Archive for 'Etoile'


9 October 2008 | 0

I’m glad to see that John Gruber picked up on this:

In the same way that Apple took Mac OS X and Cocoa and shrunk them to serve as a handheld device OS, I think Google could take Android and grow it to serve as a PC OS.

I’ve been having similar thoughts lately, and I won’t be surprised if, when Android is fully open sourced later this year, we begin to see the system become the OS of choice on netbooks and eventually generic PC laptops and desktops. It will, as Gruber also points out, be a nice alternative desktop environment to Gnome and KDE, even though I have some alternative desktop environment allegiances of my own.

In better news…

29 July 2007 | 2

I don’t want to think about the break-in right now, so how about we talk about a few good things that are going on in my life.

One, important to maybe half the people who read my blog, is that we released 0.2 of Étoilé yesterday!

The Étoilé project is pleased to announce the release of version 0.2 of the Étoilé User Environment for UNIX-like systems. The Étoilé project aims to produce a user environment for desktop and small form-factor devices, with tight integration between components. The 0.2 release is primarily targeted at developers interested in a GNUstep-based environment.

Complete release announcement can be read here.

And for the visually-inclined, here are the obligatory screenshots (thanks to Yen-Ju for making those — I’m far too lazy):

I have to say, I’m quite happy with how it’s shaping up so far. Visually, not perfect yet, and yes, of course there are still bugs and crashiness, but we’ve made awesome progress this last year and a half, and now we have some great stuff planned for 0.3. And, assuming everything goes as planned (which it never does, but dammit a boy can hope!), 0.3 is going to be very, very sexy, both on the surface and under the covers.

In other news, and, far more importantly (sorry Étoilé fans!), my little one is turning 4 YEARS OLD tomorrow! The lucky girl even got a new hairdo for the occasion:

Ali - Brazil Haircut 1

Ali - Brazil Haircut 2

Ali - Brazil Haircut 3

Ali - Brazil Haircut 4

Ali - Brazil Haircut 5

The irony of the haircut situation is that in a country where we (well, I — Tanya does just fine) barely speak the language, and most definitely do not know how to say “reverse bob” or any other hairstyle-related terms in Portuguese, the stylist manages to cut her hair exactly how we want it, something that’s been failed twice in the United States by English-speaking beauticians.

But anyways, Ali’s soooo excited, and even more excited by the fact that she gets to have two parties: one here while we’re still in Brazil, and one once we get back to Minnesota. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing a lot of princess-themed items around my world for the next few weeks :)

Follow my adventures in Brazil. Use RSS.

More Etoile Mockups

18 April 2007 | 4

I know — you’re starting to get sick of mockups and want to see the real thing. We’re working on it!

FYI, these mockups are already a few days old, and we’ve started ironing out a bit of the complexity in them. Nevertheless, they’re still pretty, and fun to look at (and I’m sure some of you have been curious as to what I’ve been up to).

This is the default view when you first start up Etoile. We have the
typical menubar at the top, with the application menu being a corner
hotspot, and the flower menu being the other top corner hot spot. The
flower menu would contain system-related tasks (such as Shut Down,
Log Out, System Preferences, etc).

Along the left we have the side bar. The side bar contains items of
two types: Project Shortcuts and Tag Overlays. The Project Shortcut
section is equivalent to a virtual desktop switcher, and we can add
items to or remove items from this list, as we’ll see shortly.
Underneath the Project Shortcut section is the Tag Overlay section.
Default items may include All (which shows all objects on the
system), Inbox (which shows all non-user created items to appear on
the system today), Events (which is a calendar view), People (which
shows all contacts/addresses), Trash (which shows items ready to
delete), and Shelf (which acts as a temporary place-holder for items
to move between projects, or for often-used items). Tag Overlays are
equivalent to smart-folders — the contents of a tag overlay have all
been tagged in a certain way, or meet certain criteria, causing them
to show up in these folders. Users could remove any of these items,
or create their own Tag Overlays by specifying the smart folder
criteria. Some examples of folders that users might create are: Today
(for all objects that appeared on the system today), To-Do (for items
tagged with a ‘todo’ tag), or Etoile People (for Person objects
tagged with ‘etoile’). Items in the Tag Overlay list can be organized
however the user feels best suits them, thus allowing them to put the
most-frequently accessed item at the bottom hot-corner location.

