UbuntuForums.org Site Makeover via UserJS

A while back there was a neat little styling script being passed around that tuned the Ubuntu Forums to match the new official designs a little more closely. While its not official and no where near a perfect solution, it does dramatically improve the appearance of the forums overall.

Before

After

To use this, all you have to do is download and install the Stylesheet or UserJS file and configure it in your browser! I’m using the UserJS version, but you may prefer the other. Either way, enjoy!

Rhythmbox 0.13.2

For those of you who use Rhythmbox, you’ll be happy to hear to v0.13.2 brings some great improvements. I subscribe to the mailing list and try to help when possible, but when I saw the news of Rhythmbox 0.13.2 code being released I instantly starred it!

Well, it took me over a month to get around to looking into the update, but ironically there is a backport posted at WebUpd8 that makes installing this in Ubuntu 10.10 as easy as copy-n-pasting three commands into the terminal!

The Last.fm updates (thanks to Jamie Nicol’s GSoC project) have finally been added and I was obsessively tracking the code commits each day to watch the progress while it was going on. Now that I get to test out the changes, I’ve glad to say that the Last.fm improvements are grand!

The new support for DACP, which allows you to use your iPhone/iPod touch/iPad as a remote for iTunes,  now allows you to remotely change the tunes playing in Rhythmbox!

Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t seem to currently support sending cover art embedded in the media files’ metadata to the remote. I’ve seen discussions about this recently in the mailing list, so this will likely change before too long!

One last improvement that I have to mention is the “Various fixes for iPod support” as this is one area that I’ve felt is constantly in need of improvement with each new release of iOS and each new model. There are also a great deal of other improvements which I’ll list below directly from the mailing list (via Jonathan Matthew)!

Rhythmbox 0.13.2 (“Dagger”) is now available from
http://download.gnome.org/sources/rhythmbox/0.13/

f422e47d7e238ebe862650efbcb83672bca704df0a37c3391ad0e386c20b19e3
rhythmbox-0.13.2.tar.bz2
4ad881cfbe19abcbe21abcfb37f753476b928141cea662c732867c9f4363aacb
rhythmbox-0.13.2.tar.gz

Highlights:
* Much improved Last.fm (and Libre.fm) plugin (Jamie Nicol’s GSoC project)
* Support for DACP (iTunes remote) (Alexandre Rosenfeld’s GSoC project)
* Zeitgeist plugin (developed by Markus Korn, Laszlo Pandy and Michal Hruby)
* New podcast sub-sources showing newly posted and recently downloaded episodes
* Slightly improved integration with the GNOME Shell message tray
* Various fixes for iPod support (Christophe Fergeau, Ben Walsh)

Bugs fixed:
341462 – Make current podcast downloads more visible
345957 – View last.fm profile
381679 – Add “record to profile” toggle to the last.fm plugin
589886 – Crash when selecting multiple podcast feeds
591841 – Crash processing playlist files from command line
592428 – Allow the user to select Libre.fm as their audioscrobbler service
601152 – can’t really create playlists on iPod
604170 – Unable to change the order of files in an iPOD playlist
612156 – crash when stopping radio stream before playlist parsing has finished
618619 – Crash while getting properties from ipod shuffle
623200 – Add previous and play actions to notifications, and use id’s
that correspond to named icons
625030 – Use XSPF format for the default iRadio playlist
625054 – Rhythmbox transfers music to my generic MP3 player without
file extensions
625214 – DACP Support in Rhythmbox
628254 – metadata helper crashes when tagging MP3 files that don’t
already have tags
628791 – crash showing ipod properties if the ipod database can’t be read
628794 – Rhythmbox can not share to iTunes 10 using DAAP
629038 – coherence plugin breakage
630689 – drop GtkObject use
631008 – Zeitgeist plugin
631191 – GStreamer MTP source element stopped working
631218 – don’t open (some) iframes in podcast descriptions in new
browser windows
631355 – Typo in string: “Listended”
631698 – Rhythmbox stars (ratings) not updated properly when scrolling
up in the playlist
631817 – rhythmbox hangs when starting playing next audio cd track
632119 – Add WSUM 91.7FM (University of Wisconsin) to iRadio-Initial.pls
632475 – ipod “Remove from playlist” was completely removing from iPod
632655 – URL updates for Internet Radio stations
633531 – Rhythmbox can’t load Cover-Art from musicbrainz

