So on Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day I want to toss a big thanks out to the Michigan Loco. It’s a great bunch of guys and gals that I talk with online every day and have helped keep me sane, taught me new things, and overall have just made this community thing work for me. If it wasn’t for them, I’d not be running Ubuntu and working on Launchpad today. So hats off to everyone in the Loco and here’s to all the other great people making this community rock!
Now that I’m going to be working for Canonical I’ve got to get ready for some week long sprints. Now, I LOVE my 12″ X201 thinkpad. It’s the best laptop I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned macs, toshibas, dells, and larger thinkpads. When I’m home, I dock and use dual 21″ displays. When I travel, it’s the perfect size, yet still packs an i5 and 8GB of ram.
However, a week of living inside a 12″ display has me a little claustrophobic. So I decided I should do something about it. They make some decent looking USB powered external monitors that seemed like they’d travel pretty nice. Once cable, no external power needs, and another 1024px is a good thing. Mobile mutli-head..sweet!
Getting it working
The trouble is getting it working. The USB monitors use something called DisplayLink to work. Getting that to work is a little tricky. Fortunately, a few brave souls paved my way. You can see the links I checked out to get started
Once you install xserver-xorg-video-displaylink you’ll need an xorg.conf file since DisplayLink doesn’t work with all the hotplug business that makes modern video work.
The real trouble is that I ONLY want this xorg.conf file when I’m actually using the USB display. When I’m docked at home or using a projector, I don’t need it. Right now I’ve just written a toggle script that I use to flip the xorg back and forth.
There are also some usage issues. It only works for me if the DisplayLink monitor is the primary one in the xorg server setup. This means the LightDM is running on there and it’s running in just a few hundred pixels of the display. I can still log in though so it’s not killer.
You can’t drag windows back and forth among them, which isn’t the end of the world, but some apps (like Google Chrome) only launch on the same display as the currently running instances. So I can’t find a way to get Chrome to run on both monitors. For now I just run Firefox on one and Chrome on the other.
Overall, I’m really digging the setup. I’m sitting at the bar with irc on a second display while I write this blog post out all unplugged from any power. I think it’ll make life a LOT nicer for road traveling for any extended time.
#!/bin/sh -e # toggle xorg.conf on/off so I can add/remove it as needed # requires a reboot after running to take effect if [ -e /etc/X11/xorg.conf ] then echo "Removing xorg.conf file" sudo mv /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.usb else echo "Setting xorg.conf file" sudo mv /etc/X11/xorg.conf.usb /etc/X11/xorg.conf fi
My xorg.conf file I’m using
############ Original Video Settings ########### Section "Files" ModulePath "/usr/lib/xorg/modules" ModulePath "/usr/lib/xorg/modules/drivers" EndSection ################################################## Section "Device" Identifier "Configured Video Device" Driver "intel" EndSection Section "Monitor" Identifier "Configured Monitor" EndSection Section "Screen" Identifier "Default Screen" Monitor "Configured Monitor" Device "Configured Video Device" SubSection "Display" Depth 24 Modes "1280x800" EndSubSection EndSection ############### DisplayLink Stuff ############### Section "Device" Identifier "DisplayLinkDevice" driver "displaylink" Option "fbdev" "/dev/fb0" EndSection Section "Monitor" Identifier "DisplayLinkMonitor" EndSection Section "Screen" Identifier "DisplayLinkScreen" Device "DisplayLinkDevice" Monitor "DisplayLinkMonitor" SubSection "Display" Depth 16 Modes "1024x600" EndSubSection EndSection ################################################# Section "ServerLayout" Identifier "Server Layout" Screen 0 "DisplayLinkScreen" 0 0 Screen 1 "Default Screen" RightOf "DisplayLinkScreen" Option "Xinerama" "Off" EndSection
Visual of the display issue with LightDM
So Jono wants to know how we can get more developers interested in Ubuntu. We got talking about it in the #ubuntu-us-mi loco and it sparked an interesting debate. Just who are you looking for? Jono mentions “people interested in getting involved in packaging, fixing bugs, and joining our community”, but that’s not just developers. I mean, our guy that started the Ubuntu Bug Jams doesn’t do much development for Ubuntu. Our debate also had us wondering if packaging was really a developer task or if it was better left to the non-developers so as to free up valuable developer time to add more features and fix more bugs.
Personally, I took the idea of the Bug Jams and decided to start my own Packaging Jam. I wanted to to learn to be a MOTU and thought it would be great to bring in someone who knew the ropes. For me it’s hard to go through the documentation and figure out how things work. Especially since I was a PHP developer. What do I know of build systems? I just deploy from source code via scripts.
I never ended up reaching that goal of becoming a MOTU. It was just too hard to get through all the docs and learn all the rules. There are so many different tools. People think Git is a series of disjointed commands? Look at the list of things in bold here.
It’s insane. I’ve moved on now and I do Python programming and I’ve had to learn how to build packages for Python tools, but it seems a bit easier using tools that you already use for Python. I haven’t gone the extra mile to package things up into .deb files. I think that the popularity of scripting languages with their own build/distribution tools have taken a big hit on your pool of potential packagers and such.
Well anyway, back to Jono’s request. I think there are a few things. First, narrow down your post. What are you looking for, more help packaging existing app? Help doing bugs? Help developing awesome apps? Each are a bit different. Based on our discussion I’m going to run with packagers.
The two things I think that would help potential packagers getting going would be
- A more formal filled mentoring program. I think if existing packagers brought in trainees to help watch and build the packages during the alpha stage of a release, over time they’d pick things up. People need to learn best practices, how the tools fit together, and it’s best to pick this up through practical use under a guiding eye. The one trick is I wonder is how it would be best for two parties to share a common build/package environment. Developers can share an editor via various online tools, I’m not sure how to share a pbuilder instance.
