9 November 2009

A new plugin to lead them all :)

In the last weeks I (among other things) worked on a new plugin repository (vastly inspired by EOG‘s) for third party plug-ins for Emerillon.  There are currently 4 plugins being worked on and not all of them should be distributed with the base Emerillon application. Enters emerillon-plugins.

It currently has 1 plug-in.  This plugin is one that will be useful to Montréalers: it displays the status of the Bixi network.  Bixi is Montréal’s self-serve public bike system.  Apparently its design is so good — the bike system, not the plug-in :) — that it’ll be implemented in both London (UK) and Boston (USA) very soon.

So the plug-in is quite simple: you have a drop down list where you select to see available bikes in stations near you or available docking stations.  The map is updated instantly to display the new values.  The markers on the map change in size depending on the available bikes/docks.  The information is automatically updated every 5 minutes.

After all the legal verifications, this plug-in is now free for everyone to share.  It should serve as a good example of what you can do with Emerillon and libchamplain.  It is the first piece of code (that I am aware of) to demonstrate ChamplainMarker sub-classing to implement unique look & feel.

Disclaimer: This plug-in has been independently developed by Novopia Solutions and is not in anyway related to or endorsed by Bixi, the operator of Montréal’s public bike system.  Bixi is a trade mark of Société de vélo en libre-service.

Un greffon pour mener la voie :)

Ces dernières semaines, j’ai travaillé sur un dépôt pour greffons (très fortement inspiré de celui d’EOG) pour les greffons de tierces parties pour Emerillon.  Il y a présentement 4 de ces greffons en cours de réalisation et ils ne devraient pas tous faire parti du paquetage d’Emerillon.  C’est pourquoi il y a maintenant emerillon-plugins.

Ce dernier compte un greffon.  Ce greffon en est un qui sera très utile aux Montréalais: il affiche l’état du réseau Bixi.  Bixi c’est le réseau de vélo en libre-service de Montréal.  Son design est si bon — le réseau de vélo, pas le greffon :) — qu’il sera bientôt disponible à Londres (Angleterre) et Boston (États-Unis).

Le greffon est très simple: une liste déroulante vous donne l’option de visualiser les vélos disponibles ou les points d’ancrage libres.  La carte est immédiatement mise-à-jour pour afficher la nouvelle information.  La taille des points sur la carte change en fonction du nombre de vélo ou de points d’ancrage.  L’information est téléchargée depuis les serveurs de bixi à toutes les 5 minutes.

Après toutes les vérifications légales, ce greffon est maintenant librement disponible pour tous. Il sert de très bon exemple de ce que vous pouvez faire avec Emerillon et libchamplain. C’est à ma connaissance le seul code qui existe qui sous-classe ChamplainMarker afin d’implémenter un rendu unique.

Avis: ce greffon a été développé de manière indépendante par Solutions Novopia et n’est pas lié, supporté ou approuvé par Bixi, l’opérateur du système de vélo en libre-service de Montréal.  Bixi est une marque de commerce déposée de la Société de vélo en libre-service.

5 November 2009

Looking for a tool to draw pipe networks

Dear knowledgeable(lazy)web,

I have a friend who’s looking for a free software application to draw pipeline networks using the Piping and Instrumentation Diagram Standard Notation such as this example:

He didn’t find any and resorted to draw each possible elements in svgs he later intend to import as symbols in Dia.  Does such a thing already exist? or is there another specialized tool that comes with such symbols?

Answer in comments to this post. Thanks!

30 October 2009

Trying GnuCash

When I realized Gnome Bugzilla passed the 600 000th bug mark, I went to see which project got the “honours”.  Turns out GnuCash is the big winner!   I had never started GnuCash before and I though it was a good moment to try it!

First of all, the learning curve is high.  That’s to be expected, after all GnuCash is a complete accounting application. While the UI is quite simple and lean, there’s terminology and procedures to learn. That where the documentation comes handy.

