Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Fedora 17 Beefy Miracle Wallpaper—Accepting Concept Artwork

We're a little bit behind and should have started much sooner, so the time is running short. We are now open for submissions for the Fedora 17 Beefy Miracle default wallpaper concept artwork. If you are interested, please submit your work as soon as possible, the closing date is about one month ahead (the deadline will be officially announced next week).

Submit your concept work here:

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Fedora 16 XFCE

So, I also updated and here are my impressions :-D XFCE live cd works like a breeze, installation went smooth. I even got wifi (broadcomm) working out of box (suspend works for me too, btw.)! GRUB 2 seems nice, although it associated detected kernels with the newly installed Fedora. Still better than nothing from grub 1 >:-D Now for the system itself. GDM suck. It sucks hard. As soon as I installed some of gnome as deps it started putting gnome instead of xfce to session. It also does not seem to allow for keyboard and language selection. I need to switch to LXDM or try out LightDM soon… XFCE works as expected, after copying old configuration and installing apps I use, almost everything seems to work.


I had to disable starting gnome services to get rid of gnome volume and power manager icons. As a result, probably, my ssh keys passwords aren't remembered anymore, even though gnome-keyring-daemon with SSH agent capability is running. I really hate to type 12+ char. long password zillion times during one package update :(

 I also had troubles setting up iBUS. I prefer it to keyboard selection as I use it not only to use Czech keyboard layout but also to type Japanese (via anthy). Nothing seemed to work. But after finding im-chooser and selecting ibus there it started to work. However, im-chooser does not seem to be anywhere in menus—its desktop file contains NotShowIn=XFCE;. WTF?!

Also ibus keyboard shortcuts seem to misbehave. Switching to next input method does not seem to work (but just a second ago I managed with it to turn it off and make toggle on/off shortcut not work!?) at all—well, to be fair, I just tried to play with it and it seems to do something: cycle through English - Default Layout, nothing, nothing and nothing?! I'll probably have to fill bug later…

 Other than that, I'm fairly satisfied, I even discovered some nifty features in xfce that I hadn't noticed before ;-)

Oh and I forgot to mention—everything GTK3 looks awful. The adwaita theme is awesome at times (check boxes, for example) and so plain/unfinished looking it hurts at others (dark version, buttons, scrollbars, for example). In general it looks like inconsistent half-finished work thrown together just to have a new theme, with some of its components already finished (the parts that look kicking-ass). Luckily XFCE stays at GTK2 still.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Mounting Novel Netware Drives, How?

Dear lazy web, I figured someone might have some suggestions in this area. I was recently employed (half-time) in education and they use Novell Netware for network drives and I was wondering how to connect to them from Fedora. From what I know the server's SUSE based, uses LDAP for authentication, no IPX, I need to be able to specify context and server IP (the tree-based login currently does not work as the admin does not know yet how to make it work for two separate networks managed by one server). I tried some of the novell-related packages in fedora, but never succeeded in authentication, probably because it's built with IPX support and without LDAP support…

Anyone has any suggestions?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Fedora 16 Verne Beta Wallpapers

It's been a while since I pushed the updated wallpapers but now I finally got the will to post about it. First see the updated beta wallpaper:
Next, I'd like to remind you that in Fedora 16 we again have supplemental wallpapers and what's more: since Fedora 16 all the supplemental wallpapers appear not only in GNOME's and KDE's wallpaper choosers but also in XFCE's. Enjoy:
The full selection (with original images and info) is available at F16 Artwork wiki page.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Nodoka Concept Art – Noir WIP

Well, err, it's been a while ;-) And in order not to stall forever I made an attempt to start designing a really, really dark version of Nodoka. Perhaps it would be more fitting to say that I started playing around with Inkscape as I still don't have a clear idea what it should look like… Anyway, here's some preview, I've called it [fittingly] Noir (click on it to see it in actual size):

Hopefully, sometime in the future I'll finish all these concepts and start writing the actual code but seeing how much spare time I have, it seems to be rather distant future… Anyway, comments are welcome and sketches even more so. Get source SVG now!

See an older post for the other two styles concept art.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Fedora 15 Sometimes Really Suck

Here's a list of problems:
  1. Some GTK3 apps don't start at all (evince does, gedit and charmap does not)
  2. Printing from GTK3 apps doesn't work.
  3. Ugly symbolic icons show up in my xfce try panel (ibus currently).
  4. Printer does no longer offer High quality colour/greyscale options.
  5. XFCE does not save my mouse settings. It gets reset every time I either switch to VT, log out or plug out and back in.

I've never had such serious problems before with any stable release of Fedora since Fedora Core 3 (which was my first). I'm seriously disappointed, especially by the fact that some devs just don't care at all (the first bug blocks a load of useful apps to start, it's nearly three months old, reproduced by more people and still no reaction from the devs). I was even forced to install Adobe Reader to be able to print PDFs. However, it stopped working as well now…

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Fedora 16 Verne Wallpaper

Update: test and give karma to KDE side of things so that KDE won't be left out for Alpha when it comes to default ;-) Thanks to Jaroslav "Rezza" Reznik for doing the quick work!

