Friday, 20 January 2012

HOWTO: GIMP - create a text-with-halo effect

A small tutorial I made about an effect I used in the previous interviews (in English), so, for consistency, I had to recreate it, even after Kino was no longer available in Debian Wheezy.

I'll probably upload more videos like this about cinelerra, pitivi, gimp, audacity and other software I use for the work I do for our „Sceptici în România”/ „Skeptics in Romania” podcast (The podcast is in Romanian, but we are preparing also a project for the international audience, too).

And in case you are wondering, yes, this podcast is part of the reasons I wasn't able to do any work for Debian lately!

Monday, 16 January 2012

What's common between Windows 7 and GNOME 3 / gnome-shell?

Update: I managed to make sound work. For some weird reason, a mute switch option of some the many (and who knows how useful) switches of my sound card was enabled. Now the damn thing works. Did I mention that since I did the upgrade all my sound cards (I have a USB sound card, too) have listed as available inputs all the inputs of my internal sound card (mic, front mic, line in, CD, etc.) in Audacity? That makes for a very confusing and loooong sound input sources list! The upside is that I can finally record clips from televisions that do not provide such a feature and FastVideoDownload doesn't handle.

I also seem to have found a possible fix for the caps-ctrl issue in Xfce4 (obviously, setting "-option ctrl:swapcap" in ~/.Xkbmap, instead of that Alt modifier).

As I said in my previous post, I will tell you what do GNOME 3 and Windows 7 have in common.

Before everything else, I want to make it clear that when I am saying GNOME 3, I am referring to Debian Wheezy's GNOME 3, since I recently upgraded from Squeeze on my laptop. I'll probably drop a line or two about that, too.

First, I'll tell you about the (boring, probably for many) experience with Windows 7. As I said before, my new job requires me to use a Windows machine, so up until a few months ago I was using Windows XP with some additional software and tweaks to make it usable. Then came the Windows 7 „upgrade”. I am using quotes since the more appropriate term would be „fresh installation on a new partition”, not even close to what Debian users are used to call an upgrade.

So after a fresh Windows 7 installation, my first shock was the fact there was NO Quick Launch*. Some of you might be laughing, but I had never used Windows 7 up until then, just saw it on a laptop of a friend of mine (Ovidiu, one of the guys with whom I am doing this podcast, went to Denkfest with, and made these interviews). That was the first shock. Initial discussions about this with Windows users lead me to believe Quick Launch was dead and for some unexplained reason, I believed them. Later, much later, a week ago, to be precise, I found out that you can bring back the Quick Launch through some convoluted way**. Up until that point I had to have some icons pinned to the task bar, but some others on the desktop (and I hate that) because some of them, like Cygwin, if pinned, would start a cmd console, since Win 7 pins the process, not the starting script.

Among other things which broke in Win 7 and used to work fine in XP, the Virtual Dimension application which provides me with a virtual desktop, was the first one which was broken. I have been using a liniar 4 desktops-wide virtual desktop for over 5 years and I am worthless and inefficient if all my apps are on the same desktop. Mail application is always on the first desktop, work and file managers are on the second, the third is for extras and multimedia editing while the fourth is my gateway to the internet, containing the browser, instant messenger, or whatever.

The shortcuts I use to get to the various desktops are Win+1 ... Win+4 keyboard shortcuts, but the M$ Evil Empire decided that those shortcuts are going to start or bring foreward the first, second and so on applications pinned on the task bar. And you can't change those shortcuts***. Nor is disabling just those possible since they are all disabled through a huge switch which disables ALL Win+x keyboard shortcuts, among which Win+E (file expolrer) and Win+D (Show Desktop) were also. Luckly, Win+L (lock screen) was not disabled. So I disabled al those Win+ shortcuts, since I need virtual desktops.

Now, imagine if I had to start a Cygwin console and I had all sorts of apps open! Win+D was disabled, so I had to minimize the apps covering the desktop shortcut for Cygwin, click on the icon to start it, bring back the minimized windows and go on with my work. What a waste of clicks, mouse movement, energy and time, just because some dudes thought a Quick Launch-like feature was useless****.

You might wonder already what do those '*' sings mean. Well, sadly, that's what GNOME 3 / gnome-shell and Windows 7 have in common.

Gnome 3 was a shock for me. An empty desktop right after upgrade. No panels, no shortcuts*, no power indicators, no wicd indicator, no virtual desktops, no desktop icons, (I have a few dirs and docs there). Sounds like an Evil Empire decision, doesn't it?