Translation updates:
– bg, courtesy of Krasimir Chonov
– ca@valencia, courtesy of Joan Duran
– cs, courtesy of Marek Černocký
– da, courtesy of Ask Hjorth Larsen
– de, courtesy of Christian Kirbach
– el, courtesy of Michael Kotsarinis
– es, courtesy of Jorge González
– et, courtesy of Mattias Põldaru
– gl, courtesy of Fran Diéguez
– hu, courtesy of Gabor Kelemen
– it, courtesy of Luca Ferretti
– ja, courtesy of Hiroyuki Sekihara
– ja, courtesy of Takayuki KUSANO
– lt, courtesy of Žygimantas Beručka
– nb, courtesy of Kjartan Maraas
– nl, courtesy of Redmar
– pa, courtesy of A S Alam
– pl, courtesy of Piotr Drąg
– pt_BR, courtesy of Djavan Fagundes
– ru, courtesy of Yuri Myasoedov
– sl, courtesy of Andrej Žnidaršič
– sv, courtesy of Daniel Nylander

Macbuntu, Part 3

I’ve finally gotten around to contacting the Macbuntu maintainer about some of my changes and modifications and have now been granted administrative access to the project!

Most of the changes I’m making are in the details, as most of the features are already available. I’ve contributed plenty of code and images to make Docky appear nearly identical to the Dock in OS X and even made the Docky bar image in Inkscape myself. 😀

I’ve contributed an Opera skin, that I mentioned in my last post, but it is still very unfinished. Over all it looks well, but there are several areas that need to be corrected and the skin itself needs to be slimmed down a bit.

The Docky icons zoom by default, though its not an OS X default setting to the best of my knowledge. It can very easily be toggled on or off from the Docky settings window.

I’ve removed the Docky settings icon that was seen in previous screenshots so that the Nautilus application launcher (Finder icon) is the first item in Docky as it is in OS X. You can still access Docky settings by right-clicking the separator on Docky between the Trash icon and the others.

I’ve also written a very very simple application that toggles the Widget layer, which is powered by Compiz, on and is handily disguised by the Dashboard icon…meaning it reveals the widgets. As of writing this, there are no default widgets installed.

Eventually I plan to work in Screenlets and preinstall a few default ones as you would find in OS X, but I’m still waiting to make sure that my tiny tool works pre-compiled on other computers (is 32/64 bit versions). 😉

A lot of people are impressed with Compiz’s ability to render your workspaces in a Cube, Sphere or Cylinder. I’m pretty impressed with this feature myself, but having used it for a long time in the past I’ve found that I usually end up just switching workspaces with the keyboard and not paying much attention to the fancy cube in all of its transparent glory.

Honestly, this is one thing that should appeal to even OS X users as it looks cool and can give you a good quick visual of your windows. However, in Mac OS X 10.7 there will be a feature for Mac users that gives them a quick look at all of their activities and may possibly pass this Cube design right on by. Who knows? 😛

One feature that you couldn’t see in the first Cube screenshot was the 3D window aspects and stacking. This is a neat feature and helps make the Cube look a little less boring. Especially when you can see how busy, or possibly bored, you are!

As always, proof that this is indeed Ubuntu Linux. 😉

Several other changes that I’ve contributed to this project include:

  • New transparency for the Top Gnome-Panel and all Menus
  • Alpha blurring for Docky
  • Added folders to Docky for the Applications, Documents, Downloads and Dropbox folders (where relavent)
  • Added detection for other applications and add them to Docky upon installation
  • Re-arranged several Docky launchers
  • Brand new Docky theme — Macbuntu
  • Reset the default wallpaper to the Snow Leopard  wallpaper (was the Leopard wallpaper)
  • Changed the clock format the match OS X’s clock (with tips from OMG! Ubuntu)
  • Added setting to ensure that people with multiple monitors see the workspace cube as One big cube instead of each screen rotating separately.
  • Default the screensaver to blank in case its already set to something like Gnome Feet, but it would be neat to have an elegant OS X screensaver!
  • Various other bug fixes, minor details and cleanups.

