Feb 28, 2010

Gnome 3 Usability Hackfest

Last week Canonical hosted the GNOME Usability Hackfest in London. Some interesting research was done and there's a lot of awesome improvements coming to the "Control Center”, Nautilus and Gnome 3. I hope Ruben Vermeersch's wish for a yearly GNOME Usability Hackfest will come true. I won't try to summarize everything that happened, but I will encourage you to read the blogpost I've linked to below. If you want the summarized version ArsTechnic has a nice article titled "Task Pooper" could revolutionize GNOME desktop".

Thomas Wood: Usability Hackfest London

Seth Nickell: Early peak into Gnome 3’s potential

Máirín Duffy: Adding Chapters to Totem

Not really related to the Hackfest, but related in the sense of improving the user interface of the Nautilus file manager.

Feb 26, 2010

Ubuntu One Music Store FAQ

I'm sure you already know that there's a new music store coming soon to Ubuntu 10.04. A lot of people have already written about what we can expect. Now Stuart Langridge has created a wiki page which will answer many of the frequently asked questions relating the new music store. At first I didn't want to duplicate the effort from other Ubuntu bloggers who already wrote about this. But for the few people who do not follow amazing blogs such as OMG!Ubuntu or Popey, I had to make sure they will get their questions answered too.

Q: What will be the store's name?
The store is called the Ubuntu One Music Store.

Q: How is Ubuntu getting access to popular music?
For the Ubuntu One Music Store, our primary goals are to 1) provide a wide selection of popular songs to users and 2) enable Ubuntu users around the world to have access to these songs. Among the partners evaluated, we chose 7digital because they had the largest selection of songs available without digital rights management (DRM) for the most regions around the world.

Q: What desktop application will include the Ubuntu One Music Store?
The standard Ubuntu music player, Rhythmbox, will be used for the music store. We know that people still want choice in their music player application so The Ubuntu One Music Store was developed as a plug-in that can be re-used in some other music applications. We have received approval from the music labels for the Ubuntu One Music Store to be embedded within Banshee, Amarok, and a few other applications. Please contact the Ubuntu One Music Store team for information about this process and implementation support.

Q: How is this different than Jamendo and Magnatune?
Jamendo and Magnature will remain in the Rhythmbox music player. These are both great sources for creative commons and open licensed songs. The Ubuntu One Music Store extends the catalog of music available to Ubuntu users and will include mostly songs from minor and major label artists. These are songs that you typically find on the shelves of your favorite record shop...except in a downloadable format.

Q: What are the details about the music in the Ubuntu One Music Store?
Songs purchased through the Ubuntu One Music Store are available in high quality 256 kbps (sometimes higher) MP3 audio encoding and without digital rights management (DRM). MP3 purchases can be:
  • burned to a CD any number of times
  • played through any software on any type of computer that you own that supports MP3
  • synced to any MP3-enabled device such as a portable music player
You may occasionally find songs in WMA format. We're working with our partner to remove these songs from the Ubuntu One Music Store. Until this is resolved, we don't recommend purchasing these songs in this format. An MP3 version can typically be found by using the store's search feature.
Some have asked for songs in other formats such as Ogg Vorbis or FLAC. Acquiring popular songs in this format was not possible at this time, but Canonical will continue to look for future opportunities to improve the quality of the songs found in the Ubuntu One Music Store.

Q: What are the 'system requirements'?
If your computer can run Ubuntu 10.04, has Rhythmbox installed, can play sounds and connect to the Internet, then you are ready to use the Ubuntu One Music Store.

Q: Will these downloads play on my iPod or portable media player?
The MP3 format is widely supported on portable media players such as the iPod. Rhythmbox works with most portable media players without additional configuration and a Rhythmbox plug-in (libgpod) is available that provides support for most iPods.

