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I’ve switched to the Ubuntu Hardy Beta as my main OS, which is also a switch from using KDE to using GNOME. However the DE switch didn’t really affect me much.

The main things I like about GNOME is the fact that firefox and compiz integrate well (the later is probably partly the ubuntu team’s work.

However, I do have a few issues with the system (which isn’t surprising for a beta).

  • Firefox 3 can not handle apt: links properly without being told where the apturl binary is.
  • Firefox plugins (ie. java and flash) do not load as expected and I had to do some jiggling to get it to work. (Firefox seems to look in /usr/lib/firefox-3.0 and /usr/lib/xulrunner-1.9b4, but surprisingly not /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins or /usr/lib/firefox/plugins)
  • The add user dialog box does not work (probably due to bugs in the new policykit  integration)

And there a few things I would like to see added in future versions:

  • The ability to restore items from the trash
  • A passwordless login option for gdm (I solved this rather messily by using null passwords for non sudoer users)
  • Policykit intergration into more apps. It would be great if the “permission denied” dialog in gedit would let me esculate to root, it would save me so much time.

I also found pidgin to be an annoyance. It does not show msn personal messages which for me, is quite important. In fact, I am now using Emesene, which is designed specifically for the WLM (aka msn) network so does the important things like personal messages, offline messages and even has a plugin for the Plus! colours. Also, it is quite similar to the layout of the official client without the ugliness that aMSN has. All in all, I would recommend it it as a drop in replacement for people who currently use the MS client, especially as it is still being actively developed.

I also had a mess about with the gnome themes, which despite what the KDE folk might say, was nicely customizable.  I got interested in the application transparency that murrine can provide. Unfotunately, this is only available in the svn build. So, no problem – im confortable with compiling my own stuff. However, I wanted to try and install it via a deb package, to make future maintenance easier. So, I’ve been trying out packaging which isn’t all that hard, once you get the hang of it. Hopefully I’ll be able to put these skills to use. I’m building up a (very small) apt repository.

So, in the end after some “learning” (can be frustrating sometimes) I got murrine installed. So, a few plugins later and I have transparent apps (fwiw emesene has support built in).  However, there were a couple of things bothering me:

  1. tbh, its not all that great – just the transparent gnome-terminal would have sufficed for me. It looks a bit messy at times (perhaps more blur is needed?)
  2. Why is this not in the distros yet? Vista has had this for a year! Where is the innovation of the open source community? Or is the answer see 1, is it just not a big deal to most people?

Not only do I believe that free software, or freedomware as I like to call it, is the moral way of doing software, making me more or less a subscriber to the FSFs views.

However, I have only been aware of freedomware for a couple of years now. I really do appreciate the freedom it gives me, to be in control over my own computer; to use my computer how I want.

Also, I’m increasingly of the belief that growing up with propeitary software was actually bad for me. I am, and always been inquisitive. From when I first had a computer, I wanted to find out how stuff worked, and how I could do the same thing. For example, not soon after I started regularly using the internet, I was right clicking and selecting view source to copy and tweak parts for my own HTML documents. As a result of that and the following learning process I am not quiet proficient in XML and can also code my own PHP scripts.

However, the big thing that Windows, and proprietary software in general prevents you from doing is looking at the source code. This restricted me greatly I’m sure of it. I still remember my futile attempts to run code in the same way other applications were run. I thought that the “proper” ways of doing it cost money, lots of money (most development tools are hundreds of pounds). Therefore, I was limited to batch scripting and yabasic etc.

Its so painful in hindsight to realise that wonderful things that were out there. Open code that I could look at and modif, just like I did web pages. Free (in both senses) compilers so that I could make my own applications that ran in the same way as professionals.  However, I could not see these things – I only knew the proprietary world I had entered in. I could not create, innovate or learn to my full potential because of these restrictions, at a time, as a child were I could have developed greatly.

Yes, I truly believe proprietary software hindered my personal development, and I will forever loathe it for that.

Note: This post is from the point of view of someone trying to avoid proprietary software because I believe proprietary software is immoral (many of the things here help explain this). If you don’t share this view, this post probably shouldn’t concern you.
Also, if you are trying to avoid it, like me, then you might want to consider switching to Gnash and IcedTea for Flash and Java. (These are what I use)

On Saturday I recorded a podcast with two of the other people from Teenlug: Zach (zoglesby) and Rob (x_rob). Due to the distances we live apart, VOIP was the only option and we ended up using the propeitary Skype.

Its true that an alternative exists, the open protocol SIP and its many open source clients. But the truth is, these aren’t really that good. There is no consistent text chat, no presence notification and much of the time, the sound quality is abysmal (which can be seen in the other podcast I was in, TuxTeens). Also, because these are normally small projects, Phone to PC calls are either not available or not competitively priced.

So, there you have one of the reasons why I use propeitary software, despite not wanting to, even at home. The others are compatibility testing (one of the main things I code is webpages, so I use IEs4linux) and programs I need for school – luckily this is only one program (containing information about Physics) which runs perfectly under wine.

For the second thing, I would recommend free website snapshoting tools, but these only do so much. Whenever I code something ajaxy I need to test it in a live browser. However, I think I am probably prepared to live with this in the mean time. It is a symptom of other peoples dependency on non-free software, not so much mine.