Its great to see a project come together, but its even nicer to have the ability to speed it up. 😀

A few ideas that I’ve got include pre-installing Gloobus for a feature that mimics “Quick Look,” but until I find a good way to install this and until I can work out the bugs with this tool myself, it won’t be getting any prime time in Macbuntu.

The Docky Stacks feature that was covered at OMG! Ubuntu is also on the map, but is currently far too unstable to be included. I’ve been testing it out for a few days, but it consistently crashes Docky and ceases to function. When I come across a stable ppa for this tool, it will be adding to Macbuntu in a hurry!

Obviously there are several areas that I/we won’t be able to mimic thoroughly. Mac OS X is a great operating system and has a great deal of “simplicity” worked into it by design, somethings that just aren’t possible by “skinning” Ubuntu Linux.

If you have any suggests that are actually feasible, I’d love to here them! The biggest area that I’d like to work on is the GTK theme and get the theme’s quality up tremendously. I’ve had no part in the GTK theme (originally known as GTK Leopard) thus far, and its actually a great piece of work, but it still has a long way to go before being smooth and finished.

One last thing thats interesting is the fact that someone has already began a spin of Macbuntu, dubbing it Macbuntu-iso, and it is available for download in 32 and 64-bit!

Macbuntu, Part 2

After spending a little time working in Inkscape, I realized how terrible I am with vector graphics, lol, but I did manage to create a slightly more accurate Docky theme that incoorporates the wavy design and dark tool tips and menus.

You’ll also find that the menu is not working correctly in the top Gnome Panel and that I’ve now created a pretty accurate OSX/Macbuntu skin for Opera!

You may also notice that the background image has changed. The latest OS X default wallpaper appears to be included with the setup, but is not used for some reason. I guess its a matter of opinion, but I prefer the setup to be as default as possible to the latest OS X design.

Hopefully I can contribute a few things to this project such as an improved Docky theme for Macbuntu, Opera Macbuntu skin, updated icons for those that are missing

I’ve re-arranged the Dock icons into a semi-accurate order, but some applications are in need of replacement icons.

Shotwell, for instance, could make use of the iPhoto icon and be added by default, making it appear that much more authentic.

Another awesome feature thats not included, but makes this transformations much more accurate is the plugin for an implementation of Stacks!

Unfortunately, the applications stack isn’t near as clean and even has duplicates of some applications, but it is a very good start and the stack plugin itself works fantastically!

I’m hoping that I will be able to get all of my tweaks and hacks so far worked into Macbuntu to automate what I’ve done, but since I’m still tweaking and fine tuning a lot of aspects, I haven’t had time to contact the developer(s).

That being said, I’m going to refrain from posting how-to’s and files for the changes I’ve made for now, but if you’re interested in the Opera skin I’m working on just let me know and I’ll send you what I’ve got so far. 😉

But ours go to eleven…Opera 11

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!

Polishing the Opera browser interface

One of Opera’s largest draw backs in my opinion is the lack of TLC (tender love and care) and polishing of the user interface. If you can manage to look paste the areas of Opera that seem to have difficult learning curves then you will find a beautiful browser that is capable of handling nearly any task you push it to.

That being said, I’d like to point out some user interface polishes that I would personally like to see incorporated into the browser. I would also like to make sure to state that I am in no way ranting about the Opera browser, but instead pointing out the most noticeable user interface flaws in hopes of improvement and attention to these areas. I actually use the Opera browser daily and as my main browser, so it’s important to me to see it progress and improve!

I’ll try to keep my list organized for maintaining later, so they are in no prioritized order. They’re just divided to make them easier for the both of us to find later. 😉

This post will be too long for a single page, so I’ll try to break up the content into the following order:

  • Introduction
  • Address Bar
  • Block(ed) Content
  • Skins
  • Speed Dial
  • Tab Bar
  • Widgets
  • Conclusion

MacBook Pro

In with the new, out with the old. I got my new MacBook Pro 13″ around noon today, but had to wait until noon to start playing around on it.

Here are my phones blurring pictures of the old HP dv4000 (left) and the new MacBook Pro (right).

Notice the HP isn’t running. Thats because it no longer even boots thanks to some internal hardware problems.

This time around I decided that I wanted a smaller, more portable laptop. Since I’ve had plenty of Windows computers and have been running Ubuntu Linux for a few years, I decided it was about time for me to get a Mac.

So far I’ve gotten the basics installed and setup thanks to suggestions from my brother and friends.