Q: What are the features of the Ubuntu One Music Store?
The Ubuntu One Music Store has features that users expect from an online store.
  • Search by artist, album, or track
  • Browse recommendations and genres
  • Discover new releases or just released songs each week
  • A convenient shopping basket
  • Support for a variety of payment options
Q: How is the store related to Ubuntu One?
An Ubuntu One account is required to purchase songs from the Ubuntu One Music Store. Ubuntu One accounts are free and come with 2 GB of personal cloud storage. Purchased songs are automatically transferred to your cloud storage, synchronized to all of your computers, and added to Rhythmbox. Customers will find a new library that contains purchases from the Ubuntu One Music Store. You can also fetch your music from your personal cloud storage through a web browser, just like all your other files.
Integrating the Ubuntu One Music Store with Ubuntu One gives consumers the security of online backup as well as convenience of auto-synchronization.
Please note that Ubuntu One synchronization does not support users who connect to the Internet through a proxy server. These users will need to download their purchases from the Ubuntu One website and manually add songs to their Rhythmbox library.

Q: What does it mean by x downloads remaining?
The Ubuntu One Music Store's partnership with the music labels limits the number of times customers can download a purchased song from the music store to three (3). While this gives people some security in case of catastrophe, additional downloads should not be necessary as purchases are backed-up in the customers's Ubuntu One personal cloud. The initial transfer from the music store to a customer's Ubuntu One personal cloud will count as one (1) download. Any synchronization of purchased songs stored in your Ubuntu One personal cloud to any number of your computers does not count against the music store's download limit. Clicking to download again will transfer songs to your Ubuntu One personal cloud again and will deduct from the downloads remaining. Customers shouldn't need to do this though unless they delete the song from their cloud storage.

Q: What regions of the world will be able to purchase songs?
Most popular songs are licensed by territory (basically by country). Our starting territories will be the UK, US, Germany, the EU, and the Rest of World. Customers who use the EU store (users not located in the UK or Germany) will have access to purchase songs from two of the four major labels. Customers who use the Rest of World store will have access to purchase songs from independent labels.
Canonical will analyze usage of the EU and Rest of World stores after the 10.04 launch to decide which territories would be best for expansion. Watch the Ubuntu One blog in the months following the launch of Ubuntu 10.04 for more information.

Q: How do independent artists from the Ubuntu community get their songs into the store?
The Ubuntu One Music Store has great potential for the Ubuntu community and we want members to be able to contribute their own works (especially if it was produced on Ubuntu) to the store. Our partner, 7digital, works with various digital distribution companies that represent artists. Here are a few that you can contact to get your songs added to the 7digital catalog and the Ubuntu One Music Store.
Q: I've found a bug. I have a great feature. What do I do?
Please submit bugs and feature requests to the Ubuntu One Music Store project in Launchpad. The development team monitors this area and reads all messages.

Q: Where do I get help?
Customer support is available by clicking on the Help button in the Ubuntu One Music Store.

Q: How can I install and test the store?
The store isn't quite ready for wider testing. Watch this area or the Ubuntu One blog for more details coming soon.

Source: http://popey.com/blog/

Release Schedule - In Russian

Thanks to AgafonovDmitry there's now a Russian version of my Ubuntu Release Schedule Introductory. As I mentioned earlierI hope people will create YouTube subtitles - although I haven't received any yet. In case you want to add a voiceover in another language here's the .OGV source (30MB): http://dl.dropbox.com/u/175241/THIS_IS_THE_ONE.ogv

Feb 25, 2010

Banshee 1.5.4 Released

Banshee 1.5.4 has been released, with several new features and 40 bug fixes since 1.5.3. This is a BETA release and the fifth release in preparation for the 1.6 milestone release, which is scheduled at the end of March.

New Features

Opt-In Usage Data Collection

screenshot showing opt-in to usage data collection checkbox in Preferences

Under Preferences, you can choose to "Improve Banshee by sending anonymous usage data" back to the Banshee developers. This collects information on what version you're running, what OS, library size, slow SQL queries, and a whitelisted subset of your preferences. This information will help us choose better defaults and see what parts of Banshee are used most and can be improved. All collected data is anonymous!

Default Equalizer Presets

screenshot showing equalizer presets

Banshee now ships with several equalizer presets, and the core of the equalizer management has seen much internal improvement.

