Friday, December 12, 2014

Fedora 21... just WOW!!

Really quick note to let you all know that Fedora 21 absolutely rocks!!... GNOME 3.14 is better than ever, slick-looking, fast and more intuitive than ever (even if there are some quirks which still need fixing, like the notification bar...).

This thing is FAST. The work that Fedora next has put in place to create a common core and then build on that with specific components for each branch is great. The desktop reacts almost instantaneously to everything, and even animations feel snappy and smooth.

The KDE Plasma desktop is slowly coming together and looks promising, but until it becomes a solid reality, GNOME is the king of Linux desktop managers, and Fedora the speeding track it flies upon!

Download and install!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Plasma 5.0 is HERE!!!

YES!!... Finally we get to see what a (nearly, still work in progress in some aspects) finished version of the DM looks like. I must admit I was wrong because my hopes were a bit low on this one, but it feels great to be wrong this time!... The video shows ultra-smooth performance (even when screen recording), LOTS of eye-candy (it simply looks beautiful, much more modern and clean) and a much flatter and no non-sense design. Here´s a quick video:



Like I said, this is still work in progress and early days, so I would not recommend anybody jumping into it just yet. I am guessing many distros will grab this when they put out their fall releases, and the product will benefit from that breathing time.

All in all, a big CONGRATS to the KDE developers and designers, a great work overall, keep it up!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Other GNOME Apps

In recent posts I have briefly covered certain popular GNOME apps, such as Files, as well as other newer ones like Maps, Software or Weather. Today I want to quickly talk about others that are maybe less popular, or that I didn't use before and have adopted due to their recent updates.

GNOME MUSIC

First off is GNOME MUSIC, a simple music player that looks (or should, I haven't been able to get it to work out of the box) into your Music folder and arranges music by Artist, Album and Song through a simple and clean interface.



I find the artist section particularly well designed.





Personally, I rely on Google Play Music to store all my music in the cloud, but for those who prefer a local music player, I believe GNOME Music will be a rather good option, especially if they appreciate a simple interface. Note that I am saying will be, because as of now, it still needs quite a bit of polish before it can become the default player in GNOME.

GNOME PHOTOS

GNOME Photos is a bit of a confusing one to me. Initially I thought of it as a photo viewer, maybe a more powerful version of EOG, but it is not. In fact, it depends on EOG for certain tasks. Photos is a simple picture management tool that only displays images from the Pictures folder, allowing users to create their own albums and choose favorites shots. As was the case with Music, Photos is still a young app and it shows. Performance improvements are necessary when displaying pictures, transitioning from one another, etc. Most importantly, though, my main thing with this app is that I don't see much use for it anyways.



GNOME VIDEOS

Just like Nautilus received a new name, so has Totem, now dubbed Videos. In this last update it has evolved quite significantly, and in the right direction, I must add.



Video files can be imported to Videos and displayed in a grid arrangement. Double clicking on a video file from Files works just as well, but I must admit the visual appeal of this option is rather obvious.



In a surprising and pretty neat twist, Videos offers a few video channels that over a variety of clips, from Blip to Apple Trailers, and apparently some others that have been added recently. I wonder if that will be a trend and more and more video channels will become available without the user actually updating the app. That would be great.



I used to watch Apple Trailers before I started using Linux. Then, because I was testing so many distros, I ended up getting tired of whether the distro would include all the required codecs and the kitchen sink for Apple videos to be displayed correctly, so I started gravitating to watching trailers on YouTube and never looked back. With Videos, though, I have alternatives with none of the hassle.



GNOME SOUND RECORDER

Sound Recorder is a very simple app that does what it's supposed to do. Probably more meaningful in a mobile device, it can be useful in a laptop/desktop setting as well.



As with the rest of the apps, the UI is clean and simple, never getting in the way of what the app is meant to do.



GNOME WEB

Formerly know as Epiphany, GNOME Web is another one of those apps I had decided not to use for a while, but I must admit that its latest offer is quite appealing.



The UI is simply superb. The ugly URL bar is cleverly hidden when not in use, and the way tabs are implemented makes Web the best looking browser I can think of today.





