But ours go to eleven…Opera 11

opera11-spinaltap

Opera 11 has been making a lot of buzz across the Internet today now that an alpha version has been released.

New in Opera 11 is support for the very much requested extensions! While there is currently a very limited selection of extensions available, I suspect this will quickly change. ;)

If you’re using Opera 11 already and you’re also using Ubuntu 10.10 with the Ambiance or Radiance themes, do forget to update you skin with my Ambiance and Radiance skins for Opera.

For those who are curious, you can find brief changelogs in the comments with the latest one being here.

If you’re not using Opera 11 yet and would like to, go get it!

Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat Released!

ubuntu-10-10-maverick-meerkat

Code named Maverick Meerkat, Ubuntu 10.10 has been officially released and brings with it loads of improvements both in visual and stability sense. Ubuntu 10.10 is yet another release that helps hold the bar high among other Linux distributions.

With Ubuntu 10.10, the Ambiance and Radiance themes found in the previous release have steadily gained aesthetic improvements that will, in future releases, set Ubuntu on par to rival the simplicity and beauty of mainstream competitors such as Mac OS X and Windows 7.

Rather than repeat whats already been posted across the Internet in many different places already today, I’ll direct you to my friends blog, which also happens to be my favorite Ubuntu blog… :D

If you’re just looking for the downloads, you can find them here. Their simple guide will have you ready to install Ubuntu 10.10 in no time!

Polishing Rhythmbox’s GUI vs. Forking

ubuntu-10-10-rhythmbox-0-13-1-default

With recent news from OMG! Ubuntu regarding a fork in the Rhythmbox source code for a new project called Rhythm-e (Elementary design in mind), and the controversy or mixed reactions that this has sparked in the comments and mailing list, I’ve decided to take a deeper look at Rhythmbox and share my thoughts and suggestions.

The Elementary take on Rhythmbox that is covered at OMG! Ubuntu attempts to clean up the interface by moving and removing various parts of the default Rhythmbox player. While this can be beneficial at times, I feel that its very important to heavily consider the features that are being removed.

The Rhythm-e project is only a few days old, so I’m holding my judgement on the project for a later date. Instead, I just want to point out changes that I think could have been made before the extreme decision of forking a long standing and popular music player for Linux.

The default Rhythmbox player for Ubuntu 10.10, as pictured above, is by no means perfect, but there are plenty of little tweaks that could be performed to polish the fine details of the application without very much work. Keep in mind that these are solely my opinions and in no way do I consider them to be the only or best way of improving Rhythmbox. I simply offer them out as suggestions and examples.

I’ve taken the screenshot posted above and tweaked a few aspects to show how some spaces could be used more efficiently, thus giving Rhythmbox an overall cleaner appearance without the need to fork the entire project.

The only difference between the two is that the second mockup has a library that has been filtered enough to remove the scrollbar.

Looking closer at the images and comparing them to the original, you should note the following changes:

  • The song title, artist and album have been pulled up into the button toolbar to reduce wasted vertical space.
  • The song’s progress slider has been pulled up in-line with the textual position output to reduce wasted vertical space.
  • The Library and Store list on the left has been widened by 1 pixel and shifted left to hide the unnecessary left border. This creates a cleaner and more flush appearance.
  • The album art image holder has been scaled to take up the full available area, thus removing wasted space and padding. It may be ideal to shrink the image a bit, but keep the top of the album art flush with the list above it in order to allow the resize bar to remain clickable, but the rest of the available space should be used and not wasted.
  • The redundant spacer at the end of the “Time” category has been removed. This is most likely more of a theme problem than a Rhythmbox problem, but it does still make it look cleaner.
  • In the second mockup (short list), the scroll bars are not necessary and have been removed as usual, but the list has been widened enough to push the right border out of the window which helps create a cleaner and more flush appearance.

I also think that the status bar is a bit unnecessary by default, but have left it in the picture to show that it can still look good. If the status bar is removed, the library list should stretch to also push the bottom border out of view as the right side is in the short list mockup.