Alpha release of next Fedora installment codenamed Verne is nearing and so is its Alpha freeze. Hence the Fedora Design Team selected a winning wallpaper design and I packaged it for F16 onward. It's currently pending pushing to stable. If you're on F16 or rawhide you'll be able to install these with # yum install verne-backgrounds-gnome for GNOME, # yum install verne-backgrounds-kde for KDE and # yum install verne-backgrounds-xfce for XFCE. At the same time as the new package hits repos an updated desktop-backgrounds that sets is as default for GNOME, XFCE and LXDE-and-alike (e.g. LXDM) will also appear and so in Alpha this should be default everywhere except KDE (these need some more work first and sadly we didn't realized that when creating a design team schedule for F16).

And for those wondering what is the winning picture, here's a screenshot of it in my F15 XFCE desktop ;-)

As usual, the Fedora Design Team is looking for feedback on this via the usual channels:
  • You can comment under this blog post and I'll summarize your opinions to the Design Team.
  • Fedora Design Team mailing list
  • at #fedora-design on, supposing you catch one of the Design Team members there.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Font Rendering in Fedora

Shortly said, it's not very impressive. But what are the options we have? Can we improve it? Well, there are some font settings that are available. See e.g. this blogpost about making fedora fonts look Ubuntu-like. Although I personally see that as making things worse, there are people who think otherwise. What I decided to do was to skim through most of the hinting options we have and decide for myself what looks best. And of course, provide my readers with some images so that they could decide for themselves.

So, I decided to do screenshots of some simple highlighted html code to showcase more than black-one white ;-) Initially I decided to make 9pt versions (which is what I use) and 12pt versions (which is standard text size on A4 paper) both for the "gui" variant (white background) and "tui" variant (black background). Halfway I got lazy, so I fully completed only the 9pt variant as you can see in the next two images (click on them to see unscaled). The sorting is this: on left side there are renderings without freetype-freeworld, on the right side there are renderings with freetype-freeworld (and thus with subpixel hinting). From top to bottom: none hinting, slight hinting and full hinting. For some reason, medium and full hinting looks exactly the same on my laptop which is probably a bug (it didn't used to), that's why I hadn't included it.

From these few images I believe I can confidently say this:
  • increasing amount of hinting increases crispness of the characters (can be seen especially for horizontal lines that are often "smudged")
  • Freetype-freeworld tends to produce better results than freetype for smaller amount of hinting.
  • Freetype-freeworld introduces colour halo around the strokes.
  • Japanese is unhinted (I sense problems with autohinter)
  • Freetype-freeworld has better shapes, more smooth curves and better antialiasing, however it sacrifices crispness of the strokes (especially seen with full hinting)
  • Freetype-freeworld gives nicer results for e.g. orange on white, yellow on black or dark green black, while freetype gives nicer results for green on white, blue on white or red on black. At this size. I noticed that increasing the size is more favourable for freetype-freeworld.

I also include two shots with 12pt. Both with full hinting, both include whole geany window (app font is 9pt big), the first one is freetype (save xfwm which uses freetype-freeworld in both cases), the second one freetype-freeworld.

Well, decide for yourself what's best for you, but since the blurriness bugs me more than slight aliasing, I'll probably stay without freetype-freeworld and with full hinting.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Nerd Likes And Dislikes

I've grown up with windows (and Windows) yet, command line in linux became a irreplaceable companion to me and I've grown to like (and dislike) lots of things that probably aren't that common in to like or dislike (for "normal people"). Here's the short, and maybe interesting list.


  • C macro preprocessor (I really love this one)
  • C programming language
  • Ruby programming language
  • bash
  • Autotools
  • RPM packaging system
  • Plain TeX
  • XFCE
  • midori
  • mplayer2
  • PulseAudio
  • NetworkManager
  • Fedora
  • Matroska video container
  • FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec)
  • IBus input system


  • C++ programming language
  • C# programming language
  • Java programming language
  • CMake
  • PHP
  • Flash
  • Firefox
  • Gnome Shell
  • WYSIWYG HTML editors
  • LaTeX
  • Symbolic Icons (the new hit in GTK3 based apps)
  • Social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn (I move invitations to these to my SPAM folder no matter who sends them)
  • DEB packaging system
  • Pointless limitations of choices exposed in UI (*cough* *cough* g-p-m, gnome-shell, …)
  • Too complex UIs (*cough* *cough* KDE)

What about you?

Thursday, 14 July 2011

T-shirt? Erm, what?

So, after seeing nicu's t-shirt meme I felt a strong urge to join it. However, I don't have any other t-shirts than plain black (or at most dark blue) :-D But an idea sprang to my mind – does it have to be t-shirt? Isn't any piece of cloth good? Why not aikidō-gi? And while I am at it, why not add my complete weaponry? Well, here's the result:

Included weapons are: jō (the one I'm doing tsuki with), bokken (wooden sword; well maybe bokutō – what the hell is the difference between those two words?) and tantō (knife). From anime and various samurai films I picked up that tantō should be kept inside the upper part of kimono, but it wouldn't be on the photo then, right? So I put it where samurais used to put their shōto (short version of katana).

Monday, 4 July 2011

Who the heck are modern desktops for?

