February 2007

Transparent notification screenshots

In my release announcement for the new libnotify and notification-daemon, I advised that people try the new release in order to see the transparent notifications for themselves. This was obviously a mistake as many people wanted to see screenshots. Silly me.

I guess I thought that this was one of those things that looked better in person than on a screenshot. I was also a bit tired and busy with other tihngs and didn’t want to put in any more effort. So I took a couple and hey, it looks pretty good anyway. My apologies. I should have done this last night.

New libnotify and notification-daemon releases are out!

I’ve just put out libnotify 0.4.4 and notification-daemon 0.3.7 releases. I highly advise that everybody upgrades, as several memory leaks, rendering glitches and other bugs have been fixed.

Along with these releases is some basic support for accessibility in the notifications and a nice, subtle transparent effect on the notifications when running on a system using a compositing manager. Don’t worry, it’s not bad at all, and it doesn’t make the notifications any harder to read. I’ve been running this for some time at this point 🙂 I would show a screenshot, but it’s probably best to see it on your own setup.

The downloads are available on the downloads page, and full release notes are below:

libnotify 0.4.4 changes

  • Fixed a bug where a notification’s ID could be reset when a different notification was closed. Patch by jylefort. (Bug #94)
  • Fixed a crash when the D-BUS proxy was not being freed on notify_uninit, which was problematic when used in a loadable module. (Bug #92)
  • Fixed a crash when a signal handler for the notification’s closed signal caused the notification to be destroyed. (Bug #116)
  • Fixed memory leaks when creating notifications. (Bug #112)
  • Fixed potential memory leaks where the function passed to notify_notification_add_action to free the user data was not being called. (Bug #119)

notification-daemon 0.3.7 changes

  • Fixed a compatibility issue with dbus-glib 0.72. Patch by Pawel Worach. (Bug #95)
  • The background of the window in the standard theme is now just slightly transparent when compiled against GTK+ 2.10 and when using a composite manager. Patch by Matt Walton. (Ticket #110)
  • Fix several rendering glitches with the borders in the standard theme.
  • Fix a memory leak when removing a notification. Patch by Sven Wegener. (Bug #105).
  • Added initial accessibility support with the standard theme engine.
  • Clicking anywhere in a notification should now close the notification. This was happening only on the body text sometimes.

FTD.com’s Flowers Screwup

I’ve been using FTD for a couple of years now with no complaints. So naturally, when it was time to buy flowers for my girlfriend for Valentines day, I went back to FTD. My girlfriend couldn’t come visit this week due to being sick, and I wanted to surprise her with a nice bouquet. The website guaranteed that the flowers would arrive in time, so I didn’t give it a second thought.

On Valentines day, around late afternoon, I received an e-mail saying that my order was being postponed a day. I was pretty upset by that, and ended up telling my girlfriend that flowers were coming but that they wouldn’t be on Valentines day. But that’s okay, right? One more day can’t hurt too bad.

They never came.

Today I received an e-mail simply stating my order has been canceled. Nothing more. No explanation. I tried to call up FTD and couldn’t even reach their customer service line.

It seems I’m not the only one.

Has anyone else experienced this problem this Valentines day?

Update: With Mikey’s inspiration (see the comments) I’m opening this up to more general flower screwup stories.

VMware Workstation 6.0 beta 3

We’ve just put out VMware Workstation 6.0 beta 3. As per the ancient traditions set forth by the VMware founders, we decided to make this release awesome. I’ll go over a couple of my favorite, but for the rest, read the release notes.

  • Record/Replay

    Workstation 6 beta 3 is the first release to support our new Record/Replay functionality that we mentioned at VMworld. Essentially, it allows for making a recording of (almost) everything that happens to a VM between the time you hit Record and the time you hit Stop. This is not a movie recording, but more of an execution recording. You can play it back however many times you like.

