Where is the Linux Desktop's Aim?

By a very definition, it seems that working for the Linux desktop is like shooting darts in the dark. Obviously, one would not be able to see where the dart goes, neither if you are hitting the target. However you are definitively hitting something, but you do not seem to know what.

In comparison, the Linux desktop aiming at the end user seems to fall under this category. The bigger question will always be, who are we trying to satisfy through our Linux product? Given the vastness of reach that Linux has on thousands of coders, the Linux desktop project is bound to receive a great array of views, ideas and currents of thought that will lead the Linux desktop from one place to the other. Believing that coming together in order to work on a particular project is hard for me. However, projects such as KDE 4 have shown great strength in coming together and creating something revolutionary and beautiful. Other efforts to make the Linux desktop a reality have also come together in order to create similar results to what KDE did. Gnome has followed in the footsteps of KDE and has also gathered its community-enthusiasts and created the new Gnome 3 iteration.

However, the Linux desktop is still immature--I do not say this with malice--in the sense that projects that aim towards a goal seem to center their understanding of what the Linux desktop is in a less opened environment to which they could gather to and understand what it is that simple, non-tech s
savy people understand about the way we have made their graphical environments. I am referring to what the voice of users has to say about the way THEY use their computers as opposed to what we Linux Desktop thinkers believe is good for them.

For example, if I am not mistaken, KDE 4 was an aim that grew deep in the KDE community overtime, believing that their product KDE 3 was outdated and needed to be revamped. All over the internet there were calls for change and some even ventured to creating new ideas about the way KDE 4 was going to be. I remember seeing new icons at the Oxygen Icons website which promised to deliver a new way of interaction with the desktop through their plasma desktop. I was dazzled by the beautiful icons created in order to show the newness of approach that KDE 4 was going to take. It took icons to make people excited over the project.
Gnome followed a similar path. Seeing that KDE 4 has so drastically changed the aspect of its default desktop, it decided to launch their newest major revision, Gnome 3. Their approach came from often-unloved Gnome Shell. Brainstormers created a new way to interact with the desktop based on a combination of very active desktops and windows as well as an ease of access to files and applications.

While all this speaks to the minds of users that projects such as Gnome and KDE did their best in adapting to changing times, the old problem also became apparent. The community effort derived into personal effort, which in turn made it seem as if these projects were put on the shoulders of the few who could make ideas come true through their code as opposed to asking the people, like the rest of us, what WE think of their creation. I am a document developer, and I do not appreciate it when people tell me that my earnest efforts do not fit their life. I become unhappy and probably bitter since all my work was worth nothing in the eyes of users. But alas, this is something that happens in man development teams. It is part of the process to let a rough stone roll down the hill until it becomes smooth. However, efforts coming from KDE and Gnome, although being amazingly written do not seem to tackle non-tech users as well as it does for them, why? because the rest of us are unable to code but they are. We do not have a voice because no one asks us what we think.

Did KDE 4 and Gnome 3 ever conducted surveys to people in order to understand their interaction with computers? Do these two projects ever reach out to the community (non Linux users) in order to find out their needs? If they did, it was little. I hereby advocate a stronger case for the unheard, for the ones who will be placed these great tools in our hands. To these two amazing projects I say, be great listeners, seek out opportunities to understand the rest of us. Do not be like the people in this video giving out a Christmas present that only fits some.

Let's shoot our darts with the lights on. :D

Best wishes, Andy


Revolution Music Player

Taking after what great work Amarok has done over the years, it has come to my attention the different changes that Amarok has gone through. Now, with their current version 2.3.1 I am left wondering about what more could be done with the graphical interface. Amarok has wonderful technologies underneath as a music player. Amarok is also neatly connected to KDE widgets that display information for just about anything.

However, Amarok has received critics of many sources asking for stronger work with their graphical interface. I thought this opened the window for others to create something that could potentially become the next Amarok. Probably Amarok 3.

Amarok currently has a lot of things going on in its interface. There are three main panels. Starting from the left Amarok features a collection section which also includes internet music services, playlists and local file search. In the middle section there is a widget area which shows information about the currently playing track, album or the band (through Wikipedia). The far right shows a playing playlist.

This could be confusing from the files shown on the far right from one's collection, but this list on the right is the actual list of tracks that are being played. At the bottom of this playing playlist there are buttons to control this playlist. At the top there is the play button and the track progress bar and a volume button. The very bottom shows information as well on the currently playing track. Much like a status bar. 

One thing that I find interesting about this particular version of Amarok is the repetitive display of information about the currently playing track. For example:

No more than 5 times on the shot you see information about the currently playing track. Maybe that is a little visually excessive.

