Older blog entries for rbultje (starting at number 24)

16 Aug 2004 (updated 16 Aug 2004 at 04:16 UTC) »
GNOME Volume Control mockups:
So, many comments and help on my mockups. Apparently, they help. ;-). Glad people like them.

So, some terminology. The user doesn't need to know them, but just so people know. A single soundcard representation is called an element (e.g. SB!Live [ALSA]). A single sound particle in an element (e.g. line-in) is called a track. A single slider is called a channel (left, right). Mute turns off sound on your speakers and/or headphone when selected. Record turns on sound capture from input tracks such as line-in. Tracks with record turned on will be captured when read()ing from the device. Other tracks will be ignored. Lock groups individual channels in a track together, so if I change the volume on one channel, all other channels in the same track will move to the same value as well. All UI-visible aspects of this are explained in the manual (Help -> Contents), kindly provided by Sun Microsystems.
Oh, ALSA (in its API) calls tracks elements. Elements are called handles. Nevermind the consequence.

Tybstar, on IRC, was the first to give some helpful comments, mostly related to spacing in the window between sliders, between tracks, etc. Mostly some finetuning of the window mockups to the UI guidelines and the HIG. Thanks for that, will work on that. Got some UI tips from Havoc as well, in his p.g.o post, will look at those as well, most sound good. This is stuff like layout, naming and tooltips-on-sliders.

Benjamin (on IRC) and Havoc (on p.g.o) gave some more terminological comments. Nice to know that people care about that. That's somewhat hard, though, not in the last place because the kernel has no single interface that is suited for that job. In other words, it's gonna be incredibly hard, if not completely impossible, to acquire all the necessary information that is needed to get g-v-c up to the level that they propose. I'm also not sure if it's what end users expect. Other comments are very helpful, though, so let's see about some of those in detail.

Volume Applet, GNOME Volume Control and Applications: the volume applet is supposed to be the fast'n'simple accessor for volume control. Any simple control to your master volume should be done via that applet, and any user should have that exposed on its menubar. GStreamer's mixer API (more on wording later) has a MASTER_TRACK flag somewhere to see which of the tracks is the master track. GNOME Volume Control is not for any simple stuff. Benjamin proposed a "simple" version where I can change "output volume", "input volume" and where I can manually show tracks if wished for. This is, according to one of my housemates, similar to what Windows XP does.
This is not a good idea, imho. It's practically impossible and/or unwanted for 2 reasons. The first is that we downgrade any user to the lowest common denominator of all types of users, and give him no more control (by default) then this. Benjamin replied that advanced users would use alsamixer anyway. Well, alsamixer is not part of Red Hat, Fedora or SuSE's default installs and shouldn't be an end user app because it's commandline only. GNOME should have a similar "alternative" for its power users. The second reason is that, at least for inputs, we'd be changing all volumes to one value. The effect of this is best explained by telling what it does on inputs. Setting PCM and Volume tracks both to 90% will result in much more noise at the same audible loudness then when Volume is set to 80% and PCM to 100%. This is hardware imperfection and cannot be fixed or detected in software. For simple stuff, look at the Applet. For complicated stuff, use the Volume Control. Changing the CD playback volume or just changing volume (Joe User vs. Joe Hacker) are both simple and valid use cases...
Applications will always show just the one or two controls that they are interested in. I don't think that means we should leave them out from the main volume control applications. Windows doesn't do that either, neither does Mac OS X.
What I *am* planning on is to hide a lot of those tracks by default. Particularly all of the options and quite some of the more complicated input/output tracks. There'll be a preferences window (returning from pre-2.4 days) to hide/show tracks as the user wishes, but the default should make sense for a default user.
I'm definately not gonna add an advanced and simple mode, like Nautilus-1.x or Windows XP. It's not right (tm).

Volume Control vs. Mixer: naming confusion. I called it mixer in the beginning, and felt bad about that later on. I decided to call everything in the UI Volume Control from now on. Mixer is too technical.

Signals: or, well, rather, GNOME Volume Control updating sliders' values if I change volume in the Volume Applet. Will be worked on shortly, right after the UI is fixed.

Menubar: well, since we'll re-introduce the preferences screen, and the Help -> Contents explains some terms used in the UI (should I use icons like the ones from the GIMP instead?), I guess we can't really remove this just yet.

Headphone vs. Speaker Volume: not possible, I'm affraid. Nice idea, but there's no way to get the required information from the kernel.

