Ubuntu Circuit Breaker

Posted in Art and Creation, Doctor's Art, Free and Open Source Software, Multimedia Entry, Ubuntu on June 28th, 2010 by doctormo

This is my entrant into the Ubuntu Free Culture Showcase, it’s a wallpaper made in inkscape currently in widescreen format.

This image brought to use by FLOSS:

Open and Responsible in the Herd.

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Don’t Rationalise

Posted in Sociology, Ubuntu on June 18th, 2010 by doctormo

Continuing at a tangent from yesterday’s blog post about design I wanted to quickly address a problem with non-material contributions (i.e. vocal and political contributions) as opposed to programming, design, support, education or any of the other thousands of material contributions in the community ecosystem.

The default seems to be that between weakly relational members of the community we organise ourselves with three tactics: knowing the best people, shouting the loudest and have the most convincing argument.

If your voice isn’t being heard then perhaps it’s because we have far to many rambling personalities posting huge emails to mailing lists or huge posts using complex words like ‘polemic’ several times.

But if all your trying to do is communicate what you want from the computer, what you really aspire to have in the design of the software then it’s best to keep it short and sweet. I don’t think we always need to rationalise our desires and make essays out of them.

Some people do this: “I’d like to see the window buttons on the right again because it would make my life easier.”

Your aspirations?

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Polemic Design

Posted in Art and Creation, Critique, Free and Open Source Software, Philosophies, Sociology, Ubuntu on June 17th, 2010 by doctormo

Between the early adopting individualists and the aesthetically pleased seems to be a rift growing wider and wider. Unity is a not customisable, read the comments too.

The culture that surrounds the community is certainly one of individualism. We like to think ourselves as cool outsiders doing something beyond the norm. There are users who don’t care so much, but the majority of us involved in advocacy and development have come to like the ownership and the sense of self style that comes with Free and Open Source Software.

The culture of Apple is a little different, it’s one of polemic design. A place where there is one right way to do something and there is a special person who will decide what that principle must be. Because this design philosophy has produced aspiring designs there are signs that others are copying. The problem is that polemics isn’t compatible with individualism, it’s not even compatible with science or rhetoric.

My own struggle with polemic design is rhetoric. I’m far more interested in dialectics than positivism for certain classes of problems, but software engineers don’t understand dialectics and so tend to simply stick with dualism. As if argument was about proving the other person wrong instead of working out a solution that solves the problems and resulting conflicts.

Dualism has gotten us into trouble especially when it comes to design. We have often looked blind to design because we add options to solve every conflict. Not having design skills available in the ecosystem has meant the community has been unable to come up with solutions to complex design problems preferring to copy instead. This is why Mark says “the community can’t do design” and it’s “design by committee”.

It has frustrated me how hard it is to work out design problems in the community in the past; but I don’t think the answer is to jettison faith in the community as Mark has done. I think with the design skills people are learning from the new Canonical design team and some studying of dialectic rhetoric we should be able to come up with good designs without the need for Apple’s polemic philosophies.

Your thoughts?

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Design in Canonical

Posted in Ubuntu on May 11th, 2010 by doctormo

Something of an unknown change in the way Canonical does design is the new design.canonical.com site for the Canonical design team to blog about and start the conversation about design decisions that are made and discussed. this goes along with the Ayatana irc room and mailing lists.

I’ve been very pleased with the blog posts on the new design team and I think they’re learning to have a constructive conversation where people can have their say, so long as the conversation is constructive and it doesn’t devolve into flame wars.

There has been mistakes made and I’ve been one people complaining and trying to work out what went wrong with the way the process worked. Button and branding changes just days before the UI freeze with very limited prior involvement from the community certainly is a way to fan the flames of resistance to changes.

What are your thoughts?

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Cultural Design Themes

Posted in Art and Creation, Ubuntu on April 29th, 2010 by doctormo

I said I’d give the new Ubuntu light theme some time and I’ve given a long time to looking at it and considering it. Finally I think I can post a fair blog post about it. I’m going to go with conclusions first:

The white “ambiance”: I dislike it, it’s unbalanced, uncoordinated and looks fake. When you first see it there is something not quite right that you can’t put your finger on, it looks bad, but your damned if you can put your finger on why. I think the best analysis of the components of the theme so far has got to be Jay’s post on kbps, it’s a recommended read. My thought: It looks like dirty old plastic.

