Muses

Amarok … Thou Rocked.

Posted in Linux, Open Source by Rahul on June 28, 2009

When I started using Linux back in 2006, the first media player that I encountered was rhythmbox and somehow it did not appeal to me. Then I came across Amarok 1.4 and even though it pulled in a lot of KDE-3 dependencies ( I was using Ubuntu) I stuck with it for the simple reason that it was the best media player that I had ever used – including all the various ones that I had tried on Windows (foobar, songbird, winamp, windows media player, etc.) and the few that I tried on Linux (rhythmbox, banshee, etc.). As a recap, let us look at the screenshot below (taken from the official Amarok website).

Amarok 1.4

Take a look at the Now Playing view – it tells me all about the songs that I need to know. It tells me what the song is called, who is the artist, about the album, the length of the song , the year, where is it stored amongst others (eg. bit rate). The emphasis on the now playing view was what I really liked. The left tab could then be switched to display information about the artist (from wikipedia), the lyrics or display information about the song (how many times has it been played) and display other songs from the same artist that were already present in my collection.

Now, compare this to the current stable version of amarok (2.1.1). Again, lets take a look at a screenshot from the Amarok website.

Amarok 2.1

Now look at what they did to the now playing playlist. It has been banished to the right corner of the window and it shows no information other than the title of the song. If you are playing 12 songs from the same album the album and its details will appear at the head of the 12 songs and those 12 songs will not have that individual information in the playlist view. Why? How about albums when there are different artists for each song?

And let’s not talk about the stability for now. Amarok 1 was already three years old from its first official release when I used it in 2006 so it was quite a mature product. In comparison, Amarok 2 is only half a year old as of now and it would take some time to reach the same level of maturity as that of Amarok 1. However, this brings me to the question – why reinvent the wheel? I am strictly reflecting on the changes in the UI – changes in backend (integration with phonon and other KDE4 services) was, I believe, necessary to integrate tightly with KDE4 but the drastic overhaul in the UI was not. Why change something that was working – and working very well. The alignment of the playlist and the context view did not, in my opinion, require any change.

As an example of this, we can look at Kile – another of my favourite KDE applications – it is the best Latex editor when it comes to Linux. The KDE4 version does not bring any major UI overhaul – it is still tightly integrated with KDE4 and yet the user experience does not change. Something similar should have been done with amarok as well. Or maybe in the true spirit of open source, there is someone out there who would port Amarok 1.4 to Qt4. 🙂

However, at this stage, Amarok has completely lost me. I have switched over to MPD with QMPDClient and ncmpc as the two frontends. I would recommend any one else who is tired of Amarok 2 to give MPD a go. And hopefully, Amarok will be able to win me back some day. 🙂

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I keep coming back to Gentoo!

Posted in Gentoo, Linux, Open Source by Rahul on September 27, 2008

I don’t know why, but somehow after using Gentoo it is impossible for me to use any other Linux Distro. I wanted to try KDE-4.1.1 quickly and I anyhow wanted to do a fresh install of my linux system (for some reason, I like reinstalling Linux) so I just went ahead and burned Kubuntu Ibex Alpha 6. No problems with the installation there, everything was as easy as pi, and then I booted into KDE-4.1.1. The first bootup was slower than an ant, and then there were all these applications installed that I did not want to be there. I wanted a pure KDE-4 desktop, no KDE-3.x app, even if that meant some loss in functionality. But, no, that is not Ubuntu’s philosophy. Nothing wrong in that, it is just not what I wanted. But I still wanted to try KDE-4.1.1 for some time, so I installed the necessary codecs and stuff and played around with it for some time. But it just felt so wrong – so unlike Gentoo. Everything was already configured, and in some cases there was no easy way to change the defaults. Most of the configuration in xorg.conf was listed as “Using Defaults” or something similar, how do I know what the defaults are? And then of course there is the fact that it is not a rolling release. And many other small issues, which without being a show stopper, were just as effective as flies and mosquitoes in irritating me. So, I could only tolerate it for 45 minutes and I went ahead and installed Gentoo again.

Sure, it took a lot longer than Ubuntu to install (compile 😉 ) everything on gentoo, yet I must say it was worth the wait. It is so easy to configure everything, just because there are no defaults, or let us say, no sane defaults. I have a resolution of 1280 X 1024 in my terminal, the font rendering is extremely smooth and is easily configurable. And yes, the system is more far more responsive and I have a pure KDE-4 system, there is no kdelibs-3* and qt-3* installed.

