Posts Tagged ‘FLOSS’

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Open Web Vancouver 2008

I’m going. If you see me there, please say ‘hi’ and offer me a job. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Preferably, one that requires a brain.) I look like this (when playing video poker in Vegas):

Oh! It was a hard choice, but I purchased a pyrate shirt. Yeah. ๐Ÿ™‚

Free Software to Look Forward to

  • WordPress 2.5 is out! This one makes me overly excited because it comes with a built-in gallery!!! FINALLY! And with multi-file upload!! I was just playing with it and It looks like it will suit my purposes just fine. I guess I will continue avoiding the Flickrs and other such community-based photo sites, for now. I’ll probably have to update my theme a little, however… and see if there’s a way to set a maximum photo size.
  • 2.4 is out and comes with quite a lot of improvements, including OpenGL transitions (perdy) and performance gains. 3.0 looks like it will be quite a massive release, aiming to sing and dance. Also see here (Thanks, Andrew).
  • Ubuntu 8.04, Hardy Heron, is nearly out. Less than a month away! It comes with the recently released GNOME 2.22, Firefox 3.0b4, PulseAudio, and a bunch of other goodies, like using the excellent Transmission as the default Bitorrent client. I’m also really looking forward to the World Clock Applet – then I won’t have to think about Japan’s and Brazil’s timezones ever again. ๐Ÿ™‚ Beta’s available now.

Stuff that looks good, but I have no experience with…

  • Pencil – Open source, cross-platform 2D drawing/animation application.
  • Hotwire – Smart shell.
  • GNOME Do – Like quicksilver from OSX.
  • ReInteract – Super python console.
  • Faces Project Management – PM is something that’s lacking on Linux.
  • Tracks GTD – If you’re willing to install it on a RoR supported server to help get things done.


I’ve been meaning to mention this incredibly well designed (because it’s simple) program to edit subtitles (for those totally legal foreign videos you’re downloading/transcribing): gaupol. Very slick.

Microsoft says, “Why can’t Europe be more like South Korea?”

(…In the palm of our hand.)

We often have homestay students from Korea and Japan. I have set up the family computer (Windows XP) with both a Korean and a Japanese account, in case the students need to use a computer and do not have their own. It’s amazing the degree to which Korean content on the Internet completely depends on Microsoft. Every time Korean students are using the computer, their favourite webpage is almost always broken because they require some ActiveX plugin, and their accounts don’t have permission to install such nonsense. I’m reluctant to, as well, after seeing either (some Korean text I do not understand) or some gibberish to the same effect.

Anyway, I’ve always been really curious why Korea seemed so Microsoft centric. Gen Kanai has a couple posts on the topic and they’re incredibly fascinating. Well, I think so.

This nation is a place where Apple Macintosh users cannot bank online, make any purchases online, or interact with any of the nationโ€™s e-government sites online. In fact, Linux users, Mozilla Firefox users and Opera users are also banned from any of these types of transactions because all encrypted communications online in this nation must be done with Active X controls.

Where is this nation?

South Korea.

Due to an early (pre-US-export approval and pre-standardization) adoption of the 128bit SSL encryption protocol, and the death of Netscape, Koreans were left with the single option of Internet Explorer and Active X plugins to do any sensitive transactions on the Internet. This has left Korean Internet content largely inaccessible to other browsers (leading one group to sue the government), and in a funny twist of fate, also prevents (or strongly discourages) the upgrade to Vista (by sheer amounts of work required).

If you’re interested, I recommend reading the posts (1, 2) for more details.

I’ve always been impressed by South Korea’s very accessible high bandwidth, but I certainly don’t envy this.

GNOME Panel / Ubuntu UI Musings

Reading Ubuntu 7.10 Pragmatic Visual Presentation Critique got me thinking about a better way to position applets and launchers on the panels in GNOME.

Imagine if you have locked all your applets and youโ€™re trying to move a new applet to a specific location, you have to first unlock every applet which involves a right click, left click check-box, and repeating this for all locked applets. Once the applets have been unlocked and you have placed your new applet at the desired location, guess what? Time to lock them all again! Right click, left click check-box, right click, left click check-box, you get the idea. A method of locking/unlocking all the applets at the same time seems like a much welcomed option at this time.

I totally agree here. The panel should have a mode, (“layout mode”?) that darkens the rest of the screen so it’s obvious that you’re operating on the panels. Clicking off the Panel will exit this mode. I’m not sure what the best method would be for entering this mode. (An option on the context menu of every item on the panel?) Once in this mode, applets and launchers can be dragged around with the left mouse button. Moving the mouse cursor over an applet or launcher will highlight it with a red outline or something, so it’s obvious what will be moved. There should be a small lock icon below each. Clicking this will toggle the position lock. Speaking from experience, you usually want to do multiple unlock/move/lock actions at once, and with the current interface, it’s rather painful, as the author points out.