This question has been bugging me for a while since GNOME 3. Nowadays in advanced countries, computer education is part of regular school curriculum. Children are taught what is CPU, what is graphics card, what is memory, how to turn on/off computer, how to behave on the net, how to use word processor, tabular calculator, presentation maker, sometimes even databases or easy programming. Unless in really rich school they are taught usually on something like Windows XP, they know the classical desktop. And they are confused by interfaces like Windows 7 and Gnome shell.

I am 24, my first desktop was Windows 3.11 (at school), then I grow up on Windows 95/98/2000 and Windows XP after finally switched to linux. I'm not that old to not be able to adapt, yet after years spent with linux I find the old Windows ineffective (just find something it the long non-categorized menu of theirs or try to run a few apps at once) and just recently I had to navigate Windows 7 with a touchpad. Let me tell you, it was a major pain in the ass. In my family everyone except me now uses Windows 7 on regular basis and they always complain about it. I haven't heard them ever complain about user interface when in Win XP or Gnome 2.

So why do the heck do we need the change that makes an assumption that presenting user with huge icons of every app installed instead of neat two-level categorized menu is more easy to use (it does not take a very bright person to tell that Movie Player would be categorized under Sound&Video)? Why do we need a change that makes an assumption that customization is a bad thing (I believe that different people have different needs and customizing a desktop to certain level can make it more effective to use for them)? Why do we need a change that effectively tells you that having more terminal windows open at once is a bad thing (yes, even though most common terminal emulators have tabs, I still find it more effective in certain cases to have three or four windows of terminal opened at once and nicely tilted on the desktop)? Why do we need a change that hides your favourite apps when not in "Activities" overview?

Who the heck is the modern desktop designed for? Honestly saying, not for me and not for anyone I know personally either.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Vertical Text Layout — How To?

Over the past few years I have been getting more and more interested in Japanese culture, language, aikido, etc. and as some of you might know, traditionally Japanese text is written vertically (starting at top-right corner). Here's an example of such text in LibreOffice Calc (where I discovered how to do it)

What I don't know how to do, or if it's even possible, is typesetting a book / story / poem in such layout. I am basically looking for two approaches:
  1. LibreOffice Writer way. Here I know how to write Japanese, I even have some nice free, but sadly not libre fonts, but I don't know how to set vertical text layout. Anyone knows if it is possible and if so, how to do it?
  2. TeX way. I've been using plain TeX for ages but I still neither know how to typeset Japanese nor how to use vertical text layout there. Any pointers for both of these are welcome.

EDIT: ad 1. Looks like I have been blind. Thanks to Vorbote for useful links. It's as easy as doing Format->Page->Page->Text Direction = Right-to-left (vertical).

Monday, 9 May 2011

Maybe It's Me Who's "Obsolete"

Lately I've been thinking that maybe the reason why I don't get along with GNOME 3 is not gnome's fault but rather my fault. Why? Here's a couple of reasons.
  • I prefer real paper and pen when it comes to math/physics, which however wastes lots of time…
  • Capitalistic society is kind-of maze-like for me.
  • In lots of tasks I prefer CLI/TUI to GUI tools.
  • I have neither facebook nor twitter account.
  • I prefer acoustic musical instruments to electronic ones.
  • I prefer to write (x)html/css in text editor, i.e. with all the tags written by hand.
  • I use TeX.
  • I prefer classical music to popular music (in a sense of rock, metal, hip-hop, pop, disco, ...)
  • I find kissing in public place embarrassing if not inappropriate (isn't that personal stuff?).
  • Sometimes I wish I were born in pre-industrial era in some scarcely-populated forested mountains.
  • I prefer real books to e-books and still read them (currently I'm reading Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami).
  • My primary means of e-communication is e-mail, but I prefer meeting and talking with people IRL.
  • I use mobile phone solely for making calls, writing/reading sms and checking trains' schedules, I don't have a smartphone.
  • I dislike dynamic web, the most I can fathom is youtube, e-shopping and e-banking.
  • I think playing with C preprocessor, fortran, ruby etc. is fun. I don't like Java, C++ and C#.
  • I prefer 2D computer games to 3D ones.
  • I believe getting a girlfriend is always because in the long run I'd like to marry her. I dislike divorce and "love promiscuity" (i.e. changing girlfriends/boyfriends often), (although on the other hand I don't mind different than usual kinds of set-ups [like gay or lesbian marriage, harem, reverse harem, etc.] and consensual prostitution [i.e. offering sexual services as a paid and taxed product without either party being forced into it])
  • I believe that the inside is more important than looks in case of (wo)men.
  • Ok, this list is long enough, isn't it? Time to stop it with: I don't like parties and loud music.

Looking at this list, it seems pretty obvious why I'm frustrated with GNOME 3 and happily switched to XFCE since Fedora 15 (and why, despite me being 23, I still don't have a girlfriend)…

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Killing Anybody Is Not a Reason to Celebrate

In Christianity you have 10 Commandments, one of which tells you not to kill. Buddhism says something along the lines of offering bread to one who throws a stone at you.

Any human being of good will should feel at least a bit sad when another living thing dies. That's part of the reason in some cultures it's considered good manners to thank for food before eating it – not the cook, but the nature (or god[s]).

