OSAF 2.0 and Me

January 16, 2008

I’m late to the announcement list and I’m shamelessly borrowing Ted’s post title of the same subject. I won’t go over the why and what and how of OSAF’s restructuring, well covered by Scott Rosenberg’s post.

On OSAF’s future, it’s clear that having a much smaller team and burn rate does actually increase its chance of survival: more nimble and more agile, it’s now better scaled to imagine a sustainable business model, one that can indeed pay the staff and keep the project going. I’ll be continuing promoting Chandler on my end, recruiting users and, more importantly using and contributing to the product, ’cause, in the end, that’s the only thing that counts for an Open Source project. The idle comments of Monday morning Technology Pundits (no link, I don’t want to point fingers…) won’t change that basic fact.

On my future, I’m moving back to graphics with a Second Life related project. I’m starting today working with Mitch on this (no details for the moment). So, no worry about my immediate future. I’m actually incredibly excited by this new project. Right now, I’m trying to get up to speed on Second Life Open Source client. Since I’ll be working quite by myself in this new project, I guess I’ll have more urge to vent and talk about stuff on this blog than I did on Chandler (where most of my writing was done on the mailing lists and OSAF’s wiki).

Chandler on Scoble

October 12, 2007

So, we made it on the Scobleizer blog. If you have 50 (!) minutes to spend, the video is making a pretty good tour of the product though I feel that Chandler does much more (the Quick Entry widget and its capacity to parse natural text is the most underrated feature in Chandler IMO) and that the “email as a conduit”, though mentioned, will not be captured correctly by viewers. Well, that should motivate me to blog on those aspects, shouldn’t it? 🙂

Anyhow, this blog post translated into a nice spike in the number of Chandler downloads, proof that Scoble’s blog is much more read than mine (thanks for coming however… 🙂 ).

As for the bizarre comment someone left of Scoble about the Church of Scientology, I just wanted to assure my worried family and friends that there’s no relation of any kind between OSAF and that cult (considered as such in France for sure). I’ve no idea where this guy got the idea though I have to admire how he phrased it, a sort of master piece of libel.

Chandler Preview… and more!

October 5, 2007

That’s funny: for a long time, I was preventing myself to post here because Preview was not out, now, Preview has been out since a month and I still haven’t posted anything yet… and we just branched and created RC1 of 0.7.1!

“Already” you might say but actually, the reason why we’re releasing an update is not so much because of the staggering amount of bugs we fixed or the new features (actually this new release is rather nible on that respect…) but rather because we decided to switch to a “scheduled releases” strategy. Gone the days you had to wait for months for a new version of Chandler! Now you’re going to enjoy a new crisp freshly baked Chandler every month!

We had quite a bit of discussions on the subject and we’re quite pleased with this new plan. It’ll make us more nimble, agile and, hopefully, more able to change course according to users feedback… this is where you come in 🙂

So, yes, time for you to download Chandler and let us know where you think we should focus our efforts.

The Art of the Release Note

August 9, 2007

I’ve been really swamped recently, struggling with the OSAF team to finish Chandler. We’re really close now, with only 11 bugs in the queue and a good shot at closing all within a day or 2… That close…

We also worked a lot on the Wiki and one of the tasks devoted to me was to write the Release Notes for Chandler Desktop. Since we haven’t made an official release since 0.6.1, I did a summary of everything we did since then, i.e. roughly a year of work. Well, whatdoyaknow, we did a lot of work in that time frame! For sure, the app is quite different from what it was back then when only the calendar was working. I actually felt pretty good after writing those Release Notes and thought I’d share that.

Once Preview is shipping, I’m planning to write here on little known features of Chandler. That’ll be fun 🙂

Chandler 0.7alpha4 released!