The documentation covers many topics: terminology, accounting principles and howtos for many specific uses.  In about 2 hours, I was setup: I had setup my accounts (based on their very well localized presets: it even included Québec’s taxes and perceptions accounts), I had imported transactions from my bank account and credit cards.  Now if only Desjardins also provided retirement savings (RRSP) details in a computer readable format beside their brochure PDFs… I’ll have to wait ’till I get my detailed printed report (once every 3 months) before I can manually enter the data in GnuCash.

All in all, I’d like to kudo the GnuCash contributors.  Somehow I didn’t expect so much polish on a 12 years old application (and don’t get me wrong, but sometimes apps get stuck in time).  The ledger view comes with handy keyboard shortcuts designed to speed up data entry and I like it. Custom reports? that even more awesome.

I’ll submit some localization bugs (or request a fr_CA version) because somehow it looks like French and Québécois accountants didn’t agree on all the words (ie. conciliation).

14 October 2009

Back from Boston with an Emerillon release

So I am finally back from the Boston Summit, a unique occasion to get updates on latest developments, and I am releasing Emerillon 0.1 for distributions eager to package.

Mandatory Greyhound rant

With a 3 hour delay on departure (making a total of 5 hours of wait in Boston’s 10 ℃ station), we managed to arrive 5 hours late in Montréal, due to a defective heater in the bus.  Add moving everyone at 5 AM from that defective ’70s bus to a freezing ’90s bus with actually less seats than the previous one, and the fact that there was enough people to fill 3 buses in Boston, but only 54 managed to leave on the first one and you’ve got a complete picture of the fiasco.

I am not going to run in too much details but all this could have been so easily avoided.  The delays were due to the fact that the bus that was supposed to bring us had been delayed at the US border.  Fine, shit happens.  What is not fine is that they waited until our expected departure time to get a replacement driver (since he had busted his legal driving time).  See, it takes about 5 hours from the border to Boston.  Knowing he was going to be late (and therefore busting his hours), the driver should have called his manager, which should have prepared a replacement driver for the next departure in 10 hours! But none of that happened.  And, to top it all, there were no Greyhound dispatcher to be called by the Boston station employees to inform them of a missing departure bus.  Complete utter fail.

Emerillon 0.1.0 release

Now for the fun part.  With all that time on hands, I created 2 new plugins for Emerillon (Copy a link of the current view to online maps, and display map position in statusbar) and cooked a release including all the 5 submitted translations.  Woot! Grab the release here.  This is a preview release with no guaranty on plugin API stability.  See the complete announce email.

Before anyone asks, I am using the gnome-colors Shiki-Wize theme.

For those who missed the original announcement: Emerillon is a map viewer. Aiming at simple user interface, Emerillon is a powerful, extensible application. It features OpenStreetMap based
maps. Use it to browse maps, search the map for places, placemark places for later quick access and more!

There are even packages of this release for Ubuntu Hardy from Mathieu Trudel.  See his blog of the install instructions.

9 October 2009

Just arrived in Boston

I just arrived in Boston in time for the Boston Gnome Summit.  The trip down to Boston with Greyhound was less than wonderful, and to think I was complaining about Orléans Express’ service between Montréal and Québec city!  Comparing Greyhound to German trains would be comparing chaos to order.  We only had a lunch pause because we were offered one when we changed driver and we were not supposed to change driver… That would have been a very long 8 hours bus ride!

At least the hotel we are staying at this year is in a more lively part of the city :) See you tomorrow!

6 October 2009

Announcing Emerillon, the map viewer

Didn’t I foretell you there’d be more announcements?  Here’s one: Emerillon.  It is pronounced Ey-may-ree-yon. It is destined to be GNOME’s Map Viewer.  You will quickly recognize its sister apps: Eye of Gnome, Evince and GEdit. After all, they share a lot of design concepts.

Why another map application do you say? Simply because none of them is free AND targeted at the Gnome desktop AND has ease of use in its (visible) goals.  This project should be easy to use for anyone, not only for mapping geeks.