Yet, people apparently celebrate when someone considered bad is killed. I honestly feel sad and disgusted when I hear of such things. Just how exactly are we better than them (TM) when we're doing exactly the same (forcing our believes onto them, killing many innocent people in the process, and then celebrating when one of them is killed)?

If you want to see better future, start with making yourself better.

That my today's memo.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Another Update to Nodoka Concept Artwork

With another time spared to working on Nodoka I've finished the GLOSSY style concept artwork. See for yourself:

To remind you, here's the MODERN style concept artwork – this will be the default style once the code will have been written…

Before moving on onto the next stage of development I plan to prepare a special style aimed for especially dark themes but I don't have yet a clear image of what it should like yet so *hint, hint* if you'd like to propose something now's the time *hint, hint* ;-)

PS: The progress indicator (the blue round snake-like thing) in GLOSSY style was real pain in the butt to design to look at least approximately how I'd like it to and the result is quite messy. If there's any inkcape guru who might know some pointers how to make it more easily and cleanly, please spare a little bit of your skills with me ;-)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Change is sometimes good, but…

…at other times it might not be so. The example of the latter is IMHO the abrt icon. Originally it was something like this:

and now it looks like this:

What I'm getting at, you might ask. Well, the new icon obviously looks much better and more polished but has one serious problem – I have not the slightest idea what the hell does it mean. Not to talk about the tiny fact that e.g. when it appears in my [bottom] panel (which is transparent and bellow it is F15's default background) it looks like nothing more than a strange 'A'. You know, when the old red siren with exclamation mark appeared everyone could tell that something went wrong, now he'll be just confused with what the strange 'A' means.

On a side note – almost all these GNOME3 greyscale icons are IMHO either ugly (good example of this is the new input-method sys-tray icon) or unusable with any other background than what they were designed for. Please, I want my colourful icons in systray in XFCE back, tell me what to do.

On another side note – if I find the time, I'll write a, hopefully short, critique on Gnome 3 default GTK theme Adwaitha which I think has great albeit wasted potential drown in inconsistency (like some widgets are designed very nicely with evidently lots of effort being put into them while others look like half-finished lets-put-something-plain-and-suggestive-here-and-maybe-improve-it-later kind of designs).

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Beefy Miracle Lost, But…

… since the winner is Verne, I believe the time is ripe to finish the old Gears theme proposal from F10:

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Java VM Works Again In WebKit

While there are some people hyped about firefox4 and gnome3 releases I'm silently enjoying my Fedora 15 with XFCE and midori web-browser. And yesterday I finally noticed an update that makes openjdk java vm working in webkit based browsers (chrome, midori, arora, epiphany, …) again:
So I can finally use midori for everything again. Yay! Thanks whoever who fixed this!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

MPlayer2 Experimental Package

Yesterday I came across a fork of mplayer called simply mplayer2. When I read it supports ordered chapters, I knew I had no other choice but to build it (as there does not seem to be any other distro package for than for gentoo). To my surprise, the build itself takes about 10-15 minutes so apart from figuring out and installing all the deps it was pretty fast process. The resultant SPEC file used to build the package can be found on my fedorapeople space. It uses same executable name, so it cannot coexist with mplayer and I didn't bother working around that.

Some of its killing features include:
  • Ordered Chapters (finally is this Matroska feature supported on linux!)
  • Dynamically loads system libraries, including ffmpeg and libass (which among other things means that when ffmpeg is build with multithreading support, mplayer2 is prepared to take advantage of it)
  • Uses libass for rendering subtitles by default (yay, finally vertical Japanese subtitles are rendered properly)
  • Does not unpause paused movie when e.g. switching to/from fullscreen, seeking, etc.
Plus it seems at first sight that frame-dropping works without any problems (I always had problems with it in mplayer).

So, I'd like to add, if you want to try it, here's your chance but I warn you that it's not your usual high-quality package you are used to in Fedora ;-) Plus, it does not include gmplayer and mencoder as the devs decided to drop these from the codebase (you can read more about that on mplayer2 faq page)

And on a almost unrelated note, first thing I watched using mplayer2 was 君に届け [Kimi ni Todoke, Reaching You], the live action movie version. I have to say I liked it a lot (I admit that despite being healthy boy, I have a soft spot for East Asian romance often found in shoujo manga) and starting today I have new favourite actress :-D Her name is Renbutsu Misako (Renbutsu is surname), she's twenty and she played Chizuru (one of the main protagonist's best friends, see the picture bellow). For those not being able to read Japanese: she's from Tottori Prefecture (west part of Honshu, about 200km north-east from Hiroshima), she likes guitar and drawing picture books and her special skills are piano and karate. Quite an ideal woman for me :-D

Update: I've been reminded that fedorapeople is bound by the same rules as fedoraproject with regards to forbidden stuff, so until I find a better location you can find only SPEC (that AFAIK does not qualify as redistributing patent encumbered software) there – you should be able to download the source from upstream directly and build the package, right ;-) Have I already said that I hate software patents with a passion?

Update (2011/04/08): I've updated to final 2.0 release. Apart from that the update contains a fix for debuginfo package build, disables mp3lib build (which was producing broken audio for me) and contains a config file (I shamelessly stole the config file laying in source and edited it for fedora needs) which sets pulse as default audio output (alsa isn't performing 100%, sometimes mplayer2 refuses to "unpause" with alsa audio driver).