Banshee Community Extensions

screenshot showing Extensions tab of Preferences, showing all the Banshee Community Extensions

A new sub-project named Banshee Community Extensions has been created. Its code is hosted on Gitorious, and its bugs tracked alongside Banshee's. It already contains 9 extensions, including Alarm Clock, Lyrics, and Mirage, and has 15 maintainers. Its releases track Banshee's.

Extensible Shuffle Modes

screenshot showing shuffle by similar playback option

Extensions can now add new shuffle modes and PlayQueue fill-by modes. The Mirage extension is the first to take advantage of this, adding a Shuffle/Fill-by Similar mode based on acoustical analysis.

screenshot showing Play Queue Auto DJ fill by similar option

Other Enhancements

  • Wikipedia context pane extension enabled by default
  • Add support for Nokia N900 phones
  • Add tooltip to playback error column
  • On close Internet Archive item, return to Search
  • Notify user if trying to sync missing file to DAP
  • Popup explanation of manual playlist ordering when appropriate
  • Simplify the default set of columns in Podcasts
  • Enable 'Delete From Drive' action in File System Queue
  • Make debuggable from within MonoDevelop
  • Coverart for unicode artist/albums now supported
  • Dropped glade-sharp dep; GNOME 3.0 ready
  • Add columns showing track sample rate and bits per sample
  • Option to sort an artist's albums by year, not title
  • If starting Banshee hidden (--hide), up to half a second of startup time is saved; this is particularly useful in Moblin
More Information
As always, check the release notes for more detailed information, screenshots, and download links. Thanks to everybody who made this release happen!

Source: http://banshee-project.org/download/archives/1.5.4/

Feb 24, 2010

Spotting Visual Inconsistencies

It isn't that often that Hylke Bons writes a blog post, but whenever he does, I always find he's posts to be very interesting. In Hylkes lates post, On GNOME and Elegance, he writes about how small things can help make the GNOME desktop elegant. As he says, elegance in interfaces doesn’t come from funky graphics and pretty widget themes. It comes down to how your interface is laid out. Hylkes gives some pretty obvious, but good to know examples and encourages everyone to report bugs if you come across any visual inconsistencies. Certainly a must read!

I love the fact that there's so much focus on artwork, UI Design and Usability for the linux desktop.

Source: On GNOME and Elegance

Feb 22, 2010

Mark Shuttleworth at PyCon: Cadence, Quality and Design

As you might know I love to hear Mark Shuttleworth speak. It's always so inspiring and he's always so positive. Below is an interview with Mark by The Bit Source from PyCon.

Mark Shuttleworth and Antonio Rodriguez are to be the keynote speakers at PyCon 2010, the world's largest conference of the Python programming community. Over 1,000 Python programmers are gathering now at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta for eight days of intensive education, cooperation, and networking.

More Information about Shuttleworth’s keynote: http://us.pycon.org/2010/conference/schedule/event/122/

My Artwork Landing A Ubuntu 10.04

As I mentioned earlier, I've been working with Scott Ritchie to create a "branding-ubuntu" package. During the Lucid cycle Scott have been working on getting the artwork into the actual Ubuntu 10.04 release (rather than just a separate package). If you play Mahjongg or Klondike (also known as Solitaire and Aisleriot) in Ubuntu 10.04, you will notice the new artwork. See the screenshot below:

A blurry screenshot from Ubuntu 10.04

It's very easy to spot the new "table" background and the new card back artwork in Klondike, but in Mahjongg the change is much more discreet. I've added red circle around the changed tile.

In the Karmic cycle my artwork for the Ubiquity Slideshow landed and it's truly a great feeling when something actually makes it into the release.

Related links:
Mocking Up Aisleriot
Random artwork...
PPA for the “branding-ubuntu” package

Feb 20, 2010

Edubuntu 10.04 Wallpaper

A few days ago Stephane Graber posted a screenshot of the current Edubuntu desktop and I was very pleased to see that one of my wallpaper suggestion is being used.

UPDATE:  I sincerely apologize for not adding the well deserved credit for the original photo to marxicoli.

Edubuntu desktop - daily build Feb 17, 2010

The screenshot also shows the new Edubuntu Menu Editor.