  • Opera
  • Adium
  • Skype
  • Last.fm Scrobbler
  • Tweetie
  • Dropbox
  • Coda
  • QuickSynergy
  • Xcode

I’m still testing out Xcode to see how I like it, but my first impression of the 3gb download wasn’t too positive. If it works well then great, but I was hoping to find a good medium between size and features.

I’ve also tweaked my MacBook’s name so it appears a little more customized on the network (using this guide). Now it appears as “kyBook Pro.” 😀

Have some suggested apps or tips for me, or something better than what I’ve listed above? I’d love to hear what you like to install on your Mac!

Eliminate Opera’s Address Bar Like IE9

If you’re a fan of minimizing toolbar space and maximizing browser space, you might be interested in this short guide that explains how to make your Opera look just a little more like this (arrangement-wise).

While this isn’t a perfect solution, it will show you how you can customize your Opera browser to be arranged a tad bit more like the upcoming Internet Explorer 9 web browser. While you’re at it, you might consider installing an Internet Explorer themed skin as well. I’m only kidding. 😛

Step 1

Hide the address bar. To do this, you simply need to right click on the address bar and select “Customize -> Appearance..” from the menu.

In the window that appears, uncheck Address Bar and leave the Appearance window open for the next step.

Step 2

Add the address box and preferred navigation buttons. To do this, using the Appearance window that you opened in Step 1, click on the Buttons tab and make sure that the category item “Browser” is selected.

In this window you will find back, forward, refresh, log in and home buttons (as well as several others). Click on a button that you want to add such as the back/forward combo button and drag it up to the right of the Opera menu button until you see arrows to drop it.

If you dropped the buttons just right then they should now be resting to the right of the Opera menu button. If they didn’t appear, try again or is they are placed incorrectly you can move them around or remove them via right clicking the button and selecting “Customize -> Remove From Toolbar”.

Step 3

Now the last thing you probably want to add is the address box. You can find this in the buttons category labeled “Browser view”. Drag and drop this widget where you want it as you did with the buttons before.

Feel free to experiment with other buttons and widgets. After you’ve finished customizing your browser’s layout, click OK to close the Appearance window. You are not finished!

Conclusion

As I said before, this isn’t a perfect solution and there are several problems present that I encountered while rearranging various parts of the browser.

The biggest problem I have with this at the moment is the lack of ability to control the width of the address box. The address box drop down is also very narrow which makes it more difficult to use. than before.

Most buttons, when dropped into this toolbar are sized much larger than the back/forward combo button which makes it difficult to create a clean interface. This is the reason you only see this combo button and the address box in the screenshot above. 😉

Its great to see that Opera is still the king of browser layout customizations, but there are still problems that need to be fixed before this can be used as a true method of mimicking IE9.

If you’ve got tips, post ’em in the comments! I love getting feedback and suggestions!

Solaris International/Deep Blue Radio Show Podcast

A few years ago, while I was up late working and listening to what was then known as Virgin Radio at the time (and now as Absolute Radio), I happened to catch an episode of the “Deep Blue Radio Show.” Since then, it appears to have been renamed to “Solaris International.”

If you’re unfamiliar with this show, its simply a two hour mix of electronica and trance tunes by Solaris International with Solarstone. You can listen to their previous airings straight from their website, but I’ve finally come across their podcast in iTunes and found that it works perfectly in Linux as well with Rhythmbox!

Their site doesn’t seem to be as intuitive as it could be, which is why it took me so long to stumble across their podcast link. If you’re interested in subscribing, the link is posted immediately below. Copy and past it into your media player. If you’re unsure how, take a look at this excellent guide from GoingLinux.com.

Podcast Link to copy and paste:
http://www.solarstone.co.uk/listenAgain/deepblueradishow-podcast.xml

At the moment, there are over 220 previous podcast episodes available to download, so if you’ve got the time then they’ve got the tunes. 😉

I’m usually not a fan of podcasts, but I have a select few that I frequent. This will easily become my favorite.

If you’re not a fan of electronica or trance music then you can kindly disregard this post or use this as a reminder to search for podcasts featuring music you yourself may enjoy! 😀

If you have podcast recommendations, I would love to hear about them in the comments!

Polishing Rhythmbox’s GUI vs. Forking

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!