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Journal Journal: ADSL with Linux

Might as well use this journal for rants, I suppose...

I've finally managed get myself set up with ADSL on Linux. I went with Demon, as they've got a decent reputation, and their web page states:

"Host software support for:

  • Windows 98, 98SE, 2000, ME and XP
  • Mac OS 8.6,9 and X
  • Linux

Great! However, after the package arrived, I couldn't help noticing a few obvious differences between the "host software support" for Windows vs Linux:

  • The CD contains Windows drivers for the USB modem. There are no Linux drivers (and you have to mount it with rock-ridge extensions disabled to see anything at all, which wasn't obvious).
  • There are detailed step-by-step instructions showing how to set it up on Windows. Linux isn't mentioned on the printed copy, and the CD version contains a single line, telling you to download drivers from the 'net (How? I don't have drivers for my modem!! Didn't anyone spot this little problem when they wrote the instructions?)
  • When I phoned up for support and said I was installing on Linux, the response was "Ha! Good luck!". Not what you want to hear. I pointed out that Linux is one of their supported systems but apparently "We don't have any training for that."

The problem was that the CHAP authentication was failing (I'd downloaded some drivers from sourceforge via my mobile phone's irDA port - painfully slow, but it worked). The helpdesk chap was friendly, but didn't seem able to suggest anything.

I got fed up and bought myself an ADSL modem router. Exactly the same problem. But this time when I phoned up and said I had a router, they suddenly had a whole load of useful test addresses to try which quickly narrowed the problem down to BT's exchange. Grr. BT fixed it after a couple of days, and it's all been fine since, but I think describing Linux as supported is really stretching things!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Entirely Too Much Text About Tabs

I've spent entirely too much time worrying about tab placement recently, and being the rather insane person I am, I though other people might enjoy sharing in my misery. :)

Why am I worrying about tabs? Well, for one, I don't like how most tab bars work right now, and for two, I'm working on yet-another-IDE-to-change-the-world(TM) which will use tabs, and thus tab placement is now a very important topic.


First, I want to show two images that will help me get my ideas on this across,

Tabs to the top, and Tabs to the side

Both are of rdsEd, which is a wee IDE I've been cooking up the past few months using the Scintilla editing widget. Though, if I started with Scintilla, I wouldn't have spent the past few months trying to make my own with a Gtk TextView, some TextTags, and the skin o' me teeth. Plus I'm a bad coder.

But we're not here to talk about my many, many failings. No sir. We are here to listen to me go on and on with no point what so ever about tab placement. So, what I want to do here is make the case for the horizontal tab bar.

I want to first point out two things to notice about the tabs-on-top image. Firstly, it shows only 4 tabs, and secondly it would, given the chance, bleed the text of those tabs into a unreable mess of text that would require quite a strech of time to parse through the four visable tabs. (at least comparitively speaking) And this says nothing of the fact that we have eigth files open, thus four tabs hidden fiendishly from our sight.

Now, just for the fun of it, pick a random filename (any will do) and try to, with your eyes starting in the editor window's text entry area, mouse to it.

Now, try and do the same with the top-to-bottom tabs image.

Slightly less troublesome now, right? (Assuming you are right handed. If your left handed, you would likely want the tabs on the right side of the window, and would find them much easier to mouse to there. Or at least that's my theory...) Now, I want to take a moment to ask you a question: do you honestly click the tabs in, say, mozilla or gEdit? Or do you use the keyboard shortcuts to jump from tab to tab until you find the one you want? If so, do you ever find yourself becoming annoyed at it when it's hard to find the exact thing you want quickly?

Personally, I do. And I believe there is a reason for this.

When you move your eyes to the tabs, notice how they travel. When using the top-to-bottom tabs, you will most likely 1) look to the left, 2) find them resting in the center of the tabs, and thus 3) immediately be able to see where each name begins. On the one to the top, however, the first thing you have to do is locate where exactly the tabs are located. They have a large amount of space vertically, but when you quickly gaze to it the area you wish to mouse to will begin bleeding in with the toolbar. Your eyes and mouse will overshoot it. This would likely be worse if I weren't such a annoying person who sets GTK to use "Text under icons" in my toolbars. ;)

So the top-to-bottom, in my estimation, would be the better of the two. Even better, most of the wasted space is vertical, not horizontal. We have more vertical space to play with than horizontal by the nature of display sizes. We can use more of it more readily before we begin to grow too large for the screen.

