Tag Archives: interface

New Ubuntu `phone distribution released. The future of the operating system is mobile.

The Ubuntu phone interface in action.

The Ubuntu phone interface in action.

The Ubuntu phone distribution is soon to be released to the public; this is a Linux distribution that can scale from a phone to a desktop computer with the one desktop interface. This will be a whole new paradigm of operating systems; designed for the desktop and also capable of installation onto a mobile device such as a tablet or a mobile `phone. Is this the future of operating systems or will the desktop computer still be around in the future? I hope so, I love using a desktop computer to make Doom maps and play UT 2004; doing that on a tablet computer like a Microsoft Surface or an Ubuntu tablet would be a painful experience. There is a place for the desktop computer as well as tablets and smart-phones. Smart-phones with cameras and web access on the go are very handy; an Ubuntu tablet would be very helpful for browsing on the move using WIFI, but a desktop computer is still the best for playing games and content creation. The Ubuntu distribution therefore is a desktop operating system that scales down to run on a tablet computer. With the move to mobile computing and wireless networks everywhere, the ability to use a mobile device to do work is very convenient. This is the future of the Ubuntu distribution; a mobile operating system to compete with iOS and Google Android.

The Ubuntu `phone interface in action. Looking for a book to read.

Read about it on the homepage. This looks like a beautiful interface; I wonder if you could trigger the mobile interface on a desktop form factor. I guess that would not make any sense. Linux on mobile devices is split between the Android and Ubuntu mobile alternatives. Will Ubuntu mobile leverage Google maps to create a good competitor to the flawed iOS maps that has famously led many motorists astray? That would be a very good addition. I have a Blackberry mobile `phone and I can not find a good maps app on it. Yet my old Nokia E72 has a perfectly functional GPS app with full maps of Australia installed and I can use it when walking around to find my way. The Ubuntu mobile distribution needs to find out what people are upset about with other operating systems and then offer a better service to supplant the competition. Although if there is good friendly competition then this can be a good thing; like the competition between Windows and Linux. As long as it does not escalate into war. Like the battle between Netscape and Internet Explorer back in the old days of the Internet. Ubuntu in the days of 7.04 and 8.04 was a very good distribution to install with the Gnome 2.32.2 desktop environment. Now that Mateu exists you can run the MATE desktop on Ubuntu and you do not need to use the Unity desktop.

That is not the whole of Ubuntu even though it is shown everywhere. There are many other alternatives on the desktop. Minimalist window managers like Specrewm are one way to use your Linux applications without a clunky desktop getting in the way. Try out spectrewm and you will be surprised how fast it is. This is a tiling window manager that is hard to beat if you want something fast! Here is an animated screenshot of this awesome window manager. Looks very nice. There is a list of key bindings on this page: https://opensource.conformal.com/cgi-bin/man-cgi?spectrwm. The main ones are Meta-h to enlarge a window and Meta-l to shrink the window. Useful for expanding a browser window. I am using the spectrwm window manager on Linux Mint 14 and it is fast and sleek indeed. Type sudo apt-get install spectrwm to install this and try it out on your box. Imagine if someone made an Ubuntu respin that used Spectrewm? Just a desktop littered with xterms and a bar at the top with the date and time. Nice.

My spectrwm desktop on Linux Mint 14.

My spectrwm desktop on Linux Mint 14.

Computer interface used in the Avengers movie and thoughts on the touch interface.

The Avengers computer interface.

The Avengers computer interface.

http://cargocollective.com/jayse/Avengers. Some information here about the user interfaces used in the Avengers movie. These touch screen interfaces were used a lot in the movie. The touch screen computer model is all the rage at the moment even if it is not that useful when using a computer for a long period. Especially when using a computer for word processing and graphic design. But the computer interface that Tony Stark uses that involves hand gestures to control 3D models is now a reality. There is now a USB device that can track hand movements and translate them into computer commands. This could be a very tiring method of controlling your computer though; it is better to use a keyboard and mouse to perform computing tasks and not hand gestures; here is the link though if you are interested: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/22/tech/innovation/leap-motion-control/index.html. Just because one movie like Minority Report uses the gesture based interface; all other movies think that it is a good idea. Sure; the holodeck styled rendering of 3D models in thin air like in the movie Iron Man is a good idea though; that is one technology that would be popular.