In the lower right corner is the Project Management Overlay icon,
which I’ll discuss now.

This shows the result of clicking the Project Management Overlay icon
in the lower right. Clicking this triggers an Overlay view (a semi-
transparent window which shows the current Project underneath). In
this view, the user can see all Projects on their system — in this
case, the user has 3 Projects: 1 as a sidebar shortcut and 2 in the

Along the bottom of every Overlay view is the bottom bar. The bottom
bar contains a search/filter box, and other icons related to viewing
the items within the overlay. In this case, there are only two icons
— a toggle between Icon view (active) and List view (inactive).

The user has now dragged the two Projects in the overlay out to the

Here the user has dismissed the overlay by clicking anywhere on it.
Overlays operate very similarly to OS X’s Dashboard.

The user then decides that they want to work on a different Project,
so they select it from the sidebar. This then automatically switches
to that project. The Project shown here is in Project Overlay view
already. This view is triggered by double clicking anywhere on the
Desktop. Because it is already in that view, that means that the last
time the user used this Project, they had double-clicked on the
Desktop before pulling this Project off the sidebar. The Project
Overlay shows all the non-active documents within the Project, and
also includes a bottom bar. This bottom bar has the same items as the
Project Management Overlay, plus an additional sorting toggle: the
icons include sorting by Tag (inactive), by Type (inactive), or
Manually (active).

Documents can be opened by double-clicking on them. Visually, this
drops them back behind the Project Overlay. Double-clicking to
activate the document also removes it from the Project Overlay —
objects should have just a single representation per Project.

Notice that anytime the user modifies the Project, either by
activating a document or by working on a document, the sidebar
representation of that Project changes as well.

Like other overlays, the Project Overlay is dismissed by clicking
anywhere on the overlay itself.

Here the user has decided to minimize one of the active documents, in
this case the photo. This sends the document to the document bar, to
the right.

The user then decides to trigger the Shelf Tag Overlay because they
want to drag something out of it into their current project. Notice
that, at any given moment, the user will have a Project highlighted
in the sidebar, and may also have a Tag Overlay item highlighted.
Also notice that triggering a Tag Overlay, or the Project Management
Overlay, does not change the Project representation in the sidebar.
This is because triggering these overlays (unlike triggering the
Project overlay) does not change the Project state itself.

The user decides to grab the middle photo. Doing so resizes it to
actual size. The user then drags it back over the Shelf Tag Overlay
list item (or into the hot corner in this case) to bring it to the
current project.

As soon as the hot corner is reached, the overlay is dismissed. The
user then drags the photo into position.

Alternately, to drag the item from the Shelf to the current project,
the user could have dragged the photo directly to the Project
representation in the sidebar, and dropped it there. This would work
for any Project, not just the currently viewable one.

Here the user triggers the Shelf Tag Overlay again, showing that the
photo that was grabbed still exists on the Shelf Overlay. If the user
wanted to now remove the item from the overlay, they could drag the
item from the Shelf onto the Trash Tag Overlay list item.

New Etoile Mockups

30 March 2007 | 0

I designed some new mockups, available here:

Etoile Workspace 100

Etoile Workspace 200

Etoile Workspace 300

Etoile Workspace 400

Workspace Flash mockup

Descriptions of all this stuff is on the mailing list.

Étoilé: The Thesis!

29 March 2007 | 1

Today the Étoilé project got a huge compliment from student Michal Čáp in the form of a thesis paper proposal:

I am 22 y.o. computer science student from the Czech Republic, but I’m studying at England (Coventry) this year.

