gnome programs and gnome so far

I've been looking for some programs to restore functionality I lost when I left kde 3.5.

glipper is an ok clipboard history application. although each entry only gets 99 characters.

liferea is almost as good an RSS Reader as akregator-kde3 (and MUCH better than akregator-kde4).

evolution is a mixed bag. it's great for contacts, calendars, and imap, but LDAP won't work, so no corporate address book, which is going to be a problem. I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with that yet, but I suspect I'll end up using thunderbird and evolution simultaneously (after disabling thunderbird's calendar completely)

one thing that has been nice about being in gnome is firefox! it's nice to click on a link in an email again and having it open, instead of having to copy it from thunderbird and paste it in konqueror. plus when I want to use google maps, well, I already have firefox open instead of having to open firefox first.

another nice thing in gnome: the desktop in general is snappy and responsive. kde4 feels slushy by comparison (at least on my hardware). I can't really compare to kde 3.5 any more, I've been running kde4 too long. but gnome feels more responsive than kde4.

so the experiment continues. Things I still need to investigate:

A way to add feeds to liferea from firefox like I used to be able to do with konqueror and akregator. (this is really a pretty minor, rare requirement, but it was one of the things that irked me about kde4 when it mysteriously went missing, both with 'updated from 3.5' configs, and with fresh empty configs)

random wallpaper applet so the background changes periodically from my huge pool of pictures

photo app for doing red-eye correction and possibly photo managing, to replace digikam

ldap lookups in evolution is still a sore spot.

my desktop at work has an additional problem; a couple keyboard mappings i put in don't work, and I'm not sure why yet.

the strangest thing about gnome are the notifications. the new email and calendar alarms are perfect. they look similar to the ones from outlook (but better) but don't interrupt your typing; so you see them, but you can keep typing on what you were doing with no interruption. that part is good. the bad part is the notifications from pidgin are too subtle; just a flashing icon on the panel, no pop-up like from evolution, so it's easy to not even see it. there may be some options though, I haven't looked yet.

gnome rss reader: liferea

the first one I tried, liferea, has most of the good points from the kde 3.5 akregator: feeds with unread articles stand out with bold text, and the number of unread articles is tucked up next to the title. if there are no unread articles, there is no number. simple yet effective and readable at a glance.

kde vs. gnome

I can't believe I'm typing this.

I'm logged in with gnome as my desktop.

I'm going to use it on all my computers for the next few days or a week and see how it goes.

KDE4 bothers me this much.

KDE4 keeps getting better, but I believe it will take at least another year to reach the polish of KDE 3.5. and I'm finding that in ubuntu, gnome is actually MORE polished than my beloved KDE 3.5!

A big draw, and pleasant surprise, has been evolution. last time I tried evolution, it sucked. that was about 5 years ago. These days I've been whining that there are no good Linux GUI email clients. Kmail sucks, in 3.5 or 4.0, its performance with IMAP is abysmal. Thunderbird is fast, but will not cache IMAP messages (plus its calendar sucks, with obnoxious notifications that are hard to dismiss). Evolution seems willing to cache IMAP emails, runs fast, and the calendar seems to work great (at least, I was able to import my calendar files seamlessly; the true test will come at work when I try to sync my work appointments to it).

Everything I've tried in gnome so far seems very smooth, polished, and lightning fast; this is on my old old workstation at home, where kde 3.5 runs acceptably but with flickery redraws, and kde4 is a tick slower than that.

the gnome clock even kicks kde's clock's ass! the gnome folks took all the ideas from the kde clock, improved on them, and ran with it. one click on the gnome clock gives me a current calendar, a list of appointments for the day, and current time and temperature in as many cities as I want.

and there is even a memory usage gauge on my gnome panel, something I was having trouble finding in kde4.

still some questions I need to answer: does gnome's file manager work as well as konqueror or dolphin? does it support ssh, like the fish IOslave in kde? and I need a new RSS Reader for the gnome desktop to replace akregator. and then there is digikam, with the best red-eye correction I have yet found; I wonder if g-spot or f-spot or whatever the gnome photo collection program is called can match that. although, there is of course no reason why I can't run digikam on my spiffy new (possibly) gnome desktop.

I thought I would have trouble replacing kdepim (kmail, korganizer, and kaddressbook) but evolution seems to handily take care of that.

we shall see.