Luckly I have been using Tilda as my always-ready console and I could fire up iceweasel from the console in order to understand where my panel disappeared.

I then realised that the upgrade brought me Network Manager, that app which wicd replaced. As a consequence, I had no working wlan since Network Manager made sure to mess up with the network manager I chose.

After looking through the documentation of Network Manager and realising I either had it set up to leave wlan0 alone or I didn't understood NM's documentation, I simply stopped the service, which let Wicd its job flawlessly.

The first thing I searched was „Gnome 3 panel” or something of that sort and I was confronted with the obvious option to appeal to the Forced Fallback Mode which was disabled. I figured I either had an old version, or Debian disabled this feature (hoping they provided an alternative). There was also the option to conform to this convoluted way of working** with Actions and such uselessness like that. I still wonder, what is the purpose of the „Favourites” bar on the left side, since it's accessible only after wasting a lot of mouse movement and time? For Joe's Pesci sake, I use focus under mouse just to avoid needless mouse and keyboard manipulation. Why? Why? WHY would I want every time I need to start or SWITCH to another application to move the mouse to the upper-left corner then take my hands off the mouse to type, move the mouse downwards or move across the whole width of the screen to get to my beloved virtual desktops and pick the app I want?

Making a long story short, after even trying XFCE4 (which for some unknown reason resets almost immediately my keyboard layout to the default layout with the Caps on Caps, instead of my preferred and set Ctrl on Caps - yes, it's global), I managed to find GNOME Shell Frippery** which made the experience better.

Later I found out that GNOME 3's file manager, Nautilus, has decided that an „up on level” button is useless, since the default is to use that uncopy-pastable button location bar instead of a sane text location bar. And it seems the GNOME developers decided this*** and I should conform to it.

To add insult to injury, those icons on my old panel are apparently useless**** and even in the fallback version I can't get them back. Or so the GNOME developers decided.

At some point this sunday, don't know how or why this change happened, producing sound was impossible. I know the problem is pulseaudio since when I kill the pulseaudio daemon from the console I can play audio. BTW, great timing, just when I needed sound the most, before releasing episode 32 of our podcast (yay, I reaslised that xfce just decided to reset my caps to be caps, after setting to ctrl a few minutes ago).

I know I praised pulseaudio when I first tried it, but failing to make it work out of the box or after some tinkering is a deal breaker for me, so I removed it. Now I find it that is a default in GNOME, yet all it manages to do is prevent audio from working. At least on my machine.

Other problems? Gnome Power Manager manages to hang and block my session, GNOME managed somehow to fail to start at some point. Yeah, and that sound problem which I didn't fix yet, didn't went away after removing all the pulseaudio packages which could be removed (e.g.: ryhtmbox depends on libpulse0, same do some other apps like audacity, so I couldn't remove all pulse related packages).

I got involved with Debian and GNU/Linux because it was tweakable and customisable, didn't use to force all sorts of option on me and now I find with its increasing popularity it becomes more and more like a product of a corporation which decides to change some things just to change and totally disregadring user experience and uses.

So, in the light of all of these problems I think it's time to probably consider trying KDE. Is it any good lately?

Monday, 9 January 2012

Another Windows tip - How to store cvspass login for CVSNT

Since I am currently working on a Windows machine at work I am looking for ways to make this thing work in a sane way. The latest insane thing is the fact that I wasn't able to log on a CVS server at work from WinCVS (which uses CVSNT) with my regular credentials, while the cached password in Cygwin did work with the Cygwin CVS.

So the obvious fix was to copy the .cvspass file from cygwin to whereever CVSNT kept its cvspass file. Well, it isn't that easy, since CVSNT keeps such passwords in the Windows registry. But since I had no previous logins with CVSNT, I didn't knew what to put in the registry.

I found really easily that the key is under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\cvsnt\cvspass, but how do I save it? Looking at the line in my cygwin .cvspass I saw the line had the format:

/1 S()meh4s'h00

I finally found out that I have to create a string value with the name "" and the value data that hash "S()meh4s'h00" and plainly ignore the first field.

Stay tuned. The next article will be about what's common between Windows 7 and GNOME 3 / gnome-shell, since I upgraded my home laptop to wheezy (I really wanted to use pitivi 0.15), and my desktop at work to Windows 7.