My two cents on improving GNOME

Note: This is not bashing, but constructive criticism. This post is based on my personal experiences.

I have been a GNOME user since I have jumped into Linux bandwagon. Even though trying out KDE and XFCE, I always had to fall back to GNOME even though people are said never to be happy with it. As I feel, just jumping here and there, changing DE’s won’t help. If I feel something is lacking or some feature is buggy, I would surely poiny it out. The criticism would be constructive. Just have a look.

Nautilus

Even though Nautilus is not like Konqueror, its still far from perfect. I have always faced problems using this file explorer. It crashes, freezes and sometimes doesn’t generate thumbnails when it should. In my last hardy installation I installed apport just to report bugs more properly. To my surprise, it always came up once or twice a day with “nautilus crashed” report. Nautilus suddenly dies or when I click Quit, apport shows up a bug report. Even though it is tolerable, one day I met this error report which made me go mad. I didn’t try deciphering what went wrong, just clicked on Close and slept 😦

Crash Report Crashed
Now what to do next?

Maybe I should shift to Dolphin for the time being, but Konquerer is no no for me.

Gnome Power Management

This is a place which can be improved a lot. Let’s have a look at the interface.

GNOME Power Monitor can be improved
Want to change the minimum time

“Put display to sleep when inactive for” shows a minimum of 11 minutes.  Sometimes when I go to sleep and set a torrent on download, I would like to screen to go off immediately, say 2 mins. The minimum time should not be so high. I know a simple workaround would be to hack the source code and re-compile. Here is an example of the geekery.

Update: Anon pointed out in the comments that the minimum time is greater than the minimum time the screensaver comes in action. So, what I wanted to say exactly is here , maybe it’s stupid in the first sense, but this is what I look for every night. This won’t drastically change GNOME, but can surely give me what I want (or maybe others too)

Let’s imagine I want my display to turn off instantly? Is there anything which allows he to do so? The workaround is to type this command in the terminal

xset dpms force off

Will every tom, dick and harry would be able to do this? I too figure it our googling here and there.

GNOME System Monitor

This is one application I love a lot since it shows everything I need. The biggest problem is the amount of CPU it sucks while running. If you don’t believe, then check this Bug Report on GNOME Bugzilla and on Launchpad bugs

This problem would seem hardly of any relevance, but it defeats the purpose of having this app in the first place. The advise of using “top” isn’t so handy. Everyone doesn’t know about “top”.

Gnome System Monitor going crazy
Gnome System Monitor going crazy

GNOME Configuration Editor

Please add some sense to gconf-editor. It is no better than Windows Registry. GNOME doesn’t have much configuration options available via GUI and for advanced hacks, we need to fall back to this place. Initially I was taken aback by such confusing interface. The only thing which is better than windows registry is that the key names are a bit sensible. I can understand that gconf-editor allows fine tuning the advanced settings, but still it is hardly of any use when you need it badly.

Sometimes you might face a problem that the background isn’t being able to set howsoever I try. The fix was in this app. You need to move to /desktop/background/ and check the draw_background checkbox. The sensible names of the keys save us or else it would be just another nightmare

gconf-editor-background

Which Programmer are you?

It’s written just for humour, no offence meant to any language

*

You know you are a Python programmer……. when one of your finger is always on the Tab key

*

You know you are a PHP Programmer…….. when you always have an urge to type $_FOO[‘BLAH’] every now and then

*

You know you are a Java Programmer……  when you have a fetish for looong looong identifier names like ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException

*

You know you are a C programmer…………. when you think pointers is the only true thing that exists on this world.

*

You know you are a VB programmer……….. when you think it is the only real programming language which exists and you recommend it to a lot of newbie who are fresh into programming

*

You know you are a JavaScript programmer…………. when you think that JavaScript is the future of programming languages and you eat, sleep and dream of DOM.

*

You know you are a VC++ programmer………. if you don’t hate VC++

*

You know you are a Perl programmer…………    if half of your code contains only regex

*

By Ankur Sethi:

You know you are a Cocoa/ObjC programmer……… when you have this in mind: [anExtremelyLongIdentifier someRandomArgument:foo anotherRandomArgument:bar];

A Dream Distro, looking from a noob’s perspective

Catch any Tom, Dick and Harry and ask him “What is Linux?”. What is the answer you expect? The result I get is “Linux is the opium of the geeks”. The image which they have of Linux is people sitting in front of black and white screen typing some obsecure characters and the computer replies back with even more weird results.