CVS and Subversion

Let me start off by saying that CVS and Subversion are both outdated systems that no one in their right mind should use for a new project. (If you are starting a new project, I would recommend managing your source code with Mercurial).

Unfortunately, I have in the past been forced to use CVS, and I am now forced to use Subversion. I had hoped that Subversion would truly be an upgrade over CVS, since Subversion promises merge tracking.

What I have learned is that Subversion has about as many quirks as CVS, and of course they are different quirks. Today I want to talk about a big one I ran into.

The canonical way to handle branching in Subversion (svn) is to copy the entire module tree to a directory named for the branch. Then multiple commits can be done on the branch. if commits are done on trunk, and you want to get those changes on your branch, you can ask svn to merge those changes onto your branch. svn records information about what commits were merged to the branch in svn properties, which are simply metadata attached to the files. svn uses the data stored in the properties to enable you to merge trunk into your branch at will, over and over again. so far so good, and this is an improvement over CVS, where you have to track the merge info manually (usually by lots of tagging and hoping everyone on the project knows what they are doing; I used the alternative method of tracking CVS changes in mercurial, and doing merges in mercurial instead of CVS).

Eventually when you are ready to merge the branch back to trunk, you run svn merge with the --reintegrate flag, and svn then knows how to handle the stuff that was already merged to the branch.

The first time I tried this though, I was confronted with a gnarly error message:

svn: Cannot reintegrate from 'url://feature-branch' yet:
Some revisions have been merged under it that have not been merged
into the reintegration target; merge them first, then retry.

eh? this was right after I had merged everything from trunk onto the branch again! Where were these mysterious unmerged revisions coming from? This was pretty scary, I thought I was doing everything right, yet it seemed I obviously must not understand svn at all yet.

google of course turned up The Answer. I had carelessly renamed a file on the branch, creating spurious mergeinfo as a side effect; silly me! I had to delete the svn:mergeinfo property on the new file, then svn "graciously" allowed me to merge my branch to trunk. Subversion is indeed a truly awe-inspiring and confidence-building tool!

controlling iTunes via iPhone

I've gotten in the habit of playing music on my big stereo via iTunes running on my Mac.

A handy remote control for this is the Apple-created iPhone app called "Remote". it looks like an ipod on your phone, but it's controlling an iTunes running on a Mac over the network.

It works well enough, but not perfectly. Lag time between waking up the iPhone and being able to control iTunes is in the neigborhood of 5 seconds, which is an eternity when you're used to instant digital gratification.

The lag has two components: waiting for the iphone to connect to the wi-fi, and then waiting for the Remote app to connect to iTunes.

I discovered a fix for the first! I was letting my iPhone configure itself dynamically via DHCP. it was taking at least 3 and sometimes 4 whole seconds to get on the wireless network.

On a whim, I set it to use a static IP address for my home wireless. Next time I woke the phone up, the wi-fi connection happened instantaneously!

So now I'm only left waiting for 1 to 2 seconds for Remote to connect to iTunes; much better than the full 5 seconds it took before.

I usually turn wi-fi off on my iPhone when I leave home; I haven't found a compelling enough reason to need the extra bandwidth (on the off chance I can find a free or AT&T hotspot) to justify the accelerated battery drain. I also keep bluetooth off all the time since I don't have any bluetooth devices or cars (yet!)

spotlight in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and "System Files"

I would like to switch away from using quicksilver to using spotlight for all my searching; it will be simpler to use one interface instead of two. QuickSilver does quite a few things that spotlight will not do (and vice versa). but most of the things I want to do are covered by spotlight, with one notable and nearly fatal exception: searching for saved session files.

I ssh to other machines often, and I set up a saved terminal session for each machine. I'm used to then searching for the name of the session in quicksilver to run it without using the mouse.

Spotlight in Leopard is set up by default to leave out what it likes to call "System files", i.e., anything in ~/Library (and probably in /Library too). and of course saved session files live in ~/Library/Application Support/Terminal.

