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


If Broadsheet has got you thinking about removing distractions from your work environment, another tried and tested method is the Pomodoro technique. This is a time management hack developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, and it's often accompanied by a timer in the shape of a tomato (pomodoro is Italian for tomato). The process simply asks you to focus on a single task for a set period of time, usually 25 minutes, without letting yourself be distracted by other things. The contemporary distractions of the '80s would be benign by modern standards, being perhaps a Rubik's cube, Newton's Cradle, or a fresh cup of coffee. Today there are more distractions than you have tabs open, and something like Pomodoro can make a huge difference in your productivity. The main problem is how to integrate it into your work environment without wasting a week researching the options. Not wanting to procrastinate any further your search for a solution, we've found one for you.

The original tomato clock was designed to keep you away from the temptation of technology. Because it's likely you'll want to work on a computer, moving it to your desktop is an acceptable solution. There are many options for Linux, but one of the best we've come across is Fokus, which, as you might guess from the k, is a KDE Plasma application widget. It features both a small panel containing a timer and a panel widget that fits even small panels, and both will show you how much time you have left for each interval. Cleverly, it can also be configured to run a script at the beginning or end of a period, and it's easy to write something that adds the work for a period into a personal journal or work log. Fokus is beautifully designed and better than the equivalent applications we've seen for macOS and Windows, many of which are commercial or advertising driven.

Project Website

Get on top of your work, and your self esteem, by being wholly productive for 25 minutes without getting distracted. It really works!

PCB illustrator


One of the most recent revolutions in technology, alongside the likes of home 3D printing, virtual reality, and the Raspberry Pi, is the ability for any of us to create a circuit and get it printed. There's even a choice of software you can use to do this, and we've covered several in this magazine. Perhaps the most mature is KiCAD, a well-established schematics editor that lets you create a circuit, verify its design, simulate its execution, and test the electrical rules that govern its function. KiCAD will then automatically generate a PCB layout and export the results in a format that can be sent to a PCB manufacturer. It's simple enough that even beginners can use it to produce their first circuits, but it's also advanced enough that many engineers use it for their product design.

Pinion is a tool that takes KiCAD files and turns them into beautiful illustrations that you can share or publish on a website. Not only do they look incredible, with a cell-shaded, pseudo-realistic style, they're also interactive. Text can be added to parts of the circuit or the board, and tracks can be highlighted by selecting them. The virtual card can also be flipped over, all thanks to the magic of JavaScript. This functionality is added via a simple YAML file that links the KiCAD components together with your descriptions, grouping, and pin annotations. The text you add can be as long as needed and even include links and basic formatting. It uses a hand-drawn library called PcbDraw-Lib to illustrate the components, and while the library is currently relatively small, it's growing and easy to contribute to. The diagram is then built by executing the pinion command, together with arguments pointing to the YAML and the KiCAD file. The results are excellent!

Project Website

Pinion is a simple Python tool that can save you the trouble of drawing your own realistic circuit diagrams.

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