Different day, same Places

A couple of years ago, I bemoaned the inconsistency of our presentation of bookmarks and places.

Last week I had cause to revisit the issue (for much the same reason as before—updating the OpenSolaris UI spec), hoping that things would have improved and I wouldn’t have to suggest too many tweaks to the OpenSolaris layout to keep things nice and consistent.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like much has changed though, really, which is kind of disappointing. (Especially as seeing this bug marked as resolved had built up my hopes a little…)

Caveat: as in my original post, the latest release of Ubuntu (8.10, GNOME 2.24.1) was the closest I had to a community build when I was doing the comparison. So things may really be a little better or worse than they appear here, or may have been fixed in 2.25/2.26.

So I hacked up a quick diagram showing all the menus and sidebars where bookmarks and places appear, and aligned them on the “Home Folder” entry since that was about the only one that was consistently placed. Here’s what I came up with:

Side-by-side comparison of bookmarks/places in Ubuntu 8.10
Side-by-side comparison of bookmarks/places in Ubuntu 8.10

The plusses:

  • The two Places menus on the panel (one in the menubar applet, one in the main menu applet) are now identical, at least in Ubuntu. This is good to see, although most users won’t see both at the same time anyway.
  • The Go and Places menus in Nautilus (browser mode and spatial mode respectively) are pretty consistent with each other too.

The minuses:

  • Inconsistent appearance/placement of mounted media, Computer, Desktop, Templates, File System, and CD/DVD Creator between sidebars and menus.

Of course, it would be wrong to complain without offering any proposals, and I’ll get to that—just haven’t got time today. The current draft of the OpenSolaris 2009.04 UI spec does include my first quick attempt, but that’s currently based more on “least amount of work to fix” rather than “what might be most useful”… and we all know that’s not really the way to do it, right kids? 🙂

OpenSolaris and VirtualBox

Seamless OpenSolaris

Congrats to the VirtualBox team on being the first (that I know of) to provide a working Seamless/Unity/Coherence mode for OpenSolaris 2008.05 guests on OS X.  (I don’t know how long this has actually worked, I only tried it last night, in VB 1.6…)

Obviously a bit of work to do before it rivals the sort of integration that Windows guests enjoy in Fusion and Parallels, but it’s a good step in the right direction…

VMware 1, Parallels 0

I’d been using Parallels 3.0 for the past few weeks to run SXDE 2 on my MacBook Pro, but started having problems when I upgraded to Solaris Nevada build 69– the X server wouldn’t start any more, and I just couldn’t get it going at all.I took the opportunity to try out the VMware Fusion Beta instead, and so far it’s the clear winner.

It does feel a trifle slower than Parallels (even with debugging turned off), and its snapshots aren’t as flexible, only allowing one per VM. But its VM tools for Solaris are way ahead of Parallels’ non-existent offering– clock sync, on-the-fly desktop resize, copy/paste/drag+drop from Solaris <-> OS X… nice. (Haven’t figured out if shared folders are supposed to work on Solaris yet or not– the settings are available which suggest they should, but the folders I’ve nominated don’t show up anywhere obvious, so I’m guessing they don’t.)

Assuming it’s just as happy at full screen on my Sun 24″ display when I get into the office, I’ll be sticking in the VMware camp for now.

Edit: Oh, and did I mention that Solaris sound and networking work out-of-the-box on VMware too…?

Sun patch day: Wednesday

Inspired (partly) by some recent gripes about some of the patches Sun are applying to GNOME for Solaris, Laca has announced our first community patch day this coming Wednesday:

The desktop team at Sun would like to invite you all to a Sun-patch day. The goal of the patch day is to go through all Sun’s GNOME (JDS) patches and: – push the less controversial ones upstream – a great opportunity to vent your frustration about all the crack that may have slipped in – start a discussion about the more controversial patches.

Where: irc://irc.gnome.org#sun-patches

When: Wednesday, July 11th.

You can read Laca’s full announcement here.

