Category Archives: technology

Trying my hand at developing & bug fixing

WARNING: I am NOT a developer

with menu icons

One of the first applications I like to install on a fresh build of ubuntu is called gSTM or “Gnome SSH Tunnel Manager”. This allows me to setup and enable multiple ssh tunnels to/from different places with the click of a button. It provides a nice notification area icon which I can click and see at a glance all the tunnels I have preconfigured. In this same dialog box it shows the connection status of each tunnel indicated by a red(off) green(on) or yellow(?) icon to the left on the tunnel name.

Since Ubuntu 9.10, these status indicator icons are broken by default and need to be turned on by enabling “show menu icons” in the interfaces tab in the appearance preferences. Now with Ubuntu 10.04, this option has been removed from the preferences completely breaking the icons with little to no recourse(yes we can use gconf, I shouldn’t have to!).

Upon discussing (read: complaining) this problem with some of the Gnome community, I have been told that the use of these menu icons in this manner is incorrect and show be done by other means.

I plan to figure out the correct way to show these icons and resume functionality to this application and try to document my journey on here.

  • Step #1 Try to contact original developer: – fail. The contact the developer link on sourceforge gave me a bounceback email.
  • Step #3 Download the source code. – I originally downloaded the tarball from sourceforge. The problem with this is, there’s no debian directory and other magic bits to allow for easy packaging for debian/ubuntu which I would like to do in the end. I then downloaded the source in ubuntu using “sudo apt-get source gstm” which downloads all the source files to /usr/src/gstm1.2 including the packaging bits. And then I remembered about this whole Opportunistic developers thing and more specifically Ground Control by Martin Owens. I already had this installed so I just searched for “gstm” and downloaded the project and what I THINK is the correct branch to work from (gstm 1.2).

I’ve briefly looked at the icons it uses (green.xpm red.xpm yellow.xpm) and grepped for mentions of them in the code. So far i’ve come up with main.c and fniface.c.

Tonight I might try my hand at using one of the other applications mentioned in Jono’s Opportunistic Developer post called Quickly to see if I can import this project and see how it interacts with this developer environment.

continue on to part 2


I was going to write up a post complaining about the new version of Ubuntu moving the close, maximize and minimize buttons from the right-hand corner to the left along with instructions for changing it back but Daviey has already done that for me.

I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again; They can set whatever they want as default. Just give the average end user an EASY and intuitive way to change it to their liking.

gconf-editor is not average user friendly and this type of this is most certainly something the average user is going to want to change back. No matter how much the design team wants everyone to “just get used to it”. I’m getting real tired of designers telling me how I should use my computer.

Other than this major problem, I think the new theme and colors look great. I never disliked the orange and brown theme, but a lot of people did. This should make the OS more appealing to a larger audience.

Boston LinuxFest

Yeah, got your attention didn’t I? Unfortunately, The banner I threw together in a few minutes and the event doesn’t actually exist. But this has been a dream of mine for many years. It was basically the reason why I joined the Ubuntu community to begin with. I love installfests, conferences, and events where we bring together many organizations to promote a single idea. I have read many blogs about different LinuxFests like Ohio Linuxfest, LinuxFest Northwest, Texas Linux Fest and SouthEast LinuxFest. Everyone who has been to these have said they’ve been a lot of fun and informative.

Now for Boston. We have so may companies and organizations in and around Boston that could make this happen. The Ubuntu Massachusetts Local Community Group has already had some pretty decent Installfests and release parties. These have turned out pretty successful with the very limited amount of marketing and advertising. The Boston Linux and Unix Users group has periodic installfests and events. There has also been mention of college linux user groups scattered all over the state.

We need to bring all these resources together to make one of the best LinuxFests around. If anyone from Massachusetts (or surrounding states) would like to help out or knows of resources to bring this together, please let me know(lots of contact info for me on the right-hand side of my blog). I certainly don’t have the required time or resources to put this all together by myself, but I would like to put into it everything I can provide.

Will the Serial Console Ever Die?

Will the serial port as a console connection ever be displaced — especially for devices such as switches, routers, SAN boxes, etc.? In one sense it’s a simple connection. But it is the only current port that, in order to use, you need to know about wiring / baud rates / parity, etc. It has non-standard pinouts. And it is becoming too slow to upload firmware to dead devices, as the firmware updates get larger. Also, the serial port is rapidly disappearing from new laptops — which is where you often really need it, in data centers. Centronics, PS/2, and current loop are mostly defunct. Is there any sign on the horizon of a USB console connection?”


