Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

11 free-licensed fonts for everyday use

Feb 14, 2014 GMT

Spending the last nine months writing a book about LibreOffice, I've rediscovered typography. I've also discovered that as the free font movement enters its second decade, it has evolved from an idea as tentative as free software was in its beginning to a thriving community that gives users a reasonable selection of fonts.However, as much of a gift as Google Fonts or the Open Font Library can be to graphic designers, they can also be nightmares for average users. When you have hundred of fonts to choose from, how do you choose which ones are right for you?You may not have any problems with the pragmatic choices. Want fonts whose characters occupy the same space as Times Roman, Arial, and...
Desktop trends in 2013 according to LinuxQuestions

Feb 06, 2014 GMT

Every year, I like to take some time to look at LinuxQuestions' Member Choice Awards  for trends. I don't believe the results are representative of all free software users by any means, but they are still one of the few indicators available, and this year they suggest some interesting trends on the desktop:Some random examples: In 2012, MariaDB won less than 9% of the votes, while MySQL was way out ahead with 40%. This year, MariaDB jumped to 36%, while MySQL declined to 23% - a vote of non-confidence if there ever was one. Meanwhile, PostgreSQL remained steady or possibly declined slightly, with 24% in 2012, and 20% in 2013. The office suite category saw LibreOffice with 86%...
Tin Hats Vs Red Hat

Jan 30, 2014 GMT

Ordinarily, I avoid anything to do with Roy Schestowitz and TechRights. The interaction is rarely worth the seemingly compulsive abuse I inevitably receive. However, Schestowitz's recent claim that Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) includes a back door for the NSA is an exception -- especially since the story has been picked up by FOSS Force (http://fossforce.com/), where, despite the site's skepticial coverage of the claim, its latest poll shows that 34% believe the story, and 27% don't know what to think.Schestowitz writes that RHEL cannot be trusted because "RHEL is binary and based on news from half a decade ago, the NSA is said to be involved in the building process." To...
Reading the tea leaves with Canonical's financial statement

Jan 27, 2014 GMT

Strictly speaking, the recently published annual report for the Canonical Group, the developers of Ubuntu, covers only its United Kingdom subsidiary for the year ending March 31, 2013. However, in practice, the report provides glimpses into both Canonical's global activities and the challenges that the company faces before it can become profitable.The report lists three sources of income for The Canonical Group: engineering services to OEMs, consulting and cloud services to corporate customers, and online services to end-users.If you read just the report, you might conclude that all three have equal weight in Canonical's financial plans. However, after watching Canonical's increasing...
9 KDE widgets that add functionality

Jan 16, 2014 GMT

Widgets -- small utilities for the panel or desktop -- used to be standard on Linux desktops. Today, however, GNOME and Unity have abolished them as clutter, while on most other desktops, they are mostly confined to system meters and standard desktop features such as task bars and notification trays. Linux Mint's Cinnamon is starting to offer a few innovative ones, but, of the six major desktops, only KDE has encouraged an extensive ecosystem of widgets that provide extra bits of functionality.KDE does have its share of system meters and standard features in its list of widgets. You can also find toys like a bouncing ball and a puzzle, and pieces of functionality that you can also find...
Letting off Steam

Jan 08, 2014 GMT

"Look around, you must be joking, We've come all that way for this."- OysterbandMy father-in-law was religious. I am not, but I always admired the sign he kept on his desk at the company he ran for fifty years. It was from Mark 8:36: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?" As I read the enthusiastic coverage of Valve's Linux-based gaming console, the question seems appropriate to ask.If you read the coverage, mainstream gaming's discovery of Linux is the best thing that ever happened to Linux. Last year's release of Steam for Ubuntu and the recent announcement of Debian-based gaming consoles are supposed to make Linux a serious...
2013 on the Desktop

Dec 29, 2013 GMT

The desktop is supposed to be dying, but you would never guess from the number of environments available for Linux in 2013.True, nothing radical happened in the last year. But the desktop diversity that has emerged in the last few years became more firmly established than ever, with half a dozen choices available where two or three existed five years ago. Here's how the major desktops fared in 2013: Cinnamon2013 was a growth year for Cinnamon, Linux Mint's most modern operating system.  The 1.8 release saw improvements to the file manager, and the creation of a control center to replace the multiple configuration tools in earlier releases, as well as the introduction of desklets, or...

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