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Gmail-notify as an Example of the Power of Open Source Software

The example I am about to expense is why Open Source Software (OSS) is so powerful.

A friend of mine was reading my blog, and cheking out my Firefox extension list (that I still need to update badly). He noticed that I use the gmail notifier extension for Firefox rather than the gmail-notify package for Ubuntu that sits in the notification area. I hadn't tried the gmail-notify package, so I thought I would give it a try. What the heck.

sudo apt-get install gmail-notify

After installing and launching, the first thing I noticed was how horrible the icon was. Take a look:


Ouch. Whomever designed that icon needed a little help. Anyway, the first thing on the agenda was either to redesign the icon, or find one the open commons, and use that. So, I needed to know where the application was looking for the images, so I could make the necessary changes. This was as easy as doing a simple:

whereis gmail-notify

I was lead to the /usr/lib/gmail-notify directory where the python files are stored for the application. Looking at, I found the icons were stored in /usr/share/apps/gmail-notify. Duh. I should've looked there first. Upon discovery of the directory, there were 6 images that needed to be changed. Four red and two blue.

Now to change the icons. Redesigning the current icon made it look worse, so I went on the hunt to find a Gmail icon that was much more professional looking. Unfortunately, all "official" Gmail icons are copyrighted and I don't know if they can be used freely for this purpose or not. However, for the meantime, I took the Gmail logo, grabbed the "M" and worked with it as necessary. I'll fire off an email to Gmail and see if this is okay. If it is, I'll post a tar.gz for download.

So, in Gimp, I copied the size and name of each image just as it is in the /usr/share/apps/gmail-notify directory. I made all the changes as necessary. Then, the big test. I shutdown the application, made a backup of the current images, and copied my new images into the directory, then fired up the application. Much better. Here's the same icon, but more professional looking:


How's that? Better? I think so. Shadow and all. The only thing left was to change the icon that the launcher in the menu looks at. That was easy by just pointing it from /usr/share/pixmaps to /usr/share/apps/gmail-notify.

Why is this so cool? Because this is the exact reason OSS is so powerful. Proprietary applications may or may not give you this ability, but OSS always does. Think of it, for a second. I didn't like the way an application looked, and I decided to do something about it. I didn't do any coding, any compiling, hacking or tweaking. All I did was change the images. Now, the application looks the way I want it to look. Try, just try, doing that with, say, Microsoft Office. Good luck.

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