[linux-elitists] Can we woo you first? [Was: How MS could woo me]

Jeff Waugh jdub@perkypants.org
Tue Dec 23 21:42:41 PST 2003

<quote who="Phil Mayers">

> What's the next step in human-computer interaction, and how can we beat
> everyone else to market?
> I suggest that {Gnome,KDE}/GNU/Linux (and to a greater or lesser extent,
> other free and Free OSes) can find and implement this hypothetical
> quantum-leap better than any commercial OS, because:

*snip good reasons why we can rock harder*

Let me give you a quick idea of where GNOME is looking towards at the
moment... You mentioned the Rememberance Agent; this is a parent-idea to
Nat's Dashboard project <http://www.nat.org/dashboard/>. It a prototype UI
and infrastructure (you have to patch software to talk to it directly),
though there are lots of 'cluepacket' patches around for things like Gaim,
Evolution, Galeon, etc.

Okay, so, throw a desktop-wide message bus into the mix (D-BUS, which is
being taken very seriously by freedesktop.org contributors and the kernel
community), and you get a stream of context that any application can listen
and contribute to. No more dashboard-specific cluepacket patches, everyone's
on the same bus. Most cluepackets are generated as things happen in the user
interface, such as you actively typing in an email address, or when one of
your friends sends you an instant message. Lots of raw context. Dashboard
tries to make sense of this by displaying cut-down, relevant portions of the
information - a photo of the person contacting you, their latest emails sent
to you, a few blog headlines, a few contact details like their phone number
and email address, appointments with them in your calendar, etc. Most of
these, in turn, are hyperlinks. So if your friend messages you, "Oi, you
didn't reply to my email!" there's a link to it sitting in your dashboard
right there, ready to go. ;-) But none of this works well if you don't have
searchable access to useful information for dashboard to contextualise.

So, we need to make standard user-oriented data accessible to everything in
the desktop. Evolution's next release will include evolution-data-server,
which provides a standard C/glib API for getting to contact and calendaring
information (which includes different backends too, btw). Apple does this
pretty well in OS X with iCal and Address Book APIs, MS are planning a deep
solution to this in Longhorn, which will basically make these kinds of very
structured records first-class items in WinFS. We can't do all of that right
now; we're being realistic (the Ximian dudes would like Evolution to be
included in GNOME 2.6, which is being released in March), and a C API is a
good start. (For other apps, there would most likely be cluepacket data
provision plugins, like current dashboard stuff.)

All of that will give us massive amounts of real-time context, and a decent
chunk of useful information accessible to everything on the desktop. Then
we'll see what people do with it. I'm sure there will be a dashboard-like
interface, but remember that *any* application can take advantage of the
bus... What else can we do? :-)

I'm not sure we're going to do a mass defection away from WIMP any time
soon, but there are lots of infrastructural changes being made throughout
the software world that are evolving away from *reliance* on classic WIMP
metaphors. That's pretty sweet, for users, babies and bathwater.

The most important thing to remember about all of this is that we can make
*massive* infrastructural, cross-desktop improvements at a fraction of the
time that MS can. Having the source, relatively co-ordinated desktop
projects, and so on, can really make a huge difference for us. The ground
work is already done, we're already competitive: "... and then you win."

- Jeff

Come to gnome.conf.au 2004!   http://www.gnome.org/~jdub/2004/gnome.conf.au/
   "I think we agnostics need a term for a holy war too. I feel all left
                            out." - George Lebl

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