Friday, May 09, 2008

Dragon Player & Skanlite

What a nice video player. Simple and clean. If you open the application it asks whether you want to use a file or a disk. If disk is selected, it opens the dvd you have in your drive. Files open fine. If you close the app while watching a file, and reload it, it knows where you left off. Very nice. There are few settings available, you can view full screen or window. I believe it uses Phonon, and gives us an idea of how useful and nice these abstraction layers are.

There are a few bugs left to sort out. I tried an mpg and it crashed for some reason. The full screen/windowing signals are confused sometimes. All in all, very nice.

A simple scanning application in extragear/graphics is called Skanlite. I've got an inexpensive canon LiDE25 flatbed scanner. Remember to plug the scanner in before loading the app. It has all the scanner configuration selections, with reasonable defaults. You can do a quick preview scan, which shows the scan as it comes off the machine. Nice. The icon meanings are a little confusing. I knew there must be some way to scan with such an application, and finally found the right button by pushing most of them. The DPI editing is a bit flakey. I would do the preview at a bit lower dpi for speed sake, and put the settings back to default after preview scanning. I tried scanning a document at 625dpi. The app became unresponsive during the slow scan. Eventually a window popped up with a full dpi representation of the scan,ie. quite useless unless I have a monitor 8.5*625 wide and 11*625 deep. It saved the png eventually (quite slow for some reason.) and gave back the application.

My understanding is that there is a udev hook in SANE available. I expect that Solid will eventually handle scanners. Especially if someone like me writes it. hmm.

A slight quibble with the menu. How to handle the description and application name? This is a classic case of catering to new users and those familiar with KDE. The menu shows the description, and on mouse hover, shows the application name underneath, with the icon at the left. Under Sound and Video, I've got a Audio Player (amarok) Media Player (helix player) Multimedia Player (mplayer) Music Player (juk) Video Player (dragon) and Xine. The descriptions are more confusing than the application names, at least in this instance.

There is an issue here. Descriptions are fine, but fall flat quickly if there are more than one similar application. One of the benefits and gifts of the free software community is the abundance of choice. Don't like amarok? There is Juk, or banshee or ??. Also, the application isn't some anonymous entity out of the ether. Someone spent their time, usually freely, to write something for me. How dare I tear away any recognition of their specific work and gift by renaming it?

Otherwise there are two options. Restrict choice, or have the user hover over bland and unappealing names to find out what they are actually about to run. Any time restricting choice is offered as a solution I suggest the paradigm is fundamentally broken.

I look for applications by name and the descriptions get in the way. For me.

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