No Human Theme In Ubuntu 10.04?

In an interview recorded on February 19 2010, Mark Shuttleworth revealed that a new light theme will replace the Human theme in Ubuntu 10.04. The Human theme has been the default theme in Ubuntu since the first release.

In the interview Mark says:
...we'll have some new styling which is going to be the starting point of another five year view. We've been Human for the last five years and now we're gonna be light oriented.
I'm sure Mark is referring to something like the Elementary theme, which has been a hot topic these last few months.
Some people think that interpreting "some new styling" being "the starting point of another five year view" as an entire new GTK / Metacity theme redesign might be a bit of a stretch. As 23meg from the Ubuntuforums.org points out, it can be interpreted as only the starting pieces of a new five-year outlook landing in Lucid as well.
During the Ask Mark session at Ubuntu OpenWeek, Mark was asked about the artwork for Lucid. Back then he replied:
New window decorations, some new icons for the panel indicators, some new styling on boot and login, no new gtk theme.
I must admit, I'm really in doubt about what to expect in Lucid. There are no artwork drops secduled for this release, but the User Interface Freeze is just around the corner, so we'll soon know what Lucid Lynx will look like.

Feb 19, 2010

Return Of The Linux Action Show

Bryan Lunduke, the Co-Host of audio and video shows at Jupiter Broadcasting, have revealed a secret that was (as he puts it) burning a hole in his… secret pocket!
On his blog, Bryan writes:
The Linux Action Show, the alpha and omega of Linux podcasts, is back.

This Saturday (February 20th) at 5pm (Pacific Standard Time) we will be recording the first episode of Season 11 of the Linux Action Show and, of course, the whole thing will be streamed live (in full video glory) over at Jupiterbroadcasting.com/live.

And, starting with Season 11, the Linux Action Show is going to a weekly schedule. That’s right. A brand-spanking-new episode, packed with Linux-y goodness, each and every week!
Will we talk about Windows Phone Series 7 Phone Windows Series Windows Phone 7 Phone? No.
Will we talk about Apple’s latest round of sticking an “i” in front of a word? No.
Will we talk about Maemo/Moblin/MeeGo, open source NVidia drivers with 3D acceleration and the latest Linux Distro releases? Oh hells yes.

So, this Saturday, head over to JupiterBroadcasting.com/live and join in the live chat while we record the return of the best freaking show about Linux to ever grace this fine planet of ours.
I have nothing against The Computer Action Show, but this announcement is a really nice surprise. I'm very much looking forward to it's return with their 11th season after over 7 months off the air.

Feb 17, 2010

Totem Arte+7 Plugin

Users from France, Germany, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland can benefit from Simon Wenner's work on the Arte+7 Plugin for Totem. The plugin allows you to watch the streams listed on plus7.arte.tv with Totem.

You can download the stable totem-plugin-arte-0.8.tar.gz or pull it from gitorious.org/totem-plugin-arte. There's also an Ubuntu package in Nicolas' PPA for those of you who are too lazy to compile it. It would be nice if someone from a country not supported by the Arte streaming service, could test the plugin too, to check if it behaves reasonable in such a situation.

OpenOffice Isn't Good Enough For Roskilde

When I blogged about Danish schoolchildren that complained about OpenOffice I revived a lot of feedback and a lot of comments on the topic. Now there's more bad/sad news for OpenOffice in Denmark.

After testing OpenOffice for about six months, the IT manager at Roskilde municipality has now chosen to abandon it and return to Microsoft Office 2007.
The reason is, according to the Danish news site Version2, that teachers, pupils and parents have experienced major problems in the application of OOo. It is especially compatibility and conversion problems, but also the speed of the program was not found satisfactory.
Another criticism, especially from students, is the difference in how Microsoft Office 2007 and OpenOffice.org is used. Students are accustomed to using Office 2007 and find it inconvenient and a nuisance to convert to OOo.
The IT manager in Roskilde municipality, Ole Bech says that in the light of the study they will continue to use Microsoft Office 2007. He does not deny that they will make another attempt with OpenOffice.org at a later time. Later this month he will be meeting with other municipalities who have experience with OOo, to exchange them.