And in general, portage and all the gentoo associated tools feel better, maybe because I have become more accustomed to them. And final point, I do not have to install g++, it is already installed. The toolchain is already there to compile anything that I want.

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My country is divided

Posted in India, Politics by Rahul on September 10, 2008

There is Kashmir, there is Jammu, there is Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and there is Maharashtra. We have the Mufti Mohammed Sayyeds, Omar Abdullahs and the Thackerys. And of course, there is BJP and Congress. And amongst these, India is lost.

Nearly a hundred people lost their lives in the blasts in Ahmedabad and Bangalore but Mr. Raj Thackrey is more concerned about the fact that the shop signboards are not in Marathi. Oh, but the people who lost their lives were Kannads and Gujaratis, were they not. And Mr. Raj Thackrey is only concerned with Marathis, so why should he bother about these people. His energy is better spent in enticing the masses against the North Indians. For it is of paramount importance that these people be kicked out of Maharashtra as they are the only reason why thousands of Marathi, the true “sons of soil” are without a job. And in between, he finds the spare time to ensure that the Bachchans and the Khans comply with his wishes.

Not a murmur from the centre, but then what better can be accepted from a government consisting of clowns and criminals. They have very important matters to deal with, after all they are responsible for running the country. But I do not think that they need to worry, they have done a fantastic job already. Led in this honourable mission by the charismatic Arjun Singh, they have managed to divide the country on basis of caste. They are really good, they have managed to do better than even VP Singh, and I thought that was impossible. 60 years since Independence, 60 years of reservation, and if even then if we have managed to make a difference then maybe we need to look at alternatives. But obviously, how can our politicians compromise with their vote-bank?

But caste is not the only line that is drawn through my country. Religion is not far behind, is it? Nearly 20 years down the line Ayodhya is still the main agenda for the BJP, with the VHP and the RSS continuously making noises about the issue. Orissa is not new, for there was a Graham Staines before as well. Maybe one day we can all learn to respect each others religion.

Jammu and Kashmir, if I could only describe it in words. 20 years of war, thousands of lives lost, and countless ruined. A heaven ravaged, a paradise lost. I only wish it can be regained, not for me, not for you but for the people suffering there for two decades.

I do not know why I wrote this. Maybe because this is all what the Indian media feeds me. Strife, discontent, violence everywhere. All I hope for is that someday we all can just call ourselves Indian. Maybe we can learn to respect each others language, learn to appreciate the fact that each Indian has some different sets of traditions and values. Maybe there will be no SC/ST/OBC, just Indians. Maybe Ayodhya will house a mosque and Ajmer a temple. Maybe….. Maybe……

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A gnome user’s tryst with KDE4.1

Posted in Linux, Open Source by Rahul on August 2, 2008

I have been a gnome user for nearly the past two years. Having started my Linux experience with Ubuntu, which shipped gnome as default, I never felt the need to switch. There was nothing the Windows XP DE provided (and I used) that was missing in gnome. Wireless with network-manager was the only problem that I encoutered however I soon found an excellent alternative in WICD – and that has been the default for me from then.

However, KDE4 came along with a lot of fanfare. However, the reports suggested that there were a lot of bugs with it and the official view seemed to suggest that it was more of a development release and therefore I decided to stick with gnome. But then came along 4.1 and the feedback from other users was encouraging. I decided to give it a try. However, Gentoo (my current Distro) did not have ebuilds for the 4.1 branch in the official tree yet. A simple search at the forums yielded the answer that the gentoo devs are working on it and they were expected to hit the tree sometime in the near future. Meanwhile, those who were really interested can get 4.1 from the kdesvn-portage overlay. Not wanting to wait, I went ahead and fetched the overlay. Next step was to install kde4.1. After tweaking with the use flags and unmasking the packages (they are all hard masked) , I went ahead and installed the following split ebuilds:

kdebase-startkde
kdemultimedia-meta
kdegraphics-meta
kdeadmin-meta
kdegames-meta
kdm (separately)

It took a while to compile (:P) and the download speed was legendary ( <20 kbps) so it was ready when I woke up the next morning. No idea how long it took to compile (luckily there were no breakages during the night).

