Rhythmbox: Making Searches More Accurate

The searching problem..

About a week ago, I came across a minor annoyance in Rhythmbox that I personally classify as a bug..despite the fact that its actually more of an unimplemented feature.

The searching problem..

The problem was that, when I quickly search for an artist or album containing an ampersand (the & character), but I use the word “and” instead without noticing, my search turns up empty. Obviously this is a trivial problem and I’m sure its actually quite common.

The search problem is usually easy enough to spot and fix, but its an unnecessary and extra step. Correcting it would be a slight push for Rhythmbox towards the “bit more friendly” side.

I’ve been a Linux user for nearly five years now and a Linux enthusiast for nearly three, so I’m beginning to feel comfortable with providing patches to fix problems like these. I did this with the Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000 patch a short while back and it appears to have benefited more people already than I ever expected.

Taking this problem to the Rhythmbox mailing list for thoughts and suggestions, I was pleased to see a couple of responses in favor of my idea for solving this problem.

I had originally suggested that Rhythmbox simply treat search words “&” equal to “and” as well as other similar examples. This seemed to be a good starting solution, but then the topic of search engines was brought up. When you search for something on Google, these articles (words such as “and”, “the”, “a”, etc) are usually dropped or removed from the search giving it more accurate results.

This would be a much easier approach to fixing these kinds of search problems in Rhythmbox than making (for example) “and” equal to “&”. This would also provide a slight performance improvement since it would be stripping out some of the unhelpful search terms.

I’m hoping to find time soon (when I return home from a short break) to write a patch that will make use of the local system language and drop search terms accordingly to improve the success rate of searches for Rhythmbox users, but I’m interested in finding out what other media players do first.

With a group such as “Angels & Airwaves”, what happens in other media players for Linux, Windows and Mac when you search with the string “Angels and Airwaves”? Are the expected results returned or does the “and” search word throw off the results?

Let me know in the comments if you can! I’m interested in implementing this in the best way possible and following other good media player examples is usually much better than inventing my own implementation.

Ubuntu 10.10 Ambiance Theme Gets An Update

Early screenshots of the new Ambiance theme.

You may be familiar with the Ambiance theme since its debut in Ubuntu 10.04, but the Canonical Design team has just confirmed changes to the theme that are due to be released with Ubuntu 10.10.

Early screenshots of the new Ambiance theme.

Several things have been updated in this latest preview into the new Ambiance theme. Scrollbars, scrubbers, buttons, menus, window controls, title bars, GNOME panels and indicator menus…just to name a few. To read about these changes in more detail, you should head over to the article posted by Otto from the design team.

One thing that seems to not be mentioned about the screenshot is the background being used. If you look closely, you’ll notice that it resembles the background released with Ubuntu 10.04 very closely, but there are several subtle differences. Notice the two very orange flares as well as the hyper-white flare on the right. The gradients also appear to be much more refined.

I’ve been using this theme for a couple of days now since it was leaked and I’m in high approval of the changes. Especially those to the window control buttons, which now have a much more pleasant appearance and a better overall feel.

Radiance and Dark themes are also in the works, but (as noted by the design team) are not yet ready to be released. If you’d like to go ahead and test these themes in Lucid or Maverick, they’ve provided the packages at the following link:

http://people.ubuntu.com/~stefanor/light-themes/

Enjoy the new theme updates and let me know if you come across the new wallpaper anywhere!

Linux: Ubuntu’s Gwibber App Gets Threaded.. or so it Seems

Thread me not..

Another discovery of mine has led to the exposure an unmentioned feature in Gwibber that will help you follow your friends’ conversation more closely (or so I assume).

Thread me not..

If you’re the ultimate stalker, like my girlfriend, then you’ll most likely find this feature to be very useful. Others may only use it on rare occasions.

New in Gwibber is the ability to expand conversations you’ve directed towards Twitter. With an expand button (currently the somewhat large green plus icon), you’re able to view a conversation you’ve posted to Twitter and (assumingly) the follow up posts from your friends.

