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.



Waiting for Eeebuntu 4

Filed under: Linux, Software — Tags: , , , — Tim @ 17:43

Things have been a bit on the quiet side here for a couple of weeks—mostly because I’ve had plenty else to keep me occupied, but partly because I am awaiting eagerly the public beta of the next version of Eeebuntu.

As you’ll know if you’ve been following this blog over the last few months, I installed Eeebuntu v3 on my Eee 701 at Christmas, and except for a couple of niggles (mostly related to sound, a bug with the Conky system stats application, and the Compiz window manager), I think this Linux distribution has proved a worthy OS for the 701.

For version 4, the Eeebuntu team are taking a radical new approach: for starters, apparently they may be renaming the distro, as from this point on it will be based directly on Debian instead of Ubuntu (itself a Debian derivative). I admit I haven’t really “clued up” on all the reasons why the Eeebuntu folk have taken this decision, but frankly I am more interested in whether the new version will improve on v3, so will reserve judgement on the change until I can get an idea of whether (or not) it has delivered.

It certainly looks promising, with built-in apps including Thunderbird 3 and Firefox 3.6, and I understand that it should be possible to upgrade existing Eeebuntu installations without having to start from scratch (though thanks to the “live CD” option, I’ll be able to wait until the final version is out before deciding whether to take the plunge).

The team believes that the beta should be made available some time tomorrow (Wednesday 10th February), so I have a BitTorrent client on standby ready to grab the ISO image as soon as I can get the request through. I hope to post back here later this week and update you on how the 701 gets on with Eeebuntu 4; for the most up-to-the-minute feedback, keep an eye on my Twitter feed from tomorrow evening (GMT).

Update (8.30pm): What a difference a few hours can make… Just as this post was published, I learned via Eeebuntu’s Twitter feed (and a big “hello” to anyone visiting here from there, by the way :)) that they have made the v4 beta available for download. I’m BitTorrenting it as we speak, though the download speed is pretty glacial, which suggests there are quite a few folk interested in this release!

I may well have to leave this downloading overnight, but once I’ve had the chance to boot Eeebuntu 4 on my 701 and play around with it a bit, I’ll try and post back here with a few first impressions. In the meantime, my Twitter feed will carry more up-to-the-moment updates, usually tagged with “#eb4”. Stay tuned…


Adobe AIR won’t fly

Filed under: Internet, Software — Tags: , , — Tim @ 13:06

The “factory reset” of my 701 yesterday seems to have achieved the desired effect, and I’ve managed to reinstall many of the apps I wanted (thanks to apt-get, it took less than half an hour). Better to get it over with now, I thought, rather than soldier on a while longer and have to do it anyway with more hassle. Ho-hum.

However, to save me getting too carried away with success, I’ve encountered a boulder in the road to mobile computing perfection…

…which is, in a nutshell: the Adobe AIR runtime won’t install on the Eee 701.

Yes, I know, not the end of the world, but rather annoying all the same. This is a problem to me, almost entirely because it means I can’t then install TweetDeck, my favourite app for working with Twitter and Facebook.

I won’t touch on the Twitter/Eee 701 issue here, mainly because I want to return to it in a future E7P post. However, I was puzzling over why the AIR runtime wouldn’t install: despite my every effort, I just couldn’t get past a generic “failed/something went wrong/er, try contacting your administrator, yeah?” message.

Finally, I gave in and called for help at the EeeUser forum, where a kind passer-by patiently suggested that I might check the system requirements for AIR (and helpfully posted them to save me the trouble of hunting them down 🙂 ).

Here’s the ‘nub’ of the matter: “officially”, the Eee 701 is too under-powered to install Adobe AIR, let alone run it.

Yes, I know the 701 is underclocked to 630MHz, and can be sped up to its “native” 900, but that’s not a step I’m willing to take quite yet (I mean, asbestos trousers aren’t as easy to come by as they once were). It means that I’m not going to be able to run TweetDeck, or most other multi-column Twitter clients, which inexplicably seem to be AIR-based these days.

So, for the time being, my search for a decent Twitter program continues. If you were thinking of getting AIR running on your 701, I just hope that this post saves you the trouble…

…unless, of course, you’ve found a way round it?

Blog at