Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Clicking And OpenOffice


I'm testing new ideas on our new desktop deployment to resolve problems that I have noticed in the last few years of being live on GNOME. One issue is clicking. Users don't understand when to single-click and when to double-click so they just double-click on everything. Shortcuts on the gnome-panel therefore fire off twice and this causes problems. For instance, a script that does a 'evolution --force-shutdown' will run twice and clobber each other. I have a patch that I will apply and test soon that makes the gnome-panel treat both clicks in the same way. This should probably be the default in all distributions. The startup spinning wheel that can be enabled doesn't work well; Users don't see it, and it makes the window manager unresponsive while it's spinning (at least over remote display). Invasive dialogs are not the answer either. I have started testing 'notify-send' and it's working really well. I have been able to resolve another long standing issue: Users don't remember which printer they have selected in their software applications. Often, City employees will move between multiple facilities each with unique printers. So, I am picking up their current printer and sending this information to notify-send as well. Feedback from my 10 beta testers has been very positive. (Shot below)

[ If anyone that develops the gnome-print dialogs wants some feedback on how they work, hit me up on the IRC. They really are not working very well for organizations with lots of users and printers ].


We often get calls from people that are thinking about installing OpenOffice and are unaware that a lot of resources are available for this type of deployment. I am not connected with any of those companies or people, but we have had good results in their services. offers excellent clue cards to hand out to employees. offers training videos and cluesheets. (For SLED 10 too).

Solveig Haugland has an excellent blog and has a new book on using OpenOffice. She is also available for training and special projects.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Desktop Work Continues

I continue to work on the next-gen desktop for deployment. Now that the hardware issues are finished I have started to move 3D thin clients out to regular users for the first time. The immediate feedback was that the 4 sides of the cube didn't provide enough workspaces, so I enabled a hexagon for everyone. It turned out that cubecap images only worked with 4 sides, so the Beryl guys put in a change to allow a PNG image to be placed in the middle of whatever shape you have. (Thank you!). (Seen in shot below) I am finding that users click the mouse and press function keys often by accident and they are stepping into a lot of Beryl gestures without knowing what they did. Compiz I am sure would have the same issue. So, I have eliminated a lot of the shortcuts and made any desired screen effects be very purposeful.

I also saw the announcement of the news-notification applet which is very similar to mail-notification and it's working great. It monitors a RSS file and creates a popup when the file changes. This will allow me to push messages to the entire City at one time with information about hurricanes or other important events. (Seen in shot below).

I have also deployed cairo-clock which seems to run fine over remote display.

I had a short IRC conversation with Federico about how users are struggling with shared documents. Generally, people don't know where things are saved and now after 20+ years of people working on computers, I am losing hope that this concept will ever improve. :) Previously what I did was put all of the important documents in regular GNOME cascading menus and people loved it. Now that we are deploying the main-menu (slab) that won't work. So, I wrote a small python application that simply creates tiles for our documents and then opens them in the appropriate application. (Seen in shot below).

What Nautilus really needs is the ability to create 'filelists' just like you create 'playlists' in iTunes. Playlists are simply groups that organize your music in virtual folders. 'Filelists' should work the same way. Click into the list on the left side and all of the documents appear. This eliminates users having to know where things are, and allows them to organize documents into conceptual groups instead of thinking in terms of directory layouts. Sometimes files that you use are not your own, and you don't have the ability to change the directory names. Filelists should be supported per user, and it should allow global ones that the adminstrator puts in as well for all users.

[ Pics -- Go to my blog if they do not appear]

[Below: Beryl with 6 sides, hexagon cap displaying on the bottom and top. news-notification displaying popup of recently added RSS feed in lower right hand corner]

[Below: Pyton application that creates tiles of frequently used documents. File names are hidden, and descriptions of the documents are displayed instead.]