Saturday, July 22, 2006

Istanbul receives overhaul

Istanbul is a simple "desktop session recorder" that allows you to create screencasts. It sits in your notification area, and to use it, you simple click its icon. Its simplicity gave it the potential to become a very useful tool.

However, over the past year it had fallen out of date and contained many bugs, pretty much making it unusable in Ubuntu 6.06 - until now. The creator, Zaheer Abbas Merali, has blogged that Istanbul has just received a UI overhaul and can now record 3D applications as well as composited environments (eg. XGL). For now, if you'd like to try out these updates, you'll have to use the bleeding-edge CVS version, but you can look forward to them in the next release.

Update: That's what I get for writing this article a week ago, but only posting it now - Istanbul 2.0 has been released.

GTK 2.10 - Progress

Ars Technica has an interesting article up on the latest and greatest version of GTK.
Here's the interesting bit:

A new function has been added that will enable GTK applications to detect the presence of a compositing manager like XGL, possibly a prelude to more extensive integration of translucency in various GNOME applications, like real transparency in the GNOME terminal.
Perhaps we'll see something beyond better translucency effects in applications though. Compiz provides some very slick desktop effects, and it'd be neat if applications could trigger some special effects and interact with the window manager in a cool way.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Novell's GNOME Menu in Ubuntu

One of the features that sets Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) 10 apart from the pack is it's unique menu replacement for the gnome-panel.
Well, you can now install the new "gnome-main-menu" in Ubuntu.
I had actually tried this a few days ago, but I was pretty turned off by how ugly it looks with the default Ubuntu theme:

Compare with:

Moral to the story: If you install the new gnome-main-menu, change your GNOME theme.
(I'm going to change my theme and give the new menu another shot this week, we'll see how useful it is.)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Full NTFS Support... Again

It looks like the ability to read/write to NTFS partitions in Linux has arrived.... again...

Originally, we had captive-ntfs, which was the first real contender that brought read/write support for NTFS. It worked by wrapping the "NTFS.SYS" driver from Windows, and required a valid Windows license to use (legally, that is). Unfortunately, captive-ntfs wasn't compatible with the 2.6 kernel for a very long time. However, earlier this year, a new version was released that does work with the 2.6 kernel (most modern Linux distributions use the 2.6 kernel, making this a pretty important feature).

Unfortunately, captive-ntfs isn't quite the end-all-be-all solution to the NTFS problem. It's not the speediest method ever conceived and it does require a Windows license to legally use. For most people though, neither of these problems are an issue. Lastly, there are reports that the driver is still rough around the edges.

Meanwhile, the Linux-NTFS project has continued their "slowly but surely" approach to the problem, and it appears that the project may just have reached fruition. The ntfs-3g driver provides a decently fast, completely open-source (and Microsoft-free) approach to the NTFS read/write problem. It's also in active development, unlike the former solution.

If you're dying to be able to write to your NTFS partition, check out the announcement (complete with installation instructions. If you're an Ubuntu user, you can snag some slightly different instructions over here.
(Edit: Or if you're into broken english, here's another easier (aside from the engrish) ntfs-3g Ubuntu HOWTO.)

Read/write support is one of those problems that just hasn't gone away over the years, but it seems like many peoples' hard work is finally paying off. It'll be nice to finally be able to read/write to NTFS drives "out of the box" in Linux.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Last-exit Player and

Last-exit is an audio player for the handy music service. If you have a free profile, the player will stream music from artists that it thinks you will like based on your past listening history.

The website for Last-exit gave me a good chuckle when I saw it the first time. If you click the "magic stuff", you'll see some nice screenshots as well. That brings me to my next point: The user interface on this application absolutely kicks ass. It's simple, organized, functional, and looks great.

So what's is a useful website/service for finding artists similar to those that you already listen to. If you use an audio player that has support, will automatically build up a profile of what music you listen to. If you login to the website, it'll show you stats on what you've been listening to, and it'll help you find similar artists. Banshee takes it a step further by integrating some of these stats directly into the player's UI.
Sometimes it tells you about artists that you already know about, but it's usually a great way to expand your taste in music. Personally, I've found it pretty useful in my experience with it, but there's always some interesting bias in the statistics it gives you. For instance, the first few songs that appear in Banshee or Rhythmbox for me get played disproportionately more than other songs in my collection simply because they're at the top and more accessible - not because I like them more. If you keep these sorts of things in mind, it's pretty interesting to see if the music you listen to the most is actually the music you like the most.

Give it a shot!

Edit: A .deb for Ubuntu Dapper is available here. (.DEB updated to version 2, but if you want to run the newer version 3, download the sources.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Banshee 0.11 Preview

Update: Banshee 0.11 has been released! I've posted instructions on how to install Banshee 0.11 as well.

Music players in Linux have been undergoing a sort of renaissance over the past year. Older programs such as Rhythmbox and Quod Libet have undergone serious active development adding useful new features. Newer contenders like Banshee and Listen have continued to add features in a friendly competition to create the best desktop music player.

In keeping with this competition, the next release of Banshee (version 0.11) is going to have some spiffy new (and long awaited) features.

The change is the new splash screen, which has a nice little progress bar on it:

Once Banshee's done loading, you'll recognize the usual simple layout, but it's got a few new additions on the left-hand side:

That's right: Banshee's going to have podcast support, internet radio support, and iTunes Music Store (ITMS) support all in one go!

Each of these new features is integrated via plugins, but thanks to the clever design of the plugin architecture, each plugin's features are integrated seamlessly into the user interface:

Podcast support in Banshee

Streaming internet radio in Banshee

ITMS support in Banshee

I haven't personally tested buying anything through ITMS in Banshee, but it looks like it "just works".

This is the Banshee I've been waiting for. With the upcoming 0.11 release of Banshee, I think the project has finally have started to reach maturity, as it's now flush with tons of unique features that are seamlessly integrated into the beautiful user interface.

Lastly, here's a list of all of the major features that'll be included in Banshee's next release:

  • Audioscrobbler/Last.FM support
  • Music sharing (DAAP)
  • Metadata Searching (Automatic covert art and metadata downloading)
  • Multimedia Keys support
  • Podcast support
  • Music Recommendations (through Last.FM)
  • Smart Playlists
  • Streaming Internet Radio
  • iTunes Music Store (ITMS) support
  • Wikipedia/Lyrics support (lookup artist info and lyrics)
  • Full iPod sync support with transcoding
  • CD Playback and Ripping

Drooling yet?
I most certainly am.