April 7th, 2007

Feisty feature of the day #28 - Rounded windows

Metacity, the default window manager used by GNOME, now supports fully-rounded window corners. Before, only the top corners could be rounded, but now the bottom ones can join in the fun too.

A fully-rounded window

There are a couple of bugs with this feature at the moment - notably, there's a missing pixel in the top corners (note: now fixed). Also note that whether corners are rounded or not depends on the theme you're using.

Note: According to a comment, rounding on all window corners has been supported for quite a while, and it's just the ability to control the radius of the rounding that's new.

Feisty feature of the day #29 - Battery stats

The way that GNOME Power Manager handles battery charge statistics seems to change with every release. See Richard Hughes' blog for the latest developments on that front (he's the developer).

I can't quite remember how battery stats were done in Edgy, but I think they've been changed and simplified for Feisty, so there's not quite as much crazy power information for you to sit and stare at. Just right-click the GNOME Power Manager icon in the notification area and click Power History.

The power history in GPM, just after I yanked the power cable out of my laptop

If you've ever read this blog before, you'll know that I like graphs. Seriously, this is like Christmas to me.

Theme benchmarks

This morning I stumbled upon a little application, metacity-theme-viewer, which is probably intended as a quick way of testing themes when you're developing them. It takes the name of a theme as an argument and then previews the theme. A nice touch is that it displays the time it takes to draw one window frame, so you can use it to (sort of) benchmark different themes. And that's what I did, for kicks.


When you run the metacity-theme-viewer command, you get an output like this:

Loaded theme ''Atlanta'' in 0 seconds
Drew 100 frames in 0.04 client-side seconds (0.4 milliseconds per frame) and 0.176198 seconds wall clock time including X server resources (1.76198 milliseconds per frame)

I ran metacity-theme-viewer on all of the themes three times, one after the other. The values I used on the graph (below) are a simple mean of the three results obtained from the (x milliseconds per frame) bit. From the data, I'd estimate the error in the times for each theme to be around 2-3%.

Metacity window drawing benchmark
The graph shows that Bright and Metabox are the fastest themes and Esco is undisputedly the slowest. Also note how the default theme in Ubuntu Feisty (Human) is over 1ms slower than the default GNOME theme (Clearlooks).


Be warned that this is a very unscientific benchmark. I didn't attempt to make sure that the system state was the same for each run of the benchmark; it wasn't carried out on a clean install of Ubuntu Feisty; I don't even know how reliable metacity-theme-viewer's data is.

I don't think that these times matter too much; 2-7ms is pretty insignificant compared to the loading time for most applications. Even if you're dragging the windows around the screen like crazy and we assume that these data represent the minimum redraw time, that's still a range of 140-500 fps (I just took the reciprocal of the times). I should try this with Desktop Effects (Compiz) enabled too.


I would like to dedicate this post to Coheed and Cambria, who are shit. It's not music, it's just reading a comic book to the tune of some generic rock music.
  • Current Music
    Coheed & Cambria - In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3

Feisty feature of the day #30 - New Control Centre

If you click on the System menu in Ubuntu, all of the settings applets ('capplets') are available in the Preferences and Administration sub-menus. There are a lot of them - on my system there are exactly 50, which can make it time-consuming to find a setting sometimes.

To remedy this situation, the guys over at the GNOME project decided to try out a different way of accessing your settings - the control centre. Windows has a Control Panel, which follows a similar paradigm. However, I didn't like the Control Panel in Windows because of how long it used to take to load. Lucky I'm using Ubuntu now, right?

GNOME has had a control centre for quite a while as far as I know, but it hasn't been turned-on by default for some time. This is what it the new, improved version looks like:

The GNOME Control Centre. It's huge!

Type a few letters into the Filter box and only capplets matching the search terms will be displayed. Then, just click on a capplet and change settings as normal.

It turns out that it doesn't work that well yet (it seems to make things slower to get at), so the default was reverted back to the Preferences/Administration sub-menus for Feisty. There's no saying that it won't be in the next version of Ubuntu though; some people prefer the control centre.

I think that it still gets installed by default; press Alt + F2, type gnome-control-center and then hit Run to start the Control Centre.