Python Crontab 1.4 Released

Today I’ve put the finishing touches on python-crontab 1.4. This release updates the tests and fixes a couple of bugs as well as two really interesting features.

The first is the ability to pull a log from a crontab or cronjob. When creating a crontab in the usual way you can specify a optional log file, if not specified the value ‘/var/log/syslog’ is substituted. The log attribute then provides you a filtered log view which limits the lines returned by the iterator to those attributed to the user your crontab controls. This is of course by default the ‘root’ user, but can be other users too.

Conversely each job in the crontab can return a log iterator which limits the retuned entries to those for this job only. This allows the programmer to tell when cron jobs were last run.

The second large feature is the scheduler. Using the croniter python module, this feature returns date/times when cron jobs would run from any given datetime offset. This allows the programmer to compile a list of datetimes when the job would run in the future and in the past. Use the schedule attribute from the cron job object.

You can download the new release here: python-crontab-1.4 on PyPi

General User Advice: Don’t Upgrade Without Help

A few of us in the business of supporting Ubuntu near here have reached the consensus for the new Ubuntu release for users to not attempt an upgrade of Ubuntu to 11.04 without someone very technically competent there to fix things should they go wrong.

This is what I will be advising to all the Ubuntu users I look after and for those I directly look after I will be skipping the release altogether until hardware stability can be more readily assessed.

The reason for the cautionary stance is because so far, testing on non-intel hardware looks grim. There are a lot of regressions which I hope will clear up after release, but you can never tell. There is an increase in lock-ups reported from people who’ve been testing the daily-builds, inoperable wifi and graphics card issues. All core issues which would break any user who isn’t very technically competent.

I’ll probably by using 11.04 myself (when I can get it working) as it is a very cool release with lots of interesting new changes to try out and awesome functionality. The developers have had a heroic battle to get all the changes in and keep everything mostly together; but I can’t recommend it for everybody just yet.

Your thoughts?

Ubuntu Karmic Review

Well it’s time for my generic review of the Karmic release of Ubuntu, 9.10.

This release for me is not an LTS and I wasn’t expecting massive stability. Plus I did something which I normally never do, I reinstalled the first week. Normally I wait a month before doing that and in the past waiting served me well. I think I might go back to doing that.

So there were a couple of problems with the release from the start:

The first problem was that my lovely gdm theme was not only gone, but could never be gotten back. I really liked the blue and green, very calming. I was horrified by what I saw as it’s replacement, a black and white poorly compressed gradient ultra art, some of a post modernists best work. But certainly not my taste. I saw it as not only ugly, but an affront to the millions of colours my computer is able to display, it’s 8 bit grey scale colour pallet so clearly illustrating why you should never use gradients with gif files. I think the technical problem of colour count is fixed in updates, it seems to be a lot smoother on the eye.

The second was the Ubuntu Software Center, my main problem with it was as a teacher. It’s different, very different. I used to teach my students that all you needed to do was think of the Add/Remove programs menu item as an expanded view of the Applications menu it’s self. Where you can see all the same categories and pick items you want to see in those categories.

Software Center UI ThoughtsI’ve had a number of local users come up to me and complain that they can’t add or remove programs any more. I ask them to walk me through what they’re looking at, and invariably it’s a problem with the design of the new center. They can’t find the button on the right, nor understand how the flow of it works. I’ve posted an image of design thoughts to the right. I’m not yet convinced that anyone is listening on the UI front, but before I post another blog about that. I want to wait until after UDS, I want to first talk with the Canonical UI team and with Mark about his vision for Ubuntu design. Hopefully he’ll be able to dispel my current negative interpretation of Mark’s design community ideas.

Things I like about Karmic, well I like the background changer, it’s moved forwards so you can now have a selection of items. this might make it easier to integrate the gnome wall changer without the hacks I currently employ to get around crontab/xorg/gconf conflicts. We’ve got a much better selection of backgrounds too, really well done.

I like the new version of inkscape, very functional. I like that evolution still works with google mail and calendars. Although is still a pig using sqlite instead of proper backend full text and field indexing. The notifier is ok, I tend not to notice it much and it’s not something I’ve ever cared much about. Design wise, it’s ok. Use wise, I like being able to use the notify python lib to prod notify events over the network to my students. I do like the new improvements to xorg, even if the nv driver doesn’t suspend any more. The new icon theme has grown on me, I think it’ll be better for advocating to people who expect a more serious operating system.

So in conclusion, I think Karmic is a solid stepping stone forward, but it’s not quite there with some things. More resources are needed to pull of the kind of magic that the Ubuntu community and I think Mark himself wants to see. I’m thinking some economic involvement from users would go a long way towards speeding up development and being able to spend more time on fixing problems as they crop up.

So how am I doing on my highly fantastical wish list for my own computer?

  • Working calendar that I use, DONE.
  • File system level field and full text indexing, NOT YET.
  • System level online service integration, NOT YET
  • Internet status, NOT YET
  • User data handling, NO
  • Data source handling, NO
  • Data pattern standards for configs, NO
  • Hardware viewing with user contributable data, NO
  • Face recognition pam and gdm modules, NO
  • Face change password authentication, NO
  • Encouragement to contribute money or time to projects, NO

I have some very strange ideas, it’s true. But you gotta aim high for your dream team.