Saturday, May 30, 2009

Evolution Picture Gallery Under Development

During the 2008 UI Summit, one of the things that I mentioned is that once people get a file manager in software, you lose them. They don't understand navigation and files and directories (right Sebastian Faubel?). The two most popular features in OpenOffice believe it or not are the email button which automatically attaches the current document to Evolution, and also the picture gallery. When you click on the picture gallery button, clipart and photos are displayed and they can drop and drag them right into OOo Writer.

Pepp and Mbarnes have hacked on a patch to integrate that feature into Evolution. The beauty of the patch is that it consumes no real estate for those that don't want to use it. We currently have an icon on the desktop that opens Nautilus with emoticons and city logos; once this patch is merged I'll be able to move all of those pictures directly into Evolution.

OpenOffice allows you to add your own Galleries, so in theory the two could be synced for consistency.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Impress Layouts Landed In Milestone 49

Our bountied OpenOffice change to add two new layout types landed in milestone 49. My thanks for Sun for accepting the patch and getting it merged so quickly. This will be a big help for our users.

Our other bounty, adding sentence case, is currently going through review and will require an OASIS file specification change. But it's getting attention, and moving.

Thanks Pepp!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuning For Evolution 2.24

Now that SLED 11 has been released and our server has arrived, I am in the process of prepping Evolution 2.24 for citywide deployment. The server has been built and configured, and today for the first time I started load testing. I am tuning for 300 concurrent, which Evo 2.6 on SLED 10 easily handles. With a user load of 21 people, I was getting the results below. Not good. Notification-daemon + dbus were chewing up tons of CPU.

With some tips in #evolution and poking around I made the following changes to the Evolution launch script:

/usr/bin/gconftool-2 --type Boolean --set /apps/evolution/eplugin/mail-notification/dbus-enabled False
/usr/bin/gconftool-2 --type Boolean --set /apps/evolution/eplugin/mail-notification/status-blink-icon False
/usr/bin/gconftool-2 --type Boolean --set /apps/evolution/eplugin/mail-notification/status-enabled False
/usr/bin/gconftool-2 --type list --list-type string --set /apps/evolution/eplugin/disabled "[org.gnome.evolution.sa_junk_plugin,org.gnome.evolution.mail_notification]"

This turns off all things blinking, dbus and calling the notification-daemon and now it's running much better. We already have a mail-notification popup applet running, and the alarms daemon will provide notification of meetings.

I will continue to tune over the coming weeks.

This is making me ponder how well newer versions of the GNOME desktop are going to scale on multi-user servers. Just a friendly reminder to people working on this code; keep those of us running hundreds of people in mind! :)

Update: Here is the same user load after the changes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hero Of The Week: Chen

No offense to my other heros, but the award this week goes to Chen. :) He just merged into Evolution the first set of patches to allow users to retract/resend meetings with the Groupwise backend. This is a HUGE thing for us, and we are very thankful.

Friday, May 15, 2009

PDFShuffler Is Wonderful

My thanks for the comment that pointed me to PDF Shuffler. What an awesome piece of software, and a big help for us. When I first tested it, it only supported 24 bit color. I submitted a bug report and within a few days it was already fixed to work in 16 bit as well.

You drop and drag PDF pages right into the UI, and all of the pages load as thumbnails. You can then shuffle them into any order you want, and you can delete individual pages with a right mouse click.

I have already taken some initial steps to possibly bounty out a few more features:

- Drop and drag of photos which insert as a PDF page
- Drop and drag of OpenDocument files which convert to PDF pages.
- Running total at the bottom to show total number of pages, and total file size of the resulting PDF.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

OpenOffice 3.1 Stable, Thank You

On Monday night I installed and configured OpenOffice 3.1 for the whole City. Once again it was painless and I just had to make the change once. We didn't get ONE call about the upgrade and no bugs have been reported. I know that means that un-named people are QAing this behind the scenes. So my thanks to all of you.

The server is running as expected and user load rarely is going over 10%. The shot below is how it looks with 125 concurrent OpenOffice sessions running. I guess having a 4 CPU, Quad Core kind of helps. :)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Experimental GUI For Users

As a very "back burner" project I have been experimenting with some ideas to assist our users. It has not been successful to explain file types (pdf, odt, jpg), or concepts like megapixels to most of them.

Here is what they struggle with from their perspective:

1) Sending pictures to other people via email and not getting it rejected because their email system won't accept the file size. 10 megapixel? What's that? What is 2MB?

2) Having dissimilar files and wanting to put them together into one PDF. OpenOffice reads odt's great; but PDFs only kind of load into Draw, how do I merge that together? Ok, now I inserted my 10 megapixel picture into Openoffice and used the corner handles and have made it 1 inch by 1 inch. That makes it smaller right? Why after a photo resize is the document still so big?

3) I want to use licensed software like Adobe Acrobat Pro because it lets me merge pieces together, I don't care that it's expensive and I only want to use 1% of the features.

4) Our vendor shipped us a PDF and now I need to merge it with my own odt and create a new PDF.

I have been tinkering with an idea to create a simple GUI to let them just drop and drag files (OpenDocument, Pictures and PDFs) into 12 positions and then it makes certain sizing decisions automatically. It then allows them to build a merged PDF with one click. No file managers would be found, everything is drop and drag. Maybe this is an early prototype for a module that should be in OpenOffice? A document sorter screen for putting pieces together?

I don't get to hack all that often anymore and don't know python and GTK in the manner I wish I did. I built the screen in Glade-2, and am stuck at how to activate the Buttons to accept a drop and drag from Nautilus. I know this is super simple for someone that does this all the time. If you want to throw me a bit of code in the comments, it's appreciated. I want to detect the release of the file into the button area, and then load the file path that it sends into a field that I can use for processing. I'm going to then have it build a thumbnail of the first page of that piece, and then update the Total Pages and Total Size fields so they can see how big it is as they go.

I'll blog about this GUI further when I get it actually working and have tried it with users to see how it works.

PS: No GUI Nazis please :)