For the time being, consider that you were nowhere into the field of computers. Some friend of you asks you to try out Linux. How would you feel? To feel the same you need to first unmount the geekism in you and walk a mile in the shoes of a newbie. The points I mention here, is my requirements for the dream distro and even same for most of the windows convert.

I know many of them are not possible as of now. It can be a milestone for the future.

Everything just works

Isn’t this a very important requirement? I can’t spend hours setting up softwares and installing drivers or fixing them. Configuration and fine-tuning is something different than what I mean to say. I need productivity – install and start working!

Open Drivers

Nothing sucks more than installing a distro and finding that due to driver problems, you hardware refuses to work or works poorly. Broadcom/Atheros wirless, Nvidia/ATI graphics are well know for killing potential new Linux users. Broadcom wifi chipsets gives driver problem when it is required to work, e.g. conferences, seminars etc. Hope its is fixed by now.

I can expect companies to follow Intel’s path even though its quite tough. Intel’s wireless,wired and graphics chipset have open driver. They all work out of box without any glitches.

Minimal Bloat, only important configuration options exposed

Who would like to Install Linux and end up finding 4 apps for each damn task? Keep bloat at the lowest level possible, at the same time make installation of new software darn easy. Notifications should come up if installation of something new is requirement.

Please keep the unwanted and less used config options under “Advanced” button. Only the most required and most accessed config option should be exposed. More the config options, more is the confusion!

Suspend-Resume-Hibernate

Many of the people whom I shifted to Linux were really pissed off when suspend-hibernate simply refused to work. No one wants to re-start their system each time they need it. Latest distros like Ubuntu and Fedora re doing a very neat job of decreasing boot time. Remember, it was the horrible boot time of Vista which had pissed off so many users.

Looks and Artwork

People who have become full time Linux user simply ignore the look factor and concentrate on functionality. This is not the case of others. Remember, every other person is not a geek. Never expect them to know  things beforehand. Teach them. They would surely have a knack for beauty, fancy and looks. They would surely want to show it to their friends. Compiz is an answer for WoW effect which Vista popularized and Mac people show it daily to every passer-by.

A community which doesn’t say RTFM and STFW

Believe it or not, the newcomers are really pissed off by these remarks. If you don’t have time to reply, ignore them. If you want to say these two words, then answer their doubt and append a line at the last explaining that they should RTFM and STFW, that too in a polite way.

There are many users who are very friendly and answer the same doubt again and again on the mailing lists or forums. For example, “The Absolute Beginner’s Section” is meant only for people who heard the name of the disto just 24 hrs back. I can find same doubts again and again and again. “How to install codecs?”,”How to install software”,”How to enable this….”. They are never dealt with rudeness. The same question is answered again and again by patient volunteers with appending at the end of post “Next time, you can get even quicker solution if you use Google Search“. Isn’t it  an extremely sweet way to say STFW? 😀

To Ubuntu bashers: Stop sulking and get a life

Clarification: I mistakenly used the term “two and a half hours” instead of “two and a half years” in the post below. Sorry for my typo! Corrected it!

Looks as if Ubuntu bashing has become a fashion lately. After getting fed up with MS, Apple and Adobe now its chance for Ubuntu to face the wrath of the trolls. I have used Ubuntu for two and a half years and researched a lot. At this stage I can give a fitting reply to anyone who feels that Ubuntu does what it shouln’t.

Allegation: Ubuntu doesn’t contribute upstream

Is upstream contribution the only way to show your faith in development? Isnt distribution and making it available to the public a big work? Before Ubuntu there were many other distros including much famous Fedora and OpenSuse. Whenever a new version came out, users from one distro would shift to another. Did anyone try to bring people from windows world? Ubuntu made its own ground, it never brought as much people from other distros as expected. Most of the new started using Ubuntu. Ubuntu showed them that there is actually light at the end of a tunnel which they have always felt as “dark”.