Well, I changed the default login manager to kdm, logged out and was presented with the kdm login screen. Nothing special there, no difference in functionality compared to gdm.

Well, I logged in and the default KDE4.1 splash screen was definitely very nice eye candy. Defintely better than the default gnome splash screen. The default wallpaper was quite artistic as well. Surprisingly, it read my gnome-session properties. I had a few scripts added to the startup and they were executed in KDE as well. That was quite nice.

So, a side by side comparison of the apps that are provided in the DE.

Dolphin > Nautilus (Dolphin feels more responsive, and is faster)

Gwenview > eog (no comparison here, gwenview in this regard is like the picture manager in vista)

Dragon Player = Totem (Totem is the front end for gstreamer and Dragon Player for xine, so there is not much of a difference. I am not discussing about the backend here. 🙂 )

kwin and Metacity (kwin is supposed to have compisite effects, but it does not work for me, so I do not know. :P) Other than that, it works fine.
EDIT: This is solved, kwin has to be built with openGL support if you want OpenGL as the compositing method. 😛

ksnapshot > gnome-screenshot (has more options)

konsole = gnome-terminal (not much difference)

Multimedia Keys (kde) < Multimedia Keys (in gnome) -> I have set the preferences for volume control at least a couple of times in systemsettings and it seems to stop working after some time. No dea why.

HAL Integration (kde) < HAL integration (gnome) -> First of all, no external drives would be automounted by default. It pops up in this new device notifier where you have to click on the new device to mount it. I mean, what the hell is this. If I plug in an external hard drive, I want it to be mounted and not wait for me to tell it to mount itself.
Secondly, my windows partition is not mounted by default. It pops up in the new device notifier when I log in, but when I click on it, it tells me something about having to thing extra options. So, I have to mount it manually. Quite irritating.

kmenuedit > alacarte. However, for some reason, I cannot get kmenuedit to recognize that gimp has an icon. 🙂

Plasma Panels > gnome panel. Not a surprise considering they were working on it for so long and it was one of the major feature of 4.0.

Konqueror and Kmail I did not try, same with kopete. Firefox, Thunderbird and Pidgin work for me.

As for the default audio player, I do not know why JuK is installed. It is of no use, when Amarok is there.

Other than that, there is not much of a difference, and it did not take me (I have never used KDE before) to get used to the settings and all.

But, I must say, that the system responsiveness of KDE4.1 is better than that of gnome-2.22. It loads at a faster rate, and is faster when it run as well. And of course, the looks and the finish are better than gnome, in my opinion. Therefore, this time it looks like that kde4.1 is there on my computer to stay.

Below is a screenshot of my desktop with one gtk app, one qt app, and one native kde4 app.

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Why I Use Gentoo?

Posted in Gentoo, Linux, Open Source by Rahul on June 22, 2008

So, I have been asked this question many times. And of course the assumption is that I am some sort of a masochist who enjoys wasting time on compiling packages. However, that is not entirely true. There are some other reasons why, after trying Ubuntu (started linux with it), Gentoo and then Arch I settled on Gentoo.

The main reasons in a nutshell would be:

1. Rolling Release – Arch does the same thing, while you could achieve the same if you keep using the development releases of Ubuntu. (However, once a feature freeze sets in, you have a wait of couple of months before new packages move into the repos). Arch, in fact, is more bleeding edge that gentoo. However, that is an advantage and a disadvantage as well. While it allows you to have the most bleeding edge system, minor breakdowns are expected. The same can be said for Gentoo – however, with the option of hard masking (not normal masking) a saner solution exists.

2. Portage – No other package management compares to it. Period. Not even the mighty and holy apt.

3. etc-update/dispatch-conf – Haven’t discovered a better way to manage configuration files in a better way in any other distribution. Very useful, if you like to edit your configuration files and do not want them to revert back with an update.

4. eselect – Modular configuration framework. In my opinion, the best feature of Gentoo.

5. Slotting – Install more than one version of the same package.

6. It forces you to learn command line – it is quite useful when you become used to it.

7. And before I forget, the famous USE flags. Trust me, once you get to know them, they are really helpful. And of course, there is no counterpart in any other distribution – this is a unique feature of gentoo (or rather source based distributions)

However, it is not that rosy. There are some disadvantages as well. The most obvious is the time consumed in compiling the packages and in getting the system installed. However, once everything is ready which would take anywhere between 3 days to a week, you would have a great system and you do not have to put in too much effort in maintaining it.

