Dec 27, 2009

Karmic X-splash Makeover

I've created this little animation using the Karmic X-splash background. Finally I have some time to work on Ubuntu related projects which has been neglected for some time. I have other small projects that I will share with you in the near future. Let me emphasize that the Karmic X-splash makeover is only a mockup!

Dec 22, 2009


My fellow blogger at the awesome site, has been writing a lot about Docky. The Launchpad project description says: "Docky is a full fledged dock application that makes opening common applications and managing windows easier and quicker. Docky is fully integrated into the GNOME Desktop and features a no non-sense approach to configuration and usage. It just works."
Personally I'm still mainly using Gnome vanilla style, but Docky is look nothing less than fantastic!

Screenshot from OMG Ubuntu!

WOW! For more info I've added links to some of OMG Ubuntu!'s Docky posts below.
Source: and

Dec 18, 2009

Mark Shuttleworth Steps Down As CEO At Canonical

You couldn't possible have missed this (every open-source and linux site has written about this), but just in case let me inform you that Mark Shuttleworth has announced the current COO Jane Silberwill have the privilege of leading Canonical from March of next year. Mark will continue to play a major role in Canonical, and it is expected to be a smooth transition. Silber's official blog and each have more details on how the change will be implemented. Mark wishes to focus more on making Ubuntu better and less on the financial aspects. In his blogpost Mark writes:
From March next year, I’ll focus my Canonical energy on product design, partnerships and customers. Those are the areas that I enjoy most and also the areas where I can best shape the impact we have on open source and the technology market. I’m able to do this because Jane Silber, who has been COO at Canonical virtually from the beginning, will take on the job of CEO.
Since Jane joined the company, she and I have shared the load of coordinating between the leaders of all the key teams that make up Canonical. We’ve been through various permutations as new initiatives needed different kinds of attention; Jane currently leads the Ubuntu One effort, for example.
I’ve become very passionate about design and quality, and want to spend more time figuring out how we harness the collaborative process to build better, more insightful products. I can’t think of a more interesting challenge, and luckily I couldn’t think of a better person to take over my formal management and leadership responsibilities at Canonical than Jane. We’ve worked together long enough, and closely enough, that I can be confident of continuity in the pieces I most care about and also excited about the ways in which I think Jane will raise the bar for the senior team. As a former VP at General Dynamics, Jane has more experience of large customers and large organisational leadership, which I see as essential for Canonical over the next five years. We are being welcomed as a partner and supplier to ever-larger businesses, and I want to make sure we are a robust answer to their needs...

I've met both Mark and Jane in person and I honestly believe that this is a really good thing - they are both amazing people. I wish them both congrats and the best of luck.


Dec 17, 2009

Improvements Coming To The Desktop Notification Area

The Canonical DesktopExperienceTeam (with help from Ayatana) is working on some nice improvements to the desktop notification area (or systray) for Ubuntu 10.04.

The current notification area is becoming more and more difficult for users to interact with. Each application behaves differently, they're not accessible, and they're even sometime styled differently. Ted Gould explains that this makes the interface difficult for users as they don't know what to expect. It provides a difficult situation for applications as there is no way that they can give the user a good experience as there are no standards to follow. And it makes the whole support system for software more difficult through documentation and long explanations of how to use the computer.

The DesktopExperienceTeam propose to migrate the different applets to using simple menus. This change should provide a more consistent interface and be an important step to improve the user experience with the right hand side of the panel.
With every application being a menu, and the panel knowing this and being able to assume it, then the whole notification area can be a menu bar. This makes it easy to browse application's menus, find what you want, and work with it. It also improves keyboard navigation and increases the accessibility. Menus are a nice mix between simplicity and expandability as they're easy to use and yet provide a way for applications to provide a rich set of functionality.

The proposed changes define two main areas in the panel:
• A "system indicator" area at the far right of the panel, gathering system features like sound, power or session management
• An "application indicator" area, just before it, grouping icons and menus from applications that wish to host a part of their interface on the panel Additionaly, we propose to turn all of the elements on the right side of the panel into regular menus.