Allegation: Ubuntu is spoiling the market by putting in money from Shuttleworth’s Foundation

So what’s wrong in doing so? Who doesn’t want money to come in the FOSS world? The biggest problem has always been that people consider free as free of cost even though it means differently. Actually *most* of the free software is free of cost. Companies come to think that developing apps for Linux isnt feasible since no one wants to buy software. So isn’t Shuttleworth’s attempt a bold move? He knows that Cannonical isnt reaping profits, still he is financing in a hope that the community becomes self supporting one fine day.

Allegation: Ubuntu doesn’t have bleeding edge packages to match with Fedora

If you think that bleeding edge is the only way to judge the  quality of distro then you are flawed! More bleeding edge package mean more chances of bugs and more instability. Ubunt strikes a fine balance between bleeding edge and stability. If Fedora provides 2.6.29 kernel in Fedora 11 and Ubuntu has 2.6.28 kernel, then by no means they are light years apart! Stop howling and get over it! I have personally noticed that Ubuntu uses even numbers like 22,24,26,28 etc. Well, its just my observation as far as I can recall.

Allegation: Ubuntu is for Kids

Reason? Just because everything works? Or just because it is simple? In such a case, Mac should also be tagged for being an OS for extreme n00bs and its is said to “always work” and not “just work”. It is a mature distros which focusses a lot on bringing out the best features to the public.

Allegation: Users don’t have much say in proposed features

One word left to say – WTF! Looks like you have no idea of UbuntuForums, Brainstorm, mailing lists and the IRC channels. Which other distro has such an organized brainstorm as Ubuntu? Not just they are looked after, but many of the  features of upcoming Jaunty Jackalope were listed down and demanded in brainstorm. Two of them being “Faster resume” and “Fix Suspend/Resume/Hibernate”.

Final summed up response

Earlier it was PCLOS community which started bashing Ubuntu to gain some press, now I find that Fedora community is leading it. No offence meant, but as day progresses Fedora community is starting to whine about Ubutu’s featues and all those nonsense. Even Fedora Ambassadors are talking shit about Ubuntu!!! I was never against Fedora(why should I be?) and have used it before.

I never see any such so called bashing from the side of Ubuntu community. They probably use that time improving the distro rather than talking nonsense. Every other damn day I find articles from Fedora fanboys comparing Ubuntu and Fedora and delivering flawed results based on some irrational logic to show Fedora as champion. Do they want to get noticed in the community? If yes, then better check out articles by Ubuntu fanboys – only promoting Ubuntu, no bashing. Sweet!

The better side is that Ubuntu and Fedora are giving each other a solid competition, the final winner is no other than the end-users. Constructive criticism is one thing, but being pessimist and hitting Ubuntu for every fact just showcases the lack of rationalism.

How n00bs handle Linux

Have you heard from n00bs that Linux sucks? It does, since they can’t get what they fantasize using the latter.

This cartoon isn’t meant to be vulgar, just to make people smile. Illustration inspired from XKCD and original idea by Rwik

How n00bs use Linux
How n00bs use Linux

Checklist for fresh Ubuntu installs

Now don’t bash me just for installing proprietary and restricted software on my computer. I have no other option for the time-being. I am too a free software evangelist.

Each time I (re)install Ubuntu on my laptop or home PC or on a friend’s laptop, I always forget some or the other software which I have to download at a later date. This is sometimes troublesome if I don’t have net working at my home and take the laptop to a wired workplace to download the packages. Here are the packages which I usually download and you would always find it as a part.

This includes many proprietary softwares as well, if you know a good replacement, please do take pains to inform me about it.

