Eee 701 Planetoid


Review: Turpial

Filed under: Raspberry Pi, Reviews, Software — Tags: , , , , , — Tim @ 21:12

It might surprise readers to learn that I’ve had surprising difficulty finding a “lightweight” graphical Twitter client for Linux, that works comfortably on a small screen and (for good measure) has a multi-column display mode.

For some time, my favourite Twitter application has been TweetDeck—either in its “native” form (usually on the Mac) or its Chromium app version (Arch Linux on my Eee). However, whilst the Chromium TweetDeck app “does the job”, I have used it while at the same time, watching out for a “native” app which might function usably on the Eee’s more constrained hardware. (This became more pressing when I acquired my Raspberry Pi Model B, as the Chromium browser doesn’t run particularly comfortably on the machine.)

Screenshot of Turpial

Turpial running on the Eee 701SD (thumbnail – no larger version available)

The other week, I searched the Arch Linux package listing of Twitter clients, and amongst the fairly lean selection—much of which were text-mode/console programs (which perhaps I’ll check out another time), I found a client I hadn’t heard of previously: Turpial, created by a self-professed “bunch of crazy people” (!) in Venezuela. (I don’t think I’ve seen so many coders credited by name for an open-source app before, but the project seems to benefit 🙂 )

Turpial can be found in the Arch “community” repository, so installation is simply a matter of entering (as root)

pacman -S turpial

It’s a Python program, so if you don’t already have the dependencies installed (and there are quite a few, mostly python2 and related packages), pacman will need to retrieve them. Once it’s installed, Turpial will ask you to enter your account details and authenticate with Twitter; the latter will ask you to enter a number into Turpial itself, to ensure the app has permission to interact with your Twitter account.

In action, Turpial runs reasonably smoothly, considering it is a Python program. “Out of the box”, it displays three columns at a time in its window, and you can toggle between two “sets” of three columns:

  • “Master” timeline, “at-replies” and direct messages; and
  • Your profile, favourites and a search column.

The window maximises comfortably and tidily into the Eee’s 840×480 display, without looking particularly squashed-up. If you’re using a larger screen (hold that thought), Turpial doesn’t take up much space, though I am curious to find out whether the program can be set to display fewer columns (or even a single one), for use on a very low-res display, such as VGA (640×480) or a non-widescreen SD television set. I may soon get that very opportunity…

If you have a notification daemon running, Turpial will let you know when new tweets are received. I use the XFCE notifier on my Eee and RasPi, with no problems experienced.

A row of pictogram buttons below the message columns, takes the place of a text-menu, giving you access to the application’s other options, including posting a tweet, finding and following other users, posting an image (but not other multimedia) and the program’s preferences.

The “update status” dialogue box has a handy “add friend” option, to choose friend(s) from a list box to include in a tweet. There is also a separate field for shortening URLs (you set the shortening service of your choice in the preferences). Both handy features, and not always implemented in more “modest” Twitter clients—thumbs-up to the Turpial team here.

Image-uploading is relatively straightforward as well—again, you set the Twitter-image host of choice in the Preferences. Almost all the common services are present in the list, with the notable exception of Flickr (which my favourite mobile phone social-networking client, Gravity, includes). It would really “put the icing on the cake” for me if Flickr support could be added in a future version of Turpial; however, it is not a “show-stopper” for me, as I usually upload images from my phone to Flickr, which then updates my Twitter timeline. (I don’t mind using Yfrog for more “ephemeral” images, either.)

Turpial also packs a couple of useful features which are rare on Twitter clients:

  • If you’re a Twitter regular, you’ll occasionally (or more?) find that a user may start sending a large amount of posts (say, “live-tweeting” an event), which may clog up your timeline, or otherwise make you feel that you’d rather not see all their tweets, without actually un-following them. Turpial offers an ingenious solution: a “mute” option. Just tick the box next to the “friend(s)” in question, and the application will not display their tweets until you un-tick them in the list. Potentially handy, but if you use this, just remember to take said friends off the list… 😉
  • Similarly, the “filter” option allows you to specify words which you would rather not see in your timeline. I haven’t tried this yet, so I don’t know whether it “bleeps out” words or hides entire tweets containing them, but it could be handy if you want to hide a certain hashtag!

