This week’s issue of Distrowatch has an interview by Jesse Smith on design elements (think artwork, wallpaper, icons, etc.). He interviews Jenny Rosenberg and James Nixon from the PC-BSD and FreeNAS projects. It’s great to see this aspect of an open source project getting some attention! The introduction to the article is pasted here; you’ll find the full interview here.
Open source projects are often started and run by coders. The new feature lists that accompany releases usually talk about technical changes and advancements. This may seem natural until we consider that many of our first impressions of a project are not based upon its technical capabilities. Rather, most of our early observations of a product, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not, will revolve around things like colours, layout and font. What does the distribution’s website look like, is it easy to navigate, how big is the project’s ISO, is the boot menu intuitive, is the loading screen text or graphical, how long does it take to boot, is it easy to find options on the login screen, is the wallpaper attractive, how hard is it to find what I want on the application menu? Most of the preceding questions deal with design and aesthetics rather than technical concerns. Technical enthusiasts tend to downplay the role colours and placement have in our lives, preferring to focus on behind-the-scenes capabilities, but it’s hard to deny white text on a fuzzy background, white text on a clear background and tiny black text on a white background will invoke different feelings.
With this in mind, it might seem odd that many of us can name half a dozen or more developers involved in major open source projects, but most of us probably can’t come up with a name to associate with our desktop background, icons or menu layout. We often see raging debates on the best colour theme for a distro, whether window buttons should be on the left, the right or not even exist, and what font is ideal for avoiding eye strain, but we rarely think about the people who put those touches into our operating systems. In an effort to shine a spotlight on the designers who make using computers a more pleasant experience I got in touch with Jenny Rosenberg and James Nixon, who work for iXsystems (a major sponsor of several BSD projects, including PD-BSD and FreeNAS), and asked them to tell us about the work they do.
The latest NVIDIA driver is now available as an update in Software Manager. If you’re using NVIDIA, apply the update and reboot. When the bootup starts, select option7 – run display setup wizard at the boot-splash screen, and you will then be able to select the new driver. If you’re not using NVIDIA, you can right-click the update in Software Manager and select “Ignore this update” so that you won’t be notified again of this update.
This driver fixes several bugs and adds support for more GPUs. Details are at the NVIDIA website.
The following PBI is now available in Software Manager:
iReport: iReport is a powerful, intuitive and easy to use visual report builder/designer for JasperReports written in 100% pure java. This tool allows users to visually edit complex reports with charts, images, subreports,… iReport is integrated with JFreeChart, one of the most diffused OpenSource chart library for java. The data to print can be retrieved through several ways including multiple JDBC connections, TableModels, JavaBeans, XML, etc.
LimitCPU is a Linux program to throttle the CPU cycles used by other applications. LimitCPU will monitor a process and make sure its CPU usage stays at or below a given percentage. This can be used to make sure your system has plenty of CPU cycles available for other tasks. It can also be used to keep laptops cool in the face of CPU-hungry processes and for limiting virtual machines. It is based on an earlier project known as CPUlimit.
Jesse Smith is working to make CPUlimit more compatible with FreeBSD and PC-BSD. He has committed a FreeBSD port (sysutils/cpulimit) and would like to fine-tune it a bit and gather more feedback from BSD users as some of the code which is used to check the CPU cycles is Linux specific. He wants to make sure that the port properly detects and throttles CPU usage on a wide variety of systems.
If you have time to test the port, please send your feedback to Jesse at the email address listed here.
Kris has just announced that the next testing snapshot is available. Some of the changes will be of interest to MythTV and multiple window manager users:
The next snapshot for PC-BSD 9-CURRENT is now available for download.
Snapshot instructions and general information on providing testing feedback are available here.
This snapshot includes the following changes:
- Update to Control-panel allows it to detect the current window manager and display the configuration tools provided by that desktop environment. Included is a CLI de-info script to get current desktop as well as a list of all installed desktop environments. Thanks to Yuri Momotiuk for this cool feature.
- Added several new MythTV plugins and related ports as well as an icon for MythTV initial setup. We’re looking for MythTV users to test these changes and help with documenting MythTV usage in the Handbook.
- Fixed some typos in pbi-manager man pages.
- Corrected some incorrect wallpaper re-sizing on the installer.
- Updated nvidia driver to 270.41.06 which adds support for several GPUs.
- Fixed nvidia driver not loading kernel module at boot.
- Allow user mounting of mmcsd(4) MMC and SD memory cards.
- Added uhidd (USB human interface devices) to the base-system.
- Fixes to the network manager for setting up IPv6 gateway / DNS.
- Fixed bugs in the System Manager checking out ports / system source.
- Added patch for pc-sysinstall which improves wiping backup GPT partition tables.
- Fixed issue with optional components, source / ports not being installed from DVD
- Updated the default beastie.4th boot-splash menu to boot quicker, and more easily halt the countdown
The following PBI is now available in Software Manager:
Jokosher: Jokosher is a simple yet powerful multi-track studio. With it you can create and record music, podcasts and more, all from an integrated simple environment.
Thanks to Jesse Smith for creating this PBI and to Blazing Teens for requesting it.