Perhaps the F stands for “Fail”?

Recent news that Ubuntu will likely be giving up the GIMP as part of the default install are interesting, but not a huge concern to me – I already have to install Inkscape, so adding the GIMP to the huge sudo aptitude install command I run on a shiny new Ubuntu install isn’t a big deal. I’d love having both Inkscape and the GIMP by default, but there’s only so much space on a CD-ROM-sized ISO. Fair enough.

What still concerns me is F-Spot by default. Not because of Mono fearmongering – I really don’t care what language the thing is written in – but just because it’s got some very irritating behaviours compared to the older lightweight editor/viewer/photo manager I still use, gthumb.

Allow me some simple demonstrations of why gthumb is still, in many ways, superior to f-spot.

I take a fair number of photos, and as anyone knows, they add up in filesize very quickly. I shoot fair-sized JPG, not the very largest my camera could, and not RAW, and I still have 10.2GB of images in Photo – 4133 images, apparently. I´ve only owned a digital camera for about two and a half years. Someone with a longer digital history, or who shoots RAW, or who simply takes even more photos than I do, is going to easily dwarf my photo collection. My photo collection is still old enough to have pre-dated F-Spot in Ubuntu, however.

So, I want to view, manage and do light editing of this existing photo collection. Fire up F-Spot (Applications->Graphics->F-Spot Photo Manager). There is no File->Open command, and by default the “Browse” button on the toolbar does absolutely nothing… so File->Import it is. Aim this at my existing ~/Photos directory… and by default it will duplicate the entire thing, rearranging the files to it’s liking as it duplicates them!

F-Spot will also take an insanely long time trying this – I aborted the whole mess ten minutes in, with only 1434 of 4133 files “loaded” (what does that mean? they don’t need to be loaded, they already exist in ~/Photos!) and the “Import” button still greyed out…

Are you serious? All I want to do is crop one of them! Abort, abort! Fine, we’ll find an existing image through Nautilus, and choose to open that in F-Spot individually.

Nope, sorry. That gets you your image, without the insanely long Import process, but it’s in a little window called “F-Spot View” with none of the editing tools available, and no way to switch to an actual editing window

Now let’s try the same simple procedure(s) in gthumb. Same existing photo collection, in the Ubuntu-supplied default ~/Photos, but first we’ll install gthumb with your favourite package manager. (gthumb languishes in Universe these days, so have that enabled) Now go Applications->Graphics->gThumb Image Viewer. No Import button, any images that happen to be in your ~ will show up on one pane, and a Nautilus-style folder navigation pane to the left. Rummage through your files with that pane, no need to wait for some sort of unexplained “importing”of existing files here.

Or go the other way – find an individual image through Nautilus or on your desktop, right-click, choose Open With->gThumb, and open your image. You get exactly the same window you would if you’d opened gthumb via the menu, with all the lightweight editing options you require right there.

No “importing”, no attempt to duplicate your entire photo collection, no crippled “viewer” window with no useful tools in it, and  gthumb will traverse your entire directory, not just the one folder it insists on importing/duplicating everything in. Oh, and no distracting “Mono is of teh devil!!!11111” nonsense either, just for a bonus. Somebody does need to code an upload-to-Flickr plugin for gthumb, granted.

While the GIMP is being removed from Ubuntu 10.04, let’s ditch F-Spot and return to gthumb too!

Launchpad bugs for most of the above Fail-spot issues: 488566, 488574. Closely related, and older: 182862.
Related silly “Import” bugs: 412091.
There’s probably many others over on Gnome’s bugtracker, but I only searched LP’s Fail-spot bugs for now.

How To Get Backup Religion

… have your entire system freeze solid, and then, in the recovery console, fsck choke because of a galloping screenful of badblock errors. Then you realize you have no working LiveCDs in the house. And your last backup dates from April. Oh crap.

