Gary Richmond's articles

The Googlisation of Surveillance: The UK Communications Data Bill

There is a belief that democracies respect the rights of their citizens. Well, they don't. There is a great deal of cant written about that but even the democratic modern state has become so big, so intrusive and utterly overbearing that its cancerous tentacles have insinuated themselves into every orifice of the body politic. No sooner has one threat to personal and internet freedom receded than another springs up like proverbial dragon's teeth. One of Hecate's children of the night has been brewing for a while and is set to make its way onto the statute book here in the UK.

Wikiweapons and Printing 3D Guns. It's Just a Stalking Horse for What's to Come

When I wrote an article for FSM a few years ago about 3D printing it was a big topic in the open-source community but it had not yet gone fully mainstream. If there was one thing guaranteed to make 3D printing explode onto the mainstream news media it was an item about someone "printing" a gun. That got your attention, didn't it? Mine too. It's controversial of course but it might just be the beginning of a rerun of the Napster/Piratebay episodes in the 21st century - with the inevitable debate between patent-free, non-hierarchical open-source models and patent-encumbered proprietary software and hardware. Napster was a ripple. 3D printing will be a tsunami.

Google Reader: Google Giveth and Google taketh away. Keep Calm and Carry On

Google has recently announced that they will take Google Reader offline. "I won't miss it. Never used the damn thing. Didn't trust the idea of a big company like Google's interests being so aligned with mine that I could trust them to get all my news." said one the inventors of RSS but to feel the pain online of those will miss it is to see that many do not agree. I'm not one of them.

Die Hard--But Make Sure You Can Bequeath Your Digital Assets

Bruce Willis has been trending on Twitter this week. Nothing to do with his dubious acting abilities. No, a story began to circulate that he wanted to bequeath his iTunes music collection (spread over numerous Apple devices) to his children but discovered that Apple not only owned the hardware and the software but also "his" music too. It now appears that this might be an unfounded rumour but, true or false, it raises some very interesting questions about the status of digital real estate in the event of death.

Backup and Read your E-mails offline with Thunderbird's ImportExportTools

In a previous article on syncing and restoring your GMail account with the excellent GMVault I voiced one minor and perhaps unfair criticism. Namely, that as backed up e-mails had no recognizable titles, it was virtually impossible to identify specific messages. But, of course, that was never the intended purpose of GMVault. It would have been the icing on the cake if it was.

Backing Up and Restoring your GMail Account(s) with GMVault

Backing up all your precious data and settings is a given. However, when it comes to e-mail we tend to develop amnesia. It's the ghost at the banquet, yet losing your e-mails, your address book and contacts (especially if you run a business) would be a catastrophe. Fail to backup at your peril. Of course, if you use a desktop client like Evolution of Thunderbird, configuring either of them with IMAP will do the trick for you but if you prefer the traditional web interface for Gmail, then you need a different solution. GMVault may be that solution.

Compile Your Own PDF Books with Wikipedia and Edit them with LibreOffice and Pdfmod

Yes, you read that correctly. If you've ever wanted to put together a bespoke PDF document and then edit it to add or delete features, you don't really need to hunt for some specialist software to get the job done. Wikipedia is only a URL away and LibreOffice comes bundled with all the major distros--and if not it can usually be installed from the repositories.

Enabling Thumbnails and Embedded Video in the Konqueror File Manager

Spare a thought for old time stalwarts like Konqueror. Many great features have been stripped out but it's still a a great file manager (and a decent browser) even if Dolphin has been promoted as the default file manager of the KDE desktop. Back in the day, Konqueror was able to handle lots of media without having to open a separate application. I want some of that functionality back for those times when I just want to view it quick and fast without all the bells and whistles--and the good news is that it's not difficult to do.

Setting up and Managing RSS Feeds in the Thunderbird E-mail Client

I love Mozilla Thunderbird. I love using it with IMAP which lets me synchronize with GMail. To make the experience complete, I also like to view my RSS feeds. Setting them up is shamefully easy. There's no excuse not to try it, so let's do it.

First, we need to set up an account so select Other Accounts from the File > New drop-down menu to initiate the Account Wizard. There are three choices. Accept the default for Blogs and Newsfeeds.

Figure 1: Follow the Wizard to set up your feedsFigure 1: Follow the Wizard to set up your feeds

Powering up the Fluxbox Menus with Fluxbox Editor

All desktops are created equal; however, some desktops are created more equal than others. LXDE, Gnome, Unity and KDE are brimming with menus but Fluxbox is Spartan by comparison. Great for speed on older, slower machines but I still use on my latest dual core, 3GB memory laptop. I want that speed but I also want a better choice of applications in the Fluxbox menus. In short, all the speed without sacrificing the power. That's the problem. Fluxbox Editor is the solution.

