Tag Archives: Epiphany

Metaphor based Desktop

This is a continuation of this blog post.  I really miss the tag based working. Why on earth do I have to save or load documents by a full path? This is stupid 80s computing. The location of a file is absolutely unneccessary for the work with it – I mean unless you work with Plan9.

So what we would want is if you safe a file you can type or select different tags. The same is true for loading a file. Just like in Epiphany and Firefox if you save a bookmark.

And the desktop background itself could also be organized differently – like a tag cloud. I would suggest that desktops can import and export tags and also that tags get defalt images accociated that can be selected by tag-themes. I mean most tags are words – so they have a meaning and you can associate an image.

Also with something like new hashtags on twitter – like something SFD09 (Software Freedom Day 2009) – your desktop can learn what images might make sense. I do this often manually with Google Image Search. But why should I do this work myself?

Those desktop should communicate with each other. It is not needed to send links via Email, Jabber or Twitter. Rather one can define groups of interest. In a way like identi.ca groups but more generalized. It should be easyto view what is new in a topic or a region – something like a view of new restaurants in your hometown. And then your desktop could already download some images into a pool. Or news from your topic of interest. Instead of using Google News you enter a space that displays interesting news from your defined topic. You could also subtract tags from a topic, so you can refine your view. The result should be displayed immediately. Also images, news, podcasts, videos, etc. should be linked together so you can have  a mixed view.

What you do, how you tag can be shared with others. This should be organized by different servers. People can organize in groups and clean up tag groups. This should not be centralized but really a distributed system.

Contacts should be yet another part – so you can just through images and stuff on a contact. If this means the user gets an instant message with a link or if he gets a copy of a document is up for discussion.

Who is going to start working on such a desktop? I dont see anything on the horizon. Mostly I see part of the methods but not a holistic approach, which would be essential.

This would also mean to turn the back on the application based approach. In every application all those elements (bookmarks, adresses, …) are dupplicated.

I think it would also make sense to work on the interfaces in the sense that saving or loading and such tasks are displayed only once and always at the same place.

Another idea would be to have buttons – like a “File” button – if you press on that with the mouse or the finger (interactive displays) you get a pie menu. And then either with another finger or another mouse key you can select more.

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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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First impressions of Ubuntu 9.04 beta

I have just updated to newest Ubuntu. Here are some points of interest:

  • Thes removed the shutdown option from system menu. You now HAVE to use the stupid applet. IS this a GNOME or an Ubuntu decision. Personally i dont like this applet for shutting down. I always used the system menu. The applet looks so similar to the pidgin icon. Argh how stupid can programmers be? That would be a reason to dump GNOME. You should not remove essential stuff
  • Flash does not work in Firefox and Epiphany
  • I cant installe epiphany-webkit
  • the volume ruler now is horicontal. Is this better? and he did crash
  • The messaging (if you change volume, network is connected, etc.) now has a black background
  • totem does not play videos and crashes
  • monitor settings look much better. need to test it with my beamer.
  • btw. the gnome 2.26 news again sound silly at least in german like:
  • “GNOME’s web browser, Epiphany, gains an exciting new feature of an improved location bar, similar to the Awesome Bar popularized by Firefox 3.0.” – well Epiphany had this address bar BEFORE Firefox – it might have added searching the titles also – but what kind of GNOME marketing is that?

I am sure there is more to say. Why dont I file bug reports. Because I have lots of outstanding bugs that are undecided ot disputed so I know it does not make sense to submit new bugs. Its more likely that somebody reads this review and acts uppon that as that anybody really cares about new Ubuntu bugs from my experience. Thats sad but its true. That does not mean people do not work on bugs in Ubuntu – but they tend to either fix clear bugs or dismiss anything they dont get. Like the Evolution guys who still have crappy spam marking options. I did file a bug in GNOME bugzilla years ago but they still think spam handing is not important. That was the single reason for me to switch to Thunderbird.

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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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Enabling epiphany as default browser in OpenBSD

I had the experience that on GNOME on OpenBSD strangely Firefox is started as default. This shoudl not be the case as Epiphany is the default. One way to set it is when you start “gconf-.editor” and browse to the section where you might alos find firefox:

and change it right away to “epiphany %s”. This is only a fix. I need to find out why this is set false. Maybe somebody thinks GNOME should have Firefox as default. I could not change the default behaviour when just setting it right in “Preferred Applications”.

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FF3 criticism part II

Some other things I like to critisize:

  1. This is a good thing: Actually FF now uses Epiphanys model of accessing (via “Smart Location bar” ) bookmarks – bookmarks, tags  and history are searched while you type. Also bookmarks now get tags instead that they are stored in folders. Whats funny about that is that this was one of the major reasons to use Epiphany – so now FF uses that, too – Whats bad about that? Nothing much, just want to mention that Epiphany had that since MANY years
  2. “Organic software”? WTF? One essence of open source software is not think your users are stupid. Firefox thinks people think organic food is nice and so they do want organic food for their computers. Well… its just nonsense, this kind of “microsoftic” “aollike” marketing. If you dont want smart people to use your browser tell us in clear words!

