Tag: free

How to Eat a Digital Elephant One Bite at a Time

I can’t believe I didn’t blog this before but let’s put my regrets aside.

So, you have come to realize that everyone who knows how technology works was right – it’s all spying on you.  And, well, you don’t like it but – you don’t know where to start.  You feel overwhelmed.  Many people have these kind of feelings

  • I’m too busy to figure this out
  • I’m afraid to try something new in case something breaks
  • I’m used to letting ‘geniuses’ fix my tech
  • I’m too old
  • Everything is changing to fast
  • I just want it to work

Ok, these are all normal feelings but let me be crystal clear that none of them are an excuse for letting a creep spy on you.  Imagine if a peeping tom had binoculars fixed on your bedroom window. It’s as bad as that or worse so do something today, ok?

Great.  Let’s get started.

THE SOCIAL STUFF

This is the most scary stuff.  I watch my foolish friends and family amass the precious photos and history of their children (who had no choice in the matter) onto the servers of some very uncool people.  What’s most frightening is that 9 out of 10 of these people don’t even know exactly how the technology works.  If you are one of those 9, just trust me and start making the better choice for your family with the following alteratives – and bring your friends and family so that you aren’t alone.

UnsafeSafer AlternativeWhere to get itQuick Notes
Facebook*Diasporahttps://diasporafoundation.org/Choose a pod. Sign up. Bring your friends and family. Never go back to facebook. Totally decentralized. Totally your data. You can even import and export all your data!
TwitterMastodonhttps://mastodon.socialFun and extremely awesome and powerful. Totally decentralized. Totally your data.
InstagramTBAlet me know!

THE PERIPHERAL STUFF

The first step is to start switching from unsafe ‘peripherals’ to safer ones.  These will immediately start helping you relax about change because your operating system will be familiar.  It’s kind of like renovating an ensuite washroom before tackling the kitchen.  It kind of eases you into this new and safer life. But before we move on to this easy and simple step, please keep in mind that your ultimate goal *must* be to remove all unsafe operating systems from your life.  This includes Apple, Microsoft and Android.

But for now, let’s start with taking one bite of the elephant.

Unsafe Safer AlternativeWhere to get itQuick Notes
Microsoft Office SuiteLibre Officehttp://www.libreoffice.org/Wipes out Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point and more while leaving you with *more* power and features and a great experience.
WhatsAppTelegram Messengerhttps://telegram.org/Not only open source but feature loaded and works on literally any device as well as even on a web browser.
Kakao TalkTelegram Messengerhttps://telegram.org/See notes above
Skypehublhttps://hubl.in/Browser based. Just allow it to use your mic/camera. Use it on almost any device. Once finished with link, never use it again, or link stays active and you can use it again and again. Multiple people at the same time is also awesome. No file sharing yet but Telegram can do this while on a chat.
Skypejitsihttps://meet.jit.si/Have heard good reports that jitsi works well on self-hosting (even safer)
Google ChromeFirefox
Internet Explorer (or whatever dumb new name they give to the same garbage)Firefoxhttps://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/Most people use this anyways, but just in case you are really lost... Also, the plugins you can add to this make browsing so much more awesome.
Outlook ExpressThunderbirdhttps://www.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/Just awesome and then you just plug in Enigmail plugin for total email encryption.
icloudNextcloudhttps://nextcloud.com/You can either buy their box or install it on an old computer as a server... or put it on shared hosting. Pure sweetness in cloud file stuff.
Adobe PhotoshopGIMPhttps://www.gimp.org/Unbelievably robust and easy to use. Edit photos like a pro or as a pro and never turn back.
Missed any?? Let me know!

EMAIL

So now we have the stuff out of the way, we need to deal with email by itself.

