1. Chicagoans and GNOME, Part 3

    Here is my first-hand report of our third consecutive monthly GNOME hackfest, held on Saturday, the 15th. We had our regular User Group meeting where I presented some of the inner workings of our Flask-based website, and made a note to follow-up with speakers who said that they would speak at events (it is polite to either show up, or say, "Hey, I can’t make it - I’m sorry!" right?), but then we got to working on GNOME.

    We had a pretty good turn-out, with seven people there as part of the hackfest, and one person even showed up to say, "Oh, you are working on GNOME! I don’t like GNOME 3, let me troll you." They initially starting out trolling, but then we got to talking about the new Legacy session in GNOME 3.8 - and they are interested! Face-to-face interaction win.

    Aside from the initial need to deploy anti-troll measures, it was a successful event. I worked on Rhythmbox docs, and made six or seven commits to my gitorious repo, someone else was working on GObject code. He eventually got the Go-GTK bindings to compile, but had to pull in the entire Go source tree to do so. He filed a bug. Meg Ford worked on GNOME Documents, focusing on changing and adding permissions on Google Docs from within the GNOME Documents application. Someone else (Matt?) explored Lisp-GTK bindings.

    As I mentioned, this was our third monthly hackfest, but our fourth one is scheduled forJanuary 19th. We’re slowly building up a community here, so I think we just have to be patient, stay focused and give it time. Meg will be speaking on some core GNOME libraries during the next event - this should be a good talk, and I think the group will be able to do more collaborative projects once we get a better idea of everyone’s interests and strengths.

    Many thanks to the GNOME Foundation for sponsorship of food for the event.


  2. Greetings, Planet GNOME

    Greetings, Planet GNOME. I’m Jim, one of the members of the documentation team. Alberto Ruiz suggested that I write an post to introduce myself to all of you. I have been around for a bit, but only recently requested that my blog be added to Planet GNOME.

    In terms of how I contribute to GNOME, I write some of the GNOME user docs, and maintain documentation for gedit. I also have in-progress branches on gitorious for Rhythmbox and Seahorse (aka Passwords and Keys).

    Along with Meg Ford, us Chicagoans are also doing a fair amount to organize GNOME hackfests in the city. We’re having our fourth monthly hackfest onthe 19th of January. I’m working on a write-up of our most recent hackfest. I should have that posted later tomorrow, but while you’re waiting for that to appear here, you can make plans to join us at our next event.  : )

    As for how I got into GNU/Linux and documentation, it is a bit of a long story, but I studied communication in school, and was a member of our speech team, so working on docs brings me back to those times. I also feel a sort of affinity with the values of the GNOME project - making your best work available to others, regardless of their own ability to pay or contribute.

    Professionally, I work as an HRMS Business Analyst at an excellent hospital in Chicago. For fun, I like yoga, doing stuff with friends, and have recently started making beer. I also know where to find a good slice of pizza in almost every neighborhood in Chicago.

    If you want to be in touch, you can say hi to me on identi.ca (errrr . . . pump.io?), twitter, and IRC as j1mc.  Cheers!


  3. ChicagoLUG hacking on GNOME

    The Chicago GNU/Linux User Group had a GNIGHTS and GNYMPHS of GNOME* meetup and hackfest yesterday. This was the second such event, and I’d say it went pretty well. I gave a talk on dconf - how it is similar to and different from gconf, how you can use dconf-editor to manage and reset system settings, and how you can use the command-line tools to list keys, read the values of keys, write changes to key values … We also had a look at setting default system configurations with profiles and locks. All in all, it was a bunch of dconf goodness.

    Dee Newcum followed-up with a lightning talk on an application that she’s getting ready to release, termdetect. It’s a utility that detects the type of terminal to which you are connected. From her gitub page on the project, it communicates, "directly with the terminal via escape codes, it doesn’t use any other information, so it’s much more reliable than $TERM." For those who know how different terminals can affect your session, this is some pretty cool stuff.

    Aeva Ntsc (who recently implemented 3d printer support on MediaGoblin) wrapped up the talks with an overview of Vala. She really likes working with Vala, and her overview was very comprehensive.

    On top of that, it was also nice to see some new folk. Brandi, Chris, and John showed up after hearing about the event on the website.

    We rounded out the day with an afternoon of hacking. I made initial attempts at creating a quickstart for Mediagoblin on OpenShift, and reviewed sysadmin guide docs. Meg Ford continued her work on GNOME Documents, and Chris Webber worked on a MediaGoblin plugin for Shotwell.