I must say maybe Epiphany was not able to continue its road of inventions and rather made solid new releasesm while some problems were still in place. But I still prefere Epiphany as it seems to me lightyears ahead in simplicity. And now that Mozilla does this promotional shit I have lost my last hope that Firefox might once be either unified with Epiphany or better than Epiphany.

I think one problem FF faces is FeatureCreep. I personally dont think fewer features are always good. But if software is build to get more features in it always gets messy.

Also read another criticism with another view: “What have I got against Firefox 3?” from Nanci Barthelmess

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Ubuntu investigated

I have taken a deeper look into Ubuntu. Those are some things I find weird:

  1. Firefox is the default browser. I think this is ugly, but anyway… if you try to install Epiphany the problem is you can only install Epiphany without the extensiosn via the graphical installer. As this is the suggested method this means that most users wont ever be able to have adblocking and other cool extensions that come by default with the browser. Its really funny, because I know a lot of people who dont like Epiphany because it doesnt have all those nasty little extensions – but they dont see how elegant it is. Its potentially VERY fast and gives you a whole lot of good extensions that dont exploit your system. On Firefox you never know what you get when you install random extensions from the web. Actually their plugin system fails to be as secure as it needs to be. I have seen people with about 50 plugins that are partly incompatible. People dont think. If you allow people to install all kind of crap, they will do so – and then it doesnt make much difference if the core would be secure. As long as the browser doesnt give me some core and secure plugins it doesnt really provide me the needed functionality. Thats why I am really advocating Epiphany. Konqueror might have been some similar advantages, but I havent looked at it that much.
  2. One of the most important feature for users like me who came from the Mac was that the upper right corner in GNOME also had the application switcher menu. Ubuntu chose to replace it with the “Leave” button (to log off, shutdown, restart). So this had two disadvantages: a) One of the most important menus is gone and b) People levae the desktop instead of switching – also this makes the GNOME desktop work very different on Ubuntu than on standard GNOME, VERY fatal. I suggest to change that.
  3. the small trash on the lower right is just too small to be used effectively . When shall I use that one? Why should the desktop only contain icons of the user? I agree that the common desktop concept has a problem which is mostly this: The desktop can only be seen fully when the user hasnt any applications open. But OTOH a small trash is very hard to use especially for children, old people or people with disabilities.
  4. There are no icons on the default desktop. Which leaves the user to only use the menu. Why is the desktop user switcher on my default? I would think that 99% of all desktops are only used by one user – and as space is valuable this applet wastes space.
  5. There is no system tools sub menu. Where is gconf-editor? Not only did the gconf-editor make it hard to find some settings, now Ubuntu also hides the editor and makes it even harder to tweak settings. Um, why?
  6. Still my Ralink RT61 wireless connection drops all the time  (without NM realizing this). This is extremely annoying this happens with WEP as well as with WPA. On Foresight Linux this only happened with WEP.
  7. The messages NM posts to the log are not very informative compared to Foresight so I cant really help debugging. Has anybody disabled some debugging in the Ubuntu package?
  8. Synaptic opens too much windows and is complicated to use. It also doesnt help the user to install the right packages. It tries to help, but it also lacks a lot of packages.I think PackageKit looks much more promising and I hope Ubuntu will pick this in the future.

I will keep testing Ubuntu in this notebook, because we will have an install event at the end of march. And there is really no alternative to use Debian and Ubuntu. Foreisght? Sorry, you still havent enought localization support and also many things dont work, like you can only scan images in one resolution (FL-825). Fedora? Sorry but as long as the community policy is not going to change that is not up for discussion? Gentoo? Nope, not for newbies!  OpenSuse? That might be an alternative, but nobody  know would like to help installing that 🙂

I think for a local LUG there is no other option than the combination Debian & Ubuntu für install fests. There could be many others but all I have looked at so far decided to make things harder.  “PClinuxOS” might make some sense. I have seen it installed and it has a nice configuration center. But it also had weir weirdnesses. But I could imagine to install and test it at least.

Remember: If we help installing we want people to be able to ask others or come back to us. So we wont pick any esoteric Linux, even if it would be better. Unlessthe majority in a LUG is convinced that this is the best.

My big hope was that Foresight would rise, would have good hardware support (scanners, cameras) and localisation by now. But all my core points werent worked on. I am still sad about this fact, especially because I think I will never love Ubuntu. Ubuntu is just like the big elephant you cant ignore. 😉 And this means also that it really doesnt matter if ots providing good software. I think if it brings people to Linux it is good. People can then switch later if they want. People will think its good as it is trendy. So the marketing still works.

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