Most people, sadly, use some of the most compromising and horrific spying machines around.  Some of these might look familiar:

  • hotmail
  • gmail
  • yahoo
  • live
  • outlook
  • etc

First of all, putting technology aside, your email address actually speaks volumes about who you are as a person.  For more on this, read my post here about that.  But, on top of that, it’s not secure having your email on someone’s computer.  For just a second ask yourself this concerning question: Why would a company pay to give you free email?  Answer: to market to you or worse. So in order to market to you they must have all your data.  Haven’t you ever wondered why advertisements start to look very, very similar to what you are doing in your life?  Yeah.  That’s because of that (and other things)

For email, if you are technologically savvy enough you ‘could’ run your own email server which would be the safest possible solution.  However, it’s not that easy.  Maybe your friend could set it up, but if you don’t have such a friend, what is best is to stop supporting these companies who prey on people like this and move to something cooler.  It’s really *not* that expensive to pay for email.  Here is what you do:

  1. buy a domain like ‘your name’
  2. choose something cool that goes before it like ‘me’ or ‘name’
  3. call a company that sells domains and email (preferably in a country like Canada) and force their tech support to set it up.

Then you would have an email like this:

me@yourname.ca

If it’s not available there are countless Top Level Domains (TLDs) that you can choose from and certainly one of these will be waiting for you.  And it’s fun!

Just make sure that when you buy your domain and email that you have enough memory.  Most of them have some kind of unlimited plan for memory so go with that.  Also, make sure that it has IMAP support – I would be shocked if they didn’t but this is the email service you want.  You should budget about $15/year for the domain and another $?? for email and storage.  I have been really happy with Canadian Web Hosting for service and pricing if I can make a quick plug.  For about $5.00/month to have safe email per person is pretty reasonable.  If you have another reason to have a website, you could simply get unlimited email through your website hosting plan as well.  This requires a little more skill but it’s not that hard.  A friend who runs their own website should be happy to set it up for you once you purchase.  I would do this for my friends…

Now you’ve got your email and your other ‘stuff’ more secure, the last discussion is the big one.

THE OPERATING SYSTEM

You need to start planning to get rid of your current operating system which is probably either Apple/mac or Microsoft Windows.  These companies have compromised many things at your expense of both dollars and privacy.  They do not deserve your business nor are there endless reasons to stay with them.  For 99% of people they could switch 100% to a safer option and be completely happy.  There are a very small number of people in niche markets like print and design and perhaps medicine where the entire industry has forced everyone to communicate with these corrupted systems.  In these cases you may need to keep one computer for ‘work only’ and your ‘personal life’ should be immediately moved to a safer option.

I recommend that everyone immediately switch their desktop and laptops to Ubuntu

Ubuntu is the safest, fastest, most supported and most loved free and open source operating system in the world.  Switching to Ubuntu operating system is not that difficult but it does require enough comfort and skill.  It’s easy enough to learn, but if you do have access to an ubuntu community near you, you should join that community or start one yourself.

Soon Ubuntu will be ready to go for mobile devices too.  This is another reason why it would be wise to consider Ubuntu.

UBUNTU WEBSITE

 

A NEW AND SAFER INTERNET

Another important thing that we will all need to work on quickly is to create a new and community-owned internet.  This is a bigger picture discussion but please also start preparing your mind for ‘mesh networks‘.  I will post more here as I learn and this will be my new focus for 2017 and 2018 because what good is all this safe stuff if we are using them on unsafe platforms owned by people who have agendas that we cannot control?

I hope this has helped someone break the chains.

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View Your Mind: How to turn Xlink on

First of all, thanks a million to the creators of View Your Mind mind mapping software.  It’s a great piece of useful free license software!

Everything was going very well while I was using it.  I especially found useful the xlink (xlinks?) feature.  This feature will allow you to connect a visual reference from one branch to any other branch on the screen.  In my case I was trying to track the last 10 years of my life visually and all the interesting connections and overlaps of people in my life but I needed the xlink feature to do so.

I figured out that if you hold the shift key and click your mouse over a branch that the xlink started working just as the documentation, but I accidentally switched modes and couldn’t get it on again.  Unfortunately, p 33 of the documentation wasn’t helpful at all to me.  Finally, I figured out how to turn it back on so I wanted to throw it out there for anyone else who might have struggled.