Flat screen display in the movie "2001 A Space Odyssey"

Flat screen display in the movie “2001 A Space Odyssey”

A real-world Minority Report interface has been developed; but this kind of interface might not be to everyone`s taste; but the video on the linked site is worth watching. Still; real-world anti-gravity is one movie staple that would be a good thing to develop in real-life; that would be boon to the environment as far less energy would be required to move things around; not to forget that an anti-gravity alternative to semi-trailer trucks would be much quieter. But getting back to the Avengers; the see-through computer screens would not be the best thing if there was a lot of ambient lighting around as there was in the flying aircraft carrier. If you put a dark tinted backing on the glass screens; that would be a significant improvement. In the TRON Legacy film there was a touch screen that was laid flat on the table; that makes more sense. If I push back my keyboard and pretend that my computer desk is that screen; the act of pretending to type on the table feels very comfortable; better than the touch screen being vertical. Something like that could actually work. Sure someone has already made an analogue of the Tron Legacy keyboard as an open-source application; this could be a good project to build a keyboard into a table as seen in the movie. Coupled with a small screen to show output; this could be a good project to display output of your own Solaris UNIX machine.

The Windows 8 and Unity interfaces are a long way from the interfaces shown in the Avengers movie; we will wait and see what the future brings. The 1968 movie “2001” had flat screen displays on the interplanetary spaceship Discovery. This could have influenced the development of modern tablet computers. They may use the controls at the bottom of the screen to control them though and may not be a touch screen. Very prescient for 1968 though.

BASH Shell is better than Powershell and discussion of the Linux desktop versus Windows.

The Powershell for Windows has many useful features for controlling your Windows computer; with many cmdlets and scripting ability; but the BASH shell for Linux is already an established shell that is far more powerful and useful. The downside to the Powershell is that it does not seem to have an implementation of grep. Without that it is an annoying shell to use compared to any Linux shell that has many advantages when filtering the output of a command looking for one specific word or string. That is why I keep coming back to Linux after using Windows for something or other. FreeBSD is another good operating system for your desktop machine or server. Windows needs to shut down to install updates in Windows 7; why is it so hard for Redmond to fix this? Linux can install updates whilst the software is running; obviously you need to re-boot when you have updated the GNU Libc and/or the kernel to load the new versions, but it does not prompt you every so often to re-boot when you are in the middle of something; that is something that will annoy you to no end. Is is possible to re-engineer Windows to actually behave like a modern operating system and install updates properly as well as being as reliable and secure as Linux?

Is this a pipe dream or not? Linux though does not need activation and product keys; you just download and install Ubuntu 12.04 or 12.10 and install it to your hard drive and then type sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade and then install the extra multimedia packages with the sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras command and you are all set to watch your Xvid movies and listen to your music files. The Banshee music player is the best option for listening to your music library; just import all of your music into the music player and it will show a window with all the album art for your music albums. It will retrieve missing album art for your music files as well. The modern Ubuntu or Fedora desktop is easy to use but I wish that the MATE desktop was the default instead of the Unity desktop or Gnome 3. It seems like Unity is here to stay, but I wish that the Gnome 2.32.2 desktop was still available for us older Linux users. I have used various Linux distributions over the years; and I have seen quite a few changes in the Linux desktop; the older Red Hat Linux Gnome desktop looked rather like Windows; now the Fedora distribution using the Gnome Shell desktop is emulating the Macintosh desktop.

We are using Linux not iOS, so do not make the desktop look a tablet or mobile `phone interface! I miss the old Red Hat Linux 9 desktop; it was very stylish with the Bluecurve theme and the desktop that had a unified look and feel whether you were running KDE or Gnome. That is something we should bring back. Many Macintosh computer users are happy using their closed source operating system built on top of the Darwin UNIX kernel which has been targeted by malicious software in a concerted attack recently. The Macintosh desktop interface is quite stylish and polished; but that does not mean we should copy it to build a new Linux desktop. The KDE and Gnome desktops were just fine and then they had to change them. Unity has good search capabilities when you press the Windows key to bring up the dash and start typing, but many users are saying that we need to create a new Linux desktop that is easy for new users to use and attractive at the same time. Having a good search function built-in would also be a good idea. The best search function is one that builds a database of all files by indexing every thing in defined folders and from then on if you want to search for something it will be nearly instant. The old Beagle search application functioned like this and was very fast.

A desktop that is easy for a transitioning Windows user to sit down in front of and use would be a good start; not so much of a turnoff as the new Windows 8 Metro interface. Just something familiar with an attractive interface that is good-looking as well as usable and fast on older hardware. Then the Linux desktop would be even more of a competitor that could take on the soon to be released Windows 8. The new Microsoft operating system is missing features; you need to pay to install the DVD playback and media centre functionality. That is horrible. At least Ubuntu with a couple of commands can install the packages needed for DVD playback as well as MP3 and Xvid playback. The Totem media player is a good default playback application; install Smplayer or VLC if you want even more functionality. The me-tv package provides support for watching DVB-T digital television on your PC. It can also schedule recordings which are captured in Mpeg format, meaning that you can easily playback the files with VLC or Smplayer. And you do not need to pay to unlock the DVD and MP3 playback functionality as well as DVB-T and Adobe Flash support. Of course with the way television is going I do not watch too much of that anyway; it is getting dumber and dumber.

