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GNOME on the Road; Rolling out the Red Carpet - page 3

Improving GNOME via Subscription

  • November 20, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

The next thing I had to deal with was getting pictures from the convention floor to my laptop for upload. I have a Canon S10 Powershot, which is supported by gphoto, the GNOME digital camera management software. You can find gphoto under Programs/Graphics in the menu bar.

gPhoto is very easy to set up: just visit the "Configure" menu, and select "Select Port-Camera Model." There's a drop-down menu of all the cameras supported. If you don't see yours listed, fire up a browser and check Google by searching for the name of your camera and gphoto: a lot of models have the same basic software under the hood. There are also buttons for each port your camera could be connected to. Check the table I provided if you're unsure of which one your camera is connected to.

Also under the "Configure" menu is the "Configure Camera" item. This allows you to set the transfer speed the camera works at. It's ok to set this for the highest value allowed (115,200) but you may experience some timeouts from time to time that mess up the transfers. On my desktop machine, this is never a problem. Some quirk in my laptop, however, forced me to set the speed at 38,400 to ensure smooth downloads.

gPhoto allows users to download an index of thumbnail images to preview before downloading the whole image. The index can be generated by selecting Camera/Download Index. Clicking once on the thumbnail of each image you want to download selects them, and clicking on Camera/Download Selected/Images offers the choice of either opening the images in a window under gPhoto or downloading them directly to your hard drive. gPhoto provides a suite of basic manipulation tools if you don't plan to do much with your photos.

gPhoto is pretty handy, and it's getting better. Though I used a plain serial connection on my trip, the version of gPhoto in CVS has USB support for my model, which will certainly make the process of grabbing photos much faster.

 

Dealing With Mail

At home, I have a fairly entrenched mail system built around fetchmail, procmail, and mutt. I decided to give Pronto a spin for mail for my trip because it has pretty easily configured filters and multiple POP3 accounts. I also knew that at the end of my trip, it would be a simple matter to export all my mail out of Pronto and into a single mbox file I could refilter through procmail.

Pronto shares a common background with CSCMail, which is in the process of moving toward being built around C instead of Perl. Users of one will be instantly familiar with the other.

One of the nice things about Pronto is that it has a fairly clever installation script that utilizes wget. It checks your system for the required Perl modules, and if you don't have them it fetches them and builds them on the spot. You can get the Pronto installer from the project www.muhri.net/pronto download page.

As I noted earlier, Pronto's big strength is filtering. It handles this on a level we don't often see with other mail clients, with support for the normal globbing characters many are used to, or full Perl regular expressions for people looking for fine control. It also features virtual folders, which allow you to search for keywords or expressions and "can" the search into a folder for easy access without having to move mail around between them. This is great for keeping tabs on certain authors across mailing lists or providing useful subcategories without splitting your mail too finely.

Pronto also supports mail "personalities," making it easy to maintain discrete mail accounts with the attendant reply-to's, signatures, and the like; and it remembers the people you respond to, adding them to its built-in address book.

If Pronto has a drawback, it's the speed at which the program operates without a specialized setup. It stores mail in a CSV file, but also allows users to store their mail in MySQL and Postgresql databases for faster access. If you have the inclination and patience to do this, and you're serious about using Pronto to its fullest, take the time to set up a database. I compared notes with another Pronto user at COMDEX, and he told me the difference in speed is remarkable. If you aren't the type to hold on to a ton of mail, it isn't as much of an issue: Pronto was comfortable during the length of my stay at COMDEX, but I wouldn't want to use it without a real database backend on the archives I have at home.

All told, though, Pronto was a nice piece of software. People who are waiting around for a GUI mail client under GNOME they can feel at home with should give it a look. Though I doubt I'll be switching mail clients until Evolution is a little further along, Pronto is the one I'd switch to and it will suit a lot of people who don't feel like sticking with Netscape's GUI client.

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