FOSSPicks

Oil 0.3.0

It often surprises users of proprietary operating systems, and Microsoft Windows users in particular, that not only does Linux provide choice when it comes to desktop environments, it also offers a plethora of choice between different kinds of shells or terminals. Many of these shells have been around for years, even decades, but not Oil. Oil is a new shell that aims to be broadly compatible with Bash and the way most of us are used to working, while at the same time upgrading Bash's scripting abilities with more serious programming credentials. Most of us have written Bash scripts to tie certain convenience functions together, but these scripts are seldom used for more ambitious programming projects where Python might be used, for example. And that's exactly the niche Oil is targeting, both in wanting to be a programming platform itself, and – almost ironically – by being written in Python.

From a shell perspective, Oil upgrades the capabilities of the script syntax to offer the same advantages you'd expect from a modern programming language – they become reproducible on other systems or run in containers, run within data science and scientific computing environments, and even run to build distributions, for example. From a programming perspective, it implements proper arrays, script modes, richer constructs for concurrency, and parallelism. There's even the author's secret plan to use Oil as the basis for a distributed operating system. Oil even manages to do all this without losing humble compatibility with Bash, including a totally new and "very compatible" Bash parser. It's even possible to convert Bash scripts to the language used by Oil, so although you don't get the convenience features you may have worked into your own Bash environment, you can switch and test Oil without any lengthy relearning, which definitely makes Oil worth a look.

Project Website

https://github.com/oilshell/oil

Upgrade Bash scripting by creating an entire program from a string literal with Oil.

ISO to USB

Etcher 1.3.0

If you've ever written instructions on how to write an ISO image to a USB drive, you'll know this seemingly simple task is threaded with danger. Not only is the concept mystifying – a newbie will wonder why an ISO needs to be written in a special way, for instance – it's difficult to explain without going into too much detail. You want to point the reader at a simple three-step procedure without having to explain why dropping the ISO on the mounted USB drive won't work. There are lots of tools for writing an ISO file to an external USB drive, from the Russian roulette of dd to the clunky ubiquity of UNetbootin, but no tools combine cross-platform support, open source, and ultra-sleek visuals with a procedure simple enough to explain with a few hundred words – none apart from Etcher, that is.

Etcher is one of those rare application breeds that combines both form and function without any noticeable trade-off, unless you count the 53MB download or its use of the bloated Electron platform. It splits the process into three simple steps: Choose the ISO, select the destination, and click Flash!. Etcher will take care of everything else. It also makes clear which destination devices are system drives, which are external, and which already contain an image, all of which is vital if you're preparing to install your first Linux system. It's also constantly being updated, and this release adds useful write delays, a native application menu, improved error handling, and fixes when scanning a drive. If you find yourself needing to help someone through their first Linux installation, regardless of their operating system, Etcher should be close to the top of your Linux tools for them to try.

Project Website

https://github.com/resin-io/etcher

Etcher looks better than any USB ISO burning tool deserves to look.

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