The NSA/PRISM/big brother scandal of late didn’t surprise nor shock me. The discovery that “the NSA probably silently circumvents/broke all our crypto and hid backdoors everywhere” is not really a discovery to geeks who have given the whole system a bit of thought — spies are spying on us, and they’re not telling us that our GPG keys or disk encryption are not sufficient to guard against them? No sh**, Sherlock!
What kept me relatively optimistic about the whole thing is that running a fully open-source software stack on your computer gives you long-term protection, in theory. Sure, it probably has backdoors planted by the NSA right now (you may now begin the witch hunt), but the increased awareness and outrage from recent events means (hopefully) that we’ll weed out those vulnerabilities with more audits, ruthless efficiency and an almost fanatical devotion to security.
Some of you may be familiar with the good old “fix it twice” adage: fix the problem and then ensure it never happens again.
Last year, when I made Pitivi’s automatic backup feature work, I requested someone to write extensive automated tests for it (with Dogtail), so that I could feel confident about this feature never being broken again, even if it underwent massive refactoring or if everything else changed around it.
When you spend the vast majority of your spare time working on open-source software like Pitivi, sometimes you feel like hacking on hardware made of dead trees for a change. Dead trees have very few bugs unless you let them sit on the ground for extended amounts of time.
As I was quite unsatisfied with all the various keyboards I’ve had over the years (including the RSI-inducing Apple keyboards and the Lenovo external Thinkpad keyboard which, unfortunately, has a terrible build quality and not the same feeling as the real Thinkpad keyboard), I recently obtained a Unicomp buckling spring keyboard — the true successor of the legendary IBM Model M.
I’m very happy with how GNOME 3.8 is running on my newly installed Fedora 19 machine:
Finally, thanks to the new privacy settings, I don’t have to care about the trash anymore. Though that’s arguably a bit less noticeable now that hard drives are 2 terabytes – it’s very hard for me to fill that kind of capacity even if you never empty the trash.
Everything feels snappier and lighter on the GPU. I suspect it was Owen’s work   with Clutter and compositor frame timing? Or were there also changes in X? GTK? The shell? Thanks to whoever did this. I’m really thrilled at the prospect of a Wayland-based GNOME by default. I’m fed up with our current stack (and so should you).
At last, searching in the shell doesn’t feel like running through a swamp with 100 kg weights attached to each thigh.
Evince now searches pretty fast and doesn’t lag even when searching through my torture test (a 35 MB, 5219 pages document…). Though that might also be a side-effect of having some insanely more powerful computers these days compared to when I initially filed a bug about it in 2008. Also, Evince finally had a UI overhaul. I find it pretty sleek.
No need for the GNOME Shell “native window placement” extension anymore. The new proportional window sizing & placement algorithm for the overview mode is what I’ve been waiting for.
The GNOME initial setup assistant (on first login) is very sleek. Also, it now offers you an “in your face” introductory video and quickstart guide, pretty cool (except the video’s aspect ratio shows up wrong on 4:3 screens). Somebody took my suggestions to heart it seems :)
GNOME Disks keeps impressing me with each new version. Such a great app. Fantastic user experience and reliability. It is also now my official way to easily create liveusb sticks that work everywhere (using the “Restore Disk Image…” gear menu item).
I’ve heard rumors of Evolution 3.8 being much more solid. We’ll see after extended use. I’m already happy about the fact that it properly handles HTML email background colors even with dark themes now.
Rhythmbox had some pretty bold UI design changes. A bit surprising at first, but the changes seem to make sense (and there are some bugs    but that’s life). To put things in perspective, it’s not as drastically minimalist as my own music player that I hacked together with a few lines of Python as a proof of concept :)
What was initially planned as a one-question referendum for Pitivi users (how critical is it for us to have perfect xptv import on the upcoming release) became a full-fledged survey to give us a clearer picture of what users care the most about these days. If you’re a fan of Free Software and video editing, please take a few seconds to fill this survey. Please please share this with everyone you know who is interested in Free and Open-Source video editing. Thanks!
Version française: la prochaine version de Pitivi approche rapidement. Suite à une discussion concernant nos priorités à court terme afin de pouvoir sortir une nouvelle version au cours de l’été (avec un peu de chance), nous avons concocté un court sondage sur votre utilisation des logiciels de montage vidéo libres. S’il-vous-plaît, veuillez prendre quelques secondes pour répondre à ce délicieux questionnaire, et n’hésitez pas à en parler à tous ceux autour de vous qui s’intéressent à l’édition vidéo libre!