I am writing here because I am now working on my final year project, which is about Étoilé. I am basically aiming to produce a work that should describe what is Étoilé project about and what are the main ideas behind. I am doing that because I am interested in the ideas put forward by Étoilé project. I can remember that when I read about Étoilé for the first time it took me quite a lot of time and effort to find out what is it all about and why is it so different. Therefore I want to work out a paper that would allow people to get into Étoilé more quickly.

He’s already done some really cool mockups. While some of the stuff is in need of updating due to recent changes, I’m still really impressed about what he’s been able to put together based on some random (and poorly organized) notes, emails and sketches. I can’t wait to chat more with him and get some of the blurrier points of the UI crystalized.

Etoile LiveCD 0.2dp

28 February 2007 | 0

Well, this weekend we released the Etoile LiveCD, version 0.2 Developer Preview. There are an insane amount of bugs, and we were trying to keep it somewhat hush-hush until we had time to fix them all. However, the news got posted to, and the feedback was actually predominantly positive. My favorite comment was this one:

Just browsing the screenshots made me more excited than I’ve been for a while about unix desktops.

I do believe exciting times are ahead for the Etoile team ;)

Etoile Goals

15 February 2007 | 0

We in the Etoile project have been having some good conversations bouncing around via email. Recently, Nicolas, one of the project maintainers, summed up the goals of the project in a very nice little list. For those interested in such things, here is his description:

The goals are a small, easy to use, ergonomic, innovative desktop, components based, focusing on communication/collaboration and on projects.

The really interesting part of this from my perspective is the emphasis communication/collaboration and the use of projects. Let me elaborate with some more words from Nicolas:

– communication/collaboration: we should have services/frameworks so that applications and users can communicate easily with other users — and thus collaborate. The idea here is to use something over Jabber for that. Whiteboard, shared file space, etc. Lots to do, but the jabber protocol is extensible, and I believe the recently committed jabber code will help us here.

– projects: the general idea of projects is persistence — eg, group your work environment into one project, close it, open it again days later to find it as you left it. How to achieve that ? Well, we have the Service component that is planned to evolve in order to manage that, by restarting applications when needed, etc. Technically, I think we’d store in a hidden folder some metadatas (list of apps, documents opened, positions of the windows..), and the filemanager would recognize those and then ask the Service daemon to restart a project. The applications would in turn need to answer to a few messages, like sending back their list of opened documents, knowing how to act on that information to reopen the documents, etc. Ideally most of the work would be done via a NSDocument subclass (so that applications would not need to do much themselves).

I think we’ve got some really fun stuff planned. FOSDEM promises to get a lot of stuff clarified, simply because we’ll all be in the same place at the same time, for once. I’m really excited to see where we’re at in the next month or so.

The full email with all the details is available here.


21 September 2006 | 2

Tanya is trying to get me to stick to my commitment of posting once a week. Damn, I’m so far behind already. Lots of fun new stuff… here we go:

Classes started up again. I teach, for those just tuning in. I am teaching Intro to Interactive Media at the College of Visual Arts. You can unwatch the course unfold on the class blog. So far, the class is looking good. We’ll see if I can whip them into shape ;)

In more school related news, Ali started her first year of Montessori this year. She’s doing great so far, and I’m constantly impressed at the level of trust the teachers put in the students, and how much responsibility the kids learn because of that. This can only be a great experience for her.

In other news, I’m trying to get back into the Etoile and GNUstep communities after a summer haitus. Have been making both new friends and new icons. I’m thinking we might have some really cool stuff to show at FOSDEM next year.

Also, I’m working on my Internet fame. You should hopefully be seeing me pop up in a little video blog series I’m now a part of called Chasing Windmills. The folks who started it, Cristina Cordova and Juan Antonio del Rosario, are simply amazing. If you’ve got an evening or two on your hands, check out their first season… certainly some of the best video stuff being done on the web right now.