This way, users will not have to worry about whether a function is accessible with a left or right click, or be suprised when a click on a panel icon suddenly hides or shows a full application window. Additionally, that will help provide:

An accessible interface: icons and menus will be introspectable by screen readers
Style consistency: as the menus will be rendered by the same toolkit as the panel, the context menus of KDE applications will be rendered in the same style as other applications running on a Gnome desktop, and vice versa
Constant layout: being integrated in a common menubar (as opposed to a collection of applets), icons and menus shouldn't be disturbed by resolution changes, like when doing a presentation and then returning to the desktop to see all applets totally disorganized
Menu scrubbing: users frequently browse menus in search of a feature; by turning the notification area into a set of menus, the users will be able to search the interface more easily

To understand more about what's coming in Ubuntu 10.04 and how to port applications the DX team tried to put up some documentation including a porting guide for applicationscode with examples.

In the notification area the messaging menu will also receive improvements. The DX team is providing specifications for how applications should integrated with the messaging menu.

A sketch for the Messaging menu in the nocification area for Ubuntu 10.04

Another part of Canonical's plan for panel perfection is a concept that the company calls the Me Menu. Based partly on Ubuntu's current presence applet, the new Me Menu will serve as a one-stop shop for configuring messaging status and social networks. Designed by Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth himself, the Me Menu is expected to be one of the highlights of Ubuntu 10.04.

Much like the current presence menu, it will offer tight integration with the Empathy instant messaging client, allowing users to control their status and availability settings. It will also integrate with the Gwibber microblogging client to make it possible for users to post status messages to Twitter,, Facebook, and other services directly through a textbox in the Me Menu. Another major goal of the Me Menu is to provide a single access point for account management. The user will be able to use the menu to launch account configuration for Gwibber, Empathy, and Ubuntu One. (source ArsTechnica)

I would really like to see GNOME Shell considering picking up some of this amazing work. I am really excited about the opportunities this work is bringing to the Ubuntu desktop and I'm very much looking forward the improved user experience in Ubuntu 10.04.


Banshee Gets Grid View

Earlier Aaron Bockover told us about the future of Banshee and the new Clutter based interface (Netbook-focused) called Cubano. Today, Aaron announced the new beautiful grid layout mode for the album browser in Banshee. The new code haven't been merged to master yet, because there's still a few quirks to work out, but the code is ready for some broader testing.

On his blog Aaron writes:
...That is, all the benefits of our polished list widget with a new look and feel! I’m making the widget more clever and abstracted about layout and rendering so it can be more inviting to users. In fact, you can even live-toggle between layout modes (e.g list and grid) without losing any state.

This effort provides a more visually immersing and space-conscious view for your collection of albums. This big step forward is the groundwork for presenting other media collections in a friendlier way — video thumbnails, movie box covers, audio books, photos…

Many people were sad to hear that Banshee won't become the default media player in Ubuntu 10.04 - possibly not even in Ubuntu 10.10, but that is yet to be decided. Rhythmbox will be the default music player and will get an integrated music store in the next version of Ubuntu. The music store will deliver the ability to purchase music from within Rhythmbox. Lets hope someone will intergrate the music store in Banshee as well.

As always, Banshee is looking awesome!


Dec 14, 2009

Zeitgeist + Docky

In case you've missed it, I just wanted to share the awesomeness of Zeitgeist + Docky with you. A few days ago Seif Lotfy posted this on his blog:
So Jason Smith approaches me after I was fiddling with Teamgeist.
Baiscally we gave Docky some awesomeness by providing its folders the knowledge of what it uses most.
After 1 hour or a bit more we had code. It is simple and I would love to see that in Shell. There will be much more Zeitgeist + Docky in the future. Of course stay tuned for other kick ass extensions, namely Teamgeist and Synapse.

Could this be the new GNOME experience?

X-Splash For Edubuntu 10.04

After talking with Stéphane Graber at UDS Dallas about new artwork for Edubuntu 10.04, I've created a very simple X-splash throbber mockup.

