Despite the number of people reading books being reportedly fewer than before we all started looking at screens, we're all (probably) reading many more words than ever. And it seems neither screens nor books, at least in their default configuration, are ideal for reading. This is because you can dramatically boost your reading speed and even your comprehension by seriously reducing the amount of clutter that surrounds the sections of text you're trying to read. You can prove this to yourself with an online service called Spritz, which cuts down big text into single words flashed in front of your eyes with one letter colored red. This red letter is intended to be your focal point, and keeping this central allows you to read the words without your eyes ever having to jump around. The results can be remarkable, and even the Spritz demo, designed to hook you into the process, effortlessly feeds you words at 250 words per minute.

Uniread performs a similar trick, only on the command line, without any online privacy issues and with your own digital book copies. Installed easily via npm, it takes the location of your EPUB file as its single argument. With that done, you get a simple curses GUI that shows the chapters in your book on the left and the reading pane in the top right. Beneath this, a small Info window updates to show you your reading rate, progress, and estimated time left in the book. You then simply press the space bar to start reading. The words appear at a rate calculated from their complexity, although this can be changed with the cursor keys. Spritz's red focal point is replaced by an arrow underneath where you should focus your vision, but the effect is the same. It can be like reading with a super power, and there's little doubt you can speed read your way through the text. This can detract from the enjoyment of your favorite novels, but it's perfect if you want to hack through your obligation to this month's book club.

Project Website

Speed read your way through a new novel from the comfort of the command line.

Audio processor

Advanced GTK+ Sequencer

GSequencer is a dive into the subsystem world of Linux audio, letting you tie all kinds of different elements together, such as step sequencers, plugin effects, note editors, and drum machines, and use these to generate audio or export a file. Rather than abstracting audio across layers, though, GSequencer plays it old school by targeting Advance Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) directly. Consequently, you'll have to disable PulseAudio on any reasonably modern distribution. This is important because GSequencer aims to be a low-level routing and processing powerhouse, letting audio geeks manipulate audio streams via a visual interface without resorting to a fully fledged stack like PulseAudio, which also needs to cater for YouTube playback from Firefox. But you can still use GSequencer alongside PulseAudio if you suspend Pulse, as you might already do when running JACK, using the command pasuspender -- gsequencer. With that done, GSequencer can run unhindered, although it can take a while to run when first launched because it scans your system for any compatible audio plugins it can use, including LADSPA, DSSI, and LV2 plugin formats.

With the scanning out of the way, you can then access any of those plugins from the Edit | Add menu, which is where you add all the various elements you can use to process audio. There are so many different kinds of effects and sound generators, that explaining what GSequencer is capable of is almost impossible – it entirely depends on what plugins you have installed and the kind of sounds you want to process. Like a modular synthesizer, GSequencer enables you to line these up sequentially in any way you like, whether that's for reducing the noise in a podcast or for generating a sequence of randomized notes in a specific scale. The interface makes it all feel old school and primitive, but it's powerful and can make a refreshing change from all-powerful applications like Ardour or the commercial Bitwig Studio.

Project Website

To boost its old-school credentials, GSequencer includes a pattern-based sequencer and drum machine.

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