Sunday, February 28, 2010

Distro Hoppin`: Igelle 1.0.0

Hey, people! Welcome to a brand new installment of the Distro Hoppin` series! I bet you've been waiting for this a long time! Actually I KNOW you've been waiting for this a long time. Not because you were anxiously craving for my writing or anything, but because it's been a friggin` long time since the last hop. Be ashamed of yourself, Danny. Promising to write a post more often than once in a blue moon and going ahead to extend that period to once in an ice age... Tsk, tsk, tsk. OK, insert puppy eyes here and let's move on. I DON'T NEED YOUR FORGIVENESS!

So, what I've got here is a Linux distribution that is based on... Erm... Eh, let me check... just a minute... Erm. It's based on NOTHING! Yes, peeps, you've heard me! Igelle stands proud on its own two feet (or whatever many feet a Linux distro should have) and presents itself as "the world's most flexible operatings system". It comes not only as the desktop version I'm looking at today, but also as an OS for Mobile Devices, Servers and Embedded Systems.

The project's website is pretty darn good organized and offers plenty of information as well as comprehensive documentation and community forums. The logo has a cartoonish feel to it, but looks very nice in its lively orange coat. I'm not sure where the name Igelle comes from, but hey, it's a name.

Having recently reached the venerable 1.0.0 version, what better time to take it for a spin? Igelle is only available as a 32-bit Live CD so there wasn't much to linger upon when I clicked the download button. As the system was fresh out of the distro oven, it took me quite a few retries to get through to their servers and grab the thing by one leg and hold on for dear life! Why wasn't there a torrent available? It's so easy and so much faster once a few seeds get it. Oh well, maybe next time! The whole ISO is less than 600 MBs, in case you were wondering.

My arsenist optical unit gladly accepted my burn command and I was soon restarting the computer with Igelle inside. Unfortunately, Igelle and my machine had a quick fight while loading and decided to not talk to eachother anymore. All I was left with was Igelle's cursor. The desktop would not show at all. Despair!

As I really wanted to see what this system was all about, I pried open my System Tools in Ubuntu and clicked on Sun VirtualBox, which was having some spider web problems due to the ignorance I have shown to it lately. Created a new machine, gave it 1024 MBs of RAM and on I went. This time, Igelle loaded flawlessly in a really short amount of time. Obviously, the experience is not anywhere near the same as running it on a real PC, so I won't comment more on speed, responsiveness, etc.

The Live environment behaved great, but I wanted to see how the installer works so I double clicked the "Install Igelle" icon on the Desktop. As the VBOX HDD was empty, installing was fully automatic and it was complete in 1 (ONE) MINUTE. Obviously, the CD read speed was a non-issue in this virtual scenario, so that must have helped. But still! ONE MINUTE. The first boot brought me to a config screen for setting up the user, timezone and all that jazz. Once again, I had to restart and so I did.

Half a minute passed and I was automatically logged in with the previously created user. The Esther desktop (that's what the DE is called) looks really really nice, starting with the wood-like wallpaper and ending with the original layout. There are quite a few icons already present on the desktop, but they are certainly not useless: My Documents, Add and Remove Applications, All Applications, Help and Documentation, Support Forums, Internet Browser and Visit the Igelle Website. On the top, a transparent panel hosts the Igelle main menu, a quick window switcher, the menus for the active window (like we see in Apple's Mac OS), and your regular tray icons: network manager, volume control, time/date)

The bottom part of the screen looks empty at first sight, but moving the pointer in that area will reveal an animated dock with some more program launchers. Sadly, the icons are kind of low-res, so as you hover the mouse over them, the zoom effect that was applied makes them look pixelated.

All the menus benefit from really nice animations and transparencies, all without any video drivers installed, which reminds me a bit of Enlightenment. You can rectangle-select multiple icons, you can create new folders, all the basic functionalities are there also.

Moving right along, we'll talk a bit about the default application suite that comes with Igelle. And number one on this list has to be the web browser, cause besides air, water and food, geeks need the Internet to survive. Actually, I'm not so sure about those first three... Anyway folks, let me tell you that Igelle comes with a browser that looks very much like Epiphany, the Webkit version, except it's not branded in any way. It's called Web Browser. Yep, just like naming your dog, Dog. But that's totally unimportant. Webpages load fast, there is tab support, zooming features, all the goodies. On the downside, some fonts look reaaaally tiny and/or horribly rendered (though this could be related to the low, 1024x768 resolution of the virtual machine hmm).

For a work or home office environment, there isn't much available by default: Osmo, the personal organizer, a text editor in the form of Gedit, a calculator and that's about it.