First, add the ‘link mode’ to your toolbar

modfier_mode_toolbar

Next, find it on your toolbar and make sure this one is selected

modifier_mode_xlink

Next, start working by clicking ‘shift’ on your keyboard when you click your

mouse.

modifer_mode_with_xlinks_workingEnjoy!

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Working with PDFs in Ubuntu

Ubuntu is by far the best operating system in existence.  One of the things that hasn’t been broadcast around much is how Ubuntu is also awesome for business.

If you run a business (or work in one) you will know that PDF files are one of the most standard documents that you work with, or would like to work with.  Here is a bullet proof list of things that I’m always dealing with and that Ubuntu solves:

  • people sending .jpg or .tiff or .png files instead of PDFs (unprofessional but a reality)
  • PDF files being way too big which is unfair to bandwidth, especially if someone will be downloading on a mobile (good percentage chance)
  • I need to split a bunch of pages, do something, and then glue them back together again and I don’t want to print it all and scan it
  • I need to watermark or stamp a PDF with something
  • I need to create a PDF from a word processing document or spreadsheet

These are just some of my regular issues, but great news!  All of them will be solved for you in this post, once and for all, and for free.

How to Compress a Big PDF File Without Killing the Quality

This one took me a while, but all you have to do is:

  1. open a terminal (if you don’t know how, click here)
  2. Navigate with the terminal to where your over-sized PDF file is (If you don’t know how, go to the section on “File & Directory Commands” on this page.)
  3. In the gobbly-gook that is sitting in step #4 below, change the ‘OUTPUTFILENAME’ to the name you want the resulting file to be named and the INPUTFILENAME to the name of the file that is too big and is sitting in the directory you just navigated to.
  4. copy this gobbly gook into your computer clipboard AFTER doing step #3 to it.  I would recommend pasting it to a separate text editor (like body of an email) first, do your changes, and then re-pasting it to the terminal) :  gs -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 -dPDFSETTINGS=/default     -dNOPAUSE -dQUIET -dBATCH -dDetectDuplicateImages     -dCompressFonts=true -r150 -sOutputFile=OUTPUTFILENAME.pdf INPUTFILENAME.pdf
  5. Copy your updated version of the gobbly-gook to the computer’s clipboard
  6. Paste it to the terminal with this *different* version of control V.  If you use the normal paste, it won’t work.  Do this: control + Shift (same time) then press ‘v’ and it will paste to the terminal.
  7. press the enter key and the process will run

You should now have a smaller PDF file that didn’t lose too much quality.  There are other versions of this command above which I found killed the quality too much. This one was great for me.

How to Convert a .jpg or a .tiff or a .png File to a PDF File

  1. Open a terminal (if you don’t know how, click here)
  2. Navigate with your terminal to where your .jpg or a .tiff or a .png files are (If you don’t know how, go to the section on “File & Directory Commands” on this page.)
  3. type ‘convert’ and then start typing the name of the file you want to convert.  *TIP: after you start typing the file name, you can press ‘tab’ and it will auto fill.  If it doesn’t completely auto fill it means there is another file name there similar so you have to type a few more letters and then ‘tab’ again.  This saves much time and errors.
  4. start typing the name of the file you want the newly created PDF to be named.  Likely it will be the same as the photo name which is great and convenient because you can use the same TIP above with the tab button and it will auto-fill it quickly.  Caution: if you use auto-fill make sure you change the last three letters to ‘.pdf’ so that it will actually open as a pdf!
  5.  Here is what an example command will look like before you press enter: convert photo_document.png photo_document.pdf
  6. Press enter

If you know how to do basic terminal navigation, this is truly a lightening fast process and super useful.  That said, there is probably a light conversion app out there that does this on Ubuntu and I’d like not to use the terminal if possible so please share

How to Take a Multi-Page PDF File and Split Them into Individual Files

  1. go to the Ubuntu software center search and get “PDF Sam” pdf_sam
  2. Use the ‘split’ feature
  3. Mess around with all the options (I don’t have time to do a full tutorial here)
  4. Enjoy!

