Archive for May, 2009

Back home from UDS Karmic …

This UDS was my most intense so far. We got some very good work done, but I need to decompress a little before I blog on that.
The choice of venue was personally interesting to me in a way that (like my last UDS in Prague) I had not anticipated. As many of you will know already, a long time ago (in what seems almost like a different life) I was in the US Navy. I spent Christmas 1991 and New Years Day 1992 in Barcelona.
For those of you to young to remember, January 1, 1992 was a day that marked a significant change in the world. It was the first day in roughly 75 years in which there was no Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). We had heard the news that this was happening, but many of us wondered how much of this was real change and how much of this was cosmetic.
At the pier across from us there was a merchant ship of the former USSR. I still remember coming topside and being surprised to see there were already sailors up on the ship’s stack with a cutting torch cutting the hammer and sickle of the USSR down off their ship. That was the moment when it really hit me that the world had changed in a way that really couldn’t be reversed.
There is a connection to Ubuntu here too, beyond the physical location of UDS. Whatever your opinion of my country (I’ll tell you in advance I don’t intend to have a debate about it’s goodness/badness and will not publish comments either way), I felt I was there making a sacrifice in the service of freedom. In that time and place it was the best way I knew how to do it. Today I do stuff like take an unpaid week off of work and go to UDS to help make Ubuntu better. This is also done in the service of freedom.
There are a lot of people all over the world who don’t want others to be free. Keep in mind that what we do in Ubuntu is part of a larger struggle to make sure these people do not succeed when considering if it’s worth it to do one more bug triage, patch fix, or whatever it is you do to make Ubuntu better.

KDE 4.3 new systray and “System Indicator”

I guess the reaction to my last post is a good reminder that a distro developer ought to go see what upstream has already done before considering what the distro ought to add (I knew that). I also knew about the new systray protocol in KDE 4.3. I’ve even watched the video before. I completely brain dumped about it last night when I was writing.
Fundamentally it looks like I’ll be able to get rid of all the systray stuff i don’t care to see just using that. So that’s pretty cool. I just wish I’d remembered before I put the time into writing that last night. Ugh.

“System Indicator”?

One of the stated goals of Canonical’s Ayatana project is to reduce the amount of real estate used by the systray. This was one of the rationales for the Indicator Applet introduced in Ubuntu 9.04.
In preparation for UDS Karmic I decided to take a look at my Kubuntu 9.04 systray (as well as a few systray like items that in KDE 4.2 aren’t or can’t be in the actual systray). It looks like this:
KDE 4.2 systray
I also experimented with removing some of these items to see how I experienced it.
Moving from left to right:
USB stick/SD card (Device notifier) – I don’t see any need for this to be on the panel/systray by default at all. Make a appearance when you’ve got a device to notify about.
Sound (Kmix) – I rarely need this. I’ve got multimedia keys on my laptop (and they work – including the notifications about volume setting). This could easily be somewhere else, less readily available. It certainly doesn’t need to be visible in the systray at all times for everyone.
Display (X Resize and Rotate) – I think I’ve only ever used this when setting up my laptop to work with a projector. I have a vague recollection of this only being started by default as a workaround for a bug, but don’t quote me on that. I definitely don’t need to see it.
Passwords (Kwallet) – I am sometimes vaguely interested in if the wallet is open or not, but I virtually never click on it. Generally if something needs access to the wallet the application asks for it. No need for this on the systray.
IRC (Quassel) – I click on this on all the time. Sometimes it’s just to get to IRC to see what’s up, sometimes I right click on the icon to connect to Quassel’s core component), and when I want to get to a channel where I was highlighted, if I don’t click on the notification action, I can click on the Quassel icon to get to the correct channel quickly and easily. I would not want this to be harder to get to.
RSS (aKrogator) – I click on this pretty regularly to read feeds when I’m taking a break from working on something. This is useful. It’s not just for getting to read feeds, but also for triggering manual checks for updates. I could live with this being two clicks away, but like it in the systray.
Clipboard (Klipper) – I use this all the time. It’s a great thing to have and the systray is a lovely place for it.
Email (Kmail) – I use this very regularly to get to Kmail. I have a lot of windows open and finding the one that’s Kmail is hard. If I can click on the systray icon and get to it, it’s very handy. I do not use notifications for mail, I don’t even pay much attention to the number on the icon, I mostly just need a quick way to get to kmail. If the icon weren’t reliably in the systray, that would a step back for me.
Network (Plasma Widget Network Management) – I really don’t care about this much beyond am I connected. I could live without seeing this if I got notified on disconnect (currenlty I just get connection notifications).
Battery (Plasma Widget Battery Monitor) – I moved the battery from the panel onto the desktop where I don’t see it unless I minimize everything (i.e. almost never unless I explicitly look). I found that the battery low/battery warning notifications were generally sufficient. Until after the battery warning notification I almost never looked. Afterwards I tended to peak at it fairly regularly. Based on this, I don’t see a need for direct access, just an easy way to get to it once the battery was low. For bonus points it might appear in the systray after the battery hit warning level.
So once I got through looking at what systray and systray like items I was interested in, I was left with wanting something that contained an easy way to get to the things that had been removed and this:
KDE 4.2 systray without useless stuff
Jordan Mantha’s message on the Ayatana mailing list is what got me thinking about this. Having looked at my own needs, despite using a different desktop environment, they appear similar. “system-to-user” indications are a fruitful place to find opportunity to reduce the footprint of systray/notification area. I’d be interested to see Ayatana take this on.

Clamav Update

Clamav is one of those packages where is order just to stay even you have to keep moving ahead. If you don’t keep up to date, then the bad guys have stuff that you can’t detect.
Clamav 0.95 appeared late in the Jaunty development cycle, but with help from the other members of the Clamav Update Team and the Debian Clamav Packaging Project we got not only Clamav 0.95.1 into Jaunty, but all the reverse dependencies updated and tested.
There were a few glitches in the clamav-milter packaging and some additions to the apparmor profile that have been fixed in post-release updates. I think we have a solid clamav package in Jaunty now.
At the same time we were working to test and integrate clamav 0.95.x in Jaunty, we were also working to finish testing 0.94.2 for Dapper and Hardy. We also got that done, so the version that Intrepid released with is available for Dapper/Hardy/Intrepid (and has been patched to deal with all known post-release security issues).
Finally, we’ve prepared packages to test backporting clamav 0.95.1 to all supported releases. They are in the ubuntu-clamav PPA. Once we get these tested we’ll get them into the official backports repository. If you test these packages, please mark your results on the team wiki.
If you’re interested in helping out, do some testing and apply to join the team.

No longer feeling a “weighty obligation to act”

The Quassel developers are keeping up their consistent record of responsiveness to feedback. A couple of weeks ago, when I wrote about notifications in Kubuntu 9.04, I mentioned that I’d like the ability to easily get to the IRC channel related to the most recent notification from Quassel. I got a patch almost immediately that I’ve been testing.
I’m very happy with it and report that I feel a lot more relaxed about responding to notifications from Quassel. If I want to respond to an notification after it’s already disappeared, I just click on Quassel‘s systray icon and I get right there.
KDE 4.2 systray
Anyone who wants to try it out can upgrade from my PPA. This update includes the patch for that and another dealing with correctly setting notification timeouts. Some users who use Quassel outside of a KDE environment have mentioned that notifications didn’t go away and had to be manually dismissed. I’m interested to hear if this patch makes a difference.
This patches and a number of other bug fixes will be out shortly in Quassel 0.4.2. Once it’s released and I get it pacakged for Karmic, I’ll also get it into jaunty-backports for people who want to try it without upgrading their entire system.