    Many thanks to Pumping Station: One for being our host venue (Though I am a member there, but I still feel like I’m getting use of this great space for free), and to the GNOME Foundation for providing money for food.

    We’re planning to have these monthly, with the next one likely on Saturday the 15th of December (though we may take a break for the holiday … we’ll see). If there are topics you’d like to present, or something you’d like to learn about, feel free to share via our mailing list.

    *It’s a long story … we used to have "Programming Tonight," events in the city, and I thought up the idea of having Nights of GNOME, which became GNIGHTS of GNOME, but some people thought it referred to a male GKNIGHT of GNOME, and we aren’t just a bunch of guys, so … we may be deciding on a GNEW GNAME for this event.


  4. Expanding tables and other elements in Mallard

    I’m at the GNOME documentation hackfest in Brno, Czech Republic, and we’ve been updating help for GNOME platform and applications in advance of GNOME 3.4.

    As part of the event, we’ve been reviewing our use of the Mallard syntax, making sure that we’re getting the most out of some of the new features. One newer feature in Mallard allows users to expand or hide portions of the help as needed. This helps users can more easily scan through possible topics, and to open the ones that are relevant to them. It also has the added benefit of saving space on the screen. This feature is in an experimental namespace for now, but we’re please enough with the results, and it is likely to be moved into the primary schema shortly. It will be in limited use in our help releases for the 3.4 cycle.

    Here’s a brief example of what this looks like in action (note: you might need to view the page directly rather than through a feed aggregator if you want to see the video):

    Also, here’s a portion of the code that makes it work. All that’s required is a the "ui:expanded" attribute on the appropriate element. It accepts values of "yes" and "no."

    It’s possible to use this attribute on any element that contains a title, so you have the ability to use it on tables (as I’ve done here), lists, steps, or even entire sections. Thus far we’ve only used them on tables, and the style rules have yet to be ironed out.

    The hackfest has been good thus far, but we still have much to do over the next couple of days. I am focusing on some updates to GNOME user docs, as well as writing new docs for Seahorse Encryption Manager, Rhythmbox, and am doing some GNOME docs team wiki work. Florian Nadge and Petr Kovar of Red Hat have been more than gracious as hosts, and the food on Brno is plenty meaty. Plus, there is cheap beer.

    Of course the food and drink is even less expensive when Shaun McCance of Syllogist.net sponsors a dinner for us (thanks, Shaun!). Many thanks, as well, go to the GNOME Foundation for their sponsorship of our travel and accommodations.


  5. Documentation and gedit snippets

    As I mentioned in a recent post, gedit snippets can help you write code more quickly, and with fewer errors, than writing all of your code manually. Snippets work by expanding small chunks of text into complete combinations of code boilerplate and variable/attribute placeholders. Using these pre-configured combinations of boilerplate and placeholders frees you to focus on the bits of code and text that are materially relevant to your work at hand.

    You can enable the gedit snippets plugin by selecting Edit > Preferences > Plugins > Snippets.

    There are four components to using snippets: confirming the language or syntax setting, entering the snippet ID, activating the snippet, and completing the snippet by entering the appropriate attributes or variables into the placeholder text areas.

    The first thing is to make sure that the file type is set to correspond with the type of file you’re working on. If you’re starting from an existing file, gedit will attempt to set the file type for you automatically. If you’re starting a brand new file, or if gedit hasn’t correctly identified the file type, you can also manually set or change the file type.

    Once you have that in place, the most difficult part is actually remembering the snippets that are available. You can view, edit, and create snipppets using the Manage Snippets window (see Tools > Manage Snippets). Once you know the relevant snippet IDs, all you need to do is type a snippet ID, and press the tab key. The tab key is what activates the snippet.

    After you press the tab key, gedit converts that brief snippet of text into a combination of boilerplate text and appropriate variable or attribute placeholders. Pressing the tab key again will move the cursor to the next placeholder area.

    Here’s an example. I’m starting from a blank page, and am writing a new Mallard XML file. The snippet ID to start a new Mallard page file is just the word, "page."

    Simple enough! Just enter the snippet ID, press the tab key, watch as gedit inserts the boilerplate text, and then use the tab key to maneuver through the placeholder areas.

    There are currently snippets for numerous languages and syntaxes, but coverage of each language varies, and some snippets may not include the most recent language features. Give gedit snippets a try. If you don’t see a snippet feature that you’d like to use, file a bug in the gedit bug tracker.


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