Want cool desktop stats? -> Conky!

ubuntu-conky-example-1

Have you ever wanted to have awesome looking stats on that rest on your desktop and don’t interfere with your work flow? If so, you’ll probably love this nifty little application.

Example of a basic Conky setup.

Its called Conky and it can give you stats or information on practically anything imaginable. Its also easy to install!

Conky is by no means a new application and there are in fact hundreds of Conky configuration files scattered across the Internet that you could use to customize the way yours looks. With a good basic guide and some helpful tips on auto-starting Conky, I’ve thrown together a quick installation and setup guide with pictures! ;)

Typically when you install an application such as this, you want it to auto-start. Auto-starting this application isn’t as trivial as most applications so I’ll walk you through that as well. I’ll assume your using Ubuntu of some sort, but if you’re not don’t worry…you can still install Conky with alternative steps and setting it up should not differ.

Install

  1. Open the “Ubuntu Software Center” application (also known as “Add/Remove” in older versions) and search for Conky. If its not listed then you may need to find a package online.

    Find and install the Conky option entitled something along these lines: “highly configurable system monitor (all features enabled)“.

  2. Create a file labeled “.conkyrc” in your home directory (usually saved as /home/username/.conkyrc) and make sure to include the period at the start. This will make the conky settings file hidden when you casually open your home folder so its not in your way. You may need to go to View -> Show Hidden Files or press Ctrl+H to view the file to edit it later.

    Open the “.conkyrc” file in a text editor of your choice.
    Paste the linked snippet into your “.conkyrc” file.

  3. Create a file labeled “.startconky.sh” in the same folder as the previous file making sure to include the period at the beginning and the file type at the end.

    Open the “.startconky.sh” file with your favorite editor. Paste the following snippet into your “.startconk.sh” file:
    #!/bin/bash
    (sleep 5s && conky) &


  4. Save both files and close the file editor you were using. Now right-click on the “.startconky.sh” file and click Properties and select the Properties tab. Make sure you check the option to “Allow executing file as program” then click close.
  5. Go to your startup applications program or System -> Preferences -> Startup Applications and add a new application with the command option as “/home/username/.startconky.sh” where user name is your home directory…as follows:
  6. Click Save! Now the next time your restart your computer you’ll have some awesome stats that appear on your desktop!

Gwibber Account UI Improvements

Current state of Gwibber (top) and Empathy (bottom)

Here are a couple of mock-ups that I’ve made to illustrate how Gwibber and Empathy should evolve with similar interfaces, especially in the account windows.

Current state of Gwibber (top) and Empathy (bottom)

After making a few adjustments to make the Gwibber accounts window more similar to Empathy’s accounts window, this is what I came up with. I also moved the help button to the right to make it feel more appropriately place (to me).

Mock-up of Gwibber (top) and Empathy (bottom) with Gwibber's accounts window modified.

Ideally, I think the two should merge their windows when both are installed simultaneously. They could be separated via tabs, but contained in a similar window, thus making settings in Linux a tad bit easily to navigate through.

A mock-up of Gwibber and Empathy accounts merged into one using tabs to separate.

If they do plan to implement a better interface for social and messaging accounts, this would be an example that I think would be highly effect and reduce the need for so many preference menu items at the same time.

Ubuntu 10.04, now with a Music Store!

This is the initial page that you land on.

If you haven’t heard the news yet, Ubuntu 10.04 will feature a Music Store from within the default music player.

This is the initial page that you land on.

The default music player in Ubuntu 10.04 is currently Rhythmbox, but the Music store should be available through other popular music players soon.

Currently in the early Beta stage, Ubuntu’s Music Store (officially named “UbuntuOne Music Store”, poorly named in my opinion) appears to be running smoothly. The only problem I could find with the service was the overall speed of page-loads and initializing downloads for purchased songs.

This is where your downloads process.

When you select the tracks you want to download and checkout with them, you’ll be directed to the “My Downloads” section where you can watch the progress of your music being transferred to your UbuntuOne account.

This is the part that had noticeable slowness. I waited between 5-10 minutes before any progress had occurred in my purchase. However, when the song did transfer, it completed in a matter of ~2-3 seconds. I presume the server performance will improve throughout the testing stages and become well stabilized for Ubuntu 10.04 final.