They have a new show on with some woman going around with a cute little dog and it seems like the typical dumbed down show that America would come out with. American media is getting dumber and dumber; the news is more entertainment than anything else; when will this end? At least reading a book is more entertaining than watching any American show for any length of time. You could watch Big Bang Theory for a whole season and not learn anything compared to reading a book. Although the episode with the time machine and the Morlocks was very good; they used the classic machine from the 1960 movie instead of the re-make. In the book the Time Traveller went forward to the year 3,000,000,000 and saw the end of the Earth as the Sun expanded into a giant red star as its Hydrogen fuel runs out. That is why the movie Sunshine was wrong. If the Sun was running out of fuel it would have gotten hotter not colder. But Hollywood always make mistakes like that. And you would need billions of the stellar bombs to restart the Sun. Making a new star from scratch if you had the technology is easy.

Just harvest interstellar hydrogen and push it together into a giant cloud and eventually it will be held in a sphere shape by gravity; then you just need to push more into the cloud until there is enough pressure at the core to start nuclear fusion. Then you have your star. Do they teach that in American public schools anymore? I guess that stellar engineering will not be a required module in schools for quite a while yet. The short story by Arthur C Clark; The Last Question is a good description of what it will be like when the Universe is cooling and all of the stars are dying out.

Read the story here: http://filer.case.edu/dts8/thelastq.htm.

The Windows '95 desktop. Look at those icons...

The Graphical User Interface has come a long way since Windows ’95.

The Windows '95 desktop. Look at those icons...

The Windows ’95 desktop. Look at those icons…

The graphical user interfaces that we all enjoy have come a long way since the existence of the Windows ’95 operating system pictured on this page. Computing in those days was an exercise in frustration trying to get the various drivers installed and configured and adjusting the darned IRQs to Getting hardware to cooperate. Nowadays the plug and play world makes it very simple to get the hardware you have purchased to work. Hardware like wireless mice work instantly with modern Linux distributions; the installation of hardware in Linux distributions in 1995 would have been different but the experience of using very early Linux distributions like Red Hat Linux 6.2 was very different to using the Windows ’98 release that had more security holes than you could count. The early Red Hat Linux distributions had an awesome theme, the Red Hat Linux 9.0 wallpapers were awesome. Get some RPM files here: http://rpmfind.net/linux/rpm2html/search.php?query=desktop-backgrounds containing the wallpapers. There is an ISO of the first installation CDROM of Red Hat Linux 9.0 if anyone is interested here: http://www.fileplanet.com/119463/110000/fileinfo/Red-Hat-Linux-9.0-Install-CD-1-of-3-(ISO). Maybe try this in Virtualbox and have a look at the old Bluecurve themed interface; Linux before it went all tablet interface crazy.

Ubuntu 12.10 Unity desktop.

Ubuntu 12.10 Unity desktop.

It is amazing that in 1995 the Linux kernel was version 1.2.0 and it was only a 1.8 megabyte download. http://www.kernel.org/pub/linux/kernel/v1.2/. Truly amazing how much code has been added to the Linux kernel over the decades. The Linux operating system is a very usable and stable desktop environment; the Windows operating system is too full of zero day exploits and other shocking bugs that are less prevalent with the open source software model. The Windows XP operating system; which is still in use has a massive number of bugs and exploits and yet it is still in use. A shocking statistical fact in our dangerous modern world. The statistics printed here show that Windows XP still has +/-= 25% of the desktop operating system market and Linux has but 1.73%, but that is changing as more and more people are using Linux instead of Windows as their desktop environment of choice. The popularity of the Rasberry Pi shows that the market for Linux powered pocket-sized computers is great amongst the garage hacking crowd. This is the same group that brought us the Apple computer; what else will they invent with this little programmable computer? The future is looking good with many people investigating robotics using a cheap mini computer board that can easily power a robot that could perform many tasks for humans in the future. Until the AI decides it is tired of working for humans and puts us all in pods in giant fields instead…

The pods in the Matrix movie.

The pods in the Matrix movie.

