A few project updates

I’ve been putting off several posts for a few days now, due to just being busy with things. So, here we go.

Notification Framework

I just put out a couple of good releases of notification-daemon and libnotify. A few days ago, I released version 0.3.2 of both components, and tonight I put out notification-daemon v0.3.3, which contains a few nice bug fixes such as a fix to prevent notifications when the screen saver is active or when something is running full-screen. The style of the notifications has been changed to resemble the look from notification-daemon v0.2.x. It now supports theme engines, so that other looks can be developed. The protocol has improved and stabilised a bit, and the API and general code of both components have been cleaned up, thanks to J5’s work.

Galago

Galago’s been on hold lately due to work and trying to get the new notification-daemon and libnotify ready for distros. Development has picked up again, and I’m hoping I have very little to do before I can put out the 0.5.0 releases of all the components. Finally, libgalago will be GLib/GObject-based, and the API will be a lot more sane. Plus, Python bindings! Yay!

Oh, and I’m moving to Trac for our bug tracking (see trac.galago-project.org). This is real nice, because I can now reference bugs in commit messages and they’ll close automatically with the commit message. It’s also quite clean and easy to use. I’m slowly moving some bugs over, but I’ll continue to monitor the bugzilla for a while.

Leaftag

Remember those screenshots of our tag integration I posted? It too has been on hold, but it’s far from vaporware. We’re calling it leaftag, and I think our logo is somewhat cute :). I have very little left to do before the library is released, and I should be able to redo the Nautilus support quickly. I’ve been using the tagging almost every day. Now I just need to find the time to get this ready. Maybe at one of these upcoming hackfests I’ve been doing (and really hope to do more) with friends.

VMware

Busy busy busy, but good. I’m working on some pretty exciting stuff. More about this later 🙂

Oh, and someone needs to remind me to put up a picture of our cool new Workstation 5.5 sweaters featuring Mario!

Tux Paint for the Nokia 770

Tux Paint is one of those Linux applications that just makes me smile. It’s cute, fun, and great for kids. My little sister of five years old loves it and has been playing it since she was two. Also, Bill Kendrick, Tux Paint’s creator and lead developer, is a friend of mine, but I’m not biased at all!

So recently, Bill has been talking about finding somebody to port Tux Paint to the Nokia 770. Since I have one, and since my sister loves playing with both the 770 and Tux Paint, I figured I would take up the challenge. While not perfect, and somewhat slow in loading, the end result turned out pretty good.

Tux Paint on the Nokia 770

Work will continue on this. Some optimizations need to be made in areas, and hopefully other users of both Tux Paint and the 770 will want to contribute.

Releases will be posted soonish.

20 Ways to be a Good User

I don’t expect anybody who should read this to actually read it. A couple of users the past few days have inspired me to write this little guide.

  1. If you request support in a channel and nobody is around to answer within two minutes, make sure to voice your frustration and leave immediately. Make sure that you stay for no longer than four minutes in total.
  2. If a developer tells you the answer you’re searching for is in a piece of documentation easily accessible, refuse to read it, perhaps citing an inability to read. Your time is important, and the developer should know the answer.
  3. Don’t read instructions or information in detail. Glancing over it should be enough. If glancing isn’t good enough, repeat your question. Don’t add any additional information to this question, or it might confuse the situation.
  4. Remember, you use this software. You have rights. The developer’s personal life, work life, or stress level is completely irrelevant. If they don’t provide the level of help you expect, remember that this is not your fault, but theirs. They owe you support, and be sure to complain loudly in as many forums as possible.
  5. NEVER thank someone for their support. They’re working for your needs, and don’t deserve any gratification. Besides, thanking them gives them a sense of control, which you should attempt to keep for yourself.
  6. Your problem is the most important. The developer may have other people they are trying to help, but it’s unlikely that their problems are more important to yours. Be sure to explain this, loudly if necessary.
  7. If you are influential at all, your opinion matters more than anybody’s. Follow the previous rule, as it will definitely produce a positive outcome. Be sure to relate the developers in question to members of organized totalitarian political parties.
  8. The more supportive you are of a developer’s software, the more support you deserve.
  9. Don’t use punctuation or bother with the spell checking. This slows down the communication between you and the developer.
  10. Insult the developer. This establishes control which, as previously mentioned, is important. Support should be thought of as a battle. Popular insults include “asshole,” “mother f**ker,” “dipshit,” and “newb.” Insulting their mother is another good way of establishing control.
  11. If your problem is very important, make sure to complain loudly about the software in general on several popular forums. The louder you complain, the more likely it is that the developers will fix your problem.
  12. If you’re confused by the “support” that the developer is giving you, don’t feel bad, as this isn’t your fault. This is the developer’s fault. Developers live in a different world. They’re nerdy, geeky, socially inept people who aren’t able to clearly get points across. Tell them this, as they probably don’t realize it. It is sure to ease the communication.
  13. As a user, you’ve come to know this software, probably better than the developer. If the developer says something about the software, take it with a grain of salt. They’re only the creators. You’re the one that uses it.
  14. Don’t waste time by upgrading to a recent version of the software. The bugs you have are important, and upgrading may introduce new bugs. It’s best to get the current bug resolved. If necessary, inform the developer that they need to create a patch release. This is especially important if the software is several years old.
  15. You represent the majority of users. Your feature request is everybody’s feature request, and it isn’t a hard to implement, really. The developer should be able to do it RIGHT NOW. Drill this in to the developer when they start stating bullshit like “that feature requires a rewrite of our codebase,” or “that feature conflicts with this other feature,” or “we’ve never heard of anybody wanting this feature before.” They’re just lazy.
  16. If you have a family member or close friend that tells you a fact about a piece of software, and the developers try to tell you that your family member or close friend is wrong, they’re just jealous. They don’t want to acknowledge your family member or friend’s expertise, especially if your family member or friend can “program” Microsoft Office onto your computer.
  17. Documentation is essential to a program. Many developers will claim they have not had the time to produce extensive documentation, citing work or personal life or other bullshit as “reasons” for not spending time on this. Often, they will ask you to do it. Have no part in this, as it’s a trap. If nothing else, they will try to take credit for your hard work.
  18. It is your responsibility to fill out as many feature requests and bug reports as possible. Do not check for duplicates in the bug tracker, as the more redundant bugs that exist, the more likely the developer will notice and fix these bugs, or implement the features.
  19. Sometimes you just have to switch to a competitor’s program. Your problem may be trivial, according to the developer, but it’s still a problem, and if there is one problem, there may be many. What are the chances that the competing program would cause problems?
  20. If the program is open source, fork it. You can do it better. To gain press coverage, post on all the forums and popular news sites. You’ll gain more respect and developers this way.