If you’re interested in testing the UbuntuOne Music Store, but don’t want to spend any money just to test it then you’re in luck!

If you find a free track that you like, simply search for it through the Music Store embedded in Rhythmbox and download it!

I’m glad to see the store finally open up, I’m just hoping that they keep a high standard of appearance and keep it clean and simple. In its current form, I’m very impressed.

Now we just need a Genius side bar that works off of the UbuntuOne Music Store selection to suggest new music and music from your current collection!

Compiz Wobbly Windows bug

I recently made a video clip to capture a bug with Compiz in Ubuntu that has irritated me as long as I’ve used it.

Now that Ubuntu 10.04 is getting a new and polished theme, it would make sense to polish the visual flaws that this “Wobby Windows” plugin still presents.

I also opened a thread for further discussion about this. You can also view the bug report and mark it as affecting you as well.

Sputnik: ECMAScript 3 conformance test suite

An experimental plot to illustrate how the latest stable browsers compare.

Today, The Chromium Blog has officially released their ECMAScript 3 conformance test suite in a form that is more friendly to test in your browser. The test contains over 5,000 tests (currently 5,246) and continues to grow!

The Chromium Blog has also posted some initial results among the top web browsers for Windows (emphasis is mine).

In this example, when running Sputnik on a Windows machine, we saw the following results: Opera 10.50: 78 failures, Safari 4: 159 failures, Chrome 4: 218 failures, Firefox 3.6: 259 failures and Internet Explorer 8: 463 failures.

An experimental plot to illustrate how the latest stable browsers compare.

Putting that into terms of 100% conformance rates: Opera 10.50: 98.5% successful, Safari 4: 97.0% successful, Chrome 4: 95.9% successful, Firefox 3.6: 95.1% successful and Internet Explorer 8: 91.2% successful.

Running the test myself in the latest Opera 10.50 snapshot for Linux (Build 6242) I’m seeing a solid 77, proof that Opera 10.50 is progressing still!

As explained in their post, the goal of this test is not related to Javascript performance in terms of speed, but in terms of conformance to the spec. Ideally all browsers would be in the center of the bullseye, meaning they all conform and behave (nearly) identically.

The Sputnik tests have been released as an open source project, so if you’re interested in providing conformance test cases to improve the future web..now is a perfect chance to get involved. ;)

To run the test yourself or learn more about it, visit: http://sputnik.googlelabs.com/

Ubuntu 10.04 Wallpaper – Dual Screen

Ubuntu 10.04 Dual Screen Wallpaper (2560x1024)

Ubuntu 10.04 Dual Screen Wallpaper (2560x1024)

If anyone is interested, I’ve uploaded a modified Ubuntu 10.04 Wallpaper to fit Dual Screen displays a little better. I got tired of using the default wallpaper, one per monitor, and prefer to stretch the same continuously wallpaper across both. Feel free to grab the wallpaper and use it yourself.

Ubuntu 10.04’s Themes…

ubuntu-10-04-ambiance-01

If you’re a regular to the world of Linux news then you’ve surely heard the news of Ubuntu 10.04’s new “theme shakeup” and probably seen screenshots of the two new themes that are still in the process of being tweaked and finalized.

I’ve been using the new wallpaper and themes since they were first introduced and I’ve began to love and hate them at the same time. I’ll try to explain why.

<rant>

The theme that I’m using of the two is called Ambiance (the other is Radiance, which is brighter) and it seems to be the best based on appearance in my opinion.

Ubuntu 10.04 Ambiance

As you can see from the screenshot above (click to view a larger image) the title bars have a smooth gradient touch that even works well with transparency (seen in the windows that aren’t focused).

The window controls have moved to the left-hand side by default and have also been reorganized, which can be task to get used to as I’ve only finally began to feel comfortable with the controls on the left-hand side.

Side note: If you’re interested in easily moving these controls around and re-arranging them, you’re in luck!

I can only imagine that the thought process behind the brainstorming session for the window controls position and layout was something like the following poorly executed logic.

Windows is obviously very popular and people relate to their traditional window controls. We can use alternatives to these so we are “different”: “x” for close, “/\” for maximize, “[]” for restore, and “\/” for minimize. Now we can move the controls to the left side of the window to please all of the apple fans. Save. Commit.

