Sunday, 4 March 2007

I'm not even supposed to be here today

I have had practically no time for hacking this weekend. I am somewhat behind on Awn, but I have been bug-fixing in my personal copy, so expect an update tomorrow, when I get the last little problems sorted out, then on to 0.2 :).

In what little time I had, I brought together some ideas which were floating around in my head, and started some preliminary work on them:

Introducing Arena...

...which you could best describe as a tracker-based media browser/player. It will look like this:

At the moment, I have no code to show, as I am constructing the bits and pieces which make up a program of this type, for instance, the all-important tree-based menu structure. What I can tell you is the following few facts:
  • It is more Front Row than MS Media Center, and therefore has no intended support for TV cards and such (at this time). More likely, however, is a built in Internet TV browsing/viewing.
  • I is written in C, using the rock-tastic Clutter.
  • Pictures don't do it justice. I have had a past life as a Flash designer (shock! horror!), and I have been getting to grips with Clutters effect-code, and its hard to describe the feeling of seeing album covers flying around on screen :). I will try and do a screen cast of some of my example code soon.
  • It will be GNOME-based, as is mostly everything that I do, I'll give you no excuses, it just makes my life easier :).
  • I'd like to add support for more media-providers ie. Avahi (zeroconf).
  • It will do its darn-best to honor different layouts of media & the corresponding cover-art stuff, such as cover.jpg, album.jpg etc.
  • UI is not final, but pretty darn close, unless something drastic happens :). I still need to add some more info in places, but on the whole, I want it as simple as possible.
  • I like the look because I don't think its a blind rip-off of any current app, if it is, let me know :).
I think that's it for now, I can hopefully link to some code in the next week. Okay, now I have that out of my system, my head feels lighter! I promise, no more projects, I am all maxed out on time now :).

If you have suggestions/criticisms, leave comments as per usual, and I'll try my best to get back to you. I'll leave you with another mockup (more here):


Piotr said...

Ok, don't get this wrong, i think this as everything you post is great. You have a lot of ideas, a lot of mckups, but sadly only one app :(. It's not that im bashing you, i think it would be better if you for a moment concentrate on one thing, set goals for it, and then as it gains momentum move to the next. For example you could set goals of what awn should do, do that, then move on to affinity. Do some stuff with that, then move on to something else. I love your stuff and hope i can use some more of it :)


John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

"I'm not even supposed to be here today" Hmmmmm any possibility your a clerks fan. And I really like this idea by the way. Gnome badly needs a media center application of some sort that does the job nicely. I hope thats what this project will do and if it does I wouldn't be surprised to see it included. Well done and keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

hurry up, my htpc needs this. as much to escape the python-twisted abomination that is freevo as anything else. -adamw

Anonymous said...

Did you happen to catch Clerks yesterday, too. Classic.

Thanatos said...

This looks fantastic! I like Apple's Frontrow, but it has an extremely limited application in addition to being Mac-only. I wish I could help you out with this. I have a few ideas for interface methods, unique and not included in any interface I have seen so far.

In addition, I've been looking for a much better frontend for Mythtv. The backend is great for Mythtv, but the front is too complicated, poorly laid out and it requires a keyboard or a remote with so many keys it becomes unuseable. It would be amazing if something like this could be altered to interact with the basic television features of Mythtv, at least viewing recorded shows, viewing and scheduling upcoming recordings. Live TV would be great, but I imagine more difficult to interface without an API. I've been attempting to learn cocoa and do the same concept for Mac for some time, but without any API it is excruciating.

Keep the great ideas and apps coming!

Anonymous said...

I assume you've seen rage.

Anonymous said...

how is this arena project different from the elisa project (
I'm just curious...

Anonymous said...

it REALLY looks nice, and Linux desperately needs a good media center. There are good media center, but they need to look better. It's easy to see that you like FrontRow, and honestly, who would not? It just looks so nice. So don't copy it too much, but if you can keep this kind of clean design, it's perfect!