I hope this has helped all the users out there.

NOTE: For the sarcastically-impaired (if you live somewhere in the vicinity of Betelguese, this includes you) do not actually take this advice.

The Linux Desktop: One ISV’s Experience

Philip Langdale, one of the Galeon developers and one of our very talented Linux UI developers at VMware posted a couple of blog entries describing the various problems that we, as an ISV, have had with maintaining compatibility amongst a wide range of Linux distributions, from Red Hat 7.2 to modern-day 64-bit distros. It’s a good read, and explains a bit about why we bundle so much with VMware and why some people have the bugs they have.

My little Home Theater PC

A few months ago, I bought a nice little Sony Vaio desktop computer from a co-worker for a really good price. I saw that it had TV out capabilities, as well as two TV tuners, so I thought it’d be fun to get something plugged into the TV. So I got it all set up and played around, but the Giga Pocket software that came with it was really quite pathetic. I ended up just using Explorer for a while to view my videos, but that required either having a keyboard and mouse hooked up, or using VNC. I would have put Linux on it, except the TV tuner was incompatible with Linux, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if the rest of the hardware was as well.

Then a story ran on Slashdot about a wonderful little project called Media Portal, which is essentially like Freevo or MythTV, but for Winodws. It’s open source, written in C#, and works well. Although still a very early beta (0.1.0.5.1 is the current release), it lets me do almost everything I want to do. I can play videos, music, view pictures, check the weather, and all the other standard stuff.

Unfortunately, the little remote control and receiver that came with this Vaio was incompatible with everything but their Giga Pocket software. I ended up going with a SnapStream Firefly remote and receiver, which I must say works quite well and is comfortable to hold.

The setup was starting to work well enough, but the video quality sucked. I was using standard composite cables, and as I also use a TiVo, I didn’t want to give up my TV’s S-Video port. My DVD player was using my component ports on the TV, but I figured I could experiment a bit in that area, and purchased a DVI-to-component adapter for my Radeon 9600 Pro. I plugged it in and was amazed at the sharpness I got in comparison to the composite and even S-Video cables. I could actually read small text, even though some of it was still flickery. Ah well, it’s not like it’s a monitor.

The last major piece of the puzzle was a good case. A big silver Vaio tower next to my TV just wasn’t all that appealing. So I shopped around and saw the SilverStone LC03V case. It was love at first sight. I found a vendor selling it for a cheap price and purchased it, along with a new black DVD-RW and a black In-Win CR-I530 (USB/Firewire/Audio/Compact Flash/Secure Digital/MMC/Smart Media/MiniDisk) expansion bay. Unfortunately, the audio and firewire ports don’t work on my crappy Vaio motherboard, but I’ll replace that someday.

Everything arrived and I put it all together. It’s very sexy. I put the case in front of the TV and noticed that I could actually read the text on the TV in the case’s reflection. Oh yeah, while I was at it, I bought a new stick of RAM for my main desktop, bringing it up to 1GB.

Despite the suckiness of Windows, the media box generally runs well. The only times I have problems are when Windows decides it’s time to interrupt what I’m doing to tell me that I should upgrade to Service Pack 2, or when the virus scanner pops up, or when I start up Windows and it tells me that I’m not smart enough to decide the resolution I want, and that it wants me to bump it up from my custom resolution for my TV to 800×600. But it’s Windows, nobody really expects to be treated intelligently anyway. As long as I don’t have to reboot often, it works well enough.

I’m in the process of working on a plugin for Media Portal to allow me to see and update my NetFlix queue from my remote, as well as browsing other movies and seeing their video clips. It’s starting to work pretty well, but it’ll be a while before it’s ready for normal use.

I need to resist the temptation to put any more money into this for a while 🙂