Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Separate(ish) Bookmarks for Konqueror's Browser and File Manager mode

It's been ages since I've posted an honest-to-god HOWTO here. I suspect this is partly 'cause I haven't actually been tweaking my system all that much -- I've pretty much got my Feisty Kubuntu set up exactly how I like it, and the thought of messing about with it, just makes me feel tired. However, given that the 8.04 release of Kubuntu is going to come with the option of KDE 4.0, I may very well be tempted to reverse that stance, even though the KDE4 system is likely to be a bit buggy or featureless compared to the 3.5 series.

Anyways, onto the HOWTO. Once upon a time, I used Konqueror as both a browser and a file manager. It did both well, except I wasn't pleased with how it looked, and I wanted one set of bookmarks for the web, and one for my hard drive and not both at the same time. I also wanted one set of buttons for web browsing, and one for file browsing. How to resolve the dilemma?

Answer: metabar.

Ok, open up konqueror in file browsing mode: on kubuntu the easiest way to do this is to go to the systems menu applet (on a default kubuntu install, it's on the bottom panel next to the kmenu button) and open up, say, your home directory.

Now, under the view menu in konqueror, select "Show Navigation Panel". This can also be done by hitting the F9 button on your keyboard. A panel should appear on the left side of konqueror. From the choices on it, open the metabar.

The metabar basically provides you with information on each file you select: size, permissions, previews. It also comes with actions and links. Those last two are how you're going to customize konqueror.

Right-click anywhere in the metabar area and select "configure metabar". Under the "Actions" tab that opens, add any file-browsing specific actions you'd like (things like "open in terminal" or the "up" button.) Then, under the "Links" tab, and any file-browsing specific links you'd like, things like your home directory or network places. When you've got the configuration you'd like, go to the "Settings" menu and select "Save View Profile File Management" and save your configuration.

I personally find other options of the navigation panel to be useless and it's presence ugly, so I hide it by default. To do this, open a terminal and type:
kwrite ~/.kde/share/config/konqsidebartng.rc
and set the HideTabs value to equal true. Now when you open konqueror, only the metabar will be showing.

Finally, configure the main konqueror toolbar to include whatever buttons you like by right-clicking it and selecting "configure toolbar". I personally only keep web-specific buttons there, like back, forward, reload, home, etc. but customize it however you wish. Finally, consider adding some flair to your metabar by going to kde-look and searching for metabar themes. I personally like the Advance Blue theme from this set. To install them, simply download the file from the site, right-click the metabar, choose "configure metabar" and then under the "General" tab, press "install new theme" and select the file you downloaded. It will now be available as a theme option in the drop-down list next to the install button.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Two Things I Never Expected to Happen

Good grief, someone's read what I've written.

I started this web log mostly as a repository for the thoughts I have but didn't have anywhere to place. Sort of like a very public journal. I never really expected anyone to read what I write -- if this becomes a trend, I may have to actually start researching in more detail some of the positions I take on here. My last post is a good example: in the comments to my last post, you can see that Joe Shaw made the post I linked to as a joke. I like to think my point about the attitude in the community still stands, though I'm obviously mistaken about this specific instance. I apologize.

(as an aside: I'm hardly an expert on Open Source, either. My connection to KDE is the same one I have to Windows, in that I use it just about every day. I like to think that this affords a unique perspective, since most of the news I follow seems to come from developers. Still, I think it's important to see my opinions in that context.)

The other thing I never expected is the winning streak I've been on. The basketball team I coach, the Edge, is on a winning streak and that's a very strange place to be. This is my second season coaching youth girls basketball (third, if you count spring league last year) and the reversal of fortunes has been dramatic.

I began coaching last year because the C level team didn't have anyone to coach it. Parents usually don't like taking the role. They often don't know much about basketball or coaching and if they do, they often don't fancy the time commitment. Typically however, if someone steps up and offers to be head coach, a parent will volunteer to be assistant coach. And so it happened; we actually had three coaches that year. And we lost every game but one.

Part of the problem was inexperience. Most of our team hadn't played basketball before. Another problem was sheer desire. Teams that win are often teams that want to win: the teams that run hard, that box out, that give their all out on the court. We had our most success when girls gave second or third efforts, but it was hard to get that kind of thing going team-wide. Of course, my inexperience probably contributed to the problem, in that I didn't know how to fire the team up.

This year though, things have been different. Whereas last year I focused more on individual skills that the girls lacked due to inexperience (shooting, dribbling and passing), this year I'm coaching the B-level squad. The main difference is that I've been able to focus more on the team than the players: running things like an offensive framework, a couple of defenses and getting the two lines to gel together. And it's been great to see, as a coach. Not just the winning, which is a nice change of pace but ultimately secondary to seeing the team improve. And not just improving, but improving in the exact areas I've been coaching them in and seeing that translate to success in games. That's the kind of thing that gets you excited as a coach, and is why I continue to do it.

We're looking to move up from B3 to B2 after Christmas, and I think we can be successful in that caliber of ball. Good grief! Who knew I'd be saying that, back when the season started in September?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Credit Where It's Due

I try to keep up with various open source news, since the software tends to interest me -- a quick look around the blog would tell you as much. So naturally, even though I am a KDE user, I follow Planet GNOME. And as I read it today, I had to laugh as I came across this post. Essentially, the poster is mad that a co-founder of GNOME, who is now working for Novell, has been looking over Excel, and said it was a nice piece of software. The poster now wants to know when Novell is going to stop sucking up to Microsoft.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, Excel is a nice piece of software. I mean, credit where credit is due: Excel hasn't got a lock on the industry by being a poor product. The program runs fast and has a better interface than OSS equivalents (I especially like how Excel will remind me about formula syntax when I type them in). Gnumeric doesn't have all the features Excel does. Open Office comes closer, but although it nominally has some of the same features as Excel, some of them (optimization and conditional formating spring to mind) are not nearly as advanced.

Posts like the one I linked too are worrying, if for no other reason than they show a polarization that doesn't make sense in software. It becomes a war, an 'us-versus-them' mentality where anything produced by the enemy is automatically considered inferior. And by trying to learn from what they did well, you're 'sucking up' rather than improving.

I realise that this is in part due to Novell's current pariah status in the community, but at least part of that status is this idea in the community that anything coming out of Redmond is automatically inferior and damaging. This isn't a healthy attitude. The Linux community needs to start looking at proprietary software and asking why those programs are succeeding, and what we can learn from them. Fact of the matter is, Microsoft's put a lot more effort into finding out what's important for users rather than developers. It's entirely possible that all that testing has resulted in unique insights -- and good software.