December 1, 2006

Whohoo! We’re done with a new Chandler milestone. 0.7alpha4 is finally officially out after more than a month of end game. The reason of this longish debug period is that we decided to be really serious about the quality bar, especially as far as stability was concerned. I credit that to the new Traceback feature that alerts you immediately when a failure happens (instead of silently burying it in the chandler.log). This brought a lot of bugs to the immediate attention of dogfooders and we fixed tons of serious repository issues as a result. Andi (our repository guy) confessed tonight he was glad 0.7alpha4 was finaly out…

There’s a bunch of new features in there that I’d encourage you to play with. One of the very important one is that Chandler is now using the new Cosmo 0.5 server: it is now possible to view your calendar in a web UI in any browser from any machine. It’s nice to see all the elements of the ecosystem as we call it coming together at last.

The result is a really stable dogfoodable release that I encourage you to try out. One advice though: stay clear from messing around with recurring item from within the dashboard view. We have a bunch of known issues with that in alpha4 that we’re working on fixing in alpha5.


October 17, 2006

My brother forwarded me this blog entry about the state of calendaring in the Open Source community. Good news: we’re mentioned in there. Bad news: it’s not moving even close to the speed potential users would like it to be.

Indeed, I empathize. If we needed any more motivation for getting our Preview out sooner, there it is: an eager community of potential users. At least it’s good to see our vision is shared by some.

Spatio Temporal Continuity

August 24, 2006

In a fit of N.A.D.D., I went to the site of A Scanner Darkly. Nothing incredible in this slick Flash gamish UI. It’s pretty good at creating a mood for the movie (which I haven’t seen BTW…).

It didn’t take long for me to look at the GUI widgets rather than the story they were supposed to tell me and, once again, I thought to myself: spatio temporal continuity in UI rules.

What does that mean? I actually didn’t coined the term or brought it to bear in the UI world. That was a term that the folks at Macromedia used when talking about the Flash way to showing/hidding info on the screen: the slick sort of slow motion way of things to appear and disappear, the important thing of course is that the motion gives you a cue of “where” the thing disappeared and, indeed, how to get it back.

Pattern languages being a well infused meme in Silicon Valley, folks there tried, somewhat successfully to devise a set of basic components and effects that could be used in general situations. The thinking being that, a little bit like buttons and check boxes became prevalent widgets in UI through the seminal Apple UI Guidelines, some basic components could become the fundamental elements of a new UI language, one that would integrate animation and this concept of spatio temporal continuity.

Question: Do we need Flash for that? Is that a Flash inherent breakthrough? An accidental revolution they stumbled upon?

Answer: No. As often (always?), this concept was first used by Apple in the very first Mac UI. Remember closing a folder window? To help users identify which folder it was, the Mac OS animated a wireframe rectangle that would resize down and vanish on the relevant folder icon present on the desktop. This was a fantastic boon to usability at the time. Since then, Apple confirmed their love of spatio temporal continuity with sheet dialogs and drawers in Cocoa and Exposé, Fast User Switching and, recently, Time Machine in the OS. It’s always the same idea: don’t pop up things out of nowhere to the user, slide and expose so to reveal the relationship between the before and after state and how those states are reversible.

So, what about Chandler? Sadly, the wxWidgets framework does not support animations of that kind. The only way to implement something like that would be for us to draw the whole darn animation (meaning that we also draw the whole widget), reducing the use of the framework to a glorified bitblitting machine… Unless… wxTNG takes this one into account in its set of target goals. Well, it’s not in there yet.

Would that be a good idea? You guessed that I’ll be quick to say “yes” and I will, for all the good reasons listed above. Another more urgent reason though is that it’s clear that with the Sparkle/Avalon combo, even laggers using Vista will be exposed and start demanding such UI.

So, for the same reason buttons and checkboxes replaced “semi graphic” spreadsheet like UI in the 90s (if you don’t know what it is or don’t remember, you can still see them at work at your dry cleaner or local garage…), sliding panels, accordions, animated trees and toasts will likely become the norm in the next few years.

We better get wxWidgets updated with the program…