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…

Negative Community Reaction Development

I’ve been thinking about what it is that cultivates a negative reaction from people who use your software and who are invested in it’s success. This line of thinking has obviously been brought about by the new Ubuntu Unity interface and the strong reactions to both technical implementation and implementation method.

Firstly I want to separate out the general masses and the competition (no offence Jeff), there are plenty of people on the internet who just love to troll and there are plenty of people in other distro that talk nonsense based on tribal affiliation. Ignore them, I’m talking about negative reactions from people who make up the fixtures and fittings in the community, for Ubuntu, this would be Ubuntu Members (but not MOTU).

I’m sure we’ve all seen comments such as:

I really liked Maverick, but now with this new Unity thing that Mark has dictated will will all be using, I guess I’ll stick around for 11.04 but then move when 11.10 comes out and we have no choice but to use Unity.

The user in the quote is frustrated that development on Unity has seemingly come out of nowhere to crush all the familiarity they used to have and in order to continue to use the latest and greatest Firefox and OpenOffice they’ll be forced to put up with design decisions that will be against their own personal internal aesthetic. They’re not wrong in their concern, but of course this is a risky move that their distribution is attempting; a massive coarse correction which delves deep into the bowls of the ship we’re all sailing in and is tinkering with the engine and reshaping the hull to see if it’ll make the thing go faster.

Much like someone below deck messing about, we can’t see what the hell is going on, all we can see is the speed of the boat. So for a while the ship starts to slow down and we start to wonder if our friendly hacker is down there hitting the engine with a wrench and drilling holes in the hull. Of course the truth is that they’re risking everything on thought out designs will the same goals as most on deck, that part needs trust.

Alternatively we read official messages like:

Unity is a new interface to attract new users to Ubuntu and to attempt to jump the chasm, not everyone will be happy with the design direction; but we can’t hold back developing a user friendly desktop operating system waiting for a consensus that will never arrive.

And this too is true, but again is missing bits of the puzzle. Nothing about this kind of press release calms the fears of users, in fact it may only work with casual users and those that really trust where the ideas are coming from. It’s just as nutty to ask everyone in a committed community to trust you while you ignore the majority of what they say in order to get on with the herculean job before you as it is for users to suggest developers are deliberately planning to remove functionally just to hear the sweet screams of users.

The key is probably trust. The community members can trust the corporate development because we’re all in the same boat and they’re hardly likely to throw us overboard and corporates need to trust their community more, they’re not as design blind as we like to think, sometimes they’re just really bad at describing why they’re having trouble. This is especially true when a community member looks after lots of ubuntu user’s computers. We as developers just need to be better at reading/translating them.

I drew this graph to try and illustrate what it is about the development method that annoys people and provokes them into irrational opposition or productive support for any given project:

What are your thoughts?

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?

Unity and Places

I was excited to hear from Ted Gould ironically at the Gnome Boston summit about the Unity Places system and the opportunity to create custom places which can expose all sorts of collections and online connections to the user in interesting ways.

This is not that file system deprecation that people keep on mistakenly banging on about, but instead a way to view interesting data objects in a user session context and even perhaps search on them.

My own ideas range from exposing openclipart to integrating a list of projects from ground control. All seem like pretty interesting candidates. From the wiki the only thing that concerns me is the canonical user space, I’ll live with it but the anti-social contributors agreement makes me uncomfortable to be involved any closer than simple plugins. Hopefully there will be something similar in gnome shell or kde (although preliminary questions on the topic suggested that gnome shell would be a rigid as a board of plywood so perhaps not).

See here for more details: Unity Places Wiki