One of the most interesting features about the Ubuntu's Unity desktop is that it takes the focus away from just applications and files and moves it towards discovering content. It does this through an interface (called the Dash) that is largely driven by a search window. To enable this system to focus on different content (e.g. to primarily look for music files instead of applications) different tabs appear on the Dash called Lenses. These can aggregate in to a general lens that allow searching across local and remote items in one go. What if this idea could be extended slightly to enable the discovery of Open Educational Resources (OERs)? The user might not have even heard about OERs, so might not think to go looking for them, but having OER discovery built into the operating system gets around this issue and makes every search a chance to learn. So I had a go at building such a Lens.
It is probably fair to say that the Unity interface in Ubuntu 11.04 is quite controversial and has led to some mixed reactions. Last October Mark Shuttleworth, the leader of the Ubuntu project, announced that Unity would be the default interface on desktop as well as netbooks where it and its predecessor had become commonplace. I've been using Ubuntu 11.04 across three devices; a laptop, a touchscreen netbook and a computer connected to a television. I've decided to give up on Unity on the laptop and go back to the classic interface, but on the other two devices I quite like Unity. Here I am going to try to work out why Unity is a desktop no-go for me.
There is a lot of talk about how tablets might kill off netbook sales. I thought about buying a tablet to replace my broken netbook but then I found another rather interesting option. The Samsung NB30 Touchscreen in some ways occupies an uncharted land between netbooks and tablets. It is a netbook, but you could also think of it as a tablet with a keyboard. This machine fitted my requirements a bit better than a tablet and I felt that it would offer me a bit more flexibility. In my last blog post I examined how to set up Ubuntu on this machine, in this post I want to reflect on my first week using it.