What are PPAs and How to Add Latest Software via PPAs

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Mar 182015

If you’re a newcomer to Ubuntu (or its derivatives like Linux Mint), you’re probably keen on installing and trying out the latest, greatest and hottest applications available in the open source universe.

Unfortunately, a lot of new applications are not available through the official Ubuntu or Linux Mint repositories.

So you’ll have to download and install the software on your own and install them via the dpkg or gdebi tools.

Or you can install and update them on your Ubuntu PC via the Personal Package Archive (PPA).

What is a PPA?

Unique to the Ubuntu universe, PPAs are special software repositories from the developer community that let users install software via the familiar apt-get install technique. Or if you prefer, via the GUI method.

Here’s how you add a PPA to your Ubuntu PC. You can get the PPA’s name of an application on the developer’s web site or by searching for it on LaunchPad.

Open a terminal and type:

# sudo add-apt-repository ppa:user/ppa-name

Let’s consider a concrete example where we’ll add a PPA and then install an application from that PPA.

For instance, I wanted to try out a new note application called Papyrus that debuted a couple of days back. The spanking new application was not available in the official repositories.

So I decided to take the PPA road.

1. First I added Papyrus PPA to my PC.

I found a link to the Papyrus PPA on the developer’s web site and got its name.

# sudo add-apt-repository ppa:aseman/desktop-apps
[sudo] password for jason: 
You are about to add the following PPA to your system:
 Desktop Applications of the Aseman Team
 More info: https://launchpad.net/~aseman/+archive/ubuntu/desktop-apps
Press [ENTER] to continue or ctrl-c to cancel adding it

Executing: gpg --ignore-time-conflict --no-options --no-default-keyring --homedir /tmp/tmp.kjY0IqUMJp --no-auto-check-trustdb --trust-model always --keyring /etc/apt/trusted.gpg --primary-keyring /etc/apt/trusted.gpg --keyserver hkp://keyserver.ubuntu.com:80 --recv-keys C117080D
gpg: requesting key C117080D from hkp server keyserver.ubuntu.com
gpg: key C117080D: public key "Launchpad PPA for Aseman" imported
gpg: Total number processed: 1
gpg:               imported: 1  (RSA: 1)

If you’re not comfortable with the command line, you can take the GUI route to add a PPA.

In Linux Mint, you can add a PPA via the GUI option by navigating to Menu –>Administration–>Software Sources–>PPAs and then clicking on the Add a new PPA button.

If you’re running Ubuntu, you must head over to Ubuntu Software Center–>Edit–>Software Sources–>Other Software–>Add. Then type in the PPA address and click on the Add Source button. Now when you search for the application in the Software Center, you’ll find it there.

2. If you’ve added a PPA via the terminal, it’s now time to update the list of available packages and their versions.

# sudo apt-get update

3. Now look for the Papyrus software through apt-cache search search_string tool.

# apt-cache search papyrus
papyrus - Papyrus modern note manager
libpapyrus3-dev - DICOM compatible file format library

After the PPA is added, you can also search for Papyrus in the Software Manager (Linux Mint) or Software Center (Ubuntu).

If you’re in a hurry and know the name of the application, you can skip this step.

4. The final step is to install the Papyrus application on your computer.

# sudo apt-get install papyrus
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
  dconf-cli dconf-editor dconf-tools libX11-dev libc-dev-bin libc6-dev
  libdrm-dev libegl1-mesa-dev libgl1-mesa-dev libgles2-mesa-dev

If you prefer the GUI route, you can install Papyrus via the Software Manager (Linux Mint) or Software Center (Ubuntu).

Removing PPAs

There’s always the chance that you might want to remove a PPA that you’ve installed on your Ubuntu system.

So how do you remove a PPA from your Ubuntu PC? Continue reading »

Free for the Taking – Cherrytree Notes App

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Feb 012015

Folks who know me well attribute my growing fondness for Linux to the plentiful availability of free software in the open source universe.

