Sunday, February 20, 2011

In the Interests of Relevency

It's funny when I think about how this blog has turned out. For me, it's a bit of a diary. I write stuff which is quite often a little embarrassing but, as a friend often responds very dryly, when she reads this blog in an effort to avoid having to offer up an opinion, it's honest.

However, most of the audience for this blog are here due to my efforts with the Manaiakalani project. And it occurs to me that I haven't really written anything about Manaiakalani for a little while.

So what's happening?

Well it's a new year. Point England school is now online. Some of the other schools are now, at least, partially on line. And we're still rolling out to yet others.

I've had a few hiccups which has lead me to frantically get to creating a new image (before tomorrow) and this has also meant quite a lot of work which has felt like I've been constantly fight fires. It's early days. Teething problems are expected.

I've come to realise a few things about the interface we're using. We're using Ubuntu's netbook launcher. I tested the version that you can be installed on the 10.10 release of Ubuntu only to find myself less than impressed. It just doesn't integrate well with the desktop.

Unity (the new interface Ubuntu are using rather than the up and coming gnome-shell) has me looking at disbelief as to what the Ubuntu team see as "good". This is further exasperated when I look at the limitations that the netbook launcher places such as no use of the funky 3d effects that have become the darling child of Linux which you can't help but brag about.

This has lead me to start thinking about "The Next Big Thing". The netbooks are really capable when it comes to 3d graphics. Okay, so not latest and greatest games capable, but fully capable of having a really nice polished desktop.

So criteria:
  • Must make good use of the screen size avaliable.
  • Must be fairly intuitive.
  • Must be modern and exciting.
And I think I've come up with something quite good - though I do expect a little criticism for it's OS X likeness.

The reason for this though is that OS X does do a few things, such as making good use of their screen area (real estate in nerd circles) by using a global menu, really really well.

So I'm using a combination of compiz, avant window navigator and the gnome global menu applet. Maximus is something I'm still considering though the title bar that it removes doesn't really offer any advantage in terms of space used given that the global menu essentially uses the same space.

If you're interested in this at all, take a look at this site (click here).

I'm now using this interface almost exclusively as a test of it. I have discovered some problems around Firefox.

Unfortunately, some applications don't use the standard methods for a menu bar. Thus, the global menu can't do anything with them. Firefox is one of those applications.

It's a fine line between full screen mode in Firefox and this interface - we're probably only talking around 100 pixels at the top of the screen. Unfortunately, when firefox is put into full screen mode, you're unable to use the top menu bar. It's downright confusing if you don't realise what's going on.

As for a schedule? This is something that's going to have to wait until after I've been to Micronesia. Then I'll be trying to reverse engineer Ubuntu's netbook edition interface to figure out how the settings are stored and referenced.

But the biggest problems come in people. The students at the moment are stepped through the various steps. So changing the interface on them means they suddenly have to learn the interface all over again. The quickness kids pick this up varies with every student.

So by the middle of the year, I'm hoping to have the option available. Before then, I'll be asking some of the older students to have a play with it to see if they're comfortable with the interface and to essentially beta-test the system. In other words, this probably won't be the default until next year.

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