Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Nest of Heliopolis PPA repository on Launchpad gets updates after a while

Recently I managed to find the time to update a couple of new packages from my Personal Package Archive (PPA) on Launchpad. For those of you who don't know where to find it, click here. If you want to automatically get updates as they come out, you can install it on your Ubuntu by simply issuing

$ sudo apt-add-repository ppa:phoenix1987/ppa
$ sudo apt-get update

from your terminal. In brief, the changes involved Sopcast Player Plus, a fork of SopCast Player by Jason Scheunemann, and gtumbler, the application I have developed in the Summer 2012 as part of the first edition of the Ubuntu App Showdown. So let me now give you the details of what has changed with this new releases.

Table of Contents

Sopcast Player Plus

Sopcast Player Plus is my fork of SopCast Player, a GUI for the P2PTV broadcast service SopCast, that brings a native graphical interface to the Linux system. SopCast Player is originally developed by Jason Scheunemann, who hosts his version in his PPA (you can also find it the PPA of Roberto Ferramosca, the editor of the Italian Linux e-magazine Linux Freedom for Life, or LffL as it is also known as for short, together with the most recent release of SopCast for Linux).

My fork introduces new features to the app and, in particular, it extends the control the user has over the video output. With Sopcast Player Plus, which likewise SopCast Player uses vlc to reproduce the audio/video stream, you can adjust the geometry of the video by changing the aspect ratio, crop settings and the zoom level. This way you can, e.g., crop the black margins displayed by a broadcaster streaming a 16:9 movie in a 4:3 format, or select the most appropriate aspect ratio (similarly to what you can do with a TV set).

Another interesting feature is the integration with websites that offer event schedules. This is an expandable feature of the app that is based on python modules, which means that you can write your own module based on your favourite schedule website. Furthermore, if you need to redirect all the HTML traffic (unfortunately you cannot divert the SopCast traffic at the moment, unless you decide to do so with a system-wide configuration), you can configure an HTTP or a SOCKS proxy from the Proxy tab of the Preferences dialog, accessible from the Edit menu. Finally, as the original app SopCast Player, Sopcast Player Plus associates the sop:// URI schema with the itself, so that every time you click on a sop:// link, the web browser will ask you if you want to open it with Sopcast Player Plus.

How to install Sopcast Player Plus

If you have Ubuntu 15.04 (Vivid Vervet) and you have already added my PPA to your source list with the previous terminal command, installing Sopcast Player Plus is very easy, just type
$ sudo apt-get install sopcast-player-plus
For later versions of Ubuntu, I intend to introduce support later on, but for the time being, if your current version of Ubuntu is not supported yet, you can still install the application by downloading the vivid builds of sp-auth, the Linux release of SopCast, and sopcast-player-plus. To do so you can use the following commands from terminal
$ wget
$ wget
$ sudo dpkg -i sp-auth_3.2.6-0ubuntu1_amd64.deb sopcast-player-plus_1.0-0ubuntu2_amd64.deb
$ rm sp-auth_3.2.6-0ubuntu1_amd64.deb sopcast-player-plus_1.0-0ubuntu2_amd64.deb
for a 64-bit install of Ubuntu. If you are using a 32-bit install, then use the following commands instead
$ wget
$ wget
$ sudo dpkg -i sp-auth_3.2.6-0ubuntu1_i386.deb sopcast-player-plus_1.0-0ubuntu2_i386.deb
$ rm sp-auth_3.2.6-0ubuntu1_i386.deb sopcast-player-plus_1.0-0ubuntu2_i386.deb


With this application I have entered the first edition of the Ubuntu App Showdown, held back in 2012. Although it didn't win me any prizes, its birth has been welcomed by many people around the world (see, for instance, this post on the already cited LffL, or this article in French on La Vache Libre, or this other article in Italian from one of the contributors of The motivation behind it is a rather concrete one. At that time there wasn't an application for Linux with a decent and intuitive interface that allowed you to crop the margins of PDF files. Being a researcher in academia implies that you will have to read through many papers, and sometimes it is more convenient to have a printed version with you. Of course you can print a booklet in order to save ink/toner, paper and have something easier to handle (I personally find that A5 paper is easier to handle than the larger A4, but maybe this is just personal taste). However, if the pages in the pdf file have wide white margins, you would end up with something rather hard to read. To solve this problem you can crop the margins off, thus allowing your printer to fit the page content on the whole half of, say, an A4 sheet.

With gtumbler you can easily solve this problem as its main feature is to offer the user complete control over the various pdf boxes (i.e. the Art, Bleed, Crop, Margin and Trim boxes). Other interesting features are the possibility of concatenating many PDF documents together, as well as converting any PS file to PDF beforehand.

The version of gtumbler that I have provided for the Ubuntu App Showdown was coded using Quickly. At the times of Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin), applications created with Quickly relied on DesktopCouch for storing and retrieving user preferences. As support for this technology became obsolete with subsequent releases of Ubuntu, gtumbler users could no longer start the application. I was happy to discover that someone else (see this question on AskUbuntu) has decided to solve the issue with a workaround (this has disabled the possibility for the user to use custom settings), repackage the app and distribute it through their PPA. As I have now managed to find some spare time, I decided to solve the problem, fix some bugs and release a new working version of the app. Users preferences can now be stored using GSettings, and a major bug affecting the concatenation of multiple PDF files has also been solved.

This will most likely bee the last stable release of this version (1.0) of gtumbler. A while ago I started working on version 2.0, which features a complete restyling of the user interface. The idea is to make the app look more like a PDF viewer, with the extra features extending it. Thus, the document preview, which currently feels like a marginal part of the app, will become central in future releases.

How to install gtumbler

Installation instructions for gtumbler are very similar to those provided above for Sopcast Player Plus. If you have Ubuntu 15.04 (Vivid Vervet) and you have already added my PPA to your source list with the previous terminal command, use the following command
$ sudo apt-get install gtumbler
Otherwise, while you wait for me to bring support for later versions of Ubuntu, you can download the DEB package and install it with
$ wget
$ sudo dpkg -i gtumbler_1.0-0ubuntu3_all.deb
$ rm gtumbler_1.0-0ubuntu3_all.deb


This is it from me for now. I hope that you will find these recent updates useful. Please do not hesitate to leave any comments, either good or bad, below :). To the next post!

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