I think the menus are still relevant and useful, but with the menu bar being removed from the application window in UNE, this would only help in cleaning up the interface.

One thing that Rhythmbox could do to help ideas like Rhythm-e take hold more quickly is to make the interface more configurable by themes or manual configuration files. Allowing stylists to easily move buttons around and remove various elements could also spark new ideas on realistic was of improving Rhythmbox for everyone!

While I think its not always necessary to fork an existing project for a new idea, I also like to see the interest and efforts in making existing applications more appealing. I look forward to seeing the rests of Rhythm-e as it matures, but I’m also hoping to see better communication and collaboration to improve Rhythmbox itself.

While you’re free to take open source software and do as you please without asking questions, its just plain friendly to contribute back as a token of thanks for the work that went into it in the past. Keeping up with the mailing list, I’ve seen a few talks and suggestions back and forth, so I’m crossing my fingers that the two can work together and combine their strengths rather than simply competing separately.

Are there changes that I’ve missed? Something I’ve changed that you disagree with? Let me know in the comments!

Ubuntu 10.10 Wallpaper – Dual Screen

Ubuntu 10.10 Dual Screen Wallpaper (2560x1024)

Ubuntu 10.10 Dual Screen Wallpaper (2560x1024)

For those of you unaware, the new default wallpaper for Ubuntu 10.10 has just recently been released. The new wallpaper seems to be unanimously better than the previous rendition consisting of crude orange spots mixed into the Ubuntu 10.04 wallpaper.

As you might have noticed (from screenshots), I’m usually surfing the net from my desktop which has dual monitors for more efficient working so I like to paint a nice wallpaper spanning across both rather than repeating them.

This is my quick GIMP (second time I’ve done this for a default wallpaper) work where I simply scaled the original image (which can be found here) into a 2560×1024. Nothing major, it took about 10 seconds, but it will save you the work if you like it! Maybe you’ll find it useful and use it yourself, if not thats okay too. ;)

Ubuntu 10.10 Banner

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Recently I was looking through the Ubuntu 10.10 banners and really liked the simplistic design of one by Anthony Scarth.

Curious about adding it to my blog (as you should now see in the right column), I fired him an email. Unfortunately he didn’t have a script prepared, but still offered up the images!

Taking a little time, I grabbed the old script for an Ubuntu 10.04 Banner, made a few modifications (and corrections) and got the banner up and ticking in no time!

If you’re interested in using one of these two banners on your site then you’ll be happy to know I’m posting easily linkable scripts to these two right here!

Orange
<script type='text/javascript' src='http://www.kyleabaker.com/fun/ubuntu1010banner/orange.js'></script>

Purple
<script type='text/javascript' src='http://www.kyleabaker.com/fun/ubuntu1010banner/purple.js'></script>

Copy and paste the style that you’d like to use into your blog or web site. If you have any problems just let me know.

Be sure to give Anthony a shout out and thanks if you like his design as well! You can find his email listed on the Ubuntu banners page linked above.

Ubuntu Light Themes & Icons Updated

ubuntu-10-10-light-themes-square-bottom-corners

With todays earlier updates to the Ubuntu Light themes (Ambiance and Radiance), the design team has dropped rounded corners on the bottom of windows and slapped on some right angles.

This looks a little cleaner and more professional if you ask me!

Another small update, which I gladly welcome, is the reintroduction of colorful status icons in Empathy so the status of your friends is once again easily recognizable! The previous icons were monochrome and were hardly ideal.

If you haven’t seen the new set of wallpapers for Ubuntu 10.10 yet, head on over and checkout Joey’s post displaying them all. Following discussions regarding the new wallpapers, I’ve had my eyes set for a while now on the Blue building. :D

The new Ubuntu 10.10 wallpaper, which I predicted here, has also been packaged in LaunchPad and released. Though many have doubts that it is the final and I for one am hoping that they’ve been holding on to something amazing to shock and awe us with later.

If you’d like to take a look at what has been released as the official wallpaper, I’ve posted it here for now and will make sure its properly updated later if it happens to change.

