Page Surfing: Improving Firefox in Ubuntu

I’m getting frustrated trying to scroll on pages and I’d like to introduce an idea:

Since we have a full screen app that really is taking up the entire screen, there seems to be a good opportunity to use the screen when an app is maximised to scroll the largest scrollbar in the app. I have no idea how hard it would be to tie the scroll bar into something which could be controlled via the operating system, technical details.

The idea here is to put the top and bottom infinities to use, allowing them to be used to allow easier viewing of the internet. This could obviously be made generic so it could be used to control all kinds of apps (optionally?).

Maybe this kind of thing could be made an extension, something to try out and do some experiments. Maybe others will see it as an essential part of their ubuntu experience.

Your thoughts, as always, welcome below…

Audacious CSS Desktop Programming

Take a look at this video, here I show an awesome new technology for using Clutter/Gtk with Cascading Style Sheets.


Audacious Video

You can test this out for yourself with Ubuntu 12.04 (Beta) using the following:

sudo apt-get install gir1.2-gtk-3.0 gir1.2-clutter-1.0 gir1.2-gtkclutter-1.0 gir1.2-gconf-2.0
bzr branch lp:csslavie
cd csslavie
./netbook-launcher.py

Note: default clutter/cogl has a bug which prevents the background’s opacity setting, so you won’t get as cool an effect. But a fixed version of those libraries should be available eventually.

Please comment below what you think.

Replacement vs. Reinforcement

I came across an idea about how machines interact with people while watching some TV. They were joking about Sat-Nav devices and all the silly voices they can make when it occurred to me that Sat-Nav devices are indeed replacing our natural abilities to navigate and know where we are and how to move around in our urban areas. (Most of us have long since lost our ability to know where we are and how to get around in the wild)

This is an example of a device which replaces a natural talent so well, that we find we don’t need our mental functions any more. But of course the one great evil of this is that we no longer know how to operate without them, thus Sat-Nav will always be required by people who use Sat-Nav a lot. (forgetting of course people who couldn’t operate at all until Sat-Nav came into being)

Picture showing a set of microschips on the left, a nerve cell on the left.

So what’s the alternative to technological replacement? I think one idea is technological reinforcement; the idea that the best technology improves the human operator through it’s use. Take Wikipedia; the fear is that no one will never need to remember anything and we’ll all forget to remember everything. But using Wikipedia seems to do the opposite, reinforcing information and making us more certain about some of the billions of facts we can hold in our heads. (but maybe it hasn’t been around long enough to show it’s effect)

So this got me thinking about what I would like a Sat-Nav device to do, to help me reinforce and hone my skills navigating the streets. Partly it could help by always stating the names of the roads when you’re in a local or frequently visited place. “Turn Left” is an instruction but “Turn Left at Washington Street” is educational and reinforcing if I take that route a lot. The information is certainly being presented at the right time for me to combine it with other sensory information so I can call it back up later. Another idea is to mention the absolute direction, North, South etc so we get a feel for the absolute direction we’re traveling in.

Of course none of this might work, so to test we could see how Sat-Nav devices effect people’s ability to judge medium and long distances. Most devices mention how many yards/meters it is until a junction so it’s already going into our heads and reinforcing something in there, but maybe we can’t process it because we don’t really have a sense of speed (in a car, I do on my bike of course). Maybe the brain just throws all the information away, but I find that hard to believe since brains are really good at learning to understand all sorts of data.

What do you think?

Spreadsheet Awesome: Check Mark Totals

Here’s the problem, you want to use LibreOffice to do a simple registration for a small class, so you open it up and write a small table for the dates you want to record:

Spreadsheet showing simple registration form with several names and some checked off boxes

You use a simple X to record when someone was present and a simple dash – to record an absence. But the mood strikes you and you want to make it look a little more professional. So you load up the Character Map program and grab a tick character from the symbols available and paste it into all the marked in cells:

Character Map showing a pannel of symbols

OK so your spreadsheet looks nice, but your reviewer wants to know how many students were in each class total. this should be easy enough and you make a new row and add in the cell SUM formulas. But woe! it doesn’t work. Using characters in a spreadsheet doesn’t count because they’re not numbers:

Spreadsheet showing the new tick symbol and a new totals column incorrectly showing 0 in each cell.

So to fix the issue you use the search and replace to replace all your nice tick symbols with the number ‘1’ and to be consistent, all of the dashes to the number ‘0’. And it works, you have your totals; but this doesn’t look nice! So you decide to use the format cell option to figure it out:

Spreadsheet showing all tick symbols replaced with 1

This brings up the number formatting window. Here you can decide what the cell should look like given a certain value. Our values are ‘1’ and ‘0’, anything else is a problem, so we use the cell formatting code: [=1]"✔";[=0]-;[RED]"Error" which shows a tick when the cell is ‘1’, a dash when the cell is ‘0’ and a red coloured Error when the cell is anything else:

LibreOffice Format Cell Window showing new custom format typed in.

Now everything is formatted wonderfully and LibreOffice Calc has saved us from having to decide between an ugly or a useless spreadsheet, we can have both beauty and functionality!

Spreadsheet showing correct registration totals and nice tick symbols.

As a bit of extra curricular, I also created one for deciding if someone loves you:

Inkscape: Book Cover

Sometimes I do some graphics work as a side job. This book cover has taken a while to do (fifteen revisions), but I’ve very pleased with it. Made in Inkscape using Ubuntu 10.10.

Doing this piece I found there are a couple of pieces missing from Inkscape for doing production work, perhaps this is why so many people use Scribus-ng. The normal workflow from what I have seen is to make artwork in Inkscape and then transition to Scribus for the nitty gritty of doing production.

I also did the structural editing of the book contents. That is using LibreOffice to haddle all the titles, paragraphs and types as class styles instead of ad-hock ms-word inline styles. Also dealing with the pagination and a bunch of other production issues. LibreOffice was an ok tool, but a lot of the interfaces are confusing and could do with some more design being brought in on them.

Your thoughts?

Montreal: Libre Graphics Meeting

Hey there, I’m in Montreal this week for the Libre Graphics meetings. I’ve been here since Saturday and it’s been quite a blast already and the main event isn’t even here yet.

We had an excellent chat about how much the author of software can be said to be responsible or involved in the art expression and how software as tools are different or the same as physical art tools and art education.

There was a nod towards proprietary software being profoundly bad for education as well as a lot of mooting that control over your own art tools was very important from an artistic point of view.

I’d have gotten better notes, but I was completely zonked from work on Friday and 4 hours sleep. Then I had wine and was drunk and deathly sleepy. But I seem to remember there might have been Mexican food and a chat between Janine Melnitz and google maps to find the hidden hotel of the elves.

2 days later I’m almost completely recovered! Let me know below if you’re interested in LibreGraphics and if you’d like me to report on any issues that might be talked about.

What are you Ubuntu, a Platform or a Product?

For today’s video blog I’m tackling the ideas behind Ubuntu the platform and Ubuntu the product, courtesy of Ayatana Mailing List. Nobody doesn’t like good Ayatana! Basically I dig into the problems between a One and Only vision and the more flexible, but harder to do, platform model of design.

With visual aids thanks to Inkscape!

Video Problems: Go directly to the video on blip.tv here and download the source ogv here.

What are your thoughts?

Ubuntu Made Art in August 2010

It’s time once again to show off some of the great art being made using Ubuntu and the wonderful tools we have available to us:

Also check out the Cartoon TV show made using ubuntu and blender: Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Robots vs. Cowboys (in Portuguese)

This is my top 10 for August, if you want to see more of the amazing art being done using Ubuntu, check out the full gallery.