Read more here...

HP Unveiles Android Touchscreen Smartbook

HP has unveiled its first smartbook, the Compaq Airlife 100. The device features a 10.1-inch touchscreen, (purportedly) a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a 16GB SSD, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, an SD card slot, a webcam, a QWERTY keyboard around 92% the size of a standard laptop's, and it runs Android. HP says the system boots up instantly and it's good for up to 12 hours on single charge or 10 days on standby. It's nice to see that a lot of products will be shipping with Android in 2010, rather than jumping on the Windows 7 Starter Edition wagon. Pricing hasn't been revealed yet, but it will probably vary between providers and contract terms.

Feb 15, 2010

GDM Setting For Ubuntu 9.10

The setup utility that comes in Ubuntu Karmic is missing most of the older GDM setup utility's functionality. If you're tired of not being able to configure many of these settings, two community members have come to your rescue. Garth Johnson and Nick Glynn have developed a great tool called gdm2setup which put all of the functionality back in the hands of the users through a familiar and simple GUI.

Grab it here or try it out from their PPA!

Source: Robert Ancell

Feb 11, 2010

The New Start Page Is Here

The new default start page for the Firefox webbrowser in Ubuntu 10.04 is now online. The design is kept very clean and simple. You might remember that I created a few suggestions for the Ubuntu 8.10 design myself, but I must say I really like this minimalistic look. 
There's also another huge change besides the design. The new start page will use Yahoo as the default search engine as part of Canonical's deal with Yahoo.

Linux Foundation Announces 2010 "We're Linux" Video Contest

Ones again The Linux Foundation has launched it's "We're Linux" contest. Last years 5 finalists were selected amongst the 90 videos submitted from Penguinistas worldwide. The winning video What Does it Mean to Be Free was an inspirational piece that communicated the ideals of the open source operating system.

The 2010 contest is calling all community members and amateur filmmakers to share with the public what a 30-60 second Linux-focused spot for the Super Bowl might look like. This theme is not a requirement for entry; however, videos that can demonstrate the benefits of Linux to the general public are likely to receive more community votes. The submissions should aim to inspire people to use Linux, create conversations among the public, and convey the power and ideals of Linux.

If you want enter the 2010 contest, there's a few rules you have to follow:
• Contest is open to anyone over 18
• Contest winner to be decided by community rankings and a panel of judges chosen by the Linux Foundation
• Each video needs to be between 30 - 60 seconds in length
• Each video cannot include copyrighted material or have illegal or offensive content; this is up to the LF to decide
• The contest opens Feb 4 and will close at midnight pacific on April 4.

The winner will be determined by a combination of online community ranking and a panel of judges and the winner will be announced on April 14, 2010.

To submit your video, please register here. If you're already registered, upload your video here.

For more information on the contest rules and guidelines, please visit: http://video.linuxfoundation.org/

Feb 10, 2010

Google Wants To Be A Social Network

Google has taken a major step towards becoming a social network - and thereby firing a cannon salvo against both Facebook and Twitter.
Google has a brand new service is called Google Buzz that was presented Tuesday at a press conference in Mountain View, California. Buzz combines Google's own Gmail mail system with status updates and the ability to share links, images and video with friends.

While we're talking about social network services, I should mention that a few days ago a huge pile of updates for the "Social from the start" initiative landed in the daily build of Ubuntu 10.04 - Lucid Lynx. The "Social from the start" plan is not just about having Twitter and Facebook applications installed by default, but rather how to leverage and integrate these with the desktop and the users workflow. Below is a screenshot of the new MeMenu.

Social network services like Twitter, identi.ca and Facebook are becoming an increasingly common medium in which people communicate and I'm exited to see what will come of this new initiative from Google. I'm a Gmail user myself and would love to see Google Buzz integrated in future version of Ubuntu.


PyMT 0.4 Released

New slick website

The open source library, for developing multi-touch applications, PyMT has just been released in version 0.4. Please take a look at the release notes to see what’s new in this release. Besides all the new stuff this release brings, the PyMT website has also been updated with a new slick look.

