Monday, April 27, 2009

Failed to install Parallels Tools 4.0 in Kubuntu Linux 9.0.4 (updated)

I tried to install Parallels Tools 4.0 inside a fresh Kubuntu Linux 9.04 installation, but it failed. The log tail is:
make[1]: Leaving directory `/usr/src/linux-headers-2.6.28-11-generic'
Installation of kernel modules was finished successfully
Start installation of user space modules
X server: xorg, v1.6.0
Install X modules from directory: .1.6
System X modules are placed in /usr/lib/xorg/modules
Error: there is no X modules for this version of X server
Error: failed to install user space applications and drivers
Any suggestions?

Update (April 28, 2009): This is a known issue, see these posts at the Parallels forum:

Favourite Mac OS X feature requests (updated)

Here are some of my favourite Mac OS X feature requests, just aimed at improving my efficiency when using the Mac:
  • when replying to a sent email from Mail, make sure the To:/CC: addresses are the same as the original (currently, in Mac OS X 10.5.6, the To: address is set to my own address);
  • make the Finder allow me to show folders first;
  • allow me to put mount points in the Locations bar in the Finder (currently only folders below the mount points can be put in there);
  • make Cmd-` work while dragging from a Finder window, inside the Finder (perhaps this is even a bug on my system?);
  • allow me to configure Dashboard widgets are pre-started before I activate the Dashboard, this saves me quite some time;
  • resize windows from any corner - at least make this an option;
  • in the Finder, have a Go-back keyboard shortcut for going back to the previous location (like Cmd-LeftArrow in Safari and Firefox).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Idea: Phasing out Office documents per e-mail

Currently, Microsoft Office files, in various incarnations, are still the dominant format for mailing documents. Although everybody (including Microsoft) agrees these formats are not standards-based en hence (at least in theory) not future-proof, this is a situation that is not easy to change.

Try sending an ODT* file to a colleague. Chances are she will have no idea what to do with it. But since everybody knows Word, Excel and Powerpoint, the situation will remain for a while.

Here's a wild idea for improving the situation: when sending an email, most mail clients support a standard for sending both text and HTML email as alternative formats in the same mail. Perhaps a similar approach could also be applied to DOC/XLS/PPT attachments: For example: every time a user sends an ODT file, a corresponding DOC file is automatically attached as well, and vice versa.

* ODT = OpenDocument Text, an ISO standard format for text documents.

Decrypting multiple files with GnuPG

Here's a simple UNIX/Linux script that asks for a password and then decrypts a batch of files using that password, using GnuPG:


echo -n "Enter password: "
stty -echo
read password
stty echo

for encrypted in *.gpg; do
decrypted=`echo ${encrypted} | sed s/.gpg\$//`
echo -n ${decrypted}
echo "${password}" | gpg --passphrase-fd 0 -o "${decrypted}" -d "${encrypted}" > /dev/null 2> /dev/null
if [ "$?" = "0" ]; then
chmod 600 "${decrypted}"
echo " [ DONE ]"
echo " [ FAILED ]"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Favourite browser features

Here's an overview of what I appreciate in a browser. This table only considers browsers available on Mac OS X, since that's my desktop environment. Note that most of this is very subjective, it's just my personal preferences.

In Firefox, I've installed the following add-ons:

  • Web Developer
  • Firebug
  • Google Page Speed
The bold items are my favourites.

Firefox 3.0Safari 4.0Opera 10 (beta)
Startup timePretty badVery goodVery good
Ability to immediately edit the address in the address bar after startupOKBad: there is a delayOK
Shows plain XML in a nice treeYesNo
Recognizes a port number, even when no protocol (e.g. "http") is specifiedYesYesYes
OS X look-and-feelNiceNiceNot very nice
New tab pageFast, but emptyTop sites: useful and very attractiveSpeed dial, quite nice
Search Google from address barYes
Find in pageToolbar at bottom is OK, but far from optimal
Result highlighting: very nice and polishedBad: separate dialog window
Progress of downloads visible in OS (e.g. in Stacks)NoYesNo
Web development toolsCombination of Firebug, Web Developer and Google Page Speed works like a charm"Inspect Element" is very nice and integrated
Developer tool is not very intuitive
Login form autocompletionExcellent, supporting multiple accountsOKOK
Browser can be configured to have just one window with tabs, even when a link is pressed in an external applicationYesYesYes
Link targets can show in a tooltip (e.g. at the window bottom, like Google Chrome) and do not require a status bar to displayNoNoNo
Activity monitor
Number of clicks in the address bar needed to select all textOneThreeOne
Prompt to store login detailsUnobtrusive and non-blocking bar at the topBlocking dialog window (very bad)Obtrusive dialog window, but non-blocking
Supported by XMarksYesOfficially only Safari 3 is supported, but in practice it works with version 4

