Linux: Things I’m Looking Forward To

Closed source Skype 2.1.0.81 in Ubuntu 10.10.

Open Sourcing Skype

Skype is already available in Linux and usually works well. However, Skype to due to release an open source client (keeping the back-end closed source). Fortunately for Linux users, this means that you will likely get to use only one messenger client such as Empathy or Pidgin without ever opening the old Skype client and still have your Skype buddies listed in Empathy or Pidgin.

Closed source Skype 2.1.0.81 in Ubuntu 10.10.

While the announcement was released in November 2009, there is no expected date of arrival. So unfortunately, Linux users could be waiting anywhere from a few more weeks to a few more years.

I’m looking forward to never having to launch the Skype client again and simply using Empathy alone to chat and call all of my Skype friends!

Dropbox 0.8.x

Anyone who has ever used Dropbox knows that it is dang good at what it does. You need something backed up? Drop it in your Dropbox folder and forget about it.

Current Dropbox 0.7.110 in Ubuntu 10.10.

Experimental builds of Dropbox 0.8.x have been in the works since February 2010 and appear to be progressing nicely.

With Dropbox 0.8.x, we will gain a new feature called “Selective Sync” which will enable you to pick which files and folders from your Dropbox to sync, giving you more overall control.

Dropbox 0.8.x also  brings a wealth of performance improvements to the table. With faster startup times and lower memory consumption when idling, this update is sure to be well received. File attributes are now noted and properly synchronized, so if you make a script executable on one computer it will be updated on all others as well. This is very handy for Unix/Linux users.

Rhythmbox Last.fm Plugin Updates

Being a Last.fm user myself, I find myself scrobbling a lot of music and very few options to manage my profile. I’d love to see this plugin integrate the ability to “Love” and “Unlove” tracks that you are playing from Rhythmbox itself.

Rhythmbox + Last.fm plugin in Ubuntu 10.10.

According to OMG! Ubuntu!, a developer by the name of Jamie Nicol will be improving this plugin in the  Google Summer of Code event. The details of what will be improved with this project are vague to say the least, but very promising.

Ubuntu 10.10 Sound Indicator Applet

The sound indicator applet is receiving an update which will manage to bring all of your sound controls into a clean and simple menu.

Case scenario mockup (image source).

With this project well underway, you are already able to view what’s playing in Rhythmbox and pause/play the song from the menu. The artist, title and album are also implemented, leaving album art, playlists, back and forward controls, and a song progress bar to be anticipated.

Windicators (aka Window Indicators)

Windicators, as Mark Shuttleworth describes them, are indicators located in the top right side of a Window’s title bar that indicate specific states of applications that users should be alerted of.

Mockup of Windicators for Ubuntu 10.10

From the mockup, you can see that Windows producing sound will likely have per app volume control windicators. Those dealing with stores and shopping carts will feature a shopping cart windicator to help you manage and navigate what you’ve stored away to buy.

I’m really hoping that this Windicator will be used in applications such as web browsers and the Ubuntu Software Center (which, by the way I think should be renamed to the Ubuntu App Store) so that web sites like eBay or Amazon and the Software Center can take advantage of this feature.

Theme enhancements for Maverick

There are a number of theme enhancements that are set to land in Ubuntu 10.10 and will help to polish the user interface.

One improvement will be closer maximize and minimize buttons. The improvement, as I image it, can be seen below, but is not meant to represent a final product in any way.

Closer max/min buttons mockup.

Scrollbar steppers don’t appear clickable. One design I’ve been hoping for, but have yet to see anything implemented, is some nice themed steppers. Nicer of course than my crude artistic example below. ;)

Mockup of a clicked or hovered stepper.

Also mentioned is “Changing GTK to allow for a rounded stepper,” which is why I rounded the button in the mockup (if you click to view the larger version).

There are several other changes to be made for the theme, but as far as I’ve seen they’ve yet to appear in updates.

Compiz 0.9

One of my favorite features in Ubuntu is desktop effects which are powered by Compiz. It seems like compositing windows managers have been changing at an incredibly unpredictable rate since I first started using Linux.

