Bullish on Finding New Applications

Walters had an awesome post showing off the cool new stuff on the Big Board Application Browser and there’s even more featuresf in the pipeline for the application browser.

We’ve been continuing to work on improving application browsing and adding some nice searching of applications. The default view from the Application Browser shows the applications you use in your desktop while the rest of applications you don’t use are not shown immediately. If you browse into a category you’ll see the full set of applications you have installed in that category. And searching is performed across all the applications you have installed, not just the ones you use.

Getting what you want and wanting what you’ve got

Searching for applications is where things get especially cool. We’ve essentially integrated the idea of an application install search with the regular application finder. The two actions are so closely related together it just makes sense to have them be the same.

Lets say you search for presentation and you don’t have Open Office Impress installed on your system. A typical application search system would just display no results. However the Online Desktop Application Browser searches not only your local system, but also the application listing to find applications that match your search terms and returns links to those applications inside the window. So if you didn’t have a presentation application installed before it’s about 1 click away now.

Next Steps

There are lots of next steps to improve this system. Already the application pages are wiki like so people who created or use the application can make sure it has updated and useful descriptions and icons.

Liferea Feed Reader

But we could also allowing tagging applications with keywords, which would help a lot of searches perform better. If Liferea and other RSS readers were tagged with the RSS keyword then someone could easily find it when searching for the term RSS.

Liferea Feed Reader with Tags!

Big Board and the Search Stock

Continuing my earlier post on Big Board and Your Personal Stock

The Big Board search interface is meant to provide a quick access search for a lot of different items. The search isn’t intended to be a Beagle or Tracker or desktop search replacement, it’s actually just intended to quickly search a small subset of handy items.

Deskbar Entry Searching Big Board

The system is heavily inspired from quicksilver and what the deskbar team has done, therefore we pretty much took the deskbar applet wholesale and placed it on Big Board. Currently we haven’t changed much of what the deskbar is doing other than changing it’s default search plugin set. But you figure the basics of application and web searching are included already, so lets not focus on that right now.

Searching You and Your Friends

Right now Big Board is setting what systems deskbar is searching by default, however we’re planning to dynamically change what search plugins should be available. Because the people in your Mugshot network have specified what online applications they use we can make the big board search adapt to search across those applications as well as your own.

Mugshot Network
Through these brave internet people you could search awesome photos and bookmarks and recommendations

With the current deskbar code base it’s a bit of a hack to have this working, we are pretty much shoving settings down deskbar’s throat. Hopefully lots of these issues will be cleared up when the code is worked on over the summer, thanks to the Google Summer of Code project.


Here’s an example of how it could work. Lets say between myself and my friends we use a mix of these accounts listed.

  • Flickr
  • Delicious
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • And blogs…
Deskbar External Accounts Search Results
Mix of integrated results from different peoples public systems

When I search using the Big Board search I can get results from all of those accounts even though I might not have a twitter account myself. The search runs over not only my online accounts, but the publicly available online accounts of my friends.

Enhance Your Network of Resources

A little while back tigert posted how searching delicious gave better results than searching for “free fonts” on google. This is in part because delicious is a strong network of anonymous people who are interested in bookmarking good sites.

Now take that idea of a strong network of anonymous people and make that network stronger by making them not anonymous. You still have the ability to search the anonymous world, but why not use your different levels of connections through different types of networks to build some kind of trust, at least a greater trust than you’d get from the anonymous internet.


Big Board is People

The photo stock on Big Board is really coming along. With no configuration from me it grabs the photo and video thumbnails from all the people I know through Mugshot and runs them as a small slideshow.

Slideshow of my Big Board Photo Stock
Animated GIF, watch the photos change!

Later we can work on adding information if a photo is new, people had commented on it, a slideout to see a larger version of the photo with description, and maybe a control to set a photo as your background.


Mugshot, Big Board, and the Online Desktop

Tomorrow night (wednesday the 18th) Havoc and I will be talking about Mugshot, Big Board, and the Online Desktop for the NYLUG.

If you’re in the area stop by and say hi. And anytime you can still talk about Mugshot, Big Board or the Online Desktop by hopping on our mailing list, IRC, or Community Group. Check out the contact page for all the details.

Update: The NYLUG requires pre-registration so you can’t just show up all “I know Havoc Pennington!” You actually need to register by 2:30 pm today.


Big Board and Your Personal Stock

Big Board

The Big Board isn’t a panel replacement, it probably doesn’t do half the things the current GNOME panel does and I wouldn’t imagine it would ever match all of the functionality. There’s lots of areas the panel handles like task switching where Big Board doesn’t want to touch, it’s out of the scope of the project. The intention of Big Board is be an connected companion to the online desktop. Connected meaning not just online but available locally as well.

There are lots of mockups of the board available on our developer wiki, but some are out of date and some are just ideas that haven’t been fully looked at yet. Right now this is what Big Board is and where those pieces are going.


The Big Board is made up of different applet like things we call stocks. The stocks are pretty easy to write in python and can access account information through mugshot to grab feeds of the online services you use. The first stock on the board (located on the top) is the Personal (or self) stock.


I covered a lot of this in the Big Board Design but most web sites make it immediately apparent when you log in that it knows who you are, while our desktop doesn’t naturally do this. Sitting down at another person’s GNOME Desktop doesn’t give me a hint who’s machine it is unless I start searching for their username in the home directory. (f-u-s-a being a possible exception that isn’t on by default, perhaps until recently)

Display the logged in users photo and name. This not only helps for the person to be sure they are logged into their Desktop correctly but it also helps us to encourage them to set an appropriate name and icon. Further down the road making sure people have set the correct name and icon helps with fast user switching, gdm face browsing, offering a decent default for buddy icons, and some other ideas we have about local network browsing. Currently this personal stock reflects your Mugshot image and name and will keep in sync with the site accordingly.

In the future we’ll be looking into using this personal area for the start point to editing personal preferences and logging out or switching users. You can see in this mockup the idea that clicking on the personal will give options related to either you or the computer you’re using.

Just below your picture and name we’re listing the we accounts you use. Currently these icons will take you directly to your account or profile page for the site it represents. The icon list serves as a decent starting point and begins to show how we’re giving web applications a similar presence to local applications on the desktop.


Next up is the Search stock, where we took advantage of the awesome Deskbar applet to handle the “quick search” input and results display. The interesting twist mugshot gives to deskbar is that we can have the information necessary to search all of your online accounts (assuming they have feeds or web services) like delicious, digg, flickr, and others but we could also be searching your friends delicious, digg, and other accounts as well. Having the collective bookmarks of all your friends and colleagues at your finger tips might be a nice way to quickly find that thing you were looking for. More later…

I was tempted to write a post where I could give my side of a story and mis-quote and mis-characterize a person whose work I admire but I’m going to just talk about our prototype and it’s ideas so we can remain friends and find a way to work together. Plus I personally prefer ad hominem attacks opposed to that baby killing Gravely’s methods.