A few nights ago, we recorded LugRadio. In this episode, Season 5 Episode 7, which is released on Mon 17th Dec 2007, we did a review of the Asus EEE PC, and we are also giving one away in a competition.
One of the distinctive traits of EEE PC, and many other sub-notebook, MID and smaller computing devices, is that they run with a smaller screen resolution than typical desktop machines. I am pretty sure that most desktop machines that people are running Linux on will be running on a minimum of 1024×768, and likely a higher resolution. One of the things that I have noticed in recent years is that an increasing number of Open Source applications look terrible on lower resolutions. A great example is the Preferences Window in Evolution which on my main computer’s resolution of 1368×769 is too tall for the screen. If anyone has resorted to learning Alt+Drag on a window, we have lost.
With the conveyed wisdom suggesting that Linux is a far better suited choice for low power machines, it is likely that we will see more and more of these sub-notebooks and embedded devices cropping up, and as such, in the wider upstream world we need to be conscious of this screen real-estate issue.
In my mind this is a QA issue, pure and simple. We need better testing, bug-reports being filed, and users actively checking and ensuring that software works well in lower resolutions. I also believe it forces us all into a world of more intelligent, usable design – hugely tall windows crammed with a million preferences or super-thick toolbars are not usable interfaces. One could infer that having to be conscious of lower resolutions will make us think more about the usability of our applications and ensure we don’t cram a million-and-one buttons into a window.
This is not a specific bollocking for the Evolution developers, a great many upstream applications are guilty of not running all that well on lower resolutions. The only aim of this post is to raise the issue in as many upstream minds as possible – we have a real opportunity to kick arse on these types of devices, but if the integrators need to spend a significant amount of time hacking on upstream code to make the applications work on these smaller screens and resolutions, it is a lot less desirable than the applications just working because the problem has already been solved upstream.
Its an exciting time folks, and there is such opportunity here. Oh, and don’t forget you can bag yourself a free EEE PC in the LugRadio competition, so tune in and take part when the show is released on Monday.