not all change is progress
September 20, 2015
Direct download links: MP3 & Ogg
0:01:07 Flavio Tordini’s Apps
We often criticise apps over poor functionality and interface design but this week we look at three applications from a developer with a keen eye on what it takes to make nice looking software that works well.
After your feedback, Joe gives us his first impressions of a Chrome OS/Ubuntu mashup called Chromixium that he was less than complimentary about when it came up in the news on a previous show.0:01:07 Flavio Tordini’s Apps
We had a good look at Flavio Tordini‘s apps: Minitube – a standalone way to watch YouTube videos without visiting the website, Musictube – a similar app but with a focus on music videos and Musique – a small but functional way to organise and play local audio files.
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A few listeners got in touch to point out that Jesse probably should have included digiKam in the group test of photo editing software.
Several listeners came up with suggestions for different directory syncing solutions we could look at. These included git-annex, BitTorrent Sync, a couple of votes for FreeFileSync, and the ubiquitous Syncthing. And Ron Houk pointed us towards syncthing-inotify, which uses the inotify kernel subsystem to trigger Syncthing updates in real time.
Will pointed out that Paddy should like tools that use rsync because it follows the UNIX philosophy and Matthew Platte made a good point about the stability of rsync.
Will also got in touch about the Firefox API changes and Bob Long flagged up how much Mozilla really seem to care about what many of us see as another of their core products – Thunderbird.
Isaac Carter asked us whether we only like old software because it’s old and wondered if we’d like the software that’s currently new once it gets old.
Esbeeb sent us a very nice email and also put forward the case for slimming down the number of Linux distros to avoid duplicated effort while Charlie suggested that having to use the command line could be what puts off a lot of Windows and Mac users.
Richard Walker asked if we’d ever reviewed a System76 laptop, and wondered if any listeners had experience of buying one in the UK. We’d also love to hear from anyone who has done business with System76 from outside the USA.
Back on show #51, we mentioned the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative’s Best Practices badge program. David A Wheeler, who is one of the key people involved, got in touch to answer some of the questions we had about it. Thanks a lot for that, David.
We covered the release of Chromixium back on show #41. Paddy was impressed at the time while Joe was characteristically negative about it. Version 1.5 was released in July and Joe has been eager to try it out ever since. Find out what he made of this mashup of Chrome OS and Ubuntu when he gives us his first impressions.
I used to use minitube. I liked how it removed the adverts. But it’s always been very buggy and pricklish. Seemed like the finishing touches, some of which you’ve noticed, were missing. Then minitube quit working altogether on linux for the longest time. Something to do with the youtube API requiring keys. So I was intrigued when you guys reviewed it. So I reinstalled it and was delighted it works. However it no longer downloads youtube videos. I believe you used to be able to press ctrl-s to do that. Now it’s gone. Since I use my cell phone’s tethering I like to minimize bandwidth. And so I’m forced to use something else besides minitube which allows me to download the videos. Strangely enough most of those downloading browser plugins only work on firefox. Chrome seems to actively sabotage the plugins fairly quickly so that it complies with their views on youtube usage. But they fortunately don’t control firefox. You guys might want to do an episode on firefox plugins for youtube as a follow up to this minitube review. For those who want more freedom.
Try youtube-dl to download Youtube videos. Its an easy python based, IIRC, command line script. I am often in places with no internet at all and horrible “dead time” — waiting in doctor’s offices, pharmacies, things like that. I use youtube-dl to download Youtube videos I’d like to see, and put them on my excellent Windows Phone. Joe actually turned me onto the low cost Nokia Lumia line. With a 64GB micro sdhc card I have plenty of room for pictures and videos and my music.
Gphotofs works great from the command line to create a fuser connection to the Windows phone, and once done Thunar under XFCE works just fine. I do have to boot into Windows to use Windows Media Player to create playlists for music, when I’m more ambitious I will get Windows Media Player to run under WINE and not even bother with that.
I don’t know if Joe ever used a Windows 8 phone, I think they’re great. I get regular security updates, plenty of apps (Kindle, Backgammon, Chess, Checkers, calculators), plenty of storage, a decent camera, all for under $50. I know people who even use pay-go phones just as an MP3 player, they never use it as an actual phone. I don’t bother with a data plan, my phone is just voice/text only, ultra cheap, works great, even rsync works great with it. As Joe noted, over a year ago, the killer feature of that phone is the up to 128 gb micro sdhc card you can install.
