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KDE Plasma Active: the Mobile Interface That Works

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the hold-it-in-your-hand dept.

GUI 70

jrepin writes "Bruce Byfield is not a fan of interfaces for mobile devices. At best, he finds them clumsy makeshifts, tolerable only because nothing better is available. The only exception is KDE's Plasma Active, which not only works well on tablets, but, with its recently released version 3.0, remains the only mobile-inspired interface he can tolerate on a workstation."

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KDE is the best. (2, Funny)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a year and a half ago | (#41841259)

It is the Kommunist Desktop Environment, so naturally it is superior to the alternatives!

READ MARX, ENGELS, LENIN AND TROTSKY!

Pernicious bridges? We can help! The horsemanure phone calp is HISTORY!

Who is he? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841297)

Who is this guy and why should I care what he nobody thinks?

Re:Who is he? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841837)

You should not care in any way who he is. But instead of making stupid, uninsightful comments on Slashdot, you should go read what he wrote and see if it make sense.

Believing something because of the reputation of the speaker is stupid, faith-based magickal thinking. Get over it.

These statements not approved by the SlashThink hive mind.

Re:Who is he? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41842095)

There are 7 billion people in the world. Why should we spend our time listening to every single one of them?

So the OPs point stands, why should we go read what that particular guy wrote instead of reading something else?

Re:Who is he? (5, Funny)

Raumkraut (518382) | about a year and a half ago | (#41842319)

why should we go read what that particular guy wrote instead of reading something else?

Because this one is featured on Slashdot, so has clearly passed through the site's stringent editorial checks for quality and veracity.

Re:Who is he? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41851475)

RASCIST!!!!!!

Re:Who is he? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41842415)

So to sum up your whiny rant, there is no reason to care what he thinks. Gotcha.

Re:Who is he? (3, Insightful)

fuzzywig (208937) | about a year and a half ago | (#41842753)

I've just read TFA and I'd like to bring back the parent's question: Who is this bloke and why does he think that anyone will care about his opinion? He's complaining about ALL other tablet/phone GUIs, and says he prefers a GUI that does not run on any tablets, and that he tested on a workstation.
If you dislike every single mobile OS, then you clearly have quite specialised tastes and needs, so what you think is a good interface will probably not be of any use to the rest of us.

Re:Who is he? (2)

Barsteward (969998) | about a year and a half ago | (#41843791)

Why don't you check his bio and the previous articles he has written about linux desktop environments and openoffice, then you can find out who he is and if he's worth it.

Re:Who is he? (1)

jalefkowit (101585) | about a year and a half ago | (#41850027)

If only there were some web site I could visit that would do all that filtering out of not-worth-it tech stories for me, and then just present me with only the stuff that's worth reading!

Re:Who is he? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41845577)

who are you, btw?

Re:Who is he? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41846233)

Nigga Tyrone.

Looks interesting... (5, Interesting)

xkpe (1842034) | about a year and a half ago | (#41841313)

Looking at the video it has some interesting concepts to make it more usable on touch devices, but to some point they still rely in rather small buttons that are hard to touch.
It also seems very slow but it might be a debug version.

At least link to the Plasma Active page (5, Informative)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year and a half ago | (#41841331)

The wall-o-text of TFA doesn't even have pics, and I barely noticed the link to the project
 
  Plasma Active [plasma-active.org]

Re:At least link to the Plasma Active page (1)

Shag (3737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41845205)

Yeah, link to the Plasma Active page to remind me that the Seamonkey project obviously hasn't gotten Mozilla's latest rendering engine, since in Seamonkey, the Plasma Active page lays out like something a dog threw up. Thanks for designing to fall back gracefully on browsers that don't support whatever bleeding-edge features you're using, guys. ;) /actual captcha word: disgust

Re:At least link to the Plasma Active page (1)

Bill Dimm (463823) | about a year and a half ago | (#41846815)

The plasma.active.org homepage renders fine for me in Seamonkey 2.3.3. The only noticeable difference between it and Firefox 15.0.1 or Chrome 22.0.1229.94m on Windows is that it displays with a sans-serif font instead of a serif font. Are you looking at something other than the homepage, or did they maybe fix it after your post?