A picture paints a thousand words, so here's why you need it.

Installing Software from the KDE System Settings Menu

Think "installing software in distros like Debian and Ubuntu", and you think automatically of Synaptic, apt-get on the command line or the new kid on the block, Unbuntu Software Centre. Sometimes, you just overlook the obvious. Did you know that you can also install and remove software using the KDE System Settings Menu? Thought not. Me neither, until I accidentally stumbled upon it--and I wasn't even in the KDE desktop at the time. I was using the LXDE desktop when I spotted it in the Preferences section of the Start menu. Curious? Me too. Let's take a look.

Controlling Privacy Setting in Ubuntu with Gnome Activity Log Manager

Whenever the The Electornic Frontier Foundation (EFF) commends Ubuntu for "retrofitting operating systems to support privacy against local attackers" as a worthy objective, I'm inclined to sit up and take notice. Since Ubuntu Precise Pangolin (12.04) these privacy setting have been integrated out of the box as a feature in the System Settings menu. It's called Activity Log Manager (previously Zeitgeist Global Privacy), a GUI frontend to partially control Zeitgeist. It's what powers Ubuntu's Dash in the Unity desktop. Here's how to use it to control what the Gnome activity log is recording.

The Qt-based Tea Text Editor: Managing Image and Text Files in One Application

I like tea. Well, I'm British. I've just discovered a new brand that I've never seen before. You can't dunk it in a cup of boiling water but it has some powerful features. This article explores two of the best.

Tea is a text editor. It's available in the Ubuntu repositories. If you're using another distro, try Tea's homepage. Text editors are ten a penny but Tea is different. When you first start it, you'll notice that the view mode is controlled by built in vertically-stacked tabs.

Can the Terms of the GPL Prevent GNU/Linux being used for War?

There's been a lot of noise on the internet recently about the fact that the Windows-based software being used in the remote control system of drones use by the American military has been hit by a virus and this has caused the Department of Defense (DOD) to use GNU/Linux which is a more secure option. This has, predictably, caused raised eyebrows and demands by some that any military organisation should be prevented from using GNU/Linux in offensive weapons systems.

Using the Synaptic Package Manager to Clone Installed Software to Another Computer

The GNU/Linux ecosystem is blessed with many tools to clone a hard drive image which can be used to reinstall your Debian-based distro in an emergency or duplicate on another machine, but sometimes you might want to do a clean install of Ubuntu on another machine and then add in the extra software you installed in the original distro. For that you need a combination of Synaptic, the GUI frontend for apt-get and a little command line magic.

Backing up Your Desktop Settings with Ubuntu-Tweak

There is no shortage of backup software in GNU/Linux. From full clones of hard drives to browser bookmarks there's something for everyone. However, sometimes you just need to be more selective about what you backup.

If you want to backup your precious desktop settings, you should try Ubuntu Tweak: it is bundled with a host of really useful features, it's been around for a while and it's up to version seven. You might find a version in your distro's repositories but if you're out of luck, download it from the official site.

Ubuntu's HUD: fixing the keyboard binding conflicts

Last week I finally took the leap and did an online upgrade from Ubuntu 11.10 to 12.04 (Precise Pangolin). To my relief it was a flawless operation and one of the things I wanted to experiment with the much hyped HUD feature which is being slated as a replacement/supplement to application menus. It's a Marmite feature. You either love it or loathe it but what caught my attention was the keybinding used to launch it and how this interacts with its "near neighbours".

The Dolphin File Manager: Smarter and Faster with Keyboard Shortcuts

People like Dolphins. They're fast and smart and swimming with them is on many people's "ten things to do before you die" list. Not me though. The nearest I'll ever get to a Dolphin is the one sitting on my laptop -- the Dolphin file manager that is. It's nippy too but I find that I can speed it up even more by using keybaord shortcuts.

Four Smart Things to do with the ALT+F2 Run Command in KDE

One of the first things that newcomers to GNU/Linux learn to do is to bypass big Start menus and blank screens (like Fluxbox) and use ALT+F2 to launch an application by simply typing in its name. Every desktop ecosystem has its own way of implementing this feature and I was pleasantly surprised, after a long absense from the KDE desktop, to see how it could be used to do some really clever things. Here's five of them.

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