Saturday 19 July 2008

Compiz Fusion in Fedora 7

I switched to Fedora 7 a while back and as a Beryl user, I was glad to find that Compiz Fusion was included by default.

After making sure I was using the latest nVidia graphics drivers, everything worked fine. But a lot of the plugins didn't seem to be installed - particularly Expo, a plugin that zooms out to shows you all your desktops at once and even allows you to move windows between them while zoomed out.

Screenshot of Expo

I worked out today that all the Beryl plugins are installed, but the control panel no longer gives to access to them.

All the options are available in gconf-editor, under /apps/compiz. To enable a plugin, add its name to /apps/compiz/general/allscreens/options/active_plugins.

I really don't know why the Fedora chaps haven't put in a friendly interface for this stuff, at least there doesn't seem to be one in the repos.

I think this sort of eye candy is one of the things that could draw people from Windows to Linux, so let's not hide it!

Note: I've since found the package that installs the GUI compiz setup tool. It's called ccsm, and can be installed from Add/Remove Software.

Friday 11 July 2008

Rails IDEs

I use Ruby-on-Rails to develop my own sites. It also makes up the majority of the projects that I am involved in at work. I will happily sing its praises and there’s no other language I’d prefer to be writing code in at the moment.

Our other Web applications are written in Java, so our IDE of choice is Eclipse. It’s a fantasticly fully featured open source IDE that is also a development platform if you care to use it as such.

Until the end of 2007 we were using and watching the progress of a couple of Ruby and Rails plugins for Eclipse called Ruby Developent Tools and RadRails. These Ruby development some of the same tools that graced the Java developement environment in Eclipse.

Sadly though, another larger Eclipse plugin vendor called Aptana made the developers of each of the existing tools an offer they couldn’t refuse. RadRails and RDT were absorbed into the monolithic Aptana plugin.

Aptana is downloadable as either a standalone application or as an Eclipse plugin. It has various versions that include Jaxer (an AJAX server), tools for developing against the Apple iPhone and Adobe’s AIR platform.

I have nothing against large applications as long as they are well written – although I would state a preference for the small is beautiful philosophy.

Unfortunately, since installation of Aptana, our Eclipse based development machines run like dogs and crash all the time. Evenutally after having to kill the eclipse process time after time, some corruption creeps into one of the plugin files and Eclipse will no longer start up. We then start the process of removing, downloading and reinstalling 79MB of Aptana plugin that can only be installed using the automatic update site.

The ruby/rails plugins are the best that we’ve found, allowing us to visually debug rails applications, run tests and browse our applications intelligently, but at the moment they’re wasting so much of our time that we’re seriously considering going back to a plain text editor.