Froscon 2013, a Mini Review

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending Froscon, a weekend event held Bonn annually. This was the 2nd time Ive been able to attend but each time only on the 2nd day. Froscon is your typical Open Source event, with organised talks, a vendor area and an exhibition.

As  I was only able to attend the second day, I made sure I was there nice and early, so as not to miss anything. The standard ticket price is 5 Euros for the weekend, although there are other tarifs available. I planned to spend the morning section in a workshop and the rest of the day exploring the rest of the event. As I had arrived early, I decided to pop in and take a look at the Fedora booth and have a chat with the guys on the stand there. This year the Fedora booth was complete with a 3D printer, utilising the new 3D Printing Support in Fedora 19.

After checking out the Fedora booth, it was time for me to get over to the Workshop. The workshop was an introduction to Hadoop, run by a guy called Uwe Seiler from Codecentric. He had prepared a VM image for us to use during the workshop. It was available as a VMware image or a Virtual Box image.  While I has used to like Virtual Box I had recently removed it from my laptop. So I could either re-install it OR try and get it to work with KVM.

I started off just importing the .vmdk file and telling KVM that it was a vmdk file, but whileI did see grub, once the system started booting, I was getting lots of disk errors. I decided to convert the vmdk file to qcow2 using the following command

qemu-img convert -O qcow2 <sourcefilename>.vmdk <destinationFilename>.qcow2

Unfortunately this took the file from 2.4G to just over 7G but it did mean that it booted perfectly, with no errors. In retrospect, I realise that it was because I missed the compression option off. Doing the following, means the filesize stays as 2.4G

qemu-img convert  -c -O qcow2 <sourcefilename>.vmdk <destinationFilename>.qcow2

The image had been setup with some tutorials included, so you could work at your own pace and ask Uwe if you needed assistance.

After a couple of hours there I decided to go and investigate the exhibitors area a little more. One of the stands I walked past was the Piwik stand. I had run Piwik in the past but not for quite a while. I was impressed with how good it was looking these days, so I decided it was high time I installed it again. Now that I host my website in OpenShift I was wondering how I would be able to add Piwik. It turns out that someone has made an Open Shift Piwik application cartridge, so it was very simple to get a Piwik instance up and running.

Next I went to a talk in the Fedora room, about OpenScad. I hadent heard of it before but I was very quickly impressed with just how simple it was to use. Using it is like writing a bash script and you get instant results. There are some well documented examples over here

Next up I went to take a look at Freifunk which lets you, via alternate firmware on your router, setup up a mess network and offer free internet access to all. Its a great concept and I think mess is a very important next step in the evolution of networking, especially in light of recent revelations about wide scale internet snooping. At anytime you can see realtime stats of your local area – mine looks like this

The final talk for me was a quick overview of the new features/changes that will be in the next version of Fedora (Fedora 20). These are far too  numerous to list but can be found here.  I think Fedora 20 looks like being an excellent release

In other news, this weekend I also had a first look at OpenShift Origins (via an all in one VM). I have really come to like OpenShift, I have to admit, at first I wasnt too interested in PaaS as Im more of an IaaS person, but OpenShift has totally won me over.

All in all, it was a great geeky weekend, hope yours was too

OSG

GNOME 3, Mission Accomplished?

Its been four years since I posted an article requesting that, whatever GNOME do with the next version, could they please Make It Pretty. GNOME 2 had been looking very dated for a LONG time at that point and I knew we could have something better, something that would be easily better that anything Windows or even MAC could offer. So did they achieve it in my opinion? Read on …

TLDR;

The “too long, didnt read” version is that, for the most part, I would say yes. On the whole I’m very happy with GNOME3 and its features and modernity.

OK, if you are still reading then lets get to the heart of it. While I am, as stated, very happy with GNOME 3.x, there are some things that do drive me crazy, and there is a rather disappointing feeling, when passing feedback back to the developers, that they are dismissive and that they know whats best – which is a real shame

When 3.0 came out, while the basic framework was there and you could see its potential, there was a lot of stuff missing. Most notable for me was a total lack of customisation or more accurately configuration options. We were told that this stuff would come, and so it has, but its sure taken its time in some cases.

One of my major dislikes in GNOME 3.x is the concept of what I believe is called a Gmenu. This is a menu that is attached to the bar at the top of the screen, than changes depending on what application you are focused on. Its kind of like a Global Menu but thankfully nowhere as bad as that. The concept is that you remove items or even the whole menu, from an applications bar and put it at the top of the screen. Its quite an old model if Im honest, I mean my Amiga used to have a global menu but back then we didnt have multiple monitors. And this brings me to the big problem I have with this concept.

Multiple Monitors

I am a huge fan of multiple monitor setups, I have 2 x 26″ Samsungs back at my home for example. So lets say you are in “Files” or, as you may be more familiar with, Nautilus. Lets say you have it open on your right-hand monitor, and then lets say you need to mount your NAS or some other share. There is a “Connect to Server” menu item that makes this really easy. In fact, my girlfriend, who has been a Fedora user for just a couple of years now, was able to, in earlier versions of GNOME, easily find this and use it to connect to her NAS. However, in the new Nautilus, the “Connect to Server” item is, yes you guessed it, in the Gmenu, so I have so move my mouse about 40 inches to the left just to do this – totally IDIOTIC.

Solution:

sudo yum install nemo

Nemo is a fork of the old Nautilus, that doesnt have Gmenu nonesense. Its a shame, I do like the new look of “Files” its nice and clean, but why take useful menu items and put them 40″ away from me?

Notifications

Ok, so thats my Gmenu and Connect to Server issues wrapped up into one, what else? The other major annoyance is notifications. Some bright spark, no doubt with a a degree in User Interface Design, has decreed that all useful notifications will be hidden from a user, apart from a brief slide up from the bottom of the screen before sliding away into oblivion. So if Im logged into IRC, and its open on different workspace, if someone messages me while Im looking away or sneezing, I will be totally unaware. I also cant seem my Dropbox (or more likely these days Copy – my referal code) sync status or anything else that used to be up in the top screen.

I can just hear that person (the UI designer) explaining that its totally better this way, and frankly, if it wasn’t for “Top Icons” coming to the rescue, then no doubt there would be a string of profanities launched back at him, from me.

Extensions

That brings me nicely onto extensions, which is a great feature of GNOME 3, one that I really like. GNOME 3 lets you customise the desktop “experience” with the use of extentions. I mean its a shame I have to install “Remove Accessibility” to remove an item from the top bar of my desktop, rather than just finding a tickbox in my settings somewhere, but there you are.

Yes, extensions are great, they at least put some control back in your hands. However, there are also issues here. Back in the 3.0 and 3.2 days (I think) extensions were nicely packaged up as RPMs that were in the standard repo.  Recently the have decided that this is not the way things should be done, instead, now you have to visit https://extensions.gnome.org/ and install/configure them from there. You may think thats nice and handy, but what about when there are newer versions of an extension available – Im not notified and they cant be updated using the usual methods of updating all the other software on your machine – instead, you have to revisit the site from time to time to have any idea if there are updated versions – I find this silly and quite irritating

 Summary

Ok, it may seem from this that I dont like GNOME 3, but that’s not true, not true by far. I really do love it, the things mentioned above are irritating but it is, for me, the single best desktop that’s available on any platform to date IMHO

If I could request anything from the programmers/designers responsible for it, it would be to a) please listen to and act upon constructive feedback b) always give us a way to disable some of these new features, like a tickbox to disable Gmenu etc etc. The other thing I would say is thank you, thank you for bringing my favorite desktop up to date.

OSG