Graham tears himself away from updating Arch Linux to search for the best new free software.


It always feels a bit of a cheat covering something written with Node.js, because the typical Node.js application often feels like a web application, or even a website. That's because Node.js helps you run things locally written in JavaScript that would typically run on a server on the web. But JavaScript itself has become so popular, perhaps akin to being the BASIC of the web, that using JavaScript with a run-time environment like Node.js is no different to a run-time environment for many other languages, and you get the ability to run your application both offline and online almost for free. How's that for convergence!

This is exactly what's happened with mapscii. It's a brilliant little map tool you can run on the command line via Node.js, and because it's written in JavaScript, you can also do something crazy – connect to an instance of mapscii running on the developer's own telnet server. Yes, telnet. It's a little like something from the War Games movie, except the world view zooms into a street view, thanks to OpenStreetMap. It's remarkably quick and responsive, and going from an Earth-sized scale down to street level takes just seconds. Cursor keys with A and Z to zoom are used to control the map, but you can also use the mouse. The mouse wheel can even be used to zoom, and click-dragging the tiles on the background lets you move around the map just as you would a map in a browser. Even if that sounds like a gimmick when you have your ordinary web browser open, mapscii has another trick: Pressing B will remap the output to the braille unicode font, and you can run the whole thing offline or run your own server and access it from your own devices. Perfect for fast low-bandwidth private navigation.

Project Website

It may seem like a hack, but mapscii is genuinely useful. You can press B to enable Braille mode, for example.

File sharing

Google Drive for Plasma

Although many of us have moved away from relying on public cloud storage for all our files, switching to alternatives like Nextcloud, few of us have given up the habit completely. This is because services like Dropbox and Google Drive are genuinely useful. They allow you to share large files, collaborate on document editing, and easily search through the content of files and your editing history. Used with careful consideration of your own privacy, as with cloud-based email, cloud file storage is a useful addition in the connected world. And yet, in the case of Google Drive, a native Linux client has never been forthcoming.

As a KDE user, this makes Google Drive slightly more inconvenient, especially when trying to avoid opening a web browser. And, access to Google Drive's files through a web browser is never ideal. It promotes the idea that you never have to manage your files, never have to delete them. A native-Linux client has always been badly needed. Fortunately, there's now Google Drive integration with KDE's Plasma. It's so well implemented that there's very little to see and not very much to write about. It works as a KIO slave, which means when you use the URL gdrive:// in any KDE application, your Google Drive will be accessed as the destination. The first time you do this, you'll even be stepped through the authentication process, although it can be accomplished from the system-wide accounts page, too, which is also where you can disable the facility. With authentication added, you'll see your Google Drive files just as you would your local files, and they can be opened and saved in the same way. Unfortunately, this doesn't work offline, but it does make copying online files to your local storage trivially easy.

Project Website

Even when Nextcloud is used for personal files, access to Google Drive is still a convenient upgrade.

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