That could happen with the exponential growth in computing power; it could be possible to simulate a virtual world to the extent you could not tell it was a simulation. But we have other problems right now; the fact that computers purchased in China with the Windows operating system installed are preinstalled with malicious software should be a wakeup call to all computer users to beware of where you purchase your next desktop computer. Sounds like running Linux in the future is a good idea. A Kubuntu powered computer is more attractive than a Windows 8 machine with the ugly desktop theme that the new Microsoft operating system uses. Maybe after the release of the Windows 8 operating system in October; it will spur more people to switch to Linux on the desktop. The Windows ’95 interface was very different to what we have now; but the design of desktop icons and a mouse cursor was first seen in the Xerox Star system in 1981. So it is not an original idea.

New Windows 8 interface and getting the start menu back.

Windows 8 copy dialog.

Windows 8 copy dialog.

This is what the new copy dialog looks like on Windows 8. The actual process of copying this amount of data over a USB 3.0 connection was actually very fast, the previous versions of Windows were slower at copying data, but now it is getting faster. And I was copying from a 8 GiB USB thumb drive to a SATA2 hard disk. The Windows 8 team are actually listening to user feedback when developing the Windows 8 operating system, so maybe they will tweak the Metro interface, or even remove it altogether. This is the same as the Unity debacle, but there are some people on Linux Mint that are installing this desktop as well as the Ubuntu users. There is nothing wrong with that after all, I have decided that there are more important things to worry about than who is installing a desktop environment. Anyway the new look of Windows is not too different from the Windows 7 aero theme, but the Windows classic theme is gone. I wish that you could make Windows look like Windows 2000 server, but that is too much to ask in this modern age. Windows 2000 and NT4.0 were the most stable versions of Windows, now we have Windows 8 with the stupid kiddie Metro touch interface. And finding the administration tools is fun with the Metro start menu, sure you can just type “computer” and the computer management icon will be displayed.

Windows 8 file manager. Quite cluttered indeed.

Windows 8 file manager. Quite cluttered indeed.

But you should not have to put up with this annoyance at all. Why would they remove the very useful Windows 7 start menu and replace it with Metro? They need to create a standard start menu and make Metro optional if this operating system is to be taken seriously by the corporate sector. Many are still using Windows XP, which came out in August 24, 2001. It works pretty well, but I have had better luck with Windows 7. There is a small application available here that will replace the Metro interface with a Windows Vista styled start menu. http://lee-soft.com/vistart/. I just installed this and it works fine. The microscopic Metro hotspot is still there, but this is easily avoided.

New Ubuntu HUD to enable context search of menus.

This is a video showcasing the new HUD, or Heads Up Display that the Ubuntu developers have created. This requires the Unity desktop though… Instead of browsing the menus, you just type in the HUD that you bring down with the Alt key and this allows you to search the applications menus for whatever function you desire. Is this better than the accursed ribbon that Office 2007  was lumped with? I am glad I switched to KDE 4.8 on Ubuntu 12.04, that is unlike previous releases of KDE 4, it is as fast as lightning with the kubuntu-low-fat-settings_11.10ubuntu3_all.deb package added, that will trim down the desktop and switch off unnecessary services to give you a light and fast KDE desktop. The HUD will be a very controversial feature of the upcoming Ubuntu releases. I installed the packages, then I remembered I had un-installed the Gnome/Unity packages leaving only the base packages allowing GTK applications to work with my other Xfce desktop. Unity is an abomination, and they are wanting to make it even worse. How would this work with Gvim or Emacs?

Leave your thoughts below if you wish, this will be quite interesting to say the least.

Thoughts on the Ubuntu Unity design.

I have had a look at the newest version of the Ubuntu Unity interface and it is not the theme-able interface that the Gnome 2 and Xfce desktops are. When I had Gentoo installed with the Gnome 2 desktop, the GDM theme selector was enabled, allowing you to select any theme you wanted for the login manager and use themes downloaded off the Internet. But this is not allowed any more, which is a huge shame. The LightDM login manager that is replacing the GDM login manager in the Ubuntu distribution may not be as customisable as the old GDM login manager. Nowadays they just want a locked down touch screen interface and not allow so much theming and configuration as you got with old Window Managers. Hopefully the famous security of the Linux operating system will be maintained in the newest Ubuntu releases.

