Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Gemini at Randa 2015

Last year, I wrote a blog entry about the iminent release of Calligra 2.9 and the Calligra Gemini application which became a fully fletched member of the suite. In the latter half of that entry, I touched on what the future might potentially hold, and I mentioned the possibility of extending the concept from the application level to the complete system.

This future has, finally, arrived: We are now approaching the KDE Randa Meetings 2015, whose main topic this year is bringing touch to our software. In the spirit of KDE's software being something which integrates deeply between applications and with everywhere the applications run, the Gemini concept is in my personal, and of course biased, opinion a perfect match. In a world where our software runs on devices which, effectively, fit into three basic categories (that I will outline below), it would seem silly to not attempt this adaptation.

Create, Edit and View Presentations with Calligra Gemini
by Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen

The Gemini Device Categories

On the first, we find what we have become used to calling "the desktop", but which seems to be mostly laptops these days. These are devices where we have very detailed and fine grained interaction available, with a mouse and a keyboard, or some variation on those. In short, these are devices where we can perform intricate motions with a high level of precision; the sort of interaction required to create new content from scratch. These are devices in the Create category. In Plasma terms, this is the Plasma Desktop shell.

On the second, we have our various touch based devices. Recently there has been a great many attempts to create solutions to create content on these devices, but except for a very narrow range of situations, it turns out to be awkward and cumbersome. I am not talking about the attempts where you use a stylus to paint on a tablet screen, or a bluetooth keyboard to write text here. All that does is turn the previously simple-interaction device into a precise-interaction device as described above. What I mean here is a device with only a touch screen available, be it a tablet or a phone. These do not lend themselves well to creation of new content, but what they do lend themselves to is modification of existing content, which puts them very nicely into the Edit category. For Plasma, this would be Plasma Mobile, the shell created for phones, but which runs just fine on larger touch devices as well.

The final category are those devices which have extremely limited interaction available. There are a fair few of them out there, but without getting too deep here, let's say these are devices like an eBook reader (with the slow screen refresh and in some cases very limited input in the form of arrow keys and a select button), or TVs (where we can really only depend on input in the form of numbers and sometimes not even the arrow keys and select button that we might otherwise expect). Fairly obviously, these devices are not suitable for creation of new content, and really they are not well suited to even editing of it. They are, however, uniquely suited to consumption of content. This, in Gemini terms, puts them into the View category. This would be Plasma Media Center in the Plasma world.

What can you do to help?

In essence, as you can tell, we already have the bits available. Plasma is even able to switch its shell at runtime. Thought need to be put into getting the transitioning to work right. Not on a technical level, but on a human level. How can this be done without getting in the way? It is doable, but discussion must happen, and it is exactly the sort of thing which is done best face to face, and with prototypes made with pencils, paper and scissors, not with digital tools, simply because, well, once the code is written, people get attached: Paper is simple, and clearly not supposed to be final. This is why sprints and meetings like those held in Randa are so important.

As other blog entries on Planet KDE and elsewhere have suggested, the most immediately effective way to ensure that we can do this is to help with the fundraiser, which will allow the Randa Meetings and other sprints to happen in the best way possible. As i write these words, we have currently raised €10690 of our €38500 goal, so please, donate what you can, and spread the word far and wide. This year's hash tag is #KDEsprints, if you like that sort of thing - let's try and get this thing trending! I like aiming for the stars, won't you join me? :D

Donate to the KDE Sprints 2015 fundraising campaign

The word of the day is: Donations (because we need them!)

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