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


The Matrix messaging protocol has been around for almost 10 years, and over that time, many of us have experimented with the network for personal and group chats at some point, usually before moving back to our regular sources of messaging distraction. In theory, Matrix is both an excellent successor to IRC and a solution to the problem of secure trusted messaging because it's a) simple, b) secure, and c) potentially self-hosted. In its early years, Matrix was lacking a diverse community of participants and clients, but its popularity has been increasing in waves, reaching a critical mass of acceptance. This acceptance has been helped by the development of some excellent clients, including the open source Element app on Android and a desktop application called nheko that's been specifically designed to replace your favorite graphical IRC client.

This is a good thing because Matrix can feel a lot like IRC, with its federated conglomerate of instances and shared networks. Similarly, it's not always intuitive, but the modern Matrix experience in nheko is refreshing. The Qt-based UI is clean and easy to navigate, mimicking the web interface of the Element Android app. There's even a welcome option for GUI scaling, which is great for high-DPI displays, and it's secure by default. You'll need to go through the Matrix cross-authentication process if you're using another client at the same time, but you can then be sure your encrypted conversations are secure, as are voice and video calls, all of which can be done from nheko. The groups/rooms you're subscribed to are listed on the left with the messaging window on the right, and you can search for public groups and users. You'll find less engagement than on other social networks, but the quality of the conversation is generally higher. At least for now, as this is a typical trade-off between a platform's popularity and the level of signal-to-noise.

Project Website

Nheko is a beautiful Qt-native desktop app for accessing Matrix messaging and group chats.

Streaming server


Why is it that while we have more choice than ever before, it's sometimes harder to access exactly what we need in the ways we want to access it? Movie- and music-streaming services are the best examples of this problem, because, while there's never been more choice, if you happen to want to watch or listen to something specific, you're limited to whatever movies or music those services provide and the formats they provide them in. Which is why it's beginning to make sense, again, to start buying your own media and hosting your own collections. Again.

There's always been software for doing this, from the venerable Logitech Media Server (still being developed by the open source community), to the Plex-like multimedia server Jellyfin. But it was difficult to find something with a modern music focus, especially after the demise of Google Play Music. This is where Navidrome can help. It's an open source music server with a web front end that looks like Spotify and is compatible with the Subsonic API, a closed source alternative. This means you can use any Subsonic compatible app to play your music from your tablet, smartphone, or a simple web browser. The server itself is easy to install and perfect for a Raspberry Pi, but it's the web UI that really succeeds. The default theme is called "Spotify-ish," but it's quicker and less resource hungry than its namesake. Album art will animate, and music and podcasts are easy to search through, play, or pull into a playlist. There's even support for lyrics if you want to host your own karaoke evening. The most important thing is the sound quality, which will default to the native format of the audio but transcode to the client's capabilities if necessary. You can see what's happening for each client from the user account page. The only negative aspect is dealing with the security of the server yourself, but this can be solved by setting it up at home and accessing it via a VPN.

Project Website

Navidrome even implements one of Spotify's best secret features, the ability to scrobble what you play to

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