If you're an Ubuntu buff, you'll have a pretty good idea about the subject of this article, since you already know that the Ubuntu releases are in sync with a certain graphical environment's development cycle. So, this October there is a pretty high chance of GNOME 2.28.0 arriving on a desktop near you, because the developers kept a tight watch on the schedule and delivered this next incrementation of our favorite GTK-based desktop environment, as promised. Enough introductions, let's see what has been cooking for the last five months or so in the GNOME kitchen.
Probably one of the most annoying problems in older GNOME versions was the lackluster Bluetooth support, with the advent of 3G-capable mobile phones that can serve as modems and smart devices capable of rich content. Previously, the management of connections to that kind of devices was handled by the Bluetooth Applet, a notification area icon with few features and low configurability, and without explicit support for data connections through the mobile network. The new GNOME Bluetooth
application included in GNOME 2.28.0 fixes many of those gripes, letting you enjoy your wireless keyboard and mouse as well as managing your mobile phone, with minimal fuss. Even more, it integrates with NetworkManager to allow for 3G connectivity, quickly and easily.
With an Internet connection comfortably set up, you need a way to communicate with ease, and GNOME 2.28.0 packs the tools for that too, in the improved Empathy Instant Messenger
. Let your friends know that you're testing out this new release by directly adding a status message, and should you want to choose an older one,
there is no need to type it again, just select it from the list. It's not a problem if you want to actually move the contacts that don't want to know about your free software adventures to another group; just drag and drop them, as you won't get duplicate contacts as the older Empathy used to create. Also, you now have the ability to set the list size, whether offline contacts appear in it, and even sorting options in the new "View" menu.
The changes to this instant messaging application aren't just focused on the buddy list, the actual chat functions have been overhauled too. Theme the way text is displayed, glance at information about the users in the list's tool tips, even hide the list completely if you don't need it. When communicating through audio and video, you can be less distracted by the other applications if you make the video fullscreen, and if that isn't enough to explain your friends how to accomplish an advanced computing feat, take control of their computer with the integrated support for remote desktop viewing, through Vino.
Another interesting addition is the support for geolocation through the Personal Eventing Protocol and Geoclue, for XMPP chat networks. If your contacts choose to share that kind of information, it will be displayed in the tooltip that appears when you hover your mouse above their contact, with a more or less accurate location depending on their privacy settings. Also, you can get a better look at that data in the contact information dialogue or in the Map View. However, Google Talk users will only be able to receive that kind of information, not publish theirs, because Google doesn't use the Personal Eventing Protocol as defined by the XMPP specification.
|Empathy Instant Messenger|
, GNOME's browser, has made the switch from Gecko, Firefox's webpage renderer, to WebKit. This should improve performance and fix long-standing bugs existent in the Gecko version of Epiphany, but it also breaks form login or password storage. The developers hope to fix this bug in the 2.30 development cycle.
If you feel that instant messaging takes away too much of your time, then you aren't using the Hamster Time Tracker
applet. It helps you track your time and tasks, and this new version includes quite some improvements. The newly added Overview screen synthesizes information and graphs better, creating a cleaner presentation for the user. Tasks are now color-coded, to help you get a better idea about the time periods spent working on something. There are other updates, like the improved support for late-night working, advanced filtering options and better export functions.
|The Hamster Time Tracker applet|
The multimedia aspect of the desktop was enhanced with features like DVD menu support and playback resume for Totem
, a better YouTube plugin, subwoofer and fading settings for GNOME Volume Control
, and data dividing on multiple disks when it exceeds the capacity of a single CD or DVD for Brasero
. Cheese now has a better user interface that better scales on small and/or wide screens, and it received a couple of features like burst mode for photography and support for dedicated camera snapshot buttons.
|GNOME Volume Control subwoofer support|
PDF annotations? Evince
has them, along with document recovery in case of a crash. Making those annotations is possible for a longer time if you’re using the laptop's battery, because support for multiple power sources and disk spin down through DeviceKit was added to GNOME Power Manager
. If you feel that the fonts look nicer, you're right, because Pango is now using the OpenType engine to render them, improving memory usage and support for broken fonts.
Accessibility was also improved in GNOME 2.28, with massive Orca
stability fixes and added features like mouseover support and brand-new speech and Braille generators. WebKit was made better in that respect too, as it now includes caret navigation and incipient support for the ATK accessible text interface. How about GNOME 3.0?
GNOME 2.28.0 is barely out the door and it's starting to make its way into distributions, but the developers aren't planning any vacations. They already started work on GNOME 2.30, which, depending on the advancements in the platform, might be crowned as the next major release, labeled with the 3.0 version number. If the developers aren't happy with the progress made, they might wait until GNOME 2.32 to apply that version bump. Either way, we will know about it by March 2010, when 2.30 will be released. Should they decide that it doesn't stand up to their expectations, we will probably receive GNOME 3.0 in September 2010.
The next release may include the innovative GNOME Shell
user interface, which makes it easy to start applications, manage them and access your favorite files, by employing an advanced composited desktop. Along with it we might see GNOME Activity Journal
, a tool that keeps a log of all file activity, complete with tagging and relational metadata.
The changes in this GNOME release are quite compelling, and if you don't want to wait for Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala)
to try them out, just download the sources for GNOME 2.28 right now from Softpedia