Also, if you’ve been sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to upgrade, you’ll be happy to know that Ubuntu 10.10 goes into Beta status next Thursday. You should realize that betas are not finished products and may contain bugs, but thus far I’ve seen very few major bugs and in a week there should obviously be even fewer. ;)

Here’s a quick preview of the updates to the Radiance theme, image brought to you by the Design Team.

UPDATE:

It looks like the progress bar has also see some slight tweaking to make it look oh so much better. Attention to detail is highly important (as seen by Mac OS X) and this is a great example!

Rhythmbox Indicator Menu Finally Dropped

One less menu, yet more control..fantastic!

Though I haven’t looked through the official changelogs, it seems that the Rhythmbox indicator menu has finally been laid to rest. That is, unless I’ve mistakenly removed it myself. ;)

One less menu, yet more control..fantastic!

This is a welcome update for me as it reduces redundancy among the menus and gives the sound indicator menu a little more purpose. Looking through the Rhythmbox Plugins, I’ve also stumbled across the ReplayGain plugin (some how avoiding looking right at it and missing it though I look through the plugins regularly).

This elusive feature is highly valuable!

While this isn’t a new feature to Rhythmbox, or many other media players for that matter, if you’ve never used it then I highly suggest you enable it! If you’ve ever noticed that some of your audio files are just way too loud compared to others and you’re constantly adjusting your speakers then you should look into ReplayGain. I’ve been watching the a couple of Rhythmbox features that I’m highly anticipating as they’ve been progressing thanks to Google Summer of Code. If you’ve not been keeping up with the mailing lists, you’ve been missing out on “DACP in Rhythmbox” by Alexandre Rosenfeld and “Improved Last.fm Plugin” by Jamie Nicol.

Connecting a remote device to Rhythmbox.

The code for both of these is available on Gitorious if you’re looking for a sneak peak. I’m not sure how long it will take before they are packaged with Rhythmbox by default, but I think its fairly safe to say that they won’t make it in time for Ubuntu 10.10. Let’s hope I’m wrong. ;)

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!

Rhythmbox Gets A Pause Button

An actual pause button! Ouuuhh Ahhhh :P

Yet another small update I’ve noticed in Ubuntu 10.10 is the inclusion of an actual Pause button (icon and all).

An actual pause button! Ouuuhh Ahhhh :P

I would imagine this bug from 2006 was finally fixed so that the sound menu play/pause buttons and Rhythmbox play/pause buttons are consistent.

Either way, its the polishing touches that can really make a product shine. :D

Ubuntu 10.10 Alpha 3 Released

Ubuntu 10.10 Alpha 3 Cluttered Dual Screen

If you missed the news yesterday, Ubuntu 10.10 Alpha 3 was released. As of this stage, there are a significant amount of new features in 10.10 compared to 10.04. For an overview, you should look at the list that OMG! Ubuntu! has compiled.

Ubuntu 10.10 Alpha 3 Cluttered Dual Screen

If you’ve been anxiously waiting to test Ubuntu 10.10, but need a stable system then this is not the time to upgrade.

If you’re not worried about a problem here or there on occasion and what to give 10.10 a spin, I would suggest you download the Alpha 3 torrent to install rather than doing a system upgrade from 10.04 to 10.10 (at least until the final is released).

If you’re still longing to upgrade your Ubuntu 10.04 directly, you can do so by the following:

  1. Press Alt+F2 to launch the Run Application dialog.
  2. Type update-manager -d and press enter.
  3. When the Update Manager appears, it should alert you of an upgrade to 10.10. Do so at your own risk!

Also, as always, if you’re already running Ubuntu 10.10 whether its Alpha 1 or Alpha 2, applying all updates via Update Manager will give you all of the changes that are to be found in Alpha 3. Continuing this until the final is released will update you to a final version. There’s always confusion from some about this, but updating does indeed keep your system using the latest and greatest!

As of Alpha 3, we’ve still seen no signs of the Windicators that Mark has promised, but the indicator-applets for the GNOME panels are coming along very nicely and adding a great deal of ease and consistency.