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

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

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

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!

Ubuntu 10.10 Message and Sound Indicator Updates

The indicator menus have seen some more slight improvements in the latest updates and they’re beginning to take shape nicely!

Messaging Menu Highlights

Messaging Menu updates bring highlighted message counts!

The new updates to the Messaging Menu have brought highlighted message counts so that new messages can be easily recognized. The updates aren’t final and have caused a slight misalignment (as you can see on the left margin of the menu), but they do look promising!

I was unaware that this change was in the pipeline, but I must say that I fully approve.

I suspect that the next step will be to configure a color change for the bubbles and text for when the menu entry is hovered, as the bubble and text are hardly legible in this instance.

Notice the difficulty in reading the message count.

Sound Menu Playlists

Menu updates bring Playlists into the picture.

You’ve probably seen, in my previous posts regarding the sound menu, that Playlist integration has been planned from the beginning. Only recently have the signs of inclusion seen the light of day.

The new Playlist sub-menu looks to be very promising and a real time saver if you’re the type of person to create mood-lists. 😛

That being said, it looks to be a while longer before your listed Playlists are of any use. The current listed Playlists as seen in the image above are apparently faux placeholders until the real code to embed them in menus is written and committed.

Sound Menu Play Buttons

In the latest updates, I also notice that the selected hot spots for the play buttons (previous, play/pause, next) have changed. Looking through the code last week I found the code behind the buttons and they are temporarily rectangular hot spots rather than shaped to form the visible buttons.

Seeing this, I spent a short bit of time writing a fix and submitted a potential patch for this to LaunchPad. In the latest updates, they’ve not yet included my patch or written their own fix, but the rectangular hot spots have been fine tuned a bit.

If you’re waiting for features to be completed or have found a nagging bug, I encourage you to download the source code, fix it and submit a patch! After all, this is what Open Source is all about! 😉

Ubuntu One Music Store..Get a Link!

I just saw this change marked in my updates recently for Rhythmbox in Ubuntu 10.10 and thought I would share whats new so far!

The new "Get a link" button in action.

The new “Get a link for the current song to the Ubuntu One Music Store” button is now present and functional in Rhythmbox for Ubuntu 10.10.

When you click on the “Get a link” button, you are prompted with a dialog that scans the online music store for a match and displays the result for you. The address to the song or album is automatically copied into the clipboard and is ready to paste!

Here's you link and you're ready to paste!

This feature can be used to send a link of a favorite song to your friends, where they can purchase the track right away if they choose to. If you want to go even one step further, you can even tweet the link to your friends and followers!

Tweet your current song to your friends and followers!

As you can see, this new Tweet feature is built upon the tightly integrated Gwibber application. Though I haven’t tried this yet, it should be possible to post to other services such as Facebook if you have them enabled in Gwibber.

It appears that the whole “Social from the start” idea that was first started with Ubuntu 10.04 is now moving to another level and becoming commonly integrated with deeper parts of the operating system.

Tweet software from Ubuntu Software Center.

Above is an example of Twitter integration in the Ubuntu Software Center that allows you to easily suggest software to your friends.

Ubuntu 10.10 Sound Indicator with Album Art!

I just noticed this change in the sound menu and I’ve very pleased so far with the progress!

The sound indicator as of July 12, 2010.

The menu is beginning to take shape nicely, but don’t get too excite just yet. While the back, forward and pause/play buttons do indeed work, they don’t currently have any mouse animations. By this I mean that there is no visual change when you click them as you would see in a regular button. The pause button also doesn’t toggle back to the play button.

Eventually the menu will gain a few more features as are displayed in the following mockup.

Official mockup.

After the song progress bar and time are inserted, there won’t be much more to look forward to usability-wise other than the playlist sub-menu’s. I’m sure there will be several tweaks and adjustments coming along after these features work their way in, but they seem to be piecing things together in a very orderly fashion!

Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000 Linux GSPCA Patch

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.

Linux: Things I’m Looking Forward To

Open Sourcing Skype

Skype is already available in Linux and usually works well. However, Skype to due to release an open source client (keeping the back-end closed source). Fortunately for Linux users, this means that you will likely get to use only one messenger client such as Empathy or Pidgin without ever opening the old Skype client and still have your Skype buddies listed in Empathy or Pidgin.

Closed source Skype 2.1.0.81 in Ubuntu 10.10.

While the announcement was released in November 2009, there is no expected date of arrival. So unfortunately, Linux users could be waiting anywhere from a few more weeks to a few more years.

I’m looking forward to never having to launch the Skype client again and simply using Empathy alone to chat and call all of my Skype friends!

Dropbox 0.8.x

Anyone who has ever used Dropbox knows that it is dang good at what it does. You need something backed up? Drop it in your Dropbox folder and forget about it.

Current Dropbox 0.7.110 in Ubuntu 10.10.

Experimental builds of Dropbox 0.8.x have been in the works since February 2010 and appear to be progressing nicely.

With Dropbox 0.8.x, we will gain a new feature called “Selective Sync” which will enable you to pick which files and folders from your Dropbox to sync, giving you more overall control.

Dropbox 0.8.x also  brings a wealth of performance improvements to the table. With faster startup times and lower memory consumption when idling, this update is sure to be well received. File attributes are now noted and properly synchronized, so if you make a script executable on one computer it will be updated on all others as well. This is very handy for Unix/Linux users.

Rhythmbox Last.fm Plugin Updates

Being a Last.fm user myself, I find myself scrobbling a lot of music and very few options to manage my profile. I’d love to see this plugin integrate the ability to “Love” and “Unlove” tracks that you are playing from Rhythmbox itself.

Rhythmbox + Last.fm plugin in Ubuntu 10.10.