Re:At least link to the Plasma Active page (1)

Bill Dimm (463823) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847233)

I meant to mention that I'm running Seamonkey on Linux.

Re:At least link to the Plasma Active page (1)

Shag (3737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41978321)

My bad - turned out they're using some scripting for layout, and I had NoScript active. So NoScript was what made everything end up piled on top of each other.

Thanks, by the way, for the reply, which goaded me into actually investigating!

I switched to Chrome (which also offers multiple-profile support) anyway... ;)

Re:At least link to the Plasma Active page (1)

Bill Dimm (463823) | about a year and a half ago | (#41980179)

You're welcome.

two input paradigms, same interface, same mistake (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841379)

Can we please quit trying to make a superstar common interface that works with both touchscreens and keyboard/mouse?

The result is always bad interfaces for one or both. There is no way around this, except to have two different interfaces.

Re:two input paradigms, same interface, same mista (5, Informative)

Shinmera (2514940) | about a year and a half ago | (#41841431)

Which this is. KDE Plasma Active is not the same as the default desktop KDE. It uses the same libraries and corer, but is a different interface. I don't see a problem with this at all.

Re:two input paradigms, same interface, same mista (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841707)

From the summary:

"remains the only mobile-inspired interface he can tolerate on a workstation."

How would that statement even make sense if you are correct?

Re:two input paradigms, same interface, same mista (4, Informative)

juanfgs (922455) | about a year and a half ago | (#41841767)

because you can enable plasma active on KDE on your desktop PC if you want.

Re:two input paradigms, same interface, same mista (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841791)

Bruce (the author of the article) tried running it on a desktop system to see what it would be like there. It is not the intended use of the interface, but Bruce was curious and tried it out.

However, we still have a separate desktop UX that, as Shinmera mentioned, shares the same core and libraries but which has a significantly different interaction pattern tailored for the mouse/keyboard/lots of apps method of using a general purpose device (e.g. a full laptop). Plasma Desktop will continue to be supported, developed and recommended for desktop systems (as the name implies) while Plasma Active is aimed at mobile and "appliance" style devices.

Cheers, aseigo.

Re:two input paradigms, same interface, same mista (2)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about a year and a half ago | (#41841905)

Exactly! Keep up the good work! ( and maybe, if you haven't already started, try getting it to run on a nexus 7/10).

no contradiction (1)

dlenmn (145080) | about a year and a half ago | (#41841805)

What's the contradiction? KDE has more than one interface, and the author likes the mobile interface enough that he can stand it on the desktop. However, the mobile interface wasn't intended for use on the desktop; it isn't normally used on the desktop; and you don't have to agree with the author.

Re:two input paradigms, same interface, same mista (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year and a half ago | (#41851509)

From an app dev's point of view, are they different? I don't really understand the levels of abstraction involved here, since I've only done stuff like Java that deals with it itself, or console apps.

Re:two input paradigms, same interface, same mista (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841683)

Exactly. These modern-day GUI designers need to read up on "gorilla arm". It's been a well-known phenomena for decades. In their lust to ignore the past (because anything "old" is dumb and shit), they'll eventuallu have to relearn all these lessons while their elders say "I told ya so".

Re:two input paradigms, same interface, same mista (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year and a half ago | (#41851425)

There aren't any modern-day GUI designers. They've been pushed into the wilderness by the UX creators. These have oversized body piercings, smoke coloured cigarettes and if you ask them about Fitts' Law they think it's a 1970s cop show.

Re:two input paradigms, same interface, same mista (2)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about a year and a half ago | (#41842741)

Both Plasma Active and to some degree, Android are modal. It's the same user interface with different contextual modes for input. Plasma does this much better from what I've seen.

Doing it exclusively poorly (such as in W8) is much more of a Microsoft innovation than it's endemic to the concept.

The best mobile inspired interface... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841387)

On a desktop is Metro. You can get Metro if you install or upgrade your desktop computer to Windows 8. The price to upgrade right now is very low. Why stick with Windows 7 when it can't do what Windows 8 can?