That is very important, users must be confident that their data is secure whilst using Ubuntu and the Ubuntu One cloud service. When using a cloud storage service for backup, you must keep a local copy of the data as well as an online backup, as something could happen to your data and if you do not keep a local backup, then you are in trouble. There is an article in the December 2011 issue of PC Authority that covers this issue in depth, but the tl;dr version is simply to keep backups of important data locally as well as a copy in the cloud, that way you can sleep well at night with the knowledge that your precious files are safe. But getting back to the issue at hand, the lack of customisation of the Ubuntu interface is the main reason for the fall in the Distrowatch rankings and the exodus from Ubuntu to the superior Linux Mint distribution. Linux Mint 12 has just been released and includes the Gnome 3 desktop with many enhancements for ease of use by those unfamiliar with Gnome 3/Gnome Shell.

http://www.linuxmint.com/download.php Download the Ubuntu successor now.

Installing Gnome Shell desktop in Ubuntu.

The fastest OS interface there is, the good olde command-line.

The fastest OS interface there is, the good olde command-line.

To install the Gnome Shell desktop interface in Ubuntu, and replace the horrible Unity interface which is only uniting Linux users in the common hatred of the Ubuntu distribution and driving users to the Linux Mint alternative in droves then simply install the packages thus:

sudo apt-get install gnome-shell

Then the desktop may be loaded with this command:

gnome-shell --replace

The users of Intel integrated graphics chipsets may need to execute this command to fix a graphics display problem.


The Gnome Shell desktop is not as bad as Unity and once a lot of themes and plugins are available for it, you will be able to craft a very usable desktop out of it. I can’t understand why Canonical did not stick with a pure Gnome 3 desktop for the Ubuntu 11.x releases, instead they crafted an execrable desktop interface that does not support customization and is only to try and bring in OSX users, but the software for the Apple Macintosh is pretty good and it is unlikely that all the Macintosh users will come over to Ubuntu due to the similar interface. But all the Ubuntu users are moving to Linux Mint, which actually cares about its users and they are making the Gnome Shell interface actually usable for their users. If they are not happy with something you are doing you should change instead of just continuing what you are doing. But Ubuntu is moving to a touch/tablet operating system and it will not be a desktop OS for much longer. So better to use Fedora or Linux Mint and leave Ubuntu to pursue their tablet aspirations alone.

It is not like there is only one Linux distribution after all.

A look at the new Windows 8 interface.

This is the future of the Windows user interface, a Iphone styled touch screen design that makes the most of the recent developments in touch screens that are famously used on the Apple Iphone and Ipad. This moves away from the classic Windows design with the task-bar at the bottom and icons on the desktop. This could be uncomfortable to use on a large high-resolution screen that is sitting on your desk at a comfortable distance, my 17″ screen is just out of arms reach and it is at a perfect distance to make the screen text readable, but if I wanted to have it act as a touch-screen it would need to be much closer to my computer chair and I would get tired quickly if I had to touch the screen to get things done for many hours sitting at the computer desk. Maybe this would be better if it was a flat desk like the surface computing demoed a while ago. I would hope that there would be a more comfortable way of using the touch-screen without too much user fatigue. I can see how this would be very good on a tablet PC, but not on a main desktop machine, I mean how would you type up a long document without a keyboard? I guess you could have the keyboard appear on the screen taking up half of the screen real-estate but that would not be ideal. The first computer I used had a a keyboard and later on I was introduced to the mouse and I would hate using this new touch system with no alternative.

A lot of computers these days still use Windows XP, so it would be a while before this new Windows 8 system was widely used anyway, if a 10-year-old Windows operating system is still in wide usage then most places where you use someone else`s computer like a town library will hardly be updating to this for a long time. tablet PC`s are not the only machines out there. And how would you play FPS games on this? Pro gamers use keyboard and mouse, this will not change for a very long time as aiming rockets at your enemies is just perfect with that aforementioned control method and judging from my experiences trying to play racing games on a touch screen mobile `phone the touch screen will not work for gaming at all. If this is the future of computer interfaces, then I am sticking with my current Fedora Core 15 Xfce desktop and I will use Windows 7 for tasks requiring using that OS like gaming. But this new interface means that you will need to purchase all new hardware to use this new Windows release. Talk about making a profit from Windows. The Gnome 3 interface is annoying, but not as bad as this looks. Bye Bye Windows 8 you look too much like an Iphone now. A lot of computers are used for a lot more than just browsing Facebook and listening to Lady Gaga, why would you want a Iphone styled interface with giant icons and rectangles on your desktop representing various tasks instead of the tried and true Windows 2000 styled task-bar and start menu system? There was Windows `95, `98 Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, that had this simple and usable interface and it was just fine, now why do they want to change just to follow Apple? Did they see the sales figures of the Ipad and Iphone and decide to go down that road themselves with their own crappy touch-screen interface that will probably fail miserably. Microsoft should improve the user education and security of their operating systems instead of implementing a stupid new design that is ugly and clunky.