The sole win for vertical tabs is that they are much more visually pleasing in a small window. The horizontal tabs have a much lower threshold against looking "crowded" than the vertical tabs. (Well, at least until you need to use the tabs. ;) Then the ball is back in the top-to-bottom tab bar's court, IMHO )

Simply put, it'd be better to not display the tabs at all than to place them from left-to-right. While placing the tabs horizontally we take a minor hit in vertical layout space, this is easy to recover by growing the window's vertical size as a whole and provides a much easier widget to deal with. Not that this stops anyone from using vertical tabs, but still...

Of course, this is all in my own head, and I'd be interested in hearing other opinions.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Gtk-WebCore released

This is very neat, IMHO. Some of the people on the web browser research team at Nokia have made a port of WebCore to GTK+2. It's got a few problems, but it's still rather neat. When I saw that someone had done similar for GNUStep a few months back, I wondered how long it'd take for something like this to show up. (Hopefully this meets with a better fate)

It was a breeze to compile, so you really have no excuse not to check it out. Other then... You know... Lack of free time...

But if you're reading this, can you honestly use that excuse? I submit that you can not.

There is a light reference browser available for it as well, and while it's nothing amazing, it does show that the port is going well.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Tell your friends...

ROX-Desktop has a posse.

Err, Window manager

It's based on the same stuff as XFWM4, is done by one of the ROX-OS coders, and takes up less memory then Xterm on my laptop. You could even say it... Rox....

*dodges rotten fruits and such*

User Journal

Journal Journal: I get it! I understand!

It all makes perfect sense now.

It's all so clear.

Don't you see? Don't you see?

SCO are DDoSing the justice system. It's so obvious when you just look at it.

The Internet

Journal Journal: Zero Install 2

The GnuCash installation instructions warn non-programmers against even trying to install it. The word "nightmare" is used. Yet, the process should be quite simple: if the project was distributed using Zero Install then users could safely fetch and run it, with all its required dependencies, using a single command.

Zero Install is a fundamentally different way to access software. Instead of copying software from the web onto our computers, we cache it. It's a faster, easier to understand, and safer way to get software, suitable for both broadband and dial-up users.

Oddly, though, most people seem to ignore it. Why? Please add comments... I'd like to know how to present it better! A typical conversation goes like this:

  • Them: How do I install <foo>?
  • Me: Are you using Zero Install?
  • Them: No. What's that?
  • Me: It removes the need to install software. It uses a cache to allow running software directly from the author's machines.
  • Them: Sounds like a bad idea...
  • Me: Why?
  • Them: Err... insecure?
  • Me: Nothing runs as root, or as any privileged user. So you're running the same code as normal, but without the additional worries of an installation script.
  • Them: Err...slow?
  • Me: Since data is only downloaded when it's needed, there's less to download in total so it's actually faster. Once cached, it's at least as fast as normally-installed software; sometimes faster since there are no search paths.
  • Them: Oh. Still sounds like a bad idea.
  • Me: Why?
  • Them: Don't know...

After trying it for a few minutes, they're usually converted though. But what gives the bad initial impression?

Web site: Zero Install

User Journal

Journal Journal: Tact is for people who can't spend the time to be correct 1

This is something that's been bugging me a long time, and hey, I've got a journal, I might as well use the journal, right?


I've been running FreeBSD as my desktop since the 5.0 release. Up until then, I really only installed it to play around, ("Hey, it's a server OS, remember? Just set up some services, see how everything looks, then leave it be.") but it's now my sole OS on two of my three computers. I had been running Gentoo since the time when they were ready to release 1.4 but not yet but soon but not now but it'll happen any day maybe soon kinda.

So, I ran Gentoo for a year and a half.

But recently I deleted my Gentoo install because I realized something: I hate Gentoo.

I hate Portage, I hate broken programs, I hate it not checking dependancies before unemerging, I hate it causing GCC to segfault. I hate having it compile things and only after trying them finding out it assumed I wanted GTK instead of GTK2 because I had GTK and GTK2 in my USE flags. And I hate the idea that it's just assumed that I should have just put a 'USE="-GTK"' on the command line with the emerge, because it's not in line with what should be expected when you have GTK2 in the USE flags.

I hate it constantly changing config files and moving/spliting them. I hate it tossing everything in /etc. I hate not having sane defaults. I hate it installing a new copy of Portage every week that will, without a shadow of a doubt, cause the world to end should I even consider possibly maybe installing anything else without immediately installing the updated Portage.

I hate users who assume that because they have a similar mechanism to Ports, it means everyone must jump to GNU/Linux, and more specifically, Gentoo. I hate how they take every, and any, opertunity to bash the RedHat and Debian distros. Basically, I hate Gentoo.

And you know, I don't think I'm the only one.

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