Personal Technology and Internet

Tools I’m thankful for

In the spirit of thanksgiving, even though it isn’t a tradition here where live, and following the same path as some posts I’ve read today, here’s 5 software tools I’m thankful for.

(Of course this is not a comprehensive list, but today these are the ones that come to my mind)


This tool basically lets us sync files with multiple devices without relying on a central service/server (unlike Dropbox or Google Drive). So we don’t have to rely on a 3rd party service to sync your documents, it is all done in a p2p fashion with high security standards.

No Internet connection? no worries, it works through the local network as well.


I use Borg for most kinds of backups. Many will argue that there are alternatives that do X and Y better, but Borg has all I need for this task and does its job very well. It is compatible with many services, has a nice CLI and several decent GUIs.

Backups are critical, so we should rely on a mature tool that we can trust.


I don’t remember the last time I had “hair pulling” struggles when trying to play a video file or disk. VLC is one of the reasons why (perhaps the biggest of them). It’s a light and versatile Swiss army knife for dealing with video content and it handles whatever I am trying to do: watch a stream, open a video with a strange encoding or even convert between file formats.

uBlock Origin

Nowadays the mainstream websites are almost unbearable, they are slow, heavy and full of ads (displayed in many formats with all kinds of tricks). Not to mention the huge effort they make to track you “everywhere you go”.

This “little” browser extension takes care of blocking and removing a big chunk of that annoying content, making the pages faster while helping us avoid being followed online.


To finish the list, a programming language and its interpreter. Throughout the last decade I ended up using several programming languages, either on my job and for personal projects, but there is one of them that I always fallback to and is a joy to use.

Easy to read and to write, available almost everywhere, it might not be the a perfect fit for all tasks but allows you to do a lot and quickly.

Random Bits Technology and Internet

Log based analytics are still useful

A long time ago, most of the modern website analytics software made the shift from relying on server logs to use client-side code snippets to gather information about the user, in this last category we can include as examples Google Analytics and Piwik. In fact, this paradigm allows to collect information with greater detail about the visitors of the website and gives developers more flexibility, however this can also be seen as the website owners imposing the execution of code on the user’s computing device that goes against his will and undermines his privacy (some people go as further as putting it in the same category as malware). Log based analytics software, last time i checked, is seen as a museum relic from the 90s and early 00s.

However, as have been explained in a blog post named: Why “Ad Blockers” Are Also Changing the Game for SaaS and Web Developers and further discussed by the Hacker News community, we might need look again to the server-side approach, since the recent trends of using Ad blockers (which have all legitimacy, given the excesses of the industry) can be undermining the usefulness of the client-side method, given that most of the time the loading of the snippet and the extra requests that are required are being blocked. This is why server side analytics can be very handy again, allowing us to measure the “Ghost Traffic” as it is called in the article.

A very high level overview of both methods can be described like this:


  • Pros:
    • Lots of information
    • Easy to setup
  • Cons:
    • Extra requests and traffic
    • Can be blocked by browser extensions
    • The use of a third party entity raises some privacy concerns.


  • Pros:
    • Cannot be blocked,
    • Does not pose a privacy concern since it only records the requests for the website “pages” made by the user.
  • Cons:
    • Less detailed information,
    • If the server is behind a CDN, not all requests will hit the server.

The main issues with the use of log based tool is that they look ancient, some haven’t seem an update for a while and can take some work to setup. Nevertheless, they definitely can be very useful in order to understand the extent of the usage of blockers by visitors and even for the cases when we just need simple numbers. It also puts aside the privacy discussion since it only monitors the activity of the servers.

That’s the case of this blog, I do not run any analytics software here (because I do not see the need given its purpose) and when I’m curious about the traffic, I use a very cool tool called GoAccess, that goes over the nginx logs and generates some nice reports.

Give it a look, perhaps you don’t need Google Analytics everywhere or its results might not be as accurate as you think, specially if your audience has a significant percentage of tech-savvy people.

Random Bits

Multimedia tools for Linux

Convincing someone to try and adopt a Linux based operating system is a hard task, not because these systems are hard (nowadays) or don’t offer enough functionality, but mainly because when people learn to use a certain system/product and it already is engrained in their workflow changing is hard.

I’m certain this is the main line of thinking for many companies, when they offer their products for free to students during college. After that period switching to something else feels like a waste of time (even without addressing the non interoperable file formats that chain the users even more).

In the field of software development we don’t notice this as much, since many of the tools we use for the majority of the tasks (programming languages, compilers, editors, debuggers, etc) are already open, cross-platform and there are lots of alternatives and competition. In many other areas this doesn’t happen. For a long time there is this notion that free software doesn’t offer “alternatives” with enough quality that could rival with widely established proprietary and expensive products in areas such as photo editing, vector graphics, video editing, 3D modelling, CAD software, sound editing, etc.

So in this post I will try to aggregate a list of open-source multimedia tools and other non-free software that can run on Linux machines, that could be used by 75% of the users, instead of relying on expensive software, for common and basic tasks. I’m not saying that it covers all the use cases and that it fit for everyone, but I’m certain that it fits the use cases from amateurs to some professionals, and can save them a “few” bucks.

All of the following examples can be installed in different operating systems, since adapting to new interfaces and work-flows is the most difficult part, so people can try first, change gradually and eventually move to a free operating system without losing any productivity.

(I’m open to new suggestions, since, as it is expected, I’m not aware or tried everything that is out there)

Gimp | Image Editing |

Krita | Illustration |

Inkscape | Vector Graphics |

Kdenlive | Video Editing |

Lightworks | Video Editing |

Natron | Video Composing |

Blender | 3D graphics and Animation |

Audacity | Audio Editing |

Ardour | Audio Editing |

Scribus | Desktop Publishing  |

Synfig | 2D Animation |

Darktable | Photography |


13/11/2015 –  Added two more projects

18/08/2016 – Added one more project