Working Quickly

Sometimes, writing software can be a pain. It’s unfortunate, but true. Sometimes there’s a need to be filled, an itch to be scratched; and though it might be quite simple in concept, it’s often hard to translate that idea to code. Luckily, the team at Ubuntu has a tool for that: Quickly.

Quickly isn’t a new tool, but it is a useful one. The idea is to provide a shell command which will help take some of the obstacle out of programming for Ubuntu by automatically generating a PyGTK project’s boilerplate code for you. Just entering quickly create ubuntu-application foo creates a directory foo and adds the basic code needed for a simple GTK+ application. It even initializes a bzr repository for you and commits a first revision.

The tool aims to make some “opinionated decisions” about what is a good way to start. I think that’s a good way to go; it certainly makes getting started easier. Although the choices aren’t necessarily the best in my personal opinion (as you probably guessed, I prefer git), they are reasonable defaults and it’s even possible to change them using Quickly templates, which can be created by the user to match their favorites.

The arm control software, written in Python and GTK+.

The main downside, however, is the lack of documentation. There is a team working on writing some on Launchpad, but so far it’s rather sparse. Even knowing how to hook up the GUI to your custom code can require a fair amount of research, and it takes a little of the ease out of using the framework. That said, once you’ve familiarized yourself with the workflow and the structure of the generated code, it’s not too hard to ramp into productivity. I’ve even been using it to work on the robot arm’s control software.

Personally, I think it’s a great idea. It would be nice to have a GUI for it (I reflexively close terminals when I’m done with a few commands, and getting back to the right directory is a pain), but that could easily be written using Quickly itself! While it’s not a new language or even a new toolkit, it is a convenient synthesis of extant tools that have the capacity for powerful projects and are easy to use.


How to Run SolidWorks on Linux

So, you’re either lucky enough to be able to buy a SolidWorks license outright, a student with a dream, or like me and provided with one by your employer. Too bad you’re a Linux user too, right? Wrong! Once you have SolidWorks, running it in Linux might seem impossible. That’s technically true, but there is a workaround that I’d like to share with you.

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Well, it seems as though the next big thing in the Ubuntu world is the switch from standard GNOME to the Unity interface in 11.04. I can’t say I’m exactly pleased with that, but I understand that users will have the opportunity to switch between GNOME standard and GNOME with Unity at login, so I’m tentatively hopeful that I’ll be able to retain my familiar interface. I’ve tried Unity out on my laptop, where I have more limited screen space, and I had a good time with it for a while; but the non-standard behavior of the Unity sidebar with regards to minimization and launching was discouraging. On my desktop, I’m running a dual-monitor configuration; and I like to have my application launcher and such on the center monitor. I’m not sure what the configuration options for Unity are going to be, but it seems that it’ll try to jump to the left side of whatever setup you have (don’t quote me on that, I honestly don’t know). If I want a dock, I’ll use AWN or something that provides that; I don’t think the Unity bar is such a great leap forward for the standard desktop user. I’m also not much of a fan of putting the menu options at the top of the desktop. Don’t get me wrong, I see its appeal for netbook and laptop users; but for the larger screens of a standard desktop setup (and especially my non-standard one), I just can’t see the benefit.