How to Take a Multi-Page PDF File and Split Them at a Certain Point in the File

 

  • go to the Ubuntu software center search and get “PDF Sam” pdf_sam
  • Use the ‘split’ feature
  • Make sure you choose the ‘split after these pages’ and the file will ‘cut’ right there.  I haven’t tried it but I bet you could put a comma in there after each page number you want to split at and split a whole series of pages….
  • Enjoy!

 

How to Watermark or Stamp or Batch Adjust Multiple Pages on a PDF in 10 Easy Steps

Tutorial about how to stamp.

Tutorial about how to watermark.

How to Rotate All Pages in a Multi Page PDF File

I wrote this tutorial earlier for this one here.

How to Turn Anything You Can Print into a PDF Document (ie. Emails, web pages, etc)

I wrote this tutorial earlier for this one here.

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How to Make Self Signed SSL Certificate Work in CPanel

Tutorial Assumptions

  • you have a website domain
  • you have shared hosting using cPanel
  • you are using a computer running Ubuntu

This isn’t a perfect solution if you have a public facing website, but if you have a private website for yourself, your friends, your business, etc, this will be ‘better than nothing’ and at least give you encryption for your traffic.

Most hosting companies probably sell ‘real’ SSL certificates which cost a certain amount per year.  This may make sense if you don’t have time to figure it out, or you don’t have root control of your server, or if your server happens to suck and not be ubuntu.  If these things happen, you should consider a hosting change ASAP because someone else is controlling your website.

In my case, I’m financially challenged right now and I have a couple of personal domains I want to secure.  Note that I have not yet, as of the date of posting this, figured out what to do for W.O.T.  It is still showing ‘not secure’ because it’s not https but I don’t want to use a self-signed certificate because it will scare away most visitors before they start reading.

The best looking solution moving forward, by the way, and I’m trying to plan all my future sites around it is Let’s Encrypt which is supported by some major players but also playing ball with the EFF it looks like.  However, if you don’t have control over your terminal on your server and cannot issue commands, I’m not sure that it will work. I’m still investigating.

This tutorial is using Greengeeks cheap shared hosting out of the USA.  I remember having to contacts tech support to making this option available in cpanel so you might have to as well

Download and Install OpenSSL on your Ubuntu machine

I assume it would be this command although it has been a while. might have to search it out if this doesn’t work:

sudo apt-get install openssl

Navigate to a Nice Place with your Terminal and Create a Directory Where Your Certificates will be Stored

I gave these a file name of domain-name-ssl-certs, and I did it in my home directory for speed and ease

sudo mkdir domain-name-ssl-certs

Run the Command to Generate the Certificates

You will need to swap out the directory path in this command to the one that matches where you just created the above directory

sudo openssl req -x509 -nodes -days 365 -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout /directory/directory/domain-name-ssl-certs/apache.key -out /directory/directory/domain-name-ssl-certs/apache.crt

It will  ask you to fill out stuff and the most important is this one which links it to your actual domain:

Common Name (e.g. server FQDN or YOUR name) []:example.com

Go to Cpanel back end and prepare to paste in some stuff where it should go

If you don’t see the stuff I’m talking about in this section it may be because your hosting company doesn’t want you to know you can do this because they want to sell you a $20 to $50/year ‘real certificate’.  But if you are doing home-based stuff you need not spend.  Make them make this function work or move to a company who will.

In my cpanel it’s under ‘security’ and ‘SSL/TLS’.  Click that.

Install and Manage SSL for your site (HTTPS)

Go back to your terminal and open those .key and .crt files with a text editor like nano or gedit

sudo nano apache.crt

Select all the text after the — of ‘begin cert’ and before the — of ‘end certificate’ as follows.

cert-copy-paste

with the control and shift button down hit the ‘c’ button to copy it to the clipboard memory.

Go back to your cPanel and paste it in the certificate field. If you get a warning that it doesn’t match yoru domain it’s because you didn’t enter the domain correctly while you were creating the certificate in the ‘Common name’ step above that I warned you about.  You should see everything as below except the red warning:

cpanel-warning

Go back and Open your Private Key that you generated and Copy/Paste it into your Cpanel

sudo nano apache.key

copy-apache-private-key

control+shift+C it into this window in cPanel

cpanel-private-key-paste

Click ‘install’ and you should be good to go.

