Category Archives: Web relaunch

4 years it has been since I wrote about GNOME blogs here in this blog. And still the Plone site did not finish.

Plone was chosen and I link again to the reasons:

Ok, let's go for Plone. I think we could reach our wgo goals with
Midgard as well but there are some reasons that probably make Plone a
better choice here and now. These reasons, detailed above, are based
more on human factors than the tools themselves.

To me this is the end of the CMS selection process.
If you have anything to discuss, let's discuss it

I always have been strongly against this choice and it had been the reason why I quitted the GNOME web team in frustration about the shortsightedness. Most people don’t talk about things once they have left their group behind. I do. I keep an eye on what happens afterwards.

Ok now they use WordPress for all pages it seems. I did not find a condensed reasoning behind the new migration in the wiki. It seems to have happened between April 2011 and June 2011 for some reasons. I will not elaborate about pros and cons. I still think WordPress ist not really a CMS and can not match up to Drupal. But still WordPress is still better in handling than the Plone monster.

To the Plone fans: Sure Plone is much, much more secure and you can do a whole lot with it. But if you just want to run a website with it I still think it s really a pain. And I am not a CMS newbie . What I continually find sad is to argue with people and see things going in the wrong direction only to see after many years things moving in the same direction one has hoped it would go. Why do such thing keep happening?

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Gnome Yelp is much too slow

If you start GNOME help the first time this takes a lot of time. On my system (1.4 Ghz) I am guessing it needs about 30 seconds (and therefore about 6 times slower than Epiphany) – and you do not get any hint if something is happening. I do not know what they are doing that makes it so damn slow, but my suggestion would be to dump Yelp alltogether and use Epiphany by default. With that decision you get a help faster and also have the full featured browser. Maybe give epiphany a start option like epiphany –help-browser to get in a special mode and thats it. The current status is just unbearable. A help must be available very quick – at best instantly. Everything else does not work at all.

Also I would suggest to minimize the offline help and rather link to the web for uptodate help. Maybe as an option allow people to download the online help as a package. Today it does not make much sense to reduce help to just some official offline help. Like in Ubuntu you get the most help that makes sense in wikis rather than the official documentation.

No offenense to the programmers of Yelp. I just dont know why things are that way – and also I am quicker making a google search and getting an answer than waiting till yelp has started.

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Why Google should not aquire Twitter…

Twitter does not define any open standards. Actually microblogging is not high tech. On instant messaging Google chose the open Jabber/XMPP standard. Twitter is technological rather uninteresting. The only interesting subject could be the user base. OTOH those who buy Twitter will have to deal with all the old cruft.

Google did buy the wiki provider JotSpot and did not make anything out of it besides a simple web site editor called Google Sites. This has nothing to do with wikis any more. I doubt Google can do much with Twitter – I rather like them to take Laconica and help improve the code and be part of a openmicroblogging network.

Google is so big that it does not make sense to quire external technology. It would be a silly move to aquire Twitter. The times were it makes sense to spend a lot money to buy web companies is over.

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Make movies free (Theora video)

As I wanted to (for the first time) convert an MP4 video to a patent free version with OGG Theora I found that the solutions is simple. There is a command line tool “ffmpeg2theora” for Unix systems. This is part of “OggConvert” and sure is available for many Unix based operating systems.

I started “GNU Screen” from command line which enables me to close the terminal at every point without ending the conversion process.  This is often smarter than using some GUI tools which might break more easily. With this process you can even reset your session without stopping the conversion. I then just typed “ffmpeg2theora filename.mp4” and it will produce a file named “filename.ogv”.

What I just describes is no magic at all, but plain and simple.

Again Why Theora?

Because Theora is patent free. So nobody who is watching the file will ever need a license to play it. You should consider using Theora. Firefox 3.5 will support playing it without any plugins! Its the new free video standard of the internet.

