Thursday, 24 March 2011

MPlayer2 Experimental Package

Yesterday I came across a fork of mplayer called simply mplayer2. When I read it supports ordered chapters, I knew I had no other choice but to build it (as there does not seem to be any other distro package for than for gentoo). To my surprise, the build itself takes about 10-15 minutes so apart from figuring out and installing all the deps it was pretty fast process. The resultant SPEC file used to build the package can be found on my fedorapeople space. It uses same executable name, so it cannot coexist with mplayer and I didn't bother working around that.

Some of its killing features include:
  • Ordered Chapters (finally is this Matroska feature supported on linux!)
  • Dynamically loads system libraries, including ffmpeg and libass (which among other things means that when ffmpeg is build with multithreading support, mplayer2 is prepared to take advantage of it)
  • Uses libass for rendering subtitles by default (yay, finally vertical Japanese subtitles are rendered properly)
  • Does not unpause paused movie when e.g. switching to/from fullscreen, seeking, etc.
Plus it seems at first sight that frame-dropping works without any problems (I always had problems with it in mplayer).

So, I'd like to add, if you want to try it, here's your chance but I warn you that it's not your usual high-quality package you are used to in Fedora ;-) Plus, it does not include gmplayer and mencoder as the devs decided to drop these from the codebase (you can read more about that on mplayer2 faq page)

And on a almost unrelated note, first thing I watched using mplayer2 was 君に届け [Kimi ni Todoke, Reaching You], the live action movie version. I have to say I liked it a lot (I admit that despite being healthy boy, I have a soft spot for East Asian romance often found in shoujo manga) and starting today I have new favourite actress :-D Her name is Renbutsu Misako (Renbutsu is surname), she's twenty and she played Chizuru (one of the main protagonist's best friends, see the picture bellow). For those not being able to read Japanese: she's from Tottori Prefecture (west part of Honshu, about 200km north-east from Hiroshima), she likes guitar and drawing picture books and her special skills are piano and karate. Quite an ideal woman for me :-D

Update: I've been reminded that fedorapeople is bound by the same rules as fedoraproject with regards to forbidden stuff, so until I find a better location you can find only SPEC (that AFAIK does not qualify as redistributing patent encumbered software) there – you should be able to download the source from upstream directly and build the package, right ;-) Have I already said that I hate software patents with a passion?

Update (2011/04/08): I've updated to final 2.0 release. Apart from that the update contains a fix for debuginfo package build, disables mp3lib build (which was producing broken audio for me) and contains a config file (I shamelessly stole the config file laying in source and edited it for fedora needs) which sets pulse as default audio output (alsa isn't performing 100%, sometimes mplayer2 refuses to "unpause" with alsa audio driver).

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Make XFCE Rock, Part I. Panel Layout

Bunch of us are unhappy with the direction of Gnome 3. For us, the best desktop to replace gnome with is probably XFCE. However XFCE isn't as mature as Gnome 2 was before Gnome 3 took over. So here's the idea: make XFCE first class citizen in Fedora. And this blog post is the first (and one of the both most easy most controversial) part of that great task—the default panel layout.

I think the current default layout suffers many shortcomings and redesign is needed. After some initial discussion of what applets we should use I sketched and propose for consideration two layouts. One single-panel and one two-panel.

The single panel layout is very minimalistic and tries to retain good usability within the constraints:

The two-panel layout on the other hand can sport some more applets and thus improve the usability a lot. I believe that the splitting of applets into the panels should be easy to understand/use, functional and look stylish. I obviously see analogy between panel menus and app menus – hence they are in top panel. Similarly for window buttons – they practically work like tabs and we are used from web browsers to have tabs on top.

Next idea is for workspace switcher – it's best to put it somewhere where it is both easily accessible and not getting in the way. Similarly for lock-screen and log-out buttons. Obvious positions for these are corners then and as shutdown button is quite commonly in bottom-right corner (old versions of GDM, LXDM, …) it's quite easy to place them. We use the remaining corner for clock. And finally group together all other applets that use icons. And voila, we have almost dock-like bottom panel (just add some transparency to it and you'll see the similarity). And of course, not to forgot, one of the most important decision here is that window list and system tray should be on different panels as they each tend to take up lots of space.