Also, you can play video games on Windows. You can't do that on Linux or OS X. Windows does what they CAN'T. Be smart. Buy Windows 8 today.

If you aren't using Windows, you might as well be eating feces and ghost peppers.

Re:The best mobile inspired interface... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841419)

Wow! I never saw it that way before!

I'm totally sold. Which box do I deposit my soul into for payment?

Re:The best mobile inspired interface... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841949)

False dichotomy.

Why can't I use Windows, AND eat feces and ghost peppers?

BTW, I think your post should have gotten a "+1, Funny"

Long-time KDE user (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841403)

Lately I've been trying to find how I can get one of the available tablets to run KDE. After going through all the disruption of the early KDE 4 releases, I'm glad to see things settle out and be usable. For the whole time I've been hearing about Windows 8 and its "do things the same way on the desktop and the laptop", I've been thinking of how well KDE has managed NOT to screw this up--and be in the game much earlier than Microsoft. Now I'm ready to try KDE Plasma Active on a tablet!

Re:Long-time KDE user (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year and a half ago | (#41841579)

The Nexus 7 can now run Ubuntu ... has anyone tried installing anything other than the default desktop?

Plasma Active on Nexus7 (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41843429)

Yes, a few people have, in the last days, installed Plasma Active packages (based off of Kubuntu) onto it, see this photo: https://yfrog.com/esup2ioj

  It's much better suited, input wise, than the Unity shell, which, for example, heavily relies on right mouse button actions, and also scrolling seems mostly broken. (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Nexus7/KnownIssues for a more detailed list). The input problems are being fixed just by the Plasma Active shell and apps, so if they get all the driver-level problems sorted, it will be a nice option and probably a lot closer to "working well" than Unity.

-- sebas

Man likes something! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841435)

And in other news someone else said their favourite colour is red.

Tablets (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841441)

Nobody uses them anymore.
This is the post-tablet era, everyone is moving back to laptops.

The sheer stupidity of modern GUI developers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841515)

> mobile-inspired interface on a workstation.

D-U-M-B.

Why not put a kitchen stove interface on a car ?

Imbeciles.

Re:The sheer stupidity of modern GUI developers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841817)

I guess because Bruce wanted to see how well it would work there, and it seems he was surprised at how well it did work in spite of it not being designed with that form factor and input method in mind .. but it is, indeed, not the intended use for Plasma Active. Plasma Desktop is for, well, desktop style systems: (relatively) big screens with mouse/keyboard interaction running applications in overlapping windows.

Re:The sheer stupidity of modern GUI developers (3, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#41846335)

Because, more and more, laptops are being used as workstations. In addition, more and more laptops are being produced with touch screens, if not flat out convertibility to tablets. The line between mobile device and workstation is not as sharply delineated as you want it to be.

Re:The sheer stupidity of modern GUI developers (1)

tibman (623933) | about a year and a half ago | (#41846935)

They call those RVs.

I smell a KDE shill! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841533)

WHO PAID YOU TO SAY THAT? Also, if you come away from this with anything, it would be never trust a website that still plugs User Friendly. Every couple years I go back to that strip to see if it ever became funny. Never fails to disappoint.

Its the messages not the comic (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year and a half ago | (#41842053)

You do know that for the last few years Illiad has not actually posted a new comic on a day to day basis?

but the funny may not be what you GET as such.

E? (1)

mattr (78516) | about a year and a half ago | (#41841571)

What about Enlightenment? Post from yesterday, TFA says it can work on mobile too.

Re:E? (1)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41842203)

It would have to. E17 is the widget set specified in Tizen, and its development is heavily funded by Samsung.

An article about a GUI with no pictures (3, Interesting)

oic0 (1864384) | about a year and a half ago | (#41841621)

What is this? radio? just show us some pictures of it and let us come to our own conclusions instead of telling us what we should think lol.

Re:An article about a GUI with no pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841681)

Err, are you aware of a blog that doesn't tell people what they should think?

"mobile-inspired" + workstation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841637)

Found your problem right there.

You don't like a mobile OS because it doesn't suite your workstation? lol

I think I see your problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841655)

"... version 3.0, remains the only mobile-inspired interface he can tolerate on a workstation.""

