Daily Archives: 2009/03/08

Another Online Desktop Idea

GNOME has its vision of what a online desktop should be. I have another. The idea is to find a replacement for:

  • VPN network access
  • XDMCP graphical logins
  • SSH logins
  • etc.

My idea – and I am sure I am not the only one having it is to have rather a local login to a desktop – but then be able to fetch some common settings from a central server – and maybe also some data.

I will explain a possible session:

First you have a plain desktop like a GNOME desktop. You might want to use the settings of your central account. Then you can do this by clicking on a link. You can type in your password and you will get all the settings you use. By that I mean things like IMAP account, bookmarks, Jabber account,… maybe also desktop settings loudness settings, messaging preferences – and maybe not some location specific settings like your proxy. Maybe you can register your location or rather choose it to by a dynamic location (because you use a public WLAN with some more secure settings and with different IP addresses).

On a second session  login  the settings will be downloaded and the environment of the desktop will change. Potentially this settings could be accessed from a central GCONFD which runs as root as a daemon instead of per session. Maybe this would also allow to tunnel some traffic through the server that has this GCONFD running.

So what this does NOT is:

  • It does not provide any secure connection like SSH or a real login to a server.
  • It does not provide a login to GDM through XDMCP
  • It does not provide any access to a VPN

It rather provides:

  • Information that a user has saved
  • Themes, Looks and other environment definitions
  • Maybe also acces to data if this is wanted. So if the user saves the data on a central server this desktop could offer some ways to access (via VPN, SSH, XDMCP,…). The ways that are offered could depend on the configuration of the GCONFD and on how the user defines access to his desktop.
  • It could also offer different VIEWS – so coming back to former ideas I offered here in my blog – So I as a user could define a simplified, lightweight profile for my notebook when I am on the move or for mobile devices. These views could also maybe be shared anonymized or personalized via Email, Jabber, etc. – so that they could be downloaded, installed, executed and used.
  • A way to print something from anywhere in the world to a printer of your choice.

For privacy concerns the user should be given some options to anonymize his shared views – or be warned if the connection is not encrypted or secure enough. These views could maybe also include many different desktops in one – so like you import a HOME view and a OFFICE view – and can switch between them like today with the screens in the GNOME panel. So that would be useful not only while traveling but also handling different usages. Users need different environments. One main problem people have is that their computer tend to mix all kinds of usages – so maybe somebody is working, has some private usages and also is active in an organization. Today people sort data and information by creating folders. But the number of folders is steadily growing – and often you  only need one or two folders if you want to work on one subject. The other 500 folders are useless in this moment.

All those problems are neither targeted by todays desktop nor by GNOMEs online desktop vision which really just tries to integrate big websites into your desktop. I wish some of those visions could become true. Right now all desktops are much too conservative. I think maybe Plan 9 has done the groundwork for such an idea (representing all data in folders and files)

Leave a comment

Filed under GNOME, Programming, Technology

Stop button abolishment – a very bad idea

As far as I know it started with Apples iPod. To make things more “simple” it was decided that this box did not need a stop button. The open source world was excited about this decision and made similar things in many audio/video applications. Actually I think thats one of the worst decisions they could ever have thought of.

Example1: Rhythmbox

If you download PodCasts and start one – you can only pause the play – if you then you switch to radio you cant start the radio right of – because when you press play/pause again the podcast you have paused will continue to play. The only way I could play the radio was to close rhythmbox and start it again. WTF?

Example2: Miro

Miro has a similar problem. Like you are in the media library and start playing one of the videos – then you like to stop the one you watch and want to look at the others. The way you can do it is by selecting another navigation item (both Miro and Rhyhtmbox use the iTunes style left hand navigation bar) and then switch back to media library again. There is no stop.

Summary

Thinking that everything Apple does is a smart idea is stupid. I might accept Apples decision for their iPod, because it has very little space. But also it is not able to do multiple tasks. Why shouldn’t I be able to tell “STOP – I dont want to play this media any more now”. it also tells the application that if I would come back to the file I rather would start from the beginning. Actually I think more often people would start from the beginning of a video or a music piece than ton start somewhere in the middle. And if they would like to I think some kind of time based bookmark would be a better solution. On Miro I then found out that when I drag the progress meter to the very left it works a bit like a stop button – or better as a jump pack and play. But still I am not able to say go to second 0 and then do nothing. Am i stupid? Am I the only person n the world who likes to stop the playing of videos or music? I very seldomly pause a media file. This only happens when somebody is at the door and I either do not want to share my content to the ears fo the visitor or if I do not want to miss any second. Usuallly I rather let it play through. Somebody has guessed that nobody needs stop because play and pause are the same. I followed that discussion on Jokosher and gnome-usability list a while ago. I could not get my arguments through. But today I see that the use of play/pause/stop is even different on every application because now you have to guess more what the combined buttons mean. On Miro I also find it confusing that even switching to a differen navigation area stops playing. Why shouldn’t I listen to a files while searching or another and then come back to the media display. So they remove the stop button bu then make “navigating=stop”?
Rhythmbox doesnt do that. But then RB has the problem that if you see a play/pause in radio area this does not mean that pressing play will start the radio – it might rather start the podcast that you had paused. So from my perspective this all is awful usability now. Parts of it depend on the silly iTunes clone infrastructure. I never considered iTunes to be good in usability – in fact it is more kind of a list browser in the sense of a file manager with search capabilites and other enhancements (like downloading album covers, …) – but then why a second file manager and not improving the old ones?

I dont feel comofrtable with the newest multimedia applications in open source – I dont know how to use them – and I am 37 now. How do you smart programmers think your grammies will work through this? It took me years to tell my parents how play, pause and stop look like. And now we start throwing away the only distinguished symbols that we have and only have one button? How can we explain the functionality of that button? You see its even the case that different applications interpret the functionality differently – which means in fact that users have to learn EACH application. That was one thing Apple used to do better in the time before iTunes – try to make all interfaces behave and look more alike. iTunes was very “unapple” but strangely many think this is a cool application. But personally it reminds me more on old “Norton Commander” style of interface – so that was the pre-Windows area 1986.

Weird.

1 Comment

Filed under Free Software, GNOME, Linux, Technology