Although my productivity is pitiful, output embarrassing, work habits slovenly and lethargy legendary, I come up tops when it comes to downloading free calendars, to-do apps and, above all, notes software.

My to-do list is full of free software applications I must install and a list of free e-books I need to download anon (but rarely ever read).

Downloading free apps on my Linux computer has turned into one of the enjoyable preoccupations in the evening of my life.

Cherrytree Notes App

Cherrytree for Linux

Just the other day, I installed the Cherrytree hierarchical notes application on my LinuxMint system.

We owe Cherrytree to the hard work and generosity of developer Giuseppe Penone.

The version of Cherrytree I have running on my computer is 0.35.6 (a newer version is available with some minor changes).

Cherrytree is available for multiple Linux distributions including the major ones like LinuxMint, Ubuntu, CentOS, RedHat and Fedora.

If you’re on LinuxMint, you can install Cherrytree on your computer via the Software Manager.

Cherrytree Review

Since installing CherryTree a fortnight or so back, I’ve been test driving this notes application.

I created a few ‘nodes’ (as notes are referred to in Cherry Tree) and then copied a lot of stuff from my previous Linux notes application MyNotex.

Although MyNotex is not listed, Cherrytree facilitates migration by letting users import their data from other notes apps like Gnote, KeyNote, KeepNote, Tomboy, NoteCase etc.

A node can have several sub-nodes in Cherrytree. I created a node called English and then added Grammar and Phrases as sub-nodes. Continue reading »

Free for the Taking – FocusWriter

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Dec 292014

Nothing panders to the insatiable human appetite for more, more and more than Linux and the broader open source ecosystem.

Apart from the dozens of Linux distributions, there are a gazillion free open source applications ranging from databases to text editors to games and all the categories in between.

Today, I bring you FocusWriter, a free writing application available for different operating systems (Linux, Windows and Mac).

Now when there are already several solid writing applications (including venerable ones like Gedit), do we really need another writing app? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

One of the biggest touted virtues of FocusWriter is its distraction-free capabilities.

Nothing should come between an author and his writing. Or at least so goes the argument.

Well, William Shakespeare, Vladimir Nabokov and Jane Austen never complained about distractions. Maybe, there are more distractions for authors in our era making it hard for them to focus on writing.

Built on the Qt C++ toolkit, FocusWriter is a lightweight program.

Easy Install

Installing FocusWriter is easy as pie.

If you’re running LinuxMint, head over to Synaptic Package Manager or Software Manager to search for and install FocusWriter.

It should take less than a minute for the application to download.

The FocusWriter version on Synaptic Manager is 1.4.5 but the latest version of the application is 1.5.3. The updated version comes with four themes and lets you add custom themes as well.

Alternatively, you can install FocusWriter via the command line.

For Ubuntu/LinuxMint systems, use the below command:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gottcode/gcppa
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install focuswriter

On Fedora computers, install FocusWriter by running the below command:

$ sudo yum install focuswriter

Solid Writing App

When you open FocusWriter, you get a blank screen that’s devoid of anything except a blinking cursor.

Start writing on the blank page. Fill it up. Hey, that’s what FocusWriter is built for.

The menu is hidden but comes to life when you move the cursor to the top of the screen or the edges.

Should you want them, there are plenty of bells and whistles in FocusWriter.

Word count, page count, paragraph count, timer, writing sessions, spell-check, formatting (change font, align-left/right/center, bold etc), auto-save, and find/replace, you can get all of them and more on FocusWriter.

Plenty of shortcuts makes your job easier.

The program comes with an optional cute typewriter sound effect for those who yearn for a bygone era.

FocusWriter is a fine writing application and definitely worth taking a look at if you’re the sort to get easily distracted when your fingers are poised on the keyboard.

One of these days, when I embark upon my long-planned novel I’ll put FocusWriter to use.

QuiteRSS – Solid RSS Reader for Linux

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Nov 282014

Truth be said QuiteRSS was my first RSS reader.

A week or so ago, I downloaded QuiteRSS and have been using it since every day.

