Older blog entries for blah (starting at number 9)

GNOME is very close to a new release so the final polish is going on at the moment. It makes reading the GNOME Planet very interesting. In fact so much has happened this week that I'm still trying to form (or inform) my opinions.

One thing I've been playing within during the release cycle is the new navigation system in Nautilus the GNOME file manager. When you click into a new directory you get a new window. I really am struggling to like it at the moment. I find it very confusing as you've no sense of where you are within the machines hierachy which makes it difficult to organise your files. If you have a deep hierachy you land up with a collection of windows which are not stacked in any particular order (not sure if this is the window managers fault). The fact that the left hand pane has gone means that you're also lacking additional context information. If you want the old way back there's no easily discoverable menu item to turn it back on - I think changing the default behaviour on a minor release without an easy way to get back is a particular sin to being user friendly.

You can use shift+click so that it replaces the contents of your current window with the contents of the new directory. I think there's a bug in this because the window doesn't keep it's placement or size (it's actually a new window) - you can see this clearly if you shift+click into a number of directories.

OS X which I use a lot has some similar ideas but they are more flexible as you can switch the view on the fly with one click. I'm sure that this is aimed at making GNOME easier for average users but I think usability experts sometimes confuse simple to use and simplistic. Just because the user may not be an expert I think we can assume that the 'tree view' is a pretty well understood concept.

The upside of the nautilus change is that it is now very, very fast. I'm still trying to be open-minded on whether the gain is worth the pain!

9 Feb 2004 (updated 9 Feb 2004 at 23:36 UTC) »

I've been playing with Yellowdog Linux on my powerbook. I got the machine because OS X runs Word which is a requirement for the business environment. If your RMS you can ignore those who send proprietary documents but unfortunately I don't think my boss would be too impressed if I did it. So the laptop is for work ... just work, and I absolutely promised myself that I wouldn't use it to hack around on but I fell into bad ways and loaded Linux on it... dang!

Let's not get into the whole 'why would you load Linux when Mac OS X is so much better', I'll simply say that I miss Linux. Yellow dog linux rulez, well it certainly does what it says on the tin. Using Linux on Apple reminds me of my first Slackware in 1996 - on a book of the same name. It's not really suitable for people who think Linux is only free if your time has no value, but it works with a little effort - even putting the laptop to sleep!

As with any small distribution, and on an odd arch you don't get as much variety of packages. The goings on at PlanetGNOME made me want to try some of the new stuff coming down the track. Last night I downloaded Garnome and set it to compile the whole system up. It really is pretty neat, I've had to load up some additional libraries but it does make amazingly short work of the whole thing. Of course the last time I tried something similar using the vicious-build-scripts I was on a dial-up so maybe that made the difference ;-)

Oh, and since there's a blog tool called adventurously gnome-blog on the panel so I had to try this little test!

Spent some of the day trying to write a Python script which would search through my logs and ignore stuff which I'd put in a separate file of ignores. For some reason this was particularly hard, probably because of the reverse logic. TIS toolkit has a similair script which is kinda cool as it lets you see the 'unusual' stuff. Think I cracked the search logic but it uses flags to work out if it's matched any of the lines in the ignore.file which is irritating me: one of those cases where you know there's a better way but can't figure it out.

Pretty slow day otherwise, quite warm here which always gets me badly - course this being the UK most people would find my concept of warm really strange!

Thing that made me chuckle today was this from some bloke called joss on slashdot:

"gtk is the obvious choice for anyone coming from a motif background. Nothing else is sufficiently awkward to program with - it just wouldn't feel natural. "

can you imagine the design meeting, 'OK guys we gotta make these widgets so nasty that it physically hurts to think about them' heh heh.

So a very long break from activity driven almost entirely by a new job which has sucked all my time. And to be fair some depression about how slow my progress was - it's weird realising you have enough books in your study that it will take until you're 30 to read them let alone use the knowledge ;-)

Been playing around with Python quite a bit which is a pretty neat language and definitely fits the 'do someting quickly' criteria. This weekend I decided to learn a bit about sockets using Stevens book and Linux Application Development for my guides: the chapter in LAD was very good and explained the wood from the trees. Anyway, in order to understand this I had to use C and wow did I realise how easy Python makes things - ugh worrying about pointers and nework byte order again! I also loaded the Cygwin libraries onto my work laptop which are Unix development libraries for win95/NT - pretty strange using bash on win98! Couldn't get them to use the sockets API properly - missing inet_pton and inet_aton didn't work, so I'll mess with that more. It would be neat to be able to do stuff on my work laptop while on the train!

With my new work I don't get to do anything useful during the week as I now travel and work quite late. But overall a pretty encouraging weekend.

