Firstly, a long-overdue catch-up with
Chandler is heading for a 0.1 release that will have its first public outing at ETCON, you lucky ETCON-going bastards. If you can’t wait that long, for a while now there’s been a download of Chandler’s prototype predecessor Vista available on the OSAF site. (Spotters note the Agenda screenshot on that page)
In the meantime there are free competitors coming up on the outside: Diego Doval’s Spaces goes from strength to strength, and is astonishingly featureful for a one-man project.
(The main reason I’m not using it is that, last time I checked, it wasn’t doing proper two-way syncing with IMAP, though this may be fixed by now) Its notion of “spaces” is pretty similar to that of views, i.e. a query across multiple data sources/folders/tables, presented as a single table.
This was a key feature of Agenda, and it’s also (somewhat) implemented in Ximian Evolution (which I’ve been playing with but doesn’t feel quite right to me yet).
Last I heard, Diego was thinking about building a company around it – let him know what you think.
Even cooler, though, is Haystack, the only truly exciting thing yet to emerge from MIT’s somewhat-overhyped Project Oxygen (which seems mostly obsessed with finding new demos to build around Active Badges). Having said that, you can’t download it just yet.
I won’t be able to do it justice here (and the site’s worth a browse anyway) but essentially it’s the ultimate RDF-based information explorer, combining all your important/relevant information and communication in an interface that, while polished, does look distressingly like your average box-obsessed personalisable web portal. There are lots of fascinating concepts here, such as UI continuations and the RDF-centric programming language Adenine. The whole thing does seem remarkably ambitious, though – not just becoming the central app for your mail, news and chat but also your pictures, music etc – and this sets off warning bells. After all, the last app I saw that tried to do that is now splitting everything off into separate products…
… but that’s not a bad idea, especially since those products are so good. Mozilla Mail (another app that bases everything around RDF, and has done since the start) is still my mail client of choice, and although 1.3 still hasn’t fixed my most hated bug, it’s more than made up for it with the new Bayesian spam filtering built into the core UI (as it needs to be) as well as the Views drop-down, which runs a view filter over the current folder. It’s not quite the views feature I was discussing above (since it doesn’t run across multiple folders) but speaking as someone with a 45,000 mail inbox, I’m not complaining. It’s bloody fast, too.
Other stuff now: After a long hiatus, DENIM, a pen-based Java app for sketching and playing with web site architecture designs, has gone 1.1. Watch the videos; it’s quite unique, and while it doesn’t quite have enough features to be really useful, it’s still worth a play. It comes from Berkeley GUI Research lab, which has tons of other fascinating projects, especially for those exploring usability.
Pogo is prepping a new phone/PDA thing for release. This could be good – nobody believed their first one would make it out of vapour, but it did, and while it wasn’t fantastic it had a ton of good ideas in it. (Chris lent me one and its screen cracked in my pocket. Lessons learned: If you’re going to make a small thing with a big screen that goes in pockets, for god’s sake make sure the “screen protector” actually protects the screen, rather than lazily covering it with a thin layer of rubber. Also, don’t lend me things that you don’t want broken.) Anyway, this new one looks smaller and lighter – hopefully they’ve fixed up the horrible, trendy-Flash-designer interface.
I had a quick go on the Freelancer demo, and while it’s very pretty (and the combat’s quite fun) it’s not quite the Elite replacement that everyone was hoping for. The trouble is that where Elite was repetitive, it was acceptably repetitive: interfaces and tasks are meant to be consistent. Whereas, as soon as you involve loads of randomised interaction with NPCs, those aspects are bound to get dull quite quickly. (There’s some wonderfully-unintentional cruising hilarity in the bar scenes every time Trent accosts a moustachioed stranger for information, but even that tires)
Finally, instant joy: Remember how I was moaning about Windows Media Player? Well, firstly I discovered that WMP 6, the last one with a decent small interface, is still included in Windows XP by default: it’s mplayer2.exe in the WINDOWS directory. But stop! Even better than that is Media Player Classic which throws a billion useful features on top (DVD, SVCD, Quicktime, playlists, remote controls) without much complication of the traditional UI. (The “Save As” is worth the download alone) Plus, it’s a single 600k .exe that you just double-click and it starts up like that. You see? That’s what we want. Now take your bloody skins and your visualisations and your trendy blue gradients and bugger off!