If you know your way around Python and want to develop applications that utilize new user interfaces, such as multi-touch, you should check out PyMT. You may have seen examples of this technology in use on CNN, at a mall, or on the Microsoft Surface(R). Multitouch is here to stay - let's hope PyMT will push Linux and open source forward in this area.

PyMT Speech Recognition

Source: http://pymt.txzone.net/

Feb 9, 2010

Pinta - A Lightweight And Simple Alternative To The GIMP

The open source image editing application GIMP is often refered to as huge and complex, being a high-end application for professionals. GIMP isn't the tool that you would advise every user to use for their casual photo editing. This is also the reason behind the decision to remove the GIMP from the default Ubuntu 10.04 installation. We've all heard this before, but now a new lightweight open source image editing application called Pinta aims to give casual users a simple alternative to the GIMP.

Jonathan Pobst was inspired to start the Pinta project after reading an article on OSNews stating how something like Paint.NET was needed for the Linux desktop. Pinta is currently very early in development (version 0.1), but this might be a much wanted application for the Linux desktop and perhaps it might find it's way into future versions of Ubuntu.

Download Pinta!
Current Version: 0.1


Source: http://pinta-project.com/


Recently Apple launched the Ipad (could you possibly have missed this?) and now rumors says that Google is working on a tablet PC too. On the Google site The Chromium Projects you can see visual explorations of how a Chrome OS tablet UI might look on actual hardware. The site has a strip of photos of the concept which is a lot similar to an Ipad.

Google's Tablet PC will naturally run its own operating system, Chrome, which implies that the web browser is in focus, and that all applications available from the web. The video below demonstrates how Google envisions that this new gadget will work.

Feb 8, 2010

Location-based operating system concept: “Locus OS”

I just came across this very interesting UI concept video. The video by Barton Smith, a designer from Australia, appears to be a prototype UI for a conceptual “Locus OS” which is described as a “location-based operating system”. What makes it special is that it appears to be Microsoft branded, however without any background information I can’t say for certain if this was commissioned by Microsoft or not.
The video itself presents some very interesting concepts, the main focus of which is a multiple “desktop” arrangement that is location-aware – giving you flexibility in the widgets and applications you see based on your location and what you might be doing. Although some elements of the UX appear inspired by the iPhone, Palm Pre and Android, the designer points out that this was created in 2008 making many of the ideas original at the time. Nevertheless, definitely worth a look.

Source: http://www.istartedsomething.com/

Feb 2, 2010

Call For Testing: ATI and nVIDIA graphic cards

The Ubuntu QA blog has send out a call for help in the noble quest to ensure that ATI and nVIDIA users will have a smooth experience in Ubuntu 10.04. It says:

Do you have a nVIDIA or ATI graphics card? Do you want to help ensure users have a smooth experience if they choose to use the proprietary drivers?
We are looking for committed volunteers to test nVIDIA and ATI proprietary drivers on a weekly basis. The goal of this testing is to catch regressions early in the cycle, and fix bugs before they reach a major audience.
If you want to be part of the team you will need:
  1. A computer with an ATI (R600 or newer) or nVIDIA (GeForce series 2 or newer) graphics card
  2. A spare partition on that system
    • If you don't have a spare partition you can easily create one
  3. One hour of your time per week
  4. An Internet connection
If you want to take part in this adventure, please, send me an email (ara AT ubuntu DOT com) with the exact model of your graphics card , and I will get back to you with detailed instructions.
Thanks for helping making Ubuntu even better!
P.S. This project is to test the proprietary drivers. If you're interested in testing the free drivers, we don't need installation testing but help is always welcome. Check how you can help at the Ubuntu X team page.

Feb 1, 2010

Lucid Lynx Mascot Wallpaper

Saleel Velankar recently posted this beautiful wallpaper suggestion on the Ubuntu-art mailinglist. Although I really like the use of the mascot (the codename), I would prefer a more abstract, or less obvious, animal like the Hardy Heron or Intrepid Ibex wallpapers.

I also think mascot wallpapers are perfect for Alpha releases as a placeholder until the final artwork lands. Sadly this did not happen for this release either.