Story from 2 Canadian Muslims on the NYC mosque

Story from 2 Canadian Muslims on the NYC mosque:

A bit different perspective. I wonder if many feel this way or not. I’m undecided on the issue so far.


From XKCD, quite possibly one of the funniest geek comics…

From XKCD, quite possibly one of the funniest geek comics I’ve ever seen.

Beautifully Confusing UI

So today, after having used Lucid Lynx daily since about Alpha 2, I finally stumbled upon the fact that you can close the Empathy “buddy list” window without quiting the whole program just by hitting the close button in the window decoration rather than Chat -> Quit. I had previously stuck with Pidgin for my IM needs preciously because it provided a system tray icon that I could use to minimize this window to the tray. When I finally gave in to the new IM overlord I was quite disappointed that I had to keep Empathy in my window list even though the vast majority of the day I’m not using it.

So why am I writing about such a mundane thing? Well, it’s because I’m not sure what to make of these types of UI features and changes. How was I possibly to know that hitting the close button would keep Empathy running and not exit the program entirely? Frankly the thought had never crossed my mind to even try.

Do other people find this problematic? Is this kind of behavior unintuitive and undiscoverable or is it just me? I would really like to hear from the Canonical Design/Dx folks as to how we might be able to fix these inconsistencies between the window close button closing just the window and it closing the entire app. Perhaps there should be some visual queue that the window is actually being minimized somewhere.

Taking a look at Mercurial

So I’m a little bit of a VCS junkie. I’m not particularly a heavy VCS user, I mostly use them to track projects, occasionally submit a patch here or there, and keep personal coding and school projects safe. One of the most annoying things about the current DVCS situation is there are several good ones available. Git has become enormously popular thanks to its fast speed, power, and GitHub. Bazaar is sort of the anti-git. Bazaar was slower (it’s gotten much better with 2.0) but more friendly and I think technically more cautious. Bazaar was also funded by Canonical and so it was a logically choice for Launchpad and Ubuntu.

The VCS I never really got was Mercurial. It seemed like the best of both worlds, fast, pythonic, easy to use. However, I never really got the hang of it and either rolled over to popular and fast git or to the friendly and flexible bazaar. Some things lately have had me rethinking my early discounting of Mercurial though. Mercurial has some interesting points such as the way it handles the working tree, does revision naming, converts other DVCSes really well, has quite a number of extensions build in. And of course there’s Bitbucket.

So my question is, what has been your experience with Mercurial? I’m especially interested in how people compare it with Bazaar since they seem fairly similar in their goals. I don’t however need a flame war, please give some specific experiences (preferably recent) or detailed reasoning. I’m looking for compare-and-contrast.

Thoughts on Kubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04

So after my last post on UNE 10.04, Kubuntu developer Scott Kitterman asked me to try out the Kubuntu netbook offering. I’ve been curious about it because:

  1. I like to check in on Kubuntu and KDE at least once each release just to see how things are going. I used to use KDE a lot back in the day, but have grown quite accustomed to GNOME these days.
  2. I think netbooks are pretty interesting from a user interface perspective. I think they are really difficult because they are somewhere in between a phone/mobile device and laptop.
  3. KDE as an upstream is tackling netbooks with their Plasma Netbook workspace. With Ubuntu Netbook Edition the netbook UI bits (netbook-launcher, webfav, etc.) are being done by the Canonical team, sort of working as their own upstream. I’m interested in how the methods will contrast long-term

Anyway, so on with the review. First of all I should mention that I didn’t install KNE fresh from an .iso but rather installed the kubuntu-netbook package on my existing Ubuntu installation. Here are my thoughts after spending an evening with it. On the positive side:

  • Kubuntu Netbook Edition does about everything possible to maximize screen usage for applications. 
  • The “Page One” workspace and widgets are kind of fun. There are so many widgets these days. I personally found the Remember the Milk widget really nice and practical, for instance. Having a few well-placed widgets can really provide a lot of useful functionality without taking up screen space.
  • The launcher is nice, but I really like the search functionality. I’m annoyed when I know exactly the app I want to start, but it is buried deep in a menu.
  • Performance was good. After killing off the virtuoso process mentioned below, the KDE desktop feels pretty snappy even on this Aspire One with an Atom N270 processor and 1 GB of RAM. This is especially nice considering the amount of functionality you get.

Here are the negatives I saw:

  • virtuoso/nepomuk is a pain. Nepomuk provides a “semantic desktop” (whatever that is) for KDE. It tended to rather bring my netbook to its knees. ScottK told me the Kubuntu team will be turning it off by default for machines with < 1GB of RAM as it does use a lot of resources initially. I consider this to be a fairly minor bug
  • plasma-netbook is a tad unstable. It seemed to crash a couple times while I was using it. Again, not a big deal, but a tad annoying.
  • Though the exposé-like window picking saves some screen real estate, I found I wanted to use a keyboard shortcut rather than the UI switcher. Since I rarely use Alt-Tab window switching I was missing the window-picker-applet icons from UNE.
  • The auto-hide feature of the panel does leave more room for windows, but I found it a bit awkward when dealing with application menus because I had to make sure and not go too far and unhide the panel.

Overall, I was really impressed with what Kubuntu and the KDE upstream developers have done with Kubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04. I was surprised to see a netbook version of Kubuntu come up this quickly considering it is an all-volunteer effort. I think it’s a testament to a good working relationship between KDE and Kubuntu. If you have a netbook and are remotely interested in KDE, this is a really good way to try it out. The netbook-specific interface is much more useful than the standard KDE desktop.