Beauty is important, but functionality and performance are key. In that regard, Web still is a bit rough around the edges. I have seen a few webs which are not displayed correctly, but they were the exception. In terms of loading speed, a few informal tests show it doesn't stand far back from Google Chrome, which is quite a good sign.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

GNOME 3.12 Screencast

A very recent update dropped GNOME 3.12 final and the final product, although not that much different from the GNOME 3.11.9x I had been using up until now, managed to surprise me, so I decided to put together a quick Screencast and share it here.



The main thing I have noticed on the latest update is things going much faster. I am not sure why, but everything is way smoother and more responsive. Menu drop-downs, fade in and out effects, everything is amazingly smooth. Even with more than five apps open at the same time, the Activities Overview effects to show them all up is buttery smooth. In fact, part of the reason why I wanted to record a screencast is because GNOME 3.12 finally provided me with a tool to record my screen activity in Linux as it is supposed to be. The video recording does not drag the desktop to a halt, it almost feels as if you are not recording.

Anyways, I have covered many things about GNOME 3.12 already, so I won't go into detail here. I can confirm that several bugs that were there in the prerelease compilations are now gone, but there are still minor things that don't work as expected.

What I can assure you is that this is, by far, the best GNOME there has ever been and I very much encourage Fedora users to give it a go, they will not regret it. Users of other distros will probably have to wait a bit longer, but please give this latest GNOME a try!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Future of KDE, a look at Plasma Next

Anyone who's curious about the future of KDE will know that they are currently working on the next big milestone. This work is perhaps going quieter than usual in Linux World because the KDE team took the very wise decision to freeze KDE 4.x development, only providing bug fixes and changes on the application framework, while building the new KDE, which we will get a first taste of mid year. Well, we now have a first taste of how that will look like. I will let the video do the talking and share my opinion later.



First thing that comes to mind is that it seems the new KDE will finally deliver on the promise of a Plasma desktop, it seems it is finally complete, which is great. According to their comments, the complexity of the DE has been reduced and streamlined thanks to the use of QtQuick, so contributing and maintaining all of its components should be easier now and performance should also benefit from this change.

In terms of visuals, I don't want to go much into it because I know this is very much work in progress and I know some very talented artists at the KDE camp are hard at work to deliver once again a great visual experience, specially around a new icon theme. I have also heard that support for external icon themes should be improved, something that has always been a bit of a miss for me. What I can say, though, is that the direction they are taking looks very promising. The new calendar and network plasmoids look fantastic, and so does the new menu. Along with a tasty icon theme this thing is going to look superb. Congrats for the great work so far!!

What I don't like, though, is that according to this video, the foundations that make KDE way more complex and difficult to grasp in 2014 remain intact. The Settings window is almost exactly the same, and I was hoping they would use this opportunity to give it a much, much needed redesign. At this stage it's really nonsense that so many categories are there in the window, it's overwhelming for anyone who's not fond of customization. Most users will only care about three or four elements to customize in terms of appearance, so why not just have an appearance category where fonts, icons and themes can easily be found and then bury everything else in that category under an advanced tab? That concept would apply to any and all categories and would make the settings window way easier to grasp and use. In addition, I hope they make all settings fall within the settings window, as opposed to now, where the menu settings are split from the overall DE settings.

Anyways, I will wait for the final release to make up my mind, but I have mixed feelings thus far. Let's wait and see!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What's new in GNOME 3.12

Following this recent trend of mine, where I like to write about my experience using GNOME and Fedora, I wanted to share a few cool things I have found after applying recent (almost final) GNOME 3.12 packages. I have applied these on top of Fedora 20, so if anyone is interested in learning how to do it, please drop a comment and I will share some basic instructions.

First thing I have noticed is how GNOME 3.12 again makes things snappier and more responsive than they were in 3.10. If talking about desktop effects, well, GNOME Shell is not big on them, which I am happy with, but what bothered me was that the few there were weren't looking good. Frame drops and severe lag were all over the place, to the point where the overall experience was hit. Good news, fast forward to the latest GNOME 3.11 compilations and things are smooth and fast, even when having many windows open on the same workspace. The overall speed, from loading the session initially to opening apps and running daily tasks has also been improved throughout. For instance, showing the Activities Overview now loads faster than ever, with little to now delay in displaying all icons.



