Friday, 13 November 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala: Games submenus and stylish notification icons

Blogging has not held my interest recently, but tonight I thought I should jot down some things about Ubuntu 9.10, the Karmic Koala.

The new release is shinier and fancier than before, and contains genuine improvements, such as the ibus input method (Chinese works out of the box in all programs!), the Bluetooth manager (almost as good as Blueman), and the new, more informative grayscale notification icons.

However, there are some features I haven't made sense of, and some misfeatures as well. For example, the default sound system, Pulseaudio, causes Regnum Online and Rhythmbox music player, at least when used together, to stutter and lose sound entirely after a while. A simple sudo apt-get remove pulseaudio and killall pulseaudio fixes sound, so it is not a big hassle.
The new automatic subcategorization of the Games menu is a feature I welcome; Strategy and Logic games automatically put themselves to their respective subcategories. However, the bulk of the games menu contains a lot of games I rarely play, namely those that come with GNOME. I would like those to be put in their categories, so that my games menu would provide quick access to my favourites rather than system defaults. Also, I tried to put my role playing games into the Role playing category, but I couldn't figure out the right magic word to use in the "Categories=" line of the launchers. For Strategy games, the line is "Categories=Game;StrategyGame" but RoleplayingGame seems to do nothing. I talk about this in the Ubuntu forums.

Another thing are the new grayscale icons in the notification area. They look good and make changes in the notification area capture your attention better. However, some applications do not have grayscale icons, but use colours like a christmas tree. In this picture, Skype, Dropbox and ibus taint the notification area. So, I would like to modify the respective programs so that they would honour the icon theme. For Skype, that seems impossible, since it is a proprietary program and has hidden the icons that once were accessible in the Skype folder. However, the Skype team is moving towards open-sourcing the software, so maybe in the future this will be possible. For Dropbox, the majority of the client is open-source, so changes may be possible. For ibus, I expect the icon may be changed somewhere. However, different ibus input methods also have their own icons. Right now I only use the Chinese pinyin input method along with English/Finnish by simply disabling ibus with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Space. I would therefore probably need to change only two icons. However, with more programs, the effort will be greater, and less worth the trouble...

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