Of course you will always get the ‘this website is dangerous’ warning the first time you visit it but whatever.

Hope that helps.  Now to try the same method with ‘let’s encrypt’ and hopefully get rid of the ‘dangerous’ warnings, too!

 

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How to Stamp PDF Documents in 10 Easy Steps

Need to stamp a PDF with a ‘confidential’ stamp (or any other stamp?) for FREE?  Not only is this free but it’s freedom software as well.

You may have already read my tutorial about how to watermark and stamp documents using PDF chain.  This turned out to be an amazing tool for doing a bunch of PDFs and pages with the same confidential stamp in the same spot on the page.  For example, if you have a 50 page contract letter size, followed by a 20 page business plan letter size, this would be the best tutorial because you just click a few times and the software dumps the confidential stamp on all pages in seconds.  Then you open the next document and do it again.  However, it’s slightly cumbersome if you just need to do a page here and there, or a one off, or an unusual page size.  My toolkit I provided will let you do legal and letter with ‘confidential’ but you’re on your own for setting up anything else.

Okular has turned out to be a very amazing free and freedom piece of software.  Since anyone reading this is already using Ubuntu, the rest of the tutorial is easy.  Let’s start a tutorial on how to slap a confidential stamp on a simple one page PDF.

1. Go to the Ubuntu Software Centre

001-ubuntu-software-centre

2. Search ‘Okular’ and click ‘install’

Note: seems you need the one with capital ‘O’.  Some extra packages may have slipped in there. See image:

002-okular-install

3. Go to Launcher and launch Okular

okular-in-launcher

4. Click ‘file’ and ‘open’ and then drill down to the PDF you want to muck up.

(if you need an image for this, just shut your computer off and cry yourself to sleep)

5. Click on ‘Settings’ and “Configure Okular”

004-okular-settings-config

 

6. Click ‘Annotations’, click Stamp, click ‘edit’ which will show you all the cool kinds of stamps you can slap on them there PDF

005-okular-anotations

7. Choose your stamp.  There are just oodles of noodles here.

007-okular-stamp-confidential

 

8. Click OK and get back to your PDF.

9. Push ‘F6’ on your keyboard which will bring up all your annotations (which are all very cool and useful by the way!)

008-okular-annotation-toolbar-f6

10. Click the stamp icon (third from bottom) and start dragging and dropping your stamp wherever you like on the document and whatever size you would like.

Note: back in the settings you can mess around further with opacity, I believe and other things.  I bet there is probably a way to load your own stamp as well, which would be dope, but I’m way to busy to figure that out now.

Please reply with other useful things you found from this.

 

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How to Watermark Document with Ubuntu

This post includes a quick how-to tutorial and an entire kit in a .zip file to get you started right.  To simply watermark your documents, all you need is my .pdf files in the kit and a couple of free apps from the Ubuntu Software Center.  If you want to change the way I’ve laid it out, I’ve also included the GIMP source file so you can just open it, swap out the stamp you want with what I’ve done and export it to .pdf, followed with Bob being your Uncle.

  • Install PDF Chain from Ubuntu software centre
  • (not sure if this is mandatory or not) Install pdftk from software center.  I am pretty sure that PDF Chain is just a nice cover for this so it might automatically install it when you install PDF Chain.  If something doesn’t wor correctly after doing #1 above, then install this.
  • Save my kit to your computer somewhere where you’ll remember it
  • Follow instructions pdf chain documentation for ‘background/stamp’ . Note the other cool features it has as well!

*Note: the source file *must* be a PDF to overlay it in the new PDF

*Note: be careful about your output file name.  It’s very easy to accidentally over-write your source PDF with the stamped one which you might not want to do.  I recommend saving to a totally different folder called ‘watermarked’ or ‘stamped’ or something.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

HERE IS THE KIT

confidential-watermark-graphics

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hope that helps and keep on spreading Ubuntu!