A very cool and superbly implemented feature is that a software search is now part of the general search feature. This by itself is not news, Unity implemented something along the same lines sometime ago, but that's precisely why I am saying it is superbly done. When using this feature on Unity, right after I get the results, I am desperately trying to find a way to disable it. It's that bad. Performance is ridiculous. However, not sure how they have done it, in GNOME Shell the results appear as if they were part of a local search, pretty amazing.



There have also been changes in the default GTK theme, which now gets renewed tabs and buttons, as shown below.





The user and session menu is another perfectly implemented solution. Intuitive, aesthetically consistent, elegant and concise, only showing the right information within a couple clicks max. Genius.



The Shell menus and popups have become a tad more transparent in this release, which I like.







The new Maps application is nice, following the trend of no bells and whistles, it just works, albeit with limited functionality at this point.



The lockscreen returns mostly unchanged, with the obvious exception of the main wallpaper, which looks great. It changes through the day.





So there you have it, no radical changes, but the continuous improvement is now a trend in GNOME and I must admit I like it more on every release. Up until 3.8 I thought it was fun and had tons of good ideas, it showed potential, but lacked in certain areas. That usually meant that I ended up going back to KDE after a while. GNOME 3.10 was the first release I found 100% complete and with very few weak spots, and 3.12 seems to improve even further. I have been using it exclusively for weeks and I really don't see myself changing soon... Unless the promising work they are doing on KDE5 ends up living to the expectations it's raising!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fedora 20: A Visual Tour

I recently posted a quick article describing some of the Fedora 20 features and strengths. I was in a rush and couldn't get much done in terms of screenshots, but I knew I owed this fantastic release of both Fedora and GNOME Shell a proper show. In the following screenshots I wanted to show mostly GNOME native applications and what it looks like outside the box, perhaps with the exception of a custom icon set and a couple extensions.

The desktop continues to be a joy to watch in Fedora 20 GNOME, so clean and uncluttered. The default wallpapers are gorgeous, like the one I am using here.



The menus have changed slightly, but I personally believe the visual improvement is significant.



With the help of the apps and places extensions, GNOME Shell can feel much more familiar while maintaining its modern look. The former one provides a somewhat classic application menu...



...while the latter helps users access locations easily.



The Activities Menu has also been refined further, looking better than ever.



The search, just like anything else in the Shell in version 3.10, feels snappier than ever, very responsive.



Changing lock and desktop wallpapers is a breeze, intuitive and quite flexible, including wallpapers that change during the day.



The Clocks app has a definite iOS vibe to it, but in a good way, works well and looks good.



GNOME Tweak Tool has also received some much needed attention and it now offers more options in a much better looking UI.



A very interesting little app is Weather, which looks fantastic while offering the usual forecast of one or more locations of your choice.



Files continues to be a favorite of mine. Perhaps very advanced users may miss similarly advanced features, but for the activities a vast majority of users deal with, it works like a charm. It looks as clean and uncluttered as it gets, really!



The new Software app makes a debut in Fedora 20 and what a welcomed new comer it is. Fedora lacked badly of a proper GUI Software Manager and it finally got one.



The list of installed apps is consistent with the Shell approach: simple and intuitive.



Updates are shown here when users proactively open the Software app to check, otherwise they'll show up in a notification and popup window. My disappointment is that this upgrade process always asks for a reboot to apply changes, which brings long forgotten nightmares from the days of being frustrated with Windows.



The settings app continues to offer more options, but I am one of those who absolutely thinks it should merge with GNOME Tweak Tool.



Notifications in GNOME Shell continue to be one of its strengths, delivering just the right information without becoming a distraction. They can easily be configured as shown below.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On Fedora 20

It's been quite a while since my last entry, but I couldn't help but put together a very short post talking about the amazing Fedora 20 and the great work it does playing along well with both GNOME 3.10 and KDE 4.11.

For the last few releases, Fedora has engaged in an ever improving quest to proving that being cutting-edge while providing solid foundations is certainly achievable. It has also managed to become my favorite distro in the process. Let's start by looking at its default flavor.

