this looks like a job for... tomorrow!

Banshee as a Platform

Every time I use YaST's Software Manager, I wonder if it would be better implemented using Banshee. Banshee's interface has been tuned for usability, both on its own, and what it borrows from iTunes. Software management is a naturally scary operation, and using an interface that the user is already familiar with could help reduce user fear.

Of course, it would just be the interface pieces of Banshee in a new app, you wouldn't actually start Banshee for software installation.

Another feature I would like to see taken from iTunes/Banshee is downloading/installing in the background. Once I hit Install, go ahead and download the application in the background, and install it in the background. I can click on the "Downloading/Installing.." menu item if I want to see what's going on. Most of the time, I'd rather be looking at other things to download.


Speaking of looking at other things to download, why not help me find apps I want to install? We have the openSUSE build service chock full of applications for users, but they're all hidden behind a terrible search-only interface. We need to give the user a way to browse applications and find cool things to do on their Linux machines.

App stores are all the rage, as they give users a way to browse and find new apps, guided by category browsing, "front-page" recommendations by editors, and ratings by other users. "Store" may not be the right word for us, as everything is FOSS, but the idea is the same. One key would be to only show things that are user applications. The user isn't interested in finding things like perl or x11 or gstreamer.


On the same topic, I think F-Spot could benefit from a Banshee interface as well. It's already pretty similar, so code sharing would be nice. Are there other apps that could benefit from using an interface that the user is already familiar with? Monsoon? Nautilus?

15 comments:

johnnyjacob said...

Nice idea! Hopefully somebody picks this up for hackweek.

David Nielsen said...

I have to admit I would prefer doing such interface work upstream in PackageKit so it would be consistent across the various distributions I am forced to use.

Aside that basic idea seems to to have some merit and it certainly is nicer to look at than the YaST interface. There are problem such as what is that blank square underneath the category doing for us?

jpobst said...

@David:

Just a hole in my quick photoshop mockup. You will note you can also sort those packages by Track/Title/Artist/Album/Duration. ;)

Anonymous said...

i love that "app store" idea. i'd love to see screenshots for the apps. i always wondered what the apps i was browsing through might look like..

Jo Shields said...

@Anonymous

Did you ever see Linspire's "Click 'n' Run"?

Craig said...

The fact developers make money on iTunes is the reason for it's success.
Linux really needs an app store with incentive for developers to write open source applications and be rewarded for doing so. An easy to use "donate to this project" link or purchasing of licenced OSS and not just FOSS would be a good idea to enable.

I like the idea of using the Banshee browser interface as the platform as it is easy to use for the most part (I have some major gripes though). However I've had no end of problems with Banshee while trying to sync with my mp3 player recently. UX wise I've found the download in the background feature terrible for knowing exactly what has been queued and in what order. Worse, Banshee now crashes every time I click on Podcasts because I'd interrupted a download by closing Banshee because it was using 100% of my CPU... and I expect the database is corrupt now, and I've already had to erase that once previously after an OPML import bug. Sigh.

My advice would be to please fix Banshee's existing features and bugs first! Many of the problems I've had are already listed as bugs or features yet to be implemented.

BTW, what you describe sounds an awful lot like Ubuntu's Add/Remove Applications.

Michael said...

Actually it sounds exactly like Ubuntu's Add/Remove program. Even the mockups looks like they were ripped off from Ubuntu's program. And that's been around for a few years now.

http://loktarogar.blogspot.com/2006/03/new-gnome-app-install-for-ubuntu-604.html

jpobst said...

Hmm, I hadn't seen Ubuntu's package managements. It looks very similar to the current YAST: http://img257.imageshack.us/i/yast11.png/, though it does look much simpler than YAST (which is good).

From that screenshot, it looks like Ubuntu's does not have background installation or an app store (like CNR).

So I guess in the respect that Ubuntu's has a three pane window (just like YAST), they are quite similar.

Anonymous said...

@Greg: what do you mean with:

"purchasing of licenced OSS and not just FOSS would be a good idea to enable."

All OSS is already licenced through an Open Source license: http://www.opensource.org/licenses/alphabetical

I don't understand your differentiation between "licenced OSS" and "just FOSS"...

Anonymous said...

Sorry! I meant Craig, not Greg... So that there are no confusions:

@Graig: what do you mean with:

"purchasing of licenced OSS and not just FOSS would be a good idea to enable."

All OSS is already licenced through an Open Source license: http://www.opensource.org/licenses/alphabetical

I don't understand your differentiation between "licenced OSS" and "just FOSS"...

STiCK said...

I already starting working on something similar to your suggested AppStore, but only for games (and with more game-specific features): see http://stick.gk2.sk/blog/2009/07/gamestore/

jpobst said...

@STiCK

Dude, that is sweet! I would love to see something like that for both games and other applications.

thibs said...

I second this! We can do a lot better on the application discovery aspect on Linux. I personally think the most interesting way to go is to go full web but I must agree that an iTunes like desktop application would not be bad either... A mix of the two could be the perfect answer!

Being one of the guys behing allmyapps.com, I think integrating a service like allmyapps with a desktop client application "ala" Banshee is an idea worth investigating! I'm interested!

Anonymous said...

An interesting idea with lots of potential... and one huge problem: the Mono underpinnings. While not a problem for me personally, you can't ignore the fact that it's a very heated issue among many users. Making it a base for a core feature of the distro would be sure to cause uproar all around the web. openSUSE already has some very vocal opponents, and while I myself consider it technically superior to most other distros, I feel that this kind of negative publicity can only hamper its development and future sdoption.

David Nielsen said...

I can very well ignore them, their arrogance in thinking they get to determine which tools I or anyone else should be allowed to use to improve Linux has no merit.

I say loudly and proudly, screw them. Go ahead do whatever you please and if they don't like it they are welcome to write their own solution or live without improvements as provided by Mono and related technologies.