At the moment Gwibber only seems to expand your own personal tweets, but it appears to be a feature that will (as a speculated example) help you find out exactly why your friend Kathy agrees with your tweet on the recently hot weather in Raleigh.

Understand that my speculations are just that, speculations, and nothing more. This feature could easily evolve into anything more than I’ve imagined. In the meantime, share your ideas, thoughts and opinions! I’m always excited to hear new speculation and ideas!

How-To: Ubuntu Font Private Beta Testing

ubuntu-font-private-beta-testing

With so many people talking about the new Ubuntu Font that’s soon to be released to the public for beta testing, I thought I would take the opportunity to post a quick and easy guide to testing these fonts before everyone else does!

Preview of the new Ubuntu Font in action..

If you’d like to test these fonts, then you need to follow these instructions exactly (since the ppa is “private”). I found other site instructions a bit confusing, so if you follow my directions you should have these installed effortlessly and pain free in no time.

Install

  1. With your LaunchPad.net account, go to the following “Kubuntu Users” link and Join their team:
    https://launchpad.net/~kubuntu-users
  2. Now open a new tab and navigate to the following link. Once there, you should see the PPA listed as “ppa (ppa:ubuntu-font-beta-testing/ppa)” in your list and it may be the only one. There should be a link labeled “View” to the far right of it, click it.
    http://launchpad.net/people/+me/+archivesubscriptions
  3. The link that you just opened when clicking view should list software sources for this PPA that are unique to you. Open your software sources list file and copy these two source lines to the bottom, save and close (using the following command to open the sources).
    sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
  4. Add the PPA key so the package is authenticated properly when you install:
    sudo apt-key adv –keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com –recv-keys 42F834EC
  5. Update your software sources. Your new access to the private PPA may take between 5-15 minutes before its processed, so if you see errors for this software source in the terminal, be patient and try updating again in a few minutes.:
    sudo apt-get update
  6. Install the font:
    sudo apt-get install ubuntu-private-fonts
  7. Now that the fonts are install, apply them by right clicking on your Desktop -> Change Desktop Background -> Fonts (tab):

Applying the new font..

You should now have the new font installed. Good luck and enjoy!

Improved Thumbnails In Nautilus

This is how your images look by default.

If you’re using Ubuntu 10.04 or newer then you’ve probably seen the borders around your thumbnail pictures and movies.

This is how your images look by default.

You may like them with a thick white border, but if you’re looking for something a little sharper then give my thumbnail frame tweak a try!

This is how they look with my tweak!

The image that you’ll be downloading to use from me gives the thumbnails a drop-shadow effect and gives them a bit of a 3D stylish feel rather than a rounded clunky feel.

Open a terminal window and copy/paste the following commands to install or remove.

How to Install

  1. wget http://a.imageshack.us/img135/8666/thumbnailframe.png
  2. sudo mv thumbnailframe.png /usr/share/pixmaps/nautilus/thumbnail_frame.png
  3. killall nautilus

Restore to original

  1. wget http://a.imageshack.us/img651/5790/thumbnailframey.png
  2. sudo mv thumbnailframey.png /usr/share/pixmaps/nautilus/thumbnail_frame.png
  3. killall nautilus

Enjoy the new style thumbnails if you like them! This was brought about by a thread at UbuntuForums.org entitled “Changing the Nautilus ugly thick white border for thumbnails“. You can post either here or at the forums for help or general friendly comments!

Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000 Linux GSPCA Patch

Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000

Update: See the linked comment for more details.

I’ve been in talks with the GSPCA maintainer for a week now discussing possible issues that the Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000 was having in Linux. In case you don’t know (which I didn’t at first either), GSPCA stands for “Generic Software Package for Camera Adapters.”

Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000

This software package contains drivers to a wealth of webcams and other video input devices, the Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000 included. The problem I had was that the built in microphone would stop working as soon as you turned on the camera. If you never used the camera and only opened a sound recording application then the microphone would work perfectly. In the long mailing list discussions that let me to this post, we discovered that the bug was is in setting a GPIO register that instantly breaks communication with the microphone. I’ve worked up a patch that I would like to get tested by others. Basically, the patch just includes conditionals that tell the driver not to apply this GPIO register change if the camera is using the OV7660 sensor. What I would like to test is, does disabling for this sensor affect other OV7660 devices? If not, then this patch will likely go into the main Linux kernel. If you’re using the Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000 or VX-3000 and are having trouble with your microphone, could you please do the following?

Testing the Patch

  1. Download my patched GSPCA: gspca-2.9.51-vx1000-patch-20100712.zip
    Download the latest version of GSPCA which now includes my patch: http://moinejf.free.fr/
  2. Extract the zip file on your Desktop (so you have the folder “gspca-2.9.51-vx1000-patch-20100712″).
  3. Open a terminal window and enter the following commands:
    cd Desktop/gspca-2.9.51-vx1000-patch-20100712/
    make
    sudo make install
  4. Reboot your computer and test your webcam in an application such as Cheese (which can easily be found in the Ubuntu Software Center).

Make sure that when you start your webcam in Cheese that the microphone continues to work. You can verify this in the Sound Preferences window if you click on the Input tab (make sure you have selected “LifeCam VX-1000″  as your input device). Let me know in the comments below or in the Ubuntu thread regarding this issue how it works for you! In case anyone is interested, here is the “diff -uNr” for the original sonixj.c against my modified version:

--- sonixj-original.c	2010-07-10 05:03:02.000000000 -0400
+++ sonixj-patch.c	2010-07-12 17:52:20.000000000 -0400
@@ -1749,7 +1749,8 @@
 		reg_w1(gspca_dev, 0x01, 0x62);
 		reg_w1(gspca_dev, 0x01, 0x42);
 		msleep(100);
-		reg_w1(gspca_dev, 0x02, 0x62);
+		if (sd->sensor != SENSOR_OV7660)
+			reg_w1(gspca_dev, 0x02, 0x62);
 		break;
 	default:
 /*	case SENSOR_HV7131R: */
@@ -2317,8 +2318,10 @@
 		reg2 = 0x40;
 		break;
 	}
-	reg_w1(gspca_dev, 0x02, reg2);
-	reg_w1(gspca_dev, 0x02, reg2);
+	if (sd->sensor != SENSOR_OV7660) {
+		reg_w1(gspca_dev, 0x02, reg2);
+		reg_w1(gspca_dev, 0x02, reg2);
+	}

 	reg_w1(gspca_dev, 0x15, sn9c1xx[0x15]);
 	reg_w1(gspca_dev, 0x16, sn9c1xx[0x16]);

UPDATE 2010-07-13: As of today this patch is included in GSPCA v2.9.52+! It looks like my hard work paid off after all and now all Linux users, not just Ubuntu users, will be able to enjoy the fruit of my labor since GSPCA is merged into the official Linux Kernel. ;)

How-To: Fix Your Ubuntu Boot Screen

If you’re using Ubuntu 10.04 or newer and have installed the proprietary Nvidia or ATI video drivers then you likely know what I’m talking about.

The nice Ubuntu boot screen that you saw during the installation is now a low quality image and the resolution is wrong. Fortunately for you and I, there is a fix for this written by Marius Nestor at Softpedia.

I’ve taken the liberty to implement his steps in a single script that makes the work on your end a much easier task. Only use this script if you have not already attempted to follow Marius Nestor’s tutorial.

Warning: Use this script at your own risk.

Steps

  1. Download the zipped script and extract it: plymouth-resolution-fix.sh.zip
  2. Open a terminal window and navigate to the directory containing the script.
  3. Enter the following command to make the script executable:
    chmod +x plymouth-resolution-fix.sh
  4. Enter the following command to run the script (followed by your password):
    sudo ./plymouth-resolution-fix.sh

Be patient for this script to complete, it will let you know when it is. After its complete, simply reboot your computer to verify the results.

