Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Mono: A modest proposal

Sep 23, 2009 GMT

OK, I'm conflicted.According to one report, last Saturday at the Software Freedom Day event in Boston, Richard Stallman called Miguel de Icaza “a traitor to the Free Software community" because of de Icaza's involvement with Microsoft-based technologies like Mono and Moonlight. On the one hand, I can easily imagine the frustrations that led to this description. But, on the other hand, before members of the free software movement applauds the description, I hope they will look for another reaction that would do more to advance its goals.Before saying anything more, I should probably explain that I consider myself a supporter of the free software movement. I am not an uncritical one,...
How GNOME and KDE spend their money

Sep 16, 2009 GMT

Quarterly reports are the stuff of business. In most people's minds, they are as far from the spirit of free and open source software (FOSS) as anyone can imagine. All the same, as non-profit organizations, many FOSS projects issue them. And while your first reaction may be to avoid quarterly reports, they can give some insights into projects, especially if you read between the lines. For instance, if you have been assuming, as I have, that GNOME has more corporate support than KDE, and a larger budget, a look at the latest report for GNOME and KDE may surprise you. Together, the two reports give an entirely different impression than you might assume.Neither quarterly report has much in...
GNOME's new Font Manager

Sep 13, 2009 GMT

One key configuration tool that has been missing from GNOME for years is a font manager. In fact, years ago, I often installed KDE primarily so I would have a graphical font manager. In recent years, the situation has improved with applications like Fonty Python and Fontmatrix, but I'm always watching for new applications that will save the drudgery of manual installation and management. Font Manager is a relatively new effort, but, at 0.3 release, is already showing the promise of becoming one of the simplest font managers available.Font Manager is available as source code, and in packages for Fedora 11 and Ubuntu 9.04. It is designed for GNOME, but works with both KDE and Xfce so long...
LUbuntu: A desktop pared down for action

Sep 03, 2009 GMT

Two years ago, when I last looked at LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment), no code had been committed for over a year, and many believed that the project was dead. Since then, LXDE has greatly revived, attracting a new team of developers, and being offered on a number of distributions. Recently, the project has released a test release of LUbuntu, an official mutation of Ubuntu that may one day become official. Running Openbox for a window manager and requiring less than half a gigabyte of RAM to run, LXDE is a desktop worth looking into if you appreciate speed and minimalist interface design. Use it long enough, and you just might reconsider what you actually need.LUbuntu is...
A taste of tiling with X-Tile

Aug 31, 2009 GMT

For years, tiling window managers have been a popular, but minority interface choice for GNU/ Linux. Ion, dwm, awesome and others differ in implementation, but what all have in common is that they divide the desktop into separate frames to avoid problems with overlapping windows. You can even mimic tiling in Windows by selecting them in the taskbar while holding the Ctrl key, then making a choice from the context menu. Now, thanks to X-Tile (, you can mimic tiling in GNOME as well.Why would you want tiling? The answer is that Metacity, GNOME's default window manager, does not open windows efficiently. Although Metacity makes some effort to avoid...
FSF launches Windows 7 Sins campaign

Aug 27, 2009 GMT

The Free Software Foundation is following up its Bad Vista campaign with a new campaign called The Windows 7 Sins. The campaign is timed to coincide with the upcoming release of Windows 7, but is aimed at not only Microsoft products, but at proprietary software in general.What distinguishes the campaign from the typical anti-Microsoft complaints is that its focus is not the technical problems with Windows, but the ethical issues involved. Peter Brown, the FSF executive director, notes that enlisting people against Windows Vista was relatively easy because of the widely known problems with the release. Now, however, the FSF is stressing the ethical arguments against proprietary software in...
Saving keystrokes with AutoKey

Aug 19, 2009 GMT

AutoKey reminds me of Writer's AutoText feature. With AutoText, you can save often-used text or images and assign them a keyboard shortcut to paste them at the mouse cursor. AutoKey is a similar feature, except that it can be used anywhere on your GNOME or KDE desktop. You can use it like AutoText in open applications, or to run Python scripts on the desktop.AutoKey is available as a zipped tar file or as a .DEB package for Ubuntu or Debian. However, it requires Python 6.0, which Debian currently does not carry. You will also need to install three dependencies -- python-configobj, python-xlib, and python-gamin -- even if you are using the .DEB package, since the package...

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