But still. only those who want to spend some time in building a system should try gentoo. Other than that, there is always Ubuntu, which is the best distribution if you are new to Linux.

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India Downed Under

Posted in Cricket, Sports by Rahul on January 7, 2008

16th straight test victory for the Aussies at the SCG as they equal the record set by Steve Waugh. If I were Steve Waugh I would be hanging my head in shame at this moment. The current Australian team has blighted the game like no other has. It may have won matches and trophies galore but it has failed to win any hearts. I liked watching the Aussies play, they were quite good to watch at the 96 world cup. Under Taylor and then Waugh, they were a competitive side, tough to beat but gracious in defeat. However, during the past three years or so they have degenerated in a bunch of rowdy school boys who only care about winning. They are a bunch of school bullies who abuse, sledge and play hard but when someone gives it back to them they have no stomach to digest it. All went well at the Melbourne test – and why was that? Because Australia was winning comfortably, they had no reason to complain. Cut to the Sydney test. India have Australia on the mat, 6 wickets down for 134. And they have a chance to make it 7 when Symonds nicks one from Ishant Sharma and Dhoni takes it comfortably behind the stumps. The nick might have been easily heard in the Australian dressing room, but the umpire did not hear it. And of course Symonds did not walk, the Aussies only walk when they are not in trouble, he would not have walked and left his team in tatters. And then there is Micheal Clarke, he did earn my respect when he played in India in the test series in 2004. Seemed a very promising player. Nicks (or rather hits) one from Kumble to first slip. The deflection was probably wider than the Amazon, and he waits for the umpire to give him out. Can’t blame him, with the standard of umpiring that was on display he might have had the chance to survive. But if this is the man that is being groomed to be Ponting’s successor then there is something wrong with the Australian selectors. Or is there something wrong with the current Australian team which teaches its members to cheat? For while not walking might not be cheating, hoping to carry on through an umpiring mistake is surely cheating. Or something that school boys would do.The last day was not different, was it? Hoping to equal to Steve Waugh’s record, the Aussies played with an intensity that was expected of them. And they had an unexpected ally in Bucknor who seems to have developed a panache of ruining India’s chances in every game. He might have been a brilliant umpire once but he is surely past his prime. If the events in the world cup final of 2007 were not enough, Steve Bucknor had more in offer for us. Dravid is given out while the ball clearly hits his pad, and Ricky Ponting’s word is taken on two controversial catches when there was clearly the option of referring to the third umpire. And yes, I am openly questioning Ponting’s integrity here. As for Clarke, the mere fact that his word can be trusted for a catch is joke, he had already shown what he was capable of on the fourth day. And when it comes to close catching calls, the Australians do not have a great history, do they? Remember Slater and Dravid?

As for Harbhajan Singh, I highly doubt that words of racial nature were uttered by him. And even if they were, the fact that there must have been enough provocation for it, can not be denied. The Australians are afraid of him, because he has got their number. His partnership with Tendulkar was frustrating them, and it is now a common site to see the Aussies muttering insults out of the corner of their mouths. Heis a hot headed guy, Harbhajan is, and he just gave some back to Symonds. The first question that arises is why was there no censure on Symonds for provoking him. Or is there a category of insults – you can insult someone personally, but as soon as you fire a racial slur you are in trouble. That, in my opinion, is pure nonsense. Even if Harbhajan abused Symonds racially, the lack of evidence ( the on filed umpires nothing, and it was again the word of the Australian team that was taken for it) and the presence of several mitigating factors should have ensured a better handling of the case.

As for the Indian team, they must surely be gutted. They at least deserved to draw the Sydney match and had the umpiring decisions gone their way, or had the Aussies played in the spirit of the game, they might have even won it. If the supporters can not swallow this defeat it must surely be impossible for the team to swallow it. I personally no reason for the team to stay in Australia, there is no respect for them there. Kumble, Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly are some of the most respected and talented cricketers to have graced the game of cricket in the past two decades and to play against a team which has neither respect for the game, nor for the opposition must surely pain them. 2.3 million, that is the price that they have to pay to bunk the tour. The Indian board is more than capable of paying that price. No reason for the team to stay and endure more contempt, for the current Australian team does not deserve to share the same space with the Indian team.

Come back, Team India!

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