Feel free to join the discussion either on fedora xfce list, dedicated wiki page or here ;-)

Monday, 14 March 2011

Should I Trust a Digital Thermometer?

I feel a little ill (it's end of flu season here, but I probably have just some light cold) so I measured my body temperature (in armpit). Thrice. With these values:
  1. 35.8 °C,
  2. 35.9 °C,
  3. 35.7 °C.
Should I trust that? Especially if my colleague has measured himself a normal body temperature of 36.7 °C. I wonder if I just put the thermometer wrongly in the armpit or if it's measuring incorrectly… I wish I had a good old mercurial thermometer to check…

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Tiny Update to Nodoka Glossy Concept Artwork

So, yesterday evening and today after lunch (I was cooking kung pao) I had some spare time so I progressed a little on the nodoka glossy style concept artwork. From the experience I've gained over the years of working on nodoka I have to say that designing scrollbars is one of the hardest part of widget theming… Here's the preview (click on the image to see it in full size):

And as usual, comments welcome, help even more so ;-)

PS: for the people who'd like to complain about blue, windows or mac:
  • This is concept art. Colours are previews.
  • Blue is the colour of Fedora.
  • I like this shade of blue.
  • Yet I don't like the blue Windows XP theme.
  • I haven't ever used Mac and I don't know very much the theme they're using, this concept is based on what Andy Fitzsimon once send me ;-)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Unhappy with Gnome 3? Just ditch it!

What are the reasons to be unhappy? I bet most of you would guess. I'd just like to add that there's substantial difference between KDE 4.0 and GNOME 3.0 release and that is — while KDE 4.0 was just premature release, GNOME 3.0 is broken by design. No amount following minor releases can fix that. Yes, most of the changes to GTK 3.0 are good and enable people to work with this toolkit in a better way, but that's where GNOME 3 goodies ends. Unless you want a highly usable open-source software for tablet, Gnome 3 probably isn't for you.

And as Fedora 15 Alpha is behind the doors it's a good opportunity to try out other desktop. If you liked Gnome 2.x series you're probably left up with two options: KDE, which finally matured to be feature complete again, and XFCE which is steadily becoming better. LXDE seems poorly maintained at the moment so I wouldn't recommend it. And of course, if you, in addition, want a gtk based desktop then XFCE is the only option (right now).

XFCE is surprisingly configurable and with a bit of effort it can be turned from ugly duckling to pretty (and usable!) desktop. Say, would you guess the screenshot bellow is actually XFCE?

OK, I agree, it's not as mature as KDE or Gnome 2.x series but I guess if enough of us put our money where our mouths are we could accelerate its development considerably. As a starter, let's identify the issues ;-)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

New Toy (External Sound Card)

After buying myself headphones from bose I thought it would be good to also replace the crappy integrated audio with something better. After some goofing around I bought Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro:

The good thing is that it, surprisingly, works even in the 5.1 surround setup out of box (on F-15). The not so good thing is that unless you plug it in during boot you won't get anything more than stereo. I wonder why :-D The sound is pretty good, I haven't made any measurements but I noticed a significant improvement both on the sound and noise front (basically, the music sounds better and noise is beyond my recognition level). So basically I'm happy with this buy. Of course, pulseaudio makes life really easy in this case, I wonder how it would have worked without it (alsamixer just crashes when trying to change device, xfce4-mixer does not see the card directly, only via pulseaudio).

However, this also came with a simple remote control and I have no idea how to make it work… Pointers to how-to's for dummies appreciated. Not that I care that much, but would be nice to have it also working as opposed to just collecting dust ;-) Same goes for the metallic volume knob (apparently it could be also handled via lirc).

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Two Things in F15 That Are New For Me

  • I switched to Fedora n+1 even before Alpha for the first time. Full-time. And I'm not looking back.
  • I'm using XFCE now and I'm not looking back.

So if I had to find anything positive on GNOME 3 it would be that it brings more attention to alternatives, mostly XFCE. So I propose this: "Let's stop shouting about Gnome 3, where we are not being listened to, and try our luck with XFCE." So I started a wiki page for gathering suggestions (feel free to add yours/start discussion on its discussion page). The goal is: make XFCE rock in Fedora 16.