- I once mentioned how I think one could build a practical web application to walk someone through packaging step by step. Imagine that you get walked through getting source, making changes to the changelog, and rebuilding the package. It could even be tied into the ppa system so that your ‘project’ can be built as part of walking through the various steps. It’s a lot of work, but I could see it as something that has different modules and as you work through them you learn a new trick with each.
Ok, that’s it. If you’ve been listening to our Lococast.net episodes you’ll know that I thought the whole stackexchange for Ubuntu Q&A was a bad idea. Too many places for users to go and find help/answers seems like it’d be a large negative. In the end the community decided to go ahead with it and here we are.
Except, the Ubuntu community can’t seem todo anything without drawing out the complains from swaths of the neighboring communities. So we end up with with a series of events that look like this:
- Community wants exchange
- People think it’s strange and wonder why when there’s a more general *nix proposal out there
- Community speaks out that hey…we think our community has it’s own value
- People rant about community wanting to do its own thing
This is just crap. I mean, if a community wants to do it’s own thing, and they have the means to supply both the helpers and the helpies needed for the thing to work, why does anyone need to get up in arms about it. You think a joint one would prove more useful…then do it…prove it. If the joint stackexchange will provide more value to users, then the users will find that out and use it.
I’m already worried about issues with the volume of questions for just the Ubuntu community. You think some how making it a larger swath of people would make it better? We’ll see. But quit the whining.
Due to all of this I feel like I need to stand up for my community. While I’m not on board with this stackexchange being a long term solution, I feel like I need to step up and support it. So I’ve signed up and will be monitoring a number of tags in the stackexchange that are up my alley. In particular I’ll be keeping an eye on: python, vim, terminal, command line, and zsh. I might add some others as I get into it more.
Just a heads up for users, you can create a custom RSS feed of only specific tags by playing with the url. For instance, below is my url I used for just my tags. Notice each tag is separated via +or+.
Doing this will provide you with a page you can bookmark, but that page will also have an RSS feed on it for those tags. Definitely helpful since I’m going to try to keep things sensible by limited my involvement to my specialties.
So get over there and find your support niche today. Together the Ubuntu community is quite awesome, and I wish the rest of the world would quit trying to force things upon us we never asked for.
A quick Lococast.net update. After PyOhio ate up one episode and then my illness ate up another, Craig and I finally got back behind the mics for episode 4. Thanks for everyone that checked in on us and sorry for the delay.
Along with that I managed to release something new. A screencast! That’s right, I’m getting tired of repeatedly trying to show the same tricks and decided if I screencast the stuff I can just point people at the videos. Video is a whole new ballgame to me, and I’m cheating by using this script from the great Ubuntu Screencast community.
My first episode is naturally one on Vim and the awesomeness of splits for very day use. I’m starting planning on my next Vim one now. Make sure to check it out. The videos are available from blip.tv (with better audio) and Youtube.
Let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see covered and make sure you subscribe to the Lococast.net RSS feed to keep up on updates.
p.s. go check out my talk and the other great ones from PyOhio at: http://python.mirocommunity.org/category/pyohio-2010
Yay, Craig and I managed to get back on the lococast.net podcast train once I got back from my Vacation. It’s still a work in progress as we fight to try to keep our normal extended discussions down to a 30min podcast. This time I wanted to discuss the idea of the desktop os app store and there were a few things we didn’t get to in the podcast. I had originally wanted to try to go through the things I felt were missing from the Software Center in Ubuntu that prevented me from counting it as an “App Store”.
The Software Center is coming along since I checked it out during the original blueprint phase. I think it could definitely get to an app store look/feel. So first my rants on things I’m not a fan of.
- The universal access icon is white which set upon a light background makes it nearly impossible to read/see.
- In the “Get Software” section, is that really the new Canonical logo? A purple dot? Sorry, but it looks horrible.
- In the “Installed Software” link on the left side I completely missed it had any logo since it’s again, white logo on white background.
- When viewing the details on a software package I love the link for the Website, but the fact that there’s no hover/other indication this is clickable it looks more like a heading vs a link.
Anyway, that’s just my off the cuff nit picking. What I really wanted to go through is the list of features I’d love to see to have the app store concept take off in Ubuntu.
First up, only show the software. Forget the libraries. Anything that starts with lib should be hidden by default. I also don’t think there should be any view of all packages. It’s just scary. I think search and going through categories/simplified interfaces are the only way to go. Does anyone honestly think users are going to go through the entire list? I think there’s a bunch of things that can be done to clean up the lists of package in order to make things approachable to users.
Next up, when I think of app stores I think of paid apps. Now I know Canonical has some software in their online canonical store, but that’s not where I go to install software. I should be able to purchase software right in the Software Center. Along these lines, the Canonical partners repo is the place to put this stuff. Beyond these few things from the Canonical store, I’d love to see this opened up for other software to be submitted for purchase or maybe donation. How cool would it be to be able to support your favorite apps right through the software center?
While we’re talking about the parters repo, how is it that just about none of those packages have icons? Not only that, a quick test of a few shows no info in the “More Info” section. You’d think these packages would have help from Canonical getting into place and these should be the gold standards of user experience for packages in the Software Center.
Finally, and according to a recent shotofjaq.org podcast episode there’s already work going on to allow users to write reviews and ratings of software in there. This is great news and will open up a bunch of user interface enhancements for users looking for software.
So discovery, purchase, and reputation. These are the big things I think need help in the Ubuntu Software Center. What things do you think are missing?
And I should have started here, but definitely looks like much of the paid/donations stuff is something they’re looking to do currently. Check out their roadmap.