Convenience

My motivation for writing this blog post is based on an IRC conversation I had a few hours ago. Basically, we got talking about different distro’s and I eventually brought up the topic of convenience. Now I first thought, what is convenience? I figured its the ease of use of a specific application or distro, in computing terms anyway. But is that what it really means? the way I see it, convenience can be classified into two categories, short-term and long-term. Let me explain.

Short term convenience means that a user is able to get up and running and familiar with an application, distro or other piece of software very quickly, this has its benefits. It allows a user to quickly get the work they want to do done without having to learn lots of keyboard shortcuts/commands/read lots of documentation. For many people, this is the way they like to do things.

Now, long-term convenience means that a user is required to spend a little more time mastering a given application, but it allows them to have far greater flexibility and more importantly perhaps, convenience. I think the true meaning of convenience is not ease of use but less effort for the user, these two things are not the same thing, ease of use is how easy something is for a user, less effort relates to how effortlessly a user is able to accomplish a task, let me give you an example.

Say a user editing code wanted to open a document, go to a certain line, delete bits of code from inside other bits of code and then go to another set of lines and delete a whole bunch of lines entirely. In gedit, which I would class as a short-term convenience application, the user would have to tediously scroll around the document constantly switching between the keyboard and the mouse. But what if that user used something like vim, which I would class as a long-term convenience application. Then all the user has to do is enter a few short commands all strung together and they don’t even need to use the mouse.

Sure its easier to learn to use gedit, but is sacrificing true convenience for a slightly lower learning curve really worth it? in the long-term, it would be more beneficial for the user to simply learn to use vim. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments.


AUR vs PPA’s

Over the last few days I have been experimenting with the AUR and building PKGBUILD’s from it, the AUR is the Arch User Repository and my god it is great. Not only is there a heap of software in it but its very easy to add and install software from.

Now, Ubuntu’s PPA’s on the other hand, which i used extensively when i used Ubuntu, are great, but they require constant management, because you are constantly adding, removing and changing around the PPA’s. Not to mention the fact that more often than not, many Ubuntu users will have upwards of 40-50 PPA’s added to their system at any one time.

The AUR on the other hand, requires much less maintenance, it only needs to be added once. After that you can either build the PKGBUILD’s by hand or use an AUR helper like yaourt. Either way, it’s very, very easy to use.

The other great advantage of the AUR is that dependencies of applications in the AUR are very unlikely to break your system because the packages are often only a little bit more bleeding edge than the packages in the other repositories.


One week with Arch Linux

I have now been using Arch for one whole week, during this week, I have been experimenting with it and discovering new things.

My initial thoughts are that Arch is right for me, it has no frills, it has no intention of being an annoying, newbie oriented, hindering, clunky, non-configurable distro. I am currently happy with my selection of fluxbox, its minimal, although requires some configuring to get right, even after a whole week, I have barely started getting it to the point where I am happy, but at least it doesn’t feel half-configured still, it’s just not the way I want it yet.

Pacman, I like Pacman, its quicker than apt and uses fewer resources, it does seem to have connection problems frequently, although that could be blamed on my net connection, which is currently behaving like a 5-year-old on drugs (i.e. Its frustrating, annoying and constantly making me want to stab something). One thing switching to Arch has done is made me rethink just about all my default application choices, with the exception of screen, irssi and bash, all of which I will probably never swap out.

Installing Arch is not nearly as hard as many people think, it is as easy as an Ubuntu install until you get to configuring graphics and sound, which caused me to become stuck, but I soon figured it out thanks to the awesome arch users on irc. One thing I can recommend to anyone who is thinking of trying Arch is to read the Arch wiki! The Arch wiki is hands down some of the best documentation I have ever used. Not only is it great quality, it’s also extremely comprehensive and provides more than just an installation guide.

The Arch repositories also contain everything you will ever need, they are just as big as Ubuntu’s repositories and they contain much more recent software.

Overall, I am loving Arch, it is a great distro and I plan on using it for a long time to come.


My irssi setup

Recently I have been playing around with my irssi setup and tinkering with commands and scripts so I thought I would share my setup here. My irssi setup is by no means the best setup out there, I have seen far cooler one’s all over the net, this is just how *I* use irssi.

First of all, I have irssi running inside screen (mostly because I use nicklist.pl), plus screen is useful in a bunch of other ways. The scripts I currently use are:

The theme I use is a modification of the madcow theme called 88_madcows by Aaron Toponce.

Here is a screenshot of my current irssi window:

 

My irssi window...

I really like the 88_madcows theme and like Aaron, I also used to use the madcows theme, although at the time I didnt know any Perl or anything, so didn’t consider modifying the theme.

 

If your reading this post and you don’t use irssi, I highly recommend you check it out, it is an excellent IRC client and the only one I have been able to tolerate using for the past couple of years. If you use irssi, please go ahead and share your setup in the comments.


Ubuntu, the Web and Me

I realize I haven’t blogged in a fair while, this is my first post of 2011. 2010 was a big year for me in the Ubuntu community, I participated in so many cool projects, events and activities, and perhaps more importantly, I learnt a great deal.

At the end of last year I created a big list of things I wanted to do in 2011, some of you may be thinking “how could this bloke possibly have the motivation for all these things!?”, my answer to that? I am motivated because of the great community around Ubuntu, FOSS and around the interwebs.

Now, I do not wish to share the list with you all, simply because it has many things on it that I do not wish to share with everyone.

Some of the cool things I did last year:

  • Joined the Ubuntu Manual project and helped to drive it forward I am still active within the project, although have a reduced role due to commitment to other projects.
  • Received Ubuntu Membership
  • Joined the Bugsquad
  • Joined the Ubuntu Developer Manual project
  • Joined the Ubuntu Youth Team
  • Greatly increased my activity on IRC and other sites like Identi.ca and Diaspora.
  • Started my own project called Pytask
  • Joined in on Ubuntu Opportunistic Developer Week and ran a session.

I am planning on making 2011 the year that I really put an effort in. To help with this, I have finally got enough money together to buy new hardware.

Also, many people have been asking me when the next release of Pytask will be coming, I have been working hard over Christmas to get the next release out. There are many useful improvements that have been made and Pytask will be available in over 10 languages as of next release, so hold on to your hats!


New Pytask release!

I am very pleased to announce the latest version of an application of mine called Pytask, I hinted in a blog post a while ago that it was nearing release, but I was set back by both bugs in the code and other projects.

The new features in this release include:

  • Pytask is now translated into Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Hindi and Spanish
  • Pytask now has an indicator applet *with* a mono icon
  • The filter introduced in 10.06.1 has been further improved
  • You can now report bugs against Pytask using apport

You can get Pytask from my PPA here: https://launchpad.net/~nisshh/+archive/pytask-releases

Enjoy!


Custom indicator applet icon

Recently, I have been helping out many, many people in #ubuntu-app-devel on Freenode with getting a their application indicator to use a custom icon. I recently went through a lot of hassle trying to figure this out, so I thought I would post about it.

So normally to initialize your application indicator, you would have something like this:

ind = appindicator.Indicator("MyApp", "my-app-icon", appindicator.CATEGORY_APPLICATION_STATUS)

But that will only allow you to use icons in the current icon theme, not your own, so to fix this you just need to specify the path like so:

ind = appindicator.Indicator("MyApp", "/usr/share/myapp/media/my-app-icon.png", appindicator.CATEGORY_APPLICATION_STATUS)

The above code assumes that your app is a Quickly application (/usr/share/myapp/ is where Quickly applications install themselves to). If your application is not a Quickly application then you just need to point the path where your icon is when the application is installed.

Enjoy!