To Revert these Changes

If you’d like to undo these changes, you can download the following script and run it the same as you ran the first one. This will undo the changes made.

Ambiance & Radiance Skins and Speed Dial Backgrounds

opera-ambiance-maverick

While I’m waiting for Opera in Linux to improve further (its already pretty great!), I’ve decided to make a couple of adjustments to make the browser feel a little more integrated.

Get the skin!
I’ve created a simple script that extracts the installed default skin and modifies it with all in one quick run. This is very beneficial for me since I like to update my slightly edited skins by merging my modifications with the latest and greatest default skin with only a double click. ;)

The only change to the skin (thus far) is the tab bar background which now allows for a smoother appearance between the tab bar and window title.

Ambiance Skin

Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx
Install Skin (Opera 10.60+, updated 2010-12-16)

Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat, 11.04 Natty Narwhal, 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot, 12.04 Precise Pangolin
Install Skin (Opera 10.60+, updated 2012-03-26)

Radiance Skin

Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx
Install Skin (Opera 10.60+, updated 2010-12-16)

Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat, 11.04 Natty Narwhal
Install Skin (Opera 10.60+, updated 2010-12-16)

Previous skin versions are now available on page 3.

Get the Speed Dial backgrounds on Page 2!

I’ve moved them to page 2 since the main interest of this post is the on the skins.

Mockup: Quick Reply in Empathy

ubuntu-10-04-gnome-2-30-empathy

Now that GNOME 2.30 stable is out, we can all look forward to GNOME 3. I’m extremely hopeful that the GNOME applications will see some much needed updates and additions of missing features.

One feature that I really miss from Digsby and Trillian in Windows is the ability to quickly respond to a message via the notification bubble. Sometimes you just want to send a quick and short response. Thats why I’d like to see this feature added to Empathy for the release of GNOME 3.

Mockup of how this would look.

In Ubuntu, the notifications appear in the upper right corner of the screen and (as far as I’ve seen) contain no buttons or other actions. Clicking them isn’t even possible as the click carries through to whatever rests below it.

If I’m not mistaken there will be notifications with buttons for interaction, but if I understand it correctly then the “Fallback alert boxes” will offer this option. If this is true then my mockup could easily be put to work!

Mockup: Opera 10.5x + Ubuntu 10.04

This is a very slick and clean approach much like Windows XP, Vista and 7 are now with Opera.

Opera 10.5x for Linux doesn’t seem to be evolving at the rate that I had originally expected as I interpreted from several Desktop Team blog posts, but it does seem to be inching its way forward on the stability end of things.

After seeing the improvements that were made to Opera 10.5 for tab bar in Windows XP I thought anything was possible. I’ve tried to recapture this implementation in what I think it would look like in Ubuntu if implemented similarly.

This is a very slick and clean approach much like Windows XP, Vista and 7 are now with Opera.

This is an example of how Opera would look in a default Ubuntu 10.04 since the window controls are on the left.

While the the images above are both simple and crude mockups, they do show that the same implementation would work well into the Unix and Linux platforms.

Obviously the first image (window controls on the right, like Microsoft Windows) is the most elegant of the two. The second image (window controls on the left, like Mac) is functional, but not the most aesthetically pleasing solution.

One alternative that I can easily fathom is simply detecting the “window control button orientation” and in this case rendering the Opera-menu on the right side of the title bar with the trash can icon to the immediate left. In more basic terms, swap the window controls and the Opera-menu in the first image and there you have it.

An example of how the title bar can still look very clean when switching the window controls and Opera-menu.

Theres no reason that I can think of that the Opera-menu should be sentenced to spend the rest of its life on the left side of the window. The main menu buttons in Internet Explorer and Google Chrome, while not located in the title bar, are located on the right side of the browser window.

Just some food for thought. Hopefully I jar some ideals and better alternatives.

EDIT: Went back and made the third mockup since explaining it might not have been clear before. Enjoy.

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.