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How free desktops like GNOME and KDE could improve marketing

As I have decided to become a bit more engaged in GNOME marketing by contributing ideas, working on the wiki and providing patches for the web pages I have rethought how marketing can be done by a free desktop like GNOME or KDE:

I found that there is often an important miscalculation made. Like in the GNOME live wiki there is a page TargetMarkets – but then the question “Who are we talking to?” The assumption seems to be that the target markets and the audience are the same. What is the problem with that? Well its like in some families decisions of buying a product like cars are made by women, while the buy is done by their husbands. I mean: If ISVs are one primary target group that does not mean at all that our marketing should target them! So I think often if not always one needs to talk to the end users if you want to convince other target groups.

Look at TV spots: Bridgestone runs tv ads to convince car owners to buy their tyres. But you can not buy a tyre at Bridgestone, really. The same is true for nearly all products. Sure there are the intermediaries who sell softare or install operating systems. But I think talking to all possible groups is too hard. We can even not think of all possibilities of how GNOME comes to desktops. So I now would say thinking about target markets is really a distraction. The only thing GNOME should do is to talk to everybody who is interested and try to provide them with what they need to know and want.

Actually I would also put the arguments upside down and would say that distributions are rather the ones who should go after different groups. They make the software collection that makes up their distros and they should better know their end users.

So where does this all end up?

I would recommend to drastically reduce the complexity of how marketing is thought about by focusing on the end users. In the end ever decisions to use GNOME is done by people who look at GNOME and decide that its worth using. So if GNOME is convincing to them it might be for their group as well.

OTOH I also think that thinking about target groups is something that should be more important for the development of GNOME than for marketing.Why? Because the development of GNOME should meet the needs of the actual target group. The marketing could say what they want – but it can not change GNOME to meet the needs.

So I suggest to GNOME and other free desktops like KDE that they simplify the marketing by getting in contact with the user. Both desktops absolutely fail to do so. They fail to really show how they can help the user to get productive, they fail in providing noticeable information on how to get the free desktop on their computer or to give answers to other user questions.

What are they doing? Essentially they focus 98% on developers and companies. on web sites and other marketing. But I would argue that this is development and not marketing. Also the whole approach into designing and updating websites is focusing on mere technical aspects.

I dont think what I discovered and write here is anything special or new. Its more that it dawned on me how all problems are interrelated. If you create a web site for a project it is often not the best idea to ask yourself what you have and how you can put all that on the front page. It is often better to rethink what you need to communicate on the root page – and do not forget that users are highly impatient and will simply leave the site if they do not find the information they are seeking in a short period of time.

So you can do the test and maybe pretend to be an interested GNOME user who likes to see or test GNOME. you got to and then give yourself only maybe 10 seconds to find the information. You will fail here and you will fail at But try it yourself. Then go to some bug commercial site and try the same and you will see that they often provide answers to the questions visitors may have in mind on their front pages. You do not need to provide actual releases – you can also point to where people can find out more or get what they want. This does not even need to be a link.

It could really be that simple. But from my perspective the problem is often rather that only few people do care about presenting this information and then the team of those who can work on the content is small – and then also the mechanism to provide changes is not straightforward. And technical discussions often are not there to help volunteers but rather to steer them away or distract from the essential idea.

I am not saying anything against development. Its one core of free software – its the product – but development should never get in the way of the message! Think from a users perspective – and if you do not want to rather stay away from marketing and web site development. This could benefit everybody.

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Using and supporting Wikia NOW!

I like to do a little promotion for the Wikia search engine. Not really because its better as Google already – but because its nice to work with. If you search the results are often bad. But you can help making them better by adding URLs and by voting on the results, or changing the description, or commenting on them.

It is all about where we are heading. I think Wikia has a status as Wikipedia in the beginning. And again Jimmy Wales is the founder. if you would have looked at Wikipedia some years ago you would have been dissapointed – you will be as well now from Wikia. I think now is the turn for people like me and you – if you like to have fun working with Web 2.0 technology.