There's your problem. Don't use a mobile inspired interface on a workstation. Use a workstation inspired interface on a workstation.

Right tool for the right job.

Not really different then ICS (video link) (1)

Parker Lewis (999165) | about a year and a half ago | (#41841721)

I watched the video at http://plasma-active.org/#prettyPhoto/0/ [plasma-active.org] and it's not very different then Android (ICS) and its resizable widgets. If I'm wrong, please, point me the differences, or why KDE (which I'm a big fan) on mobile is so better than current alternatives.

Re:Not really different then ICS (video link) (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841925)

The design is completely different from ICS. Yes, there are resizable widgets on both, but that's where the similarities end.

Instead of a highly modal menu based system, Plasma Active provides an always-available "peek and launch" area by dragging down the top panel which lets you see all your running applications as well as launch new ones. There is an emphasis on avoiding the modal menu labyrinth that pretty much defines the Android interface. This works more or less on phones, but really falls down on other sorts of devices.

At the center of Plasma Active are activities, which lets you switch your device quickly from being focused on, say, a work or school project to planning a social event. There was a recent email on the devel list from a user who uses activities when travelling, for instance; it lets him keep maps, notes, documents and people relevant to the trip together in one place and with a flick of the finger he can switch to this very focused set of information.

ICS makes a tablet a great application launcher and occasional widget viewer. Plasma Active makes a tablet a reflection of your interests and activities.

Try it and you'll quickly see what it is capable of ...

Re:Not really different then ICS (video link) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41843357)

The design is completely different from ICS. Yes, there are resizable widgets on both, but that's where the similarities end.

Instead of a highly modal menu based system, Plasma Active provides an always-available "peek and launch" area by dragging down the top panel which lets you see all your running applications as well as launch new ones.

And this is not much different from Android which has the same thing except that it uses a long button press instead of a drag...

There is an emphasis on avoiding the modal menu labyrinth that pretty much defines the Android interface. This works more or less on phones, but really falls down on other sorts of devices.

At the center of Plasma Active are activities, which lets you switch your device quickly from being focused on, say, a work or school project to planning a social event. There was a recent email on the devel list from a user who uses activities when travelling, for instance; it lets him keep maps, notes, documents and people relevant to the trip together in one place and with a flick of the finger he can switch to this very focused set of information.

ICS makes a tablet a great application launcher and occasional widget viewer. Plasma Active makes a tablet a reflection of your interests and activities.

Try it and you'll quickly see what it is capable of ...

Well, that part seems like it might be cool. So, you can have multiple apps running on the same screen inside one container, or what? Android's solution to that problem is to use widgets. But, as they are often not the same as a full-blown app, I can see there would be some advantage in that. So, is there any video that demos this feature?

Re:Not really different then ICS (video link) (1)

vizZzion (832507) | about a year and a half ago | (#41843807)

Yes, the basic idea is that you group everything into Activities, which you can switch between. In such an Activity you can have running apps, app launchers, documents, images, links, bookmarks, widgets, contacts, messages. These "items" are all tied together by a semantic layer of metadata which represents your grouping as activities. You can easily add (or remove) those. Adding a bookmark to your current activity is for example as easy as tipping the connect button in the top panel, and then choosing "connect to current activity". It will then automatically be shown on your activity screen and "semantically associated" with the other bits of informations you have there.

Re:Not really different then ICS (video link) (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year and a half ago | (#41851337)

Is this vastly different to virtual desktops (which BTW I find extremely useful to the extent that when I use an OS without them it makes me cry)?

Re:Not really different then ICS (video link) (1)

vizZzion (832507) | about a year and a half ago | (#41851409)

On a Desktop, it's orthogonal to virtual desktops. You can use Activities in the same way as virtual desktops, but while VDs are only suitable to group windows, Activies can group pretty much everything. This is of course not a coincidence. :)

Tablet video, no desktop video (1)

tlambert (566799) | about a year and a half ago | (#41842473)

This really doesn't demonstrate using the same interface transparently across a desktop and a tablet.

Unless it's one of those vertically mounted tablets that normally comes with an attached keyboard and mouse (i.e. a touchscreen PC or laptop), it's really pretty uninteresting as far as the tablet video information goes.