I think that’s about it… let’s see if I can’t be a bit more consistent about these updates, huh?

Etoile Project Ideas

11 April 2006 | 2

Now that I have my laptop, and I have working installations of GNUstep and Etoile, I feel ready to start making apps. But where to start…

I once read that one should “scratch their own itch” — make software that you personally need; chances are others need it too. Since Etoile is just starting out, I need pretty much everything. Most of what I need is outside the scope of my abilities, however: a web browser, an image editor, a Flash replacement. I could maybe see if I could steal some pre-existing code and flesh out the chat client and the file format/bundle for the Contact file type. Yeah, the Contact file type would be good — maybe a wizard for creating a new Contact.

Good work, Jesse. Let’s start there.

The Borg Aesthetic

3 April 2006 | 0

Went laptop shopping today.

What a freakin disappointment.

Allow me to explain:

First of all, I am in the market for a new laptop. As many people may know, my previous laptop, which I had been using up until a little over a month ago, was a 500MHz G3 iBook. This iBook got me through many a battle: college, freelance, “real” work. Sadly, it was time to retire my little buddy, which, through various circumstances, had become permanently desk-bound, housed inside of a shelled out cardboard box, because it could no longer support its own monitor nor hold a charge in its battery.

Needless to say, I was in need of an upgrade.

From almost out of nowhere, I was blessed with a very inexpensive second-hand Mac Mini, still under warranty. That’s what I’m using right now. It’s a great machine for what I do, and a dramatic improvement over what I was using.

But, while it is a great machine, it’s not a laptop — can’t take it on travels, can’t work on it in the living room couch or in bed, can’t bring it to user-group meetings and conventions, etc. Now, the logical thing would be to get a MacBook Pro, seeing as how I have no idea when Apple will release any other modern laptops (as of this writing, the MacBook Pro is the only laptop to have moved over to Intel — my other options are an iBook or Powerbook, both of which are still running on a PowerPC G4 processor, and thus don’t have the longest of shelf-lives remaining).

A MacBook Pro would be logical, and anticipated, based on my history. All of my primary machines have been Macs:

  • 1997 – 1999: Centris 650, 25MHz 68040
  • 1999 – 2001: Lime Green iMac, 333MHz G3
  • 2001 – 2006: 2001 iBook, 500MHz G3
  • 2006: Mac Mini, 1.25GHz G4

Currently, I am in possession of three other machines I use off and on: two identical generic white-box machines I use for toying around with Linux, and a Zaurus. I do have a fetish for open source software, and it is precisely that which brings me to my problem.

I love Macs, and I love OS X. I really do. But I am also a developer on an open source project that is trying to do what OS X does and more, and the more time I spend using OS X, the less time I spend using Linux and Etoile and GNUstep, and thus the less motivation I have for helping my software grow.

And this is where it comes back to laptop shopping: I am looking for a laptop that I cannot run OS X on.

This means I am looking at the Sonys and the Toshibas and the Gateways and the Lenovos and the Dells and the HP/Compaqs of the world. And looking at them is hurting my eyes. Honestly, is there no one other than Apple who designs nice-looking, high-quality machines? I’m not sure who the audience is for these computers, but by the looks of them, they’re aiming squarely for the Borg — they are the epitome of horrible faux-future: black plastic and cheap brushed metal and glossy screens and blue LEDs. They have the worst port integration I have ever seen. And the excessive icons and decals! I believe by 2008, at the latest, when you buy an HP or Toshiba, it won’t even come in a plastic case, but rather a thin varnish of logos.

Really, all this is to say is that I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that Apple is the only competitor for my money. Their machines are comparible, cost-wise, to most everything I’ve looked at, and infinitely more attractive, and their quality ensures that they last long after the tech magazines say they’re obsolete. I’m going to keep looking, but I’m really losing hope in the other hardware vendors. Seriously, people, make some nice machines and I will shower you with cash.