A tip, which I originally didn’t spot: to exit the program, don’t simply close the main app window, as this leaves Turpial running (and consuming resources). Instead, the application places an icon in your system tray, so you need to right-click this and select “Quit” to exit. If you’re using the keyboard only, or for whatever reason your desktop environment/window manager doesn’t have a system tray, I’m not quite sure what you do, but neither apply to me in this case…

Overall, with Turpial, I feel I have found the Twitter client I have been watching for all this time, and not only for my Eee 701: it works usably well on my Raspberry Pi too. Being a Python program, Turpial doesn’t require separate compilation for the Pi’s ARM processor, so new versions generally arrive around the same time in the Arch repositories for ARM and x86. Turpial takes around thirty seconds to load on the Pi, but once it’s running, I find you can leave it up without great impact on the system.

Want an uncluttered, native, graphical Twitter client with a multi-column interface, which will run comfortably on a modestly-specced machine? Tall order, but I think Turpial meets these requirements, and is well worth a look.



Quick review: Belkin F8N084eaBLK 7″ netbook bag

Filed under: Accessories, Reviews — Tags: , , — Tim @ 12:36

(My WordPress dashboard recently reminded me that I’ve had this post in “draft” since December last year, so I figured it really was time to dust it down, finish it off and get it “out of the door”. So, here it is…)

One problem with the Asus Eee 701 series, is its size. No, not in the sense that it’s “too small”—as a former Psion computer user, I have no issue on that front—but in that the drive away from “real” “netbooks” towards “small laptops” (a personal “high horse” of mine), Asus and its competitors have left the 701 in a bit of a class of its own on the dimensions front.

Put it another way: most carrying bags advertised as being “netbook”-sized, will usually have a bit more space than ideal after you’ve placed an Eee 701 into it. That may suit some 701 owners; however, I wanted a more “tailored” solution, so I set out to locate a carrying bag designed specifically for the 701, which wouldn’t break the proverbial bank. How did I fare?

Belkin F8N084eaBLK 7″ netbook bag with Eee 701

Belkin F8N084eaBLK 7″ netbook bag with Eee 701

Well, thanks to those nice folks at Belkin, I’m pleased to say: very nicely, as they sell a padded carrying bag for “7-inch netbooks” (which effectively means just the Eee 701 these days). I picked up Belkin’s snappily-titled F8N084eaBLK (Belkin really do go for the easy-to-recall model numbers, don’t they?) for about £10 in the UK, and for the past few months—let’s get straight to the point—it has given sterling service on the protection/portability front for my 701.

Gripes out of the way first, and there’s only really one in my book. The F8N084eaBLK (or “F8” hereafter 🙂 ) is smallreally small—and certainly a “snug fit” for the 701; I feel it looks more likely to contain books than a laptop. Whilst this is great in some respects, it means there’s not much room for the multitude of accessories one tends to need for the 701. Once I’ve bagged the 701, I can just squeeze in my Freecom USB portable hard drive and a few cables, but anything over and above this will give the impression the bag is about to burst, so I don’t “push it”.

This means in practice that unless I’m really “travelling light”, I use the F8 more as a “protective sleeve” for my 701, and put it inside my larger bag with the 701’s mains power adapter and other bulkier accessories.

I know this may sound an odd arrangement, but it actually works for me. The F8 keeps the 701 from being “beaten up” in the larger bag, and if I just want to take the 701 somewhere and don’t need all the other items, the F8 does the job well there too, with its carrying handles and removable shoulder strap giving you the choice of “carry-style”.

In summary: the Belkin F8N084eaBLK fits the bill nicely if you have an Eee 701 and want something more than a “slip case” to protect it, but feel a laptop or “netbook” bag just doesn’t fit the machine “snugly” enough. My only question is how easily you can find the bag, now that the 701 has been discontinued for some time; however, if you track one down for a reasonable price, I feel you will not be disappointed.

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