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Make XFCE Rock, Part I. Panel Layout

Bunch of us are unhappy with the direction of Gnome 3. For us, the best desktop to replace gnome with is probably XFCE. However XFCE isn't as mature as Gnome 2 was before Gnome 3 took over. So here's the idea: make XFCE first class citizen in Fedora. And this blog post is the first (and one of the both most easy most controversial) part of that great task—the default panel layout.

I think the current default layout suffers many shortcomings and redesign is needed. After some initial discussion of what applets we should use I sketched and propose for consideration two layouts. One single-panel and one two-panel.

The single panel layout is very minimalistic and tries to retain good usability within the constraints:

The two-panel layout on the other hand can sport some more applets and thus improve the usability a lot. I believe that the splitting of applets into the panels should be easy to understand/use, functional and look stylish. I obviously see analogy between panel menus and app menus – hence they are in top panel. Similarly for window buttons – they practically work like tabs and we are used from web browsers to have tabs on top.

Next idea is for workspace switcher – it's best to put it somewhere where it is both easily accessible and not getting in the way. Similarly for lock-screen and log-out buttons. Obvious positions for these are corners then and as shutdown button is quite commonly in bottom-right corner (old versions of GDM, LXDM, …) it's quite easy to place them. We use the remaining corner for clock. And finally group together all other applets that use icons. And voila, we have almost dock-like bottom panel (just add some transparency to it and you'll see the similarity). And of course, not to forgot, one of the most important decision here is that window list and system tray should be on different panels as they each tend to take up lots of space.

Feel free to join the discussion either on fedora xfce list, dedicated wiki page or here ;-)

Monday, 14 March 2011

Should I Trust a Digital Thermometer?

I feel a little ill (it's end of flu season here, but I probably have just some light cold) so I measured my body temperature (in armpit). Thrice. With these values:
  1. 35.8 °C,
  2. 35.9 °C,
  3. 35.7 °C.
Should I trust that? Especially if my colleague has measured himself a normal body temperature of 36.7 °C. I wonder if I just put the thermometer wrongly in the armpit or if it's measuring incorrectly… I wish I had a good old mercurial thermometer to check…

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Tiny Update to Nodoka Glossy Concept Artwork

So, yesterday evening and today after lunch (I was cooking kung pao) I had some spare time so I progressed a little on the nodoka glossy style concept artwork. From the experience I've gained over the years of working on nodoka I have to say that designing scrollbars is one of the hardest part of widget theming… Here's the preview (click on the image to see it in full size):

And as usual, comments welcome, help even more so ;-)

PS: for the people who'd like to complain about blue, windows or mac:
  • This is concept art. Colours are previews.
  • Blue is the colour of Fedora.
  • I like this shade of blue.
  • Yet I don't like the blue Windows XP theme.
  • I haven't ever used Mac and I don't know very much the theme they're using, this concept is based on what Andy Fitzsimon once send me ;-)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Unhappy with Gnome 3? Just ditch it!

What are the reasons to be unhappy? I bet most of you would guess. I'd just like to add that there's substantial difference between KDE 4.0 and GNOME 3.0 release and that is — while KDE 4.0 was just premature release, GNOME 3.0 is broken by design. No amount following minor releases can fix that. Yes, most of the changes to GTK 3.0 are good and enable people to work with this toolkit in a better way, but that's where GNOME 3 goodies ends. Unless you want a highly usable open-source software for tablet, Gnome 3 probably isn't for you.

And as Fedora 15 Alpha is behind the doors it's a good opportunity to try out other desktop. If you liked Gnome 2.x series you're probably left up with two options: KDE, which finally matured to be feature complete again, and XFCE which is steadily becoming better. LXDE seems poorly maintained at the moment so I wouldn't recommend it. And of course, if you, in addition, want a gtk based desktop then XFCE is the only option (right now).

XFCE is surprisingly configurable and with a bit of effort it can be turned from ugly duckling to pretty (and usable!) desktop. Say, would you guess the screenshot bellow is actually XFCE?

OK, I agree, it's not as mature as KDE or Gnome 2.x series but I guess if enough of us put our money where our mouths are we could accelerate its development considerably. As a starter, let's identify the issues ;-)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

New Toy (External Sound Card)

After buying myself headphones from bose I thought it would be good to also replace the crappy integrated audio with something better. After some goofing around I bought Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro:

The good thing is that it, surprisingly, works even in the 5.1 surround setup out of box (on F-15). The not so good thing is that unless you plug it in during boot you won't get anything more than stereo. I wonder why :-D The sound is pretty good, I haven't made any measurements but I noticed a significant improvement both on the sound and noise front (basically, the music sounds better and noise is beyond my recognition level). So basically I'm happy with this buy. Of course, pulseaudio makes life really easy in this case, I wonder how it would have worked without it (alsamixer just crashes when trying to change device, xfce4-mixer does not see the card directly, only via pulseaudio).

However, this also came with a simple remote control and I have no idea how to make it work… Pointers to how-to's for dummies appreciated. Not that I care that much, but would be nice to have it also working as opposed to just collecting dust ;-) Same goes for the metallic volume knob (apparently it could be also handled via lirc).

