Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Top 10 Improved Ubuntu Applications of 2007

Tomboy Notes

Applications -> Accessories -> Tomboy Notes
Tomboy is a C# (Mono) application that burst onto the scene and became the default note manager in Ubuntu, replacing the long-time champ Gnome Sticky Notes applet. Tomboy features sync between computers and a wiki-like style of cross-note linking.


System -> Preferences -> Appearance
The boys at Compiz and Beryl finally got together and worked their problems out. Compiz appeared by default in Ubuntu 7.04, but wasn't enabled. The big push to enable it was made for 7.10. Desktop effects are high on the list of a lot of new Ubuntu-heads. The plugins continue to race forward at a full sprint.


Applications -> Accessories -> Tracker Search Tool
While Tomboy is a C# application which replaced one written in C, Beagle Search's C# drag finally got to enough people that Trackerd came in and immediately replaced the more featureful indexer. Tracker is now the default on Ubuntu 7.10.


System -> Administration -> Screens and Graphics System -> Preferences -> Screen Resolution
Xorg finally got two things it has needed for ages: changing configuration (like screen resolution or adding a monitor) without restarting, and a graphical interface. I expect Xorg to make the list again in 2008, when Bulletproof X finally takes away many new users' worry of booting into a blinking termnal cursor.


Applications -> Add/Remove -> Sun Java
Java didn't really improve. Installing Java, however, did. Sun released Java under a FLOSS-friendly license, making it installable in the same manner as other applications. The open source versions of Java also progressed enough to run OpenOffice.org' advanced features.


Applications -> Sound and Video -> Rhythmbox Music Player
Just about the most important thing for most Rhythmbox users, a plugin was finally included for MTP support, so all those MTP-enabled portable players suddenly became drag-and-drop with Rhythmbox. Suddenly, there was no more need for a command line to update that MTP database.


Applications -> Graphics -> F-Spot Photo Manager
Whatever you think about Mono (it is controvesial), it continues to show its ability to quickly produce full-featured apps. F-Spot has gone from virtually nothing to a great photo manager (with export to virtually every major online service) in just a year. We're still waiting for the plugins to start appearing, though.


Applications -> Add/Remove -> gstreamer0.10-plugins
GStreamer got many new plugins, the ability to use Windows DLLs, and, most importantly, the ability for on-demand installation of codecs. Suddenly, the back end for Gnome's audio and video became viable enough for other desktops to begin looking at using it.


Applications -> Internet -> Firefox Web Browser
The actual application didn't improve much this year becaue all the development work is being done on Firfox 3, but Ubuntu made its own contribution by adding easy system-wide installation of common plugins and extensions like flash and java. Ubuntu also put in the apt: handler by default, which means that it's really easy for me to write web-based howtos now.

The Deskbar Applet

Deskbar became the default place to search for stuff in Ubuntu. Whether you wanted to look through your files, open recent documents, or do a quick web search, Deskbar was the place to go.

Honorable Mention:

These applications aren't installed by default, but they deserve to be mentioned because they are so popular.


VirtualBox isn't really an Ubuntu application, but it is easily installable, and the open source edition is perfect for anyone who needs to run Windows for that odd application or for testing a new Linux distribution. Of course, KVM, QEMU, and VMWare still remain viable ptions for the average desktop user, too.

Least Improved


This monolithic beast continues to stick out like a sore thumb in a Unix world of "do one task and do it well." It is slow and bloated. It has been sitting at virtually the same place for a couple of years, and major bugs in the e-mail client have yet to be solved. I don't know anyone who wants to use it.

Apps which use Telepathy

I know you've probably never heard of Telepathy, but it is the not-so-new "new" Gnome backend for unified chat, VOIP, and video chat. It has so many backends. It connects to the MSNnetwork, Jabber servers like GTalk, AIM, and IRC. It even has this cool little Zeroconf backend which will identify other users on your network and connect to them without a server. It's great. So why is it in the section on disappointments? No one is using it.
Specifically, I've tried to get voice/video over Jabber working on Ubuntu for a friend. There were some mockups of the functionality in 2005. There were some more in 2006. There's still no real way to do it, short of writing my own aplication which uses Telepathy. The framework is there, but no one is writing a frontend to it. Sad. Dissapointing. We need you, Empathy. You're our only hope.


This application let you choose various networks and move between them without major hassle in 2006. People heralded it. Then it broke. Then it broke again. Ubuntu 7.10 shipped without being able to control several open source wireless drivers. Connectios drop. People are frustrated. I'm tired of answering posts about this on Ubuntu Forums.


martin said...

I really love the look of that theme you are using, but I couldnt find information on it anywhere. Care to post about it?


Controls: H2O-gtk2-sapphire
Window Border (which you can't see): DarkX-2
Icons: Clearlooks OSX

These are available from http://gnome-look.org
but you can get a bunch of themes just by searching Synaptic for "look" "theme" and "icon" in name only.

frem said...

X.org has been able to change resolutions without restarting for a while. Games did it all the time. Come to think of it, I'm sure that the prefrence dialog pictured has been around since at least 2006, also.


Xrandr has been around for a while, but quoting from the XSrikeForce page:
The RandR 1.2 extension first appeared in Xserver 1.3 (i.e DebianTesting, since 2007-08-21). It provides automatic discovery of modes (resolutions, refresh rates, ...) together with the ability to configure outputs dynamically (resize, rotate, move, ...).

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