FEDORA GNOME 3.10

If Fedora's steps to offer continuous refinement, performance and polish are certainly noticeable, they are perhaps even more obvious in GNOME. I last posted about GNOME 3.8, which impressed my quite favorably, but 3.10 is surprisingly another leap forward at each and every level. Looks continue to be further improved, making it an art to create interfaces that are simple yet elegant and beautiful. The GNOME Shell looks modern indeed, but it also feels that way thanks to the heavy cloud integration with Google services, allowing users to integrate their email, calendar, contacts, IM, etc., almost with a single click. Performance is also better all around, perhaps with the exception of the boot and login processes, which feel a bit slow. The application suite is as good as ever, no surprises here.

I can't hide it, I love GNOME and what they are doing with the Shell. This time around, I felt it was so good in terms of looks that I didn´t change a thing, perhaps only the icon pack. The Shell is more robust, consistent and snappy than ever, and while there are things that need work, GNOME 3.10 feels for the first time like a complete and well-rounded desktop for any kind of user, specially after the inclusion of the new GUI software manager. If anything, the only thing I don't like about GNOME Shell 3.10 and its new software manager is its tendency to ask for a reboot every time it has to update software. I am sure you remember how painful this has been in Windows for years and one of Linux strengths was precisely the absence of this behavior. I understand that the new software manager is there mostly as a proof of concept this time around and should be a mature product by GNOME 3.12, but let's just say they better fix it and get rid of the annoying excessive reboots sooner rather than later.

FEDORA KDE 4.11

It's funny how KDE and GNOME offer such opposite experiences, even in what they offer to the user. While GNOME started as a bare-bone experience and keeps adding more and more features with each release to cover gaps, KDE suffers from the opposite problem. It offers an overwhelming amount of options, perhaps too many, all packaged in an environment that has felt shaky and inconsistent for many, many releases.

Fortunately, even if frustratingly slow at times, progress has also been steady at the K camp over the years, and it now finally feels like the mature, consistent, snappy and solid DE it should have always been. In fact, in the comparison KDE probably leads in most areas, feeling faster and (surprisingly) lighter, smoother (it's amazing how good Kwin effects have become) and more complete (K Apps like KTorrent, K3B, Kate, Gwenview or Okular really have no competition in the GNOME World). Even areas that have historically been a pain, like Akonadi, Nepomuk and PIM, work like a charm these days. I was finally able to get my calendar, contacts and email on Kontact to work perfectly, albeit with a more cumbersome setup than that in GNOME Shell. Getting the Plasma calendar to show events worked perfectly as well, gone are the crazy high CPU figures that plagued this functionality and more often than not forced me to disable it. Along the same lines, the inclusion of yet more plasma elements in the desktop makes the experience even more streamlined. It's certainly satisfying to finally see what the Plasma desktop should have always been... Well, 98% of it anyways, as there are still elements that are not fully Plasma yet (The home, clipper and sound menus are still pending, among other things).

So what's my take on KDE? I love it as well, no doubt, but I always have the feeling that it could be better, partly because it's quickly becoming obsolete in many ways, rusty in its excessive complexity. In my opinion, the days of the heavy clients are over. As a power user myself, I truly see the point in having a UI that provides flexibility and plenty of features, but it is no longer acceptable that it does so at the expense of ease of use. Besides, the times are changing...

For years now we are seeing an empowerment of cloud services and applications, which helps users concentrate and interconnect all their data across. Sadly, KDE developers seem to be deaf and blind to how things are being done elsewhere and continue to offer an incredibly overpowered desktop (with all the challenges that entails) when most users will be doing 80% of what they need to do from the browser. These days I have all my music on Google Play Music, do all my emails, agenda and contact management from Gmail, my IM on Hangouts, my RSS on Feedly, my Tweets on Tweetdeck and all the social networking on the respective online portals. Photo management and edition is now possible for free and without any limit in the amount of pictures you upload to in Google+. This incredibly powerful cloud service offers very smart image indexing along with very impressive photo (even auto) edition features. Granted I am no specialist, but whatever results I ever managed to get with GIMP, I get better these days with these simple and fun to use apps. Of course they are nothing but a joke for the professional, but the casual user, which makes up the vast majority, will roughly use 10% of what KDE has to offer. If on top of much better web apps and cloud services, we add the fact that the average user is quickly getting used to extremely intuitive UIs in the form of Android and iOS, it will be increasingly difficult to expect users to care, much less want, what KDE has to offer. In my opinion, once Unity and GNOME Shell finally close the gap (they are younger DEs after all), KDE is at risk of becoming a niche DE.

