Gnome 3: Not Ready for Prime Time in Fedora 15 Sat, Apr 23. 2011
I've been intrigued by the Gnome 3 desktop and the design decisions that the Gnome project has decided to test. Hearing some members of the Gnome community explain the design decisions in person was very interesting, and helpful when transitioning to the Gnome shell. And I'm proud that the Fedora Project is continuing to lead by incorporating new technologies and designs First.
But I've been using Gnome 3 in the Fedora 15 alpha and beta releases for a while now, and I'm convinced that Gnome 3 is not ready for prime time yet, at least as implemented in Fedora 15 (and this is completely separate from the issue of whether the Gnome 3 design changes are good or bad, and whether the Gnome community is ignoring the needs and wants of the users and downstreams -- both subjects of much debate). As one example, multi-monitor setups are not working as expected, at least for me. In fact, it's a stretch to say that they're working at all:
- On my laptop/netbook, logging in with an external monitor connected results in Gnome 3 running in degraded mode, with Gnome 2-style menus. Logging in without an external monitor connected, and connecting it after login, results in a usable configuration - at least all of the real estate is accessible.
- I run with the external display above my laptop. Maximizing a window on the external display results in it filling the rightmost 1/3 of the screen. Unmaximized windows may be moved, but only to positions where the right edge of the window is within the right-most 1/3 of the screen. You can fill the screen by placing the window all the way to the right and dragging a corner to the left side, though. There are many other behaviours which are just weird.
- The Activities button is on the laptop screen, but the touch-to-activate-Activities corner is on the external monitor.
- Rearranging the position of the monitors using the Displays setting tool results in badly torn, messed up images. They resolve to something that looks almost usable a fraction of a second before the Does this look right? dialog gives up and reverts me to the original configuration, with my desktop backgrounds missing.
This is 2011, and multi-monitor configurations are not a novelty any more. In fact, they're the norm where I work, and I use external monitors with my laptops and netbooks all the time
Perhaps some of these issues are video driver problems, and Gnome 3 isn't to blame. But the problems with Gnome 3 are not limited to just multi-display configurations; for example: GDM's list of users does not scroll properly when the list is long (I went to file a bug on that one, but was disheartened searching through the 253 other open Fedora GDM bugs to see if it was already reported). If something goes wrong during the login process, a message appears telling you that something went wrong, but offering no way to find out what went wrong -- not even through a "Details..." button -- and the only action available to the user is to click a button marked "Ok" (I can't login? It's definitely not OK). The icons at the top of the screen respond to left- and right-click in the same way -- except for the iBus icon -- where's the consistency in that?
Let's see some Leadership on Broadband Access Sun, Apr 3. 2011
The inclusion of broadband-for-all-Canadians in the Liberal platform is an important step in the right direction. And while reliable rural broadband access is an obvious priority (as David Humphrey notes), the Liberal strategy does not go far enough: even current broadband access in our cities falls well short of what is needed to be globally competitive.
Canada's low average population density makes any broadband rollout a challenge. But there is an opportunity here: it's time for a leader to step up and set a realistic and challenging next-generation broadband goal, in the style of Kennedy's "We choose to go to the moon" speech. Setting a goal of 1 Gbps to every household in the country within three years would show real leadership. It would be a huge challenge, but we have the technology (wired and wireless), and it's where we need to go to stay in the game.
GNOME 3 Lunchtime Talk Sat, Mar 19. 2011
The participants in the GNOME documentation hackfest led a great lunchtime talk on Friday, introducing GNOME 3 to about two dozen Senecans.
GNOME 3 embodies a complete re-design of the desktop. Clutter has been replaced with discoverable behaviours, visual cues, and generally streamlined operation. It's a bold experiment that has already attracted some detractors, but it was fascinating and enlightening to hear the environment explained by members of the community that created it. I'm looking forward to using GNOME 3 in the upcoming release of Fedora 15.
There were many who expressed an interest in attending but were unable to do so. Here are a couple of links:
- GNOME 3 site, with features, screenshots, and FAQ: http://www.gnome3.org/
- Main GNOME site: http://www.gnome.org/
Fedora ARM PandaStack Wed, Mar 9. 2011
The PandaStack I mentioned previously - a stack of PandaBoards mounted on threaded rods, powered by a modular ATX power supply - is now a fully-functional part of the Fedora ARM project koji buildsystem.