Then I don't know if it's the best approach to start another project, but the "metadata based" idea is just great also. No need for painful import, no endless browsing in directories... I'm currently following the Elisa project, now there is another one :) I hope you will be able to find some help on your projects and that they will develop into "big names" for the linux world.

Keep up the good work!

Neil said...

@piotr: I understand what you mean :). However, things haven't worked out as I'd like over the last week, and thats just slwoed down my progress. Affinity is nearly ready for public consumption, and Awn is fast reaching a releasable status, I've stopped adding features (just one more), and I have started cleaning up and prefs, and freezing strings. The thing about the mockups is that I will always post new ideas, even if I don't code them myself, in the hope that someone wants to take them up and make a killer app out of them. This has already happened, and I hope to link to a few when the authors allow me to :).

@john : One of my favourite movies :). I agree that GNOME needs a media center app. I have been making mockups about this for agaes, however, after spending more time in #tracker, I've figured out that it is possible _now_ rather than later, so I am on it! I hope to take up coding again on the weekend.

@adamw : I'm coding as fast as is physically possible :).

@anon : nope, no time, but its always on my laptop with my Kevin Smith collection!

@thantos: I'd love to hear them! You can email me at : njpatel_AT_gmail_DOT_com. Regarding navigation, I was thinking just 5 basic keys: Esc (up the menu), Enter (select), up, down, left and right.

@anon: I hadn't until you pointed it out, it looks _really_ cool. I'll read up on it more when I get a chance.

@anon: Apart form being Tracker-based, nd not file-based, ATM I know you cannot see many differences, but I can assure you that there are :). I will try and do a write up later this week.

@anon: Thanks! I hope to make the distictionn clear soon, Elisa is a much more complicated project (according to me), as it has TV viewing/recording as well (unless I am mistaken). The guys are doing a fantastic job!

Marcus said...

Why don't you just participate in the elisa project? I know it's python but it already has a lot of useable code. Basicly, choice is good but there are so many media-center-lookalikes out there and most of them are in a very early stage of development. Rather than adding another half-ready project, why not help to make one of them a killer application?

You could write a new skin with your prefered look (By the way: I love it!). From what I've seen, you can not only change the look but also the feel of the user interface completely.

Adding a Tracker-Plugin should also be possible.

I am in no way associated with elisa, I just use it every day.

François said...

Marcus, I know the idea of "merging" the projects would sound more logical, But I don't think it would be that easy... The approach is not exactly the same, there is already someone working on the look 'n feel of Elisa, the languages used are different... I had the same idea a few years ago when developping my website. There were other projects doing more or less the same thing. But every webmaster wants to have its "baby", with his own ideas, and usually merging means plenty of compromises and the end of those visions the authors have. So even if it looks like a waste of time and skills, that's still understandable.

About Elise, there is no TV support yet. They plan to add it, but not in a near future. I like Elisa, but I have a problem with how it looks currently. Plus the directory based browsing... MythTV has other advantages and disadvantages. That's too simple to think "let's merge them all into the killer Media Center". That's just my opinion, but I think there are plenty of technical and human reasons to explain why they should not merge.

And choice is important, even if currently none of those are as polished as FrontRow and Windows Media Center. Let's just hope plenty of developpers will help those projects and give us the pleasure to choose :)

François said...

Sorry about my english...

Mickael said...

It seems that you are a tracker fan. So you will just use tracker for affinity and your media center ? Or you will be desktop-search agnostic ? Personnaly i use beagle and I suppose i'm not the only one.

Fredrik said...

Please let me know if it ever gets usable!

I would love this kind of app.

beza1e1 said...

Can't wait to have a look at your code. Please publish it somewhere!

The Elisa crew writes quite ugly code by the way.

Philippe said...

