Eee 701 Planetoid

2012/06/25

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.

2012/05/28

My Raspberry Pi – a Flickr photoset

Filed under: Hardware, Raspberry Pi — Tags: , , — Tim @ 08:13
Raspberry Pi Model B in PiHouse case - HDMI port-sideRaspberry Pi Model B, just after unboxingRaspberry Pi Model B atop Asus Eee 701SD netbookRaspberry Pi Model B in PiHouse case - Ethernet and USB portsRaspberry Pi Model B in PiHouse case - analogue audio and composite video outputRaspberry Pi Model B in PiHouse case - SD card slot
Raspberry Pi Model B in PiHouse case - undersideRaspberry Pi Model B in PiHouse case - operational

Raspberry Pi Model B, a set on Flickr.

I took delivery of a PiHouse case for my Raspberry Pi Model B over the weekend, and when I’d assembled and installed everything (I’ll try and put together a review shortly), I took a few photos and put together a Flickr photoset of “ryo-ohki” (my Pi), to show off the new case.

For “completion’s sake”, I also added in a couple of pics from when I first took delivery of my Model B. Hope you enjoy these 🙂

2012/05/08

Raspberry Pi ordered at last…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tim @ 17:23

Apologies for the total lack of updates for a while here—I’ve been kept busy with the infamous “other things” (aren’t we all?), but also… well, to be honest, I’m pretty much “ticking over” with the Eee. I’ve got the system more or less the way I want it, and I doubt there’s going to be much to report on the Eee front for a while (unless I feel like telling you how I managed to sort out the current package-update failures, and that depends on whether I do sort them out!).

That said, this blog could be about to get a shot in the proverbial ARM… pun intended 😉

Back in January, I posted here about the Raspberry Pi, a $35 ARM-based computer on a board the size of a credit card, aimed at helping schoolchildren in the UK to start learning how to program. Obviously, techies around the world got enthused, and immense interest in the Raspberry Pi meant that even two months after its launch, to date only a few fortunate computing fans have managed to order and take delivery of the first run of “RasPi’s”.

Well, you will shortly be able to count yours truly amongst their number, as I have just placed my order for one of these little beauties 🙂 I understand it should be despatched within the next few days, and hopefully that means I should take delivery of my Raspberry Pi some time next week.

I’m planning to run the ARM version of Arch Linux on the RasPi when it arrives (though I may settle for Debian/ARM if Arch/ARM is too lacking in features—watch this space), so I hope I can transfer at least some of what I’ve learned with Arch/x86 on the Eee, to the Pi.

What I don’t know yet, is what all this will mean for this blog. My first choice would be to rename it, to accommodate coverage of my experiences with the RasPi as well as the Eee—however, I need to look at what a change of blog title would mean for the URL, and ensure that links to the blog are not severed. If I can’t change the name without these issues, I may have to set up a “sister” blog for the Pi, though I’d rather not do this if I can help it, as I’d like to keep the Eee and Pi material together as far as possible.

Anyway, thanks for keeping E7P in your feed reader (!), and watch this space for further developments…

2012/01/26

My Eee Desktop – January 2012

Filed under: Desktops — Tags: , , , — Tim @ 21:56

I wasn’t sure whether I would post a screenshot for this month, as I thought it most likely that I’d be using a setup more or less unchanged from my second screenshot in October last year (“TheGrid” theme). However, it didn’t quite turn out that way…

Screenshot of my netbook's desktop

My Eee Desktop - January 2012

If you’ve read the last post I wrote on this blog, you will be aware that I am eagerly awaiting the launch of the Raspberry Pi (an ultra-low-cost computer on a circuit board the size of a credit card, running on an ARM processor). To cut a long story short, I’m already thinking of software I could run under Linux on the machine, and the Fluxbox window manager (which I use on my Eee 701) is one possibility I have been considering.

With the above in mind, I thought I would try creating a Fluxbox “style” (theme) based on the Raspberry Pi logo and its colours. Not only would the theme aim to reflect this identity, but I wanted a Fluxbox style which would be clear, minimalist and uncluttered, and be usable and readable at a wide selection of screen resolutions (up to and including full HD (1920×1280), which the “RasPi” is apparently more than capable of).

