Skype Alternative(s) – Update

We recently discovered this great free alternative to Skype which doesn’t need to be installed on your system.  You can access it directly on the web at  You can have video conversations with up to 4 people at once and guests to your “room” don’t have to register to join in.

It takes less than a minute to create your room and share the link with someone you want to join you for a video chat.

I suggest you “claim” your room by registering;  this allows you to “lock” your room to stop non-invitees from joining; it also reserves the room for you so that no-one else can claim it. There’s lots of information on their site but essentially it’s a very quick and easy process.

Update: Zoom (

Zoom is a great replacement, not only for Skype, for also for TeamViewer as it can also allow secure remote access for help with your computer!

You need to create and maintain an account via zoom’s web portal. Then you download the app ( and install it into your system – very easy!  The advantage of running the program from your system instead of the via web is that it is much faster than the http(s) protocol, so video and audio work better with less break up.

Accessing Android phone media in Debian

To get Debian to communicate with your Android phone so that you can download/backup your photos, videos, documents, etc onto your computer, you need to install a couple of packages. Open a Terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install jmtpfs gvfs-backends

Make sure when you connect your phone to your PC that (on your phone)  you choose Media device (MTP), not Carera (PTP).

You should now be able to access media on the device by just clicking it on Thunar (file manager).

Don’t forget to Unmount/Eject the drive in Thunar BEFORE removing the USB cable, in the same way you would do with a USB stick.

How to resize/convert images in Debian using ImageMagick

ImageMagick is a powerful image manipulator, best used in a terminal in Linux.

For complete instructions see:

In brief, for width (preserving the aspect ratio) (change the 200 for your desired width in pixels):

convert example.png -resize 200 example.png

for height (still preserving the aspect ratio):

convert example.png -resize x100 example.png

It is also possible (and easy) to process several images at the same time. For example, the following command would take all PNG files in the current directory, give the all a width of 600px and save a new copy of each with “-600px” added to the beginning of each file name. The directory will now contain the old and the new image files.

for file in *.png; do convert $file -resize 600 600px-$file; done

For complete instructions see: (repeated for emphasis!)

See alsoman convert in your terminal or visit for a multitude of things that can be done with imagemagick.

Using pacpl to rip CD’s in Debian

First you need to install pacpl. Open a Terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install pacpl

Any dependencies, as usual with Debian, will also be installed.

Ensure that your CD is in the drive, and decide in which directory you want to put the resulting MP3 tracks – I would suggest your Music directory which will probably be /home/[yourname]/Music.  It’s a good idea to create a directory here with the name of the artist, so the files will be put directly into /home/[yourname]/Music/[ArtistsName] as they are copied & ripped.

Then type:

pacpl --rip all --to mp3 --outdir /home/[yourname]/Music/[ArtistsName]

If you want to check the manual, just type:

man pacpl (q to close it)
pacpl --longhelp (q to close it)

Updating and Upgrading packages in Debian

Open a Terminal

Firstly you have to update the package list. Type:

sudo apt update

Then, when that has run, you need to upgrade your machine:

sudo apt upgrade

Then to throw the wrapping paper away(!):

sudo apt clean

That’s it, although after a kernel upgrade (ie where a “linux-image” package has been upgraded), it’s a good idea to restart your system so the new kernel can be loaded.

Printing an A5 brochure in LibreOffice Writer

You can print a LibreOffice Writer document as a brochure or a booklet. That is, Writer prints two pages on each side of the paper, so that when you fold the paper, you can read the document as a book.

When you create a document that you want to print as a brochure, write your document in ordinery A4 pages, using portrait orientation for the pages. Writer will apply the brochure layout when you print the document.

To Print a Brochure

Choose File – Print.
In the Print dialog, click Properties.
In the properties dialog for your printer, set the paper orientation to landscape.

If your printer prints duplex, and because brochures always print in landscape mode, you should use the “duplex – short edge” setting in your printer setup dialog.

Return to Print dialog, and click the Page Layout tab page.
Select Brochure.
For a printer that automatically prints on both sides of a page, specify to include “All pages”.

Click OK.

If you print a document in portrait on a landscape page, two opposing sides in a brochure will be printed next to each other. If you have a printer with double-sided printing capability, you can create an entire brochure from your document without having to collate the pages later. If you have a printer that only has single-sided printing capability, you can achieve this effect by first printing the front pages with the “Front sides / right pages /odd pages” option marked, then re-inserting the entire paper stack in your printer and printing all the back pages with the “Back pages / left pages / even pages” option marked.
Note: If LibreOffice prints the pages in the wrong order, open the Options tab page, select Print in reverse page order, and then print the document again.

Managing cookies in Chrome

Chrome, by default, allows cookies to be set by all websites. We advise installing the “Vanilla Cookie Manager” extension so that you can control which websites can save their cookies on your system. You only really need to allow cookies from sites that you want to interact with, such as sites that you need to log in to for shopping, banking, webmail, facebook, etc.

Installing Vanilla Cookie Manager
  •  Open Chrome
  • Tools > Extensions
  • Click “Get more extensions”
  • In the search box, type Vanilla Cookie Manager
  • In the resulting page, click the “Add to Chrome” button and click Add in the confirmation box.
  • Close the extension tab


How to use Vanilla Cookie Manager

Once this extension is installed, an icon will be added in the right hand side of the address bar, next to the favourites star icon.

VanillaCookieManager - unlisted site
website not in whitelist

Clicking the icon provides a dialog for quickly adding the current site to the  whitelist. It also gives an option to delete unwanted cookies (any that are not related to your whitelist).


website is whitelisted

After adding a site to your whitelist, the diagonal line through the icon disappears, indicating that you have allowed cookies for that website.


Right-clicking the icon provides further options for managing your whitelist.

Managing cookies in Firefox

Firefox, by default, allows cookies to be set by all websites. We advise installing the “Cookie Whitelist” extension so that you can control which websites can save their cookies on your system. You only really need to allow cookies from sites that you want to interact with, such as sites that you need to log in to for shopping, banking, webmail, facebook, etc.

Installing Cookie Whitelist
  •  Open Firefox
  • Tools > Add-ons
  • In the Search box on the top, right of page – type cookie whitelist
  • Find “Cookie Whitelist, With Buttons (if you don’t see it click See all results at the bottom) and click the “Add to Firefox” button next to it
  • You will be presented with a
    box – click the Install button when it’s ready
  • Restart Firefox


How to use the Cookie Whitelist buttons

Once this extension is installed, two buttons are added to the top of your browser to allow easy control over cookies.




The Add (+) button adds a dialog for quickly adding the current site to the  whitelist. Green indicates that the site is not yet listed in the whitelist; grey indicates it has already been added and can set cookies.

The Record (red) button allows Firefox to temporarily accept cookies from any site not on the whitelist. These cookies will be deleted when Firefox is closed. This makes it much easier to deal with the occasional sites that refuse to work without cookies.

Right-clicking on either of the buttons enables you to manage your whitelist and any currently stored cookies.  It also allows you to choose whether or not to allow third party cookies (best to generally say no to these, although you may need them for a small number of sites; trial and error prevails here, I’m afraid!)