Please provide a video of doing exactly the same things on a standard (non-touchscreen) desktop using a mouse.

ta3o (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841757)

my bedpost 04 my [goat.cx]

Yawn... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41841863)

stretch....

WebOS came damn close (2)

sydbarrett74 (74307) | about a year and a half ago | (#41842079)

WebOS has an elegant interface that in terms of UI/UX puts Android (even Jelly Bean) to shame. Its problems were two-fold: 1) underpowered hardware that didn't showcase the software stack effectively; and 2) lack of developer courtship from Palm and later HP. Hopefully the open-sourcing will rectify these points. In comparison to WebOS and iOS, Android is the ugly, freckly ginger stepchild. I think people willingly overlook its flaws because of the relatively decent hardware it tends to run on.

Re:WebOS came damn close (1)

lkcl (517947) | about a year and a half ago | (#41842113)

yeah i checked out the WebOS source code: there's no phone application, and no infrastructure for supporting phone modems, so you cannot even write a phone app because there's no libraries to call through to the hardware. they're "working on" replacing the bluetooth stack - it's like... huh? they've gone back to square one. the whole point of this eco-system is to bring a *solution* to the table, not *part* of a solution that would take 10 man-years for the free software community to make use of it! that's insane! they broke the rule in the "cathedral & bazaar" of at least releasing a first version that's _vaguely_ useful.

Re:WebOS came damn close (1)

sydbarrett74 (74307) | about a year and a half ago | (#41881591)

Maybe they can use the HAL from Meego and mash something together. Who knows.... All I know is Android needs a viable, open competitor to keep Google on their toes -- so scratch Windows Phone and iOS. Too bad Nokia completely fumbled the Symbian ball.

Re:WebOS came damn close (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41843113)

What windowing system does WebOS use? Can KDE run on it?

Re:WebOS came damn close (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41843165)

By KDE, I mean Plasma Active here

Re:WebOS came damn close (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41843311)

It uses the "go fuck yourself, freetard!" windowing system.

Re:WebOS came damn close (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41843863)

Javascript sucks in almost every way, except that it's what's available. We write code in JS not because of any merit of the language, but because it is a defacto standard -- A horible inefficient kludge ridden defacto standard at that. The language is actually DESIGNED TO BE INEFFICIENT. Seriously, it is. I've implemented it. Even JIT goes out the window because of Prototyped based design. Now, take any language implementer and designer, then ask them what would be a good language to implement on a low powered mobile device? Whatever their answer: IT'S NOT FUCKING JAVASCRIPT.

Where is this supported? (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year and a half ago | (#41844979)

What tablets currently support this? I might be willing to give it a shot on the Nexus 10 if it works, and if it's possible to back up the configuration beforehand and restore to factory if I don't like it. Linux is generally terrible at font rendering, but a high-DPI display like on the Nexus 10 might help circumvent this.

Do web browsers under Plasma Active support the same kind of pinch-to-zoom features that are standard on portable devices?

Re:Where is this supported? (1)

vizZzion (832507) | about a year and a half ago | (#41851417)

Can't say anything about Nexus10 support, but the webbrowser, it does support pinch-to-zoom. (I think it's also shown in the demo video.)

So, what? (1)

gabereiser (1662967) | about a year and a half ago | (#41845161)

I read the article, I watched the demo video from the website. Still not convinced he really knows what he's talking about. I for one don't want my touch-based interface married to a kb/m based interface to create some hybrid interface. I want a sleek kb/m ui that doesn't distract, and I want my touch-based device ui's to present content to me quickly, naturally, and contextually. The more buttons/tabs/windows/widgets I have to touch to get to my content, the worse I feel the UI is. I'm for simplicity with underlying complexity, not complexity with underlying simplicity.

Re:So, what? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year and a half ago | (#41851373)

It seems you're happy to put up with two different GUIs on two different devices. So am I.

However it seems that Microsoft, in trying to make Windows 8 be the one true GUI of doom to rule them all, have decided that people can't cope with this at all. So either we're odd or there's some other reason. Perhaps an attempt to cut down on development costs?

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