For anyone interested in building a similar stack, here's the parts list and assembly instructions:
- 15 PandaBoards (or whatever quantity you wish to stack; the photo here shows 11 boards, since we have temporarily removed 4 for various device driver test projects)
- 15 barrel connectors
- 1 ATX 750W modular power supply (note: higher-rated power supplies may not have more current available on the +5v rail, which is what is used in this project)
- 4 threaded #4-40 stainless steel rods. (Note: BeagleBoards accept a #6-32 thread, but PandaBoards have smaller mounting holes).
- 1 pack (100) 0.25" nylon spacers
- 1 pack (50) 1.25" nylon spacers
- 2 packs (10) stainless steel acorn nuts
- SD cards, ethernet cables, network switch
- hacksaw, soldering iron, solder, wire strippers, heat-shrink tubing, heat-shrink gun (or embossing craft gun), multimeter
Cut the threaded rods to size with the hacksaw. Stack the boards on the rods, reversing the orientation of every second board so that it is upside down with the ethernet jack facing the opposite side of the stack; this will result in ethernet and power jacks down two opposite sides of the stack, with serial ports on another side and no connectors on the remaining side (which is the "bottom" of the stack). Use the 1.25" spacers between adjacent boards in a right-side-up/upside-down pair, and the 0.25" spacers between pairs. The grounding strips on the top of each ethernet/USB connector tower will just touch the plastic cases of the LED drive transistors on the adjacent board in each pair. Fasten the stack with the acorn nuts.
Gather the barrel connectors in groups of five. Connect each group to the +5 volt (pin 1) and ground (pin 2/3) leads of a molex connector from the ATX power supply (cutting off the cable connected to the molex connector, and ensuring that the barrel connectors are wired center-positive). Solder, then insulate with shrink-wrap tubing. Take the motherboard connector of the power supply, pull off all of the leads except pins 8 (PWR_OK) and 16 (PS_ON), solder those leads together, and insulate with shrink-wrap tubing. Plug the molex and motherboard connectors into the ATX supply.
Place the stack on its side on a wire shelf for convection cooling. Test the power supply leads to ensure you're getting a solid +5 volts, burn and insert your SD cards, connect your ethernet cables, and connect the boards one at a time to the power supply unit with the barrel connectors.
Enjoy your silent tower of computing power!
Running Fedora ARM without ARM Hardware, Made Easy Mon, Feb 28. 2011
Interested in ARM but lacking ARM hardware? Not a problem! Fedora includes support for ARM virtual machines, and I'm packaged up a preconfigured ARM VM for your convenience:
- ARM virtual machine package: http://scotland.proximity.on.ca/arm/armvm/noarch/armvm-f13beta1-15.fc13.noarch.rpm
- Repo config for staying up-to-date on ARM VM releases: http://scotland.proximity.on.ca/arm/armvm/noarch/armvm-release-1-1.fc13.noarch.rpm
The armvm package will install a preconfigured ARM virtual machine named "f13-arm-beta1" with a 2GB image and a 128MB memory footprint. Since x86_64 processors don't provide hardware support for ARM processor virtualization, the ARM VM will run slowly compared to i386/x86_64 VMs, but the performance should be tolerable on most machines (Atom netbooks excepted). You can manage the VM with virsh or virt-manager. I've tested these packages on F13 and F14, but not on F15 Alpha yet. (By the way: the root password on the VM is "fedoraarm").
(Please don't forget that both the Fedora ARM beta release and the armvm package are very definitely at the pre-release/beta stage of maturity. In particular, updating the armvm package will REPLACE your arm VM with a new image - beware!).
PandaStack Tue, Feb 22. 2011
Our "PandaStack" of PandaBoard builders (shown here with 9 of the 15 builders installed) is now ready to run as part of the Fedora ARM build farm. However, I've run into a weird problem -- the ATX power supply I bought to power the boards works fine with 1-3 boards, but Something Bad happens when a fourth board is connected. It's not a capacity issue as far as I can see; it seems to be related to noise. Time to borrow a scope and take a close look at waveforms ... in the meantime, we'll power some of the boards with the ATX supply and some with stand-alone power bricks.