Another interesting thing comes from the way one is to add music to one's playlist. Users have to either drag or double click items on the far left which will then load at the far right to start playing atop. I just don't seem to make sense of the motions that music has to travel in order to be played. I this respect, I am more comfortable with Banshee or even iTunes, both of which play what you click. A very transparent playback of the files you see.

Amarok does a lot of amazing things and has great tools to work with your music. Probably, what needs to happen is to have Amarok control the amount of tools displayed on the screen. Reducing the amount of tools leaving only the most commonly used ones would be good. 

But what can change? I tried to simplify the graphical interface for Amarok, giving some emphasis on the creation of playlists and the use of widgets. So I will provide some descriptions to what you are to see next.

Here is a change. I took after what iTunes and Windows Media Player do with their music collection, to group it with an album picture and a list of tracks on the side. From this list of tracks one does the same that the current Amarok does with playlist creation; double click or dragging the tracks onto the playlist area. Also notice the change with widgets, they are now located at the bottom of the window. Clicking through them will bring up the widgets that you like.

The Collection area then slides through the different widgets, stats, track information, lyrics, wikipedia information, youtube videos, etc. It would be good, the collection area disappears and the space is taken by the widgets information. This is the other way of seeing one's music collection, or file collections. A plain list.

Or an Album Cover presentation. All of these have a filter bar atop and buttons to change from the different collection view.

Next up is the playlist content generation. First is the list of tracks which are being played and also a nice cover artwork scrolling. Much like what Songbird did long ago with one of its plugins. Just click the dynamic playlist button and songs will be played based on what Amarok decides.

You can browse your saved playlists and double click on the ones you saved and play them.

Here is the addition I would like to see. To share what you listen to on Facebook, Twitter, or just about any other service that is made available through widgets.

Another way of having Amarok play your music is by turning it into a widget itself. You can hit minimal mode and a widget-like interface will show up and stick on the desktop. You can switch back to any of the other interfaces or tweak the interface.

Next is the fullscreen interface. With computers having more fullscreen interfaces (AKA Mac OSX Lion, Netbook interfaces, Unity). I remember that long ago, Amarok had a plugin that would launch your music in fullscreen mode and it was awesome looking. What I am suggesting is something along those lines as well as the addition of visualizations on the background.

This is the default configuration with covers and controls spread on the interface.

Next is the full image for the covers.

And last is a Karaoke (maybe) idea in which the lyrics are shown so that you can sing along to your songs.

Obviously this is something that can change, songs have lyrics which are very long can have some sort of auto scroll, much like ultimate-guitar.com. Obviously this is not perfect. But I tried to make it simpler and retain the same functionalities that the current Amarok has.



Random Ideas for a revolutionized Amarok Icon

Well, I have been toying around with this idea for awhile now. I came up with this icon for Amarok a long time ago and never got around finishing it. Here is a tentative idea of what it could look like and how it could look with a splash image for Amarok on openSUSE. I like the icon, but I am sure that more could be done with it.

Here, enjoy:

I hope you like them. I generally don't work with icons. I don't think I know how to make them really. But this could be a good proof of concept in order to have you see what we could customize with in openSUSE.

And what better way to celebrate the release of Amarok than a cool rocky song:

See you all soon :D



New openSUSE Build Service Interface

For some time now, I have been reviewing some of the interaction that one is to use when working with openSUSE's Build Service system. I believe it is one of the most useful tools that openSUSE has created because it encourages collaboration between programmers and users. It provides a powerful tool to package applications.

However, I have noted that the interface could be changed a little in order to reflect a more active form of interacting with one's package information. I created some preliminary and simple images that could potentially become what openSUSE Build Service could look like.

My emphasis is on at-a-glance information. Currently, as users enter OBS, they are greeted with little information about what they are working on and only see information about other packages being worked on . Probably this could change, focusing on what a particular user has on OBS is more important to that user than other packages from across OBS, which can come in second.

Current OBS home page:

And these are the ones I was thinking of. First a simple greeting page with a log in section, and also a movie that can explain in simple steps how to use the openSUSE Build Service.

Then we add a small and simple Log In popup window and we move into our page:

And finally we find ourselves on the page that can greet us with information at a glance. Obviously, this page could change, offering information bit that the users want rather than the default ones.
What do you think? I know there are things that can change and I would like to hear your opinion. Probably you users who take more advantage from OBS than I do have long desired to utilize OBS is different ways than the current one. 

To you, what would you like to see changed in OBS?