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Two Things in F15 That Are New For Me

  • I switched to Fedora n+1 even before Alpha for the first time. Full-time. And I'm not looking back.
  • I'm using XFCE now and I'm not looking back.

So if I had to find anything positive on GNOME 3 it would be that it brings more attention to alternatives, mostly XFCE. So I propose this: "Let's stop shouting about Gnome 3, where we are not being listened to, and try our luck with XFCE." So I started a wiki page for gathering suggestions (feel free to add yours/start discussion on its discussion page). The goal is: make XFCE rock in Fedora 16.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Why I Think Gnome 3 Is a Dead End

In short because it's cat-dog. What I mean is – what is the new gnome target audience? To me it seems like it tries to satisfy everyone which obviously cannot work. Let's look at the potential users who might want to use it.

Newcomers. Imagine a computer virgin. He buys a computer (like he would buy say a television) already preconfigured and pushes the power button. Now what should he do when it is fully booted? How to present the workspace to him? I think "start" button from windows wasn't a totally wrong idea – the user sees it and thinks: "oh, I'm probably supposed to start here". The menu itself however was always badly executed. Too many applications with strange names, sometimes even in categories.

Gnome shell uses activities button instead of start button which is probably a little bit less suggestive but should give away pretty easily what it does. And instead of menu you're presented with table. Again filled with zillions of icons and non-familiar names like firefox. What the hell is that? And the user is lost. Now one thing that I don't completely understand is the need for activities button at all if there was made a decision to keep desktop clean of icons. The desktop could be well used for presenting the user with what he can do. However the main point is how to present him the apps. Surely a big globe labeled "browse the web", two heads seemingly chatting labelled "chat with friends" or notebook with pen writing something on it labeled "write a document" would give the user much better idea what to do than firefox wrapped around globe labeled "firefox", blue connected heads labeled "empathy" and stylized oo-writer icon labeled " Writer".

Furthermore, the less options the user is presented with, the better. He does not need to be presented on his workspace with 10 different apps doing the same thing. The maximum that could be presented to him is some sort of artsy icon labeled "personalise your workspace" with all the settings. The settings would, as its label suggest, let him stylize his desktop look and for slightly more knowledgeable users let them choose whether they want to browse the internet with firefox or chrome (for example) or how early they want screensaver to kick in in case of inactivity.

Also, since people use their notebooks increasingly also for presenting, setting up dual head should be almost one of the easiest things on the world. User plugs in an external projector/monitor, dialog pops up that he did so and how he wants to set it up – clone or extend his current workspace. Nothing more, nothing less.

He is also the type of user that will probably not work on multiple things at once, however e.g. when writing a document he'll switch to and fro between the composer window and one or other window with a reference he uses. This needs to be done also suggestively and ideally without zooming out/in. Probably some sort of semi-intelligent sliding.

As you can guess, gnome-shell tries a bit to appeal to these users but it's stuck up half way because of the following groups.

Windows/Mac Escapee. This kind of users already know how to use a computer, have some favourite apps and are expecting to be more or less able to keep their current work-flow. Gnome shell breaks that and will probably scare them away.

Power users. Working with many apps at the same time, relying a lot on terminal, customizing their desktop to best fit their needs. These will be annoyed with how gnome shell works. It slows their workflow, shuts them off of some settings they've been using for ages (like turn off display on laptop lid close) presents them with unnecessary animations. I don't know how for others, but for me gnome-shell makes e.g. writing a code (which in my case requires switching to and fro between terminal, file manager, gedit and web browser) pain it the butt.

Still from the design it seems like these people were thought of as well when making gnome shell. But that's the problem. It stopped halfway. It tries to be both for power users and newbies and ends up neither. Sorry, but I really can't see a way to satisfy both camps and that's why I think gnome 3 is bound to fail. And it's going to drag Fedora 15 down with it (being the default DE). But only time will show whether I'm right or wrong.

Disclaimer. This post contains only my personal opinions and it does not represent any usability studies or interest groups' positions and as such it might be utterly wrong, so the best you can do is to disagree with me and wait a few months/years to see who was actually wrong :D

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Keeping up with Fedora 15 and XFCE

Since my last blog post about xfce (to which I switched because gnome 3 is broken by design for me) I've been able to get more comfortable there and even fixed some of the issues as you can see on the next screenshot.

I have to say that I "adjusted" to xfce much faster than I thought I would and I'm even not looking back. Yes, there are still some gnome apps (like the gnome volume control or evince) that I keep using but overall my desktop is pretty much "degnomiffied" now. I especially like how quick things work in xfce when compared to gnome. But here and there I still run by a problem, especially given that I'm on pre-alpha release of fedora ;-) So let's remind ourselves what the current set of problems is.

Thunar lacks tabs. Ok, I can live without two-panel layout (drag-n-drop between windows saves the day), but living without tabs is really pain in the butt. Someone should explain the thunar devs that this is a killer feature that must be present in all modern browsers, be it web browsers, ftp browsers or file browsers. Furthemore, thunar does not seem to be on friendly terms with archive mounter. How the hell am I supposed to access the mounted archive after I mount it?

