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… ๐Ÿ˜€

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!

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:
๏ปฟ๏ปฟhttp://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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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!

Ubuntu 10.10 Wallpaper โ€“ Dual Screen

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ubuntu 10.10 Banner

Recently I was looking through theย 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.

Making Calls From Gmail

If you’ve somehow managed to miss this one in the news then you must be hiding in one deep dark hole. ๐Ÿ˜›

Here are some pictures for your entertainment. If you’d like to use this, you need to install the Google Voice plugin first and then restart you web browser.

Keep in mind that you need the plugin to do this (and obviously a microphone) and that you’ll be calling friends or family using a number provided to you by Google Voice (so they may not recognize it at first).

The best thing going for Google’s new calling feature (if you ask me) is that its completely free for me to call any phone in the USA. While this pricing may not be permanent, it should at least last through the course of this year (my source for that is linked somewhere up above ๐Ÿ˜› ).

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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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!

Google Voice and Video Chat Comes to Linux!

Straight off the press, Google announces official native support for Voice and Video chat in Linux.

If you’ve been wanting to use voice and video chat on Linux (our top video chat request), then we have good news for you: it’s now available! Visit gmail.com/videochat to download the plugin and get started. Voice and video chat for Linux supports Ubuntu and other Debian-based Linux distributions, and RPM support will be coming soon.

Video chat in action..

That’s one small step for Google; one giant leap for the Linux community. ๐Ÿ˜›

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 Rosenfeldย and “Improved Last.fm Plugin” by Jamie Nicol.

Connecting a remote device to Rhythmbox.

The code for both of these is available onย 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.

Rhythmbox: Making Searches More Accurate

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.