This year will be a little bit different. In a rather unexpected turn of events, PiTiVi has been accepted as a mentoring organization but GStreamer has not. Fear not however, as GStreamer has no better ally than the PiTiVi team when it comes to pushing our favorite multimedia framework to its limits and beyond. As you may know, PiTiVi makes heavy use of the GStreamer Editing Services library and, in turn, GNonLin and the rest of GStreamer. With the switch to GES and the irrevocable shedding of our old skin, any backend work done for the sake of the PiTiVi project ends up benefitting GStreamer and other projects.
One way to look at things is that there is no such thing as a PiTiVi backend anymore. PiTiVi is a frontend that pushes the latest and greatest open-source multimedia technologies forward.
I’m back from this year’s GStreamer hackfest, which was fantastic as usual — an intersection of great minds, big challenges, flaky Wi-Fi and good food. Christian already did a generic summary, so I’ll be narrating from the GNonLin/GES/PiTiVi perspective. See the end of this blog post for a nice video retrospective.
Time for a little report on recent improvements in Pitivi. Nothing earth-shattering to make you drool with envy; just a lot of fixes, cleanup and improvements to small details. Next week, we will be in Milan for the GStreamer hackfest, so I’ll make sure to give you a nice report on what we managed to accomplish there.
In 2005, I had a crazy idea upon which I started the Specto project. Initially, I thought I’d call my revolutionary piece of software WhileYouWereOut (continuing the world’s tradition of ill-chosen project names), because it really was about solving a core “want” in my life: to leave my computer alone and catch up with events when I’d come back in front of it.
The core feature was to watch webpages for updates: back then, I did not know about syndication feeds, and I was sick of refreshing ifolder.com every single day hoping for a release of the peer-to-peer version of iFolder (for which we still have no equivalent today).
It is fashionable these days, especially for the Slashdot crowd, bloggers, kernel hackers and other people depending on “feature X that has not fully polished”, to throw mud at the efforts that have been made towards redesigning the Fedora Linux installer.
With some help from luisbg, I finally reworked and merged a 2-years-old patch of mine. It turned out to be less trivial than expected, because we had to change the settings backend to allow loading/reading configuration files at runtime for our dynamically-generated tab components. So, what the heck does this mean to you? Automatically saving and restoring the state of our dynamic detachable tabs/components. This is a nice improvement for those of you who want to spread the PiTiVi UI across multiple displays:
I’ve seen everybody hail Lightworks as the messiah that will make all other open source video editors irrelevant. So far, I didn’t blog about this (because frankly, life’s too short to be pessimistic, and I was also quite curious as to how it would play out and wanted to give EditShare the benefit of the doubt—after all, I’m a fan of video editing software in general).
However, after all these years, most of the blogs or news sites (including the most popular ones) still don’t bother checking for factual accuracy and just blindly accept what corporate press releases would have them believe. I would have thought they would have grown more careful with time, but the situation has generally not improved, to the point where I am now compelled to say this now, officially, in public: Lightworks is currently not open-source and never has been. Furthermore, if it ever is open-sourced, it most likely won’t be anywhere close to a truly open project.
Here’s a tricky usability question: how would you represent the actions of grouping and ungrouping clips on a timeline? (Un)grouping is used for changing the way selections affect a set of clips. It allows you, among other things, to separate and remove the audio from the video of a clip.
It is very hard to find any relevant prior art that could guide me for this metaphor (most applications don’t have icons for these, they are only available through menu items). Inkscape can get away with icons that show “drag handles”, but we don’t have those in Pitivi. (un)grouping is quite an abstract concept, given that it does not visually change the clips in any way, it just changes the way they react to selections.
I’ve been meaning to blog about this for months. You may remember me being a fan of SFLphone. Well, turns out that for the past year, I’ve been using only Empathy to do my VoIP calls. All you need to do is install telepathy-rakia to have SIP support (and then you can use Ctrl+M to start dialing a number). Even though Empathy is not perfect, I like it: it’s a standard component of the GNOME desktop, it uses GStreamer and PulseAudio, and it keeps getting better every six months.
Recently, a significant piece of the puzzle has been fully solved in PulseAudio 2.0: real, rock-solid acoustic echo cancelling. Echo cancelling is not to be confused with echo concealment/suppression, which is basically just muting the other person while you’re talking (most phones and software applications—including Skype—do that, and it sucks).