Tablet PC and Summer of Code

Karoliina Salminen karoliina.t.salminen at
Wed Mar 21 16:47:12 UTC 2007


On 3/21/07, Charlotte Curtis <curtisc at> wrote:
> Corey forwarded my previous message about a Tablet PC related project for
> Summer of Code (thanks Corey), but I thought I would try to rephrase my
> request a little more clearly:
> 1) Are there many people who actually use Tablet PCs and would like to see
> improvements to Ubuntu's Tablet useability?

1. I have one Dialogue Flybook at home. I am running Ubuntu on it
allthough it has some issues and it certainly don't work out of the
box, it doesn't even boot by default without hacking with it a bit
(the Flybook has some HW compatibility problem with the graphical
loader and it freezes on boot). There are things to improve allthough
this may not be a problem in a less exotic hardwares. And setting up
the touch screen for X is a nightmare.
Kate did it one day and made it almost work (only the calibration was
off few pixels) and the next day it didn't get to X anymore despite
nothing was changed in the xorg.conf and no dist-upgrade was made
(this was running a self-compiled kernel, otherwise the touch screen
wouldn't have worked at all)... I am pretty disappointed to the
Flybook anyway, so maybe this is not the correct place to put too much
efforts. Maybe better luck with laptop selection next time..

2. We have created the Maemo UI here at Nokia. The gtk+ based Hildon
Desktop that you see on the Nokia Internet tablets is heading towards
tablet PCs. I have created a spec to launchpad about it. Currently the
spec is quite empty, but "behind the curtains" we are working on the
code. Lucas has been working on the package to make it installable on
Ubuntu. The Hildon Desktop is designed for touch screen use since it
was designed for the Internet tablet on the first place.

> 2) What is the most important aspect that needs work?  Some ideas I've had
> are:
>     - A handwriting input tool (similar to Windows' TIP)

Our Hildon Desktop on Ubuntu would benefit from one. The input method
on the Nokia internet tablets don't come with the desktop since it is
closed source stuff.

>     - A tool to easily configure screen rotation and hardware buttons
>     - Handwriting recognition in the background (for searchable handwriting,
> although that is probably beyond my abilities)

Would be cool to have at least the virtual keyboard, working nicely,
and popping up when some text box etc. gets the focus. The handwriting
recognition is so complicated thing that it might be better to
concentrate on the virtual keyboard, which is pretty much lacking
currently. Actually I tried some of the available ones and they were
poor and their focus behaviour was really strange.

> This would be a pretty ambitious project if I tried to do all of it, so I'd
> like to just focus on one subcomponent.  Also, if I don't get accepted to
> Summer of Code, I'd still like to do this, so I'd really appreciate your
> input.  Thank you,

Our desktop will be available at some point. Hopefully at the time of
next Ubuntu Developer Summit (this May). In the previous Developer
Summit I was demoing to Mark a hackish quick'n'dirty demo that didn't
really work as it should work and the look & feel was really broken,
but now some things have changed, we for example can use the new open
source hildon theme "plankton" as a basis and the Hildon Desktop can
be made to look thus nice on the tablet PC form factor.

But the desktop consists of Task Navigator (that has the lauch-button
+ can accommodate optional plugins, such as the bookmark and contacts
plugins on the Internet tablet devices (they do not come with the
desktop though and they would need some free rivals on Ubuntu)).

So if you can do virtual keyboard that works as nicely as the hildon
keyboard on the Internet tablet, and plays nice with the desktop
(getting it pop up always when you tap a text area is what it needs to
do and then it needs to hide once you have hit enter), in my opinion,
that would be a very important component to make the desktop
tablet-PC-ready. We already have a solution for a touch screen desktop
user interface that comes with LGPL license and it can be used (once
we get the Ubuntu 'port' or 'adaptation' ready - Lucas has been
working on it to cut the required dependencies as low as possible so
that it wouldn't drag the whole Internet tablet software along with it
but could be installable on Ubuntu with no problems as you could
install KDE or XFCE on Ubuntu, allthough one remaining issue is: it
requires the use of Maemo-gtk or gtk+ 2.12).

Here is the link to the spec:

Here is a screenshot of how it is going to look like:

The applets visible on the picture aren't coming along with the desktop, but the
API (especially the new API that I have proposed to present on Guadec)
is so easy
that creating new ones shouldn't be a hard thing to do, especially now
when are going to be able to test it on your Ubuntu desktop instead of
needing the Scratchbox cross compilation environment.

Best Regards,
Karoliina Salminen

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