Currently showing posts tagged: ubuntu

Linux desktop community “outraged” by latest Torvalds comments

By , November 29, 2011 4:40 pm

Once again, users and developers all around the Linux desktop community have been provoked by controversial comments from Linus Torvalds, creator and long-time maintainer of the Linux kernel. Back in October, Linus dubbed GNOME 3 an “unholy mess”, referring to one of the changes as “crazy crap” and demanding “I want my sane interfaces back”. Since then he has gone even further, contending that “for some people, a stable, flexible functional desktop environment is far more important than the latest eye candy or trendy minimalist UI design.”

Reaction from the desktop development community has been swift and mostly unapologetic. Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical, responded “Once again, Linus is underestimating the importance of aesthetics in computing. You only have to look at Apple to see that people place more importance on visual beauty than the kind of efficient work processes that a flexible and reliable desktop environment enable. This is why we’re pushing our new Unity launcher as a mandatory part of Ubuntu. We’re confident that people will quickly overcome the initial shock of everything taking longer to find and access because they’ll be too busy admiring how beautiful it looks.” He then cited the latest 11.10 release as an example of this. “If you look in the release notes for [Oneiric Ocelot], you’ll see a new Alt+Tab switcher at the top of the list of highlights, and below it other radical changes such as renaming ‘Places’ to ‘Lenses’. Frankly, most people lap up this whizzbang shit, and as long as it looks cooler than their friend’s Windows 7 netbook they’ll be willing to tolerate some minor annoyances which are unavoidable when making immature software a critical component of the desktop. Sure, we could prioritise boring bug-fixing over innovation, but that just doesn’t excite the teenagers on the web forums, and we have to think about the next generation of users. Besides, if you want a dumbed down system that mostly works, there’s always Mac OS X.”

Havoc Pennington, a GNOME developer well-known for initiating the war on Linux desktop flexibility by drastically reducing the number of preferences and replacing GNOME’s default window manager, the high-performance scriptable Sawfish, with Metacity, commented: “It’s about achieving the right work/play balance. If your desktop allowed you to get stuff done too quickly, it would just increase your stress levels. Some ‘power’ users think they want to be able to stream-line their workflows, but we know better, so we are doing them a favour by making this customizability harder. After all, everyone needs basically the same things. Rather than trying to be different, these people should instead learn to enjoy the cute visuals and focus more on having fun. Life’s more than just work, work, work, you know.”

The KDE camp has been slightly less vociferous, perhaps because it’s old hat for them – back in 2008 they pioneered the concept of intrusive redesigns and ended up the wrong end of one of Linus’ rants as a result. “With KDE 4.0, we did our best to prevent people achieving real work, and I think we largely succeeded”, one of the KDE team leaders recalls. “I mean, there was a significant period of time where neither the KDE3 version of knetworkmanager nor its KDE4 rewrite worked properly, so for many wireless networks, the only way you could connect was to disable NetworkManager and write a shell-script to interface directly with wpa-supplicant and ifup. And that’s just one small example.”

Despite Torvalds’ comments, the move towards form over function has been witnessed elsewhere outside the desktop software space. For example, Apple have introduced the MacWheel, a move so bold that it makes innovations such as Unity and the GNOME Shell look positively conservative. However there is no clear industry-wide consensus; in fact companies such as Ebay and Sony are beginning to experiment with rejecting both form and function, turning conventional wisdom on its head.

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Running Amazon MP3 downloader on 64-bit Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal)

By , September 25, 2011 3:00 pm

Amazon MP3 store – a phenomenonly popular online music store. Ubuntu – a phenomenonly popular version of Linux. 64-bit x86_64 CPUs – been around for years. You’d think this was a good combination, wouldn’t you? Wrong :-( Amazon, along with Spotify and countless others, is dismally failing to support its rapidly growing set of customers who run Linux. As I’ve said elsewhere, even if 2% of your customers use Linux, that can still be a huge number. Hopefully some day these big companies will acquire some common sense.

Anyway, in the mean time a quick google brought up the following solution:

  • http://www.dgf64art.com/2011/07/05/installing-amazon-mp3-downloader-on-ubuntu-11-04/ (unfortunately this link no longer works)

Unfortunately it doesn’t work – the step which installs the manually downloaded .deb files fails due to broken dependencies. However further googling found a post from 2008 which revealed a technique based on the very useful getlibs utility.

So here’s my solution:

  1. Download the 32-bit Amazon downloader app for Ubuntu 9.10.
  2. Run sudo dpkg -i --force-all AmazonMP3DownloaderInstall.deb
  3. Run sudo apt-get install getlibs if you don’t already have getlibs installed.
  4. Run sudo getlibs /usr/bin/amazonmp3 and answer yes to the confirmation.

At this point if you try to run /usr/bin/amazonmp3 you’ll probably hit Ubuntu bug 781870. The workaround is as follows:

export GDK_PIXBUF_MODULE_FILE=/usr/lib32/gdk-pixbuf-2.0/2.10.0/loaders.cache
/usr/bin/amazonmp3

You’ll still get an error that it’s trying to load the 64-bit version of libgvfsdbus.so thanks to Ubuntu bug 369498. I had hopes that export GIO_EXTRA_MODULES=/usr/lib32/gio/modules would fix this, but it seems that this variable only gets honoured too late. However, apparently this issue doesn’t stop the program working so can be ignored.

Another option is to use Banshee’s built-in Amazon downloader, but even without all the politics surrounding Ubuntu’s version of Banshee this didn’t suit my tastes.

UPDATE: Wow. Just found out Amazon doesn’t support re-downloading stuff you’ve already bought. This is truly pathetic, especially considering their Android app kind of implements a locker service. From now on I’ll be using 7digital whenever I can – unfortunately their selection isn’t as big though. The quest for the perfect music services continues … :-/

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