According to OMG! Ubuntu!, a developer by the name of Jamie Nicol will be improving this plugin in the  Google Summer of Code event. The details of what will be improved with this project are vague to say the least, but very promising.

Ubuntu 10.10 Sound Indicator Applet

The sound indicator applet is receiving an update which will manage to bring all of your sound controls into a clean and simple menu.

Case scenario mockup (image source).

With this project well underway, you are already able to view what’s playing in Rhythmbox and pause/play the song from the menu. The artist, title and album are also implemented, leaving album art, playlists, back and forward controls, and a song progress bar to be anticipated.

Windicators (aka Window Indicators)

Windicators, as Mark Shuttleworth describes them, are indicators located in the top right side of a Window’s title bar that indicate specific states of applications that users should be alerted of.

Mockup of Windicators for Ubuntu 10.10

From the mockup, you can see that Windows producing sound will likely have per app volume control windicators. Those dealing with stores and shopping carts will feature a shopping cart windicator to help you manage and navigate what you’ve stored away to buy.

I’m really hoping that this Windicator will be used in applications such as web browsers and the Ubuntu Software Center (which, by the way I think should be renamed to the Ubuntu App Store) so that web sites like eBay or Amazon and the Software Center can take advantage of this feature.

Theme enhancements for Maverick

There are a number of theme enhancements that are set to land in Ubuntu 10.10 and will help to polish the user interface.

One improvement will be closer maximize and minimize buttons. The improvement, as I image it, can be seen below, but is not meant to represent a final product in any way.

Closer max/min buttons mockup.

Scrollbar steppers don’t appear clickable. One design I’ve been hoping for, but have yet to see anything implemented, is some nice themed steppers. Nicer of course than my crude artistic example below. 😉

Mockup of a clicked or hovered stepper.

Also mentioned is “Changing GTK to allow for a rounded stepper,” which is why I rounded the button in the mockup (if you click to view the larger version).

There are several other changes to be made for the theme, but as far as I’ve seen they’ve yet to appear in updates.

Compiz 0.9

One of my favorite features in Ubuntu is desktop effects which are powered by Compiz. It seems like compositing windows managers have been changing at an incredibly unpredictable rate since I first started using Linux.

I first started using Beryl to get cool effects for the desktop way back in the early stages of Ubuntu. Soon after, Compiz-Fusion became the next big thing. This developed as a bit of a merge between Compiz and parts of Beryl.

Not long thereafter, various Compiz related branches were merged and the project became known simply as Compiz again. What’s cool about this is that in the merge, Compiz was being ported from C to C++ (also known as Compiz++) giving it a large number of benefits (that I won’t get into here).

Ubuntu 10.10 using the Cube in Compiz.

The good news is that Compiz 0.9 unstable has been released and is ready for regression testing! Hopefully it won’t be a great deal longer before Compiz 0.9 matures and is released into the wild.

Vavle’ Steam Client

If you don’t already know about Steam, according to Wikipedia it’s “a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications platform developed by Valve Corporation.”

The Steam client..

Its been rumored that the Steam client will be coming to Linux, but all we can do is wait in anticipation and see what happens.

Steam recently became available to Mac users, so it may not be too far fetched. If it does come to Linux then it will bring a plethora of games to the platform that would have otherwise never been available.

Here’s to hoping that someday soon I will be able to play Counter-Strike: Source without booting up into Mac or Windows (or using Wine).

Ubuntu Boot Screen Fixes

While there are ways to fix the boot screen yourself, I tend to prefer them just working automatically. This isn’t the case in Ubuntu 10.04 if you’re using the nVidia or ATI video drivers.

Ubuntu 10.04 Boot Screen

Being only in Alpha 2, Ubuntu 10.10 still uses the boot screen of 10.04 as pictured above. While this is a very nice boot screen, it does have several problems.

As I said earlier, if you’re using nVideo or ATI drivers then you’ll have problems where the boot screen’s resolution is horribly wrong and your boot screen looks more like a crash.

Ubuntu is on the track of speeding up boot times, but if your system hasn’t booted before the animated dots make their cycle then you get to see it again. While this isn’t a horrible failure, its still a very unpolished design and desperately needs some attention. Still worse, the shutdown screen uses the same animation which gives it the illusion of loading, not unloading.

Grub Boot Loader

I’m hoping that if they take the time to address the boot screen that they will also take time to polish the boot menu for dual booting users. In its textual state it looks like something straight out of the days of DOS, and since Ubuntu is “Linux for Human Beings” I would say its time to ditch the textual Grub interface and move on to a polished Burg menu…based on Grub, but graphical.

Ubuntu 10.10 Sound Indicator…Alpha Stages

As you can see, the sound indicator is still in alpha stages (print screen taken just before Ubuntu 10.10 alpha 2).

The sound indicator is obviously in the midst of progress, but this is why they call it an Alpha stage. I’m super excited seeing the progress happen before my eyes with every update! Hopefully album art is soon!

Safety notice: I’ve had several emails asking me if its safe to upgrade and this is my response… Living on the cutting edge brings a few perks such as this (seeing the progress of it all), but if you’re serious about your system and need stability then you should hold off until Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick is stable before upgrading. You can always find the cool stuff here and elsewhere around the net. 😉

Ubuntu 10.10 Volume Indicator Applet

If you’re anxiously awaiting the release of Ubuntu 10.10, then you may know that the volume indicator applet is set to receive some nice improvements.

While it is not yet completed, I’ve taken some screenshots to point out some flaws and the way I think it should look and feel below.

Songs with long filenames cause for wide menus.
Shorter song titles fit a bit better.
This is how I think it should end up looking.

It’s certainly coming along nicely and I think this will be a well received update in Ubuntu! There are plenty of other improvements coming to Ubuntu 10.10, but improvements like these are the ones that are making me quickly become an Ubuntu only user!