I first started using Beryl to get cool effects for the desktop way back in the early stages of Ubuntu. Soon after, Compiz-Fusion became the next big thing. This developed as a bit of a merge between Compiz and parts of Beryl.

Not long thereafter, various Compiz related branches were merged and the project became known simply as Compiz again. What’s cool about this is that in the merge, Compiz was being ported from C to C++ (also known as Compiz++) giving it a large number of benefits (that I won’t get into here).

Ubuntu 10.10 using the Cube in Compiz.

The good news is that Compiz 0.9 unstable has been released and is ready for regression testing! Hopefully it won’t be a great deal longer before Compiz 0.9 matures and is released into the wild.

Vavle’ Steam Client

If you don’t already know about Steam, according to Wikipedia it’s “a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications platform developed by Valve Corporation.”

The Steam client..

Its been rumored that the Steam client will be coming to Linux, but all we can do is wait in anticipation and see what happens.

Steam recently became available to Mac users, so it may not be too far fetched. If it does come to Linux then it will bring a plethora of games to the platform that would have otherwise never been available.

Here’s to hoping that someday soon I will be able to play Counter-Strike: Source without booting up into Mac or Windows (or using Wine).

Ubuntu Boot Screen Fixes

While there are ways to fix the boot screen yourself, I tend to prefer them just working automatically. This isn’t the case in Ubuntu 10.04 if you’re using the nVidia or ATI video drivers.

Ubuntu 10.04 Boot Screen

Being only in Alpha 2, Ubuntu 10.10 still uses the boot screen of 10.04 as pictured above. While this is a very nice boot screen, it does have several problems.

As I said earlier, if you’re using nVideo or ATI drivers then you’ll have problems where the boot screen’s resolution is horribly wrong and your boot screen looks more like a crash.

Ubuntu is on the track of speeding up boot times, but if your system hasn’t booted before the animated dots make their cycle then you get to see it again. While this isn’t a horrible failure, its still a very unpolished design and desperately needs some attention. Still worse, the shutdown screen uses the same animation which gives it the illusion of loading, not unloading.

Grub Boot Loader

I’m hoping that if they take the time to address the boot screen that they will also take time to polish the boot menu for dual booting users. In its textual state it looks like something straight out of the days of DOS, and since Ubuntu is “Linux for Human Beings” I would say its time to ditch the textual Grub interface and move on to a polished Burg menu…based on Grub, but graphical.

Installing Pidgin in Linux from Source

pidgin

pidginAs many Linux users know by now, Gaim has been renamed for a second time to Pidgin due to legal issues with AOL over the use of ‘AIM’. Many distros of Linux operating systems still distribute the popular messenger client in older versions that are still under the title Gaim. I’m not the kind of person to use outdated software, so updating to Pidgin was one of the first things that I did when I made the move from Windows Vista to Ubuntu. I found the task to be a bit more lengthy than I had intended.

Most distros have communities that contribute packages that can install applications in a one step process by gathering all dependencies that are needed and installing them with the application. However, the great site that I’ve found for Debian packages seems to have a few packages lagging behind. I can’t have that. Who wants to install an older version of software than what is currently offered on the applications official site? Unfortunately there are no Debian packages available from Pidgin. That is not a problem! First things first:

  • Go to your Add or Remove application and completely remove anything associated with Gaim.
  • Open a terminal and install the following dev packages with the following commands (*The following terminal commands are for APT software package management systems. To use these commands with a different package manager you need to edit the syntax accordingly):
    • sudo apt-get install libglib2.0-dev
    • sudo apt-get install libxml2-dev
    • sudo aptitude install libnss-dev
    • sudo apt-get install libgtk2.0-dev
  • Go to www.Pidgin.im and download the source package.
  • Extract the source package and navigate to the folder that the files were extracted to in a terminal window.
  • You now need to configure and build Pidgin from the source files. Use the following commands in the terminal window to successfully configure Pidgin for your platform:
    • sudo ./configure
    • sudo make
    • sudo make install
  • Pidgin should now be successfully installed on your computer! You can now delete the source files that you downloaded from www.Pidgin.im.

If you experienced any problems while trying to follow this guide, please leave me a comment and I’ll try to help out. Always use Google.com to search for error messages before seeking help from others. Your questions are most likely already answered somewhere!