I havent found one search engine besides Google that I found acceptable to use. But I believe that search engines should be free as well as thze search results. Google did a great job for themselves and to provide good search results. Unfortunately there are indee many privacy issues and the search rresults are not transparent.

I do not think that Wikia can become as fast that good as Wikipedia did – unless maybe it gets some sponsoring and investments from some other companies that might open up their search engines and take part in the development. Maybe it will be possible to share more ressources and really grow some alternative. I do ot really see an alternative for that grassroots development to counter Google. For now Wikia is just a geek tool – dont expect anything but have fun. It can be already a nice tool if you work on some search results – so partly I guess it can already give better results than Google. But to give that on random results it means we will have to wait some years. But the more people help NOW, the sooner we will get there.

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Getting some flash with swfdec under OpenBSD 4.3 ~current

As I havent been very successfull using Gnash as a flash replacement under OpenBSD I decided to check out swfdec as a replacement. This has been partly successfull. Youtube? No, that crashes on Firefox.

But here is how I did it so far: First I got the latest ports tree. How to do this you should learn in the OpenBSD FAQ. I use cvsup package to fetch the latest. That gave me swfdec 0.6.8. I then copied swfdec to my /usr/ports/mystuff/graphics/swfdec/ and then did a sudo make package and after than installed the package from /usr/ports/packages/i386/all/swfdec-0.6.8.tgz .

So this gives us libraries but no plugin. How to install the Mozilla plugin is said on the swfdec Installation page:

./ –with-plugin-dir=$HOME/.mozilla/plugins
make install

You do not need to run this as root because this is only installed in your local plugins directory then. After this fire up Firefox and check “about:plugins”. It tells me:

Shockwave Flash 9.0 r100

So soem things still do not work but I hope thiungs get better. Later version gave me a working Youtube on Linux – so 100% Flash on OpenBSD might not be that far away. I know real hardcore OpenBSDlers dont care about that – but from my perspective the fact is that a lot of content has moved to Flash – maybe unfortunately – but still it often did replace 100% proprietary Windows formats. I am also not too happy with flash but I still think its better than some other video formats. I also know that Flash is designed poorly – but I dont see a better alternative now. I also prefer Theora/OGG and such stuff.

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Linux users not allowed to download Chrome browser?

You might say: well its only for Windows – but thats not the problem. Linux should be ok to run a Windows application with WINE – or even can download via Linux and than have a Windows machine access the setup file. But Google seems to either think that Linux has no WINE for running Windows apps or it does not want Linux users to test – because I click download I dont get anything.  This I guess will work via browser recognition.


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Googles Chrome looks good

I have read the comic about Googles new chrome browser and I must day I am impressed. It targets some points I like to see in browsers:

  1. They call it “omnibar” – others say Opera was the first – personally I know it from Epiphany for ages – and Epi still is ahead in the implementation because it includes search engines also.
  2. Google Chrome also has tab completion for search engines. Personally I think this is smarter than Epiphanys solution – also Chrome fetches the search engines automatically if you visit a site. That may be difficult if there is more than one search box, isnt it?
  3. Starting with last visited pages is not nice. I dont want anybody tht I show my browser to see exactly which pages I visit most often and so give him an insight about my preferences. This is a privacy issue in my view. I think organizing that in some kind of menu or my recalling adresses also in respect of how often they are visited would be smarter.
  4. The ‘incognito window’ allows me that everything I browse in that window not being saved (no history, etc.). Good idea!
  5. Popups banned to the tabs they come from – yeah. nice.
  6. The security model is smarter than what we had before
  7. A crashing plugin not being able to crash the whole browser would be a great accomplishment. As this is one reason i cant use Epiphany nowadays – because Adobes closed source flash player constantly crashes it. You know that flash nowadays really is on nearly every page – so that happens quite often – how I would love open source flash plugins to become a perfect alternative. Then bugs would be fixed finally.
  8. Chrome downloads malware sites. So this is kind like the adblock lists available? If so, thank you and this can be incorporated into other browsers, too