The window controls are probably one of the most important design points to any theme. While it appears that Ubuntu is going for a more polished and professional appearance, its going to be near impossible get the polished feel of Mac OS X and the traditional simplistic controls from Windows to integrate together using the new colors that Mark Shuttleworth and his team have chosen.

Many people across the Ubuntu forums and blogosphere are repeatedly comparing Ubuntu’s new theme designs to Mac OS X. While they are correct in identifying the similarities, they are missing the fact that Mac OS X is a continually highly polished operating system with the user interface being one of the main attractions. Rounded window controls and gradient windows aren’t going to be enough to attract users the way OS X does.

The Ubuntu 10.04 Ambiance window controls don’t even have decent hover effects for the current window (window with the red/orange close button).

I for one want to see uniform and consistent icons for all applications as well as attention to folders, drives/devices and thumbnails on the desktop and in other folders. The default orange folder icons have been around for far too long and are in desperate need of some updates.

Moving on, the scrollbars have very little hover attention. While its generally a good idea to be subtle with interface hovers and interactions, the current implementation seems to harm more than help. Rather than fading darker on hover or introducing a bolder border (as XP does), it simply brightens by minimal amount. This isn’t enough visual confirmation to assure the user that they are indeed interacting with the scrollbar.

The scrollbar up, down, left and right arrows have absolutely no hover or press affects. This is a major interface failure and I assume it will eventually be corrected before the theme is finalized. Until then, its a major bug in my opinion.

The buttons. If you look at the screenshot again (from above) you’ll notice how boring and unimpressive the new buttons are (apparently I’m not alone). One thing that I’m impressed with is the was they’ve created a common design between fixed combo boxes and buttons. While the general design of the buttons is just not impressive at all, the thought behind consistency here impresses me.

What doesn’t impress me is the choice of colors for selected and enabled controls..

Window controls (buttons, checkboxes, radio buttons, tabs, etc)

Highlighted button example

To me, this idea that purple and orange are going to be widely accepted among new and current users is just absurd.

I’m sure many people tend to just deal with skins and themes rather than trying to find alternatives that are more friendly. I find that I never need to adjust themes in Windows or Mac, but Linux themes seem to have a history of being poorly designed or poorly executed.

I can see how making the Terminal transparent can be attractive to users who know how to even open it, but what were they thinking when they decided to make it purple?

Seriously? A Purple Terminal Window? WTF?

Anyone serious about Linux is going to be using the terminal. Even those who are not so serious about Linux will be subject to opening the terminal to enter obscure commands as solutions to problems that they don’t remotely understand.

I just don’t see purple being as commonly accepted among the male user-group as I do among the female user-group for integration into the default theme. The point in that being that the themes should be more gender neutral with the purple coloring. Especially in the tooltips, OMG! ;)

Another common complaint that I’ve seen among fellow Ubuntu users (and a recent blog post) is the default title bar font which is very bold and not very attractive. One thing I wish they would adopt from Mac is the use of text shadow. In CSS this would simply be something like “text-shadow: 2px 2px 2px #ccc;“. Mac OS X uses a brighter shadow to enhance the appearance of the title bar font in a very slight and elegant way.

While this is a major change from the previous default Human theme, Ubuntu still presents itself as unpolished and unprofessional. Developing a truly unique and efficient interface is without a doubt a difficult task. The previous interface promises that were abandoned are proof of that. However, the importance of introducing a polished interface can’t be stressed enough.

Developing a truly polished interface takes time. This is one thing that is not on Ubuntu’s side with the release of Ubuntu 10.04, which is to include the new theme, scheduled for April 29, 2010 (less than 2 months away).

What they should have done is start this new theme back in the developmental process of Karmic and only installed it through the community-themes package. This would allow people to easily test the theme and provide a fair amount of time to turn feedback into progress. If they had followed this model, the new themes would be very matured by now and especially by the final release of Lucid.

While the final release may produce a polished set of new themes for Lucid, just remember that they could have been (read: should have been) more polished and thought out. ;)

</rant>

In case you were interested in seeing the Radiance theme..

Ubuntu 10.04 Radiance

While there are many other flaws that I’ve encountered in the new themes, the ones mentioned above are in my opinion the ones that are most important. If you’ve got opinions about the new themes, voice your opinions and share your ideas!