Saturday, February 25, 2006

News, views, interviews.

A lot of stuff going on lately, work, life (beta-testing the current version of it), et all.

I'll be at the OSDC for the next three days, hope to be able to write about some X-citink new and ground-shaking discoveries, or at least bump into some cool and famous guys.

There's a nice interview with one of the developers, where harsh questions like "why is OOo is so slow", "reasons for OOo being bloated and slow", and "OOo's slowness, why, dammit?". No punches are pulled, but other than "we are trying to solve it", no real answer is given. Oh well, I've always been a fan of actions speak louder than words, let's hope this is the case here.

A nice, if immensely, excruciatingly, bring-a-pillow, boring article regarding GNU/Linux distros on older hardware is available here. Most of the discussion is regarding the usual suspects, meaning Slackware and the Business-card distros (Damn Small and Puppy). I think the biggest point here is that many distros can be tweaked and adjusted to run on old hardware. A full-blown Fedora or Mandriva install won't probably work right (Actually, won't even install), but I've been having some good experience with an old laptop running "Xubuntu", which is Ubuntu using XFCE. And there are other Desktop managers like Fluxbox and FVWM that would run even faster, and allow you to use the latest and greatest software.

Two great projects, and my personal favourites, GNOME and Ubuntu, are getting propped up for their up coming major releases. Version 2.14 of GNOME, the desktop environment (or however it's called these days), is scheduled for March 15, a detailed preview of what to expect is found here.
Ubuntu, the GNU/Linux distro that warms up my screen, is also gearing up for it's 6.04 release, silly-code-named "Dapper Drake" and is scheduled to be available April 20th (hence the version number); the last alpha release "Flight 4" is already available for download, and as the project reached feature freeze, it's high time for das preview, as can be grokked here.

Most of the stuff available in both previews isn't really going to user experience, as this can't be "transferred" via screenshots. I have some issues/requests of my own with both releases:

GNOME will incorporate a more robust desktop search, which will be able to interface with Beagle, not a bad idea, assuming that Beagle is up to snuff. I have Beagle installed here, and have hardly used it. It has potential, but haven't lived to that yet, and it's biggest problem is being a resource hog. I have some of those resources-munchin apps running, and with the right amount of RAM, all those memory & CPU suckers can be satisfied, but Beagle's hunger is tantalisingly never ending. Also, if the search is dependent on Beagle to be able to do deep inter-file search (meaning not only searching for files, but also searching IN files), what's going to be the difference between it and the options we have now?

The much toted "DeskBar", the more I try to understand its functions, looks like something that, eventually, won't be of much usage to me.

GNOME's sub-folder treeview (look under File Manager here), which is incorporated to their file-manager is sweet, but I would like to have some better keyboard-manipulations. For instance, if I click on 't', I expect to get to the first file, or folder that start with that letter. Currently, it only works with the upper level, not with anything that is opened as a sub-folder.
The file-manager search is complete kerfuddle, with a "search-as-you-type" feature that chokes when you type the first letter (as you have about a zillion files that start with that letter), and can only search from the start of a file name (meaning 'boog' will find "boogleband.odf" but not "doctor_boogenboom.mp3")

YELP, the help browser, is said to have a huge face-lift and feature enhancement. Good. VERY Good. The promised ability to search and view man files is extremely welcomed, but the main target is to actually make yelp usable.

But I guess my main beef with GNOME is that the "packaged" applications are almost always not up to snuff. RhythmBox, Totem, GEdit, you name it, are the first to be replaced, and usually uninstalled. I think only Evolution is used, and probably because I don't need an email client, and use it for synching my Palm.

Which reminds me, Palm synching should work better. It's quite a mess right now.
I don't really know whether any, or all of those have been addressed in either Ubuntu or GNOME, but I would really like to see some work done on these, instead of putting all the time and effort into making a GUI installer. I don't need a GUI installer. Nobody needs one. I think people who cite the text-based installer as the biggest problem in any distro that use it has a major problem and need to have some therapy and have their computer rights revoked for a year. Made my point? I would appreciate if more man-hours would've been directed towards usability and compatibility instead of that GUI-installer.

I'm pretty optimistic, all around. Ubuntu 5.10 was light-years ahead of 5.04, in terms of ease of configuration, usability and "Out-of-the-Box work-ability". If 6.04 only partially matches that jump, it will be a very nice birthday present.


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