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. 😉

Macbuntu: The Mac OS X Transformation Pack for Ubuntu

Since I recently slipped over into the dark side and bought a MacBook, I’ve been spending a whole lot more time in OS X than I ever have before.

I wouldn’t consider myself a Mac fanatic (yet), but its difficult to not fall in love with the great amount of attention to detail.

Out of curiosity, I decided to look into macifying Ubuntu again (as I’ve looked into in the past and had decent results) only this time I came across Macbuntu. Macbuntu is an all-in-one package to transform your Ubuntu desktop (fresh dual screen account pictured below) from this:

Before

To something that resembles the infamous Mac OS X a little more closely, like this:

After

For an Mac purist, this transformation pack would be no where near acceptable with small differences and quirks here and there. The good news, however, is that the transformation pack appears to be maintained and updated regularly so it may not be much longer before your Linux box is indistinguishable from an original Mac…at least on the inside. 😉

The Macbuntu installation is extremely easy. If you’re interested in installing this, but afraid of messing anything up, keep in mind that there is an uninstall option that is extremely painless and it restores all of your original settings!

Install

  1. Download the transformation package from SourceForge or GNOME-Look.org if you prefer (but they are both hosted from SourceForge) and save it to your Desktop.
  2. Extract the package to your Desktop. You can do this by right clicking and selecting “Extract Here” from the menu.
  3. Open a terminal and type “cd Desktop/Macbuntu-10.10/” (without the quotes) and press enter.
  4. Now type “./install.sh” (without quotes) and press enter.
  5. Follow the directions and answer a few questions and it does all of the rest! …and you’re done!

Uninstall

  1. If you’ve deleted the original files that your extracted before, re-download them and extract them using the same steps as before.
  2. Open a terminal and type “cd Desktop/Macbuntu-10.10/” (without the quotes) and press enter.
  3. Now type “./uninstall.sh” (without quotes) and press enter.
  4. Follow any directions or quick questions and before you know it, things will be back to the way they were before!

While I was impressed with the degree of success after I installed this transformation pack, I quickly uninstalled it. Part of this was due to pure testing, but the other part was simply because I want to spend more time tweaking it to perfection later and don’t have the time right now.

Amazingly, I was able to take a stock Ubuntu 10.10 desktop and morph it into a decent OS X lookalike and back again all in a matter of 15 minutes, and that includes a short amount of time spent looking around. 😀

My Notes & Ramblings (probably boring)

One thing I’d really like to do is to create a Mac OS X skin for Opera to be included with this package since the one for Opera for Mac isn’t compatible with other platforms (afaik). I’d also like to figure out how to get the full menu bar removed and placed into the top panel properly, where it was only partially added in the screenshots.

A lot of the dock details are accurate, but then again a lot of them are just flat wrong. Empathy needs an icon replacement to Adium or iChat. The dock itself is angled slightly higher and the gloss detail is completely different (lacking the wavy design). The separator is also incorrect and needs to be updated.

One thing that I think would go far with adding a genuine feel is to organize the Dock icons properly as the default dock icons are in a specific order already and the order from this install seems to be somewhat random in some cases.

Stacks would be great, however, I recall hearing not long ago that this or a similar feature is on the way already possible, just not included yet (maybe I’ll send them an email soon 😀 ).

A white drop-shadow for text and icons in the top panel would be great for perfection. It also wouldn’t hurt to add the default slight transparency to the top panel so the background and shine through a little.

The actual theme being used appears to be very outdated, with buttons using old icons such as the back and forward buttons in Nautilus. The breadcrumbs are also very outdated visually and need to be updated. The author(s) of the transformation pack probably have nothing to do with the development of the theme that’s packaged with it, but this is the most important element and is in dire need of some TLC.

Conclusion

Macbuntu is a great and quick solution, but its not pixel perfect or even close to pixel perfect. If you’ve got any suggestions or know of better options such as themes or tweaks, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat Released!

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… 😀

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

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 Banner

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='https://fun.kyleabaker.com/ubuntu1010banner/orange.js'></script>

Purple
<script type='text/javascript' src='https://fun.kyleabaker.com/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

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. 😀

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

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. 😉

Rip Your CDs With Sound Juicer

For the past few days I’ve been bringing my parents’ dusty cd music collection back to life by converting them to mp3 for their computers. While its a bit of a task, GNOME’s Sound Juicer makes it a breeze.

Sound Juicer 2.28.1 in action..

Though Sound Juicer isn’t an all-in-one ripping and management tool, it is very good at the ripping! For the management and editing of IDv3 tags I would suggest you try EasyTAG which is available via the Ubuntu Software Center or here.

With Sound Juicer, you’re able to rip the contents of a cd in most cases with a single click and no editing since the details for the disc are retrieved from the internet. You can also add information such as disc number, year and genre if you wish.

If you’d like to add more details, like I do such as album art, you may consider using EasyTAG which makes this process a snap.

Sound Juicer doesn’t have a lot of preference options, but you are able to control the format that your music is copied to, being MP3, OGG or what ever your preference may be. You can also easily stripe special characters and control the hierarchy of the folders that your music is output to.

While Sound Juicer may be a tool that is only needed on rare occasions and may never be needed for a second time, it remains to be very impressive with what it does and should find a way into your accepted tools for this sort of task.