Monday, February 28, 2011

Vala, Vala everywhere!

...okay, okay, maybe not everywhere. But since I posted on Vala a while back, I've noticed a couple of teams in particular seem to have embraced it wholeheartedly. What's really cool is that these teams have been writing some really impressive software for GNU/Linux in Vala. Nearly all of these software projects were started within the last year or two, and these aren't your grandma's Linux apps. These are sleek, fast, and have a strong focus on usability and a nice, clean interface. They're really worth checking out.

Here are the teams and their software:
  • Yorba
    • Shotwell (photo organizer)
      This one's extra impressive because in less than two years it's gone from brand new project to the default photo manager for top GNU/Linux distributions Ubuntu and Fedora
    • Lombard (video editor)
    • Fillmore (music recorder)

  • Elementary
    These guys started out creating slick themes for Ubuntu, and before long started making their own apps. They've started up so many software projects, particularly in the last year, I don't know how they could possibly have time to work on them all:
Elementary has another app named Dexter, an address book, and although it's currently written in Python, I wouldn't be surprised to see it go the way of some of their other apps like Purple.

There's also Midori, a lightweight browser, which I don't think the Elementary team started, but I know they contribute to it, and somehow or another Vala is involved, possibly due to their influence.

As if that wasn't enough, next month the Elementary team is releasing their own GNU/Linux distro, based on Ubuntu, but with a cleaner interface and packaged with many of their apps. Here's an early screenshot:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Connecting to a Windows machine via RDP from GNU/Linux

For a while I used a program called Terminal Server Client (tsclient), a frontend for rdesktop, to connect to Windows machines from GNU/Linux using native Windows RDP. While it worked, it wasn't the greatest. For one, it seemed that in order to save my connection settings, I had to save a separate .rdp file for every server. And then if I wanted to connect to another server with its saved settings, I'd have to open the .rdp file for that machine. pretty annoying. In addition, when I would log out of the remote server, tsclient would present a popup saying that the connection was terminated, and after 30 seconds try to reconnect. Neither issue was a big deal, but it was kind of irritating. I confess that I never even looked for a solution to either one, so they both may have been easily solvable.

But now it doesn't matter, because I just stumbled upon a new RDP client called Remmina, thanks to this post. Remmina is quite nice, and solves both of the main issues I had with tsclient. Perhaps it will present some issues of its own, but so far, it's won me over.

I'm sure it's available in the repositories for most distributions. At the moment I'm using Ubuntu, and so to install it, I ran this in a terminal:
sudo apt-get install remmina

Here's a screenshot:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Why I'm probably switching from Ubuntu, pt 3 (future)

In my last post, I discussed why the direction Ubuntu's taken recently has left me less than satisfied.

The future?

In short, I'm not really sure.

I think I've been using a Debian-based distro for so long that it'll probably be something along those lines. I did use Fedora for a while (6 months-ish) when I came to my present job. Honestly one of the most frustrating things was there seemed to be a major fracture in it's external repositories. Maybe I was just trying to install some weird stuff, but it seemed to me like a lot of what I wanted was in one repository, but some was in another, and the dependency conflicts eventually became too much. At any rate, at the time I was longing to get back to Ubuntu.

As far as Debian-based goes, the three that pop into my mind are:

  • Debian
    Switch from Ubuntu to Debian? Not unheard of, actually:

    Considering my major complaints with Ubuntu right now are stability and the new direction it's taking in terms of features, Debian would be a logical choice. At least from an outside perspective, it seems more balanced than the one-person (Mark Shuttleworth) distro that Ubuntu seems at times.

  • Mint
    I'm still not really sure why Mint exists, but to be honest I just haven't looked into it. The only advantage that I know of is that it's green instead of the ugly brown/purple that Ubuntu has used. A big disadvantage would be that I believe it's based on Ubuntu, so it may inherit many of the issues I have with Ubuntu right now. But I can't knock it til I try it.

  • Elementary
    Again, this one is Ubuntu-based, and so could inherit many of the issues I have with Ubuntu. But this one looks really amazing. I especially love the focus on simplicity. Sometimes when you have software written by geeks (and often for geeks) like GNU/Linux, simplicity gets lost in the quest for gobs of features. Quite often this ends up making me less productive, as I sift through buttons that I'll never use to find the one I want. But less really is more. And Elementary looks very promising.

Who knows what will happen. There's a strong chance I'll be too lazy to switch from Ubuntu, or that I'll try other options and come back. But Ubuntu definitely isn't on the pedestal it once stood. And maybe it's not the end of the world after all.