Window Buttons lacks ability to manually sort the buttons. It surprisingly annoys me a lot when the buttons are ordered differently than I'd like them to be…

Setting up dual head sucks. Not only it somehow refuses to set-up a manually added (but supported) mode, it also does not offer any other layouts than clone.

Java does not work with webkit based browsers ! You know, seriously, there should be at least some minimal regression testing before new java is pushed. I use it a lot, in F14 it works, but in F15 it's broken again. No java in midori, no java in chrome/chromium, no java in epiphany. You know, I really hate that I have to keep firefox only to be able to use java :-(

Either no XFCE or no sound. New gdm does not let you choose session, however startxfce4 from runlevel 3 leaves me with no sound. And thanks to complex dependency chains I'm now unable to update half of my system in order to be able to both use xfce and have sound working. Help appreciated.

Is it plymouth or systemd that's half-broken? Looks like the system is able to boot within about 34 seconds (at leasts that's what systemd messages tell me), however then nothing happens (runlevel 3 without rhgb quiet). Pressing enter gives me tty login. In runlevel 5 (again without rhgb quiet) works ok, but runlevel 5 with rhgb quiet makes the boot be about 1.30 minutes long… Furthermore, boot.log is empty. Nice…

At least, after I updated kernel and xorg packages I got full colour depth displayed again. Feels like Fedora 15 Alpha is close :-D

It feels nice to be almost on the bleeding edge :-)

What's Up With Nodoka

It's been a while since I've written something about nodoka and as some questions keep flowing I decided to write up a short status update. Let's start from the beginning. When gtk3 started to get into Fedora during F14 development I updated the engine to work with it. However as time and gtk3 development progressed the themeing was completely rewritten in a way that basically warrants a complete engine rewrite to make it work properly.

So I'm afraid I have to disappoint you all as you'll have to live without nodoka for gtk3 for still some time (basically until I find enough motivation and time to port it). Of course if there'd be a volunteer(s) who would port the engine code and/or rewrite at least one of the themes to work with gtk3 that would be greatly appreciated.

However, I've not been completely stale either. Since I'll need a rewrite for the gtk3 version as well I slowly resumed on the design part of things and updated a little the glossy style. Here's what I've got so far, comments are welcome.

And here's the other style concept work (that I completed some months ago) for comparison:

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Nitpicking on XFCE

As you might have noticed together with switching to Rawhide I've also switched to XFCE recently. Now that I'm quite used to it and have set it up in a way that it looks almost like my previous gnome set up, there are still some things that I don't like (or I am just dumb enough to don't know how to get rid of them :D).

So let's start with an obligatory screen-shot of my current desktop.
And now to actual complaints ;-) Beginning with the things that are on the screen-shot. I cannot drag-n-drop window buttons between themselves. I used this a lot in gnome to resort the windows for the ordering more functional than (like keeping the mail client always on the furthest left), I does not seem to be able to do that with xfce. Next comes the clock applet. I've found three none of which is perfect (one does not show date, another one does not have transparent backgrounds) with the one displayed being best. But as you see it's a bit cramped. IMHO there should be some space between the time and date, or an option to display it along side, not one above the other…

So, that was the top panel, now for desktop. For some reason right-clicking on the desktop peaks the cpu load and takes a while before menu appears (only for the first try, subsequent tries are reasonably fast). But the main issue are the filled rounded rectangles behind icon labels and way too big grid – I don't want only the wallpaper behind the icon labels and I want the icons to be closer together (while still this big). Another problem is when clicking on an icon it always opens thunar instead of the default file manager.

Now for the things in bottom panel. As I recall the workspace switcher behaves a little bit odd when setting up – when you switch number of rows of workspaces it takes effect only after re-logging which is a bit confusing (one is led to believe that it does not works only to be confronted with a working 2-row set-up after next log in).

Next is thunar. It seems to be a nice file manager but it lacks two killing features that were added in recent gnome releases to nautilus – tabs and two-panel browsing. While tabs are just more efficient substitutions for multiple windows, two-panel browsing makes moving and/or copying files around really pleasant. I hope the devs have it on their to-do list because, as I wrote before, using nautilus in xfce is kind of suboptimal.

And probably my final complaint is about setting up dual head. At home I have plasma TV which I can connect to via VGA cable. The problem is that while it supports 1368x768 60Hz resolution via this connection, it reports only 1024x768 60Hz, so I have to add that mode manually via xrandr. So far this is OK, this way it worked before in gnome as well. However even when I add that mode, the xfce config utility stubbornly refuses to set it up. Sigh. And to top it, there does not seem to be any way, in gui, to set the two monitors (integrated display and TV in this case) to be say next to each other. They're always over themselves and again I have to use xrandr directly to set the layout correctly.

And so that's probably all. And despite these little issues, I think XFCE is a really nice desktop environment almost ready to harbour all escapees from Gnome 3 in Fedora 15 ;-) In short, fix these above mentioned issues and it would probably be fully ready ;-)

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

F15 Alpha Wallpaper — Package Review Needed

So, it's the time of year again, alpha freeze approaches and first version of wallpaper is being packaged and thus I need someone to do a quick review. I could do a swap review if desired.

