OpenSolaris Governing Board Election Results

This time last year, I noted I was slightly disappointed at the low number of non-Sun folks who’d been elected to the OpenSolaris Governing Board. No fear of that this year, with just one of the seven newly-elected board members currently representing Sun^H^H^HOracle… although there are certainly a few ex-Sun faces in the mix too.

The new constitution was approved this time around as well. Here’s hoping all concerned can keep up the momentum that’s been gathering over the past few years.

Try out OpenSolaris… in your browser

This is a neat idea (if not technically all that novel)… log in to Sun Learning Services portal, and you can play with a virtual instance of OpenSolaris for up to an hour.

It does require Java, there are only 8 slots available at any one time, and right now they’re still provisioning OpenSolaris 2008.11 rather than the newer and shinier 2009.06. But if you want to give OpenSolaris a quick whirl, you might find it more convenient than downloading the LiveCD.

More info in Brian Leonard’s blog entry.

gnome-shell on OpenSolaris

Kudos to Brian for getting gnome-shell up and running on OpenSolaris—since I’ve barely touched a Linux distro in the past year or so, this has really been the main thing that’s been stopping me from taking a proper look at it, and getting involved in what’s clearly going to be an important part of GNOME’s future. I guess I don’t have any excuses now πŸ™‚

Compiz in a Box

In VirtualBox 2.2.0, which was released today, that is. The new OpenGL acceleration for Linux and Solaris guests allows compiz to run very nicely in a virtual machine. (Click the thumbnail for a Theora video of compiz running in an OpenSolaris guest in OS X.)

Compiz running in VirtualBox
Compiz running in VirtualBox

EDIT: I suppose I ought to add there’s some other cool stuff in 2.2.0 as well, particularly the ability to import/export appliances in OVF format.


Different day, same Places

A couple of years ago, I bemoaned the inconsistency of our presentation of bookmarks and places.

Last week I had cause to revisit the issue (for much the same reason as before—updating the OpenSolaris UI spec), hoping that things would have improved and I wouldn’t have to suggest too many tweaks to the OpenSolaris layout to keep things nice and consistent.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like much has changed though, really, which is kind of disappointing. (Especially as seeing this bug marked as resolved had built up my hopes a little…)

Caveat: as in my original post, the latest release of Ubuntu (8.10, GNOME 2.24.1) was the closest I had to a community build when I was doing the comparison. So things may really be a little better or worse than they appear here, or may have been fixed in 2.25/2.26.

So I hacked up a quick diagram showing all the menus and sidebars where bookmarks and places appear, and aligned them on the “Home Folder” entry since that was about the only one that was consistently placed. Here’s what I came up with:

Side-by-side comparison of bookmarks/places in Ubuntu 8.10
Side-by-side comparison of bookmarks/places in Ubuntu 8.10

The plusses:

  • The two Places menus on the panel (one in the menubar applet, one in the main menu applet) are now identical, at least in Ubuntu. This is good to see, although most users won’t see both at the same time anyway.
  • The Go and Places menus in Nautilus (browser mode and spatial mode respectively) are pretty consistent with each other too.

The minuses:

  • Inconsistent appearance/placement of mounted media, Computer, Desktop, Templates, File System, and CD/DVD Creator between sidebars and menus.

Of course, it would be wrong to complain without offering any proposals, and I’ll get to that—just haven’t got time today. The current draft of the OpenSolaris 2009.04 UI spec does include my first quick attempt, but that’s currently based more on “least amount of work to fix” rather than “what might be most useful”… and we all know that’s not really the way to do it, right kids? πŸ™‚

OpenSolaris 2008.11

Sun are officially launching OpenSolaris 2008.11 today… although as the name suggests, it was pretty much ready to go at the end of last month, and those in the know have been able to download it from both the community website and the distro website since then πŸ™‚ You can join us at 1700 UTC today for a web chat with some of the people involved.

Glynn has written up a good summary of new features, which include GNOME 2.24, ZFS Time Slider, accessible install, and big improvements to plug’n’play printer support, automatic network configuration, and laptop suspend/resume. The number of additional packages available in the repositories has greatly improved since the 2008.05 release, and we now have various repos and a new process that will make contributing packages easier than ever.

Roman Strobl has produced a 12 minute screencast to show off some of the new bits, and Erwann ChΓ©nedΓ© has a shorter one that focuses exclusively on Time Slider, which seems to have been generating a lot of interest.

Of course, 2008.11 still has all the usual Solaris goodness like ZFS, Zones and Dtrace built-in, with the Solaris Trusted Extensions now just a click away too, giving you access to one of the most secure desktops on the planet*.

So why not give the LiveCD a spin? You can grab it via BitTorrent, or download the ISO directly from Sun (or alternatively, from the genunix mirror, or via FTP from LTH in Sweden).

* Probably πŸ™‚ (OpenSolaris Trusted Extensions hasn’t received Common Criteria Certfication yet, but the Solaris 10 version was most recently certified at EAL 4+. More information here.)

Step back in time

Slightly crummy name, but great to see the first phase of the ZFS Time Slider project that Erwann, Niall and Tim have been working on coming together in time for our OpenSolaris 2008.11 release next month.

It works a bit like another company’s product of a similar name, except right now ours only takes regular snapshots to the same disk, rather than backing up to removable media (but we’ll probably end up doing that too). It’s not quite the auto-save function that Federico was talking about last week and at GUADEC, but it’s certainly nice to see some of the power of ZFS in use on the desktop at last.

On app-specific themeable icons

So, we’re attempting to follow this advice for a couple of OpenSolaris applications we’re working on.

It works fine for the hicolor icons, but the advice for themes that want to over-ride them is rather vague: “You can also provide icons for other themes in here [$pkgdatadir/icons], by installing them into a subdirectory for that theme.”The question is, who’s responsible for installing them? The theme or the app? Seems to me there are problems either way.

If the theme installs them, first it has to find out where that app installed its hicolor app-specific icons. It will usually be /usr/share/appname/icons/hicolor, but there’s no guarantee about the value of $pkgdatadir for any particular application.

Once over that hurdle, the theme is now stomping in the application’s territory. At best, uninstalling the app will leave a $pkgdatatdir/icons directory on your disk, containing a bunch of icons that aren’t going to be used any more. At worst, the app uninstall might just lazily blow away the $pkgdatadir directory altogether, wantonly deleting files that were installed by another package (the theme).

On the other hand, though, we surely can’t expect each app to be responsible for installing icons for every theme that wants to override them. Distros can of course patch those apps downstream with their branded icons du jour, but that will soon become cumbersome when there are more than two or three such apps. And independent theme artists, such as those who contribute to, don’t have the luxury of patching any apps at all. So their themes would never be able to override app-specific icons.

So what to do? The more I work with themes, the more I wish they’d all go away and we’d just use a single, identifiably-GNOME look-and-feel like the grown-up desktops do πŸ˜›Β 

T -1 day

Like many of you, I’m sorting myself out tonight to fly to what will be my seventh GUADEC in Istanbul tomorrow. (I’ll actually be there for two weeks, as my wife is flying out after the conference to join me for a week’s vacation.)

Pleased that there’s a very healthy crowd of Sun desktop folks attending this year (18 at last count), and rumour has it we’ll have some OpenSolaris 2008.05 LiveCDs to be giving away, so you can play along live with John Rice’s talk πŸ™‚ Hopefully I’ll also find a few interesting things to snap with the Lomo Fisheye camera I got for my birthday last month…