Saturday, 7 April 2007

More UI ideas. Graphics for my pinball engine!

I've got my pinball physics thing somewhat working now, and have even given it some graphical output (which meant learning AWT :( ), which is nice. I have also got another couple of user interface ideas.

Upgrade Checker
Based on this Ubuntu Wiki spec I came up with this as a quick mock up design: I don't know whether I will try and implement this myself or whether it will inspire someone else to. Of course if someone has a more elegant idea then I am happy for mine to be superceded.

Software Installer:
The idea behind this one is simple, namely that Gentoo-style "do this then do that" is often unneeded, since if one step always follows another, why not automate all of them into one step, since no decisions are being made? The classic one addressed here is the "./configure && make && make install" one for installing software from source. If most source compiles with those commands then why not automate them? I haven't got any GUI mockups yet, but I am thinking of linking apt-file into the ./configure bit, to try and find needed files (perhaps this would require the user to copy "File not found:" filenames into a box or something, since it would be tricky to parse the output of every configure script accurately looking for needed files). Obviously checkinstall would be used instead of make install, and perhaps a new directory could be made specifically for containing sources so they can be recompiled later when versions change (ie. automatically set required versions to equal, then if they are updated the tool would simply rebuild the package for the new version in the background (and make it version X.X_custom2 or something). More to come, hopefully. I am working hard on this Java now I have something to show for it too.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Warbuntu in the works

Well, I have had this idea for a while. I want to make an Ubuntu-based live CD of my own. It will basically be a testing ground for crazy new user interface ideas that I have. Since my programming skill is not particularly good it might take a while, but just as a taster here is the kind of thing I want to include (remember, this is purely a research type thing, which is why it is only a live CD and not an installable thing):

GNOME Display Manager (logon screen) and Screensaver:

I wrote quite a significant comment on this in some Ubuntu Wiki pages, but it seems like they are going for crazy 3D-ness (nothing against you Mirco, loads of people have said how cool the Cairo Clock on my desktop is ;-) ). I wanted to test this idea for myself, and Warbuntu would be a
great place to do it. Here's the basic idea; the GNOME logon screen doesn't really fit in with the desktop when it is in "themed" mode, but the non-themed mode looks ugly. Also, there are far too many ways to switch user, and I think locking a session shouldn't be appear any different to other system users than if you've logged out. So here it is, my quickly done Gazpacho mock-up for the login screen:
Here nobody is logged in (although that shouldn't make a difference). The GTK theme is just the one I made/use by the way so this should be made customisable with a default theme. The text at the top is the system message (currently the default is usually "Welcome to [hostname]"), so it can be changed to something more appropriate for large systems, and obviously the face browser can be replaced by a username entry box. The mockup above should be pretty usable for home systems though. Maybe another option would be to change the shutdown button to a "System" button with crazy network logon things and such.

When a user locks their session the screensaver starts like normal, but when asked to unlock it instead of the boring GTK selector currently used the same kind of thing will pop up (maybe using the locked user's GTK theme, maybe not) and will look something like this:As you can see it is basically the same. Importantly the user is shown to be logged in, so any "AAA! My work wasn't saved and it logged out!" scenarios are reduced, maybe an "emblem" type picture could be put on the face browser to indicate this. The notifications in green were just an after thought, but may be useful (and should be easily enabled/disabled for privacy). Also, keep in mind that screensaver hacks can run in the GDM background, so the UI difference there is not too drastic either.

So there you have it, the first mock up I want to make for Warbuntu (please note that the name "Warbutu" is a mix between Warbo (me) and Ubuntu, and has nothing to do with killing people. Also note that Warbuntu is pronounced "WOAHBUNTU!", as I will probably explain when it gets its first incarnation).

Please leave any thoughts and remember that this is a little experiment of mine, and not directly intended to replace the current system, just to encourage more out-of-the-box thinking (ewww... I just said "out-of-the-box thinking"). Also, if Canonical want to give me their UI job then I would be damn pleased :D

Update: I thought I may as well link to some other user interface things I might put in Warbuntu. First there is my Usplash proposal: (at the bottom), then there is my idea for an APT "Service Pack" maker, ie. an easy way of installing loads of Debian packages at once (personally I think my idea [scroll down] is easier to implement, easier to use and more powerful than the main one being discussed in that page, and this may be the first one of my mockups to come to fruition). I might add some more if I can remember them :) Oh, and a big thank you to Steve Jobs for the EMI non-DRM thing. I might pay some people to get me some non-DRM songs from iTunes for me, to show my support (also, I assume they expertly tweak their encoders to get much better quality than I could hope for with Grip since I just press "Go" :-) )

Another Update: I also have the GNOME preferences thing to work on that I comment on here. Toodle pip.