Updated on June 9, 2009, for Safari 4 final release and Opera 10.00 beta. Updated and added criteria.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Espresso - first impressions (updated x2)

As part of the MacHeist 3 bundle, I purchased Espresso, a neat little code editor for Mac OS X. It looks simple and intuitive and works well overall. For a code editor, the functionality is fairly limited, though.

It supports plugins, which Espresso calls sugars.

After using Espresso for just a couple of hours, here are some of the things I would suggest as improvements:
  • show that a line is wrapped by placing a special line wrap symbol at the end of the line that's being wrapped;
  • support find in files instead of only supporting find in file names (which only works inside the current project);
  • when a search operation wraps (inside the current file) around, then have a clear visual signal indicating this, I currently have to take care that I watch the line numbers on the left;
  • allow opening new files in tabs by default, now I have to drag the tab to the main window every time;
  • allow tabs/spaces configuration per file type: I'd like to use tabs in XML files while using spaces in programming code (such as Java code);
  • include more themes in the distribution, instead of just a single one, for example one that looks like vim on a black background with syntax highlighting enabled;
  • on the theme website, show visual theme examples;
  • support theme import/translation from existing themes from other programs (e.g. Eclipse, NetBeans, vim, etc.) to Espresso;
  • make the file modified indicator stand out more (inside the tab header);
  • use common keyboard shortcuts for switching tabs, e.g. Alt-Shift-arrows (like Safari) or Cmd-Alt-arrows (like Firefox);
  • have keyboard shortcuts for moving tabs to the left or the right;
  • add Java support, including syntax highlighting and navigator-support;
  • support localization and provide support for the Dutch locale;
  • integrate visual CSS editing;
  • double-clicking on a folder in the project should open that folder;
  • workspace folders: it would be nice if a folder could be added in the workspace, for quick access;
  • MobileMe-support for publish servers would be nice to have;
  • have an option to remove trailing whitespace when saving files; in my opinion this could even be a global option for any file type, since I'd enable it for all; currently Espresso automatically inserts whitespace (to keep the indentation level) but it does not remove it;
  • when deleting an element/comment from the navigator, also delete the newline at the end - hence, if a comment occupies a line and there is nothing else on it, then the whole line should be removed;
These are things I consider bugs:
  • while searching, when I add or delete some text, the occurrence counter is not updated;
  • there are no small icon version of the "Action" and "Tools" icons, hence using the "Small icons" variant of the toolbar hardly increases the available screen estate;
  • while hovering over the icons in the toolbar, no icon title/description is shown, even if only icons are shown in the toolbar (without text below them);
  • when I click on Help -> Get Espresso Sugars the Coffee House website I'm sent to displays all sorts of errors (this is fixed as of April 9, 2009);
  • when the Settings button is clicked in the toolbar, the caption of the button changes to "Hide Settings", moving the icon, instead the button should -in my opinion- just be visualized as depressed.
These features make Espresso stand out:
  • excellent Mac citizen: it's fast, stable and integrates nicely in the Mac OS X environment;
  • the find/replace feature (inside a single file) works like the search feature in Safari, highlighting occurrences, while dimming the rest of the text: awesome;
  • dragging tabs between windows looks and works very nicely;
  • you can create a rectangular text selection using Cmd-Alt-mouseclick/-movement, which is very practical in some situations;
  • automatic XML ending tag completion - when you want to close an open XML element, just press the smaller-than-sign and the slash and Espresso will append the rest;
  • easy element/comment deletion: just select the tag or comment in the navigator and select Backspace - gone.
Note: Updated on April 9 and April 10, 2009, to add more details.