ubermix 1.01 Important Updates

Posted by ubermix On Sunday, June 10, 2012 0 comments
Last week ubermix 1.0 was officially released into the wild, with hundreds of users downloading the image within the first few hours of it being posted. We've been thrilled by your enthusiasm and excited to see ubermix spread to reaches far and wide.

Understandably, a broader base of users leads to the discovery of unexpected issues, and a few important ones have come up that needed to be addressed right away, as follows:

  1. There was a glitch in the way ubermix was storing wireless connection information that caused the configuration to be tied to the MAC address of the device. The result of this was non-portable wireless settings, which meant that multiple machines imaged off of the same master had to log in again to the wireless. This issue would only affect those who are deploying ubermix off of their own custom images at scale.
  2. The disk scan option in the startup menu was no longer working in the 1.0 release version. This could be problematic for some, as unexpected shutdowns can, on rare occasions, cause a problem with the directory on the disk, with no easy way to repair it. ubermix does auto-check volumes at startup, however if it runs into a problem that the auto-check can't solve, repairing the disk becomes a much more complicated affair without the scan disk option.
These important issues have been addressed in ubermix 1.01. As a result, we strongly recommend that users of ubermix 1.0 download and install the updated version from http://ubermix.org/files.html

In addition, 1.01 brings an important improvement to the user interface that can significantly improve the experience for novice users. On ubermix 0.9x and earlier, open applications were always visible at the top of the screen (see the "Global Menus" section of my prior post for details), making it easy to tell at-a-glance what programs were already running and switch to them with a click. With the introduction of Global Menus in ubermix 1.0, while we gained valuable screen real estate for applications, we had to sacrifice the quick, "at-a-glance" visibility of open applications, in favor of the less assertive "application switcher" (again see my prior post for details). In theory, this alleviated the problem in an easy-to-use way, however in practice it introduced a bit of a learning curve for novice users, exacerbated by the lack of feedback upon clicking on the icon for an open application in the launcher.

In an effort to ease the learning curve, the launcher in ubermix 1.01 now reliably tracks open windows for applications and automatically brings them to the front when you click on a hidden application in the launcher. Users no longer have to rely on the application switcher to manage open applications. A big "thank you" to Colin Matheson (@cytochromec) at Carmel Unified for holding an early staff development on 1.0 and sharing the experience :-)

Keep the comments coming! You are the most important member of the ubermix development team!

ubermix 1.0 is released!

Posted by ubermix On Wednesday, June 6, 2012 0 comments

We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of ubermix 1.0, bringing a number of new features and enhancements that make ubermix better-than-ever for students and teachers. ubermix 1.0 is based on the latest version of Ubuntu - version 12.04 "Precise Pangolin" - which is a Long Term Support (LTS) release that Canonical (the parent organization) intends to provide updates and fixes for until 2015, making ubermix 1.0 a platform you can count on for many years to come.

Along with compatibility with the newest hardware and the latest innovations from the free and open source software world, ubermix 1.0 brings a number of enhancements that make the user experience even better, especially on devices with smaller screens, including:

Global Menus
One of the biggest challenges with using smaller devices is fitting all of the toolbars, palettes, and other user interface elements into a limited amount of screen space. Those familiar with prior versions of ubermix already know that one way we have traditionally optimized the use of small screen real estate has been to fold the top border of windows, including the close, minimize, and maximize buttons into the panel that runs along the top of the screen. ubermix 1.0 takes this idea one step further by introducing Global Menus, which pushes the menu bar of most windows into the top panel as well, freeing yet another row of screen real estate for use by an application's User Interface (UI).  On a netbook, for example, the added height can make a big difference in a vertically oriented application like OpenShot, enabling a user to view more tracks or a larger preview window.

One of the challenges this introduces is keeping track of open applications. In prior versions of ubermix, icons for open application windows appeared in the top left corner, along with a round "go home" icon that displayed the launcher when clicked, as in the example below:

Since that space is now be taken up by menus, we created an application switcher at the top right to enable users to quickly go back to the launcher or switch to an open window, as follows:

Of course, the fastest way to get back to the launcher is still the left "Super" key ("Windows" key, if your device had the misfortune of originally shipping with Windows on it), and Alt+Tab still switches between open windows, but the application switcher offers the essential quick view of open windows on the system. 

Overlay Scrollbars
Another display space saving enhancement is overlay scrollbars, which essentially fold up the scrollbars in most applications, like so:

As you can see, there is just a little marker to let you know where you are on the page until you point to it, at which point it expands into a "handle" you can grab or click the up/down arrows in. Again, this frees up some window space for smaller screens, making using those complex applications a far more pleasant experience.

Unified System Settings/Power Menu Enhancements
In an effort to further increase ease-of-use and reduce interface clutter, system settings have been moved to a control center app, simplifying the system tools panel in the launcher:

Quick access to common controls (like displays and printers) have been moved to the power menu, along with a "System Settings" option:

...which brings up a unified settings panel:

New Applications:
If that's not enough, there are a number of new applications in ubermix 1.0, bringing even more opportunities for creativity and innovation, including:

  • Zim Desktop Wiki: Replacing Tomboy in this release is Zim Desktop Wiki, which is a graphical text editor used to maintain a collection of pages or notes. Designed to "get out of your way", Zim makes it easy to create simple text or sophisticated, media-rich content, with strong organization tools and a variety of plugins that enhance the application's functionality.

  • Klavaro: Replacing KTouch is Klavaro, a better organized and more functional touch typing tutor.It features a variety of adaptability, velocity, and fluidity exercises, as well as graphical charts and a scoring mechanism.

  • iGNUit Flashcard Trainer: iGNUit is a memorization aid based on the Leitner flashcard system. It has a GNOME look and feel, a good selection of quiz options, and supports UTF-8. Cards can include embedded audio, images, and mathematical formulae (via LaTeX). It can import and export several file formats, including CSV. Great for both long-term learning and cramming.

  • VUE Visual Understanding Environment:  The Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) is an Open Source project based at Tufts University, focused on creating flexible tools for managing and integrating digital resources in support of teaching, learning and research. VUE provides a flexible visual environment for structuring, presenting, and sharing digital information.

  • Freeciv: Freeciv is a Free and Open Source empire-building strategy game inspired by the history of human civilization. The game commences in prehistory and your mission is to lead your tribe from the Stone Age to the Space Age.

  • Drawpile: DrawPile is a sketching oriented drawing program with a twist: you can share your drawing live with other users. There are no restrictions on who may draw where; every user has full access to the whole picture simultaneously.

  •  TBO Comic Creator: TBO Comic Creator is an easy and fun application for telling stories through comics. Comics created with TBO Comic Creator can be exported to PDF, SVG, and PNG for easy distribution. There are many ready-to-use characters, callouts, and templates which make TBO Comic Creator very easy to use.

  • Nitro Tasks: Nitro is a light task manager, that presents via a simple yet fancy interface with a place to add, edit and manage task lists with due dates, importance level and logbook support.

  • ffDiaporama Movie Maker: ffDiaporama enables you to create video presentations or slideshows from your photos, movie clips and background music. You can spice up your slideshow with custom title slides using text, images and animated effects as well as slide and background transitions. If you want quick results, you can simply add your images to the project and create a standard slideshow, or you can customize the look and feel by editing individual slides and apply zoom effects, object rotations, text annotations and other custom effects.

Of course, these new applications are only a fraction of those that come with the ubermix. We're thrilled to bring all of this innovation to you today for free, and look forward to discovering how you are taking advantage of ubemix in your learning spaces.