Don’t ask me why I embraced a RSS reader so late because I don’t know the answer myself.

The beauty of an RSS reader is that you don’t have to go to your favorite web sites one by one to check out the latest content.

Instead, the latest content comes to your computer automatically once you have the RSS reader installed and configured with your favorite sites.
QuiteRSS Reader for Linux

QuiteRSS – Good Reader

My criteria for judging an application is whether it’s intuitive (easy to use for an average person without a manual or having to dig into the “Help” files).

Of course, the application must also be robust and feature-rich.

And by those criteria, QuiteRSS is a superb RSS reader. Continue reading »

Odysee is a Cool Photo Storage Cloud App

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Nov 062014

I stumbled upon an interesting new photo storage and sharing app/service called Odysee today.

The beauty of Odysee is that it lets you use your Windows PC or laptop as archival devices for full resolution storage of all photos and videos you take on your iPhone (support for Android devices will follow) and still be able to access them any time from your smartphone.

In effect, Odysee turns your PC or laptop into a personal cloud for your precious memories.

No need to pay for pricey third-party cloud storage providers.

How Odysee Works

When you specify a folder on your PC or laptop as the Odysee folder, the app will automatically download photo and videos from the iPhone to the folder and sync them to other devices.

By the way, Odysee requires you to download a piece of client software to your Windows computer (a Mac client is on the way) to work its magic. Continue reading »

Linux Notes Apps for Lesser Mortals

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Oct 192014

If you ask me, all the great men (and women) in history rose to eminence without ever clicking on a notes application.

Alexander the Great, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Steve Jobs, Mahatma Gandhi and countless other ‘illustrious’ figures never clicked on a notes app.

Gibbon and Nabokov wrote their classic, timeless works without a notes app (Nabokov famously used index cards to write his peerless novels).

In what can only be described as the hallmark of greatness, these giants seemed to instinctively know what’s important in their lives and what’s not. Which task to focus on first,  which ones to get to later. and the ones to ignore.

Lesser Mortals

But for the lesser mortals of our era, life without icons for a bunch of notes apps on our PC desktop is inconceivable.

Truth be said, it seems like all life would come to a screeching halt without notes apps.

So there are notes applications galore for Windows, Mac and even Linux.

EverNote may be getting all the hype in the notes universe but there are several unsung heroes for Linux too.

Here are a bunch of notes applications for Linux (I’ll focus on Ubuntu and LinuxMint)


TomBoy is an extremely simple, lightweight note app to use.

Tomboy Notes App for Linux

Tomboy looks bare bone but will probably do the job for most people who don’t need the bells and whistles.

Creating a new note is as simple as clicking Ctrl + N. Supports formatting with bold, underline, font size increase/decrease, italics etc. Comes with sync, export to HTML and search features.

Notes are automatically saved.

Should you want more features, Tomboy has a bunch of Add-ins (plugins) that you can download to expand its capabilities.

Search Feature in Tomboy Notes App

I found Tomboy on my Linux Mint 17 PC. I’m not sure if it came with Linux Mint or I installed it later. Check in the Applications of your Linux Mint system and if you don’t find it, you can install Tomboy via the Synaptic Package manager or Software Manager. The version of Tomboy on my system is 1.15.4 (as of October 2014).

If you’re using some other Linux distro, you can download TomBoy on the Gnome site.

Besides Linux, Tomboy is also available for Mac and Windows.

Get all the information about Tomboy notes app on the Gnome page.

By the way, there’s a C++ port of Tomboy called Gnote. If you’re running Ubuntu, get Gnote from the Ubuntu Software Center. In LinuxMint,the application is available on Software Manager and Synaptic Package Manager.


MyNotex is what I use for my notes.

MyNotex Notes App for Linux

This app is more sophisticated than Tomboy/Gnote and includes formatting options like bold, italics and color options for the text. You can insert files and pictures into your notes. There’s a search feature that lets you search by title, keyword or date. Continue reading »