After much gnashing of teeth, I think I've hit upon a solution, which I'll describe in more detail after I test it some more. But the start of my path to the solution was definitely this article:

short version is I think fiddling with the myriad dropdowns in the Spotlight Finder window has caused Spotlight to finally realize that I always want to include "System files" in my spotlight searches.
  • Current Music
    "West End Girls", Pet Shop Boys

freeing up itunes songs (removing fairplay DRM)

I unfortunately have some songs I bought from the itunes music store using the FairPlay DRM. I know, I know, that was a mistake. well now I'm stuck with about 55 songs I can't play in linux, and I have to worry about making sure I don't run out of the 5 auths for my macs (which is a much more serious and likely scenario)

some songs can be 'upgraded' for 30 cents to a non-drm version (and a higher sampling rate too). follow this link on your mac:

for me, only 1 out of those 55 songs was available for upgrade though.

so now I'm going to have to go through by hand, burn them all out to CDs as cd audio, then re-rip them, then add back in the metadata (artist, song title, my rating, etc). and accept the loss in quality from being encoded twice. blech.

needless to say I won't be buying any more of the tracks with DRM on them.

P.S., there used to be programs (QTFairUse was one of them) that would allow you to strip the DRM off the songs. but then Apple sent the guys who wrote it and distributed it some Cease and Desist orders, so now that's not available any more.
  • Current Music
    "Precious", by Depeche Mode

getting full screen mode to work on external monitor in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard

I've been trying to display stuff in full screen mode from my mac on my television which accepts VGA input.

After plugging in the cable, going through setting up the display in system preferences, I was easily able to make the TV be a second screen sitting next to my macbook's built in lcd. So then I moved a window over to the television (drug it over using the mouse). I hit the slideshow button, expecting it to go to full screen mode on the tv.

But instead it went to fullscreen mode on the built-in LCD, and started showing the slideshow there, which was quite disappointing.

after some fiddling around, I tried moving the menu bar to the television. (in System Preferences, in "Displays", go to the "Arrangement" tab, and there you can drag the menu bar to the external display).

it turns out it doesn't matter which screen the app is on; when it goes to fullscreen mode, it will display on whichever display has the menu bar.

I tried this in and also in Front Row. I assume the same behavior would happen in iPhoto too.
  • Current Music
    "Wake Up", Mad Season

getting some critical apps on leopard, using fink

I'm running Mac OS X version 10.5 (leopard), and I've install xcode 3.1.

I need gnumeric and gnucash, which I use to track my finances. The current stable rsync version of fink contains gnumeric 1.8.1-3 and gnucash 2.2.5-52, both of which are close enough to the versions I have in Ubuntu Hardy Heron and Intrepid Ibex to be useable.

gnumeric and its dependencies compiled and installed fine.

the gnucash2 package, however, failed building some dependent library. here's the errors I got:

/usr/X11/lib/libXdamage.1.1.0.dylib: No such file or directory

libpixman- No such file or directory

and there was additional error about libcairo too.

I used the command-line interface to spotlight to find them:

mdfind libpixman
mdfind libcairo

and ended up using these commands to create some symbolic links (3 really long lines):

sudo ln -s /usr/X11/lib/libXdamage.1.dylib /usr/X11/lib/libXdamage.1.1.0.dylib

sudo ln -s /usr/X11/lib/libpixman-1.0.dylib /usr/X11/lib/libpixman-

sudo ln -s /Developer/SDKs/MacOSX10.5.sdk/usr/X11/lib/libcairo.2.dylib /usr/X11/lib/libcairo.2.17.5.dylib

it will probably break next time I update xcode but it should work for now.

replacing aging hardware

I bought a new cablemodem. Each morning this week, the
cablemodem was down until lunch time. last night it went down too. today it
never came back on. From what I hear, they actually wear out slowly and
sporadically... they will just start getting flakey, rather than die all at
once. The old cablemodem was still flashing orange lights when I unplugged it and put the new one in. it took a couple minutes for the new one to get all
green lights, then at first it handed me a private IP address. so I called the
cable company (Mediacom) and they had to register the new cablemodem's MAC address. It even seems faster than the old one. here's the speed:

Speed Test #41331191 by
Run: 2007-12-06 19:15:35 EST
Download: 7386 (Kbps)
Upload: 478 (Kbps)
In kilobytes per second: 901.6 down 58.4 up
Tested by server: 54 java
User: 2 @
User's DNS:
Compared to the average of 158 tests from
* download is 65% better
  • Current Mood