A quick mockup (I found an anchor before I found a lock, but an anchor makes sense):

Layout mode mockup

The author also touches on many other things that I don’t really see as big issues. Blurry icons? And he complains about icons not scaling properly with a resized panel. (See here.) For individual launchers, and the volume applet, the icons will scale fine. I’m not convinced scaling the Notification Area icons up would be desirable, as they would take up a lot of extra space and they can appear and disappear frequently, but that might be the user’s desired effect. Maybe an option for the user to say if they want them to scale, wrap, or neither… but all the icons in the notification area should definitely be consistent in behaviour, just as the launcher icons are on the panel.

notification area

Desktop Effects. He says they feel like a hack. I would agree that the defaults are truly terrible (wobbly windows? seriously?) and they certainly aren’t without their problems. As one would expect, they even introduce new defects. But after installing CCSM, and playing around with what’s available, I must confess I like them and I think they add a valuable layer of communication to the user: windows that aren’t responding fading to dark (see pic), new windows sizing and fading into existence, minimized windows flying to their position on the Window List applet (taskbar), desktop panning, zooming anywhere, live thumbnails for every application, etc. I do wish I could enable the one feature of wobbly windows to act as the system bell, and have the window wobble as a visible bell. I really liked that. But I can’t enable that single wobbly windows option without disabling something else I’m currently using. Also, the workspace switcher seems to be broken. I can’t drag windows from workspace to workspace within it.

not responding

Certainly, I agree the preferences menu could be more sensibly organized, but I think the Appearance capplet is great. A reference to the Appearance capplet within the mouse capplet is all that’s needed to improve the discoverability of the mouse cursor icons.

Two About menu items under the main System menu (one for GNOME and one for Ubuntu): they don’t bother me. There’s only four other items on that menu, and these are both important when users are reporting bugs for checking which versions of software they are running. The “Help” launchers are something I never use, and the first things I remove. But for novice users, maybe they’re helpful. I really wonder how often people read the included documentation, though….

Certain types of behavior should be unacceptable where user experience is concerned. It is unacceptable in my opinion for a Linux Distribution to knowingly ship broken Artwork with the distribution.

He’s clearly never used windows. ๐Ÿ™‚ In all seriousness, if usable features had to wait on perfect aesthetics before mass deployment, Apple might be the only company releasing anything. In the Open Source world, users are depended upon for everything, including the aesthetics. If the software never gets out, it doesn’t get the attention it needs, bug reports aren’t filed as soon, and relatively stable (and usable) software is dis-serviced by not being allowed to gather the feedback it should. The article itself is a case in point. It’s also worth mentioning that Ubuntu Gutsy is not an LTS release. The Hardy Heron release will be, and that makes it especially important for Gutsy to get as many new features into users’ hands as possible. Linux distributions depend on the community and can’t evolve as effectively behind closed doors.

Hmmm… I suppose this post turned into more of a response to the post on Architect Fantasy (not my original intention), which I found interesting but didn’t agree with everything (which is totally fine).


I’m currently working on an idea I’ve been kicking around for a long time:

photofile 0.0000001

This is being done in Python and PyGTK. It’s mostly just GUI stuff at the moment (none of the operations are functional), as I’m learning GTK as I go. And even though I’ve done a bit of reading regarding Python, it’s gonna be my first real attempt with the language. Bottom line: progress will probably be slow. ๐Ÿ˜›

Some big news for Open Source, recently.

Also, apparently I’m strange, because I like the new Nano.

Now, that I’ve got rid of a bunch of bloggy things, I’m gonna go outside and rollerblade for a bit on this awesome day. Will grab a drink and poke at my new project after a soon-to-be-required shower.

Random UI Stuff and Link Dump

Radial menus in GNOME! libsexier, indeed! Awesome. I was wondering when radial menus would creep their way to the desktop. After watching the video, I enabled Desktop Effects in Feisty and ran the demo, but the performance wasn’t very good. I’m not sure why. Should I be using an updated Cairo or other lib? Does my computer just suck that much? ๐Ÿ™

iwant iphoto and imovie. F-Spot devs, please check out the iphoto demonstration, particularly the usage of “events.” (version 4 is out! I still need to try that…) Anyone capable of working on a movie editor for linux, please look at imovie. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m totally jealous of these 2 particular pieces of software… as I would use them a lot.

The Office 2007 UI Bible documents the history of Microsoft Office’s UI and various decisions that were made. I’m not done reading it, but it’s quite interesting.

Compiz Fusion is lookin nice…

More worthwhile links

Cleansing Gmail of Facebook notifications

If you’re like me, you like receiving an email telling you should log into facebook to check your messages or something. But those emails accumulate and obstruct the rest of your inbox!! I tried searching for facebook but that returned a bunch of legitimate emails and chats that mentioned facebook, and that I did not want to delete. Then I tried the following term:


Genius. Thanks, Google. Go through and make sure all the emails aren’t important, then click Select: All, and click Delete. Repeat until you’re happy you’ve removed all the pointless emails. From now on, delete the notifications when you’re done with them! ๐Ÿ™‚ For more information on gmail search keys and syntax, go to the Gmail Help Centre > Searching Mail > Advanced Search. This can all be accessed using the “Help” link located in the top-right of your gmail screen.