So, in the end, some hints are useful, some are debatable and some are - at least now - impossible. I'll try to find the golden middle road. Please give me more feedback, it's very useful and makes me realize a lot of details and all that about UI development - good thing!

Apparently, all sort of people sent me emails as well, I forgot to read my email for the past few days because I went to PS1 (yay for parties in Queens!) yesterday. I'll read those too, I promise!

15 Aug 2004 (updated 15 Aug 2004 at 20:47 UTC) »
GNOME Media:
Since the GNOME Volume Control UI sucks, I thought I'd play with creating some new UI for it. Colin says he likes it. ;). Images here, here, here and here. Not a real app (all Glade magic), but you get the idea.

The basic idea is to separate between input tracks (image #1), output tracks (#2) and option selections (#3). The input/output track separation is sort of logical, and decreases the number of sliders per page. The options need a different UI markup (vertical instead of horizontal) and are therefore separate; besides, as far as I know, they're not input/output specific. Picture #4 shows how to choose a different element (soundcard) for volume control.

Not shown on the images is the return of the preferences screen, where the user can enable/disable individual tracks. Disabled tracks will not be shown in the GNOME Volume Control main screen. Disabling some (maybe even by default?) should decrease UI clutter with many modern sound cards like the SB!Live, which make a total mess of volume control applications.

Of course, current-device and tracks-shown are both saved in GConf. ;).

I'll await some comments from random people who decide to call themselves UI experts and will then implement this for GNOME-2.10 or so. I hope Ross' GNOME-CD rewrite (based on Sound Juicer) makes it into GNOME Media then, which should make GNOME Media a lot better than it currently is!

GNOME Media:
So, I added some new stuff to gnome-volume-control. Didn't commit yet, since I don't know in what freezes we are right now (I've been pretty much inactive for quite a few weeks already). The result is pretty sweet, since we now support all ALSA controls (see bug #150158 for patches), but the resulting UI is horrible. Please, UI people, give gnome-volume-control some love [/lame try to get others to fix his own bugs].

Click here to see for yourself.


So, this monday, I went off to Jones Beach' Tommy Hilfinger Theater to see Korn, Linkin Park, Snoop Dogg and some other smaller bands (I saw Less Than Jake, The Used on mainstage and M.O.P. on the smallstage). Pretty cool alltogether, especially when Korn played a small piece of Metallica's One (yes, they do that a lot, but it's awesome, every time again!) in between. Later on, they also covered Pink Floyd's The Wall (full). Covers are bad? You haven't heard this one yet. Marvelous, that's the word! Absolutely wonderful! I've never heard a crowd singing out loudly like this before.

"All in all, it's just another brick in the wall,
All in all, you're just another brick in the wall"

Too bad there were only seating places... Linkin Park was great too, but I liked Korn better.

... and I'm finishing off my multichannel patch in these last days, too. I'm hoping to commit it before I go back to the Netherlands, or at least post a first version in Bugzilla. I'm finetuning some rough edges now in automatic channel position selection (fixation) in case there's no preference, and the rest pretty much works already. And while I was at it, I cleaned up the dtsdec (DTS decoder), a52dec (AC3/A52 decoder) and faad (MPEG-2/4 AAC decoder) plugins as well. The difference between this patch and the multichannel support that we used to have and that Xine and other projects have is that this allows for making full use of possibilities of individual channel selection that formats like Wave (using the audiowavetagheaderext chunk, not used a lot...) or Matroska allow. It also does automatic channelposition conversion.

Graduate School Applications and GRE:
So, today I did a GRE test because I want to apply for Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. The results are fairly mixed. My verbal score was a lousy 380 points (on a 200-800 scale), which is not very high. Actually, it's plain bad. My quantitative score, on the other hand, was the full 800 points (same 200-800 scale), which is pretty darn good. I guess my excuse for doing so bad on the verbal part is that I'm a foreigner. My english really isn't bad, but I just don't know most of those exotic words that are being referred to in the test. Sorry guys... I hope this is good enough to be considered for admission, though, I'm not applying to be a translator, am I? I'll receive my analytical score (on a 0.0-6.0 range) in two weeks from now.

It's interesting how people try to hide the fact that they're geeks and blatantly fail because their peer is just as bad as them. Thomas already touched upon that in his latest entry, so let's take one of my own examples.