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Free Customized Realtor Accounting Software Suite and Setup

If you are a realtor (real estate agent) in North America, this package that I put together for you might save you a bunch of time and money because it’s *totally free*.

First, credit where credit is due:

1.  The developers of the free and open GnuCash (www.gnucash.org).  These folks have poured their time and money into making a great and very robust accounting software.  Make sure, when finances able, to put some $$ back their way if you like it like I do.

2. Ubuntu: Gnucash was just one free click away from the Ubuntu software center which is where I found it initially.  Thanks to the Ubuntu community for making so many pieces of software available so easily.

3. I took the chart of accounts example from realtor chart of accounts.

How I set this up

Just so you know, all I did was take the chart of accounts above and manually enter it up and save the resulting file.  Regrettably I did not have time to customize it further and I can see that there are definitely other accounts that need to be added but this will definitely get you started, and some need to be deleted as well because they were residual from the default install of GnuCash.  So, once you open it up,  make sure you go through the whole chart of accounts and add in things and delete things that might be irrelevant or doubled.  It’s easy to identify the ones that I added because they are under the parent categories that look like this:

64000-64999 Name of Main Category

I will also admit that I am not a master of Gnucash but I remember it being pretty simple and very robust so that you could just export the file to your accountant at the end of the year.

I hope this helps you and if you could be so kind as to take this gnucash file (.gnucash) and tweak it even further for the rest of real estate community that would be much appreciate it. I will then blog it out again with update and give you credit.
Thanks!

How to get started:

  1. Download Gnucash free accounting software (easy if you are on Ubuntu) for your system from www.gnucash.org.  At the time of this post the site has problems so you may have to search alternative download site if this is the case…
  2. Download this file–> gnucash-realtor-template-v1.gnucash <–to your computer
  3. Open up this file with gnucash
  4. Enjoy!

 

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How to Easily Take Website Pages to Go with Built in Ubuntu Features

Want to read an article later and not use your data plan? Going somewhere and want to look at a website page without worrying about an internet connection?  Can’t seem to find the time to read an article in the near future but worry the article might be gone when you get around to reading it?  If you are using Ubuntu, you’re already set up for an ultra simple solution to grab ‘n’ go websites.

In my case, I just wanted to take a bunch of articles and read them on my tablet or netbook up at my parents cabin where the internet is either spotty or notty.  At first I started downloading Firefox add-ons and this and that but it turns out the most simple and effective solution was sitting there ready to go: the ‘print to file’ option when you print *anything* in Ubuntu.  Ubuntu, because it’s just plain awesome out of the box, comes with the ability to print anything to PDF.  So, the solution is this simple:

1. Go to the website you want to have as a PDF

2. Choose to print the page (I use the control + P buttons because it’s rocket fast)

3. Choose ‘print to file’ option

4. KEY STEP!! Rename the file now.  It defaults to some ‘mozilla’ file name and will remember your last file name so every time you save a new article/page you have to remember to change the name or they will all end up in your last folder with the same name.  Makes for an annoying time.  NOTE: When you rename the file, do *not* erase the final .pdf tag or the file might have issues.

 

pdf-to-go-rename-file
5. Change the directory where you want it to go.  Customize this exactly by using the ‘other’ option in the dropdown list as in the following image:
pdf-to-go-dropdown
That’s it. Your file will be waiting for you in that directory and then all you have to do is get the file to your other device.  In my case I just email it to my tablet, or use a usb stick and transfer it around from devices.  In the case of most reasonable devices (Apple products are not reasonable, FYI) you can just plug it right into your computer (ie phone, tablet) and transfer the PDF like that.
One other enhancement I did was add a firefox add-on called ‘image block 2.1’ which can be turned on and off from a simple button at the top right side of firefox.  What this does is block all images from loading on the page which makes, in my opinion, a much better PDF to read later.  Here is a screenshot of the benefit.  The one on the left is without using the image blocker and the one on the right is using it.
pdf-to-go-image-no-image

Hope that helps and keep on stopping the suffering by sharing Ubuntu!

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