There's a lot of other artwork related tasks to work on for 10.04 as Edubuntu will have the following needs for the next release:

Main artwork
  • Wallpaper (at least one, should be 1920x1440 as the Ubuntu one)
  • Gnome/GTK theme (might be the same as Ubuntu)
  • Icon theme (might be the same as Ubuntu or our current one)
  • GDM theme (or at least background, depending on how we can customize it nowadays)
  • Splash (xsplash + usplash/plymouth depending on what's used for Ubuntu)
  • LDM background (for LTSP, same requirements as last time) (we'll need an Ubuntu and an Edubuntu background here)
Additional artwork
  • Theme for KDE (wallpaper, kdm theme, ...)
Stéphane Graber will create a complete wiki page listing the needs for each of these items (size, resolution, restrictions, ...) and will then announce it on both ubuntu-artwork and the edubuntu mailing-lists. As you can see from the list, there' s a lot of things to work on, and Edubuntu is looking for all the help they can get.


Dec 8, 2009

Customizing X-Splash

I've been receiving a lot of feedback regarding my x-splash artwork and mockups. The most common question people ask, is "How can I get this?".

Since the first release of X-splash, we have seen many people customize the boot experience - some attempts more successful than others. You can find something really interesting on Gnome-look and the Ubuntu forums, but so far I haven't found any tutorials that explain how to create your own X-splash throbber. This post is an attempt to create such a "tutorial".

How does it all work
The X-splash files are stored in the /usr/share/images/xsplash folder. Modifying files in this folder requires root authority.
The background, logo and throbber images are all stored in four different sizes (It has been suggested to use only one scalable background image for Ubuntu 10.04, so this guide might be outdated by 10.04). X-splash will use the image sizes that fits your screen resolution best. I only use the largest files available for background, logo and the throbber, since these are the ones X-splash uses on my system. These three files are called:
  • bg_2560x1600.jpg
  • logo_xtra_large.png
  • throbber_xtra_large.png
You will notice the background image is in .JPG and that the filename contains information about the image size (2560x1600 px). If you create your own background image and plan to pass on your work to others, you must resize the image to the four different sizes. You can do the same for the throbber and the logo images, but in most cases (depending on the size of your images of course) you can use the same image size for all/most resolutions.

The logo and throbber files are .PNG files. .PNG was originally created as a replacement for the ubiquitous GIF format, which used to require a patent license for producers of imaging software to use it legally (the GIF/LZW patent has since expired, so this is no longer a factor). Besides being a freely available format, PNG allows for virtually unlimited transparency effects by enabling an alpha channel for transparency. This is exactly what we want for the throbber and logo image.

The logo image gets placed so that its center is screen width/2, screen height/3.

The throbber gets chopped via the throbber image's width and height divided by the number of frames. Xsplash expects 50 frames default. You can use whatever size image you want for the throbber, just make sure the graphics matches the number of frames. So, if you put an 100x5000 image, it'll appear as a 100x100 throbber animation with 50 frames.
Perhaps you remember when the Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 5 came out (first time X-splash was included) and every website posted YouTube videos of this weird looking animation. The throbber image shiped in Alpha 5 had 51 frames insted of 50!

The animation
For the animation you can eighter create the frames manually in applications like GIMP. You may already have brilliany ideas, but start simple until you understand how this works. MacUntu, from the Ubuntuforums, illustrates this perfectly.

A throbber with 17 frames by MacUntu

I prefer to use a animation application like Blender, which can render frames and save them as .PNG images. If you know other good applications for this task, please let me know.

When you've created the .PNG throbber frame images, you'll need to "stitch" them together. To stitch the frames images together (you'll need Imagemagick), place all the frames images in an empty folder and type:
convert `ls *` -append new_throbber.png
I've created 50 frame images for you to try this with:
The images won't give you a smooth animation since these are only old test images for what eventually became the Xubuntu X-splash.

Need more help
I hope this will get you started customizing X-splash. Remember you can re-install the default X-splash, go to the terminal and write:
sudo apt-get install --reinstall ubuntu-xsplash-artwork
To show the X-splash arrguments:
sudo -u gdm xsplash --help
If you are look for more help, visit the where you'll find information about how to customize usplash, xsplash and grub and other goodies.
If you don't want to get your hands dirty, you can check out these other X-splash customizations:

Dec 7, 2009

Kernel Summary from UDS Lucid

UDS Lucid was a busy time for the Kernel Team. They chose a new kernel for the Lucid Lynx release, they reviewed their policies for Stable Updates, reviewed their kernel delta and configuration, and much more. Here is a very brief overview of their decisions for those who are interested. I should warn you that this might get a bit geeky.