Yes the Elisa 0.1 branch is quite ugly, but at least it allowed us to see how we can improve it :)

There's currently a rewrite going on, we are designing a nice architecture which will allow any use-case we have in mind

Neal, you have some really interesting ideas, we recently considered implementing a Tracker plugin for Elisa. I'm sure our designer would be happy to talk with you on IRC and see how we could maybe work together

Marcus said...


Please implement a new user interface, first. The zooming and scrolling looks really good but the horizontal layout is a pain and seeing only the currently selected filename isn't making it better.

Like I said, I use elisa every day because it looks better than oxine, my previous media player of choice. And using OpenGL is a cool workaround for a bug in the ATI XVideo implementation that makes it unuseable to me for over a year, now.

scooper86 said...

i just thought id post to say how amazing those concept shots of arena are if this were to support tv cards i would totally use it over mythtv even though it is an excellent piece of software it doesnt look nearly as good as your pictures.

mike jones said...

coool! You have soo many great ideas, maybe you shoudl make a team of peopel to help develop it?

also maybe add into this youtube access?

ps. will add a section for this in the forum

Gavin said...

Keep up the good work! AWN is really super! It's not perfect, yet, of course...I would like to see better support for tray items in AWN, and cooler Beryl options (such as window previews)... but it looks really amazing. That's what I like about your projects: they all look really great. I've found that it's a little harder to find good-looking/user-friendly apps for linux, but I've found that what you've done is completely against that. Coming from using Mac computers for a long time, to using linux, I find it occasionally annoying to use apps because they aren't that intuitive sometimes.

I hope that Affinity and Arena will really spruce up the look and feel of the linux desktop and get more people to realize that linux is maturing look-and-feel-wise.

I have experimented with Elisa in the last few days (at the suggestion of a commenter here) and I like the idea... However, it seems to be very clunky somehow and crashes frequently (esp. on GNOME with Beryl). The startup is also very messy (a window pops up, disappears, the screen goes black, then opens up, etc).

Also--and this is very important--you need to edit a configuration file to set it up. Please, when you release Arena, let us configure it through a menu, and make it nice and simple, while still having many great features.

Thanks.... keep on coding!

Aidan Reynolds said...

looks stunning!! can't wait to try it out

Michael Croes said...

You rock dude! Love the looks, love the features, love to get started on tv playback/recording support already! See you in #awn ;)

Anonymous said...

This means I can finally get a linux computer for my TV.

You said it will probably use internet tv... will you support joost?

Neil J. Patel said...

@Markus : I think François says it perfectly :).

@Mickael : What gave it away ;). I will of course keep stubs for Beagle, and maybe try and implement it myself if I have time.

@Phillipe : Sounds good, I don't know where your channel is, however, but I'll try and find out (I'm guessing it's on the website).

@scooper86: Thanks, I hope to release some code very soon.

@Mike Jones: Sounds like a plan, my own little army ;). Thanks for adding it to the forum!

@gavin: Thanks! I know what you mean about configuration. I was actually thinking of a back-end wriiten in python, which would do the fecthing of metadata etc (liek getting covers for your films), and making sure Arena uses cover art everywhere.More on that later!

@Michael Croes: Lol,. you would choose the hardest thing to develop ;)

Thanks again to everyone for the support :).

Marco said...

Hey, that would be *great*! I have 80+ Gb of music on my hdd, it's a PAIN wait for the MS Media Center to show me all of the artists... :/ a bit better with stuff like the db relying below MythTV, but it's not so simply to configure. Having something tag-based would simply be great! :D
You ROCK, man!

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled across your page. Looks like this is going to be an awesome project. Can't wait to take a look.

Anonymous said...

hey, i was wondering is this still under active development? It looks great BTW

Neil J. Patel said...

Yes it is under development, I'm just a bit behind on things at the moment :-).

drShop said...

WooW =)

Erik Piehl said...

Hi, looking awsome! Just want to give you a tip. There's an other media center project based on clutter that you maybe want to look into ( Maybe a merge of the projects could speed up the development?

Best Regards

Anonymous said...

when some code will be available?

ps: elisa has huge performance issues.