And that’s the Linux advantage: chaining together easy, simple (at least to start), command line tools to do things nicely that other Operating Systems just don’t offer.
Just to clarify your discussion of Thunderbird — a few years ago Mozilla turned over Thunderbird development to “the community” (largely because of the popularity of webmail). This means that Thunderbird has a similar relationship to Mozilla that Kubuntu and Ubuntu Mate have to Canonical. Mozilla provides hosting and build infrastructure to the Thunderbird project (and the Thunderbird project uses the same Gecko engine at its core that is used by Firefox), but it does not pay developers to contribute to it any more. It sounded like you thought the discussion of encryption integration into Thunderbird seemed uncharacteristically reasonable for Mozilla — that might be because that discussion was started by the Thunderbird community, not Mozilla.
XUL-based projects like Thunderbird are at a crossroads now that Mozilla has announced plans to deprecate XUL from Gecko and Firefox. These projects have been able to write patches to keep up with updates to Gecko/XUL and add new features at a modest rate, but will they have the resources required for the transition from XUL to HTML/JS, or will they be able to maintain the XUL engine on their own without help from Mozilla (I worry about the security implications of that approach for a project like Thunderbird)?
I still use Thunderbird a little bit myself because I like to keep a local backup of my webmail and I have been using Thunderbird for that for a long time. If I had more time, I’d try out alternatives. I have looked into this a little bit and the most attractive successors to Thunderbird that I found were webmail servers that the user could run locally and interact with through a browser (they didn’t have their own GUI applications). One anecdote I can share — a while back I looked into making the new mail editor appear as a tab in Thunderbird rather than a separate window and discovered that the way things had been coded made this change very labor intensive (see: https://bugzil.la/449299 — though don’t read through the discussion and links to other discussions if you think that Thunderbird has a well-designed code base and want to go on thinking that).
I have always interpreted your tagline as a joke. You guys do acknowledge that some new software is good, just not a large fraction of it. I think that’s a fine attitude to take given how often developers reinvent the wheel in the FLOSS community. I think Jesse makes a good point though that new software often is released with good ideas before the accompanying good implementations. I never click on a desktop shortcut or menu any more but if the first searchable menus were slow and gave poor search results I would probably have thought they were terrible.
Since the loss of Grooveshark, I have used YouTube to listen to music at work. I like that it has a large selection and you can choose what you want to listen to and it does not require an account or separate application. It does feel wasteful to stream video that I’m not watching though. I guess Musictube probably has to stream video as well? I don’t think there is a way to stream only audio from YouTube.
I decided to try Flavio Tordini’s minitube again used to use it ages back but doesn’t seem to like working with Zorine Linux not sure why also tried to use the updated version on his site but wouldn’t even start anyway Guys keep up the good work I found you ages back from TLLTS and have listened to every show love it
Regards from OZ
After hearing your first impression of Chromixium I wonder if you’d (all?) give Chromium OS a look? While Chromixium is a close approximation to Chrome OS, Chromium OS is a “real-boy” Chrome OS.
http://arnoldthebat.co.uk make two, regularly updated, Chromium OS images.
Both are derived from the Chromium OS Open Source project with the special builds including additional drivers for GPU, webcam and wireless adapters etc. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how Chromium OS compares to a Chromebook and also what paddy makes of Chromium OS having never used Chrome OS before.
My wife was complaining about her Vista core 2 duo laptop slowing down and very slow to boot up. Buying a 120 gig SSD for $45 and putting Chromixium on it solved the complaining problem for me. For my wife who hates change it has done well. I hope my wife doesn’t read this. She mostly does emailing and Facebook with it. What else does she need?
Hello from the murder capital of the industrial world. Love you perspective on linux.
Jesse’s noise gate.
Have you listened back to your show on headphones?
Hi. I’m aware that sometimes I go a bit overboard with the noise gate. I’m aiming not to use it at all going forward.
I use the phrase “lateral progress” for gratuitous change that’s neither better nor worse, just churn.
Linux desktop software makes an awful lot of lateral progress.
I also couldn’t hear if you said “troll” or “try out” in the intro.
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