That was Sunday night; Monday I went down to my brother’s, snagged a couple of spare USB keys for backup, and got him to burn me an Ubuntu 9.10 LiveCD. If I ever meet the genius who originally thought up Linux LiveCDs, I’ll buy him a beer. Or as many as he wants, really… Booted up into the LiveCD, found that according to gparted, there was nothing much wrong with my /home directory, but my /root was utterly screwed and unreachable. Phew. Systems can be replaced, personal data, not so much.

I have two harddrives in this tower – one 18 month old 500GB that was in use, and which has now thrown the bad blocks at me. The older 120GB drive is not in use, but still plugged in, so I’ve reformatted it, repartitioned, and tomorrow will reinstall Karmic from scratch. I’ve also been filling USB keys and burning DVDs of a lot of my less replacable personal stuff, just in case the already-damaged 500GB drive decides to utterly blow itself up… there also isn’t enough space on the 120GB for all my stuff, unsurprisingly, so some of it is going to be living on DVDs for a while.

The 500GB is still under warranty, so it’ll be wiped and sent off to Seagate post-haste. Nifty Linux discovery of the evening: if you need your hard drive’s model and serial numbers, System -> Administration -> Disc Utility can provide both, and much other useful info about just how your screwed-up hard drive is screwed up.

And a Dear Lazyweb request: Where the heck does Evolution hide all it’s data (it’s not all in .evolution, far as I can tell) and how can you coax a full dump of this data out of a non-functional install? My last .tar.bz backup from Evolution was back in April…

I haven’t decided on a backup solution for the future, but I obviously need one, something better than “DVDs full of a few bits and pieces, burned when I get around to it, which isn’t often…”. Money is tight, so once my warranty-replaced 500GB is back online I’ll probably use the 120GB drive as a backup solution until I can get something better and larger. A 500+GB external drive should probably be on my Christmas wish list, I’m thinking.

Final Score: probably no personal data lost, barring the Evolution mess, cramped quarters on an old hard drive while the new one is RMA’d, and much time lost while I sort the mess out. And a new appreciation of both live CDs and backups…

Something To Do With Koalas?

Upgraded to Ubuntu 9.10 along with everyone else in the world (and their dog) last night. Had a bit of a scare when the computer wouldn’t mount /home, but a reboot and fsck during startup cleared that up.

Then I realized I had no 3d accel… this after having flawless 3d accel in 9.04 with the Open Source R300 drivers. Hardware Drivers wasn’t showing me anything, which was odd. Turns out the r300 drivers no longer support my old ATI card, so I need the alternative (but still Free) “ati” drivers. Had to install that manually, because Hardware Drivers thought everything was just fine off in driver-land. That’s the first time in several releases I’ve had to do a thing manually to get 3d working… does the Hardware Drivers app only track non-Free drivers like fglrx? It certainly didn’t seem interested in letting me know the “ati” drivers were what I needed…

That aside, 9.10 is very slightly faster booting than 9.04, and has some new toys to play with. Inkscape 0.47 is the big one for me — lots of new shiny there to distract me!

Dear Epiphany Developers, The 1990s Called, They Want Their Browsing Experience Back…

One odd glitch in the Epiphany webbrowser – “Open in New Tab” is gone from the right-click context menu when you right-click on a link. “Open Link” and “Open in New Window” are the only optionsf? Epiph still supports tabs (middle-click still works, thank Dog), but removing “Open in New Tab” seems like a major regression. Last time I used a non-tabbed browser was the late 1990s, for crying out loud. (Opera FTW. If Opera didn’t exist, what would Firefox and Co. have copied?) “Open in New Window” is almost always a waste of time. Tabs are a far more elegant solution than having your app puke windows all over your desktop, so why has Epiphany made them unavailable from the right-click menu?

(I tried to file this as a bug over on Launchpad, but LP timed out on me three times, so guess that bug report can wait a day or two longer.)

Aside from the right-click/tabs screwup, the new Epiphany with webkit seems slightly faster than the old Gecko version, and hopefully it’ll be more stable too. We shall see.

New Ubuntu, new shininess (I like the new login & loading screens, very slick!) and some fun new bugs, too. And a faint scent of eucalyptus, for some reason.