Tag Archives: desktop

Metaphor based Desktop

This is a continuation of this blog post.  I really miss the tag based working. Why on earth do I have to save or load documents by a full path? This is stupid 80s computing. The location of a file is absolutely unneccessary for the work with it – I mean unless you work with Plan9.

So what we would want is if you safe a file you can type or select different tags. The same is true for loading a file. Just like in Epiphany and Firefox if you save a bookmark.

And the desktop background itself could also be organized differently – like a tag cloud. I would suggest that desktops can import and export tags and also that tags get defalt images accociated that can be selected by tag-themes. I mean most tags are words – so they have a meaning and you can associate an image.

Also with something like new hashtags on twitter – like something SFD09 (Software Freedom Day 2009) – your desktop can learn what images might make sense. I do this often manually with Google Image Search. But why should I do this work myself?

Those desktop should communicate with each other. It is not needed to send links via Email, Jabber or Twitter. Rather one can define groups of interest. In a way like identi.ca groups but more generalized. It should be easyto view what is new in a topic or a region – something like a view of new restaurants in your hometown. And then your desktop could already download some images into a pool. Or news from your topic of interest. Instead of using Google News you enter a space that displays interesting news from your defined topic. You could also subtract tags from a topic, so you can refine your view. The result should be displayed immediately. Also images, news, podcasts, videos, etc. should be linked together so you can have  a mixed view.

What you do, how you tag can be shared with others. This should be organized by different servers. People can organize in groups and clean up tag groups. This should not be centralized but really a distributed system.

Contacts should be yet another part – so you can just through images and stuff on a contact. If this means the user gets an instant message with a link or if he gets a copy of a document is up for discussion.

Who is going to start working on such a desktop? I dont see anything on the horizon. Mostly I see part of the methods but not a holistic approach, which would be essential.

This would also mean to turn the back on the application based approach. In every application all those elements (bookmarks, adresses, …) are dupplicated.

I think it would also make sense to work on the interfaces in the sense that saving or loading and such tasks are displayed only once and always at the same place.

Another idea would be to have buttons – like a “File” button – if you press on that with the mouse or the finger (interactive displays) you get a pie menu. And then either with another finger or another mouse key you can select more.

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My take on current GNOMEshell

I have looked at the Screencasts for GnomeShell. I like the idea that seems to drive GNOME shell, but I dont like how it was done. I think the main problem is that it is based on the old concepts of working with the mouse, instead of a more text based approach:

  1. You can create new views. But those do not have names, neither are they somehow optimized for some work.
  2. The whole approach is more application centric than work centric.
  3. You still have desktop icons in the background which are covered by application windows

To revolutionize the desktop much more would have to be done. I dont think GNOME 3 will do this at all. I think if it is a first step it should focus on:

  1. Redesign the desktop background to be more active as a frame for the work. Don’t just put some icons on the desktop which then show files named foo.desktop.
  2. Try to include more concepts from Plan9: Store information in hierarchical directories and files.
  3. Help people to recreate a session like they can do when they send a laptop to hiberantion mode – but with many different options. A desktop session with some window positions and started applications should be saveable. This might depend on applications allowing to save more settings.

The current GNOMEshell seems to make things just more complicated. It has soem nice features but it also reduces the size of a screen a lot and you have to do a lot with the mouse.

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New Ubuntu and new GNOME fast user switch applet.

I like that new fusa applet, because they implemented something I had wished for a long time – you now can tell with one applet what you current status is and it tells that different applications like pidgin and empathy. Like the clock applet that now also shows weather information this allows the user to have less applets on his panel. This is exactly the right direction.

But I am still missing this: Rather than still adding different applets I like to configure my panel. It should have some standard elements that cant be damaged. Right now it happens to me and many many users that the destroy their panel and either NEVER find back (end of GNOME usage!!) or with extreme efforts. my suggestion would be to have a new panel which has less possibilities. So it has some standard setup that cant be destroyed. Then let there be the old panel for all those who desperately need all kind of applets. I usually dont.

I need this:

  1. most importantly under no circumstances should I be able to destroy my panel accidently
  2. I like the standard elements like the three main menu entries, the clock, user switching and the message field.
  3. I also like to be able to add some quick application starters. But I would suggest that you do not put them directly on the panel but rather they are hidden and you get icons if you move over a special part of the panel. This might by standard be just the applications the user used last – or if people drop icons on that field primarily it might be those that were dropped. I would give this field a special look and name. It might even be extandable to also collect text clips or image clips – so generally .
  4. The panel should only have these menu entries: “Configure panel …”, “Help”, “Info”. Then what appears should be a panel setup tool where you could configure the panel like you have different tabs where you could enable and disable some displays – but generally discourage people dropping random applets onto this panel.

Why all that? Because panel space is very limitted and with more and more functionalities the panels are getting overcrowded and unusable. Messaging should also be better organized – like you have some inboxes from different senders and those can be either applications or people from an instant messenger. So what is bad is that you have Skype, Empathy, Ekiga, Pidgin,… that all have a status icon in the message area. And also it is bad to have every user organized differently in every application. I am not a coder but wont it be much  better if applications also like system updaters send messages via jabber to a user? And that the desktop will have a minimal jabber server running – and then the user could also set forwards of messages. So if I get a phone call on Ekiga on my notebook I should be able to answer it on another desktop with another SIP application maybe. I think identification of ressources and messaging between appliations and users will become extremely important. Especially because the user has a limitted possibility to understand the messages. It should be the task of the desktop to organize information well and not to flood the user with messages and informations.

So on the one hand under the hood the messaging needs to be intelligent and then I like to see the third generation panel. The panel really is one of the elements in GNOME that has not changed a lot – meaning you still can destroy it easily and only things that have changed are applets that added additional informations. But I think the applet idea was not good. Because you can add endless applets. I have also seen on the MacosX that people put their “panels” or how they call it to the left or right and put something like 30 icons with small sizes on it. That shows that this drag&drop editing approach has a natural end. Nobody can really say that this is easy to handle. Like you then have all those icons but on a fresh installation, even if you would have all the software installed a user would need maybe days to regenerate his panel setup.

I think the panel needs some major overhaul similar to the one that Epiphany got after Galeon some years ago. That means remove all the clutter and give the user less options – but make everything more easy and structured an dependable.

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