What struck me at first was how similar this desktop design has to the likeness of a default Mac OSX theme, purple background, left sided buttons, soft plastic style with shiny gleam. So I talked with various community people about it. Most people could see it was an unintentional convergence of style, form and depth. It’s the spirit of the Mac if not it’s exact clone.

The buttons on the left side is a terrible idea, unconventional, forced for an LTS release they decided to do something far too experimental and invoke the ire of a lot of people. I have some people here in Massachusetts who deliver and manage computers to local businesses for a living and they were all for pushing 9.10 on their customers. But they’ve decided to be weary of 10.04 just because of the buttons, they believe it’s a _really_ bad design and the way it was done has harmed trust in the design of Ubuntu for them.

That’s sad and it’s the kind of thing I hoped wouldn’t happen.

I will be changing the theme on my own computers to a more traditional theme and I’ve asked a number of future users of the machines what they would prefer and so far none of them have said they would like the Ambience theme or the left aligned buttons so I plan on removing these default themes from the PXE boot install.

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Gnome Icons: What the Devels are up to

Posted in Critique, Economics, Free and Open Source Software, Sociology, Ubuntu, User Interface Design on February 24th, 2010 by doctormo

My friend leftyfb over on his blog has highlighted an issue with gnome that I always thought was a genuine oversight. i didn’t think that the gnome developers were seriously and deliberately removing the icons from certain menus. For the past few months, every time I went into the System menu, I thought the missing icons were because some bug that no one could find the time to fix, had crept in.

Apparently not. according to records it was a discussion by developers to remove visual queues and make Ubuntu harder to use for dyslexics like myself. Forcing us to read words which we can very easily misread and not letting us use icons in which a combination of shape and colour can act as reinforcing cues for the noun of these menus.

I know dyslexia isn’t a fun disability like blindness and deafness, but a little consideration would have been nice.

The exact regression aside, Mike points out in his blog another worrying facet that I’ve seen myself all too often in the gnome developer community. A community of disagreeableness. As I was saying yesterday in my blog post about disagreeable filtering: Being nasty and obnoxious is a poor man’s user contribution filter compared to being patient, understanding and using dialectical tools to work out problems so they can achieve as many wishes as is possible.

I don’t expect devels to say they’re good at design when they are only good at systematics. If you’ve worked out some of the science or some basic principles of design, it doesn’t make you a designer. It’s not always parcelled into simple rules and regulations. Sure, sometimes they help, but they’re at best guidelines and a good starting point and you’re not expected to use them as iron clad regulation. Of course this is an obvious warning sign that the coders have taken to design before learning anything about servitude let alone elegance.

I’m not pleased with gnome developer’s attitudes. Yes, sure, users are annoying, but why aren’t you asking them for money in exchange for listening to them? Instead you’re pretending that you’re an open community that welcomes contributions from unskilled users, but in fact want to cut yourself off from all users. A sort of Unenlightened self interest, the bastard brother of Enlightened self interest who is responsible for cutting ties between developers as users and pure users.

This is why I protest that we MUST start being honest about how progress is funded. You only have to listen to the people that control the purse strings, listening to anyone else is charity and is not guaranteed in any way. If we want to have users making a real difference in the community and ultimately getting the software that they want to have, then we MUST make sure those users have a way to pay for such services.

If we want to have users making a real difference in the community and ultimately getting the software that they want to have and not the software that we think they ort to have, then we have to listen to them and be able to ask them to pay for the time of developers.

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Generating Calendars

Posted in Art and Creation, Free and Open Source Software, Guides and HowTos, Programming and Technical, Ubuntu on January 19th, 2010 by doctormo

I wrote this nifty script in python to take the output from the cal command and parse it, using an svg template it outputs an entire calendar in your own style, with your own pictures and everything.

It was a bit rushed because I was making a personal calendar for my wife with birthdays, anniversaries and our family pictures on it. And it came out really well too, she’s very happy with it! Here is a page from the calendar:

A big shout out to Inkscape, which again was flexible enough to allow me to create my calendar template without complaining about missing images or custom svg xml. If you want to have a go yourself at making a calendar then just download the following package:


Populate the flips directory with your own png files 01.png – 12.png and a title.png file for the front page, add any extra dates you want to the dates.lst, then run `./create-cal.py 2010` on the command line this will make a whole set of svg files for each page. You can then run `./make-book.sh` which will use inkscape (make sure it’s installed) to generate png files of each page.