This has been a question of my own for a while. There are lots of switches, routers, PDU’s and even servers where we use serial for direct connection. For the servers we use IPMI for remote console. This helps when the OS has died for some reason or we need to change BIOS settings. It’s certainly a nice and alreasy existing feature to have. But as the article states, the setup is more manual as far as configuring port speed and such as well as being really slow for todays standards.

I don’t know. I’m torn between a tried and true technology and moving forward with improved speed and standard connections. What do you guys think?

MontaVista boasts 1-second Linux boot

MontaVista’s Linux demo goes from a cold boot into a sample, “fully operational” vehicle dashboard application in a single second, the company said. It will be showing off the speedy boot performance at the Virtual Freescale Technology Forum this week.

The demo in question is an embedded OS built around specific hardware, so it does forgo drivers and processes required with your typical production version of Linux. Nevertheless, it’s a performance worth some bragging rights.

daily accomplishements


  • just typical work


  • Created an entry level account for someone who already had a professional account :/
  • hopefully convinced my father to take the 46g fish tank for his oversized goldfish
  • forgot to feed fresh or saltwater fish or top off water or add carbonate to saltware – damn
  • started work on cleaning up/optimizing a customer laptop. Get to install ubuntu dual boot as well. Not sure how much he’ll actually use it but he’s slightly interested.
  • Updated Ubuntu 10.04 test laptop in preparation for tomorrow’s alpha 3 release.
  • ooo  .. reminds me, have to remove source from hardy on my apt-mirror to free up some space. Only a couple months, no need to have source locally.

I guess that’s it. Not an overly productive day. I need to find a heading that best fits computer work at home. Ideas welcome.


what did icons ever do to you anyway?

Here’s another reason why removing menu icons in Gnome (as well as removing the choice to turn them back on) is a bad idea. What about the 3rd party applications that rely on menu icons that are now turned off by default with no easy way for the average user to turn them back on?

My example is a project called Gnome SSH Tunnel Manager (gSTM)
The application creates ssh tunnels using an easy interface. It sits in the notification area with easy 1-click(right) access to turn tunnels on and off while showing their running status with a red or green light next to the name of each saved tunnel.

This application uses menu icons for it’s status icons as well as the Quit button at the bottom and “show gSTM” button at the top.

with menu icons
with menu icons
without menu icons
without menu icons

Gnome hates icons

I originally posted this to the gnome-list mailing list in the hopes of reaching
some type of authoritative response.
So far there has been no response from anyone close to the developers in question.

This “bug” was brought to my attention when I recently tried out Ubuntu 10.04 alpha 2 to see what new improvements Ubuntu and Gnome in general had. Upon going through my usual routine of setting preferences to my liking, I could not find the option to put back the menu icons in the 3 main menu’s provided by Gnome in the top panel. Only some of the icons
are shown, others are not. There used to be a setting to bring them all back. This was previously just an annoyance to have to complete the look
of the menu’s.

I went to #ubuntu+1 on Freenode and asked if this lack of preference was just a temporary setback in the alpha developemnt of Ubuntu. I was
pointed to this “bug”:

Reading the first comment:

“Discussed many times. We should remove the interface tab. Basically
everthing there is a user experience design cop-out. It only belongs in
a tweak UI tool – – but only if someone cares enough to write one.”

“Discussed many times”
Discussed where? Were Gnome users asked for feedback on this decision?

“It only belongs in a tweak UI tool – but only if someone cares enough to write one.”
User experience preferences for gnome should now be the responsibility of third party developers who might or might not develop tools to put
back user experience preferences which gnome developers created and then removed in the first place?

The rest of the comments in “bug” are people disagreeing with the original developer in his decision to remove the preference competely.
Save for 1 developer who agree’d and implemented the descision stating “majority of users”. What majority of users? So far I’m seeing most
people disagreeing with the descision. Not to mention, I don’t see the majority of users requesting preferences be removed regardless if they
are of interest to them or not. Why this descision? Is this preference really that much of a bane on the system resources? Why are we removing
half the icons from the menu’s making them looked half finished and unpolished? Why not remove all icons and be done with it?

I voiced my opinion in the comments of this bug just like the “majority of users” were doing. My comment and one other was removed and my
account on bugzilla disabled.

So, where does a user go to voice his opinions on this type of developer decision where said developers will read it and hopefully impact the
descision? Where can a user submit feedback on bringing back a preference that was removed?

Can we please get this preference put back? I don’t care where it is, but we shouldn’t have to wait for a third party tool to reimplement
preferences to finish the look of the menu’s that have already existed but were removed.