Runtimes

  • Adobe Integrated Runtime (proprietary)
  • Java 6 (free)

Applications

  • Twhirl (proprietary)
  • Terminator (free)
  • xChm (free)
  • Inkscape (free)
  • TweetDeck (?)
  • K3B (free)
  • Scribus (free)

Networking (incl Internet)

  • Thunderbird (free)
  • Epiphany (free)
  • FileZilla (free)
  • WireShark (free)
  • XChat (free)
  • Opera (?)
  • KTorrent (free)
  • Bluetooth OBEX Server (free)

System Tools and Softwares

  • Yakuake (free)
  • VirtualBox OSE (free)
  • Konsole (free)
  • QGRUBEditor (free)
  • APTonCD (free)
  • Wine (free)

Programming (Editors + SDK)

  • Geany (free)
  • Glade Interface Desinger (free)
  • Komodo (proprietary)
  • Netbeans (free)
  • Qt Designer + Qt Creator (free)
  • Qt SDK (free)
  • GTK+ Development Headers (free)
  • Leafpad (free)
  • Emacs (free)
  • Amaya (free)
  • QT4 Linguist and Assistant (free)
  • MySQL (free)
  • Apache (free)
  • PHP (free)
  • SQLiteman (free)

Multimedia

  • VLC Media PLayer (free)
  • Amarok (free)
  • Banshee (free)
  • Last.fm Scrobbler (free)
  • Miro Internet TV (free)
  • RealPlayer (proprietary)
  • Gstreamer Codecs (proprietary) (restricted)
  • Xine (proprietary) (restricted)

Configuration

  • Dust Theme (free)
  • Nautilus Action Configurations (free)
  • Nautilus Open Terminal (free)
  • Compiz Config Settings Manager (free)

Wishlist for Karmic Koala

As everyone might be knowing that Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope is heading towards release. It had lots of beautiful and useful improvements. Fixing bugs and adding features is not achieved by a Magic Wand. Developers toil hard to keep the quality of the release at the best possible level.

Since Jaunty Final release is scheduled in April 3rd week, there is hardly any time left for feature requests. Feature Freeze had taken place long back and after the final release, its Karmic Koala on which most of the developers would show their expertise.

Here goes my wishlist for the Karmic, some of them would sound strange or weird or even impossible. All criticisms are invited. Some of them have been inspired by Ubuntu Brainstorm

  • Most of the people complain that Ubuntu is quite slow. They use it in a Live Environment and come to this conclusion. Since we don’t expect everyone to be geeks, the average user doesn’t know that running Ubuntu as a live session can sometimes be painfully slow. This leads to bad name and hurts too. “The solution to this problem is to tell the end user that using Ubuntu as Live can be slow. To harness the real power they need to install it. This can be in any form, as a dialog box or any other way which suits the developers”
  • C programming is taught in most of the schools and colleges. Every teacher tells them that Linux has an excellent compiler built in called gcc. They go and try to compile their programs, and then “header file not found”. What’s the use of including gcc when glibc6-dev isn’t installed? This situation is even though when glibc6-dev package is in the CD. To counter-reply this fact, people claim that Ubuntu is for n00bs. Isn’t Ubuntu for all those college students in large numbers who too need C headers for the college work?
  • Guess what bootloader is another thing which sometimes causes nightmares. We do need to modify the GRUB’s menu.lst file, finally screwing it up. If there do exists graphical frontends, then why not include them in default installation? QGRUBEditor is one such nice choice. Fedora too has a GRUB editor.
  • Ubuntu boasts of excellent Bluetooth experience. I tried it and it does work. My friend too a pic of his laptop and tried to transfer it to my laptop. Guess what? No Incoming Bluetooth server installed. Why cant obexpushd package be pre-installed on the system?  As Onkar pointed out, its preinstalled on Intrepid.
    • Put Screen Saver, Appearance and Screen Resolution under on submenu named Display to clear up the mess.
    • Put Mouse, Keyboard, Keyboard Shortcuts, HPLIP Toolbox, Default Printer in a sub-menu named Hardware to further clear up the mess. 🙂
    • We are still stuck up with CHM file formats which don’t open by default. A lot of eBooks are available as chm, so let there be one default CHM Viewer like xchm or gnochm
    • Ubuntu’s Gnome theme looks horrible on small screens. It uses extremely high font size like 10 or 12. I reduced it to 8 and like the change. This should not be default. If the screen resolution is equal or less than 800×600, then reduce the dpi to less than 96 and the font size to 8. This would help some poor souls.
    • Lastly, they can make the dust theme a default. If not dust theme, then any one of the other two new themes introduced in Jaunty Jackalope.

    I ask pardon for any typos or grammatical mistake. It’s 6 in the morning and havnt slept 🙂