Xfce as a tough jeep in an interesting metaphor, but it is kind of fitting. It’s not fancy, but it does its job very well. And its simplicity is why so many people are re-discovering it in the face of GNOME 3 and Unity.
Xubuntu Natty (aka 11.04) ships with gmusicbrowser as the default music player instead of Exaile, so I decided to play with gmusicbrowser in my 10.04 system.
gmusicbrowser looks a little raw, especially compared to Exaile, which has a nice, polished look.
gmusicbrowser opens up with just a tiny, unmarked console:
You have to mouse over buttons to figure out what does what. Obviously, play and stop and forward aren’t a problem, but it took me a while to figure out how to see all of my music (via what gmusicbrowser calls the browser area):
And you have to input your music via the settings area, which took me a while to figure out, too.
gmusicbrowser cannot burn music (nor can Exaile), but it has a nice workaround. When you ask it to import a disc, it kicks you into SoundJuicer (or whatever your default audio extraction program is — you can select it) and lets you import the CD from there. It’s a seamless process.
Unfortunately, gmusicbrowser doesn’t seem to index music on the fly, only on startup, so once you burn a CD, you have to shut down and re-open for the music to be playable. Exaile doesn’t index on the fly, either, but has a nice little re-scan button that will re-scan your collection for you.
At this point, I should mention that I usually don’t spend that much time burning CDs. This week there was some old music that I wanted on my MP3 player, followed by my having to buy a CD of an album that isn’t available electronically. So this review is probably a bit more CD-intensive than my typical music player usage would be.
gmusicbrowser also seemed to struggle to find album art. There’s an album art plugin, but I have yet to see any show up. Exaile also has an album art option, but it’s always just worked for me.
I might not be the right audience for gmusicbrowser. It seems super flexible, designed to give users multiple layout options. But I don’t want that kind of flexibility. I just want a simple way to play the song or album I want to hear in a given moment.
I’m not sure why Xubuntu moved to gmusicbrowser. I had initially heard Exaile development had been paused, but looking at their site, they had updates as recently as February.
So I’m sticking with Exaile. It easy to use. It’s got a simple interface. And it looks so much nicer than gmusicbrowser.
In general, I tend to love the Xubuntu team’s software picks, but this time, I’m sticking with my own (or, to be fair, their previous pick).
Also, as a general note, I’ve been playing with Xubuntu Natty. Not enough for a full review, but enough to recognize that it’s a simply beautiful distribution. I’m not a big dock user (I hate to take my hands off of the keyboard), but the dock does look very nice and does a great job of staying out of the way.
I’ll post something more comprehensive down the line, but my initial impression is that Natty is a breathtakingly beautiful take on XFCE.
This is pretty neat. A Debian developer is proposing turning Debian Testing into Debian Rolling. Not much would change. Mostly Testing/Rolling would be acknowledged as a viable, distribution in its own right.
I’ve been a little nervous because some people around me have had their Gmail accounts hacked.
I’m not sure if the hackings were preventable, but it was making me slightly nervous.
And then, James Fallows had a series of posts about the hacking of his wife’s Gmail account, complete with tales of other Gmail users losing all of their data after getting their accounts hacked.
And that made me really nervous.
I had been thinking I should backup my Gmail for a while, but the Fallows posts pushed me to finally sit down and do it.
NOTE: I know about the Google two-step verification process, but that just feels like a lot of work, just to check email. Plus, I hate the idea of being locked out of my email if I don’t have my phone with me and I’m not near a landline I registered with Google. Situations like that are probably when I’d want my email most. So for now, it’s off of the table for me.
There are a few ways to approach the backup, but I decided to use POP to download all of my messages. It took a couple of hours to download everything, but other than that, it was a painless process. There are lots of articles and tutorials online about backing up your Gmail, but there weren’t any that gave me a workflow for the entire process, which is why I’m documenting it here:
- Download and install Thunderbird, but don’t configure it
- Enable POP on your Gmail account
- Configure Thunderbird. Thunderbird is great with Gmail. Once you put in your address and password, it’ll set everything up for you. Make sure you tell Thunderbird to use the Gmail POP account, though
- Download all of your email. This will take a while because you can only download it in batches. You can leave Thunderbird to handle this on its own, or you can keep it running in the background while you do something else, and manually get your mail every time it announces it has finished a batch. I chose the latter
- Now that you have all of your mail held locally, you can leave it in Thunderbird. That seemed like a pain to me, though, so I downloaded a Thunderbird plugin (ImportExportTools) that let me export the messages as .eml files. ImportExportTools gives you a number of export format options, but .eml keeps attachments with the files. Plus, it can be read with a text editor.
- Save your email someplace safe and you’re all set! At this point, you can turn off POP in your email and remove Thunderbird, if you’re so inclined.
I’m not sure how easy it would be to work with email in this format, but at least I could search through the files for specific messages I needed. Hopefully, I’ll never need to use this archive, but I feel better knowing that it’s there.
Now I just need to remember to do this at regular intervals. I wish Gmail would let you POP email as of a certain date, so I could just regularly top off my local archive, rather than re-downloading everything.
But the backup process is really pretty simple. Especially now that I know all of the steps to take (and the order in which to take them).
Posted for those of us who are a bit burnt out on GNOME 3 and Unity talk.
