Friday, October 30, 2009

Karmic Koala is out...shrug

I was really excited last April when Jaunty came out. This time...not so much. Don't get me wrong, I like the new release, and the machine I'm typing this from is upgraded to it pretty quickly, but from the perception of Joe User, it seems more like an LTS upgrade. Here's what I've seen that's new:

First, there is the usual shiny. The icons are different. This version includes some nice wallpapers, and the boot process was made shinier by replacing Usplash with Xsplash. Of course, there is just this odd-looking Ubuntu logo while you're waiting for it to appear. The Xsplash screen is just plain gorgeous, but vaguely-beige logo that shows up beforehand is at least one step back. It's just ugly.

Once again, boot times seem to have been improved. I can't put my finger on it and I haven't bothered to time the differences, but it certainly feels faster.

A few new apps and some changes to existing ones. Network Tools adds some standard tools like pinging and port scanning, but nothing that wasn't already easily installed by those who needed it (or skipped if using bash). The Disk Utility is a nice addition, but it's only a mild improvement over gparted -- SMART information and a different way of looking at the partitions. The Ubuntu Software Center is even simpler than Add/Remove Programs was. As if IM using Pidgin was hard, as far as I can tell, Empathy makes A/V chat easy. A bunch of programs received upgrades, such as Firefox to 3.5 and to 3.1. Aside from these kinds of things, nothing earthshaking.

One notable exception to the otherwise nice-but-not-groundbreaking list is Ubuntu One. Now by default there is cloud storage. For cheap power users like myself, the 2GB storage is just a drop in the bucket and with the US economy being in the toilet, spending $10 or $20 a month for extra storage just isn't an option unless you *really* need it. Dropbox has the exact same storage costs and is cross-platform, unlike Ubuntu One. If you need cloud-base file synchronization with at least one Window$ box, this is a much better option. Still, Ubuntu One is nice, too.

Maybe I was expecting more because some of Canonical's previous releases have been major improvements. Karmic Koala is more of an incremental improvement. There are other big fish to fry, such as simple remote desktop access with FreeNX or a decent entry-level desktop publishing -- sorry, Scribus doesn't cut it in this case. Yes, these are "merely" apps, but there are plenty of improvements that can be made. I'm hoping Lucid Lynx makes some real headlines, but for now, I'm quite content with Karmic.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

One More Feather in Haiku's Cap

At the end of last week, I ordered a new computer that came about the middle of this week. It's an Athlon II 2.6 Ghz quad core system. I was so excited about it coming, and now that I have it, it feels like a Ferrari compared to either of my other two machines. Zeta doesn't run on it very well, so that's a small bummer, but Haiku runs perfectly... no, unbelievably. It just gets out of the way. How well? I ran 4 instances of the Haiku3D demo at the same time, and all 4 CPUs were only at 50%. Compiling the Capital Be beta from source with the development Paladin took what seemed like no time and didn't even come close to maxing out all four cores, and as far as I could tell, it couldn't compile faster because gcc was I/O bound. Not only the Haiku run well on old or low-power hardware like netbooks, but it is even better on fast machines.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Making Up for Lost Time

As if it weren't already obvious, I'm not off the radar yet. ;-) Just one day after the 1.1 release, I spent this evening hacking on Paladin and adding support for project templates. I never really bothered with it until tonight when I wanted to hack together a quick-and-dirty development tool and wasn't happy that I had to write some more boilerplate code. Bleah. I'd toyed with the idea long ago, but didn't bother for some reason. It's nowhere near what I'd like for customizability, but works pretty sweet for saving some initial project creation time, so here's one nice feature for 1.2. :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Capital Be... It's About Time!

As you can see, I'm working on tying up some loose ends. Years ago, I said that I was going to open source Capital Be, my personal finance application. I meant it... I'm just a little late. ;-) Like all of my other projects, it's MIT licensed. I may keep updating it, I may not -- all that really needs done to be *really* useful is to finish the budget variance report code, which isn't all that easy, unfortunately. Perhaps OFX online banking support isn't even out of the question. Only time will tell on this one. :)

Paladin 1.1 is Out!

Normally, a simple release wouldn't be particularly newsworthy, but this is one I'm pretty excited about: the current unstable branch was released. This is the version that I've been coding with (and on) for the last several months. There are lots of internal improvements, such as better startup time because it stores dependency information in the project file. A host of small interface tweaks have been added, as well. One that I use pretty frequently is the opt-out for creating a folder for a project -- great for migrating projects to Paladin without much extra effort. Using drag and drop to add entire folder hierarchies to a project is a great time-saver, too.

My favorite feature of the release, though, is the code library. It started because I have quite a few classes I've written over the years which are shared between my various projects, but because I don't have a dedicated source control server (something I've been considering more and more lately), keeping these classes in sync with the occasional changes that I've made is more than a little bit annoying and error prone. Check a few classes into the library as a module, and Paladin automatically synchronizes the code.