A non-techie’s perspective on blogging with Jekyll

Logo of the Jekyll blog software As you probably know, I blog quite a bit. Not as much as I should in this space (sorry!), but quite a bit nonetheless.

WordPress is my blogging platform of choice. Mainly because it’s powerful and flexible, as well as being easy to use. Due, in large part, to my work as a technology coach, I find myself investigating other blogging platforms. Sometimes, the proofs of concept that I create for my clients wind up being going concerns.

That happened with two such blogs, as well as my coaching site. They were spread across a pair of services that designed for static blogging. There was nothing really wrong with those services, aside from a few limitations that I ran up against. But I wanted to embrace my inner control freak a little more.

I didn’t, however, want to create a PHP-based website or use a bulky content management system for the blogs. Instead, I kept things static. After looking at a few static website generators, I went with Jekyll (for a variety of reasons).

I won’t say the transition was completely painless, but it wasn’t too bad. Making that move let me embrace my inner geek a bit, too.

(Note: This post isn’t a comprehensive guide to building a blog or website using Jekyll.)

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A look at three open source alternatives to Google Analytics

analytics(Note: This post was originally published on October 23, 2014 at Opensource.com and appears here via a Creative Commons license)

If you have a website or an online business, collecting data on where your visitors or customers come from, where they land on your site, and where they leave is vital. Why? Having that information can help you better target your products and services, and beef up the pages that are turning people away.

The way to gather that kind of information is with a web analytics tool.

Many people and businesses (of all sizes) turn to Google Analytics. But if you want to keep control of your data, then you’ll want a tool that you have control over. You don’t get that from Google Analytics, and luckily Google Analytics isn’t the only game on the web.

Let’s take a look at three open source alternatives to Google Analytics.

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Clean up your digital audio with Audacity

audacity-logo(Note: This post was originally published on October 3, 2014 at Opensource.com)

When you’re dealing with audio files, you’ll run into a few problems every so soften. This is especially true with voice recordings and audio that was converted to a digital format from a cassette tape or a vinyl record.

One of the biggest problems is noise. This could be hissing or background noise like the sound of the wind or a loud air conditioning unit, or even someone inadvertently breathing into a microphone. No matter what the source is, that noise is distracting. And while it’s difficult to eliminate all of the noise from a digital audio recording, it is possible to clean the file up so that the noise tolerable.

A great way to do that is with Audacity. In this article, I look at how to clean up digital audio using the Linux version of Audacity. The techniques work equally well with the Windows and Mac OS versions of the software, too.

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Four open source invoicing tools for freelancers and small businesses

invoice, delicious invoiceNote: This post was originally published on September 2, 2014 at Opensource.com.

Small business owners and freelancers put a lot of work into their businesses. They do that not only because they’re passionate about what they do, but they also have the goal of getting paid.

That’s no small part of the job, either.

Getting paid usually means sending a client an invoice. It’s easy enough to whip up an invoice using a word processor or a spreadsheet, but sometimes you need a bit more. A more professional look. A way of keeping track of your invoices. Reminders about when to follow up on the invoices that you’ve sent.

There’s a wide range of commercial and closed-source invoicing tools out there. But the offerings on the open source side of the fence are just as good, and maybe even more flexible than their closed source counterparts.

Let’s take a look at four open source invoicing tools that are great choices for freelancers and small businesses on a tight budget.

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6 open source tools for data journalists

Newspapers Note: This post was originally published on July 29, 2014 at Opensource.com.

When I was in journalism school back in the late 1980s, gathering data for a story usually involved hours of poring over printed documents or microfiche.

A lot has changed since then. While printed resources are still useful, more and more information is available to journalists on the web. That’s helped fuel a boom in what’s come to be known as data journalism. At its most basic, data journalism is the act of finding and telling stories using data—like census data, crime statistics, demographics, and more.

There are a number of powerful and expensive tools that enable journalists to gather, clean, analyze, and visualize data for their stories. But many smaller or struggling news organizations, let alone independent journalists, just don’t have to budget for those tools. But that doesn’t mean they’re out in the cold.

There are a number of solid open source tools for data journalists that do the job both efficiently and impressively. This article looks at six tools that can help data journalists get the information that they need.

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Open source alternatives to web apps: Simple Keeper

Simple Keeper logo App: Simple Keeper

Replaces: Google Keep

We all take notes. Some of us more than others. There are a number of free and open source tools for taking notes. And probably just as many closed source ones as well.

One note taking tool that’s been flying under the radar is Google Keep. Although the tech press hailed Keep as a potential killer of Evernote (arguably the most popular note taking tool around), it’s not quite that. And many people have been staying away from Keep out of fear that it goes the way to such Google services as Google Notebook, iGoogle, and Google Reader.

Enter Simple Keeper. According to its developer, Simple Keeper is:

designed to be easy to use and allow a normal user to self-host their own notes manager.

If your needs in a note taking tool are basic, then you might want to give Simple Keeper a look. Why don’t we do that?

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