I don’t quite know why, but I really like the idea of a rolling distribution.
Rolling distributions are constantly being updated, so you never have to go from a version X to version X.1. Instead, everything is being updated constantly.
A while back, I used Arch Linux, which is a bleeding-edge rolling distribution, and I really loved it, but eventually an update broke my system and I didn’t have the time or the skills to repair it.
But despite that experience, I like knowing I can hold onto an OS for as long as I want. Because right now I’m running Xubuntu 10.04, which is a long term support release. But that just means I get three years of updates instead of 18 months. We’re about a year into that LTS release. If I get a new computer in the next year, I’ll have to upgrade to a new LTS about a year or so later. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s a little bit of a hassle I think about from time to time.
To start thinking ahead, I looked into Debian Testing. Testing is the pre-release form of whatever the next Debian stable release will be and as such, it’s a rolling release that’s constantly being updated. I spoke to some people who use it and even though it’s technically not considered stable, just about everyone said they see very little breakage (with the caveat that Testing is much more stable toward the end of a development cycle than at the beginning of one).
I’ve been playing with Debian Testing (of course, with Xfce) in a virtual box for a few weeks and so far it’s pretty good (details are here). There have been no real issues. The look and feel isn’t as polished as Xubuntu, but some of that could be because it’s running in a virtual environment. Finding software in testing is sometimes a challenge. I had to wait a few days for Chromium because of a package holdup. But that was resolved.
One thing that surprised me about Xfce Debian Testing is how little software bloat there is. There’s no graphical package manager. There’s no update manager. It’s pretty bare-bones. Obviously, one can easily install these things if one wants them, but I opted to just run update and upgrade from the command line, whenever I happened to remember. Testing doesn’t get a lot of updates, or at least it hasn’t up until now.
Right around the time I was playing with testing, Mint announced the release of Linux Mint Xfce, which is the Mint take on Debian Testing with an Xfce desktop.
I decided to try that in a virtual machine, too. In terms of software, it seems like Mint just moved over a lot of GNOME-y stuff. There’s pure GNOME stuff, like the GNOME system monitor instead of the Xfce task manager. Mint opts for LibreOffice instead of lighter office programs, like AbiWord. Mint also chose Rhythmbox over Exaile. I wish the software selection was a little more Xfce curated, like Xubuntu’s software selection increasingly is, but I think Mint is positioning its Xfce Testing as an alternative for people who don’t want to move to GNOME 3, so they want to include as much GNOME software as possible.
I was shocked at how ugly the default Mint icons are. I usually can’t be bothered to change icons in a virtual machine, but it was one of the first things I did. Mint ships with an impressive array of icon options, though.
But in terms of performing very simple tasks, I didn’t feel much difference between Mint and Debian Testing. Neither rendered fonts very well. Both seem to lose application focus on open (but that could just be a Chromium bug), and neither could run Grooveshark in Chromium.
Flash worked right out of the box for Mint but needed to be massaged with Debian, which one would probably expect, given Debian’s stance on free software.
Other than that, it’s hard to say which was better. Because I was in a virtual machine, I can’t speak to how they handle wifi and printing, which are kind of huge things in an OS.
Debian Testing is lean and mean, but it requires more work to get everything configured. It starts you with a very basic system and it’s up to the user to enhance it. I’m a bit concerned about software availability, since Debian is sometimes a bit sluggish with updates. But from what I’ve read, you can often access more cutting edge software in some of the other Debian repositories (although with Volatile gone, I’m not sure what those might be).
Mint makes more assumptions and choices for its users. The GNOME focus isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t take much to remove the GNOME stuff you don’t like and add in the Xfce stuff you do. Plus, I imagine there are less media issues with Mint, since they’re less concerned about free and open software.
If I had to reinstall an OS today, I’m still not sure if I would go Mint, Debian, or Xubuntu. Xubuntu is probably the nicest product, but the update cycle can be a pain. I want to keep an eye on Mint and Debian and see if either breaks or if one emerges with better software selection.
But for now, it’s nice to see some interesting rolling release options for Xfce lovers.
I’m probably not the best person to ask since I just drag stuff from folders on my computer to folders on my MP3 player.
Exaile is the default Xubuntu media player and I actually like it a lot. It’s light but simple. I can’t get it to burn CDs, but that’s not too horrible.
In the past, I’ve used the underrated Goggles for music management.
Both of those are fairly basic tools, though. If you want something with the sweeping grandeur of iTunes (but stable and responsive, unlike iTunes), the big guns are Rhythmbox, Banshee, and Amarok.
I’ve used all three at one time or another and I couldn’t tell you the difference between any of them. Luckily, Linux Journal did a nice roundup a few months ago.
Play with some and see how they work for you. And let me know which one you end up sticking with.
Why I love linux and my N900! Let me see u do this with your smartphone!
This is so cool. My N810 cannot do this!
“The new tablets are not Windows. Whoah! Didn’t see that coming, did you? According to Forrester’s survey of more than 3,800 people, the N0. 1 operating system people want on a tablet is Windows.”
Yikes! I guess these are the same people who want to buy their cars with flat tires? 🙂
A really neat thread on the benefits of Ubuntu versus Debian (I know Ubuntu is based on Debian. You know what I mean!).