

You can change the display manager if you want. You need to install the display manager first. You’ll see the option to switch the display manager while installing.

If you didn’t do it initialy, then you can change the display manager by manually configuring it later. The method to reconfigure the display manager is slightly different for different distributions and not in the scope of this article.

Conclusion

I hope you have a slightly better understanding of the term “display manager” in Linux. The aim of this jargon buster series is to explain common Linux colloquial and technical terms in non-technical language without going into too much detail.

I welcome your comments and suggestion.

6 Essential Things To Do After Installing Manjaro Linux

Friday 9th of October 2020 05:51:00 AM

So, you just did a fresh installation of Manjaro Linux. Now what?

Here are a few essential post installation steps I recommend you to follow.

Quite honestly, these are the things I prefer to do after installing Manjaro. Yours could differ depending on your need.

Recommended Things To Do After Installing Manjaro Linux

I am using Manjaro Xfce edition but the steps are applicable to other desktop variants of Manjaro as well.

1. Set the fastest mirror

Before even updating your system, I suggest to sort out your mirror list first. When refreshing the Manjaro system and downloading software from repositories, an optimized mirror list can have noticeable performance impact to the system.

Open the Terminal emulator and type the following command:

sudo pacman-mirrors --fasttrack 2. Update your system

Keeping your system up-to-date reduces the chances of security vulnerabilities. Refreshing your system repository is also a recommended thing to do before installing new software.

You can update your Manjaro system by running the following command.

sudo pacman -Syu 3. Enable AUR, Snap or Flatpak support

Arch User Repository (AUR) is one of the main reasons that a user chooses an Arch-based system. It gives you access to a huge number of additional software.

Optionally, you can also enable support for Snaps and Flatpaks directly from Pamac GUI package manager.

4. Enable TRIM (SSD only)

If your root partition has been installed on SSD, enabling TRIM is one thing you need to do after installing Manjaro. TRIM helps to clean blocks in your SSD and extend the lifespan of your SSD.

To enable TRIM on Manjaro, run the following command in a terminal:

sudo systemctl enable fstrim.timer 5. Installing a kernel of your choice (advanced users)

One of the topics that I covered in my Manjaro Linux review, is how easily you can switch kernels through a graphical interface.

Do you prefer to use the command line? You can list the installed kernel(s) on your system and install a kernel using your terminal.

To list the installed kernels:

mhwd-kernel -li

To install a new kernel (the latest to date 5.8 kernel for example):

sudo mhwd-kernel -i linux58 6. Install Microsoft true type fonts (if you need it)

I have to often edit the work documents on my personal computer and hence I need the Microsoft fonts like Times New Roman or Arial.

If you also need to use Microsoft fonts, you can access the package from AUR. If you want to use the command line for AUR packages, you can install an AUR helper.

Conclusion

Manjaro is a great distribution if you want to use the benefits of Arch Linux on a pre-configured, desktop optimized distribution. Though it comes pre-configured with many essentials, there are a few steps that cannot be done in advance, as everyone has a different setup and different needs.

Please let us know in the comments below, which step apart from the already mentioned is the essential for you.

How to Install Deepin Desktop on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS

Thursday 8th of October 2020 07:36:41 AM

This tutorial shows you the proper steps to install the Deepin desktop environment on Ubuntu. Removal steps are also mentioned.

Deepin is undoubtedly a beautiful Linux distribution. The recently released Deepin version 20 makes it even more beautiful.

Now, Deepin Linux is based on Debian and the default repository mirrors are too slow. If you would rather stay with Ubuntu, you have the Deepin variant of Ubuntu in the form UbuntuDDE Linux distribution. It is not one of the official Ubuntu flavors yet.

Reinstalling a new distribution is a bit of annoyances for you would lose the data and you’ll have to reinstall your applications on the newly installed UbuntuDDE.

A simpler option is to install Deepin desktop environment on your existing Ubuntu system. After all you can easily install more than one desktop environment in one system.

Fret not, it is easy to do it and you can also revert the changes if you do not like it. Let me show you how to do that.

Installing Deepin Desktop on Ubuntu 20.04

The UbuntuDDE team has created a PPA for their distribution and you can use the same PPA to install Deepin desktop on Ubuntu 20.04. Keep in mind that this PPA is only available for Ubuntu 20.04. Please read about using PPA in Ubuntu.

No Deepin version 20

The Deepin desktop you’ll be installing using the PPA here is NOT the new Deepin desktop version 20 yet. It will probably be there after Ubuntu 20.10 release but we cannot promise anything.

Here are the steps that you need to follow:

Step 1: You need to first add the official PPA by Ubuntu DDE Remix team by typing this on the terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntudde-dev/stable

Step 2: Once you have added the repository, proceed with installing the Deepin desktop.

sudo apt install ubuntudde-dde

Now, the installation will start and after a while, you will be asked to choose the display manager.

You need to select “lightdm” if you want Deepin desktop themed lock screen. If not, you can set it as “gdm3“.

In case you don’t see this option, you can get it by typing the following command and then select your preferred display manager:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure lightdm

Step 3: Once done, you have to log out and log in again by choosing the “Deepin” session or just reboot the system.