The VOIP problem is, of course, the tricky one. I am in danger of becoming locked into Skype, because everyone else having the conversation needs to use the same protocol. However, I don’t find this such a major issue as most of the people I want to talk to are in favor of open source, and would be happy to use a good open source alternative. The thing is, most of the alternatives are nowhere near the quality (interface or sound) of skype. If people are to be convinced to use freedom respectful, this is something we need to improve.

Of course, it would make sense to build upon the existing technologies. One way to do it would be to build upon the XMPP protocol (used by Jabber), which provides text messaging and presence notification, and add audio and video. This is what google did with Google Talk, and although this is a proprietary program, Google are working towards an open source library. However, FOSS support for this protocol is experimental.

Or you could take SIP and attach text messaging and presence notification. This is what a project called openwengo are doing. This is the project I am most interested in, because it should be compatible with other skype clients (although the added bits would not work) and it doesn’t involve using experimental versions of kopete etc.

Edit: Although Wengo has precense notification, it does not have text chat. 😦

However, to properly test these technologies, I need someone (maybe even several people) to call.
Any volunteers?

I believe that in an ideal world, we should all have freedom over our computing environment. And, I want to work to help achieve this dream.

However, I don’t feel like I’ve done much recently to further the causes of Free Software, despite that being something I want to do. Therefore, I am trying to think of ways I can do this. These fall into two basic categories

  1. Helping improve software in the Free Software Community
  2. Helping with existing efforts to raise awareness of Free Software generally
  3. Helping raise awareness of Freedomware in my local community

Although the first is something I’d like to do, perhaps starting off by alpha/beta testing Ubuntu Hardy (watch this space), I believe that for me, at this time, raising awareness is more important. This is because its not specifically Linux/Ubuntu I want to improve – Linux is not that important – instead, I want people to realise that software liberty is important (and possibly choose Linux because of that).

The second should be fairly easy to do, I just need to hang around the GGL specific Nuxified forum a bit more. In fact, one of the GNU/Linux Matters ideas particularly interests me – UndeclaredRight.Info – but it doesn’t seem to have got anywhere yet. Perhaps I could be the person to get it started.

Libervis also seems like something I want to become more part of, but its more a group for discussing these issue rather than advocating them. And, I’m already a regular participant in #libervis anyway.

However, the thing is, I’m not really sure how to go about doing the third.”Local community” probably translates to my school. Thing is though, from talking to people about Software Liberty so far, I have had a rather negative response. At best, people are interested, in agreement with some of the things, but not bothered enough to take it further themselves; at worst, I give people a bad impression of Freedomware – my “advocacy” has a negative effect if any at all.

I’m not sure how I can overcome this. Perhaps over time I’ll get better at explaining it and making it relevant? Or perhaps I need a new approach. We have a “lesson” called enrichment, where speakers come in to do talks, and our teacher has suggested that students could talk about something important to them. An ideal opportunity? Maybe, if I managed to pull it off. If I don’t, I’ll just give freedomware a bad name in the minds of a lot of young people :S

Perhaps I should start a Freedomware group? I know there’s at least one person that would join. But similar to the enrichment idea we could get a lot ridicule and our efforts might fail miserably.

In addition I’d like to get more Freedomware into schools in the UK generally, but I have no idea at all where I can start working towards that.

:S :S :S

I’ve done a bit with wine the last few days. I tried to get a few of my windows to run for myself, albeit not very successfully – mainly because I don’t really need them anyway.

Then, yesterday, I was given the task of getting WoW and the Orange box to work on a friends Kubuntu install ( 😦 my only convert). Annoyingly, the problem was not really wine, but a bug in the drivers of the intel graphics card..

I fixed this by editing some WoW graphics options, the opengl one (of course), but the biggest improvement seemed to be this tweak, despite the fact that it is designed for ATI cards. (Although, tbh I tried most of the things further up that page as well.)

As for the Orange Box, after much fustration, I found that I could get counterstrike and team fortress to work by using a “Launch Option” that reduced the version of Direct X that was used (to 7.0 for these games).

Thing is though, it seemed to take me ages to fix, much longer than I thought it would. Especially, as I didn’t manage to get all of the Orange Box to work (in particular Portal), I felt little sense of achievement. Perhaps this is just the nature of fixing things: if something is broke (especially after following application specific tutorials in the case of wine), then the problem is likely to be something you wouldn’t expect, and is by its nature hard to find.

Hmmmmmm, I wonder if anyone will understand the above, I hardly do myself :D. *Sigh* I guess thats what happens when you let your thoughts stew in your mind for a day. I guess the thing with writing stuff down is you need to do it whilst the thoughts are still fresh in your mind.

This is the beauty of freedomware, you can take it into your own hands and make it how you want.

I was using the theme Midnight Fox, but due to my dark kde theme, the history and autocomplete box were unreadable. Nevermind though, after reading an easy tutorial on editing themes, I was able to fix these problems myself. I’m uploading it here just in case anyone else finds it useful.

Note: If your setup is not similar to mine, with a dark system wide theme, it will probably look even more broke than the original.

Hello World

Edit: Okay, I lie, this is really my third attempt – my second was an absolute failure

This is my second attempt at a blog, hopefully this won’t fail as miserably as last time. Hopefully I’ll have stuff to blog about, that people might even find interesting, such as the couple of websites I am now webmaster of (Audenshaw Fair Trade and Audy Amnesty) any of the programming stuff I’m working on (see next post), and probably plenty of Freedomware rants.

So, all I need now is a hackergochi and some readers. I’ll get the former sorted fairly soon, as for the latter, if you’re one of them, please leave me a comment and tell me what you think.