My new years resolution, plus Canonical and the opportunity to work more closely

I have been a bad blogger. No, I haven’t done anything wrong per se, but I have not blogged nearly as much as I had originally intended. Many times I get interested in a subject, plan on blogging about it, but by the time its written, proof read and ready for publishing its far too late.

But this is something that I think is worth publishing even though it is a touch on the old side, as much of the work discussed is ongoing and we expect there to be further developments over time.

Over the past few months we have had a few important touch points with the fine folks from Canonical and the Ubuntu project.

A few months ago, Matt Zimmerman, CTO of Ubuntu wrote the following on his personal blog:

"I have been thinking about Qt recently. We want to make it fast, easy and painless to develop applications for Ubuntu, and Qt is an option worth exploring for application developers. In thinking about this, I’ve realized that there is quite a bit of commonality between the strengths of Qt and some of the new directions in Ubuntu.

Overall, I think Qt has a lot to offer people who want to develop applications for (and on) Ubuntu, particularly now. It already powers popular cross-platform applications like VLC, not to mention the entire Kubuntu distribution. I missed it when this happened last year, but Qt is now available under either the LGPL 2.1 or the GPL 3.0, which should make it suitable for virtually any Ubuntu application. It has strong commercial backing as well as a large developer community.”

Following this post, our very own Zeno Albisser and Dennis Dzyubenko were personally invited to attend the Ubuntu Developer Conference 2010, which was held in Orlando.

With the aim of aligning Canonical's strategy for Ubuntu support and related services to the Qt stack, Zeno and Dennis attended the event and participated in several discussions relating to gestures and multi-touch input methods, and of course were there also there to wave the Qt flag with their peers.

According to what Zeno, Canonical is reportedly very interested in Qt's approach to harnessing the power of input via tap, tap and hold, swipe, pinch and beyond – with the 'beyond' element being of specific interest as we work at the leading edge of developmental progress.

The conference itself was busy, almost frenetic in terms of sessions. Of particular interest at the event was a piece of research presented by Carnegie-Mellon University on 'probabilistic' input methods. This is potentially of use where UI designs benefit from additional software help where user input might be ambiguous.

But the truth is that bringing together two communities and development streams is never cut and dried affair, however well disposed both groups might be at the outset. When it comes down to the technology level, Zimmerman has already suggested that working together to enable gesture collaboration development will be a complex process. Referring to Qt as having a "fairly mature touch input system, which now has support for multi-touch and gestures (including QML)", Zimmerman is clearly of keen to align Canonical's community development of a low-level multi-touch framework for Linux and X11 towards the toolkits offered by Qt. "These efforts will eventually meet in the middle," he said – so the intention is there, but the process will not happen overnight.

Back at the conference, Zeno and Dennis said that the best thing of all was spending time with the other attendees and learning directly from their peers about their own coding challenges and experiences.

“Qt has been experimenting with gestures for quite a long time and we understand the challenges of creating consistent UI behavior across several user interfaces and platforms. As the new modeling language of Qt, in future QML will also benefit from gesture support and start to increasingly integrate seamlessly with gestures defined by the underlying operating system. Defining proper policies for supported gestures is one of the most important tasks when building a gestures framework. We really appreciated the chance to exchange our thoughts and experiences with Ubuntu developers. We will keep working together closely and make sure that we can support Ubuntu and its native gesture framework in the future,” said Albisser.

In conclusion we are looking forward to further cooperation with Canonical and Ubuntu in 2011 and with a bit of luck, hard work, and some technical wizardry we might just have a great touch framework we can all share. Oh, and I promise to blog more in 2011!

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