Once you have your images, you can print them out in order or create a pdf of them using imagemagik’s convert command: `convert pngs/*.png full-calendar.pdf` but be aware this file might get big and generating these things takes time.

I will post a complete calendar tomorrow.

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Grub2 Usability

Posted in Critique, Free and Open Source Software, Ubuntu on January 9th, 2010 by doctormo

Directhex has been playing with Grub Themes, the screen that first shows up when your computer is switched on. I want to thank Jo for having a go at this, his designs don’t look nearly as bad as the comments to his blog indicate, although the big difference between the screenshot in Jo’s blog and the previous entry that showed a grub menu is that the fancy one wasn’t real and working, where as this one is.

It would also be really great if directhex adds his design to deviantArt, so I could add it to the new Ubuntu Artists group as a good example of design UI.

It’s certainly an area that needs help, although what I notice isn’t so much that the visuals are ugly (they are, generally) but to me more importantly it’s that the text is confusing and unhelpful. An example:

  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-17-generic
  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-17-generic (Recovery Mode)
  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-16-generic
  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-16-generic (Recovery Mode)
  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-13-generic
  • Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.31-13-generic (Recovery Mode)
  • Windows NT
  • Windows XP

This text is some of the easiest to change, we don’t need to recode grub or change anything, it can be back ported to grub1. What we need to do is clear up this text. What are all these numbers? what is Linux? why is there a Windows NT and Windows XP? I think what it should say is this:

  • Ubuntu 9.10 (v17)
  • Ubuntu 9.10 Recovery Mode
  • Ubuntu 9.10 Before Last Update (v16)
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Recovery Disk (DANGEROUS!)

Or something similar. It would take a bit of detection for the windows stuff (I’ve had people trip up on the whole windows nt thing and wipe out their computer) But the Ubuntu labels should be clear about what they mean. For instance, why are we giving the entire kernel version by default? Linux 2.6, it’s ALWAYS going to be 2.6, why bother printing it. .31, well that’s the kernel shipped with Ubuntu 9.10, no point in printing that. Perhaps the details can be printed at the bottom for the geeks, but the labels should be clear.

Perhaps we can have an option or some sort of added text that automatically gets compiled into your grub options when you have more than one linux distro installed or some set thing you can set called “I like to think I’m 1337er haxor grub user”

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Contributors to deviantArt: Problems Fixed

Posted in Art and Creation, Ubuntu on January 7th, 2010 by doctormo

If any of you were having problems joining the new deviantArt group, I should have fixed the issues now. What I’ve done is made sure that everyone who joins is automatically approved as a Contributor. So you should be able to post art, favourites and blog entries to the group without asking or voting.

Lets try and attract typical and atypical people to join, anyone who is involved in art or design and uses or is interested in Ubuntu. I’d also like some volunteers who could go through searches for Ubuntu and start adding historical works to the favourites and galleries. I’d like the favourites to contain works made using Ubuntu, and the galleries to contain things that were made for Ubuntu (wallpapers, ui mockups, tans, fan art etc).

Go here to join: http://ubuntu-artists.deviantart.com/

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DeviantArt Ubuntu Group

Posted in Art and Creation, Ubuntu on January 6th, 2010 by doctormo

I have only today noticed the a new feature in DeviantArt called Groups, this allows people to get together and form communities.

So I have applied to create a social group called “Ubuntu-Artists” which will hopefully act as a point of contact for anyone who uses ubuntu to create Art, for people who make Art for the community or for people who do UI design work for any of the programs in Ubuntu.

Available at the following link: http://ubuntu-artists.deviantart.com/

Please do join and post your Ubuntu related artworks and designs.

What will be really good is getting a place where Ubuntu Art can be hosted, collected and shown off in all it’s glory. There are some really amazing art works created in Inkscape, Gimp and Blender on Ubuntu and it’s time we got to appreciate the artists who are striking out against the common belief that Macs make the best artist computers or that windows is where every drawing tablet works.

What are your thoughts?

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