Fortunately, Igelle also has its own little repository. And when I say little, I mean little; just a few seconds of scrolling and you're at the bottom of the list. Happily, some of the most popular programs are there: Wine, Transmission, OpenOffice, Pidgin, PiTiVi video editor or Firefox.

As for multimedia handling, Igelle, in its untouched, default form, sucks. Copyright issues prevented the developers to enable playback of certain formats out of the box. But the Application Manager hosted the Gstreamer extra plugins pack which promised to save me from boringness (boredom sounds too correct and I feel a bit rebelish tonight! ARRRR). But it didn't. Or so I thought! Because it did! Confused yet? Ok, installing the package alone does nothing to help the poor media player recognize those damned formats, as there is a little extra step to be done, which I missed the first time, because I haven't read the whole description of the package in which that extra step was explained. It's not hard, it's one simple command that you have to type in the terminal and BAM!, you can enjoy your movies.

As I am not much of a cinematography consumer, most of my favorite movies usually end in about 10 minutes and are hosted on a little site called YouTube, not sure if you've heard of it. What these movies run on though is something that is not included in the Gstreamer extra plugins pack. Yep, it's Adobe's Flash platform. And does Igelle come with Flash support? NO! Oh. And is there a quick way to get Flash through its Application Manager? NO! Well, it's time to get the good clothes out of the closet cause we're heading to the Forums, people. The Forum is not a big place, with only a few threads open and getting to the discussion about proprietary stuff is quick. And so I found out how to install my beloved Flash (actually I hate it, but as long as YouTube runs on it, I kinda have to love it). Again, two simple commands that you can copy and paste from the forum and you're done.

There is also some documentation on how to create packages for Igelle, but I think I'm going to skip that for now.

Well, well, well, Igelle.  I just have a feeling this project will develop into something nice as time goes by. It's kinda crude in its current form, but hey, it's built from scratch. If you do try out Igelle, don't be too harsh, remember that creating something out of almost nothing is not that easy. Hopefully the next version will work on my real machine and I will be able to provide more accurate feedback. Still, Igelle was quite fun to explore. It felt like I have discovered a new island after months of hopeless wandering... Thanks for reading and I wish you have the most awesome day ever in your entire life ever. EVER. Happy hoppin`!

Download linky!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Yahoo Search + Ubuntu = Yahoo Messenger for Linux?

Rather than bashing the hell out of Canonical for its evil, evil attempt to make more money (SHOCKING, I know!), and given my foolish optimism that Mother Nature threw up on me, I prefer to look at the full half of this whole shenanigan (this word is AWESOME btw) glass thing. (the whole shenanigan, in case you are not up-to-date with the news, is that Yahoo will now be the default web search engine in Ubuntu, replacing the unarguably superior Google). 

I have been using Yahoo's web services pretty much my entire online life, be it e-mail, Messenger or even GeoCities (GASP!) and I admire the company for what it's done thus far. Unfortunately, my admiration level dropped down a whole lot since I've began my e-journey through Linux. How come, you ask? Well, first of all, Y!Mail still warns me that my OS is unsupported. Seriously now? I mean it works perfectly fine on Linux, just as good as it works on Windows, so why pop that rude message? Rather than trying to officially "support" this exponentially-growing platform, they prefer to absolve themselves from any responsibility and kick you all the way back to Windows.

But! That's certainly not my biggest problem with Yahoo, as that is a one-time message and, in the end, Y!Mail works great. The no.1 pet peeve has to be dealing with Yahoo Messenger. Being the most popular IM service in Romania, sure enough, all my friends are there, so, doh, I connect to it quite a lot. Now, can someone please explain me WHY isn't there a Linux client? I mean there is a truly ancient one (collector's piece, heed my word!) that's still being downloaded like crazy by new Linux users only to find out that it's a worthless piece of.... code, but that's it. Happily, there are some truly awesome folks in the developer community that maintain and constantly improve projects like Pidgin, Empathy, Kopette, Konversation to help Linux users connect to their favorite IM services.

Of course, these are all unofficial apps, and every time Yahoo turns a knob, all sorts of problems arise: buggy file transfers, buddy list issues, or even no connection at all.

What we need is an official Yahoo Messenger client and maybe, just maybe, through this deal with Canonical, Yahoo will start noticing the little people of Linuxland and provide us with one. And don't think that this will only benefit us, as the ads they would serve through their application are sure to be adding up pretty nicely.

Yahoo has all the resources in the world to make this happen. Look at Skype. How come they were able to create such a wonderful client for Linux? Eh... it's purely a matter of actually wanting to do something. At worst, if they absolutely refuse to create a client, they could collaborate with the Pidgin developers to make the interoperability as smooth as possible. 

Enough babbling! Here's to Yahoo Messenger for Linux!