    What is this good for? Well, have you ever tried testing a program only to encounter a bug that you just can’t reproduce? Maybe there was some memory corruption that happened under some specific case that you just can’t seem to diagnose. Or maybe it’s a network packet that came in in some form that your application didn’t expect. Under normal circumstances, you’d have to do a lot of guesswork in order to find out what exactly happened. Far too often, it’s just too hard to reproduce the bug and it goes unfixed for some time.

    Now imagine instead that you’re testing the program in Workstation and, before your testing, you hit Record. You attempt the test and the program crashes in some weird manner. No problem. Hit Stop and replay the recording. Just before the crash occurs, stop the playback and attach a debugger. Messed up? Didn’t find the cause? Replay that recording again.

    It should be pointed out that these recording logs take up a lot of space, so you don’t want to keep too many around. Also, the feature is very experimental, so don’t be surprised if there are problems. Some things are not yet supported, like 64-bit guests, Virtual SMP, and certain devices (USB, for example). We plan to change the UI around a little bit, and it’s likely that future Workstation releases will improve the usability and usefulness of this feature.

  • Debug guest apps from the host using Eclipse

    We now offer the ability to debug applications inside the guest from Eclipse on the host. This provides for a nice sandbox for the application. Your app can crash the computer during a debug session and your host won’t even feel it! There’s a good blog post from the developer of the Eclipse support discussing this feature and some of its many uses.

  • Fullscreen improvements

    A previous beta introduced the new combined Fullscreen mode. We used to have separate Fullscreen and Quick Switch buttons on the toolbar, each useful for certain purposes. The new combined mode is closer to Quick Switch, but until now has missed the nice aspect of Fullscreen where the image would actually by the size of the monitor (due to changing the screen resolution).

    Now, when in fullscreen, you have the option of changing the view mode (from the drop-down toolbar). The guest resolution can be changed to match the host’s screen resolution, the guest can be stretched (emulating the original fullscreen), or the guest’s screen can be centered on the monitor.

  • Tab dragging

    The Linux UI now supports tab dragging, thanks to the new support in GTK+ 2.10 and some hacks to get around some bugs. Combined with the multiple window support we put in a previous beta, you can now have as many windows open as you like and drag and drop VM tabs between them. While not a major feature itself, it is a nice usability thing we’ve wanted to do for a while now.

  • Many many bug fixes

    The new feature list may not be huge, but at this point in the beta cycle there shouldn’t necessarily be a lot of new features. So what have we been doing? Why, fixing just tons of bugs of course. A lot of crashers have been fixed, work has gone into improving multiple monitor support, the UI has improved in various areas, and code has been cleaned up. All in all, we’re in good shape, and will be mostly staying in bug fix mode until the final release to ensure that the result is a product we can all be proud of.

I should also point out that if you are not a Workstation user but have been contemplating a purchase, you don’t need to wait for Workstation 6. You can now buy Workstation 5.5 and get a free upgrade to 6. This only applies to new purchases, so if you’ve been a Workstation 5 user for a while, you’ll have to purchase 6 separately.

Terror on Amtrak Bus 3717

This past night, Thursday the 8th of February, I journeyed home to see my family by way of Amtrak. It was a typical train ride, followed by what should have been a typical bus ride for the final stretch home. Not surprisingly, the bus was delayed an hour and a half. When it finally arrived, the bus driver told us “Tonight is going to be a very late night.”

None of us had any idea how true this would be. Aside from one person, perhaps — The Terror on Amtrak Bus 3717.

Sitting in the shadows at the back of the bus was a crazed man who was very high on something, and it wasn’t life. Few knew he was even there, at least for the first 10 minutes of the trip. And that’s when we first heard him speak:

“Three of you are going to die a painful death tonight.”

Half the people on the bus heard his words, but most paid no attention to it. Just a common jokester messing with friends, some of us thought. It wasn’t long, though, until someone began to panic and called out for the driver.

“Driver! Driver!!”

There was a loud scream.