This month’s “My Eee Desktop” shows where I have reached with the Raspberry Pi style. I created the wallpaper image in Inkscape—the RasPi logo has been made available as an SVG vector image, so I took this and placed it over a gradient-filled circle (to give the “halo” effect) on a black background.

The wallpaper image is set at 800×480 resolution (that of the Eee 701), but if a higher resolution is used, the image is centred on the screen and the background around it is also black, so the style is very adaptable. As I would envisage connecting a RasPi to an HD TV, I chose black as the most suitable background colour for looking at over a lengthy period (just in case!). The menu and window fonts are set a little larger than normal for my Fluxbox styles, to make them more readable at high resolutions, whilst still not taking up too much space on an 800×480 display.

The only other point to note (particularly for longer-term readers here), is the addition of a GKrellM plugin to add an analogue clock. This takes up slightly less vertical space than a WindowMaker dockapp (as do most of GKrellM’s “monitors”), which on a screen with only 480 vertical rows of pixels, makes plenty of difference!

That’s all for this month—see you in February with another desktop 🙂

2012/01/17

Raspberry Pi: a PC in your pocket?

Filed under: Hardware, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tim @ 14:53
Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi,
originally uploaded by ubuntunewsru.

If you follow the tech and gadget press—and perhaps even the “regular” media’s technology supplements—you may have got wind of a British-initiated IT project which has garnered a considerable amount of interest in recent months… and has now grabbed my attention too 🙂

The product in question is the Raspberry Pi, and although it is officially aimed at schools and the education market, the device already has computing and Linux fans straining at the leash to get their paws on one.

Judging by the coverage, the reasons are not hard to understand. In short, the Raspberry Pi is a functioning computer, with (on the “Model B”) an ARM processor, 256Mb RAM, a OpenGL-capable graphics system with HDMI and component video output, audio out, 10/100 Ethernet, USB and 5V micro-USB power… all built onto a circuit board the size of a credit card, and likely to cost around UKP25. Initially, the device will be sold “as is”, without a case or enclosure, though from what I have read, there is no shortage of enthusiasts stepping up to design custom cases, or suggest alternative enclosures (an empty tin of Altoid mints seems to be a popular one!).

There are plenty of news sites picking up on the potential of a device like this. To pick one out at random, The Guardian has given the Pi some attention in its Education section, focusing on the avowed aim of the project to revitalise the teaching of computing in schools (and perhaps even inspire a new generation of coders and ‘hackers’ (in the non-criminal, inventive sense of the term)).

OK… so why am I posting on my Eee blog about the “R-Pi”? One reason is that I’ve always been interested in small and inexpensive computers, from the Psion Series 3x and Series 5mx I owned in the late 90s, through to the Eee 701 itself, and the Raspberry Pi looks like it packs a lot of functionality into a very small and cheap package.

Furthermore, as a leaf through this very blog should reveal, I am a keen Linux “tinkerer” when it comes to my Eee, and the R-Pi provides ample scope for experimentation, with HDMI, USB and Ethernet connectivity in a low-power device. There are a number of prominent Linux distributions which have been ported to the ARM processor family, including Debian and Fedora, but most of interest to me is Arch Linux ARM, as I could hopefully “port” my experience with Arch’s x86 sibling to the R-Pi.

Finally: quite simply, my imagination is fired by the idea of a usable computer which could fit in a pocket. Any HDMI display could be used as a monitor, as well as just about any keyboard or pointing device with a USB interface—even a combined one with a wireless “dongle” should work—so the device should be usable wherever you could find a “spare” TV or HDMI-equipped monitor. I’m not the only one thinking that the R-Pi could make an extremely affordable “media centre” computer, and look forward to seeing how that pans out…

The word is that the Raspberry Pi will be made available to purchase from their Web site from the end of this month (January 2012), and I for one will be keeping an eye on this very closely.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.