Software Woes

Rants, tips and tricks

Friday, July 28, 2006

KDE vs Gnome

Nope, this isn't going to be one of those flamebaits trying to convice you which one is better.

Each night I turn my DVD recorder off using its remote control (I use it to switch channels instead of TV's one). I usually do it in the dark, and I usually open the disc tray first before cursing the fact that the power off button is on the other side. Other from what? Well, from TV's remote which I used just a few seconds before - to turn TV off.

There's obviously no standard between makers of TV sets and DVD recorders, but this thing often reminds me of a similar issue in software: the button placing in KDE and Gnome. For those of you how don't know, KDE and Gnome have different standards on button placing in dialogs. Beside other minor things, OK and Cancel buttons are at opposite places. Of course, both camps are right, and there is no standard here, just what you might get used to.

Many people get annoyed by Gnome's positioning because it is different from MS Windows. I'm not one of those people, but I do get annoyed when two applications I'm using simultaneously have different setting.

It all goes down to underlying toolkits: Qt and Gtk. Now, in my not so humble opinion, instead of trying to duplicate each Gtk app in KDE, and each Qt app in Gnome (often in much worse quality) developers should play smarter and get apps to adapt to the environment. It would be cool if Gtk and Qt could simply ask the window manager: "what is thy button placing preference?". If it doesn't respond (i.e. doesn't have it), it would use the default placing used so far. Otherwise, the appopriate placing would be used and if I'm using KDE, then Gtk apps. wouldn't stick out. Conversely, if I'm using Gnome, Qt apps would blend in.

I understand that this might not be easy. There is a whole new interface to implement, and some apps. might need to standardize their dialogs first (which makes all this a good idea after all)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Watch your root partition

Q: What's the worst thing that could happen to you on Linux?
A: I don't know, but not having any more disk space on root partition is disasterous.

It happened to me once again. This time, it looks like I only lost my /etc/hosts file. I was just about to edit it, and tried first with vi. First I mistyped the filename:

milanb@asus:~/devel/svn/ibpp-current$ su
root@asus:/home/milanb/devel/svn/ibpp-current# vi /etc/host
blkwrite failed

Still, not thinking about this strange error message, I tried again:

root@asus:/home/milanb/devel/svn/ibpp-current# vi /etc/hosts
skipping 1 old session file
blkopen's read failed

Ok, I tought to myself, something's the matter with vi. Lets use the second option, mcedit (part of Midnight Commander). What a horrible mistake that was:

root@asus:/etc# mcedit hosts

It opened the file properly. I made the changes and pressed F2 to save. It reported some error that it cannot save it. Ok, nevermind, I exited the editor and to my big surprise: file is truncated!

root@asus:/etc# ls -l hosts
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 2006-07-26 22:34 hosts
root@asus:/etc# cat hosts

Aaaargh. Now I have to try to remember what was there (I don't backup each and every file on each and every machine I have).

P.S. The screenshot: before posting to blogger I usually write the text in editor, especially when system seems unstable (I was still unaware that the root partition is full). KWrite was nice to let me know what is happening. I guess sometimes I'm too lazy to think, and the good thing is that there are programs like KWrite that think for us :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Firefox download manager

I use Firefox as my main web browser, and when it comes to download, I use it's own download manager. I'm aware that there are a lot of download-manager extensions available, but I hate to have to go through the process of evaluating each one. I did try a few, but they were no good, so I gave up. Besides, one has to keep track of those extensions when installing new versions or switching computers. (If you're going to recommend me some, please keep in mind that I use Linux/KDE).

As for the integrated Firefox download manager, I only require one thing: ability to resume downloads when server terminates the connection, or my Internet connection gets broken, and after restarting the computer.

Other things are ok, I don't feel the need for multithreaded (a.k.a. accelerated) download. And that bug with simultaneous downloads (see screenshot above) can be misleading many times, so you're never sure until you open the Downloads window.