Right, so it was my girlfriends birthday on the weekend and before that I was kidnapped by aliens and subjected to all sorts of South Park orifice examinations.......and this explains why I haven't done any diary entries in a week. Anyone who thinks otherwise I will callout to duel in the early morning mist with wet kippers!

Oh alright, I was lazy with the diary but I have been pressing on with the docbook/SGML thing. Learnt more elements, but my one tip would be make the type book, don't waste your time on article or anything else which is what I was doing until today. Luckily Dave Miller set me straight along with helping me out with some other confusions. I'm pretty happy with the structure so I can attack the style and content again - I'll then leave it to rest and apply some final polish. The ETA has slipped but that's hardly a surprise for me.

Of the 'Other Stuff' the most important is that lewing certified me as an Apprentice which I was both surprised and very happy about: more power to that hackers code!

Of course we are into the run into Xmas which is the end of the year where I work so lots of stuff flying round to get finished before we greet Y2K all raring to go and with the smell of smoking machinery in the background: imagine "Hamburger Hill" but without the heroics. So I'm probably going to be on dead-slow with my private work until the holiday but I hope to keep it ticking over(I do get 3 weeks holiday which I am v. pleased about).

Spent a lot of time learning about SGML today, made fair headway. It's a bit of an acronym fest but I think I sorted out the worst confusions. I now have to move on to learning the docbook DTD which is what Free Software projects like LDP and Gnome use. I'll probably try and markup my vim work for practise and will then hopefully be able to move onto helping with Gnome docs.

Today I am worried, very worried.

From what I can work out, possibly co-ordinated by the CIA as part of a Y2K rescue plan, someone is stealing time. I had hours when I got home and yet only managed to rough up one section of my article - I must have been frozen staring at the screen for hours! And no that's not a description of IRC.

Did watch Englands less than convincing qualification for the European Football(soccer) Championship against Scotland. That said getting the result is the important bit.

Downloaded the new Mozilla milestone, M11, which is a lot more stable and does seem faster than M10. Still think the whole license thing is a pity as it makes it less than useful for the rest of the Community.

So being the book addict that I am I decided recently that I need to review my C knowledge thoroughly - complex declarations and complex pointers were/are a bit hazy. Now this is all well and good if you don't know me, but if you've been to my flat you'd know I have like 9 books on C/Linux programming so really this is farsical(sp?). I put it down to the fact that I really like reading books, I have a poor memory and for whatever reason I am just one of those people who remains piddling round the foot-hills, perfectly happy, rather than trying to climb the mountain. Anyway, got a good few hours of that done and am reasonably happy that I understand more than I thought; though less than I'd like. </P>

Spent more time this evening working on my vim info/article. Worked on how to personalise settings - got the manual info but need to test it all works properly and check for other sources. Not sure what I am going to do about the length though and the style is a bit 'dense'/pedestrian which I'm concerned about. Probably have to brutally cut bits out and try to fluffen it up a bit....enough of the culinary metaphors already! </P>

On the technical front vim has stronger configuration options than I realised or general 'opinion' gives it credit for. The layering of text which is slated for version 6 is a great feature - and one I swear I thought of independantly so was quite surprised when I saw it (I'm sure many a programmer has thought of how useful it would be to be able to toggle seeing comments) and I'm looking forward to it - if you've ever seen how verbose my comments you'd be looking forward to it too ;-) </P>

Another weekend catapults itself to an end far too quickly for it's or my good. Seem to have spent all day reading through vim helpfiles trying to make sure that I understand the vagaries of C indenting correctly. My 'article' is now far too long and overly complete which is to be expected from me - I really need to just learn lots of things enough rather than one thing too much. I can't use most of the info I got today because it is too deep for a light article, and I'm extremely unlikely to use it myself - but at the end of the day it gave me pleasure to understand it so I'm not really begrudging. I'll crack on with it the next few evenings and aim for finishing by next weekend, best to set a deadline or I'll keep researching until I lose interest.</P>

Other things we did were to buy a dishwasher - pointless creeping featurism came into play so that we now have a time delay function; did people forget how to press the start button? ! Watched Mel Gibsons Payback which wasn't as bad as I expected, the twist at the end was quite good. Ness(gf) watched Voyager on video so she was happy - darn video store gets them one at a time every month or so which can make a season really, really drag! </P>

Long day watching England win against the Scots in the footy so didn't get as much done as I should have. Worked some more on my vim article which is going OK. The more I scratch the surface the more options and features that are useful for programming - hard to find the right balance between discussing a feature and doing too much detail. Chilled out a bit on #gnome where there were some interesting discussions.

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