So I live in New York City and hang out with people here. I promised, one day, to send pictures of one night out to two girls that had been coming with me. Those pictures are located on the tweakers.net picture gallery. For those who don't know, tweakers.net is a dutch slashdot-like computer-oriented website (news, forum, ...). So I sent them a link to this picture gallery. The day after, one of those girls pointed out to me that her ex-boyfriend, a "complete geek and ass-hole" (what a surprise for an ex ;-) ), used to be hanging out on this website for full days and she was worried that I was one of those cracks as well.

Of course, I told her I was not. ... That wasn't even a complete lie, realistically. I barely touch computers here, I barely have time for that...

(Makes me wonder: who's this ex-boyfriend of hers? :-). I might even know him. Scary shit.)

Today, I found that I still have pending patches that are as bad as four months old. I suck. I'll be back home in four weeks from now and promise to clean up my inbox after that. My apologies to anyone who's sent me patches and didn't see them applied yet; they're in my inbox (I always mark patches as important and those occur at the bottom of my inbox, marked in red). They just take a while. Same goes for assigned bug reports or pending actions. Sorry guys. I'm doig what I can, but my time is limited right now.

Just arrived in Ottawa with Dave for DDC. Will try to show up at the welcome party at 8:00 PM tonight, hope it'll be interesting.

I've been wanting to post this for several weeks now, but advogato kept being down!

So lately, I hear this free software activist talking about some software that I work on. He hates the software. That's ok. Why? Because he hates me and my opinions. I won't go into the opinions, since this is not the right place for a political discussion (it's a typical liberal [me] vs. socialist [he] case), but would just like to mention that this is the saddest thing I've ever seen in my whole life. Free software is only a small piece in the freedom puzzle, which is the ultimate fight that we're continuously struggling with. Freedom of speach, freedom of ideas and the consequent disagreements are all part of that. A society that allows for all this, requires respect between individuals in order to be liveable. I disagree with you, but I don't hate you. Why do you hate me for my ideas? Is that freedom?

And in the mean time...:
... I was enjoying fireworks in Manhattan yesterday, as part of the 4th-of-July celebration. Beautiful!

The GNOME Media Player:
So, in order to slay xine and thereby bring the day closer that we will conquer the world, I decided to start hacking on libgstplay. The result is available in bug number #143030 and can hopefully be backported in one way or another to the 0.8.x GStreamer series. The idea is to simplify it a lot and thereby increase the involvement of core hackers such as ds or company in fixing libgstplay-related issues and thereby improving playback capabilities of GStreamer.

The result is quite nice. Within a day, we saw a UI based on it that can playback music much like projects like Muine or Rhythmbox. Not that it looks as pretty, but that's not the point of a testing application anyway. I hope this work will make libgstplay work much more reliably than it used to. There's some minor other points involved, but I have some interesting ideas on how to progress once this is done.

The final goal should be clear: Totem - based on a GStreamer backend - should make it into GNOME 2.8.0! A desktop without an ass-kicking media player is just not the same.

GNOME Volume Control:
In the mean time, ow3n came over to me on IRC and told me that the ALSA version of GNOME Volume Control really looked horrible (no kidding!) and offered to help in fixing it (yay!).

As earlier proposed by Seth, we should hide all those switches in the default UI. Does anybody know what they mean? Even the ALSA people don't! So we'll just omit those from the default UI and maybe even hide some obscure volume controls (my laptop doesn't have a phone, you moron! And not two either!) given that they make little sense.

This will also make it into GNOME 2.8.0.

What's Life All About...
Now, one thing that I've particularly noticed here in New York is that all nice girls are already taken. Not much difference from the Netherlands, in hindsight.

Well, little choice but to go out with the already-taken-ones, then!

14 May 2004 (updated 14 May 2004 at 16:18 UTC) »
d-d-l signal/noise ratio:
Michael, there is nothing wrong with closing d-d-l. d-d-l is used as a one-for-all list because it has that image: it is an open list, everyone posts to it and on random subjects. I can see that in the archives! Tadah, a list for all my random mess has been born. The solution is simple: close it, and post good guidelines for new subscribers.

I'm not subscribed to several interesting lists because of that, and would hate to add d-d-l to that list-of-lists for this reason.

A GNOME developer that wants to join GNOME development and related discussions should have the motivation to do the basic effort of subscribing. If he doesn't, then he's doomed to not be a good GNOME developer.

On the other side, I like it when Jeff pulls on his dictatorship hat and screams end-of-thread. I'll miss that. Ohwell, I'll have to cope with that.

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