This should be easier in a dedicated client, of course, like Mozilla Thunderbird or something: just sort by sender. Speaking of Thunderbird, looks like Mozilla won’t be supporting it anymore. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Certainly not as substantially, anyways. I currently use a combination of Thunderbird and Gmail.

I laughed at this comment, by “Kurt”:

Want a new vision of mail? I got one for you:
After 8 long years start adding a f*cking scroll bar to the header view!

Amen, brother. Amen. I imagine nearly every user has had their email content obstructed by a massive header at some point.

How to open a folder with the default file-manager in mono/C#

using System.Diagnostics;

Process.Start (“file:///home/”);

Did a bit of IRC channel ping-pong today. Went over to #f-spot to ask a user-related question about f-spot, and got pulled in by curiosity on a totally unrelated topic: opening a folder with the default file-manager. Initiated some discussion on #mono and discovered this was, in fact, not trivial – which seemed odd. But I’ve never personally written any C#, or much desktop code at all, for that matter. So I started playing around with various suggestions from the good folks in #mono, and writing my very first C# application.

(Yeah, basically a one-liner. You gotta start somewhere! ^_^) Anyway, for something so simple, there seemed to be a lot of uncertainty and discussion about it (even from the man, himself! – He claims his memory is fading…), so I figure it’s worth documenting. More info can be seen here under Process.

On FreeDesktop systems it will use xdg-open, if not, it will try to use gnome-open or kfmclient to open the files.

Not sure if this will work on Windows. The file:// prefix is required.

Update: According to ccoish, this will work on Windows.

Passing this info back to #f-spot resulted in a patch to allow you to open the folder containing your photo. Thanks, Gabriel! Open source is cool. ๐Ÿ™‚

Not sure if I’ll look at C#/Mono much more, was kinda gonna do the Python thing for a while… but this was a fun distraction. ๐Ÿ™‚

Free Games and Entertainment


So for the last month or so… some friends (one, in particular) have been nagging me to get UFO 2000 to work. If you’re not familiar with XCOM: UFO Defence or XCOM: Terror From the Deep, they’re really awesome turn-based strategy/simulation games originally released by Microprose in 1993, for the PC. My friends and I would huddle around a 15″ CRT and play hotseat with this single-player game by naming and customizing our squad. We would control our own dudes, watch them improve and get better equipment, then plead for the game to be loaded when a favourite takes one for the team. (That got ridiculous, and we eventually had to agree that we would do no loading of saved games for that purpose.) Anyway, UFO 2000 is an open source project based on X-COM, and currently (only) supports 2 player multiplayer. Each player builds a squad according to set rules and money allowed, then places their their team on a randomly generated map, and go at it, exploratory style. The UI is atrocious, and unless you’re running Windows or Gentoo the setup might be a pain, but the game’s pretty awesome.

I documented the steps I went through to get it working on Ubuntu Feisty in the site’s forums here. However, I wasn’t able to see my friend on the server, so I still haven’t been able to play! :'(

Point and Click Adventures

If you’re into dry sarcastic humour and point-and-click adventure games, you might want to check out these (also 100% free!):

I tried using WINE to run them, but the performance wasn’t acceptable, and there was no sound. ๐Ÿ™ Damn. Even so, I played the first bit of Spooks and it seems well written. I’ve played King’s Quest before and they’re pretty fun. ๐Ÿ™‚ Space Quest was my favourite Sierra Adventure game, though….

Some videos

I found these videos entertainingly simple and accurate:


I did take a quick look at a modified kubrick theme I had been working on a while back. One of the main changes is the menu on the right, and when I looked at what I had done in IE… wow, do I have some work to do! hah. Wait, that’s not funny….

More Ubuntu Feisty

Rhythmbox is becoming more awesome

The new version of Rhythmbox included in Feisty, version 0.10.0, is very nice! I’m totally impressed with the enhancements since the last version I was using.

Jamendo integration: it will download the catalogue of artists and songs on Jamendo, and you can browse or play it just as if it was all on your computer, with the regular interface. If you like something, there’s a handy “Download Album” button. Music by donation. Awesome. Kinda like open-source for music. ๐Ÿ™‚ integration: I can now play my neighbour radio within Rhythmbox! Oh joy of joys! Seriously, that’s awesome. The last-exit client is still cool, but I think I’ll be using this most of the time now.

Magnatune integration: Just like Jamendo, except downloading an album requires purchase.

Here’s some screenshots of Rhythmbox:

Feisty and Wacom

Still not there. I’ve been waiting and waiting for the day I can plug in my tablet when I need it and start using it, without having to restart the X server. Apparently, however, that day is not far off.


With the version of the Linux Wacom driver (0.7.2) in Ubuntu 6.06, 6.10 and 7.04, if you unplug you tablet, it won’t function when you plug it back in and you will have to restart X. For this reason, it is best to leave the tablet plugged in. This limitation will be removed when the 0.7.4 version of the driver is included in Ubuntu.

I can’t wait for that.