Sparkling gems and new releases from the world of Free and Open Source Software


Looking at specific Vim plugins may seem a little niche, even for a section on the best new open source software for Linux. But fugitive.vim is different and worth your attention, because it's going to be useful for both Vim users and Git users, and you don't necessarily need to be a Vim user to benefit. fugitive.vim is also old and stable, and while it's still a project that's very much alive and being updated, I can't believe it took seven years for me to find out about it. In a nutshell, fugitive.vim turns Vim into one of the best Git clients you can use, even when compared with the Git command line or a good GUI (of which very few are for Linux and ironically open source).

After adding fugitive.vim to your Vim configuration (ideally via a plugin system, see "Vundle"), you have access to all the main Git commands and functions from within Vim. This is convenient if you're using Vim to edit files that are under Git's control, such as a programming project downloaded off GitHub, but it's also immensely useful simply for working with a Git-managed project. That's because you often need to make quick changes whilst managing pull requests, fixes, and merges, and Vim is the perfect editor for these changes. fugitive.vim has often powered-up the original Git commands with a few insights of its own. A good example is the :Gread command; it performs the equivalent of git checkout -- filename, but rather than creating a real file, those changes only take place within Vim's buffer. Similarly, :Gwrite both saves a file, or buffer, and stages it. But fugitive.vim's best features are more visual. :Gdiff uses a split and Vim's diff functionality to show the changes. Even more impressively, :Gblame is the best user interface I've found for seeing who wrote exactly what line in a document. Brilliant.

Project Website

fugitive.vim is one of the best ways of interacting with Git repositories, even if Vim isn't usually your editor of choice.

Hue bridge emulator

HA Bridge

Even though it's likely to destroy any last morsel of privacy we have left, home automation is great fun and almost functional enough to be productive. However, you'll still need to convince whoever you live with that turning on the lights from your phone is better than a switch on the wall. The trouble with this rapid expansion phase of home automation, though, is that there are so many different platforms, so many different kinds of protocols, and so many different kinds of hardware  – proprietary and open source. Software such as the wonderful Domoticz, covered in a previous FOSSPicks, does a great job of pulling lots of different sources together. With Domoticz, for example, you can control your Philips Hue lights, your Logitech Harmony remotes, your Hive thermostat, and your custom Raspberry Pi GPIO automation from a single interface. But it can't do everything. In particular, it can't bridge itself with online services such as Amazon's Alexa.

This is where HA Bridge can help. HA Bridge is a Java application that emulates the behavior and functionality of a Philips Hue Bridge, but instead of costly Philips light bulbs, it allows you to access your own hardware via this widely supported protocol. Anything that can talk to a Philips Hue Bridge, including Alexa/Amazon Echo, Logitech's Harmony Hub, and Google Home, can now talk to your hardware via HA Bridge, without ever knowing the difference. The server simply can be run in place, and if you're running Domoticz, you can import devices easily. You may have a Raspberry Pi controlling a light switch, for example, and you can add this to HA Bridge with just a couple of clicks. The name of the device will be the trigger word, and after scanning with an Amazon Echo or your spying device of choice, you'll be able to use their proprietary interfaces to talk to your hardware. It works perfectly.

Project Website

Bridge the world of home-brew hardware automation with the commercial world of Amazon Echo/Google Assistant with HA Bridge.

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