What's new in Gnome 2.24?

Remote Access

The Vinagre VNC client [12] and the Vino VNC server also offer some new features. In full screen mode, Vinagre does not display the toolbar until you move the mouse pointer to the top of the window. The new features also include improved screen content handling if the remote machine uses a higher resolution than the local machine (Figure 4). A new Panel applet supports fast access to bookmarks and host systems.

Figure 4: Ubuntu's Remote Desktop Viewer is based on the Vinagre VNC client.

In a style similar to VirtualBox [13], Vinagre now supports the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Del to shutdown the remote system.

Video Conferencing

After much work, version 3.0 of the Ekiga video conferencing program – formerly known as GnomeMeeting – is now available. Besides adding a completely new user interface, the developers have also been working on the SIP features. More modern video codecs and a smoother display – in full screen mode too – make it quite clear how much work has gone into the program in recent months. For the first time, Ekiga will now install on Microsoft Windows.

New Programs

Developers have added two new programs: Empathy, an instant messenger based on Gossip, and the Hamster project, which helps users keep track of the time spent on various tasks. Although most users previously installed Pidgin – formerly known as Gaim – as their IM tool, the program's limited functionality made it difficult to use. Empathy is a welcome return to the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle, and it supports all the major messaging protocols, including ICQ, AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and Jabber. Empathy relies on libraries that keep to the Freedesktop specifications, although it also uses Libpurple, on which Pidgin was based.

The Hamster project provides a simple approach to managing time requirements for daily tasks. Output in HTML and several helpful visualization features leave a positive overall impression for this fairly recent project (Figure 5).

Figure 5: The Hamster project offers timekeeping for daily tasks. The program evaluates workflows in the form of graphs and even generates HTML files.

Some components failed to make the Gnome 2.24 freeze. The new version of Epiphany, for instance, was originally supposed to rely on Apple's Webkit rendering engine. Although Webkit is now on a par with Gecko in many areas, it still has some issues with accessibility.

As a result of these issues, the developers decided to delay the Webkit integration until Spring 2009. The Conduit [14] synchronization tool was also delayed. In all likelihood, both Webkit and Conduit will make the next version of Gnome.

Gnome 2.24 offers no spectacular changes to basic libraries. For the most part, the developers have focused on stability, although several new tools and features debut with the latest version.

According to the Gnome project, at least two more Gnome releases will follow this version before Gnome 3 arrives. The next release in the 2.X series is Gnome version 2.26, which is scheduled to appear in mid-March 2009.

The Author

Christian Meyer started to work with Linux in the mid-1990s and was a member of the Gnome Germany board from 2004 to 2006. Right now, Christian is working on his theses and preparing for his finals. Although he does not have much leisure time, experimenting with new technologies in and around Linux is always at the top of his list.

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