And, that is it. Enjoy the Deepin experience on your Ubuntu 20.04 LTS system in no time!

Removing Deepin desktop from Ubuntu 20.04

In case, you don’t like the experience or of it is buggy for some reason, you can remove it by following the steps below.

Step 1: If you’ve set “lightdm” as your display manager, you need to change the display manager to GDM before uninstalling Deepin. To do that, type in the following command:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure lightdm Select gdm3 on this screen

And, select gdm3 to proceed.

Once you’re done with that, you can simply enter the following command to remove Deepin completely:

sudo apt remove startdde ubuntudde-dde

To also remove related dependencies and other leftover packages, you can type in:

sudo apt autoremove

You can just reboot to get back to your original Ubuntu desktop. In case the icons become unresponsive, you just open the terminal (CTRL + ALT + T) and type in:

reboot

In case you’re wondering, as some of our readers in the comments section below — yes, you can use the same steps on Linux Mint 20 to install and remove Deepin Desktop. But, you do not need to reconfigure the display manager. I tested it for a while using Linux Mint 20 Cinnamon.

Linux Mint 20 already utilizes LightDM but for some reason Deepin Desktop login screen does not work with it. You will get the Deepin Desktop environment after you log in, but the lock screen stays the same as it is usually on Mint 20.

Wrapping Up

It is good to have different choices of desktop environments. If you really like Deepin desktop interface, this could be a way to experience Deepin on Ubuntu.

If you have questions or if you face any issues, please let me know in the comments.

How to Clear Apt Cache and Reclaim Precious Disk Space

Tuesday 6th of October 2020 08:14:14 AM

How do you clear the apt cache? You simply use this apt-get command option:

sudo apt-get clean

But there is more to cleaning apt cache than just running the above command.

In this tutorial, I’ll explain what is apt cache, why is it used, why you would want to clean it and what other things you should know about purging apt cache.

I am going to use Ubuntu here for reference but since this is about apt, it is applicable to Debian and other Debian and Ubuntu-based distributions like Linux Mint, Deepin and more.

What is apt cache? Why is it used?

When you install a package using apt-get or apt command (or DEB packages in the software center), the apt package manager downloads the package and its dependencies in .deb format and keeps it in /var/cache/apt/archives folder.

While downloading, apt keeps the deb package in /var/cache/apt/archives/partial directory. When the deb package is downloaded completely, it is moved out to /var/cache/apt/archives directory.

Once the deb files for the package and its dependencies are downloaded, your system installs the package from these deb files.

Now you see the use of cache? The system needs a place to keep the package files somewhere before installing them. If you are aware of the Linux directory structure, you would understand that /var/cache is the appropriate here.

Why keep the cache after installing the package?

The downloaded deb files are not removed from the directory immediately after the installation is completed. If you remove a package and reinstall it, your system will look for the package in the cache and get it from here instead of downloading it again (as long as the package version in the cache is the same as the version in remote repository).

This is much quicker. You can try this on your own and see how long a program takes to install the first time, remove it and install it again. You can use the time command to find out how long does it take to complete a command: time sudo apt install package_name.

I couldn’t find anything concrete on the cache retention policy so I cannot say how long does Ubuntu keep the downloaded packages in the cache.

Should you clean apt cache?

It depends on you. If you are running out of disk space on root, you could clean apt cache and reclaim the disk space. It is one of the several ways to free up disk space on Ubuntu.

Check how much space the cache takes with the du command:

Sometime this could go in 100s of MB and this space could be crucial if you are running a server.

How to clean apt cache?

If you want to clear the apt cache, there is a dedicated command to do that. So don’t go about manually deleting the cache directory.

You may think it is apt-cache command but that’s deceiving. Simply use the apt-get command with clean as argument:

sudo apt-get clean

This will remove the content of the /var/cache/apt/archives directory (except the lock file). Here’s a dry run (simulation) of what the apt-get clean command deletes:

There is another command that deals with cleaning the apt cache:

sudo apt-get autoclean

Unlike clean, autoclean only removes the packages that are not possible to download from the repositories.

Suppose you installed package xyz. Its deb files remain in the cache. If there is now a new version of xyz package available in the repository, this existing xyz package in the cache is now outdated and useless. The autoclean option will delete such useless packages that cannot be downloaded anymore.

Is it safe to delete apt cache?

Yes. It is completely safe to clear the cache created by apt. It won’t negatively impact the performance of the system. Maybe if you reinstall the package it will take a bit longer to download but that’s about it.

Again, use the apt-get clean command. It is quicker and easier than manually deleting cache directory.

You may also use graphical tools like Stacer or Bleachbit for this purpose.

Conclusion

At the time of writing this article, there is no built-in option with the newer apt command. However, keeping backward compatibility, apt clean can still be run (which should be running apt-get clean underneath it). Please refer to this article to know the difference between apt and apt-get.

I hope you find this explanation about apt cache interesting. It is not something essential but knowing this little things make you more knowledgeable about your Linux system.

I welcome your feedback and suggestions in the comment section.

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