The bus came to a sudden stop and the lights flashed on. Everyone turned to look at the back of the bus. The crazed man was repeatedly punching an older lady in the face as her daughter watched in horror.

Without hesitation, four men jumped up and pinned the attacker down. Two held on to his arms, holding them such that any movement would cause the arms to twist painfully. The third had a hold of his feet, while the fourth had a grip on his head and neck, strongly hinting that he would gladly snap the neck if the man dared struggle.

The victim’s face was covered in blood and the daughter was crying with fear. Seeing that the man was restrained, the bus driver immediately called for the highway patrol.

10 minutes went by, though it may as well have been hours. Eventually, the police pulled over and stepped onto the bus. Two went to the back and cuffed the crazed attacker, while a third attended to the lady.

The next hour and a half was a blur of testimonies, uniforms, and contact information exchange. By the end of this, we learned two things.

  1. If the attack had not happened, the attacker would have left the bus on his next stop, which was a mere 15 minutes away; and
  2. There was already a warrant out for his arrest.

Finally it was all over. The assailant was gone, people had been let off at their stops, and the lady was deemed “well enough” to avoid an ambulance trip.

Remember, boys and girls (especially the girls). Make sure that when riding a bus, you sit as close to the front as possible. It’s far safer and gives you more protection against the hidden terrors that lurk in the shadows of the back of the bus.

VMware IPO news, and 3D in VMware demoed

VMware IPO

Wow, exciting day for VMware. For those who haven’t yet seen the news, our parent company, EMC, announced a VMware IPO. Approximately 10% of VMware is being sold. This is all news to me too, but it’s damn exciting.

“VMware is one of the fastest-growing businesses in the history of the software industry. We expect the IPO to unlock more of VMware’s value for EMC shareholders while also strengthening its ability to retain and attract the software industry’s top talent.”
— Joe Tucci

I know many people have said they would invest in VMware if it had its own stock symbol rather than sharing EMC’s. Now you have no excuse! 😉

3D in VMware Fusion

Some people, including a couple of competitors, are of the belief that nobody to date has supported 3D in a virtualized environment in any usable way, and have made claims that they’ll be the first. It’s not their fault, this wasn’t so widely known. Afterall, we’ve only had this supported and documented for two years now.

Well, cat’s out of the bag now. I was doing my usual search for VMware on Digg, and this post came up showing a video of 3D in VMware Fusion. As you can see from the video that it links to, 3D in VMware is quite usable. 🙂

Update: The URL for the digg post has moved. Fixed the link.

Vista’s gremlins, now on Linux

Vista is an interesting operating system. They have done a number of very cool things with it, and yet it has confused and frustrated me in all new ways. I have been running Vista in a VM for a little while now. I think in many ways it is a better operating system. And there is one thing Vista comes with that beats us hands-down.

It has a Gremlin clock.

Vista's Gremlin skin

The little clock applet on the side has several skins, and one of them is a pink, furry gremlin. I fell in love with this little guy and decided that we must have a Gremlin clock skin ourselves. So I set out to create one, using MacSlow’s cairo-clock. After a couple hours of work, I ended up with this:

I think it’s a cute little thing. I hope others like it too. Just download it and untar into $HOME/.cairo-clock/themes or /usr/share/cairo-clock/themes.

A couple of notes about the theme. cairo-clock doesn’t tend to like themes with different widths and heights and expects the clock face to be in the center of the images. Since the clock face on the Gremlin theme is a bit lower, near the bottom of the gremlin, the theme images had to be made to give a lot of whitespace below the clock. The actual gremlin is on the upper-half of the images. This is not a huge problem except that there appears to be a bug where you can click and drag the clock on parts of the lower region, where it’s completely transparent. Hopefully this isn’t a big problem for most people.

Oh, and MacSlow, if you want to bundle this as part of cairo-clock, I’d be all for it 😉

Now we’re on par with Vista. Yep.

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