All in all I think this is a nice thing. There are some other important points, too such as a focus on stability and a fast javscript engine – but thats not really my focus. Why does Google do that? I think that Google has hoped that other browsers would become more capable and that this did not happen fast enough and so they decided o take WebKit and make it even better, just like Apple did with Safari. Again a lesson in Free Software. Where this will end up is that these browsers will gain something:

  • Konqueror uses KHTML, WebKit comes from KHTML. I guess it will use webkit as default in the future, also.
  • Safari as it uses Webkit from beginning or better Apple forked KHTML to do WebKit.
  • Epiphany as it will switch to WebKit
  • Some mobile browsers like for Google Android and Nokia stuff (Nokia bought Trolltech who build Qt. And Qt is used to make WebKit)

Mozilla has lost the support of many projects who were using the Gecko engine or where evaluating it. As far as I understand those projects felt that Mozilla cared more about Firefox and Thunderbird and so they had some bugs open in the rendering engine which they then handled in the interfaces rather in the engine itself – and that Gecko was more complex to use.

I have seen that myself – when you try to build Epiphany and have a constant problem with the XULRunner component (compatibility issues).

So I am seldom critical to what Google does, because I always thought what they did had a good quality. I now have tested Yahoo search for a while because it is default for firefox search in address bar – but the results are essentially worse. And I dont know of any other viable alternative.  And this has been going on for years. Google also has made some smart moves in business like Gmail, etc. where they essentiall daid that disk space should not be an issue and invested some time to make the interface smarter than general web based mailers. In the end Google often wins because their results or products are better.

I agree that they are too dominent now and I would love to see more competitors – but those now are just too greedy and too silly. Google can be beaten for sure – they are also humans (at least I think so, LOL) . There is a lot potential in the web – Some years ago, before Google hit the search engin scene there were actually different search engines you could select from. Today i still only use Google, because I like to get the best result of what I intend for my search. if other search engines would try to do that they would become better, also. But essentially most others try harder in selling ads first and funnily thats why Google earns more money than those others. I think that only Open Source can stop Google -and I even think that Google would not see this as competition. Google already has moved into different fields and soon the search technology will not be the heart of their business. It was just the one thing they were the best in the world and what everybody needed and wanted. So I see the point where Google might even open up the code of their search engines – not soon though. I dont have an overview of where they earn the most but think that still the search engine is too essential for them to share much of the knowledge?

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Fixing Adblock Plus on Firefox

As Epiphany on Ubuntu constantly crashes with Flash I needed to go back to usage of Firefox. Its so complicated t use, although it partly has added some Epiphany features like when you type it searches in your bookmarks – what Epi providied since ages. I still dont have illigent search like on Epi where I type a word and then could select a search engine to use. Is there a way to get such search in Firefox, also.

I recently had huge problems after the adblock-plus package got updated – some weird installation error and adblock plus got deactivated – I guess this one problem you get if the core plugins (anybody out there who can live without adblock plus?) are not distributed and manage by the core team. I have deleted these files in my firefox directory: “extensions/*, pluginreg.dat”. That allowed me to install the newest Adblock Plus again. Weird but ok. Problem is that no general user may ever come to this solution. Those who cant handle might be better off when the save all bookmarks to desktop or so –  exit FF – then remove .mozilla/firefox directory and recreate a Firefox profile by start it again – the reimport bookmarks.

I dont really need much extensions. Primarily I only use Adblock-plus and Flash plugin. I still dont get what people do with NoScript plugin – ok you can block Javascript – this can protext you from Javascripts from random websites – but then it seems you need to enable Javascript for every site. My guess is that the people who use this daily do not surf a lot of different pages. Personally I think I surf many thousand different sites in a week – often only for seconds. I really do not get to visit the same sites over ond over again as many users seem to do. So this would mean für me that I would need to add  about 3 -4 seconds for enabling Javascript for one site – then multiply that with the thousands of websites and this adds to some hours a week that it would cost me to select exceptions.


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