All that said, I must admit using KDE these days is such a joy for someone like me, who's battled its quirks for so long. Thinks are surprisingly fast and responsive and almost never seeing a crash certainly improves the overall experience. On top of Fedora 20, it even feels faster and more solid than something like Kubuntu 13.10, while still retaining a reasonable ease of use. A novice user would probably enjoy it very much as well while only scratching the surface, but I can't help but wonder if s/he would get lost in the apparently never ending list of options and settings available, many of which most users wouldn't even care about anyways.

AND THE CHAMPION IS...

Well, this is a tough one and will truly depend on each user. For experienced users who have enjoyed KDE in the past, who know its apps and ways around it, it doesn´t get any better (yet) than this. I have tried several distros and I think that what Fedora is doing with KDE is superb. Less experienced users, perhaps those who are willing to try something different and certainly those who care most about productivity, will probably enjoy GNOME better. Its modern and elegant UI, unintrusive notifications and to the point approach are perfect for those who want to sit down and get things done without distractions. Needless to say, Fedora is THE distro when it comes to GNOME, don´t even think of looking elsewhere.

As for Fedora 20, it continues to be my champion distro for the third release in a row. Performance is king, Looks and ease of use continue their ever improving path, and having the very latest from applications is something truly worth experiencing, specially if you come from the Ubuntu realm and have spent hours trying (potentially dangerous) PPAs to get that latest release from that app you love so much. When you get to Fedora, all of a sudden, things just work the way they should.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The beauty of GNOME Shell

Since its inception not long ago, the new GNOME 3.x series has confused some and frustrated others, but more often than not, it has also managed to conquer those few who actually got past the initial quirks and gave it a fair chance. Similarly, its desktop environment, simply dubbed Shell, left a lot to be desired in the early days, mostly because the customization options had been thrown out the window in favor of a to-the-point approach which meant to remove distractions. Unfortunately, such approach was certainly too closed to survive in the Linux realm.

After a few releases, the Shell has seen a lot of improvements, polish and tons of customization options, sometimes through tools like Tweak Tool, or through a plethora of cool extensions. Long story short, customizing the Shell is now simple and the results can be amazing. Most importantly, the results will be what you want them to be, which is really what is all about, right?

In this very short video, I used the built-in screencast feature to record my way through some simple navigation.



Now, here's the desktop. I love how clean and non-intrusive it is. The calendar and the rest of the menus are elegant and very responsive.


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The search feature is very powerful and, unlike that of Ubuntu, very responsive, being as it is limited to local contents. Once again, search results are presented in a clean and beautiful way which is consistent with the rest of the experience.


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The lock screen is nice, modern looking. For those complaining that it was designed exclusively for touch devices, well, that's simply not true. Just hit the ENTER key from here to get to the login screen.


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Nautilus may have been stripped of some advanced features, but for the vast majority of users, it more than does the job. Its simplicity also enhances its looks.


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So there you have it, GNOME Shell continues to work and look better, definitely a great Linux DE which can look pretty!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Android Jelly Bean King at last

At long last, Android Jelly Bean (meaning Android 4.1 and up) has become the most used Android version out there. Android 4 and up together make up for more than 61% of all Android devices connecting to the Google Play Store.



As I write these lines, Android 4.3 is all but confirmed, probably to go live as soon as the new Nexus 7 is released. The long awaited Android 5.0 "Key Lime Pie" version of Android is expected by late this year, and one of the features it is rumored to sport is wider support for less powerful devices. If that turns out to be true, along with the amazing new approach based on Google Services that was introduced in Google I/O a few months ago, the different Google Edition models and the many new devices that will be introduced (all carrying Android 4.2 or 4.3) in the second half of the year, I think it´s quite probable that Android fragmentation will not even be worth discussing by the end of 2013.

In fact, ironically, as Google continues to progress in fixing this problem, it is becoming more of an issue in iOS. Are we just months away from seeing one of Apple´s biggest arguments against Android become a shot in their own foot?

Please visit the Android Developer Dashboard for full statistics.