And here's an obligatory screenshot (yes, it is rawhide and no, it is not gnome, it is xfce).

Comments on the wallpaper are welcome (as well as pointers on how to make it appear in xfce background chooser other than adding manually).

EDIT: Thanks to Tim Lauridsen the package is now reviewed :-)

Monday, 31 January 2011

Back to the Future – On Rawhide Again

So, I decided to give Rawhide a go and installed it as my second system (and thus replacing F12, because I skipped F13). So, here are some thoughts.

Given my position on gnome-shell (I really don't like it) I decided to give a go to something lightweight, so I downloaded lxde nightly build. Aah, it was a disaster. Whatever display manager was supposed to start was crashing, so I had to log in to tty and run startx manually. That worked, luckily. I didn't like the booted desktop environment one bit, but lots of other bits so I installed it to hard-drive. Of course, it haven't fixed the booting issue.

So I tried to set it up as I'd like, but eventually gave up. Few weeks after that, I downloaded Desktop live and booted. My impression was: "have my PC turned to next-gen TV, err home multimedia center?" Still I decided to install it (to replace the lxde try), but no luck – due to a bug in anaconda, it thinks it's not live image…

So I've done it the harder way. Reboot to lxde, log-in, update, group-install gnome, install system-switch-displaymanager-gnome and set display manager to gdm. Nice, after that I finally got working graphical log-in, although during boot error message appears, that something cannot find root, but apparently it works. Let me add a little side comment here: the boot sequence is totally useless. Even if I escape from the graphical plymouth progress indicator, not boot messages appear. Whatsoever. How the hell am I supposed to tell that the booting actually is still in progress and not hogged up on some service?

But back to the main theme. So I logged in to gnome-shell (to my disappointment same looking as on desktop nightly) and tried it to use for a while. And I have to say, what was bad is even worse and the most important things I wanted (useful and quick way to switch between windows in one concrete task) are still not there. Desktop/task visualisation got small with no windows indicators on it whatsoever, so how the hell am I supposed to tell to which task do I want to switch? If I had to summarize my impression of gnome shell, it would be probably disappointment with trying to make PC from work tool into a tool for consuming, i.e. gnome shell would be awesome if it was a user interface to next-gen home media center or tv, but it's irritating when you actually want to work using it.

Next, not succeeding in finding a way to switch back to the old-school gnome, I group-installed xfce. I'm pretty impressed how fast and responsive these light-weight things are. On the flip side I had to get rid of gmixer to have only one sound-controlling applet in system try (why the hell do they still ship gmixer when pulseaudio mixer is now superior to it in more than one way?). Next I had a little trouble with configuring the panels – no spacing thingie, desktops do not show in two rows until next log in, there's no way to make them transparent… Texts bellow icons on desktop have some weird solid color background and there seems to be no way to turn it off, I cannot resort window buttons in "Window Buttons" panel applet, there seems to be no way to turn on compositing… But overall xfce seems to be usable.

I even switched, for the time being, to sylpheed mail client, which was installed by default on lxde spin. Even though its icons are rather ancient, the user interface is clean and easy to use and it seems much faster than evolution. But there still seem to be applications from gnome that I need like empathy, nautilus (yes I got addicted to two panel mode pretty hard), rhythmbox.

So in short, unless gnome-shell is postponed again, so long and thanks for all the fish and count me as new xfce user :-D

Oh, and btw. despite being still pre-alpha, rawhide is actually working pretty well (apart from annoying occasional graphic errors, new black&white gnome try icons [see the picture bellow] and unfinished gtk3 theme)!

EDIT: Actually I just found that compositing is possible with xfce so I have the bottom panel transparent again and windows have shadows :-)

EDIT 2: And now I have found how to rid myself of the weird looking frame around system try and how to add expansible space into panel so I have the bottom panel spanning whole screen again. Nice, I'm starting to like xfce more and more.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Nothing's Perfect — Funny SPAM Detection

I've been itching to share this experience with everyone for a while now, but never got to actually write it. You know, I'm using gmail and I am receiving hundreds of emails (from mailing lists, bugzillas, real people etc.) each day (and for that reason I have a lot of filters to keep them sorted). And a tiny amount of these are SPAM. Sometimes google fails to detect obviously SPAM as such and I can understand that, however it is almost ironic how some perfectly sane and legitimate mails end up in SPAM folder. Ever since I noticed a mail from my thesis' advisor in SPAM folder I check every mail there. And among those that almost 100% end up there while they shouldn't are mails to webkit-dev mailing list from people with mail address. Funny, isn't it?

Monday, 24 January 2011

New Books to Read

I wouldn't usually write in my blog about new books I bought, but today I bought two books that I think look a bit weird together :-D First was an award winning novel Kafka on the Shore by Murakami Haruki, another one was one of your usual second volume of shōnen (for boys) harem (with lots of girls centered around male protagonist) manga Negima!. So I took that as an opportunity to test out the so-called "Auction" mode of my new compact camera (yeah, I don't have the money to buy something really good like Nicu has ;-)) Casio EX-H5 (black version). Here's the photo:

And as a bonus a few photos taken from where I live (as you can notice, the image quality isn't very good, but I couldn't expect more for the prize >_<):