Sun Birthday Cluster

OpenSolaris 1 Year Anniversary

An inordinate number of people I know seem to have birthdays this week… not least my own (and two other members of the Sun desktop team) yesterday, which signalled the halfway mark to my threescore and ten. Or probably threescore minus ten, given the genetic predisposition of Lanarkshire folk to fatal heart attacks.

Today, one of the projects I work on has its first birthday too… OpenSolaris. I only work at the desktop end, which arguably isn’t where most of the coolest stuff is happening, so I’ll let the other bloggers talk about that sort of thing… but nonetheless, the result of all our hard work to integrate GNOME 2.14 into OpenSolaris just before Christmas is that for the first time in quite a while, I can generally use my Solaris desktop box all day every day to do my job, without resorting to Linux or OS X for anything other than testing. That has to be a Good Thing, and long may it continue!

All over the Places

While working on a proposal for desktop defaults for our next version of the Java Desktop System, I’ve been somewhat perturbed by the mess that our concept of “Places” is in.

These screenshots are from Ubuntu Dapper as I’m on my Powerbook at the moment, but IIRC the vanilla community version isn’t significantly different (except for the Documents ‘place’ that Ubuntu has– but we have that in JDS too so that’s part of my problem as well). I have one bookmark and a few network places set up– this is one of my everyday, working desktops, so my experiences are presumably fairly typical.

The user’s first encounter is most likely on the Places menu on the panel:

Places submenu on main menu

Then when they open a file, they get this collection of Places instead– now their bookmarks are at the bottom, and they can choose from devices that weren’t available on the Places menu:

Places sidebar in file selector

Using nautilus in spatial mode, we get this different content and ordering again– and a third different term for the home folder:

Places menu in nautilus spatial mode

And using nautilus in Browse mode, the Places sidebar and Go menu don’t even agree with each other, let alone anything else:

Places sidebar and Go menu in nautilus browse mode

Now, obviously a wee bit of context sensitivity is appropriate… in the file selector, you’re unlikely to want to open files from the CD Burner or Trash locations for example (although I’d be quite happy to allow opening from Trash– I always get annoyed at OSes that force you to drag things out the trash before you can look at them again). But surely we can do a better job of consistency here overall? My Places are my Places wherever I’m accessing them, and in general I’d expect to see the same ones in the same order.

Or is it just me…?

Linux cool, Solaris hot

By now you’ve probably read the stories that Sun are ‘cooling down’ their efforts on JDS/Linux. It’s unclear exactly what that means for future Linux releases yet, at least to us lowly engineers. But what does it mean for our involvement with the GNOME community?

If anything, I actually think it’ll increase our involvement. By focusing so hard on Linux for the past couple of years, we’ve probably spent the majority of our time on things like branding and other Sun-specific features, because on the whole, the Linux versions of GNOME and the other products we ship with JDS just work. On the other hand, our approach with the Solaris version has often just been to pull out those bits that don’t work very well on Solaris– sometimes substituting them with existing Java apps, which don’t necessarily integrate as well as they could with the rest of GNOME; other times just losing the feature altogether.

By concentrating more on the Solaris version, we’ll have everyone focused on making those things work properly, not to mention letting loose our cool Solaris 10 tools (like dtrace) on improving performance. We need to make JDS work well on SunRays after all, and that can only benefit everyone.

The engineering team here really seem to be looking forward to this renewed focus… it’s almost a throwback to the days when we first got involved with GNOME, and (with the help of Ximian and Wipro) were knocking our socks off to release 2.0 on Solaris 8. Personally I think those days represent the most productive our interactions with the GNOME community over the past five years, and it culminated in one of the most stable releases of GNOME that I’ve used. Here’s hoping we can do the same again.

And you smell like one too

It’s a popular day for birthdays1 among your friendly JDS team today… Laca, our globetrotting release engineer, Robert, our engineering director, and yours truly. Have a good one everybody!

1Although of course most days are, in any modestly-sized group of people… statistics always freaked me out at school.

2That isn’t my my birthday cake, it’s Jorge‘s from a while back– just seemed like an appropriate picture…