Emerillon is an application designed to be extended.  There is a number of small specialized map applications that were created in the last year, I have hope this one will be the catalyst of the development efforts.  Out of the box, Emerillon comes with 2 plugins: a search and a placemark plugin.  There are numerous plugins ideas : a GPX viewer, GPS integration, Telepathy integration (both to share the app and to display your friends location), a plugin to display the position under the mouse cursor, a plugin to display personal markers and I have two special ideas that I want to keep for myself to implement :) Other ideas are welcomed too!

Emerillon is a project originally started by Marco Barisione in October 2008.  Due to various reasons, it remained dormant for almost a year, until I decided to take over and push it forward.   Turns out, Marco had laid out very good UI base on which I built upon.

Visit http://www.novopia.com/emerillon/ for more screenshots and details.

Kudos to be given

Emerillon is built of code inspired by other projects and very cool libraries.  Early on, Marco borrowed Evince‘s sidebar.  This sidebar is so nice and clean that it should be part of Gtk+! The problem is that this code is GPL but Gtk+ is not.

Another quite common widget in Gnome apps is Epiphany’s spinning throbber.  Again, it is GPL’d and the code has to be copied from apps to apps.

I am not going to kudo libchamplain ;) Lets say I have found API omissions that will need to be addressed for Emerillon to work perfectly. Who needs a “selected” signal after all? :) Still, libchamplain was quite necessary to build this app.

Emerillon’s plugin system was faster to implement than I expected when I got this idea.  But thanks to Ethos, it was a simpler task.  Ethos is a complete (Gedit/EOG alike) plugin architecture in a library.  It even provides UI widgets to manage the plugins.

Emerillon’s search plugin uses librest to fetch its data from geonames.org.  Rob Bradford was right: it is now fun again to parse XML.  I mean really.  This library makes fetching web service data an easy task.

Fetch Emerillon from Gnome’s git today and give it a try!

2 October 2009

New beginnings

About a month ago, I left Collabora in order to bring new, different challenges in my life.  Today, I am announcing publicly that I have founded Novopia Solutions, a new player in free software.  Novopia’s long term goal will be to bring free and open source solutions to market that have yet to be penetrated by free software solutions.

While this is a field where there are plenty of FOSS solutions, the primary focus in the upcoming weeks will be on improving the geolocation solutions in GNOME.  Commercial support for libchamplain is of course on the list.

More to be announced later. :)

1 October 2009

Ubuntu Global Jam 2009 à Montréal, Québec

Si vous êtes à Montréal ce week-end, arrêtez dire bonjour au pavillon principal de l’École de technologie supérieure et participez au Ubuntu Global Jam 2009!  Ça m’étonne un peu que ce soit à l’ÉTS, mon ancienne université, considérant l’absence totale d’intérêt pour le logiciel libre qu’il y avait.  Je crois que c’est un bon signe que les choses changent!

Ce sera ma première conf Ubuntu ou même locale. Ça peut sembler étrange, mais je connais plus de contributeurs au logiciel libre en Europe qu’à Montréal.  Et ce n’est pas parce qu’il y en a pas, c’est seulement que j’ai eu la chance de participer à des conférences à saveur plus internationale ces dernières années.  Pour faire changement, je vais donner un tutoriel sur comment contribuer au projet OpenStreetMap avec Ubuntu (ou toute autre bonne distribution GNU/Linux hehe) vers 14h samedi le 3 octobre.

Au plaisir de vous y voir!

Ubuntu Global Jam 2009 in Montréal, Québec

If you are in Montréal this week-end, stop by the École de technologie supérieure main building and attend the Ubuntu Global Jam 2009!  I have to admit I am surprised this is happening at my former university, considering the lack of FOSS culture there was.  It is a sign of changes I am welcoming!

This will be my first Ubuntu event and my first local conf.  After all, I realized I know more FOSS contributors in Europe than in Montréal.  And that’s not because there aren’t, I’ve just been more often to international conferences.  Time to make a shift.  To mark the start, I’ll be giving a tutorial on Saturday October 3rd around 14:00 about how to contribute to OpenStreetMap from an Ubuntu desktop ‒ for what matters, any GNU/Linux distro would be fine too :-) .

See you there.