The primary decision for the kernel team at UDS is to choose the base kernel version for the release. For Lucid this will be 2.6.32. This version has just released providing the maximum stabalization time, it also is expected to be the kernel of choice for long term releases from other major distributions (SUSE, Fedora?). The kernel team will also keep ext4 as their primary filesystem.

They also reviewed their Stable Release Update policy, moving to a more upstream stable branch oriented policy. The team will be taking upstream stable updates for longer and preferring those for Lucid.

The team reviewed their Ubuntu delta, the drivers, and patches they are carrying. They plan to update all of their Ubuntu drivers except for drbd. drbd is primarily consumed by the server team and they use a dkms module to get a more up to date version. On the patch side they have identified a number of redundant patches which have been dropped, and a number which should be moved upstream.

The team has decided to experiment with backporting newer kernels onto LTS releases for Lucid. This will involve provision of a kernel from later cycles into Lucid, supported on certified platforms. The policy here is being firmed up now.

For graphics, they chose to enable Radeon Kernel Mode Settings by default and to seriously look at enabling Nouveau for Lucid. This should bring a flicker-free Plymouth boot to the majority of users, but for people using the 2D-only "Nouveau" NVidia driver on Nvidia chipsets, they will have to sacrifice things like 3D compiz and VDAPU video playback. Confused? Read more about Plymouth and KMS here...

For those who crave more detail on these and a couple of other key initiatives can find more information at the following wiki page, which they will be keeping up to date with the current state of the union for the kernel

FreeNAS Switching From FreeBSD To Debian Linux

FreeNAS, a popular, free NAS solution, is moving away from using FreeBSD as its underlying core OS and switching to Debian Linux. Version 0.8 of FreeNAS as well as all further releases are going to be based on Linux, while the FreeBSD-based 0.7 branch of FreeNAS is going into maintenance-only mode, according to main developer Volker Theile. A discussion about the switch, including comments from the developers, can be found on the FreeNAS SourceForge discussion forum. Some users applaud the change, which promises improved hardware compatibility, while others voice concerns regarding the future of their existing setups and lack of ZFS support in Linux.

Changeing its underlying core OS is no picnic, but I think it will be all worth it.

Dec 6, 2009

Ubuntu 10.04 Will Have "Simple Scan"

Robert Ancell is working on making scanning on Ubuntu "just work". Currently scanning is performed using the default installed Xsane. Xsane has many options, has a style that does not integrate into the current Ubuntu desktop and does not allow scanning from within applications. In Karmic it was proposed to peplaced Xsane with the application Gnome-Scan, but Gnome-Scan was not found to be stable enough.
Robert Ancell's application titled Simple Scan is basically a frontend for SANE - which is the same backend as XSANE uses. This means that all existing scanners will work and the interface is well tested. However, this does not rule out changing the backend in the future. Besides a much cleaner interface, Simple Scan will also have a GTK+ interface that integrates nicely with the Ubuntu desktop.

Simple Scan is under heavy development, but hopefully Robert will have something solid, slick and intuitive to ship in Ubuntu 10.04.

Ubuntu Studio Variant Of The Breathe Iconset

Cory Kontros recently announced that Ubuntu Studio is looking for a icon refresh and is considering depending on the Breathe iconset as a base for Lucid. The idea is to create new icons in the Breathe/Oxygen style and inherit Breathe as a dependency. This new look will be a nice update from the current Tango styled icons. Saleel Velankar has already made the first submissions on the wiki.

Dec 2, 2009

Ubuntu's Karmic Koala Bible .. 50 Page Guide Released

In simple copy/paste steps and detailed over 25 sections, the "Karmic Koala Bible" appeals to both Linux initiates and intermediates alike, stepping out key procedures such as partition planning and with a raft of system tweaks. It manages also to simplify use of the often-daunting terminal for greater user efficiency, even for new users.

Guvnr's founder Olly Connelly said of the guide:

The latest Ubuntu release is superbly user-friendly. At last Linux is giving Windows a serious run for its money. This guide gives newbies all the start-up knowledge they need while helping intermediates to attain a truly enhanced system setup.

The closest-to-perfect all-in-1 guide .. all-on-1-site! This guide belongs in the virtual library of every Linux user!

Web version here: 

PDF version here: Download the Ubuntu Karmic Koala Bible in PDF, or read it online on Scribd!