[ubuntu-art] Working on an Ubuntu slideshow...

Dylan McCall dylanmccall at gmail.com
Mon Jan 28 21:26:11 GMT 2008

Hi everybody!

Sorry in advance for the blatant copying of many chunks of information from
my message to ubuntu-installer.

For a while, I have been trying out various means of having software welcome
new users to Ubuntu, showing them around so they can share our excitement
about it. Recently, I realized that a slideshow shown in Ubiquity fits the
job perfectly!
(See this forum thread: <http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=4217284>)

-It is unobtrusive. Not a popup; no attention or input demanded whatsoever.
-New users waiting for Ubuntu to install are still a bit lost, may be
impatient, wanting something to watch
-Many people use Ubuntu without having seen much marketing material to get
them excited about the software. With an OS like MacOS, on the other hand,
new users often know what its included software gives them.

The slideshow should not really show people how to use Ubuntu, but what they
can look for and expect to find. I think that is really all we need to do,
since most of the included applications are very well done to the point that
they are self-explanatory. It is better that the user learns by using the
software than by reading a scholarly tome which appears to them when they
first log in.
The slideshow here could even help to point out usability features such as
translations or configurable font sizes.

Yes, there is even a blueprint over on Launchpad:
I went ahead and coded the thing. Progress so far is attached. I really like
some of the suggestions in that blueprint, such as to mention the community
aspect and places to get help. Mentioning the benefit of setting up an
Ubuntu-powered home server could be good, too. Lots of possibilities :)
One thing I think we should avoid like the plague is advertising the OS in
there with claims like "now more secure!". The goal here should not be to
sell Ubuntu, but to show a new user the things he can find in his new
desktop so that he will feel more confident and more happy with the choice.
We should not preach to the converted; we should reward the converted with a
new and innovative desktop experience they can enjoy, understand and be a
part of. Granted, there are a few things that kind of advertise the OS but
are also helping with some of our goals. For example, it wouldn't hurt to
mention the environmental benefit of being able to share Ubuntu installers.

The magic here happens from a program call Open Projector. (Open for
open-ended, not open source. I'm unoriginal, but not that unoriginal!). It
is a Python script that displays a very open ended slideshow created
following a particular format.

OpenProjector and the beginnings of Ubiquity-Slideshow (the slideshow
content) is available for download over here:

The format used by Open Projector is convoluted, but also quite flexible.
Slides are all Glade files, and indeed are made up of a bunch of GTK
widgets. I chose this path because the slideshow has to be very accessible
(desktop integrated!) and translatable. Glade makes both of those things
easily possible while still offering a lot of flexibility to people making
slides. Glade gives us a great system for creating and presenting highly
customizable content. Each slide is actually placed inside its own
directory, with that Glade file inside, likely called "slide.glade". The
Glade file must have a non-top-level container called "slide". That
container and everything inside it will be read as the slide and displayed.

Another thing Open Projector has is "Projectors". These rotate through and
display slides inside their host container. ...And that is where the slide
metaphor dies down. A slide can, if it wants, have a projector inside of it!
The current gnome-app-install slide demonstrates this. The projector
iterates through every slide inside of the folder its own slide is in. It
reads some data from a folder called "_conf" to decide what order to display
the slides in and how quickly to iterate through them.

Many example slides exist inside
<Ubiquity-Slideshow/ubiquity-slideshow-ubuntu>. Of note are:
* gnome-app-install. Embedded projector to display changing contents,
alphabetical order set in _conf.
* special:thanks. Some fancy GTK widgets. I think it could be interesting to
demonstrate the wonderful drag & drop support we have with those widgets
* special:welcome. GtkFixed container allowing for label that overlaps
images. Also note that it displays first thanks to projector's

This is still detached from Ubiquity. Thankfully that will not affect the
process of creating slides at all, or even viewing slideshows, since the
Open Projector falls back gracefully to its own hard-coded display. The only
major issue here is I thus do not know what size the slides should be.
Currently I am guesstimating 640x480 pixels, which should cooperate with
800x600 resolution. Height may see a decrease (50 pixels?) since the default
setup does consume a lot of vertical space.

As you may have guessed from me posting here, this project needs slides! I
am terrible at them, but people here are very talented. Right now, there is
no real set plan for what direction to take as far as content is concerned.
It would be great to see whatever people come up with, and maybe a direction
will form out of all the ideas. Who knows? Maybe we'll all start on the same
page and the most helpful ones will automatically make it in to Hardy + 1 :P
The usual installation is about 15-20 minutes, and it would be bad if the
slideshow ended early. That's a lot of slides... so pull out your copy of
Glade and start dreaming! :P

Any thoughts, slides or screams of panic / outrage are welcome now, before
it's too late.

-Dylan McCall
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