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GNOME on the Road; Rolling out the Red Carpet

Improving GNOME via Subscription

  • November 20, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

There's always a moment's hesitation when you try out favorite tools in a new environment, and dragging a fairly new laptop off to COMDEX this past week was no exception. As it turned out, though, GNOME provided the perfect environment for everything I needed to do to keep caught up between walks around the convention floor. More on that in a bit.

Thanks to Helix Code, GNOME had a large presence at the Linux Business Expo. The Helix Code booth had frequent demonstrations of Evolution and Red Carpet: Helix Code's dependency-solving package installer.

Red Carpet is slated for release in January, and it offers a subscription-based tool for keeping track of software, installing new packages, and making sure all dependencies between packages are met. In addition, Red Carpet will offer the opportunity to undo operations on packages, meaning if you accidentally remove a whole slew of packages as the result of one of those occasional nightmare dependency chains, it will be fairly easy to get them all back and put things back to normal.

According to some Helix Code folks I spoke to during a demo, Red Carpet will also, as with the Helix Code GNOME Updater, take advantage of Helix Code's Akamai-based distribution, meaning downloads will be fast.

The thing I most walked away with from the Helix Code booth, though, is a sense of enthusiasm. There's an active community of developers within the company who clearly enjoy the work they're doing. The impromptu tour I got of Evolution from several of Helix Code's hackers was informative, and enough to make me decide to defer that promised look until I can build it from CVS: there are some features (including some exceptional stuff in the calendar) that are present in CVS that the latest preview doesn't offer. It will be worth the wait.

The Mobile GNOME: Pictures, Appointments, Mail, Connections, and Contacts

Since the bulk of my week was spent at COMDEX, the big priority was switching from my ordinary desktop use to managing everything I needed to deal with from my laptop. Between getting pictures from the convention floor, keeping the appointments I was handling on my Handspring Visor straight with my laptop, managing my e-mail, and keeping Internet connections easy to work with, had a lot to do and GNOME had something for everything I was dealing with.

The challenge with working from a new laptop lies in coming up with tools that will work with a minimum of fuss on short notice, and without the luxury of time that comes with being able to tinker with things from the comfort of your own home. The list of software I was sure to have on hand included:

  • gphoto - GNOME's digital camera software
  • the GIMP - the ever-popular graphics manipulation app
  • gnome-pilot - GNOME's pilot management software
  • gnome-pim - the GNOME calendar and address book
  • Pronto - a graphical, perl-based mail client with outstanding filtering

In addition, the GNOME "Modem Lights" applet came in handy to provide a flexible front end to the dialup scripts on my machine. "Modem Lights" is nice because it doesn't do anything but run startup and shutdown scripts for your PPP connection, so there's no duplication of effort. It fits into a panel of any size and stays out of the way. In my case, since the Progeny Debian distribution I have installed on my laptop uses wvdial, I just added "wvdial" to the "Connect command" property, and "killall wvdial" to the "Disconnect command" property.

GNOME also comes with an applet called "Battery Charge Monitor" that sits in the panel and tracks the amount of juice you have left in your laptop.

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